Snowy Owl with “Triple” Dragons

It was already 730pm when we arrived at Hailar (Hulunbuir), a quick transfer to another car and we’re on our 4hr journey to Xiqi (西旗), Northeast of Inner Mongolia! Despite we’re all tired after a long day, we’re thrilled to see big twinkling stars in the sky! Both of my friends were so lucky to see glowing eyes of foxes that sauntered the grasslands, I just couldn’t spot any! It was almost 1130pm when we’re greeted by our guide, Double Dragon (双龙) at the hotel and we’re told his brother would take us the next day! I thought to myself no wonder he’s called double Dragon, he has a twin brother…!

Day 1 at Xiqi (西旗)

I was surprised to find so many bird photographers at the lobby at 630am! Having rounded us all like sheep, we were herded to breakfast place before we split up for our birding activity – we decided to see other birds first instead of searching for the Snowy Owl and we saw quite a few that morning which included Mongolian Larks, Horned Larks, Upland Buzzards and Little Owl!

Little Owl at Xiqi, Inner Mongolia

Little Owl at Xiqi, Inner Mongolia

Flocks of Mongolian Lark at Xiqi

Flocks of Mongolian Lark at Xiqi

We then moved on to join the others for Snowy Owl! To my surprise, this juvenile was so close and took little notice of us! A great lifer for us three! 🙂

This Juvenile Snowy Owl took little notice of us.

This Juvenile Snowy Owl took little notice of us.

Can you see the owl?

Can you see the owl?

We savored the beautiful sunset with a Snow Bunting and wondered if we’d be lucky to have that beautiful backdrop for the Snowy Owl the next day. 😛

snow bunting in sunset

snow bunting in sunset

Day 2 at Xiqi

Today, our guide, Double Dragon decided to show us his guiding skills! I squealed with joy when he found a Red Fox, how cool is that! We later sauntered the snowyland and found 6 more Snowy Owls, one of which was a male!

Snowy Owl at Grassland of Inner Mongolia

Snowy Owl at Grassland of Inner Mongolia

red fox is common in Inner Mongolia

red fox is common in Inner Mongolia

In the afternoon, we saw more quality birds- Père David’s snowfinch, Asian Rosy-finch, Eagle Owl and more Little Owls (we stopped counting!) The highlight continued with hotpot dinner complemented with endless drinking, and singing and for some reason we had to make a speech about our thoughts of Xiqi..! :-/

Père David's snowfinch and eagle owl in hiding

Père David’s snowfinch and eagle owl in hiding

asian rosy-finch at Inner Mongolia

asian rosy-finch at Inner Mongolia

Day 3 at Xiqi

Today, we’re guided by Double Dragon’s 2nd brother! Seriously he shouldn’t be called Double Dragon but Triple Dragon! *Roll eyes* We walked a small forest only to find Brambling and Meadow Bunting, but we had great views of Daurian Partridges!

Daurian partridges are common at Inner Mongolia

Daurian partridges are common at Inner Mongolia

By sunset, we made our way to Manzhouli airport in a shared car and so the 3 of us were cramped at the back seat for 2 long hours! :-/ But what a trip we had! Despite frustrations with communication with the guide, car issues and freezing weather, I had a great adventure! Thank you, SoSo for organizing the trip, Terry, for being the bird spotter and myself for providing free translation service! @_@”

Here’s my ice-cream treat which I bought for myself.. 😛

ice-cream treat at the end of the trip!

ice-cream treat at the end of the trip!

What a trip!

What a trip!

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