Pallas’s Cats in Qinghai, China 兔狲

As we drove along Qinghai lake, I was enthralled by the beautiful mountains and gorges, which is all part of the Tibetan Plateau. Adventurous and curious always, we decided to try an off beaten track and walk into the valley. A 2 hr walk into the valley was exhausting for me and my high altitude headache sets in as I’ve already climbed a hill the same morning (not easy over 3500m altitude)! I decided to call it a day despite Terry walked in further and saw a Tibetan Partridge!
We decided to head back to the same valley again the next day- this time we had water and food with us. It was a tranquil valley and i’ve kept my eyes wide open for a sighting of a fox or Tibetan wolf. But little did i know a much much rarer encounter awaited.
Terry: “Pallas’s Cats“!
I paused and thought to myself “pallas’s cats. Wait, its cats with an “S”, not one cat but in plural form”!
My eyes searched desperately towards where the scope was positioned..but i could only see stones! Looking through the scope could I only then see the Pallas’s cats– 2 juveniles!

first view of Pallas's cats

first view of Pallas’s cats

a pair of pallas's cats playing at their den

a pair of pallas’s cats playing at their den

juvenile pallas's cat in Qinghai

juvenile pallas’s cat in Qinghai

Not only did I have great views of the two juvenile Pallas’s cats, but also saw their mum came back to the den with a PIKA and one of the juveniles snatched the breakfast. How rare a sighting is that?? 😛 What’s more, its a new addition to my collection of Pallas’s birds and mammals edition!
We decided to move deeper into the valley for the Tibetan Partridge, leaving the cat family some privacy.

Pallas's cat heading back into den

Pallas’s cat heading back into den

It was an unforgettable moment and I felt so lucky to have such a great encounter. I seem to have some luck with cats- since my first cat encounter was the Amur Leopard Cat, three years ago- my post here! I hope I get to see the Snow Leopard cat soon which is in my bucket list.

And as for the Tibetan Partridge? I managed to see it after another hour of walk into the valley and hike up a hill. 😛

tibetan partridge in the valley with the Pallas's cats

tibetan partridge in the valley with the Pallas’s cats

Jankowski’s Bunting

A bird that is on the verge of extinction is seen in Beijng! Overseas birders were just as excited as the local birders. Busy with my work, i couldn’t find the time to visit firsthand but I finally got to see the small flock that has decided to winter in Beijing.

jankowski's bunting female

Jankowski’s Bunting

a bird that needs desperate help!

a bird that needs desperate help!

jankowski bunting

Jankowski’s bunting wintering in Beijing

jankowski bunting

Jankowski’s bunting

Its been quite sometime since I last visited Miyun! There were tractors cutting the grass, making rodents flee from their hideouts! Raptors definitely saw this opportunity and they were hovering around in search for their tasty food.

While people were busy taking photos of raptors, we’re on the other end trying to find the Jankowski’s buntings! It is a difficult task to I.D. them if not for the experts! But I wandered off alone to see more birds. Then i saw a group of buntings very close to me- my instinct was to photo first then I.D. later. And it paid off! 🙂

I hope people will make a contribution to save the bunting, especially for those who saw the bunting.. click here to donate! For more information about Jankowski’s bunting (also known as rufous-backed bunting), visit http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=8938

Birding in Wuerqihan Part 2

The visit this time to Wuerqihan, Inner Mongolia in November yielded as much surprise as last winter if not better! At -32c last year, we missed the grouses but apparently this is the best time to see the grouses plus the owl I missed last year- Ural Owl.

The dark was setting in when we had just seen a raccoon dog! Still thrilled with the raccoon or dog lifer, our car stumbled upon a rock that was in the middle of the road. A close look- Ural owl – one i had missed last winter, so it’s a thrill to see it at close distance too!

Ural owl on the road

Ural owl on the road

Of course the usual owls were there too- Great Grey and Hawk Owl. 😛

Hawk owl is very common in Wuerqihan

Hawk owl is very common in Wuerqihan

greatgrey

Great grey owl wasn’t fussed about us

And of course, the grouses and the rare Black-billed capercaillie were seen this time. Hazel grouses were plentiful- male looked especially stunning with red eyelids. When winds picked up, it was a funny sight to see the Black grouse swaying on the thin stems of the trees!

black billed capercaillie is a MUST SEE in Wuerqihan

black billed capercaillie is a MUST SEE in Wuerqihan

Hazel grouse wears furry boots all year round.

Hazel grouses wears furry boots all year round.

Black grouse on a tree!

Black grouse on a tree!

Other birds seen included the Black woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, lesser spotted woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, Siberian Jay, Nuthatch, Willow tit, Azure tit, and also loads of ravens, crows, and long-tailed tits! At -10c, and not too windy, the weather was gd for the 3.5 days birding. But as the snow hasn’t filled the holes on the road, the car ride was slow and bumpy! Nonetheless, I hope to visit this magical forest again in Spring, hopefully see a lynx and some more rare birds. 🙂

willow tit in Inner Mongolia

willow tit in Inner Mongolia

lots of long-tailed tits here!

lots of long-tailed tits here!

And of course I have to post the raccoon dog! 🙂

Raccoon dog seen in the fields at Wuerqihan

Raccoon dog seen in the fields at Wuerqihan

Birding in Nanpu, Hebei 南堡.

A 3 to 4 hour drive from Beijing gets to Nanpu (南堡), Hebei region- a vast area with mudflats, sea and some fields allowing birds of all shapes and sizes muster in this area for a rest before moving on.

We pedalled to the metal to get to the ponds and sea wall in early dawn hoping to see as much as we can and we’re not disappointed! Waders were all close- sharp-tailed sandpipers, plovers, relict gulls, black-tailed gulls, little terns, whimbrels, sandpipers, stints, etc., just to name a few! Bird photographers will be pleased with the proximity of birds. 🙂

Black tailed gill in nanpu

Black tailed gill in nanpu

lots of stints at nanpu

lots of stints at nanpu- this is long-toed stint

It was brilliant to see so many waders but even more exciting to see a lifer- Reed Parrotbill! They were not hard to see as they come in small flocks and they are residents there!

reed parrotbill

We looked into every pond and corner possible and arrived on an off-trail, close to the sea. The wind picked up and clouds gathered into odd shapes but we thought nothing of it; mesmerised by the sudden fallout from the sky! Just along this path, we saw- wryneck, brown shrikes, bluethroats, yellow-browed buntings! As we drove along, birds seemed reluctant to fly elsewhere, but to move further up the trail. It was an odd behaviour and very soon we knew why!

wryneck in nanpu

wryneck in nanpu

yellow-browed bunting along the trail

yellow-browed bunting along the trail

As we nimble along the trail- sea is on the right and ponds on the left…we were hit by a hailstones! With no trees anywhere in sight, our car took shelter next to a small shrub. The 30 minute hailstone fallout felt like forever! I was worried if the windscreens would crack or the car would be blown into the pond or sea, as the car shook vigorously during the storm. Here’s the video.

hailstone storm

It was 4pm but it felt like late evening. We had no idea where we were and to add to the drama, we were low on fuel.. :-/ When winds died down a little we drove through the flooded trail with caution. With our car headlights on, we could see waders took shelter on this trail too. We came to a dead end and decided to U-turn and take the route where we came in! By then it was raining cats and dogs, also raining down plovers, stints, curlews, on to the trail!

By the time we arrived back at the start of the trail, the rain had stopped and out came the sun! With much delight, we not only saw a Japanese Quail, but also a double rainbow- how cool is that? 🙂 Every cloud has a silver lining. With houses in sight, I know I am back to civilisation.

japanese quail at nanpu

japanese quail at nanpu

how often do you get to see a double rainbow?

how often do you get to see a double rainbow?

Asian Paradise Flycatcher (white morph) in Beijing

Prior to my trip to Anhui a few weeks ago, I had a lovely birding day around Beijing outskirts close to the GubeiKou area. We were told that we could see the scops owls and possibly breeding Asian Paradise Flycatcher (white Morph) along an off-trail! Shortly after we’ve parked the car, we could hear the male calling loud and clear! It was a brilliant to see couple after I had missed this elusive bird in South India. We spent the morning trying to get some nice videos and photos!

Nice to see the white morph in Beijing

Nice to see the white morph in Beijing

asian paradise flycatcher white morph

asian paradise flycatcher white morph

The trail itself offers quality birding apart from this amorous couple! Forest wagtail, Yellow-rumped flycatchers kept the forest lively, it was nice to see them..but what kept my heart pumping to the max., was I finally saw my lifer- Crested Kingfisher!! 🙂  After eluding me for 2 yrs, I can finally move on…hehe.

forest wagtail in beijing

forest wagtail in beijing

crested kingfisher in Beijing

crested kingfisher in Beijing