Mystic mountain

28/11/2014 – Emeifan  Reserve

 

After a two hour ride by bullet-train we arrived in the city of Taining. From there it was another half hour by car to the small village of Xinqiao, which is situated a 10 minutes drive from Emeifang Reserve; home to 4 beautiful Pheasants: Koklass Pheasant, Silver Pheasant, Cabott’s Tragopan and Elliot’s Pheasant. The latter two are both rare and highly sought after Chinese endemics, but also notoriously difficult to see….

 

Koklass pheasant by Bas van de Meulengraaf

Koklass pheasant by Bas van de Meulengraaf

 

Right after lunch we stepped into two taxi’s that took us uphill, through the entrance gate and into the park. We all experienced that – now familiar – feeling of tension in our kidney’s (at least I did – taking Imodium when the need is not at the highest causes some troubles I guess… ). We estimated that our chances of finding even one of the targeted pheasant right at mid day were small, especially given the fact that the sun was burning amidst a clear blue sky and Pheasants normally prefer damp foggy conditions. So it was a big surprise to all of us that during our first short stop – to checkout some calling passerines along the roadside – Reinoud suddenly called out: ‘Pheasant!’ We raced to where he was standing and could all just see a male Koklass Pheasant darting down the hillside!

 

Barely half a second later our drivers started yelling and pointing at the hillside above them. We all ran to where they were standing as fast as we could. I arrived first and aimed my binoculars at the given direction and to my astonishment saw a male Cabott’s Tragopan! What the fuck!? I went bananas and screamed ‘Tragopan!!!’ Moments later we witnessed something that we never held possible in our wildest dreams. No fewer than 7 (!) male Tragopans were foraging on the hillside 20 meters above us; at one point 5 of them even climbed up a tree to feed on some small berries. Ridiculous!

 

Cabots tragopan by Bas van de Meulengraaf

Cabots tragopan by Bas van de Meulengraaf

 

After this show – that lasted for more than 15 minutes – we drove up to the summit and slowly started walking down again. Suddenly we heard a movement in the leaf litter and crazily enough there was another much wanted species feeding right in the open: Chinese Bamboo Partridge, a smaller nephew of the Pheasants. Two birds allowed for excellent photographing opportunities which left Bas and Garry with big smiles on their faces.

 

The rest of the day was spend roadside birding. We came across several large mixed feeding flocks that contained a fine selection of forest species. Best were a male Sultan Tit and two  Lesser Yellownapes; two species that have become increasingly rare over the past decades in eastern China due to habitat fragmentation and trapping for the illegal feather and pet trade.

 

Lesser yellownape by Garry Bakker

Lesser yellownape by Garry Bakker

 

 

Sultan tit by Garry Bakker

Sultan tit by Garry Bakker

 

It was almost dark when we drove down when suddenly we spotted our 3th Pheasant of the day: Silver Pheasant! Two males crossed the road right in front of the car Reinoud and I were sitting in, the snowy white tail and back contrasting with the red face and black underpants are truly breath taking. A fantastic end to an awesome days birding!

 

Silver pheasant by Garry Bakker

Silver pheasant by Garry Bakker

 

Species list day 8 (underlined are LIFERS)

 

  1. Chinese Bamboo Partridge 1 pair + 2 heard
  2. Cabot’s Tragopan 7 males + 1 group heard
  3. Koklass Pheasant 1 male
  4. Silver Pheasant 2 males
  5. Bay Woodpecker 3
  6. Lesser Yellownape (Chlorolophoides) 2
  7. Great Barbet Common
  8. White-throated Kingfisher
  9. Oriental Turtle Dove
  10. Eastern Buzzard 1
  11. Crested Goshawk 1
  12. Black Eagle 1
  13. Long-tailed Shrike
  14. Eurasian Jay
  15. Red-billed Blue Magpie
  16. Grey Treepie
  17. Grey-chinned Minivet 1 flock
  18. Chestnut-bellied Rock thrush 1
  19. White’s Thrush 1 brief + 1 Garry
  20. Spotted Forktail
  21. Crested Myna
  22. Japanese Tit
  23. Yellow-cheeked Tit
  24. Sultan Tit 1 male
  25. Black-throated Tit
  26. Mountain Bulbul
  27. Chestnut Bulbul
  28. Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
  29. Yellow-browed Warbler
  30. Pallas’s Warbler
  31. Rufous-faced Warbler
  32. Chestnut-crowned Warbler 2
  33. Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush 1
  34. Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
  35. Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler
  36. Huet’s Fulvetta
  37. White-bellied Erpornis
  38. Grey Wagtail
  39. Olive-backed Pipit
  40. Tristram’s Bunting 4

 

29/11/2014 – Emeifang National Reserve

 

Three Pheasants were in the bag, but we still needed one to complete our list of 6 possible pheasants on this Epic China trip: Elliot’s Pheasant. This notoriously difficult to find species is most regularly found early morning in open bamboo plantations along the forest edge.

 

So we slowly drove up through the bamboo plantations – our car just meters behind the first one – while constantly scanning the hills above and below us. Suddenly the first car stopped and we could just see a white tail with brown bars on it disappear over the side of the road; a male Elliot’s Pheasant! We all jumped out of the car and ran to where the Pheasant had disappeared and luckily we all obtained good views. Bas even managed to take a couple of record shots of this mega before it vanished forever in a thick gully. Yes! My main objective for this trip was completed; seeing all the possible Pheasants!

 

Elliots pheasant by Bas van de Meulengraaf

Elliots pheasant by Bas van de Meulengraaf

 

We spend  the rest of the day birding at various altitudes in the park but no more sightings of the Elliot’s, however we obtained 7 more sightings of Silver Pheasant and a stunning male Koklass Pheasant. We also heard Tragopans calling again uphill, but this time they remained well hidden. Other good sightings were 4 White’s Thrushes, Mandarin Duck, Orange-bellied leafbird and Black Eagle.

 

Tomorrow afternoon we will have a go for the flagship species of the ‘Champions of the flyway’ campaign, but not before we go up that mountain one more time….

 

Happy Birding!

 

Grey treepie by Garry Bakker

Grey treepie by Garry Bakker

 

Yellow-cheeked tit by Garry Bakker

Yellow-cheeked tit by Garry Bakker

 

 

Orange-bellied leafbird by Garry Bakker

Orange-bellied leafbird by Garry Bakker

 

 

Noodles with pork by Garry Bakker

Noodles with pork by Garry Bakker

 

 

Emeifeng National Reserve (2) by Garry Bakker

Emeifeng National Reserve by Garry Bakker

 

Emeifeng National Reserve by Garry Bakker

Emeifeng National Reserve by Garry Bakker

 

Chestnut bulbul by Garry Bakker

Chestnut bulbul by Garry Bakker

 

Chinese bamboo partridge by Garry Bakker

Chinese bamboo partridge by Garry Bakker

 

 

Species list day 9 (underlined are LIFERS)

 

  1. Cabot’s Tragopan 1 group heard
  2. Koklass Pheasant 1 male
  3. Silver Pheasant 6 sightings all males, 1 female
  4. Elliot’s Pheasant 1 male
  5. Mandarin Duck 10
  6. Bay Woodpecker 3
  7. Grey-headed Woodpecker 1
  8. Great Barbet Common
  9. Large Hawk Cuckoo 2 heard
  10. Common Kingfisher
  11. Asian Barred Owlet 1 heard
  12. Oriental Turtle Dove
  13. Eastern Buzzard 1
  14. Black Eagle 1
  15. Peregrine 1
  16. Night heron sp. Heard
  17. Orange-bellied Leafbird pair
  18. Long-tailed Shrike
  19. Red-billed Blue Magpie
  20. Grey Treepie
  21. Grey-chinned Minivet 1 flock
  22. White’s Thrush 4
  23. Grey-backed Thrush (Lucas only)
  24. Plumbeous Water Redstart
  25. Oriental Magpie Robin
  26. Daurian Redstart
  27. White-crowned Forktail 4
  28. Crested Myna
  29. Japanese Tit
  30. Yellow-cheeked Tit
  31. Black-throated Tit
  32. Collared Finchbill
  33. Mountain Bulbul
  34. Chestnut Bulbul
  35. Yellow-browed Warbler
  36. Pallas’s Warbler
  37. Rufous-faced Warbler
  38. Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush heard
  39. Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
  40. Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler heard
  41. Rufous-capped Babbler
  42. Huet’s Fulvetta
  43. White-bellied Erpornis
  44. Grey Wagtail
  45. White Wagtail (Leucopsis)
  46. Olive-backed Pipit
  47. Buff-bellied Pipit
  48. Little Bunting 4
  49. Black-faced Bunting

 

Arjan Dwarshuis
Arjan Dwarshuis
birding@arjandwarshuis.com