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CHINA

Yunnan

4–20 January 2021

This fabulous tour will enjoy an array of normally elusive forest birds from comfortable hides overlooking feeding stations. Up to seven species of pheasants, six scimitar-babblers, 15 laughingthrushes, 11 thrushes and numerous forktails, flycatchers, babblers, wren-babblers, cupwings, shortwings and tesias can be easily seen and photographed here. We will also spend time looking for regional specialities such as Yunnan Nuthatch and Yunnan Fulvetta.

Day 1 Overnight, indirect flight from London via another Chinese city to Kunming.

Day 2 Upon arrival in Kunming (1,800m), we will make the three-and-a-half-hour transfer to Chuxiong for a two-night stay in an excellent hotel.

Day 3 We will begin our birding with a day in ZiXi Shan Forest Park, where the walks are easy and the rewards high! En route we may encounter Siberian Stonechat, Black-winged Kite, Coppersmith Barbet, Eurasian Hoopoe, Asian House-martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Oriental Skylark, Striated Prinia, Grey-backed and Long-tailed Shrikes, Russet Sparrow and Crested Bunting. Our targets within the park will include both Giant and Yunnan Nuthatches, for which we may need to spend some time looking, but many other species will catch our attention in the meantime: Spectacled and Streak-throated Fulvettas, Vivid Niltava, Black-browed, Black-throated, Green-backed and Japanese Tits, Black-headed Sibia, Chestnut, Chinese and White’s Thrushes, Brownish-flanked Bush-warbler, Alpine Leaf, Buff-throated, Pallas’s Leaf and Yellow-browed Warblers and Godlewski’s Bunting. Other species we may find during our time in the park include Long-tailed Minivet, Ashy-throated and Black-faced Warblers, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar-babbler, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Grey-headed Bullfinch, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Green (eye-ringed) Shrike-babbler, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, White-tailed Robin, White-collared Yuhina, Mrs Gould’s Sunbird, Japanese White-eye, Red-billed Leiothrix, the distinctive stresemanni race of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Blue-winged Minla, Blue-fronted, Daurian, Plumbeous and White-capped Redstarts, Scaly-breasted Munia and Black-faced Bunting.

Day 4 We will depart early this morning and if we failed to see either Giant or Yunnan Nuthatches yesterday, can revisit ZiXi Forest Park. From there we will drive west to Dali, the ancient capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom and our base for the night, for lunch. In the afternoon we will take a chairlift up Zonghe Mountain where we will look for a number of species including Black-faced Laughingthrush, Rufous-tailed Babbler, Black-bibbed Tit and Maroon Accentor. Overnight Dali in a nice hotel located in the historical centre of this ancient city.

Day 5 An early morning departure will see us heading on the long journey further west towards our overnight destination of Nujiang. After checking in to our hotel and taking lunch, we will check to see if the Gaoligongshan Pass is open. If it is, we will drive over it towards Pianma. The Gaoligongshan mountain range runs along the Myanmar border and is home to a fantastic number of avian specialities. Around the pass a number of species are possible although none of them are easy but, with effort and luck, we may see Himalayan Buzzard, Chinese Babax, Spotted Laughingthrush, Himalayan Cutia, Yellow-browed Tit, Brown and Great Parrotbills, Streak-throated Barwing, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Wallcreeper, Stripe-throated Yuhina, White-throated Redstart, White-tailed Nuthatch, Alpine and Rufous-breasted Accentors, Dark-rumped and Sharpe’s Rosefinches, Crimson-browed Finch and White-winged Grosbeak. There is even a chance of Red Panda here but luck would have to be with us!

Day 6 We can revisit the Gaoligongshan Pass again as early morning birding is often different. We will take a packed lunch with us and following our break, will drive on to Baihualing. En route we will keep our eyes open for Cook’s Swift, Indian Roller, Nepal House-martin and Pied Bushchat. The village of Bailhualing is ideally situated in the heart of Gaoligongshan’s forests giving us the opportunity to explore this magnificent bird-rich area. Four nights in a comfortable hotel in Baihualing.

Days 7–9 The main attraction of this area are a large number of forest hides overlooking feeding/bathing stations which attract a dazzling array of species. They are all within easy walking distance of the road and give spectacular, point-blank views of the birds and exceptional photographic opportunities. The views here are far superior to anything we could hope for along the trails. There are no guarantees as to which species will be present at any one time, but possibilities here include Assam, Blue-winged, Grey-sided, Moustached, Red-tailed and Scaly Laughingthrushes, Chestnut-headed and Slaty-bellied Tesias, Himalayan Bluetail, Chestnut-tailed and Red-tailed Minlas, Crested Finchbill, Long-tailed Broadbill, Whiskered Yuhina, Hume’s Pheasant, Mountain Bamboo-partridge, Hill and Rufous-throated Partridges, Grey-chinned Minivet, Black-breasted, Eye-browed, Grey-backed, Himalayan and Long-tailed Thrushes, Grey-winged Blackbird, Hill Prinia, Rusty-fronted Barwing, Spot-throated Babbler, Beautiful and Long-tailed Sibias, Himalayan Shortwing, Buff-barred and Sichuan Leaf Warblers, Silver-eared Mesia, Rusty-capped and Yunnan Fulvettas, Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, Golden Bush-robin, Grey Bushchat, Black-streaked and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babblers, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Scarlet-faced Liocichla and Olive-backed Pipit. If we are very lucky, we may even see Ward’s Trogon and Gould’s Shortwing during our time here. Lunch every day will be served in the hides; they arrive steaming hot in containers so no time is wasted returning to the hotel. All the hides also have very basic pit toilets. Other possible additions to our lists in the forest include Kalij Pheasant, Speckled Wood-pigeon, Wedge-tailed Green-pigeon, Rufous-capped Babbler, Black, Flavescent and Mountain Bulbuls, Broad-billed Warbler, Collared Owlet, Himalayan Swiftlet, Banded Bay Cuckoo, Ashy Drongo, Red-headed Trogon, Bay, Crimson-breasted, Darjeeling and Stripe-breasted Woodpeckers, Greater Yellownape, Great and Golden-throated Barbets, Pygmy and Scaly-breasted Cupwings, Yellow-throated Fulvetta, Rufous-gorgeted, Snowy-browed, Verditer and White-gorgeted Flycatchers, Large, Rufous-bellied and Small Niltavas, Indian White-eye, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Rusty-flanked Treecreeper, White-bellied Redstart, Grey Treepie, White-browed Bush-robin, Slender-billed Scimitar-babbler, Maroon Oriole, Black-throated, Grey-headed and Spot-breasted Parrotbills, White-crested Laughingthrush, Black-headed Shrike-babbler, Streaked Spiderhunter, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Black-throated Sunbird, Brown Bullfinch, Gold-naped and Scarlet Finches, and Vinaceous Rosefinch. We should also keep our eyes open overhead as Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk-eagle, Crested Goshawk, Himalayan Griffon and Lammergeier are all possible. We will also spend some time walking the trails to search for some of the area’s rarer species like Chevron-breasted Babbler, Grey-bellied Wren-babbler, Hume’s Treecreeper, Purple Cochoa and Spotted Elachura. Two endearing species of squirrels also regularly visit the feeders; Perny’s Long-nosed and Asian Red-cheeked Squirrels as well as Northern Treeshrew. Every evening after returning to the hotel to change and have a shower, we will make the short (but steep!) walk down the hill to the restaurant where you can also enjoy local beers and we will do the bird log.

Day 10 We will make one further hide visit this morning in the hope of picking up several new species for our lists before, reluctantly, after lunch, we have to leave Baihualing. On our drive, we will be checking out riverside habitat for Long-billed Plover, and may also see Rosy Pipit, Black-collared Starling and White-browed Laughingthrush. Overnight in an excellent hotel in Tengchong.

Day 11 Early morning we will bird the lower forested slopes of Laifengshan on the edge of Tengchong where the target species is the very local and uncommon Slender-billed Oriole. Roving bird flocks can be found which may contain Rufous-backed Sibia, Little Pied Flycatcher, Davison’s Leaf Warbler and Fire-tailed Sunbird while other species which regularly occur include Large Hawk-cuckoo, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Chinese Hwamei, Burmese Shrike and Black-headed Greenfinch. The gates to the road up the mountain open at 09.00 and we will then make the short drive up to the White Pagoda where from a hide close to the memorial, a regular wintering flock of Tibetan Serins can be watched. Nearby, in some bamboo patches, we will look for Brown-winged Parrotbill. We will then return for lunch in town before driving to Hongbenghe, right on the Myanmar border, for a three-night stay in log cabins high up in the hills.

Days 12–13 Hongbenghe is home to another set of feeding stations that attract many different species to those at Baihualing. Once again, photographic and general viewing opportunities from the associated hides are excellent and we will be truly spoiled by the close proximity of some generally elusive but exquisite Asian species. Highlights of our visit could include Grey Peacock-pheasant, White-cheeked Partridge, Eastern Buzzard, Great Slaty and Grey-headed (Black-naped) Woodpeckers, Oriental Pied-hornbill, Collared Falconet, Barred Cuckoo-dove, Mountain Imperial-pigeon, Asian Emerald-dove, Collared Treepie, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Greater and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongos, White-throated Bulbul, Black-throated, Lesser Necklaced and Spot-breasted Laughingthrushes, the ultra-skulking Dark-sided and Long-billed Thrushes, Coral-billed, Large and Red-billed Scimitar-babblers, Common Green-magpie, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Black-backed, Slaty-backed, Spotted and White-crowned Forktails, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, Blue-naped and Rusty-naped Pittas, Puff-throated, Buff-breasted, Grey-throated and White-hooded Babblers, Blue-winged and Golden-fronted Leafbirds, White-tailed Robin, Chinese Blue, Hill Blue and White-tailed Flycatchers and Bianchi's Warbler. Most of our time will be spent in the hides where the birds are more reliable, but we may also walk some of the trails in search of further views although they are rather steep here! Again, lunches will be brought to us in the hides to avoid wasting birding time.

Day 14 One final hide visit will be made this morning before heading north to our next base at Nabang which is also on the Myanmar border. It is quite a long drive along windy roads and we will make a lunch stop en route before arriving in Nabang in the evening where we will spend the next two nights in a basic but comfortable hotel.

Day 15 The forests, valleys and the Mo Le River around Nabang give us an opportunity to search for a plethora of new species in varied habitat. Over the course of the day we will be targeting Indian Spot-billed Duck, White-breasted Waterhen, Ibisbill, Crested and White-throated Kingfishers, Grey-headed, Red-wattled and River Lapwings, Pin-tailed and Thick-billed Pigeons, Lesser Yellownape, Blue-eared and Blue-throated Barbets, Bronzed and Hair-crested Drongos, White-bellied Erpornis, Mountain Tailorbird, Slaty-blue Flycatcher, Grey-bellied Tesia, Oriental Hobby, Striated Grassbird, Oriental Magpie-robin, Hodgson’s Redstart, Siberian Rubythroat, Brown Dipper, Spot-winged and Vinous-breasted Starlings, Streaked Wren-babbler, Pin-striped Tit-babbler, Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Pale-billed and Rufous-headed Parrotbills, Pale-footed Bush-warbler, Blyth’s Leaf, Dusky, Marten’s and Rufous-faced Warblers, Striated Yuhina, Citrine Wagtail, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Blyth’s and Black-eared Shrike-babblers, Ashy and Grey-eyed Bulbuls and Golden Babbler. Again, we should also keep our eyes on the skies above as Jerdon’s Baza, Rufous-bellied Eagle, Crested Serpent-eagle and Crested Honey-buzzard are all possible.

Day 16 We will spend a further morning in the Nabang area, hoping to add Pale-headed Woodpecker, Spot-bellied Eagle-owl, Grey-headed Parakeet and Black-tailed Crake to our ever-expanding lists. In addition, we may explore some of the trails that lead to lusher areas of forest, giving us the opportunity to find such species as Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Collared and Great Mynas, Grey Sibia, Green-billed Malkoha, Yellow-bellied Warbler, Rosy Minivet, Speckled and White-browed Piculets, Fire-breasted and Plain Flowerpeckers, Asian Fairy-bluebird, Pale Blue and Sapphire Flycatchers, White-bellied Woodpecker and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush (rufiberbis). After lunch we will drive to Yingjiang for our final night of the tour in an excellent hotel.

Day 17 If we have time in the morning, we will look for a few additional species locally including Small Pratincole and Blossom-headed Parakeet. Hopefully with some new species under our belts, we will begin the journey home with a three-hour drive back to Tengchong. From here, we will catch a flight to Kunming to connect with our international flight back to London, arriving on Day 18.

General Information The weather will be generally dry with cold nights and warm days. The pace of the tour is easy with comfortable hides and easy walks. There are a number of health requirements and you must consult your GP in this respect. Visas are required and the supporting documentation to obtain them is included in the tour price. Accommodation is in good to medium-standard hotels, all with private facilities. A mixture of Western and Chinese food will be available.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 8; maximum group size: 12 with 3 leaders.

Red-tailed Laughingthrush

Red-tailed Laughingthrush

Recommended books available from NHBS