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! 🙂

Birding in Morocco- Tagdilt Track, best known birding site in Marrakech

I was told by friends that Tagdilt Track is the place to go for birding and its probably the best known birding site in Morocco for desert loving birds like larks and wheatears! But what they didn’t tell me is Tagdilt Track is actually a dumpster site…! @__@” When I got out of the vehicle, I was immediately surrounded by flies, and I tried to keep my mouth shut…you know, just in case. :-/ Indeed there were quite a lot of birds seen here, all new to me…but its really not easy to walk on a rubbish valley on a bright sunny day; the smell, the heat and flies really got on my nerves!

Anyway, here are some of the wheatears seen along Tagdilt Track! From left- Black Eared Wheatear, Mourning Wheatear, Red-Rumped Wheatear and the Black Wheatear and there is also the Desert Wheatear! 😛

Black Eared Wheatear, mourning wheatear, Red-Rumped Wheatear, Black Wheatear

Black Eared Wheatear, Mourning Wheatear, Red-Rumped Wheatear, Black Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

Desert Wheatear

At the Tagdilt Track, there is no shortage of Temminck’s Lark! I just love their devilish horns, and I immediately compared the length of their “horns” to those of Horned Lark! Other larks seen include the Thekla Lark , Crested Lark, Hoopoe Lark and Thick Billed Lark! Its a delight to see them, but its also makes me sad to see them rummage through the dumpster site… 😦

Temminck's Lark

Temminck’s Lark

Thekla Lark and Thick Billed Lark

Thekla Lark and Thick Billed Lark

Crested lark and Hoopoe lark

Crested lark and Hoopoe lark

Seeing a flock of Trumpeter Finches was a nice surprise! Note that their calls don’t sound anything like a trumpet! Here’s how they sound like! http://www.xeno-canto.org/browse.php?species_nr=&query=trumpeter+finch

It was pretty hard to get a decent photo of these Trumpeter Finches as they move swiftly from bush to bush! Another highlight was seeing a Black Bellied Sandgrouse!

trumpeter finch

trumpeter finch

black bellied sandgrouse

black bellied sandgrouse

Now, where’s that Cream Colored Courser I was bound to see???  >.<“

Birding in Morocco- Oukaimeden, Marrakech 观鸟在摩洛哥

Probably to many British and European birders, Morocco is a place where they could just visit and bird for the weekend. Coming from Asia, Morocco is a totally new place to me. I am enthralled by the idea of seeing flying carpets and Aladdin (maybe I watched too many Disney movies?) 😛 I am not sure why my brain relates that to Morocco! But for a place to be close to the Sahara desert, certainly heightened my determination to tramp there (of course with the hope to see some flying carpets!!!)

My Itinerary

Marrakech -Oukaimeden, Boulmain area, Mount Atlas mountains and the Sahara desert

My first stop was Oukaimeden! Situated about 75km out of Marrakech, the drive was about 2.5 hours from the airport! Despite treacherous road conditions, my driver was very experienced, and I got to enjoy the breathtaking views of the mountains that undulated before me as we” twirled” up the peak!

Needless to say, one of the highlights of my trip was to see my “devil” bird- Horned Lark (see those devilish horns? :)) At the peak of Oukaimeden, I was immediately greeted by the Horned Lark, Crimson-Winged Finch, Rock Sparrow…and how could I forget the Seebohm’s Wheatear ? >.<” I had to ford streams just to get a record shot of it!

Rock Sparrow and Horned Lark

Rock Sparrow and Horned Lark

crimson winged rosefinch

crimson winged rosefinch

Seebon's wheatear

Seebon’s wheatear

The accommodation we spent the night had a great patio!! As the three of us (guide, driver and me) had breakfast (breakfast was just bread and jam…cough),  we were greeted by a load of House Buntings, that flew in and out of the hotel… (hence its name I think!!). They seemed very familiar with the place and they roosted in comfort on their favourite perch- couch, cushion, shelves, etc.!  Other birds seen at the hotel area were blackbirds and Cirl Buntings and also Common Bulbuls (not common to me…XD)!

Common Bulbul

Common Bulbul

house bunting

house bunting

house bunting  on treasure box!

house bunting on treasure box!