Snow Leopards in China

After seeing Amur Leopard Cat and Pallas’s  Cat, Snow Leopard is certainly next in line! Together with Terry, Tormod and Wills, we hurtled into the Valley of the Cats in the region of Yushu!

Our guide and host is a Tibetan yak herder- Sen (森), who is part of the Snow leopard monitoring group and Warden of the National Park. With his limited Chinese and us not speaking Tibetan language, body language and facial gestures came in handy. 🙂 Sen’s house is surrounded by mountains and streams;  bears and wolves are regular visitors to his house when he moves his herd of yaks to higher grounds in summer! No wonder every yak herder rears a pack of Tibetan Mastiffs.

With only 4 days to spare, we’re constantly reassured by almost every yak herder we met who showed us their videos/ photos in their phones and enchanted us with their stories of their yaks being eaten by Snow Leopards and how often they see them! Definitely in this region, if your mobile phone doesn’t have a photo of snow leopard, you’re don’t belong to the club! :-/

We held on to our hopes and we scanned the likely areas tipped by local yak herders and soon enough, Tormod spotted his first Snow Leopard on Day 2! The pressure is on for me and then on the morning of day 3, I spotted a moving rock with a long tail! It took me 10 seconds to convince myself its a Snow Leopard before I shouted to others who were scanning on the mountain top. I reminisced with joy, a cat ticked off my cat list!

Almost every noon, we’re invited to some yak herder’s home for yak meat and tea! On the noon of day 3, yak herder Chairen-nima pin-pointed us to another mountain to look for snow leopard! We were overwhelmed with tips from various yak herders, but for some reason we took his advice and went to the mountain he mentioned.

While the three men positioned themselves on a hill top, Sen and I sat in the car counting blue sheep.

Sen: 4 Blue sheep

Me: 6 blue sheep

Sen: Snow leopard.

I thought to myself” showhand?” Sen and I jumped out of the car for a better view and sure enough I saw the Snow leopard’s head bobbed up on the ridge of the cliff! I shouted towards the group on hill and Sen ran up the hill to tell them- not easy at 4700m! It took me ages to get to where the others were but we all had great views, videos and photos of the Snow Leopard for a whole 1 hour! How cool is that??!! 😛

Snow leopard

Snow leopard walked along the ridge and displayed various behaviours captured on video!

Called the valley of the cats, this region is also home to Leopards, Lynx, Bears, Mountain Weasels, Glover’s Pikas, Himalayan Marmots, Musk Deers, White-lipped Deers, etc.!

white-lipped deer.jpg

White-lipped deer

glover's pika.jpg

Fancy challenging this level of Pokemon Go? 🙂 Glover’s pika only seen at high altitudes.

At 4500m above, alpine birding was fruitful- Robin Accentors, Brown Accentors, White-browed Rosefinches, Tibetan Partridges, Vultures, Golden eagles, Lamagaias, White-browed Tits, Blue-fronted Redstarts, White-eared Pheasants, Ibisbills, etc. just to name a few!

Brown Accentors are garden birds

White browed Rosefinch is a delight to see!

Tibetan partridges roam freely everywhere

solitary snipe

Solitary snipe stays solitary.

This trip is not for the faint-hearted! Weather can be extreme from snowstorm and gustly winds with temperature varying from -10 to 10 degrees in one day plus some hiking involved!  If you don’t mind the basic accommodation, you’ll be highly rewarded with rare mammals, birds and the breathtaking landscape this area has to offer! It has been an incredible adventure for me, one to talk about for a lifetime. I will be heading back often to explore this exciting place. If you’re interested in having a pioneering experience and an unforgettable adventure, drop me a line! 🙂

 

warming up whilst scanning the mountains

The mountain where I saw my first snow leopard!

On the last night, each of us gave Sen a small gift.

And here’s a video of the road conditions!

Now that I also have a  snow leopard photo in my mobile phone, I can join the yak herders’ “club”. 🙂 I definitely look forward to going back there again!

Pallas’s Cats in Qinghai, China 兔狲

As we drove along Qinghai lake, I was enthralled by the beautiful mountains and gorges, which is all part of the Tibetan Plateau. Adventurous and curious always, we decided to try an off beaten track and walk into the valley. A 2 hr walk into the valley was exhausting for me and my high altitude headache sets in as I’ve already climbed a hill the same morning (not easy over 3500m altitude)! I decided to call it a day despite Terry walked in further and saw a Tibetan Partridge!
We decided to head back to the same valley again the next day- this time we had water and food with us. It was a tranquil valley and i’ve kept my eyes wide open for a sighting of a fox or Tibetan wolf. But little did i know a much much rarer encounter awaited.
Terry: “Pallas’s Cats“!
I paused and thought to myself “pallas’s cats. Wait, its cats with an “S”, not one cat but in plural form”!
My eyes searched desperately towards where the scope was positioned..but i could only see stones! Looking through the scope could I only then see the Pallas’s cats– 2 juveniles!

first view of Pallas's cats

first view of Pallas’s cats

a pair of pallas's cats playing at their den

a pair of pallas’s cats playing at their den

juvenile pallas's cat in Qinghai

juvenile pallas’s cat in Qinghai

Not only did I have great views of the two juvenile Pallas’s cats, but also saw their mum came back to the den with a PIKA and one of the juveniles snatched the breakfast. How rare a sighting is that?? 😛 What’s more, its a new addition to my collection of Pallas’s birds and mammals edition!
We decided to move deeper into the valley for the Tibetan Partridge, leaving the cat family some privacy.

Pallas's cat heading back into den

Pallas’s cat heading back into den

It was an unforgettable moment and I felt so lucky to have such a great encounter. I seem to have some luck with cats- since my first cat encounter was the Amur Leopard Cat, three years ago- my post here! I hope I get to see the Snow Leopard cat soon which is in my bucket list.

And as for the Tibetan Partridge? I managed to see it after another hour of walk into the valley and hike up a hill. 😛

tibetan partridge in the valley with the Pallas's cats

tibetan partridge in the valley with the Pallas’s cats