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 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~~”

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