Our Sichuan tour includes birding among some of the most spectacular scenery in the world and takes in the area's fascinating culture and famed Sichuan cuisine.
We start south in the sub-tropical forests south of Chengdu. Despite its remoteness and lack of visitors, it is a superb area, and one of the best in Sichuan for laughingthrushes; Emei Liocichla, Buffy, Spotted and Red-winged Laughingthrush are all possible. A couple of rare species are also possible in the area - Grey-hooded Parrotbill and Sichuan Treecreeper.
Labahe NNR is next up, primarily for Temminck's Tragopan and Lady Amherst's Pheasant but also a range of parrotbill, warblers, laughingthrushes and Slaty Bunting.
Heading north, our next destination is Wolong, famous for its population of Giant Pandas, and the mossy forest with thick bamboo understorey which is their home provides an atmospheric setting for some truly special birds. These include the stunning Temminck's Tragopan and the striking Firethroat. The scenery along the upper reaches of the park, where the highest peaks rise to over 4,500m, is spectacular. It provides a perfect back drop against which to search for Wood Snipe, Chinese Monal, Tibetan Snowcock, Grandala, White-browed Tit Warbler and Himalayan Rubythroat.
From Wolong we head northeast along the rim of the Tibetan Plateau hoping to encounter species typical of the high plateau grasslands. Black-necked Crane, Ground Tit and Upland Buzzard are all likely. We complete our exploration at Jiuzhaigou National Park where we have two full days exploring the picturesque forests, lakes and alpine meadows. The rare Rufous-headed Robin is one of our main targets although the likes of Severtzov's Grouse, Przevalski's Nuthatch, Sukatschev's Laughingthrush and Three-banded RoseÞnch will all vie for our attention.
International arrivals into Chengdu International Airport. Night in Chengdu.
Early morning, prebreakfast walk around a nearby park; active feeding flocks of Vinous-throated Parrotbills and confiding White-browed Laughingthrushes are resident here, and we will spend time searching for the more localised species the park and its surroundings hold, including Chinese Grosbeak, Chinese Blackbird and both Red-billed and White-cheeked Starlings. Following breakfast we drive south this morning to a seldom-visited reserve, en-route we hope to find our first regional endemics including Vinous-throated and Ashy-throated Parrotbills and Dusky Fulvetta, along with other more widespread but local species such as Swinhoe's Minivet, Chinese Grosbeak and Chnese Hwamei.
We will spend 3 nights in the reserve with a long target list; Emei Liocichla, Buffy, White-throated, Spotted and Red-winged Laughthrushes, Marten's, Alstrom's and Bianchi's Warblers, Emei, Kloss's and Claudia's Leaf Warblers, Grey-hooded Fulvetta and Fujian Niltava are all possible on our first afternoon, and the following two days.
With two days at our disposal we hope to see most of our targets, on top of the previously mentioned species could also include Golden, Three-toed, Grey-hooded Parrotbills, Temminck's Tragopan, Lady Amherst's Pheasant, Sichuan Treecreeper, Fire-capped, Pere David's, Grey-crested, Coal and Rufous-vented Tits, Darjeeling and White-backed Woodpeckers, White-browed Bush Robin a whoe range of leaf-warblers, bush-warblers and flycatchers.
After some initial pre-breakfast birding we head out of the park and drive for the rest of the morning and afternoon to Labahe NNR, en-route we will make the occasional birding stop, in search of Ashy-throated Parrotbill and perhaps Swinhoe's Minivet and Hwamei. Night at Labahe.
Birding at Labahe NNR. Labahe is a little-known, rarely visited national park, with forested habitat and plenty of birding opportunities. Birding around here is still not fully documented but we can hope for the following; Fulvous, Brown and Great Parrotbills, Lady Amherst's Pheasant Temminck's Tragopan, Firethroat, Emei Leaf Warbler, Slaty Bunting, a variety of warblers and bush warblers, Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo and a few woodpecker, fulvetta and Laughingthrush possibilities! Night at Labahe National Nature Reserve.
Following breakfast we shall head north, entering the famous Wolong National Park, home of the Giant Panda. In the late afternoon we shall explore the scrubby hillside behind our hotel for Slaty Bunting, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Chinese Song Thrush and Golden Pheasant. Night in Wolong.
We shall spend three days at high altitude, birding amid the dramatic landscape at the Balang Shan Pass. We shall have an early morning departure from Sawang to arrive before first light to listen for the increasingly rare Wood Snipe at one of their few known leks. Birding just above the tree-line, favoured by the snipes, will give us a chance for another of our key target species, Chinese Monal, along with White Eared-Pheasant, Tibetan Partridge and Kessler's Thrush. We shall proceed to the pass to try for Grandala, Snow Pigeon, Tibetan Snowcock and Snow Partridge, an assortment of rosefinches and both BrandtÕs and Plain Mountain Finches. A brief foray over the pass will give us the chance to search for such mouth-watering gems as Chinese Rubythroat, White-browed Tit Warbler and Lammergier.
In the afternoon of day 11 we shall head north to our next destination; the scenic town of Maerkang. Nights in Wolong and Maerkang.
We spend all day in the wonderful coniferous forests on Mengbishan. TheThe forest covered slopes are home to such specialties as Sichuan Jay, Giant Laughingthrush, Przewalski's Nuthatch, Three-banded, Chinese White-browed, Common, Beautiful and Pink-rumped Rosefinches, Blood and Koklass Pheasants. While the more open areas could provide us with views of family parties of White Eared Pheasants and maybe even Verreaux's Monal Partridge. Night in Maerkang.
Our drive along the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau gives us the opportunity to look for birds generally found further west into Tibet. Azure-winged Magpie, Dusky Warbler, Daurian Jackdaw, Common Pheasant, White-browed Tit and Japanese Tit favour the dense scrub, while checking the watercourses on the way should produce some waterbirds; Ferruginous Duck, Goosander and tibetana Common Terns, while dapper Tibetan Wagtails (split from Citrine), rosy-rumped Twite, Oriental Skylark and Shore Lark feed along the muddy margins. Nights in Roeurgei.
A full days birding on the Tibetan plateau, primarily on open grassland and wetlands. The numerous colonies of Plateau Pika encourage large numbers of Upland Buzzard, along with the chance of Sakar and Steppe Eagle. White-rumped and Rufous-necked Snowfinches, Horned Lark and Ground Tit use the pika burrows as their nests and on the wetlands we can expect several Black-necked Cranes. The wetlands will also have numbers of Tibetan Lark, 'Tibetan Wagtail', Red-crested and Ferruginous Pochards, and a variety of other waterbirds, overhead Salim Ali's Swift is possible. Depending on the weather and our successes we will also visit an area of forest with some of day 15's birds possible. Night in Roeurgei.
Today we visit a nearby forest in search of some scarce species that are rarely seen at the more traditional sites. Possibilities include Tibetan Grey Shrike, Blue Eared Pheasant, Giant, Pere David's and Sukatschev's Laughingthrushes, Severtzov's Grouse, Chinese and Przewalski's Nuthatches, Verreaux's Monal Partridge, Godlewski's Bunting and Sichuan Tit (split from Songar Tit). Night in Roeurgei.
Today we drive from Roeurgei to Juizhaigou, stopping en route at several birding spots. We shall be keeping an eye out for such specialities as Blue Eared Pheasant, Pere David's, Giant and Sukatschev's Laughingthrushes, Severtsov's Grouse, Three-banded, Chinese White-browed and Pink-rumped Rosefinches, Chinese and Przewalski's Nuthatches, Verreaux's Monal Partridge and Godlewski's Bunting. Night in Songpan.
We have two full days birdwatching around the scenic Jiuzhaigou with its distinct avifauna. The surrounding forests and open landscape harbours several regional endemics and we will be in pursuit of Chinese Nuthatch, Pere David's Tit and Sukatschev's Laughingthrush and a whole variety of equally stunning but more widespread species. As we check the hidden valleys and vividly coloured lakes against a dramatic mountainous landscape in search of the rarer inhabitants we are likely to come across a plethora of other species, possibly including Indian Blue Robin, Sooty Bushtit, Common Pheasant, Three-banded, Vinaceous and Chinese White-browed Rosefinches, Maroon-backed Accentor and Bar-tailed and Hodgson's Treecreepers.
Of particular interest in Sichuan are the large number of Phylloscopus species and their rapidly changing taxonomic status. Nights in Songpan.
Following some morning birding near Jiuzhaigou, we spend most of the day driving back to Chengdu for our sumptuous farewell dinner. Night in Chengdu.
International departures from Chengdu International Airport.
Deposit: £ 500 or $ 700
Single room supplement:
£ 540 / $ 705
Maximum group size: 8
Tour cost includes: all accommodation, main meals, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, entrance fees, drinking water, tips to local drivers and guides, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: International flights, visa, travel insurance, drinks, tips to tour guides, and other items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: comfortable twin-bed, and single rooms, all with private facilities. Though this can vary depending on the confirmed itinerary.
Walking difficulty: generally easy to moderate throughout. We do spend a large proportion of the tour at altitude, largely between 2,000-3,000m, with the highest birding point at 4,500m
Expected number of species: 280-320 species.
Number of endemics of range-restricted species: A large number of breeding endemics, and near-endemics, along with several endemic Galliformes including Temminck's tragopan and Golden and Lady Amherst's Pheasants.