Classic China: Hong Kong & Sichuan: May 09—31, 2007

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Departs: Hong Kong
Tour Limit: 8
Download Itinerary: PDF (152.1 KB)

Route Map

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Tour Leaders

Hobcroftdion

Dion Hobcroft

Dion Hobcroft has been working for VENT since 2001. He has led many tours (more than 160) to...


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White-collared Yuhina

White-collared Yuhina— Photo: Brad Schram

The best of Chinese birding in the heart of the nation’s great forest reserves. Spectacular scenery with outstanding wildflowers and interesting mammals. We will visit sacred Buddhist mountain sites like Emei Shan and the Leshan Buddha, Wolong Panda Reserve, the forests of Labahe, the World Heritage Jiuzhaighou Nature Reserve, and the eastern Tibetan plateau where we will see Black-necked Cranes.

The incredible mountain forests of Sichuan have lured naturalists and botanists for centuries. This tour will combine exceptionally beautiful scenery, tasty Sichuan banquets, and some of the most spectacular and rarely encountered Chinese birds imaginable.

Pride of place will be awarded to the fabulous pheasants. Sichuan is the epicenter of pheasant diversity, and time will be spent searching for the cosmic Temminck’s Tragopan, and Golden, Lady Amherst’s, Koklass, Blood, White eared- and Blue eared- pheasants. Patient scoping of mountain faces may reveal one of the rarest birds in China—the incredibly-colored Chinese Monal. Other elusive skulkers we will search for include Verreaux’s Monal-Partridge, Snow Partridge, Chinese Bamboo-Partridge, Severtzov’s Grouse, and, on the high passes, the robust Tibetan Snowcock.

There will be much more to keep us on our toes. A flock of glowing blue Grandalas feeding amongst patches of snow is one of the great birding highlights in the world. Black-necked Cranes nesting on remote Tibetan marshes surrounded by Citrine Wagtails and Tibetan Larks is another of the world’s great birding highlights. A spirited song bursting from the bamboo will lead us to a superb male Firethroat. There will be rosefinches, tesias, laughingthrushes, warblers, fulvettas, parrotbills, bush-robins, redstarts, woodpeckers, vultures—including the awesome Lammergeier, falcons, buzzards, eagles, accentors, dippers, tits, cuckoos, grosbeaks, and buntings, to name a few.

Bridge in Sichuan

Bridge in Sichuan— Photo: Dion Hobcroft

Sichuan is most famous as the home of the enigmatic Giant Panda, although we will be unlikely to see this living icon in the wild, as the dense bamboo forests will not give up its greatest prize without much fortune. We will, however, see them at the breeding centers. Other mammals we have seen on this tour include Wolf, Leopard Cat, Chinese Desert Cat, Pallas’s Cat, Red Panda, Yellow-throated Marten, Blue Sheep, and Goral, among others.

Since VENT first operated tours to China, the changes in the infrastructure have been astonishing. Good paved roads now provide access to just about all the sites we visit, and the quality of the accommodations has improved markedly. The birding has also improved; with increased forest protection and a ban on hunting, we are now finding a lot more of the rare and shy species.

We will begin and end our tour in Beijing. This will give us the opportunity to visit several famous cultural sites such as the Great Wall, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square, as well as birding sites like Wild Duck Lake during spring migration when a variety of exciting birds are possible.

Excellent to good accommodations with one night (optional) at a Panda Field Research Centre; very good food; largely roadside birding with some optional uphill hikes for rarer target birds; some higher altitude birding with time spent acclimating; climate varies from warm and occasionally hot and humid, to cool and mild with cold conditions likely at high altitude (bus always available nearby).

Read National Geographic Magazine’s March 2009 article on the Jiuzhaighou Nature Reserve.