Birds and animals on Erla Shan 鄂拉山

Following the itinerary given by Paul Holt, we arrived at 730am at the bottom of Erla Shan pass(鄂拉山) after a tedious 3 hour drive from GongHe. I was very much driven by the thought of the birds that I will see at the summit which is at 4800m!

It was good to start early as the mild wind and cluttered clouds made the walk enjoyable; with every step I took, I could hear my heart thumping hard. There is no trail to follow, but I found my way up stepping on stones, gravel and giving myself a little goal ,which big stone to stop and catch my breath.

Along the way, we had breathtaking views of the mountains and saw blue sheep, tibetan wolf and even Kam Dwarf hamsters! These cuties are endemics to Western China and Qinghai and can be found on high altitudes! It never occured to me that I’d see a hamster on a mountain…these little rodents made me smile, how cute is that? 🙂

kam dwarf hamster

Kam Dwarf Hamster found on Mountains- erla shan

It took me 1.5 hrs to get to the summit- though the base of Erla Shan was 4400m and only 400m to climb up the summit, it wasnt easy at all! But I was rewarded with the magnificent views of the mountains surrounding Erla Shan. And as I catch my breath,  very soon one of the star birds came close- Tibetan Rosefinch, 藏雀!

tibetan rosefinch-male

Tibetan Rosefinch on summit of Erla Shan. 藏雀

The weather at the summit changed dramatically- from sunny, it became misty and we were careful not to fall off the mountain as the visibility was very low. I wanted very much to see the Tibetan Sandgrouse but couldnt find them. :-/

Nonetheless, I saw other birds including the Plain Mountain Finch (林岭雀), Tibetan Lark (长嘴百灵), Brandt’s Mountain Finch (高山岭雀) and some sort of Gerbil!

It was a good climb and I’m glad I did it. We’re very lucky with the weather – as soon as we popped back into the car- thunder and lightning rolled in!

tibetian lark

Tibetan Lark at Erla Shan

plain mountain finch-female

Plain mountain finch seen on way up to the Erla Shan summit

brandt's mountain finch- female

Brandt’s mountain finch on summit


unknown colony of gerbil on base of Erla Shan

The birds named after Peter Simon Pallas

A bunting recently made a rare appearance at Long Valley, Hong Kong. Its none other than the Pallas’s Reed Bunting. This bird can be found in China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Kazakhstan and indeed I’ve seen this bunting on almost every visit to China, but its certainly rare in Hong Kong and its appearance caused a stir amongst the birders and bird photographers here!

Pallas's bunting in HK

Pallas’s bunting

Having seen the Pallas’s Rosefinch in China 2 weeks ago (not my first but my memory could only date this far back on this bird!) and as I continue to frantically prepare my talk tonight at the HK Bird Watching Society about bird watching in Xinjiang, I realized I have another Pallas’s bird from Xinjiang- The Pallas’s Sandgrouse! And somewhere I thought, I’ve seen a Pallas’s Gull, luckily I didn’t have to dig too far for the photo of this gull taken in India!

Another bird named after Pallas

Another bird named after Pallas

Pallas's gull in West India

Pallas’s gull in West India taken in Jan 2013

As I go through the list of birds named after Pallas, the name Pallas’s Leaf Warbler does ring a bell! Luckily a good friend of mine, Victor (Faizai), reminded me that I have seen this warbler in 2011! :-/ My memory failed on me but certainly not on Victor! Quickly I looked into the database and sure enough I do have a Pallas’s Leaf Warbler! 🙂

Pallas's leaf warbler in Shek Kong, HK, 2011

Pallas’s leaf warbler in Shek Kong, HK, 2011

Peter Simon Pallas (22 September 1741 – 8 September 1811), a zoologist that explored Russia, Siberia, the Ural, Caspian Sea, Altai Mountains, etc., discovered a number of birds that eventually named after him! Now, to complete the “Pallas birds edition”, I’d have to find the remaining ones below! :-/ Has anyone completed the Pallas edition?

-Pallas’s fish eagle

-Pallas’s Cormorant

-Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler

Love is in the air!

On this special day, I can’t help but wonder if birds pair for life… After much reading, I realised few birds fit into this category!! For birds, there are several reasons for unable to pair for life-migration, and establishing territories is already hard enough, why pair?!

As human beings, we try to pair for life…but it’s not as easy as it seems! We too migrate and establish territorial grounds-migrating to other countries, getting to office and establishing ourselves in the office!! Lol! Life isn’t easy for anyone, but I guess if you love your partner enough, and you place him/her as priority, pairing for life might just seem possible..Here’s my recipe to share!

Recipe for LOVE

1 Cup of Romance

2 Pinches of Humour

2 Spoonfuls of Joy

1 lb of Compatibility

3 Tb of Trust

1 Cup of Respect

1/2 lb of Sharing

1 zest of Tenderness

3/4 Cup of Patience

1 pinch of Surprise

Kudos to the birds below who pair for life! Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂

Carnaby's black cockatoo

Carnaby’s black cockatoo

Whooper swan

Whooper swan

Great hornbill

Great hornbill

Birding in Olympic Forest Park, Beijing

After a savvy lunch in Sanlitun, Beijing, we decided to head down to the Olympic Forest Park to do a bit of birding.. 🙂 It was a smoggy day with toxic air peaking at dangerous levels, but that didn’t deter us from our itinerary! >.<

The Olympic Forest Park is a huge, man-made nature park built for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games! We entered the park from the South gate where the subway line is and headed West! There were bikes for rental in the park, but we preferred to walk on foot!

Beijing Olympic forest park map

Beijing Olympic forest park map

We walked along the frozen lake, not expecting any ducks, goose or waders! But I was taken by surprise by a big, white-feathered bird standing in the open!! It stood close to the boardwalk, obviously enjoying the attention from the park goers! @_@” It’s a Bewick’s Swan, a split from the Tundra Swan (小天鹅) and definitely a lifer for me! 😛

Bewick's swan

Bewick’s swan

The swan had more than enough admirers, so we continued our way to the reeds area located on the West end of the park! As we walked along, the pecking and rustling sounds of reeds could be heard loud and clear! A huge flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills (棕头鸦雀 ) were in that bed of reeds! They were known to be fast and furious birds- hard to photograph, but these cuties decided to hang a little while longer to have their photographs taken! 🙂

Vinous-throated Parrotbill in flocks!

Vinous-throated Parrotbill in flocks!

A pair of Bearded Tits (文须雀) were recently sighted, but there were no signs of the amorous couple! But we were soon entertained by Oriental Greenfiches, and a Black-faced Bunting who loved those reeds too.. Then out of the blue, I heard a hoarse outcry, ” Great Bittern!” How often do you get to see a Great Bittern (大麻鳽) in the open?? Quickly, we grabbed our cameras and snapped away! 😛

Great Bittern in the open!

Great Bittern in the open!

As we walked on, the male Bearded Tit popped out of nowhere and showed up nicely for us before it flew across to the opposite reed bed, and returned shortly after to pick up his partner! 🙂 It was very cool to see the couple frolicked away before they disappeared into the reeds…!! And last but not least, a Siberian ChiffChaff (叽喳柳莺) made a brief appearance! It brought a happy coda to our afternoon birding session!  

Bearded Tits- male and female!

Bearded Tits- male and female!

Male Bearded Tit

Male Bearded Tit