Mythical Pheasants in the mist

 23/11/2014 – Dongzhai National Reserve and surrounding farmland

 

We arrived just before midnight at our hotel in Dongzhai National Reserve. We had travelled nearly 800 km by bullet-train to the city of Xin Yang Dong and an hour by minivan from Xin Yang Dong to the actual park. We had travelled to this remote forest for a reason; arguably the most beautiful – and one of the rarest – Pheasant in the world…

 

So after another short nights rest we woke up with a feeling of excitement in our stomachs. This morning Reeves’s Pheasant was on the agenda! It was still in the twilights when we stepped aboard the minivans that would take us to the best site for the pheasants. There was a thick fog all around us so visibility was poor, but Menxiu was positive that his tactic – slowly driving up and down a 2 km stretch of road that winds up through the hill forest – would pay off.

 

Our van consisted of Reinoud, Wil, Lucas and myself. Garry, Bas and Menxiu were in the other one. First we drove downhill constantly scanning through the misty forest to the left and right of us, but despite our efforts, no pheasants found. Thereafter we drove up again and nearing the top of the ridge we hit the jackpot! There they were the main prize of this nature reserve. Two male Reeves’s Pheasants in the middle of the road, only 15 meters in front of us! We obtained short but awesome views as they made their way uphill, but as quickly as they appeared; they also disappeared…

 

Luckily after another tense half hour of driving Bas and Garry saw (probably the same) two male pheasants crossing the road and given’ the fact that we were close on their tail we all got some excellent and prolonged views before these magnificent beasts disappeared into the mist.

 

After this early success we had some well-deserved breakfast and decided to spend the rest of the day birding in the paddies. Soon we found our main target: the localized and rapidly declining Collared Crow; over the course of the day we saw about 10-15 birds. Another real cracker was a stunning male Yellow-browed Bunting. More goodies seen throughout the day were: Little– and Blackfaced Bunting, Speckled Piculet, Crested Kingfisher, Red-flanked Bluetail, Masked Laughingthrush, Hwamei, Yellowbellied Tit, Collared finchbill, Russet Sparrow, Daurian Redstart and Whitecrowned Forktail.

 

Another highlight was our visit to the Chinese Crested Ibis breeding program where they are working hard to reintroduce this endangered bird back to the Chinese countryside. The breeding success with the spacious cages is very high, so it’s probably a matter of time before they are breeding again in the wild.

We went to bed early for the first time this trip, a welcome break from long evening train rides…

 

Species list day 4 (underlined are LIFERS)

 

    1. Reeves’s Pheasant 2x 2 males
    2. Common Pheasant
    3. Eastern Spot-billed Duck
    4. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
    5. Grey-headed Woodpecker
    6. Speckled Piculet  1
    7. Crested Kingfisher 2
    8. Spotted dove
    9. Oriental Turtle Dove (Orientalis)
    10. Brown crake 2
    11. Common Moorhen
    12. Green Sandpiper 1
    13. Black-eared Kite 1
    14. Northern Goshawk 1
    15. Little Grebe
    16. Eastern Cattle Egret 1
    17. Chinese Crested Ibis about 10 free-flying birds around the breeding centre
    18. Long-tailed Shrike
    19. Red-billed Blue Magpie
    20. (Oriental) Magpie
    21. Collared Crow 10
    22. Eyebrowed thrush 2
    23. Blue Whistling Thrush 2 heard
    24. Red-flanked Bluetail 3
    25. Daurian Redstart 7
    26. White-crowned Forktail 6
    27. Oriental Magpie Robin 1
    28. White-cheeked Starling
    29. Crested Myna
    30. Yellow-bellied Tit
    31. Coal Tit
    32. Japanese Tit
    33. Silver-throated Tit
    34. Black-throated Tit
    35. Collared Finchbill common
    36. Plain Prinia 2
    37. Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler 3
    38. Pallas’s Warbler
    39. Masked Laughingthrush family group
    40. Hwamei common
    41. Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler 10
    42. Vinous-throated Parrotbill
    43. Russet Sparrow 5
    44. Tree Sparrow
    45. White Wagtail (Leucopsis, Alboiedes)
    46. Grey Wagtail 1
    47. Buff-bellied Pipit 4
    48. Eurasian Siskin 1
    49. Chinese Grosbeak 50
    50. Elegant Bunting 7
    51. Yellow-browed Bunting 1 male
    52. Black-faced Bunting 4
    53. Little Bunting 2

 

Crested Ibis by Garry Bakker

Crested Ibis by Garry Bakker

 

Crested Ibis by Garry Bakker

Crested Ibis by Garry Bakker

 

23/11/2014 – Dongzhai National Reserve and surrounding farmland

 

Today was basically a copy of yesterday as we had to wait for the 5 PM train to Nan Chang Xi, the only slight difference that it was raining almost the whole day…

 

The day started excellent though, with another go at Reeves’s Pheasant. This time we saw no less than 6 (!) males. The first group of 3 males was seen brief and distantly as they foraged up a hillside. However, the second group of 3 males gave ridiculous views that left even me speechless for a moment. This time we could study these truly mesmerizing birds in every detail. Most striking to me was the ivory colored bill and the spectacularly long golden tail that slithered like a snake behind them as they slowly crept over the moss-covered forest floor.

 

The rest of this wet and cold day was again spend birding the countryside. Best was a group of 3 male and 3 female Mandarin Duck and a lone Chinese Crested Ibis, far from the breeding centre.

 

We left Dongzhai National Reserve around 2:30 PM and around 5 PM we were on our way towards our next destination: Poyang Lake; the winter home to a couple of critically endangered Cranes…

 

Elegant Bunting by Garry Bakker

Elegant Bunting by Garry Bakker

 

Mandarin Ducks by Garry Bakker

Mandarin Ducks by Garry Bakker

 

Species list day 4 (underlined are LIFERS)

 

    1. Reeves’s Pheasant 2x 3 males
    2. Mandarin Duck 6
    3. Great Spotted Woodpecker
    4. Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
    5. Common Kingfisher
    6. Spotted Dove
    7. Oriental Turtle Dove (Orientalis)
    8. Eastern Buzzard 1
    9. Eurasian Sparrowhawk 2
    10. Little Egret
    11. Chinese Crested Ibis  1
    12. Black Stork 1
    13. Long-tailed Shrike
    14. Eurasian Jay
    15. Red-billed Blue Magpie
    16. (Oriental) Magpie
    17. Collared Crow
    18. White-crowned Water Redstart (Lucas & Reinoud only)
    19. Plumbeous Water Redstart pair
    20. Daurian Redstart
    21. Red-flanked Bluetail
    22. Crested Myna
    23. Yellow-bellied Tit
    24. Japanese Tit
    25. Silver-throated Tit
    26. Black-throated Tit
    27. Mountain Bulbul
    28. Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
    29. Yellow-browed Warbler 3
    30. Pallas’s Warbler
    31. Masked Laughingthrush
    32. Hwamei
    33. Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
    34. Winter Wren
    35. Vinous-throated Parrotbill
    36. Tree Sparrow
    37. Grey Wagtail
    38. White Wagtail (Leucopsis)
    39. Olive-backed Pipit 1
    40. Oriental Greenfinch
    41. Elegant Bunting 10
    42. Black-faced Bunting
    43. Little Bunting 15

 

Reeves Pheasant by Garry Bakker

Reeves Pheasant by Garry Bakker

 

Reeves Pheasant by Garry Bakker

Reeves Pheasant by Garry Bakker

 

Reeves Pheasant by Garry Bakker

Reeves Pheasant by Garry Bakker

 

China Day 4 by Garry Bakker

China Day 4 by Garry Bakker

 

Happy Birding!

Arjan Dwarshuis
Arjan Dwarshuis
birding@arjandwarshuis.com