NE Tibet: 29 May - 25 June 1999.


This report covers the birds seen on a journey in Qinghai Province, China, by R. Ferguson, A. Lamont, J.E. Richardson, T. & F. Serck-Hanssen, B. Soderlund & myself during late spring/ early summer 1999.

We assembled in Beijing, China's capital, in the course of 29th, and managed a bit of birdwatching during visits to the Summer Palace and to the gardens of hospital near our hotel. The next morning we flew to Lanzhou, Gansu, where our drivers were waiting with the 4WDs, and we were soon in Xining, Qinghai.

Starting early the next morning for the forests N of the town we reached habitat as the rain stopped, and while the clouds lifted had the first of many roadside cups of coffee . After lunch John spotted an Eagle Owl on a cliff above the road before we moved on to the next site; here we almost immediately found Przevalski's Nuthatch, and as evening approached also Crested Tit-warbler.

June 1st saw us leaving Xining for the main leg of the tour. After many stops we eventually reached the small town where we would spend the night - the hotel wasn't a cheerful place, and by grey morning it looked positively grim... We wasted no time leaving, continuing slowly S through wet snow, and again spent the day on the road.

The Banma area had not previously been visited by birdwatchers, and we were pleased to find extensive forest with healthy populations of gamebirds.

On 7th we headed W, breaking the long journey to watch Himalayan Griffons attack a skinned yak carcass, and to scrutinize our first Brandt's Mountain Finches & Guldenstadt's Redstarts. The latter were near a nomads' tent and the inhabitants came out to enquire about what we were doing... Scanning the distant flats we counted 115 Tibetan Gazelle (and two Kiang) before we arrived at Maduo where the coal stoves in our rooms were much appreciated.

We'd scarcely passed the uppermost bridge over the Huang He before we saw our first wolf close to the road, and soon we were watching five pairs of Black-necked Cranes on a vast wetland. Most of us had close-up views of a pair of Roborovski's Rosefinches a few stops later, and then the road dropped down to the Yangtze, crossed a bridge, and took us into Yushu, the main town in this part of the world.

In the evening we pioneered a huge restaurant close to our comfortable hotel - Bob became the first birder to celebrate his birthday in Yushu, with a highranking official, an old friend of our minder, sponsoring the really quite edible cake.

The activities of what must have been thousands of road workers slowed us considerably en route to Nangqian - birding stops had to be brief, and some of the drive's nine Lammergeiers were identified from the moving vehicles! Having checked in at a private lodge we after some dithering dove into a cave-like cafe for a bowl of noodles before retiring early.

We spent three whole days plus a morning exploring Kanda Shan - the weather held, and we all thoroughly enjoyed our stay in this remote part of the world!

As we headed N from Yushu in the morning of June 14 the weather changed - we only just managed to inspect a holy place on the edge of town before the rain started, and we abandoned the idea of some roadside scrub beyond the river... Later, post beef-and-mushroom, we spotted another couple of wolves, and got caught in weather watching what was very likely the same Roborovski's Rosefinches we'd seen on the drive down. No matter: we reached Wenquan as planned, with 260 Upland Buzzards logged, and a third wolf seen crossing the road in front of us.

Rain kept us in bed an extra two hours the next morning - noone complained! Er La pass - always demanding, always rewarding... we were undoubtedly the best acclimatized group to try the forbidding heights, and well back at the motel all we felt was happiness at having done it (and at having seen Tibetan Sandgrouse): there wasn't an altitude-induced headache between us!

Heading for Koko Nor well timed stops produced the best views of Mongolian Larks so far, and Desert Finch as a surprise. Later we laughed at a Yellow Bittern doing its vertical freeze skulking routine in grass barely an inch deep, and cheered when three Cranes soaring on the breeze could be identified as Demoiselles... however, the roadmenders got the last laugh as we jolted towards Heimahe in a cloud of dust, blinded by the low sun.

We had certainly earned a day away from our vehicles, though the rest we'd arguably also earned never really materialized - Przevalski's Rosefinch was deemed more important, and Trygve duly found us a pair above the small town where we spent three nights. The afternoon was spent on the shores of Koko Nor, watching Great Black-headed Gulls and swarms of Bar-headed Geese.

The road workers were scarcely out of bed by the time we reached the desert, and we'd barely had the first sip of coffee before some Henderson's Ground Jays appeared. Excellent views were obtained also of Pallas's Sandgrouse and Blanford's Snowfinch, and after lunch a search at the secret site for Przevalski's Redstart eventually paid off.

We left Koko Nor behind before midday, opting for an early return to Xining. Over lunch we said goodbye to Angus and Bob - they continued to Lanzhou to fly to Beijing and beyond the following day (which the rest of us spent sightseeing and resting).

On 21st the road E of Xining was busy with brightly dressed village women travelling to some festival or market, packed into any contraption capable of moving them along - we stopped on a minor pass to photograph them as they struggled up in clouds of black exhaust. Later we also spent time photographing the spectacular Huang He gorge as we approached Mengda.

We stayed three nights in a simple forest lodge, enjoying some of the best (and unquestionably the most relaxed) birdwatching on the trip in an area of spruce and mixed forest by a pretty lake.

On 24th we returned to Xining, and the following day saw some lovely Sinai Rosefinches on the nearby eroded hills before flying E for Beijing Roast Duck in China's capital on the eve of our departure.

The following list is based on our daily log. The concept bird-days is used for convenience: it is the avian equivalent of man-hours - the daily totals added up to give a handy measure of relative abundance: a pair of Golden Eagles seen four days running equals eight bird-days.

Anyone interested in future trips to the area, or to other parts of China, can contact the author at

Bei Ling Lu 4 Duan no. 1

Apartment 3-402

Beidaihe 066100

Hebei Province


Phone/fax: +86 335 403 4587 E-mail:

Finally I'd like to acknowledge the considerable stamina and high spirits of my companions - thank you for making the tour such good fun!

Beidaihe, September 1999.

Species list

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

Ten at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

27+ at colony S of Maduo on 8th and 14th; present at colony at the Koko Nor lagoon on 16th and 18th (65 birds counted on the latter occasion).

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

One on the Huang He on 2nd, and c400 at Heimahe on 17th.

Yellow Bittern Ixobrychus sinensis

One at Summer Palace, Beijing on 29 May; two at Koko Nor on 16th.

Apparently the first record for the Tibetan plateau: not included by Vaurie (1972) or Cheng (1987).

Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

c40 at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May, and one immature at E end of Koko Nor on 16th.

A vagrant to Tibet: not included for the region by Vaurie (1972) or Cheng (1987), but singles have been recorded at Golmud and Xining (JH pers. obs.).

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Seven on the Mekong at Nangqian on 11th were possibly the first recorded in Qinghai Province.

Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus

One at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May; three at Nangqian on 11th.

Apparently only a vagrant to Qinghai (Cheng 1987).

Little Egret Egretta garzetta

One at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May; one at E end of Koko Nor on 19th.

Neither Vaurie (1972) nor Cheng (1987) recorded the species for Tibet.

Great Egret E. alba

Recorded only at the E end of Koko Nor: four on 16th, and six on 19th.

Fairly scarce but regular in N Qinghai where suitable habitat exists (JH pers.obs.).

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea

Two flying upstream along Huang He on 1st; 3-4 on both visits to E end of Koko Nor.

Black Stork Ciconia nigra

A flock of seven en route on 2nd (JR).

Oriental White Stork C. boyciana

Four en route to Beijing airport on 30th (RF, AL).

A surprising record of an endangered species...

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

One at E end of Koko Nor on 16th and 19th.

A scarce but probably regular visitor to N Tibet.

Greylag Goose A. anser

12-15 noted on both visits to E end of Koko Nor - also 4-5 at Heimahe on 17th.

Bar-headed Goose A. indicus

One on the Huang He on 2nd, up to c100 seen most days on the high plateau, at E end of Koko Nor 200+ on 16th and 50 on 19th... counts which were rather overshadowed by a spectacular c2,500 on the Koko Nor meadows at Heimahe on 17th.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea

Recorded on ten days, max 300+ daily at Koko Nor.

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope

One at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May - in Qinghai two S of Maduo on 8th, one at E end of Koko Nor on 16th, and five there on 19th.

Gadwall A. strepera

Three at E end of Koko Nor on 19th.

Common Teal A. crecca

Eight at E end of Koko Nor on 19th.

Mallard A. platyrhynchos

Ten at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May; two at wetland near Maduo on 8th, and at E end of Koko Nor 30+ on 16th & 12 on 19th.

Spot-billed Duck A. poecilorhyncha

Two at E end of Koko Nor on 16th was the only record.

Northern Pintail A. acuta

2-3 seen on both visits to E end of Koko Nor.

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina

Seen daily in the Koko Nor area, max 160+ on 19th.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

35 at E end of Koko Nor on 19th.

Ferruginous Duck A. nyroca

Superb views were obtained at E end of Koko Nor, four birds on 16th, seven on 19th...

Tufted Duck A. fuligula

Seven S of Maduo on 8th, 3-15 daily at Koko Nor.

Goosander Mergus merganser

23 bird-days.

Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus

Late migrants were seen over Dari on 2nd (four birds) and near Banma on 3rd (two birds) & 5th (one bird).

Black Kite Milvus migrans

Seen most days: 53-54 bird-days in total.

Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus

29 bird-days: noted on 12 dates, with a number of individuals frame-fillingly close.

Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis

142+ bird-days, incl. 18 at a yak carcass at Dari on 7th.

Black Vulture Aegypius monachus

2-3 S of Xining on 1st.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk A. nisus

12-13 bird-days.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo

Five bird-days, all in the Banma area.

Upland Buzzard B. hemilasius

682 bird-days. Common on the plateau where Pikas are found: max 260 on the drive from Yushu to Wenquan on 14th, many of which were perched on telegraph poles.

Golden Eagle A. chrysaetos

22 bird-days. Mainly seen S of Yushu, where repeated sightings in the Kanda Shan area boosted our total.

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus

A dark morph bird was near Gonghe on 16th.

Vaurie (1972) recorded the species for Changtang and Ladakh while Cheng (1987), ignoring this, listed it only for Xinjiang (as a breeder in Tien Shan and at Korla), and as a winter visitor/vagrant to E China (Lushun & Beijing). However, small numbers are regular on migration through E & C Qinghai (JH pers.obs.).

Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus

16 well scattered individuals included one over Beijing on 29 May.

Eurasian Hobby F. subbuteo

Singles en route on 1st & 16th (near Gonghe).

Saker F. cherrug

53 bird-days included one at Laoye Shan on 31st.

Peregrine F. peregrinus

A juvenile female was in the Huang He gorge on 21st.

***[Barbary Falcon F. pelegrinoides

A juvenile falcon in the Huang He gorge on 21st was either this species or Peregrine.]

Severtzov's Grouse Bonasia sewerzowi

Near Banma one flushed on 3rd & a pair seen well on 6th (JR); at Mengda a female w/ nine chicks performed

on 23rd (T+FSH).

Verreaux's Monal Partridge Tetraophasis obscurus

12 bird-days near Banma over 4-6th. Performing well this was a main target species for the area.

Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus

Superb, prolonged views of two on Kanda Shan on 12th, heard elsewhere in the area the next day, and three at Er La pass on 15th.

Przevalski's Partridge Alectoris magna

In the Huang He gorge two flushed on 21st (JH, BS), 3+ heard there on 24th, and 2-3 heard at Xining Beishan on 25th.

Daurian Partridge Perdix dauurica

Four at Laoye Shan on 31 May.

Tibetan Partridge P. hodgsoniae

Three near Banma on 7th, fairly common in the Kanda Shan area (daily max 16 on 10th), and 4-6 birds on two dates at Koko Nor.

Blood Pheasant Ithaginis cruentus

26+ bird-days near Banma. It was pleasing to find an unwary, healthy population of this lovely species.

White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon

Seen very well (and heard) in the Kanda Shan area, 9+ on 10th, six on 12th.

Blue Eared Pheasant C. auritum

Two en route on 1st, fairly common near Banma (daily max 19 on 3rd), and at least three birds/groups heard regularly at Mengda over 21-24th.

Common Pheasant Phasanius colchicus

12-15 N of Xining on 31 May, one en route the following day, at least one in the Mengda area, and 4+ heard at Xining Beishan on 25th.

Coot Fulica atra

At E end of Koko Nor 40+ on 16th, and 10 on 19th.

Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis

33 bird-days involving 26 different individuals at wetland S of Maduo, en route to Nangqian from Yushu, and at Koko Nor. At the last site two downy young were noted on 19 June.

Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo

Three seen in flight at Koko Nor on 16th was a surprise sighting, the species being regular there only during two brief weeks each autumn.

Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii

18 bird-days: satisfying views were obtained both near Banma and along the Mekong at Nangqian.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus

One was at the E end of Koko Nor on 16th.

Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius

Three near Gonghe on 16th, and one at Koko Nor the following day.

Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus

Seen only at Koko Nor: 100 at Heimahe on 17th, 35 at E end of the lake on 19th.

Mongolian Plover C. mongolus

On the high plateau S of Maduo 4+ on 8th, five on 1th; at E end of Koko Nor four on 19th.

Greater Sand Plover C. leschenaultii

One at Heimahe on 17th (RF, JH) was the only record.

Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus

At E end of Koko Nor 5+ on 16th, two on 19th.

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa

Four at E end of Koko Nor on 19th (JR, BS).

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus

One at E end of Koko Nor on 16th.

Common Redshank T. totanus

160+ bird-days: breeders present on plateau wetlands S of Maduo, en route to Nangqian, and at Koko Nor.

Wood Sandpiper T. glareola

A lingering migrant was S of Maduo on 8th.

Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus

Two singletons along plateau rivers on 7+8th, and 100+ at Heimahe on 17th.

Brown-headed Gull L. brunnicephalus

Scattered groups totalling 125+ birds, and 150+ at Heimahe on 17th.

Common Tern Sterna hirundo

25 S of Maduo on 8th, scattered singles elsewhere on the plateau & along the Mekong at Nangqian, and c20 daily at Koko Nor.

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus

Three at E end of Koko Nor on 19th.

White-winged Black Tern C. leucopterus

Seen on both visits to E end of Koko Nor: four birds on 16th, five on 19th.

Pallas's Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus

At least half a dozen in desert W of Koko Nor on 18th.

Tibetan Sandgrouse S. tibetanus

One in flight near Bayankala pass on 14th (BS) was the first modern record for that area; two seen well and heard calling at Er La pass on 15th appeared after some of us had already written off this enigmatic species... wonderfully well camouflaged, they lured our team photographer beyond the horizon as they daintily kept their distance.

Blue Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris

Seen daily except 18th - c1,025 bird-days in total, incl. c600 on 16th mainly along Koko Nor where many were feeding in fields.

Snow Pigeon Columba leuconota

Seen daily in the Kanda Shan area 10-13th, with max15-20 birds on 12th.

Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

Three en route from Lanzhou airport to Xining on 30 May, and 12-15 on the drives to and from Mengda on 21+24th.

Red Turtle Dove S. tranquebarica

Strays were seen near Banma on 5th, and in high country E of the town on 7th (five birds).

Oriental Turtle Dove S. orientalis

Three N of Xining on 31st, daily 2-5 near Banma, and 2+ daily at Mengda.

Large Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides

3+ heard daily at Mengda.

Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus

4+ at Beijing on 29th.

Common Cuckoo C. canorus

c125 bird-days: seen or heard almost daily. 27 on wires E of Banma on 3rd may have included some late migrants downed by overnight rain.

Oriental Cuckoo C. saturatus

One heard daily at Mengda 21-24th.

Lesser Cuckoo C. poliocephalus

2-3 present at Mengda.

Eagle Owl Bubo bubo

One at Laoye Shan on 31 May, one flushed from deep grass at E end of Koko Nor on 16th, and two heard above Heimahe on 18th (BS).

Brown Hawk Owl Ninox scutulata

One was seen extremely well at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29th.

Little Owl Athene noctua

24 bird-days. Mostly on telegraph poles and on turf or stones piled at the roadside...

Common Swift Apus apus

500+ at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May, 300+ en route to Xining from Lanzhou airport the next day, five N of Xining on 31st... then none seen until five at Wenquan on 15 June, and c10 near Gonghe on 16th. At E end of Koko Nor c250 on 16+19th, and finally singles in the Heimahe area & in desert W of Koko Nor on 17-18th.

Fork-tailed Swift A. pacificus

275+ bird-days. Small flocks seen most days.

Hoopoe Upopa epops

c125 bird-days. Particularly common near roadside cliffs just S of Yushu and along the Mekong at Nangqian.

Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus

1+ at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May, four in total near Banma, and one en route back to Xining from Mengda on 24th.

Black Woodpecker Dryocupus martius

Three heard near Banma.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major

One at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May, one en route on 1 June, five in the Banma area, and several at Mengda over 21-24th.

Long-billed Calandra Lark Melanocorypha maxima

130+ bird-days. Seen most days on the plateau with a daily max of 40+ at Heimahe on 17th.

Mongolian Lark M. mongolica

11 S of Guide on 1st were on the fringe of the species' known range; a further thirteen birds near Heka and at Koko Nor over 16-19th were notable for the fine views obtained.

Hume's Short-toed Lark Calandrella acutirostris

Two at wetland S of Maduo on 8th, 2-20 daily at Koko Nor.

Asian Short-toed Lark C. (rufescens) cheleensis

One near Gonghe on 16th, 20+ at edge of cultivation W of Koko Nor on 18th.

Crested Lark Galerida cristata

One near Guide on 1st, another close to Gonghe on 16th, and two in desert W of Koko Nor on 18th.

Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula

355+ bird-days is probably an underestimate: common to abundant on the plateau...

Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris

600+ bird-days: common on the plateau.

Sand Martin Riparia riparia

160+ bird-days: seen on the plateau where suitable breeding sites exist.

Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris

c215 bird-days.

Barn Swallow H. rustica

c64 bird-days.

Red-rumped Swallow H. daurica

c5 in Beijing on 29 May. In Qinghai only seen on the drive between Yushu and Nangqian: 13 on 9th, 15 on 13th.

Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus

c190 bird-days - seen almost daily, max c75 in the Kanda Shan gorge on 9th.

Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi

Ten N of Xining on 31 May, three on the drive S the next day, but then none until we reached Heka on 16th - 2-3 daily in the Koko Nor area included 1-2 song-flighting birds at the E end of the lake. Two were on a pass en route to Mengda a 21st, and a final single was seen at Beishan on 25th.

Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni

33-34 bird-days: fairly widespread though not common, with a daily max of 10 at Kanda Shan gorge on 10th.

Rosy Pipit A. roseatus

c26 bird-days. Seen at high altitude near Banma on 6th, in the Kanda Shan area, at Heimahe, and on high pass en route to Mengda on 21st.

Water Pipit A. spinoletta

One at the high pass on 21st.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava

Two at E end of Koko Nor on 19th (BS).

Citrine Wagtail M. citreola

61 bird-days. The first of the trip were seen when we descended from the plateau towards Yushu on 8th - subsequently the species proved fairly common along the road between Yushu and Nangqian (25 on 9th, 17 on 13th), with further sightings near Gonghe, at Koko Nor, and en route back to Xining from Mengda on 24th.

White Wagtail M. alba

Seen daily except W of Koko Nor on 18th - c210 bird-days in total. In the far S birds showed the characters of M. a. alboides, while M. a. leucopsis was seen at Koko Nor, in the Xining area, and at Mengda.

Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus

Near Banma 4+ on 3rd, 3+ on 5th; at Mengda daily sightings of max five included juveniles.

White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus

46+ bird-days.

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Two en route on 1st, daily 1-3 near Banma, and three at Mengda on 23rd.

Rufous-browed Accentor P. strophiata

c54 bird-days. Seen mainly near Banma, in the Kanda Shan area, and at Heimahe.

Brown Accentor P. fulvescens

This unobtrusive species was seen near Yushu on 8th (BS), at Heimahe (4+ on 17th, one on 18th), and at Xining Beishan (one on 25th).

Robin Accentor P. rubeculoides

c80 bird-days.

Alpine Accentor P. collaris

Fairly common in the Kanda Shan area (c20 birds seen over 11-12th), less so at Er La pass (just four on 15th).

Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope

20 N of Xining on 31 May, one en route the next day, three between Xining and Mengda, and 3+ present around

the lodge at Mengda.

Himalayan Rubythroat L. pectoralis

Three near Banma on 6th, 17-18 birds in the Kanda Shan area over 10-13th, and four near Heimahe on 17-18th.

An even more striking species than its northern namesake - spotting a songster remained a thrill.

Siberian Blue Robin L. cyane

Two in Beijing on 29th (AL).

Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus

Four N of Xining on 31 May, 12 bird-days near Banma, and three at Mengda on 23rd.

Przevalski's Redstart Phoenicurus alashanicus

Hard work near Heimahe on 18th eventually yielded first a juvenile, then a suberb male.

Black Redstart P. ochruros

545+ bird-days: common in loess country and on the high plateau.

Hodgson's Redstart P. hodgsoni

c90 bird-days: fairly common in gorge country near Banma, S of Yushu, and in poplar groves en route to Mengda... one pair present at the forest lodge at Mengda.

Blue-fronted Redstart P. frontalis

33+ bird-days.

White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps

Two en route on 1st, 6-9 daily in the Banma area, common in the Kanda Shan area (max 15+ on 10th), and two pairs present at Mengda.

Daurian Redstart P. auroreus

Three pairs seen well at Mengda.

Guldenstadt's Redstart P. erythrogaster

27 bird-days.

River Chat Chaimarrornis leucocephalus

c120 bird-days.

White-bellied Redstart Hodgsonius phoenicuroides

Two heard at Laoye Shan on 31 May, at least one heard at Banma (on 6th), and 10-12 singing males at Mengda over 21-24th... eventually good views were obtained of two of the latter: as accomplished a skulker as any


Grandala Grandala coelicolar

1-2+ noted on three days on Kanda Shan. This graceful, erratic bird-of-the-highest-peaks is rare in Qinghai...

Stonechat Saxicola torquata

Three N of Xining on 31 May, two en route on 8+9th, 9+ near Heimahe over 17-18th, and two en route to Mengda.

Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina

Three en route S of Xining on 1 June, two S of Yushu on 9th, 35 between Heka and Heimahe on 16th, six at Heimahe on 17th, 10+ in desert W of Koko Nor the following day, and 20 mainly at E end of Koko Nor on 19th.

Birds in song-flight & on fence posts on 18th were particularly obliging.

Pied Wheatear O. pleschanka

Eight in loess country S of Xining on 1 June, 10+ in the Huang He gorge on 21+24th, and one pair at Xining Beishan on 25th.

Desert Wheatear O. deserti

One was seen en route S of Xining on 1st, three were near Gonghe on 16th, and ten were in desert country W of Koko Nor on 18th.

Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis

Males were seen as follows: one en route S of Guide on 1 June, two near Gonghe on 16th, one at Heimahe on 17th, and one (in spectacular song-flight) at Xining Beishan on 25th.

Blue Rock Thrush M. solitarius

Three in the Huang He gorge on 21+24th. The species is very rarely recorded for Qinghai.

Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula

One was singing at our hotel in Nangqian on 10+11th.

Chestnut Thrush T. rubrocanus

Nine bird-days near Banma; 10+ daily at Mengda.

Kessler's Thrush T. kessleri

300+ bird-days. Particularly common in gorge country in S Qinghai (daily maxima 45 near Banma, 35+ at Nangqian), but also seen at Laoye Shan (two on 31 May), near Heimahe (ten on 17th, one the next day), and

en route to Mengda (2-3 birds).

Chinese Song Thrush T. mupinensis

One at Banma on 6th, 5+ (of which two were fledglings) at Mengda over 21-24th. An unobtrusive endemic known in Qinghai only from four sites.

Southern Spotted Bush Warbler Bradypterus thoracicus

Two singing near the forest lodge at Mengda, with a presumed female associating with one of them.

Chinese Bush Warbler B. tacsanowskius

No less than five singing at Laoye Shan on 31 May, and one (or possibly two) near Banma on 5 June. We all had superb scope views of one of the former...

Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps

One at Beijing on 29th (BS).

Oriental Great Reed Warbler A. orientalis

10 at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29th.

Thick-billed Warbler A. aedon

One at Beijing on 29th (BS).

Blyth's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus reguloides

Three heard at Mengda.

Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides

Ten N of Xining on 31 May, daily 30-50+ near Banma, one en route to Yushu on 8th, max 20 daily in forest at Kanda Shan, one near Xining on 19th, and 20+ present at Mengda over 21-24th.

Large-billed Leaf Warbler P. magnirostris

1-8 daily near Banma, and c15 at Mengda over 21-24th.

Buff-barred Leaf Warbler P. pulcher

3-12 most days near Banma, 6+ at Mengda on 23rd.

Lemon-rumped Warbler P. chloronotus

Daily 5+-15+ near Banma.

Gansu Leaf Warbler P. kansuensis

25+ N of Xining on 31 May, 25-30 at Mengda over 21-24th.

Chinese Leaf Warbler P. sichuanensis

Four between Xining and Mengda; 50+ at Mengda over 21-24th.

Hume's Leaf Warbler P. humei mandelli

One at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29 May (BS), 75+ N of Xining on 31st, daily 5-40 near Banma, one in the Kanda Shan gorge on 10th (BS), and 10+ at Mengda over 21-24th.

Yellow-streaked Warbler P. armandii

c150 bird-days: 30 N of Xining of 31 May, 5-15 daily near Banma, 2-5 most days S of Yushu, several between Xining and Mengda, and 10+ daily at Mengda.

Dusky Warbler P. fuscatus

One N of Xining on 31 May, 7+ near Heimahe over 17-18th.

Tickell's Leaf Warbler P. offinis

88+ bird-days: four N of Xining on 31 May, five near Banma, ten near Yushu on 8th, 2-20 daily in the Kanda Shan area, and 35+ near Heimahe over 17-18th.

Goldcrest Regulus regulus

Five N of Xining on 31 May, daily 1-15 near Banma, and 5+ at Mengda over 21-24th.

Stoliczka's Tit-warbler Leptopoecile sophiae

One on Laoye Shan on 31 May, 3+ near Banma, two near Yushu on 8th, six in the Kanda Shan area over 10-12th, and 11 near Heimahe over 17-18th. During the breeding season a retiring bird of high altitude scrub...

Crested Tit-warbler L. elegans

c20 N of Xining on 31 May, two at Mengda on 23 June.

Sooty Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica

One at Beijing on 29th (AL).

Slaty-blue Flycatcher Ficedula tricolor

Four males at Mengda over 21-24th.

Slaty-backed Flycatcher F. hodgsonii

Three N of Xining on 31 May, 5-12 daily near Banma, and c25 at Mengda over 21-24th.

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher F. zanthopygia

A female was seen in Beijing on 30th (RF,AL).

Spectacled Parrotbill Paradoxornis conspicillatus

5+ near Banma on 6th (RF). Apparently the first modern record for Qinghai.

Kozlov's Babax Babax koslowi

Two were seen extremely well in the Kanda Shan gorge on 10th. Very secretive during the breeding season.

Pere David's Laughingthrush Garrulax davidi

One in the hotel garden in Xining on 30th (JR), 15 N of Xining the next day, 1-7 on four dates near Banma, and six between Xining and Mengda.

Giant Laughingthrush G. maximus

1-15+ daily near Banma (mainly heard but one came very close in response to a whistled imitation of its song), heard at Kanda Shan on 10th, and 5-10 heard daily at Mengda over 21-24th.

Elliot's Laughingthrush G. elliotii

10+ N of Xining on 31 May, in gorge country 10-50+ on ten dates near Banma & at Kanda Shan, and 10+ daily at Mengda.

Chinese Fulvetta Alcippe striaticollis

One heard near Banma on 4 June.

The sudden appearance of some Sichuan Grey Jays, combined with the steepness of the terrain, prevented us from giving serious chase to this W China endemic.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus

Six in roadside poplars by the Huang He on 21st.

White-browed Tit Parus superciliosus

11 bird-days. Seen/heard in high altitude scrub near Banma on 6th, near Yushu on 8th, in the Kanda Shan area on 10+13th, and at Koko Nor.

Songar Tit P. songarus

50+ in total: 15 N of Xining on 31st, 2-6+ daily near Banma, up to six in the Kanda Shan area on 10+12th, and

a few at Mengda.

Grey Crested Tit P. dichrous

Singles at Banma on two dates.

Rufous-vented Tit P. rubidiventris

Ten N of Xining on 31st, 1-4 daily near Banma, and c5 in total at Mengda over 21-24th.

Great Tit P. major

c25 bird-days. Noted N of Xining, in the Banma area, at Nangqian, and at Mengda.

Chinese Nuthatch Sitta villosa

Three were seen briefly N of Xining on 31st, one near Banma on 4th, and just one at Mengda on 23rd.

Przevalski's Nuthatch S. leucopsis przewalskii

Two N of Xining on 31st, nine near Banma over 3-5th, and repeated sightings of three birds at Mengda.

One of the sought-after specialities this endemic, frequently elusive taxon may merit species status.

Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria

Six bird-days.

Common Treecreeper Certhia familiaris

Four N of Xining on 31st, three near Banma, and c5 present at Mengda.

Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus

One seen at Mengda on 25th (BS).

Recorded for Qinghai by neither deSchauensee (1984), Cheng (1987), nor Vaurie (1972) but noted at this site on most visits in late summer/ early autumn (JH pers. obs.).

Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus

One seen well (rufous tail, black bars on back and flanks) at Heimahe on 19th may represent the first record for Qinghai/ Tibet (Vaurie 1972, deSchauensee 1984, Cheng 1987).

Brown Shrike L. cristatus

Two strays between Banma and Dari on 7th.

Grey-backed Shrike L. tephronotus

140+ bird-days: seen almost daily.

Tibetan Grey Shrike L. (sphenocercus) giganteus

3+ on Kanda Shan on 12th.

Vaurie (1972, p.246) very sensibly suggested that this striking taxon may be specifically distinct from "nominate" sphenocercus.

Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus

Ten in the Beijing area on 29th, and a remarkable 27 bird-days in E Qinghai (daily max 16 on 7th, mainly between Banma and Dari where other roadside strays included Red and Oriental Turtle Doves, and Brown Shrike).

Perhaps just a handful of previous records for Qinghai (mainly JH pers. obs.): not included for Qinghai/ Tibet by Vaurie (1972), deSchauensee (1984) or Cheng (1987).

Jay Garrulus glandarius

Just one seen, at Mengda.

Sichuan Grey Jay Perisoreus internigrans

7+ performed well at Banma on 4th.

Quite possibly the first modern sighting in Qinghai of this elusive endemic.

Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus

Fairly common in the Beijing area, but elsewhere just two en route to Mengda.

Common Magpie Pica pica

Common at Beijing, quite common in NE Qinghai.

Tibetan Magpie P. (pica) bottanensis

1-10+ seen daily at high altitudes in E & SE Qinghai.

Vaurie (1972, p.249) thought it "possible that more than one species is involved" in the Pica pica complex; and bottanensis certainly seems to merit species status.

Henderson's Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni

10 seen superbly in desert W of Koko Nor on 18th justified the early start...

Hume's Ground-pecker Pseudopodoces humilis

385+ bird-days: common on the plateau.

Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes

5+ present at Mengda.

Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus

17 bird-days in the Kanda Shan area.

Red-billed Chough P. pyrrhocorax

580+ bird-days. Fairly common throughout... daily max 225 over Kanda Shan gorge in the afternoon of 9th.

Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus

c240 bird-days.

Rook C. frugilegus

Ten N of Xining on 31st.

Carrion Crow C. corone

c80 bird-days.

Large-billed Crow C. macrorhynchos

Five at Beijing on 29th, ten N of Xining on 31st, six near Banma on 3rd, one near Nangqian on 12th, and 3-5 daily at Mengda over 21-24th.

Raven C. corax

86 bird-days included 58 near Maduo on 14th.

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Three males at Wenquan on 15th.

In Qinghai regular only on passage in Qaidam (JH pers. obs.).

Tree Sparrow P. montanus

Seen daily.

Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia

112+ bird-days.

Blanford's Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi

Two near Maduo on 14th, two at Wenquan the following day, one N of Heka on 15th, and eight in desert W of

Koko Nor on 18th.

Rufous-necked Snowfinch P. ruficollis

295+ bird-days. Common on the plateau, particularly in Pika country.

Pere David's Snowfinch P. davidiana

11 bird-days at Koko Nor.

White-rumped Snowfinch P. taczanowskii

95 bird-days. Fairly common on the plateau.

Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsii

40 bird-days.

Eurasian Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis henrici

37 bird-days. Seen only on the highest passes.

Oriental Greenfinch Carduelis sinica

One at Summer Palace, Beijing, on 29th, one N of Xining on 31st, and several en route to/from Mengda.

Twite C. flavirostris

820+ bird-days. Seen most days - daily max 250+ on 2nd.

Red Crossbill Loxia curvirostra

15 N of Xining on 31st, one near Banma on 3rd, and 2-15 daily at Mengda over 21-24th.

Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola

58+ bird-days. Moderate numbers seen on Kanda Shan and at Er La pass.

Brandt's Mountain Finch L. brandti

c80 W of Dari on 7th, two at Bayankala pass the next day, two on Kanda Shan on 11th, and 15-20 at Er La pass on 15th.

Desert Finch Rhodospiza obsoleta

Five at/near Gonghe on 16th, and a pair en route back from Mengda on 24th.

Although the species is listed for E Qinghai by Cheng (1987) these appear to be the first recent records for the province, at least by Westerners.

Mongolian Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes mongolicus

c10 near Gonghe on 16th, and c20 in desert country W of Koko Nor on 18th.

Common Rosefinch C. erythrinus

35 bird-days - noted mainly near Banma and at Nangqian.

Beautiful Rosefinch C. pulcherrimus

Ten above the treeline near Banma on 6th, 5-10+ daily in the Kanda Shan area over 10-13th, and two en route to Mengda on 21st.

Pink-rumped Rosefinch C. eos

119+ bird-days: fairly common near Banma and in the Kanda Shan area.

Sinai Rosefinch C. synoicus

Six at Xining Bei Shan on 25th.

Three-banded Rosefinch C. trifasciatus

One male near Banma on 3rd (RF).

First recorded for Qinghai as recently as 1997 (L. Gabrielsen pers. com.; JH pers.obs.) this near-endemic species was one we had all hoped to see...

White-browed Rosefinch C. thura

Fairly common: 5+ N of Xining on 31st, 3-15+ near Banma over 3-6th, 1-10 almost daily in the Kanda Shan area, and max 10 daily at Mengda.

Eastern Great Rosefinch C. rubicilloides

2-4 seen on most days at Kanda Shan, three in total at Koko Nor.

Great Rosefinch C. rubicilla

A male S of Yushu on 9th, three on Kanda Shan on 11th, a male at Huashixia on 14th, and 3+ at Wenquan the following day.

Red-breasted Rosefinch C. puniceus

At Kanda Shan four on 12th, two on 13th.

A bird of rocky summits, good at throwing its voice around - undoubtedly the hardest-to-get Rosefinch on the trip.

Roborovski's Rosefinch Kozlowia roborowskii

14+ in total - seen extremely well by all members of the group, and great photos obtained.

Although the 1992 Birdquest group dipped this endemic is not uncommon in its preferred habitat.

Long-tailed Rosefinch Uragus sibiricus

Three near Banma, four present at Mengda (where photographed and taped).

Przevalski's Rosefinch Urocynchramus pylzowi

Two at Koko Nor on 17th performed near their nest... a very retiring endemic.

Grey-headed Bullfinch Pyrrhula erythaca

Four near Banma, 12-15 present at Mengda.

White-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas carniceps

26+ bird-days: seen N of Xining, en route on 1st, near Banma on 4th (6+), at Kanda Shan (daily max 12+ on 12th), and at Mengda.

Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala

One S of Xining on 1st, another (a singing male) en route back from Mengda on 24th.

Kozlov's Bunting E. koslowi

27 individuals seen singing and nest-building near Nangqian.

Few birders have seen this pretty endemic, and none have seen more!

Pine Bunting E. leucocephalos

Seven N of Xining on 31st, three en route the next day, two at Kanda Shan on 12th, and 5+ at Koko Nor on 17th.

Godlewski's Rock Bunting E. godlewskii

140+ bird-days: particularly common S of Yushu.



Red Fox Vulpes vulpes

Tibetan Fox V. ferrilata

Wolf Canis lupus

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus

Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana

Black-lipped Pika Ochotona daurica

Pika spp. Ochotona spp. (at least two additional species)

Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata

Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur

Red Deer Cervus elaphus



Cheng, T.H. (1987) A Synopsis of the Avifauna of China. Science Press, Beijing

de Schauensee, R.M. (1984) The Birds of China. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Vaurie, C. (1972) Tibet and its Birds. Beekman, New York.