Birding in Xinjiang Day 6 Part2/2- 新疆观鸟, 布尔津-130团

After high-fiving for the close encounter with the Pallas’s Sandgrouse, we were back on the road again! We made a brief stop back at the forest in Urho, Karamay (乌尔禾) but birds wouldn’t come out to play on such a windy day! I don’t blame them… :-/ We kept on a look-out for the desert finch which we have yet to see while our driver was driving us to our pit stop, the ex-military township “130”. According to our birding itinerary, we should see the desert finch! Our conversation about the possibilities of missing them was interrupted by our driver who convinced us that the desert finch will be in the forest, next to our hotel. We were puzzled! According to the guide book, the bird should be in semi-desert area! We were very much convinced he had mistaken the desert finch for another bird! 😛 It was 5:30pm when we arrived at the 130 township! As light was still strong, we quickly scanned the nature reserve nearby and saw a Black Tern! But the real highlight of the day was arriving at our hotel. “Where’s the forest”? I asked. “This is the forest” was the answer from my driver. I just had to burst into laughter-the “forest” was just a few trees and plants stemming on both sides of the hotel. A forest it is! *Roll Eyes*  And because our driver said the desert finch is a resident in this “forest”, we asked him to find it for us! To our surprise, he found them in just minutes! There they were, prancing on the branches of a tree! Driver chuckled as it was a victorious win for him!! It was hilarious..! Maybe the hotel looked like an oasis to the desert finches-they were found breeding and raising chicks in this so called “forest”!! Well, here are the photos of the Desert Finches (巨嘴沙雀)!

The male Desert Finch in oasis!

The male Desert Finch in oasis!

desert finch couple in Xinjiang

desert finch couple in Xinjiang

Another amazing bird that calls this “forest” home is the Common Nightingale (新疆歌鸲)! There were a few singing in the garden and were very tame too! How cool is that to wake up to these talented singers?! 🙂 PS. The term “forest” now has a totally new meaning…hehehe!

nightingale in hotel garden, Xinjiang

nightingale in hotel garden, Xinjiang

And this is our driver! 🙂

Our driver in Xinjiang

Our driver in Xinjiang. 柱子,新疆

Birding in Xinjiang Day 6 Part1/2- 新疆观鸟, 布尔津-130团

What a long drive-from Burqin to an ex-military area known as “130”, took more than 6 hours! :-/ Packed with crisps, water and we sneaked some dumplings and eggs from breakfast (signs of no lunch… >.<), we drove past sand dunes, rocky terrains and windmills but didn’t see much until we arrived on a highway with rocky boulders on both sides! Here, the Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel and Red-billed Chough were neighbours! It was a very windy day and even though my bazooka lens and tripod saved me from flying away, I couldn’t stabalise myself, let alone walking! >.<”

kestrel in Burqin

Common kestrel taking shelter from the strong wind!

Soon we were back on the road again! On a few occasions, we saw a few Pallas Sandgrouse flew by, but it was the Mongolian finch (蒙古沙雀) that stirred up a moment of excitement after having driven for 2-3 hours! Yippee, another lifer for me! 🙂

Mongolian finch in Xinjiang

Mongolian finch in Xinjiang

After constant driving for another 2 hours, with semi-desert landscapes undulated before us…I thought my partner was suffering from an illusion when he asked our driver to take a detour as he spotted some Pallas’s Sandgrouse (毛腿沙鸡)! I was almost in*SLEEP* mode when he confirmed his sightings! Luckily, I did not miss this brilliant moment, or I would have *PUNCHED* myself!! 🙂

pallas sandgrouse in xinjiang

pallas’s sandgrouse in xinjiang

By the time we saw the Pallas’s Sandgrouse, it was already 2 p.m. and we’re still a long way from our destination! =_=”

PS. Here’s the view along the way!

View along the road, Xinjiang

View along the road, Xinjiang

Birding in Xinjiang day 5 新疆观鸟-布尔津

After breakfast, we were driven to a village called Chonghu’er (冲乎尔乡), which was renowned for Red-backed Shrikes and other forest birds and buntings! The drive from Burqin, Altay region was just an hour away, but the terrains we passed by just blew my mind away!

Buerqin surroundings

We stopped for landscape photo shoots!

We were hopeful for accentors along the way but couldn’t find any! But as our car twirled round the steep bends towards the village, a short-toed eagle flew in the same area where the marmot was spotted! A double surprise even before getting to the actual birding spot! 😛 Not sure what marmot it was, but its always great to see four-legged wildlife!

short-toed eagle and marmot in Xinjiang

short-toed eagle and marmot in Xinjiang

At the village, red-backed shrikes (红背伯劳) kept a comfortable distance from us but our patience paid off when they eventually allowed us to get closer!

red-back shrike couple in Burqin, Altay region

red-back shrike couple in Burqin, Altay region

There were lots of cow dung in the fields on both sides of the trail- no sign of dung beetles, but plenty of birds!! The road seemed busy with tractors and bikes; and locals were curious to find foreigners in their village! But smiles were all over, and birds here seemed to mind their own business! Some of the birds seen here included:

Ortolan Bunting, 圃鹀

Spotted Flycatcher, 斑鹟

Yellowhammer, 黄鹀

Pine Bunting, 白头鹀

European Greenfinch, 欧金翅雀

Mistle thrush with chicks, 槲鸫

Fieldfare, 田鸫

Wood warbler, 林柳莺

European Goldfinch, 红额金翅雀

yellowhammer and mistle thrush with chicks in Xinjiang, China

yellowhammer and mistle thrush with chicks in Xinjiang, China

 

from left- Pine bunting, Ortolan bunting, Spotted flycatcher

from left- Pine bunting, Ortolan bunting, Spotted flycatcher

Having spent the whole noon here (we skipped lunch again, :-/) we went back to the magical forest to get better photos of the super-star, Black Woodpecker! It was a relaxing day of birding with many findings! 🙂

Here’s how the trail looked like! If you look carefully, you’ll see many cow dungs in the field…  *COUGH*

Birding trail in Burqin

Birding trail in Burqin

 

Birding in Xinjiang day 4 新疆观鸟: 阿勒泰-布尔津

This was the day we got arrested! Our driver took us to a mountain park in Burqin county, approx. an hour’s drive from Altay Region. Unfortunately, this park is very close to the border of Kazakhstan! No one bothered us in the beginning but words spread fast in China! Very soon the China Border Police came up the hill to pick us and took us to the police station and have us “interrogated” (they asked the same questions over and over again), our documents and cameras checked, and photo taken (a police officer told me not to smile at the camera.. :-/ )

Luckily for us, we only had food and bird photos to show them! Anyway, we did some birding before our arrest! Birds seen at the mountain park included the Mistle thrush, Willow tit, Coal tit, Black-throated Bunting, and Booted eagle, etc.

coal tit, border of Kazakhstan and Xinjiang

coal tit, border of Kazakhstan and Xinjiang

Booted eagle at border of Xinjiang and Kazakhstan

Booted eagle at border of Xinjiang and Kazakhstan

After an hour’s stay at the police station (I wished them well before leaving), we continued our birding along what the Chinese called it the Xinjiang Clain River( 克兰河) ! Its probably more spectacular than the Clain River in Western France-I have never seen landscape as amazing as this, have you? 😛

 different colored waters..!

different colored waters..!

Along this route, we saw the following-

Montagu’s Harrier (乌灰鹞)

Greylag Goose (灰雁)

Black-tailed Godwit (黑尾塍鹬)

White-headed Duck (白头硬尾鸭)

Dunlin (黑腹滨鹬)

Red-crested Pochard (赤嘴潜鸭)

red-crested Pochard in Xinjiang

red-crested Pochard in Xinjiang

We drove all day, well our driver did-he was very determined to show us the likely areas for the Daurian Partridge (斑翅山鹑), but we couldn’t find it! :-/

By 3pm we found ourselves in yet another magical forest! The stars here included the

White-Backed Woodpecker (白背啄木鸟)

White-Winged Woodpecker (白翅啄木鸟)

Black Woodpecker (黑啄木鸟)

Common Chaffinch (苍头燕雀) and more!

white-back woodpecker in Northern Xinjiang

white-back woodpecker in Northern Xinjiang

black woodpecker

black woodpecker

chaffinch feeding chick

chaffinch feeding chick

It was a day with lots of happenings but no lunch! Back at the hotel, I wished the Pallid Scops Owl would call again outside my window. 🙂

PS. We had dog-fish for dinner

Highly recommend this dog-fish

Highly recommend this dog-fish