Sunday 29 April 2018

South-east China - 29th April (Day 9)

We spent the entire day birding up and down the road at Emeifeng and, similarly, spent most of the day birding in rain or fog or both the conditions were pretty grim and the birding, in general, was fairly unproductive. The bus went down the road to try for Elliot’s Pheasant at the lower elevations while I decided to stay up the hill on my own and try for Cabot’s Tragopan. Cabot’s Tragopan was one of the main reasons I wanted to return to Emeifeng having dipped the species last time I was here in November 2016. I was dropped off at 05:30 and slowly birded up and down a short stretch of road in pretty much constant fog and rain. I saw little but was focusing my attention on the road rather than in the bushes. I followed a pair of Spotted Forktail down the road for a short way, they showed very well as they fed on the roadside in the gloom. On my second pass down the road a female Cabot’s Tragopan leaped from the ground layer vegetation 15m in front of me and ran across the road giving close but brief views. It was not until my fourth pass down the road at around 07:00 that I eventually came across a male Cabot’s Tragopan which came from vegetation only 10m from me and ran down the road and leaped into the forest alongside the road. I thought that would be all I would see of this bird but I played a recording and almost immediately the bird responded. I found a suitable location looking downslope and played the recording again. The Tragopan poked its head from behind a rock showing ita vivid red facial skin and the beautiful orange head plumes that form a V on the rear of the head. As the bird slowly moved around, through the undergrowth, I caught glimpses of the birds beautiful plumage, the upperparts being rich coppery brown densely populated with large buff blotches and with soft buff underparts. I heard a vehicle and below I could see that it was our bus with the others aboard. As they approached I waved them down and indicated that they needed to be queit and careful as they approached. Over the next 30 minutes or so we all obtained views of this stunning pheasant species but only Andy B managed to obtain decent photographs – this was definitely one of the most stunning birds I have seen. Oh, and the others had managed to see four Elliots Pheasant before coming back up the hill.

Cabot's Tragopan, digiscoped by Andy Bunting. More of Andy's photo's can be seen on his Flickr site here - Emeifeng Mountain

Spotted Forktail - Emeifeng Mountain

After breakfast we birded the trail which runs off the end of the main road and beyond the accommodation. It was thick fog with intermittent rain and the birding was fairly slow going but we encountered a few small feeding flocks mainly lead by Indochinese Yuhina and we recorded White-browed Shrike-babbler of the subspecies ricketti and a possible split as Grey-breasted Shrike-babbler, and Small Niltava new for the trip as well as Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta (subspecies huetii), Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler and Chestnut-crowned Warbler.

Butterfly species - Emeifeng Mountain

Moth species - Emeifeng Mountain

Chestnut-crowned Warbler - Emeifeng Mountain

After a welcome lunch of noodles and a chance to change out of wet clothes we headed downhill and birded a lower section of road, it was still raining and we saw relatively little. Red-rumped Swallow, House Swift and Pacific Swift fed overhead and we enjoyed the spectacular forest clad hillsides with wisps of water vapour rising from the valley bottoms. It looked dryer downhill and so we descended to the rice paddies and small holdings below. On the way down we flushed a male Elliot’s Pheasant which I saw briefly from the car so it was good to catch-up with this species for the trip. We birded this habitat in the hope of picking up a few buntings and other migrants. We recorded Little Bunting, White-rumped Munia, Oriental Turtle-dove, Chinese Hwamei, Masked Laughingthrush and White-crowned Forktail but little else and it was still raining. It was now 16:30 and we headed back up the mountain hoping to see more pheasants but in the couple of hours we spent we saw nothing but for a female Chesnut-bellied Rock-thrush near to the top. We retired for dinner and very welcome beers before crashing at 21:00.

Forest cladding the hillside of Emeifeng Mountain

Forest cladding the hillside of Emeifeng Mountain

Forest cladding the hillside of Emeifeng Mountain

The group in the rain on Emeifeng Mountain with, from left to right myself, Martin, Barry, Andy D, Ian, Volkert and Andy B

White-rumped Munia - Emeifeng Mountain

Links to Other Days of the Trip (Click to View)
Day 1 and 2 – International flight and Dongtai.
Day 3 - Dongtai.
Day 4 – Dongtai and Magic Wood.
Day 5 - Nanhui then fly to Fuzhou.
Day 6 - Shanutan Island and Fuzhou Forest Park.
Day 7 - Fuzhou Forest Park then Emeifeng Mountain.
Day 8 - Emeifeng Mountain.
Day 10 - Emeifeng Mountain then Wuyuan.
Day 11 - Wuyuan.
Day 12 – Drive Wuyuan to Dongzhai.
Day 13 - Dongzhai.
Day 14 – Dongzhai then fly Wuhan to Korlor.
Day 15 – Taklamakan Desert.
Day 16 – Taklamakan Desert then Urumqi.
Day 17 and 18 – Nanshan in the Tien Shan Mountains then fly Beijing. International flight.