October “bird fest” at Miyun Reservoir, Beijing

The weather in Beijing is Schizophrenic- one day its smoggy and the next- blue skies! *Roll Eyes* Well, no bad weather can put me down- spent a smoggy noon at a pottery workshop, which was a lot of fun! But on a clear day, nothing beats birding!  Standing on a hill, we had great views of the birds coming in all directions, as well as the wind! Brrr….!!!

Miyun reservoir

Me in shadow!

As always, the early bird gets the worm! Ducks including Baikal Teals, Chinese Spot-Billed etc., floated in the reservoir, while Black-Headed Gulls, Mongolian Gulls along with a Whiskered Tern and some waders- Golden Plovers, Black-Tailed Godwits and Spotted Redshanks, to name a few,  roosted on the other side of the bank. There’s also Bean Geese, Swan Geese (lifer for me) and a Beijing 3rd record-Great White Pelican!

A symphony of Baikal teals

A symphony of Baikal teals

It was a busy birding morning- our eyes rolled in all directions making sure no birds were missed! Birds of prey of all sorts- Hen Harrier, Hobby, Japanese Sparrow hawk, Kestrel, Saker, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzards performed their morning hunting rituals and some swept past us like the wind! But one bird did a graceful,  180 degree panoramic flyby- the Great Bittern! It was an unforgettable sight!

Great bittern over Miyun, Beijing

Great bittern over Miyun, Beijing

By the end of the day, I think we had recorded over 70 species! It definitely felt like a “bird fest” in October at Miyun Reservoir! A truly hidden treasure in China!

 

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! 🙂

Last piece of Haven-Shangri-La, China- 纳帕海, 香格里拉

Just back from probably the last known place of serenity and haven on Earth, Shangri-La, China! Getting there is not as easy as it seems, you’ll first need to survive a scary plane ride that flew over tough terrains! >.< My plane ride was turbulent and constant announcements were made to comfort  passengers “We are experiencing turbulence, but it is normal, please do not worry…” =_=” Luckily, my plane landed safely at Deqin, Shangri-La, an altitude of 32oom! Little did I know that this wasn’t the scariest ride I would encounter in this trip…well, more on that later!

People easily suffer from acute mountain sickness with symptoms of headache, fatigue, etc, when they land on high grounds! But I was very lucky as I feel even fitter in the mountains than in the concrete jungle! No signs of sickness for me…hehe! 🙂

Plane arrived at Shangri-La

From our hotel, Songtsam Shangri-La, we headed to Lake Napa (Napahai,纳帕海), before enroute to the spectacular Meili Mountains, close to the Tibet Autonomous region! Driven by driver, Mr Li and his devoted wife, we soon spree to the magical lake!

Napa Lake, Shangri-La, heaven for water fowl!

Napa Lake, Shangri-La, heaven for water fowl!

It was a clear, blue sky with pleasant temperature that made birding very enjoyable! With endless supply of food, this piece of wetland is truly a paradise for waterfowl! There were no shortages of the variety of waterfowl in the lake-Ferruginous Ducks, Ruddy Shelducks, Mergansers, Teals, Mallards, Black Stork, Great cormorants, etc! I was especially thrilled to see the Bar-Headed Goose (斑头雁and Black-necked Cranes (黑颈鹤)  which are both lifers for me! 🙂 In particular, the Black-necked Crane is classified  as a Class-A endangered species under the state protection and also listed as “Vulnerable” in the IUCN list. The Black-necked Cranes, endemic to the Tibetian Plateau is also a symbol of peace and regarded as holy birds by Tibetan Buddhists for centuries! How interesting! 🙂

Where there are waterfowl, there are raptors! As we drove along the lake, small groups of White-tailed Eagles (白尾海雕) nestled comfortably on rocky boulders, kept a watchful eye for the next ill-fated duck!

bar-headed goose at Napa lake!

bar-headed goose at Napa lake!

Black-necked cranes at Napa Lake!

Black-necked cranes at Napa Lake!

 

white-tailed eagles keeping a watchful eye at Napa Lake!

white-tailed eagles keeping a watchful eye at Napa Lake!

As parts of this landscape is farmed, there are no shortages of local animals- yaks, pigs and horses grazed while wild birds seemed to get along with these roaming livestock! Red-billed Choughs, Skylarks and White Wagtails were seen roaming along the fields.

Livestock are friends with birds

Livestock are friends with birds

It was a great birding morning, and we fervently wished to stay on a bit longer…but we have a long drive through the Baima Snow Mountain (白茫雪山) to get to our destination, Meili Mountains (梅里雪山)! Here are some spectacular sceneries along the way!

Scenery along Shangri-La

Scenery along Shangri-La

 

Yangtze River running through Shangri-La

Yangtze River running through Shangri-La