Mammals on the Roof of the World - News from the Tour!

The Greentours Office has been a-buzz with excitement as reports came in from the leaders during our Mammals of the Roof of the World tour last month. Yes, even in remotest Qinghai, emails occasionally got through. Just take a look at the staggering images in the new gallery for this tour to see how wild and remote are the landscapes visited on this amazing tour.  The tour has now finished, the photographs have been sorted and my, WE ALL want to pack our bags right now, for this has been one of the most exciting voyages of discovery we’ve had the privilege to be part of.  Thanks to customers Jeff Blincow,  Stan de Prato, Andy Hawkins for use of their photographs, and particularly for Jeff's outstanding bird and mammal shots, some of which can be seen on an excellent gallery in the Asia section of our Gallery. (The gallery button is at the top of the page)

Much of the credit for this tour’s success must go to Jesper Hornskow who has been researching this area for sixteen years and knows it like few others. The tour report will be up on this website very shortly with a full account of what has been seen, but here we present the more interesting mammal and bird records.

 

Pallas’ Cat Felis manul

One allowed extended ‘scope views as it sat out on a sunny knoll on 22nd.

 

Snow Leopard Uncia uncial

Tracks in the snow…

 

Wolf Canis lupus 

11 animal-days. Noted on four dates – a long session with two individuals at c4,800m on 24th: one of them was seen trying to punch through a patch of frozen snow, then carried on tentatively while the other animal was lying down. All of a sudden that one was making off in a different direction carrying a Tibetan Fox (!), seemingly trying to take advantage of the lay of the land to get away and not share the meal with its companion… nice plan, but as they disappeared from view the more active individual was firmly on the trail of the meal-carrying one.

 

Tibetan Fox Vulpes ferrilata

48 animal-days. Noted on no fewer than seven dates, with any number of satisfying encounters and several photo opportunities: what an animal!

 

Red Fox Vulpes vulpes

Singles were noted on four dates.

 

Mountain Weasel Mustela altaica 

We were pleased to get extended views (and repeated photo ops!) when one was spotted darting about on 27th.

 

Kiang Equus kiang

788 animal-days. Noted on five dates. It was a real pleasure to watch these dignified ‘donkeys’ - in the absence of hunters they (and other large mammals on the Plateau) are fairly confiding, and in a couple of cases we were able to get good-to-decent photos even without the help of long lenses!

 

Siberian Roe Capreolus pygargus 

5+ on 18th got our trip off the ground in style.

 

MacNeil’s Deer Cervus macneilli

Seven S of Yushu on 25th.***macneilli is ’the pale red-grey deer of the eastern margins of the Tibetan plateau’: Groves (2005).

 

Gansu Red Deer Cervus kansuensis

No fewer than 55 animals in a morning! Memorable ‘scope views of several magnificent stags – the crisp air was vibrating with their rutting-time roars, which were audible even from our breakfast spot.

 

White-lipped Deer Przewalskium albirostris 

39 animals in a single day. A herd of 29 included five huge-antlered stags & a full mix of juveniles, females, and ‘lesser’ stags – at x60 magnification we could see the senior stag roaring repeatedly as it stood silhouetted against the sky, allowing undistorted looks in crisp afternoon air, but what with the distance & the flowing river we were unable to hear it.

 

Goitred Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa

31 animal-days. Noted on two dates – 28 in a day was pretty good, especially as the magnificent dawn air allowed undistorted ‘scope viewing on x60 magnification.

 

Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata

808+ animal-days. Noted on seven dates – as is the case with Kiang, in the absence of human hunters these nimble creatures are fairly confiding (if still jumpily high-strung, no doubt on account of the healthy population of wolves roaming the hills: in August 2005 we were even privileged to witness four particularly mean-looking wolves undertake a successful hunt, killing and ripping apart a Tibetan Gazelle) - we were able to get frame-filling photos even without the help of heavy artillery lenses.

 

Przevalski’s Gazelle Procapra przewalskii 

76 on 20th – all were female/juveniles.***The species has recently be ‘downgraded’ to ‘merely’ Endangered (following the discovery of additional herds in 2003) although the world population may be no more than 350-400 mature individuals. See http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/18230/0 ***Our animals appear to represent an as far as the IUCN is concerned ‘undiscovered’ population.

 

Wild Yak Bos grunniensis

111 animal-days. These impressive animals were seen in to separate areas… WOW! views were had by all.

 

Argali Ovis ammon 

24 animal-days. Noted on two dates – watching a herd of 14 (incl at least three good-sized males) for a couple of hours was just the sort of relaxed, in-depth experience we’d hoped for.

 

Tibetan Antelope Panthalops hodgsonii 

Seeing 80 along the remotest Roof of the World stretch of road was truly something to remember. ***See http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/15967/0

 

Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur

c158 animal-days. Noted on three dates.

 

The birding was often exceptional too – here are some of the more exciting species encountered during the tour.

 

Przevalski's Partridge  Alectoris magna 

Daurian Partridge Perdix dauurica 

White Eared Pheasant  Crossoptilon crossoptilon 

Bar-headed Goose  Anser indicus

Ruddy Shelduck  Tadorna ferruginea

Baikal Teal  Anas formosa 

Red-crested Pochard  Netta rufina 

Black Stork  Ciconia nigra

Saker  Falco cherrug 

White-tailed Eagle  Haliaeetus albicilla 

Lammergeier  Gypaetus barbatus

Himalayan Griffon  Gyps himalayensis

Black Vulture  Aegypius monachus 

Hen Harrier  Circus cyaneus

Northern Goshawk  Accipiter gentilis

Himalayan Buzzard  Buteo burmanicus 

Upland Buzzard  Buteo hemilasius

Steppe Eagle  Aquila nipalensis

Eastern Imperial Eagle  Aquila heliaca 

Golden Eagle  Aquila chrysaetos 

Black-necked Crane  Grus nigricollis

Ibisbill  Ibidorhyncha struthersii

Pacific Golden Plover  Pluvialis fulva 

Great Black-headed Gull  Larus ichthyaetus

Brown-headed Gull  Larus brunnicephalus

Tibetan Sandgrouse  Syrrhaptes thibetana 

Pallas’ Sandgrouse  Syrrhaptes paradoxus 

Oriental Turtle Dove  Streptopelia orientalis

Chinese Grey Shrike  Lanius sphenocercus 

Tibetan Grey Shrike  Lanius (s.) giganteus 

Eurasian Jay  Garrulus glandarius 

Tibetan Magpie  Pica (pica) bottanensis 

Henderson’s Ground Jay  Podoces hendersoni

Hume’s Groundpecker  Pseudopodoces humilis 

Daurian Jackdaw  Corvus dauuricus 

Rufous-vented Tit  Parus rubidiventris 

White-browed Tit  Parus superciliosus 

Stoliczka’s (= White-browed) Tit-Warbler  Leptopoecile sophiae

Long-billed Calandra Lark  Melanocorypha maxima

Common Chiffchaff  Phylloscopus collybita tristis

Kozlov’s Babax  Babax koslowi 

Elliot’s Laughingthrush  Garrulax elliotii 

Chestnut Thrush  Turdus rubrocanus 

Kessler’s Thrush  Turdus kessleri

Northern Red-flanked Bluetail  Tarsiger cyanurus 

Przevalski’s Redstart  Phoenicurus alaschanicus 

White-throated Redstart  Phoenicurus schisticeps

Guldenstadt’s Redstart  Phoenicurus erythrogastrus

Blue-fronted Redstart  Phoenicurus frontalis 

Red-breasted Flycatcher  Ficedula parva 

Red-throated Flycatcher  Ficedula albicilla 

White-throated Dipper  Cinclus cinclus 

Henri’s Snowfinch  Montifringilla henrici 

Tibetan Snowfinch  Montifringilla adamsi 

White-rumped Snowfinch  Onychostruthus taczanowskii 

Pere David’s Snowfinch  Pyrgilauda davidiana 

Rufous-necked Snowfinch  Pyrgilauda ruficollis

Blanford’s Snowfinch  Pyrgilauda blanfordi

Robin Accentor  Prunella rubeculoides

Brown Accentor  Prunella fulvescens

Przevalski’s Rosefinch  Urocynchramus pylzowi 

Pink-rumped Rosefinch  Carpodacus eos

Pallas’s Rosefinch  Carpodacus roseus

Chinese White-browed Rosefinch  Carpodacus dubius 

Eastern Great Rosefinch  Carpodacus rubicilloides

Spotted Great Rosefinch  Carpodacus severtzovi 

Pine Bunting  Emberiza leucocephalos

Eastern Rock Bunting  Emberiza godlewskii

 

The tour went on to visit Laba He in Sichuan where five days was spent in this stunning mountain reserve. Here are some of the highlights from that visit…

 

Moving higher we parked up and started shedding clothing in the welcome morning sun, this activity was halted abruptly by Andy announcing that he had a red panda in a nearby fruiting tree. Superb! We had great views of it through the scope and then moved upslope towards it, here we could hear the panda grunting as it walked through the bamboo before it went back the way it came! We went higher after lunch, here we found the red panda again, this time in the company of a smaller individual and this time we got really close for some great photographic opportunities.

 

A Morning walk up the nursery trail was just epic but rather chilly as the forecast cold front from the north arrived. A pair of Daurian redstarts starts it off and nearby we get a good view of a buff-barred warbler. Walking the trail Phil’s determined scanning finally secures a female goral with a kid in tow on the cliff-face opposite. Birds are just excellent during the morning session. Treecreepers pass by, close to we see bar-tailed treecreeper and further away (but calling nicely) the recently described Sichuan treecreeper. Female slaty buntings respond agressively to our imitations of collared owlet. Later we see the uncommon streaked barwing, a mixed-species flock contains many golden-breasted fulvettas, and Andy finds a female crimson-browed finch. Walking back past the nursery clearing we flush a male three-banded rosefinch up into a bush and then up into a tree for stunning views. Also flushed out here more elegant buntings and our first black-faced bunting, which show well. A new mammal and some fantastic birding to boot. Nice one.

 

The view from the jeep is greatly improved by the sudden materialisation of four Lady Amherst’s pheasants on the road. They feed unconcerned by the presence of our jeep, a full male, two females and a sub-adult male. Just sublime. We drive on to where Jeff had his grey-hooded parrotbill yesterday but only succeed in scaring up some more brown parrotbills. Walking down we bump into the the Lady Amherst’s pheasants again – still fantastic!

 

 

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