Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Birding Wuyishan (South China) 16-21 June 2008

This is a photo essay of my nature / birding foray into Wuyishan (Mount Wuyi), a UNESCO World Heritage site that boasts the best biodiversity conservation zone in Southeast China. We started the trip in Xiamen/Quanzhou with the Singapore Heritage Society, on a 6-day pilgrimage (10-15 June) to historical and folk sites that bore a Singapore connection, visiting places like Tan Kah Kee’s soon-to-be open museum etc. That part of the trip will be fleshed out in a later composition. From Xiamen, we took an overnight 14-hour aircon soft sleeper train to Wuyishan City. There, we were met by Spring Zhang, our cheery 22-year guide and our driver Wu for a private tour of the environs.

All tour arrangements were made by email beforehand, and the itinerary covered the usual tourist attractions in the area for three days, plus two days of birding in the Protected Area (National Park). We liaised with Jenny Zhang (Spring's sister), who was very helpful and accommodating. Her company is supposedly the largest tour company in Wuyishan. China International Travel Service WuYiShan Co.,Ltd. Address: CITS BUILDING SANGU STREET WUYISHAN HOLIDAY RESORT FUJIAN PROVINCE, CHINA. Jenny's email is z_jenny21@hotmail.com.

We suffered some anxiety getting the train tickets from our tour agent (the Xiamen end of CITS fouled up big time), with the items going missing from the concierge at the eleventh hour. After a mad scramble to trace the lost tickets with calls flying everywhere, our hotel told us the tall story that their desk manager had actually brought the tickets home. In reality, they were sitting calmly in our fellow tour mate’s room. After admitting their mistake, the hotel dutifully delivered the lost train passes to our room at close to midnight. The next morning, I found out to my horror that the tickets were for the 7pm instead of the 11pm train. This was a big problem as we were returning from Quanzhou to Xiamen that day, a three hour journey (sans jams), and I was afraid that we would miss the train. Thankfully, our Xiamen guide Catherine was very kind to switch things around, making it possible for us to catch our transport inland. And so, after a comfortable ride with sufficient sleep, we arrived bright and early in Wuyishan in time for a delicious breakfast of dried spicy meat noodles. Arriving four hours earlier than planned was definitely a blessing in disguise as we could spread out our tour itinerary with more time for each locale (much needed for our frequent pauses to take pictures and gaze at birds). Also, CITS did not charge us extra for the extended hours.

Our itinerary:
Day 1 – Tianyou Feng & Dahongpao Tea Plants
Day 2 – Yixian Tian, Bamboo Raft Ride at the Nine Bend River, Wuyi Palace, Spring Garden, Taoist Temple etc.
Day 3 – Huxiao Yan (Roaring Tiger Rock) & Water Curtain Falls
Day 4 – Drive to Wuyishan National Park / Protected Area (Baohuqu), Summit of Mount Huang Gang, Birding from 2pm till 6pm.
Day 5 – Birding from 5am till 12pm, Drive back to catch our overnight train at 8pm.
Day 6 - Xiamen airport back to Singapore.

Both of us managed to find our number one target - the endemic Cabot's Tragopan, a mama-and-chick duo seen at 640am at around KM21.5 on 20 June 2008. The chick was very adorable with rufous face, yellowish down feathers covering its breast/belly and classic tragopan ocelli brown spots on its mantle and wing feathers. Mama had seen us approaching and had immediately sought cover in the thick vegetation of the upper slopes. The chick was left alone perched on a dark ledge just above the road. It look bewildered and confused as mama frantically called for it to move upwards to join her. Finally, the chick got wind of her verbal cues, and after a short flight and some hopping, was happily united with his overwrought mother. Our views were down to 5 meters. Birding doesn't get any better than this!


We stayed at the 4-star Wuyi Mountain Villas for 3 nights. This resort is purportedly the most scenic in the area, having the famous Dawangfeng (大王峰) as its backdrop. It played host to world leaders in the past, evidenced by saplings planted with accompanying dignatary plaques. At present, the tourism boom in Wuyishan has seen the construction of three new 5-star resorts and five more 4-star hotels. There is also a plethora of cheaper accommodation options.


The interior of our messy room at Wuyi Mountain Villas.




Our first stop was to climb Tianyou Feng ( 天游峰), a breathtaking experience (both literally and figuratively) as we ascended a million steps to get this view of the Nine Bend River (九曲溪).




The snaking rocky stairway up Tianyou Feng. We were given a quiz which we answered correctly. During the Mid-Autumn festival while eating mooncakes and drinking tea from a pavilion up a slope at Tianyou Feng , four 'moons' can be seen, how? Answer: 1) the moon itself, reflections from the 2) teacup 3) the water 4) one's eyes.


The forested path downwards was very rich in wildlife. We saw three very cute Blue-breasted Quail here, on top of frogs, insects etc (see photos below).

Bronze-ridged frog (yet to find out its real name). This frog gives a deep throated call, almost akin to barking. Saw it three times, twice within the Tianyou Feng area and once in our hotel's pond. I'm quite sure I heard its bark in Quanzhou's Kaiyuan temple too.



Plumbeous Water Redstart. This beauty is very common along the river area. It likes to fan its tail (as can be seen in this photo), probably to flush insects. Photographed this at the Tea Canyon in Tianyoufeng.

Ah, my best shot of a butterfly yet. Glenda helped me ID it as the Indian Fritillary (Argynnis hyperbius).



Thanks to Glenda, I found out the name of this jewel in the Tianyou Feng forest, the Club Silverline (Spindasis syama 豆粒銀線灰蝶), considered rare in Singapore. This is an upside down shot which I inverted for easy viewing.

Munching caterpillars filled a small bush.

Lovely cicadas called in union and raised a real ruckus in the noon heat. Its not easy to spot, but our combined sharp eyes produced this green-and-yellow gem.
Another cicada we found at the mosquito-ridden forested patch near our hotel had transparent wings, similar to the ones seen on Fraser's Hill, Malaysia. We each acquired 10 bites trying to photograph this fella (it was rather high up on a tree trunk).



Humping iridescent beetles.




Collared Finchbill, a rather common garden bird.



Dahongpao (Big Red Robe) is the most famous of the Wuyi Yan Cha (Wuyi Rock Tea) range. It thrives on the well-drained loose soils of Wuyishan's slopes, formed from eroded rock particles, giving rise to its Rock Tea label. Here, we are posing at the spot of the six 'mother' Dahongpao trees that are around 350 years old (they are the green stuff growing on the upper right hand corner of this photo). These six trees are the revered ancestors to the area's Dahongpao tea plantations and are part of the reason why Wuyishan was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. Up to May 2006, their leaves were still harvested once a year to make tea for the likes of China's President Hu Jintao. Harvesting has since ceased to better protect this natural heritage.

Close-up views of Dahongpao's tea leaves. Notice the characteristic red rim on its green leaves. For normal grade tea, two leaves and one bud are plucked. High grade teas use only one leaf and one bud. We had at least four tea-tasting sessions (once in Quanzhou where I bought Tie Guanyin, once in Wuyishan Tourist area where I bought Dahongpao and wild mushrooms, and twice in the Huang Gang Shan protected area (Sangang village) where I bought the area's famous Lapsang Souchong (Zhengshan Xiaozhong Hong Cha) which is black tea smoked in Pinewood, giving it a robust flavour with a unique smoky aroma.


Our guide taught us the three lessons that can be learnt from tea, based on its Chinese logograph (茶cha) 1) Man should live harmoniously with Nature (the 人ren (man) is in the middle of 草cao (grass) and 木mu (wood)), 2) Drinking tea gives one a long life - up to 108 years old - (20+80+8 = 108, based on adding up the numerical strokes that make up the word 茶cha from top to bottom), 3) The best age to marry is age 28 for a man (the 1st & 2nd part of the logograph), and age 18 for a woman (the 木mu can also be seen as 18).


Dainty Blue Damselfly found near Dahongpao area. We photographed the fishes swimming in the waters too, but those pictures turned out badly.




I first noticed the butterfly on this tree, and upon closer examination, realised that there were plenty of other insects, including a moth, sucking the sap off its trunks. I've never seen such a 6-legged convention before.




Rhinocerous Beetle found lower down on the same sappy tree.



Mating grasshoppers.


Five-striped Blue-tailed Skink (Eumeces elegans), also called the Shanghai Skink. Thankfully, I managed to shoot it before it scuttled into the undergrowth. Found on the pavement outside the Zhuxi Academy.




Tea plantation just outside the teahouse at Tianyoufeng.




Have not found out the name of this bat at Yixian Tian(一线天). This is my most fiendishly difficult photo yet. We had to stand in a dripping cave that reeked of bat urine, aiming our cameras skywards and straining our necks in the process, to shoot at the blackness hoping to get a bat in flight. In the meantime, hundreds of loud-talking Chinese tourists were streaming by, and we had to pause ever so often to give them room to squeeze through. Their constant banter, amplified by the echoes of this very narrow cave, grated at my ears and nerves. And in the middle of it all, it started to drizzle, adding immensely to my misery. But what the heck, at least I got a semblance of a bat in flight.

Yixian Tian (一线天) - basically, this bat filled place is a narrow gap between two monoliths, with views of only a strip of sky, hence its name.
Yixian Tian. The narrowest stairway we had to negotiate ever. Two drops of rainwater on my camera are symbolic of the rainy weather from Day 2 onwards.


Plenty of echo-locating leaf nose bats with on the walls. The Chinese refer to it as 'Bai Bianfu' (White Bats).




Bat mama with child.



We went to a snake research centre cum museum. The person in charge provoked this Chinese Cobra (Naja atra) to raise its hood by proding it with a rod. After that, he tried to sell us snake oil (literally) and other snakeskin products. Sadly, all the Long-nosed Pit Vipers used to make the snakeskin wallets on sale were wild caught from the ironically protected area of Mount Huang Gang.Long-nosed Pit Viper (Deinagkistrodon acutus). According to Wikipedia, Deinagkistrodon is a monotypic genus found in South China and Southeast Asia. In Chinese it is dubbed as the Wubushe or Five-pace Snake - if it bites you, you can only walk five paces before you collapse.


Gosh, there was even a snake god housed in a 'cave', within the compounds of the snake research centre cum museum.


Nine Bend River (Jiuquxi). This is the start of our bamboo raft ride downstream from the ninth bend. A number of Sand Martins were seen sallying around the jetty area. This winding river is one of the most scenic spots in Wuyishan. Rides are dependent on water levels (there are river officials examining the river everyday to determine ride conditions). The day after we did our 70 minute cruise, all rides were called off as the rains had caused water levels to rise dangerously, forming eddying pools and scary rapids. Thank God the river banks didn't burst.





There are suppose to be huge 'Red-eyed fishes' swimming in the river but sadly we didn't see any upclose, only through our binoculars from the bridge on the first day. However, we did get to eat a lot of these river fishes (liyu) which tasted succulent and sweet, but such meals were dicey affairs as these fishes have plenty of fine bones. I had to extricate several of these tiny bones by coughing violently.

About twenty minutes into the ride, I spied a large brown female Common Pheasant pecking away and drinking water from the shingle banks. The bird then flew across the waters to the other side of the river. What a setting for a lifer! The twin peaks of Yunvfeng 玉女峰 (Jade Lady Peak) and Dawangfeng
大王峰 (Great King Peak) grace the 2nd bend.



This is one of only about 20 boat coffins of the ancient Min Yue culture found suspended from cliffs in the Wuyishan area. These 3,800 year old caskets are the oldest boat coffins in the world. There was a little museum at the end of the bamboo raft ride that showcased the area's natural (eg. Clouded Leopard, South China Tiger etc) and cultural heritage, and where this photo was taken, illegally though as no photography is allowed.
While drifting languidly downstream on our bamboo raft, we were regaled with legends behind the fanciful names of various rock formations. The Nine Bend River is also the favourite spot for location shoots of Chinese movies and drama serials like Xiyouji (Journey to the West). Our raft captain pointed out that the 'holes' seen on this cliff were where boat coffins used to be placed. It is still a mystery how the ancient Min Yue people managed to get the caskets up on these inaccessible cliffs. One theory holds that water levels were much higher in the past.


Woody boat coffin remnants still line some of these ex-burial spots. From my estimation, these were at least 50 to 70 meters off the ground.



The remains of a wooden platform bridging two vertical rock faces where boat coffins were once placed. Amazing and utterly fascinating.



Dawangfeng 大王峰 (Great King Peak) with its characteristic cliff overhang.



A Song Dynasty street scene greeted us as we stepped off our bamboo raft.


One of those poorly translated signs that draw laughs. The correct translation should be 'Grasses are also living things, please love / protect them'.


A spectacular Taoist temple in Wuyishan that deifies Bai Yuchan 白玉蟾 (1194–1227) whose altar occupies the important first floor. Bai Yuchan and his disciples promoted a line of inner alchemy (neidan) masters as their spiritual ancestors. While ninth-century neidan was a peripheral discipline practiced by little-known individuals with oral instructions from unnamed figures in mysterious circumstances, the efforts of those like Bai helped make it an elaborate heritage complete with standardized spiritual genealogies, canonized writings, and historically verifiable networks of teachers and disciples in several cultural niches. The usual Taoist pantheon of gods such as the Jade Emperor (Yuhuang Dadi) and the Three Pure Ones (Sanqing) were relegated to the second floor.




Tim's umbrella rest drew as much curious stares as the surrounding beauty. I had to keep saying '没事,没事' (meishi = no worries).
Roaring Tiger Rock or Huxiaoyan (虎啸岩) required us to climb another steep stairway in order to enjoy this misty view. Its name of 'Roaring Tiger' is derived from the tiger-like howl produced by gusty winds blowing through these peaks.



Roaring Tiger Rock. We saw an unidentified Falco flying amidst the mist.



Everlasting Love Locks on a bridge that spanned a deep chasm at the very top of Roaring Tiger Rock.

The tongue of the tiger with missing lower jaw.

Water Curtain Falls. This concave waterfall forms a natural amphitheatre.


Tim at the bottom of the falls. Traditional requires that a person walks 3 rounds around the pool, passing behind the spray of the water curtain. The first round grants the person a good position in his job, the second round symbolises abundant wealth while the third round bestows a good spouse.



Another pretty waterfall. We passed many cascades along the way into the main Water Curtain Falls.




This pretty brown-spotted green froggie is numerous around the Wuyishan foothills, residing mainly in water bodies, but some were even seen in the forest. They have certainly taken to civilisation, as we even spied a lot of them in the articifial waterfall at our hotel. Most likely, the tiny black frogs that can be seen hopping everywhere (even in our hotel's car park) are the young of these amphibians. It has a squeaky high-pitched call, contrasting with the deeper barks of the Bronze-ridged frog. This frog was not seen at all in the higher elevations of Mount Huang Gang, most likely replaced by the edible Shiling frogs.


However, if you do not pay attention to nature, it bypasses you readily. We had to point this beauty out to our tour guide. In fact, we guided her, in terms of natural sights, as much as she guided us in the cultural aspects of Wuyishan. She's a real darling though, patiently waiting up for us on innumerable occassions as we took our time to take photographs of any and everything. She also aceded to our many requests, and ran the extra mile (literally) when she helped retrieve our belongings from a lunch place that were too heavy to be carried along.


On our fourth day at Wuyishan, we headed towards the Baohuqu (Protected Area/National Park) about two hours away. Shortly after entering the restricted area which required special passes, we stopped at the Red Suspension Bridge to stretch our legs. Over here, we saw the Black Bulbul (white-headed form), Coal Tit etc. We trekked downwards into the thick forest, and descended to the banks of this fast flowing river.




The ubiquitous Asian House Martin. This is nesting season - we spotted their nests everywhere, from the lowland cliff faces, to the ceilings of houses in Sangang (the town within the Protected Area), to the top of Mount Huang Gang itself.




Have not found out the name of this striped squirrel yet. Two of them were frolicking at the forest around the Red Suspension Bridge.




At 2158m, Mount Huang Gang (Huanggangshan) is the tallest mountain in Wuyishan National Park, located at the Fujian/Jiangxi border within the protected area. It is 97% forested in the Baohuqu (protected area), and 68% forested in the Dujiaqu (tourist area).



One of our first birds up Mount Huang Gang, a female Chestnut-bellied Rockthrush. Funny enough, it behaved like a flycatcher, flying out to catch insects and returning to the same perch.

Streak-throated Fulvetta.




We found an abandoned missile base station at the top of Mount Huang Gang - the real reason for the need for army guards at the base of the mountain. It was very misty and beautiful at the top, with evanescent fog thickly clothing the stunted trees and alpine meadows. I found two Upland Pipits here. On the drive down, we flushed a majestic Imperial Eagle that leapt into the fog in a downward flight that revealed its white rump and wing tips. The ponds were devoid of life though, while the derelict stone buildings served as perfect nesting sites for Asian House Martins that zipped through the skies in a constant swirl of activity. The sudden chill of getting out from a warm van had me all bundled up and shivering, and particularly grateful for a warm embrace. Here, we are at the commerative plaques that mark the apex of Huang Gang Shan.




Our star find for the whole 12-day trip, on par with seeing the Cabot's Tragopan - an East Asian Mole, Mogera insularis (tentative ID). The 10-cm long fur ball literally dropped from the heavens, a gift from God. We were birding the roads downslope (around KM 23) when suddenly we both heard a plop sound coming from behind us. The blind mole apparently tunnelled from the soils of the upper slopes straight out, tumbling down to the road below where we were! Poor dear. It was obviously concussed and confused, not used to being out in the open. I filmed a video of it running around in circles.


According to Walker’s Mammals of the World Vol 1 & 2, there are 7 species of East Asian Moles with the genus Mogera. Mogera insularis Distribution: Southeastern China, Taiwan & Hainan. Head & body length: 87-115mm, tail length: 14-20mm. Pelage is nearly uniform slate colour. Mogera differs from the genus Talpa and Euroscaptor in lacking canine teeth in the lower jaw, and in the strong development of last lower premolars, which function in place of the canines. Sure fits the description of our mole!


We showed this photo to our guide and driver. Our driver calls it the 'Xiao Huang1zhu1' and told us that huge ones around 15kg can be found at the summit. They only emerge from their burrows at night and are hunted by the natives.


Illegal wild-caught Shiling frogs by the guard at the guardhouse at KM24. A bag of about 10 frogs could be had for RMB70 or about S$14.


On our first drive up Huanggang Shan (Mount Huang Gang), our driver spotted 2-4 Tibetan Macaques Macaca thibetana (tentative ID) frolicking by the roadside. He gave a startled call, and told us that in his 20 odd years living within the Wuyishan protected area with innumerable trips up Mt Huanggang (he is one of 1400 local villagers), this was his first time encountering these rare monkeys. Tim and I both caught the retreating forms of 2-4 macaques. About half an hour later when we stopped to look at the Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush, our driver spotted some movements high above, and I managed to binocular one lone male, while Tim went one step further by photographing it! This male was calling loudly (our driver said that his call was similar to that of the mountain goat), his voice echoing up and down the mountain side. We felt really privileged to catch a glimpse of this rare primate.


Our hotel room in Sangang. Clean and basic with very hard plank beds. We arrived only late at night when the innkeeper had already gone off to bed and left at 4am the next morning for the Tragopan. As such, we didn't get to see the exterior.




Tea leaves left to wither. Our driver's brother briefed us on how he makes Lapsang Souchong (pine-smoked tea) within his tiny factory just next to his house. The steps are: 1) picking of tea leaves by itinerant workers, 2) drying in the sun, 3) withering, 4) rolling in a hand operated machine, 5) full fermentation, 6) smoking using pine wood. We had two extensive tea drinking sessions at his home where we tasted for ourselves how Lapsang Souchong can be 'paoed' (brewed) up till ten times with little loss of flavour.



Chinese Muntjac (barking deer).

Maple leaves framed by blue skies.



The rolling hills provide an inspirational birding backdrop.



Mixed deciduous and coniferous forest on the higher elevations of Mount Huang Gang.


Close up views of the thick forest.

Stunted pines grow on the rocky precipice.


Sangang village (c.900m asl) surrounded by thick bamboo forest and small-scale tea plantations.

Us with our tour guide Spring Zhang (Xiaozhang) with 70-year old tea trees in the backdrop. Over here, instead of being planted in neat rows, tea trees grow haphazardly in clumps and solitary bushes, making harvesting by machinery impossible. As such, all tea is hand-picked, ensuring optimal quality. Harvesting takes place twice a year, compared to 4-5 times a year in other locales.





Bird List - South China (Xiamen / Quanzhou / Wuyishan) from 10 - 21 June 2008
Participants: Gloria Seow & Timothy Pwee

Codes for Places Birded:

1. WSBG - Wanshi Botanical Gardens, the largest botanical gardens in Xiamen, lots of vegetations (some landscaped, most unruly which is good!), birdy and interesting. Elevation: sea level.


2. XM - Xiamen / Quanzhou streets downtown, parks, tourist areas. Elevation: sea level.


3. WYS-TA - Wuyishan Tourist Area, depending on where we were, elevations ranged from 150m to 700m ASL.


4. WYS-HG - Wuyishan Mount Huang Gang (Protected Area/National Park with restricted access). Birding at 3 places - 1) lower elevations at the Red Suspension Bridge, 2) the summit itself (2158m ASL), 3) between KM 23 to KM18 (around 1500-1900m ASL).



This portioned is copied directly from my Excel file, so sequence of categories is as follows:

No.
Birds
Scientific Name
Location
Remarks
Lifer


1
Blue-breasted Quail
Coturnix chinensis
WYS-TA
3 birds spotted by Tim crossing the forest path near the bottom of Huxiaoyan (Roaring Tiger Rock). At first, he thought that they were chicks without the mother hen! Had excellent views for at least eight minutes before losing them. Tim found them again crossing the path behind us. They were really cute, but no way to photograph them in the tangle of the undergrowth.
1


2
Cabot's Tragopan
Tragopan caboti
WYS-HG
Our star bird. Mama and chick duo. Too bad papa's red feathers were no where in sight. Very thankful to see them at such a late hour (640am) as they are dawn (515am) birds. I had more or less given up hope of seeing the Tragopan and decided to have some breakfast of Wang Wang crackers. I bit into the loud crackers just as I rounded a corner...and bingo, detected the movements of Mama. She was in clear view at the side of the road itself. I beckoned to Tim and he ran forward. We gazed at her for about 10 seconds as she trotted towards us. Then she probably saw us and flew / jumped upwards. Only when we tried to find her in the thick vegetation did we both see the chick hidden on the dark ledge just above the road. The rest of the story can be read in the main blog. We kept a distance of 5m between us and the birds in order not to frighten them too much.
2

3
Common Pheasant
Phasianus colchicus
WYS-TA
Lifer (female) while leisurely cruising downstream on a bamboo raft at the nine bend river…story is above.
3

4
White-throated Kingfisher
Halcyon smyrnensis
WYS-TA
Flying across river.

5
Asian Koel
Eudynamys scolopacea
WSBG
Heard only.

6
Asian Barred Owlet
Glaucidium cuculoides
WSBG
One of our last sightings at the Wanshi Botanical Gardens. Spotted its fat silhouette in the dense pine tree and was extremely happy that it turned out to be my favourite bird - an owl. There was a pair..and we heard one calling to the other. Thought it was the Little Owl at first, but it was sadly a non-lifer - the Asian Barred Owlet, first seen in Doi Chiang Dao (Malee's).

7
Rock Pigeon
Columba livia
XM, WYS-TA
Aside from feral ones, there were kept flocks for tourists to pose with, fed often with birdfeed at the Water Curtain Falls.

8
Spotted Dove
Streptopelia chinensis
WSBG, WYS-TA
Likes to perch high up, silhouetted in the sun, making ID a bit of a headache as views are blackened. Only after much squinting and changing of positions can one determine that its only the common Spotted Dove.

9
Imperial Eagle
Aquila heliaca
WYS-HG
Summit of Mt Huang Gang. White on rump area very distinctive as it launched itself in a downward dive.
4

10
Black Eagle
Ictinaetus malayensis
WYS
Flying high above - seen at river below Red Suspension Bridge at Mt Huang Gang.

11
Chinese Pond-Heron
Ardeola bacchus
WSBG, WYS-TA
Breeding colours. Ponds at WSBG and also at the Nine Bend River

12
Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
XM (Gulangyu, lakes), WYS-TA
Common along the water bodies in downtown Xiamen. Also at Nine Bend River.

13
Orange-bellied Leafbird
Chloropsis hardwickii
WYS-HG
Red suspension Bridge - feeding. This individual was difficult to ID - it had greyish head and typical leafbird green body. Juvenile? Orange-bellied LB is the only one in this range.

14
Eurasian Jay
Garrulus glandarius
WYS-HG
Brief glimpses

15
Black-billed Magpie
Pica pica
WSBG
Saw at least twice, territorial calling up a tree, and walking on the open lawn.
5

16
Blue Magpie
Urocissa erythrorhyncha
WSBG, WYS-TA, WYS-HG
Beautiful bird. Moves singly or in flocks of up to 6 birds. Seen on the drive up Huang Gang at its lower elevations, (our driver calls it the changwei que - long-tailed bird) and in the garden of our hotel at Wuyi Mountain Villas.
6

17
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Copsychus saularis
XM, WSBG, WYS-TA
At least 2-3 fighting Juveniles - my first time seeing this plumage and was thrown off kilter when the MacKinnon book didn't have illustrations or descriptions. Only back in Singapore when I consulted my other guidebooks that I found out the plumage of juveniles. Adults seen too, naturally, but not associating with juveniles.

18
White-crowned Forktail
Enicurus leschenaulti
WYS-HG
Photographed a juvenile, Saw an adult, both at HG manning small waterfalls/streams.

19
Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush
Monticola rufiventris
WYS-HG
Female seen, behaving like a flycatcher - flying one circle to hawk for insects and returning to the same perch. Photos taken. Showed this bird to our guide and driver.
7

20
Blue Whistling-Thrush
Myophoneus caeruleus
WSBG, WYS
Surprised to find this bird at the Wanshi Botanical Gardens, up the hilly portion as I always thought it was a sub-montane species. Bingwen said that he has seen it at sea level in Langkawi, so OK, learnt something new.

21
Small Niltava
Niltava macgrigoriae
WYS-HG
Juvenile & Female seen. Juvenile had lovely blue tail on a speckled brown body, while female had a distinctive blue collar that stood out on its dull brown feathers.
8

22
Plumbeous Water-Redstart
Rhyacornis fuliginosus
WYS-TA
Common along the water bodies in WYS tourist area, as well as HG foothills (river at Red Suspension Bridge). Photographed a male at the Tea Canyon (inland), about 50m from the river.

23
Grey Bushchat
Saxicola ferrea
WYS-HG
Looked like a shrike…calling from the tree tops, spotted by Tim.

24
Eurasian Blackbird
Turdus merula
WSBG, XM, WYS-TA
First saw female in WSBG pecking on the ground just as we were about to leave. Tim left first. Later on in our XM tour, we saw it a few times, eg. Xiamen University - pecking on the ground too. Possibly nesting at the cliff holes in WYS-TA. I saw a bird black bird that flew out of such a hole, chasing another away. Didn't binocular it on time.
9

25
Crested Myna
Acridotheres cristatellus
WSBG, XM
Only a couple seen, outside the WSBG. Seen alone, no flocks.
10

26
Black-collared Starling
Sturnus nigricollis
WSBG
Noisy flocks common in the WSBG, but not encountered (at least not observed) in downtown XM.

27
Chestnut-vented (Naga) Nuthatch
Sitta nagaensis
WYS-HG
One bird seen at rather close range, about 6m off the ground.

28
Japanese Tit (split from Great Tit)
Parus minor
WYS-TA
Saw it first at the Dahongpao area. Some poorly taken photos. Looks different from the Great Tit in Japan. Why do they call this Japanese Tit and the Japanese one is called the Great Tit? Confiding and common in our hotel at WYS-TA.
11

29
Coal Tit
Parus ater kuatunensis
WYS-HG
First saw it at the Red Suspension Bridge - with reddish underparts. Subspecies very different from specimens seen in Japan where crest was a lot less prominent.

30
Yellow-cheeked Tit
Parus spilonotus
WYS-HG
Pretty little things. Seen previously in Inthanon

31
Yellow-browed Tit
Sylviparus modestus
WYS-HG
Pretty little things.
12

32
Black-throated Tit
Aegithalos concinnus
WYS-HG
Pretty little things.
13

33
Asian House-Martin
Delichon dasypus
WYS
Common throughout WYS, perching on street wires, nesting at all elevations, from the tourist area (200m) to the summit of Mt HG (2158m). Plenty of condominium nests in the abandoned missle base stations, isolated nests on cliffsides and on the ceilings of houses in WYS-TA.

34
Barn Swallow
Hirundo rustica
XM
Numerous in downtown Xiamen. Nests found under ceilings and roofs.

35
Sand / Pale Martin
Riparia riparia
WYS-TA
Less than 10 birds seen sallying around at the start of the Bamboo Raft ride of the Nine Bend River.
14

36
Chestnut Bulbul
Hemixos castanonotus
WYS-HG
Red Suspension Bridge - A couple of lovely specimens seen close-up. Chestnut colours looked amazing in the strong sunlight.
15

37
Black Bulbul
Hypsipetes leucocephalus
WYS-HG
Red Suspension Bridge - The white headed form of the Black Bulbul is a stunner. Probably the same pair seen perching on open branches. Photographed it. At first, I thought it was the same bird seen in Inthanon, only upon checking up my notes that I realized that the Inthanon species is different - the White-headed Bulbul (thompsoni).
16

38
Mountain Bulbul
Hypsipetes mcclellandii
WYS-HG
Forest beneath of the Red Suspension Bridge and up Mount HG itself.

39
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Pycnonotus jocosus
XM
Funny, but the MacKinnon book's distribution of this species does not seem to include XM, but we saw some birds here - so likely to be escapees.

40
Light-vented Bulbul
Pycnonotus sinensis
XM, WYS-TA
The most common bulbul in this part of the world, akin to the Yellow-vented Bulbul in Singapore. This is a pretty bird that allows rather close approach and can be readily seen in the streets of XM and at the lower elevations of the WYS-TA.
17

41
Collared Finchbill
Spizixos semitorques
WSBG, WYS-TA
I’m quite sure I saw it at the WSBG. Much better views throughout the WYS-TA. Rather common and pretty bird.
18

42
Plain Prinia
Prinia inornata
WSBG, XM
This is one of those dull brown jobs that flit from bush to bush. Also recorded at the Luoyang Bridge in Xiamen where it was seen feeding over the water hyacinth patches in the river. Abundant in India.

43
Japanese White-eye
Zosterops japonicus
XM, WSBG, WYS-TA
Common garden bird in the lower elevations of South China. Found even in the streets - observed some birds outside the Overseas Chinese Hotel in downtown Quanzhou, on some trees fronting the little lake. Also common in the garden at Wuyi Mountain Villas.

44
Streak-throated (Grey-hooded) Fulvetta
Alcippe cinereiceps
WYS-HG
A rather non-descript bird, IDed via the photographs I took of it finishing off an ant (see picture above).
19

45
Grey-cheeked Fulvetta
Alcippe morrisonia
WYS-HG
This Fulvetta was very confiding and cute in Doi Inthanon, flying in huge, low flocks. A birdwave literally passed between our legs and we had 0.5m views. Not as visible in Mt HG.

46
Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler
Cettia acanthizoides
WYS-HG
Cannot recall much details of this bird. Warblers are a huge headache. I'm tempted to say I've seen them all since they are the confounding difficult-to-ID 'waders' of the forest. Its like those Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys books we read as kids - the plot is so similar from story to story that if you have read a few books, you can say you have read the entire series of over 100 books. Of course my favourite mystery series was Alfred Hitchcock's The Three Investigators, so much more intelligent.
20

47
Hwamei
Garrulax canorus
XM, WYS-TA (Tim only)
Was happy to finally see a wild Hwamei. These songsters are kept as pets by the locals and in Chinese, are also called Huamei. First saw it while birding the railway track outside the WSBG, a fast-flying bird that fed on the wild figs/berries. Tim also recorded it at our hotel in WYS, I was still dolling up then, heehee.
21

48
Masked Laughingthrush
Garrulax perspicillatus
WSBG, XM
Loud garrulous birds that moves about in small flocks. Found also in gardens around XM. Tim saw it at the Muslim Tombs in Quanzhou.
22

49
Red-billed Leiothrix
Leiothrix lutea
WYS-HG
The 'Mesia' of Huanggang - very colourful, pretty and common up in the mountains. They also belong to the same family as the Silver-eared Mesia found abundantly in Fraser's Hill, Malaysia.
23

50
Golden Parrotbill
Paradoxornis verreauxi
WYS-HG
Nice bird
24

51
Yellow-streaked Warbler
Phylloscopus armandii
WYS-HG
I must be honest - these mystifying and irritatingly-similar warblers - more or less recorded them although I can't be sure. Had to compare these Chinese warblers with those listed in my previous trips, particularly montane regions like Inthanon, Fraser's, India.
25

52
Sulphur-breasted Warbler
Phylloscopus ricketti
WYS-HG
26

53
Buff-throated Warbler
Phylloscopus subaffinis
WYS-HG
27

54
Greenish Warbler
Phylloscopus trochiloides
WYS-HG

55
Chestnut-crowned Warbler
Seicercus castaniceps sinensis
WYS-HG

56
Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler
Pomatorhinus ruficollis
WYS-TA
I love this bird - it was skulking in the undergrowth at Huxiaoyan (Roaring Tiger Rock) which I saw on the way up. At least it was a reason to pause and catch one's breath! Near but brief views.
28


57
White-browed Shrike Babbler
Pteruthius flaviscapis
WYS-HG
Female seen. Emerald very prominent on primaries.

58
White-spectacled Warbler
Seicercus affinis
WYS-HG
Quite a nice bird, despite being called a warbler.
29


59
Golden-spectacled Warbler
Seicercus burkii
WYS-HG
Seen in Inthanon before.

60
Rufous-capped Babbler
Stachyris ruficeps
WYS-HG
Rufous on head stands out.
30


61
Striated Yuhina
Yuhina castaniceps
WYS-HG
Lots of Yuhina looking birds with punk hairdo…the Coal Tit also looks Yuhina-like at first glance, especially when backlighted.
31


62
Black-chinned Yuhina
Yuhina nigrimenta
WYS-HG
I love these frisky little things, how they fidget ceaselessly as if energy were a free resource.
32


63
Buff-bellied (Fire-breasted) Flowerpecker
Dicaeum ignipectus
WYS-HG
Only saw the dull-looking female. Seen previously at Fraser's Hill.

64
Upland Pipit
Anthus sylvanus
WYS-HG
Saw it a few times. First view - perched on a rock by the roadside as our car entered the alpine meadows. Difficult to look at it through the thick mist at the summit.
33


65
White Wagtail
Motacilla alba
WYS-TA
Street bird at WYS-TA, first saw it while eating spicy noodle breakfast right at the start of the WYS leg.

66
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Passer montanus
XM, WYS-TA
Exceedingly common at the lower elevations of South-east China.

67
Brown Bullfinch
Pyrrhula nipalensis
WYS-HG
Fat non-descript Juvenile seen.
34


68
Un-ID Falco
WYS-TA
Flying in the mist at the top of Tianyoufeng.

69
Introduced - Helmeted Guineafowl
WSBG
Walking on the lawns, later running upwards for cover when it saw us. Bingwen and Ding IDed it for me, since its an African bird sometimes eaten as food.

70
Introduced - Indian Peafowl
WSBG
Calling loudly on top of a tree.


Other Wildlife Seen

Frogs - 3 species (names are descriptive and not real)

1
Brown-ridged
Not IDed
2
Green Frog
Not IDed
3
Shiling Frog
Not IDed


Mammals

1
Tibetan Macaque
Tentative ID
2
Striped Squirrel
Not IDed
3
East-Asian Mole
Tentative ID
4
White Bat
Not IDed
5
Black Bat (outside WYS train station toilet)

6
Chinese Muntjac
Tentative ID




Others

1
Five-striped Blue-tailed or Shanghai Skink
Eumeces elegans
2
Fishes - 4 types
Not IDed
3
Insects - plenty of photos
Not IDed accept butterflies
4
Caged Birds observed - parrots, lovebirds, Java Sparrows (used like a parrot to pick out a stick in fortune telling), juvenile Crested Myna & Black-Collared Starling.

No comments: