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 Day3 新疆福海-北屯-阿勒泰

Our first birding stop was actually a local park in Fuhai (福海). It looked pretty deserted to me, but the birds loved that its so scruffy! 🙂 Birds here chirped as loudly and merrily as ever, as if to say this playground belonged to them! Birds found in this park included Wrynecks (蚁鴷) -there were a few!; Greenfinches ( 欧金翅雀), Isabelline Shrikes (荒漠伯劳), Common Rosefinches (普通朱雀), Tree Pipits (林鹨), warblers, etc!

From left- Common Rosefinch, Wryneck

From left- Common Rosefinch, Wryneck

Isabelline shrike in Xinjiang

Isabelline shrike in Xinjiang

At the lake in the park, this animal swam across the lake which caught our attention! I am totally clueless on the ID, I think its a rodent…! >.<”

What is this?

What is this?

Think it was another 2-3 hr drive from Fuhai to Beitun- not sure! But we didn’t have Lunch and that’s for sure! :-/ While en-route to Beitun, our driver was determined to show us Horned Grebes (角鸊鷉). I was very excited as its a lifer for me! But getting close was a challenge! My shoes were drenched with murky water… Here’s a record handheld shot with my bazooka lens.

horned grebe

horned grebe

It was very windy by the time we arrived at a forest in Beitun area. We saw some chaffinches in the beginning but the wind was so “noisy” that we could hardly hear any sounds from our feathered friends! Rather than waiting for wind to die down, we decided to try another area while en-route to Altay for the night.

At a semi-desert area, trucks nimbled along the sandy track, but birds didn’t seem to be bothered by them! Highlights here included the Red-footed falcon (西红脚隼), Kestrel, Eurasian Curlew, Demoiselle cranes (蓑羽鹤), Pallas gulls and by the lake (mini one) we saw some grey Plovers (灰斑鸻) too!

red-footed falcon

red-footed falcon

demoiselle cranes in Xinjiang

demoiselle cranes in Xinjiang

kestrel in Altay, Xinjiang

kestrel in Altay, Xinjiang

Here’s a cool view of how this desert looked like! 🙂

Altay, Xinjiang

Altay, Xinjiang

Birding in Xinjiang Day 2 新疆石河子-乌尔禾-福海

This was a long drive from Shihezi (石河子) to Fuhai (福海)! After our breakfast, our driver took us to some deserted pond in search for litte bittern! The pond was just next to some gas station…but reeds were ripped off for some reason, and needless to say, we couldnt see the bird! Moving on, we made stops on the highway…in particular, we saw a few European Bee-eaters (黄喉蜂虎)! Its about time they’ve arrived in this part of Xinjiang, and we’re reassured we’ll see loads more!

On both sides of the highway were semi-desert, and we took a detour! We made a short stop at one area hoping to scan for some raptors, but only managed to see a lizard at the beginning! But as we moved along the sandy, bumpy trail, we saw Isabelline Wheatears, Crested Larks, Desert Wheaters, and highlight was a pair of Saxaul Sparrows (黑顶麻雀)! 😛

saxaul sparrows

saxaul sparrows

The toll station was just a short distance away, but since we’re off the highway, we twirled round the toll fee station and that saved us 10 yuan..! LOL!

After a quick lunch, we headed for a forest in Urho, Karamay (乌尔禾)! We were told this forest is called the “Magic Forest”. As we got off the car, immediately we saw a White-winged woodpecker pecking on a tree next to our car! What a delight to see this beautiful bird at such close distance… 🙂

white-winged woodpecker

white-winged woodpecker

Moving deeper into the forest trail, Azure tits (灰蓝山雀), Turkestan tits (西域山雀), Hume’s warbler (淡眉柳莺) were seen prancing around in mid-noon! We also heard intricate songs from Nightingales but spotting them was a challenge! As we followed the song, we encountered Lesser Whitethroat (白喉林莺), and Sykes’s Warbler (赛氏篱莺) who loved the shrubs but for us to move in closer was more than difficult as the trail was muddy..! Nightingale (新疆歌鸲) finally made a brief show for us, but soon popped back into the bushes!

Azure Tit and Olivaceous Warbler

Azure Tit and Syke’s Warbler

 

Lesser Whitethroat and Turkestan Tit

Yellow Wagtail  and Turkestan Tit

When we headed back to the car, our driver babbled about seeing a pair of raptors and had messaged us…but we only received the message after we caught up with him! Talk about China mobile network…. :-/

Before we head to Fuhai county for the night, our last birding spot was a ranch (国营二牧场)! Here, the Bluethroat (蓝喉歌鸲) was very tame and sang in the open! We tried to search for Short-eared owl here but didnt see any..! Other birds included Demoiselle cranes, 蓑羽鹤 (probably over 200) and flying Pallas Sandgrouse, Great Cormorants, Grey-headed Buntings and a Black-Throated Thrush (黑颈鸫)!

蓝喉歌鸲 bluethroat

蓝喉歌鸲 bluethroat

It was 6pm when we began our journey to our hotel in Fuhai. As we drove along the highway, an Upland Buzzard (大鵟) was spotted! How cool is that!

upland buzzard in Xinjiang

upland buzzard in Xinjiang

We finally checked in to a not so dodgy hotel at 9pm! 😛 The highlight for the day was not the birds to me but a very funny event that happened over dinner, which kept me grinning till this day…I am really tempted to share my story here…but I think birding Guru will *KICK* me if I do! 😛 😛

PS. This was our quickie lunch shared~~”

20140511_134204

 

Birding in Xinjiang, China- Day 1 新疆白湖,石河子

Just back from an awesome 8 day adventure in Xinjiang, China! Xinjiang is in my “Must Visit” list, but with so many news of terrorism in the province, my plan has been put on hold until now!

Upon arrival, we were quickly whisked off to see my dream bird- Donald Duck! About 20km away from Urumqi Airport, there is a place called White Lake (白湖), nestled on the foothill of a mountain, surrounded by Industrial works…!

Not sure how the lake got its name, but it certainly didn’t look white to me! But the lake seems to be a favorite hangout for Donald ducks (White headed duck, 白头硬尾鸭), who return every year to this place. Others included the Black-necked Grebe (黑颈䴙䴘), Gadwall, Greater-crested Grebe (凤头䴙䴘), and horned larks (角百灵) and wheatears also visit this area!

Below are some photos taken..! 🙂

white-headed duck at White lake, Xinjiang

white-headed duck at White lake, Xinjiang

black-necked grebe, Xinjiang

black-necked grebe, Xinjiang

From left- Isabelline wheatear, Horned lark

From left- Isabelline wheatear, Horned lark

By the time we’ve finished our birding session, it was already 3pm…and there was no sign of lunch! 😦  Quickly, I suggested to have some dumplings before driving to the next location which was about 2-3 hours away!

Dumplings!

It was about 2 hours drive to our pit stop, Shihezi (石河子) city for the night! As day is longer in Xinjiang, we quickly scanned the Moguhu Reservoir (蘑菇湖水庫). Here, we found plenty of Peewits, Collared Pratincole, and common starling, gulls, etc! I wished we’ve spent more time in this place, but by 7pm we’re knackered, and we checked ourselves into a dodgy inn! It was  a brilliant half day of birding! 🙂