China, South Shaanxi, April 1st - 13th 2007 - Dip of a lifetime

Published by Julian Thomas (julian.thomas AT

Participants: Julian Thomas, Jane Clayton


The main reason for the visiting the Qinling mountains in central China was to attempt to observe and perhaps photograph Giant Pandas in the wild. This iconic species must be one of the most instantly recognisable animals in the world yet has been seen by only a handful of western observers in its remote mountain strongholds. Areas such as Lao Xian Cheng National Park are reputed to have the highest densities of Pandas in the world, so we considered a five day trek into the core area of the park would offer at least a chance of success, as well the opportunity to view other rare mammals such as Takin and Golden Monkey.

2nd April. After a brief stopover in Beijing we landed in Xian, the whereabouts of the city somewhat obscured by a lurid photochemical smog of spectacular proportions. We were met at the airport by Mr Cheung, our guide and interpreter. Mr Cheung was efficient, helpful and thoroughly professional. His English was of such a high standard it was hard to believe he had never left China. Apparently the first English words he learnt were ‘a long, long life to Chairman Mao’. What the great man would have thought about the transformation in the country in recent years would be hard to imagine. The drive to the hotel showed the stereotypic China of the Cultural Revolution had been swept away by rampant consumerism, and that the country has catapulted itself into the position of an economic superpower. One has to hope the environment and the need to build ‘a harmonious society’ can survive this astonishing progress. The bird list was one species – Black-billed Magpie at Beijing.

3rd April. A day devoted to culture. We visited the city walls of Xian, enormously impressive, and at 20m thick far more likely to be seen from the moon than the Great Wall of China ( amazing that this urban myth still persists). The Wild Goose pagoda was set in relatively quiet parkland and some birds were found here – Hoopoe and Azure-winged Magpies put me in mind of Extremadura, as well as Great-spotted Woodpecker, Tree Sparrow, Barn Swallow, Spotted Dove, Crested Myna, Eurasian Blackbird, and White and Grey Wagtails. We then travelled to the Terracotta Warriors. In spite of the obvious commercialisation, the crowds and the fact that unless you are Bill Clinton you can’t stand alongside the warriors it was still an impressive spectacle.

In the grounds Grey-capped Greenfinch, Chinese and Brown-breasted Bulbuls were seen, while on the journey back Common Buzzard, Eurasian Hobby and Great Cormorant were added to a meagre trip list of 20 species.

4th April. We drove through the Qinling Mountains to Yang County, a trip of seven hours. The mountains were extremely attractive, dominated by deciduous trees, the lower slopes with trees bursting into leaf, the higher altitudes still presenting a decidedly wintry scene with persisting ice and snow.

The flat intensively farmed land before the mountains was virtually birdless, with just Carrion Crows being seen, but as we travelled through the mountains a variety of species appeared. These included Asian House Martins, Large-billed Crows, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Daurian Redstart, Brown Dipper, Crested Kingfisher, Plumbeous Water-Redstart, Oriental Turtle Dove, Yellow-throated Bunting, Sooty Tit, Green-backed Tit, Long-tailed Minivet, Little Egret, Red-rumped Swallow, and Grey-faced Buzzard. Lunch was a truly excellent sampling of regional fare in Foping.

Reaching the foothills of the Mountains we turned off the main road along a dirt track up a valley with paddy fields, and oilseed rape until we reached a cluster of trees that provided roosting and nesting sites for the relict population of Crested Ibis, that survives in this area. Perhaps six examples of the Crested Ibis were seen flying in to roost, with other birds seen in the copses and scrub covered hills being Eurasian Jay, White-rumped Munia, Common Pheasant, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Asian Barred Owlet, Grey Heron, Dusky Thrush (Naumann’s), Black Redstart, Red-billed Starlings, Great Tit, Black-throated Tit, Arctic Warbler, Yellow-browed Bunting, and Vinous-throated Parrotbill.

We spent the night at the Baiyun Hotel in Yang where again a superb and lavish meal was provided. As in Thailand and Sri Lanka the local food is so novel and tasty it does form an extra attraction of the holiday.

5th April. The day started with the sight of a Peregrine from our hotel window, clutching a feral pigeon in its talons. In the company of a local conservationist, who unfortunately spoke as much English as we did Mandarin Chinese, we made our way to Cao Ba, an area of woodland, that was obviously of crucial importance as a breeding site for Herons and Egrets, as well as Crested Ibis. There were a few Ibis seen here, but this species seems to form small scattered groups, or nest singly, and their numbers were dwarfed by large aggregations of Grey Heron, Little Egret, and Black-crowned Night Herons.

The scrub adjacent to the woodland held many birds, most easily viewed at a small pool, where several species came to drink, and Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Red-billed Leiothrix, Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Chinese Leaf Warbler, and Collared Finchbill were all seen here.

Another detour was made to monitor an Ibis nest virtually in a town garden, which at least shows the success in gaining community support for the project to protect the Crested Ibis and lift it out from the status of being critically endangered.

Late morning we set off through the mountains to Lao Xian Cheng, on the way observing White-capped Water-Redstart and Elliott’s Laughing Thrush, but little else on a tortuous drive on an unsealed road before we reached the valley and the village.

The Research Station offered basic accommodation, but the food offered was tasty and the workers were very welcoming although we could hardly communicate with them. There were solar showers, a contribution from an environmental charity, but we were un-nerved by the communal toilet block. Fortunately neither of us were using it when anyone else turned as we were unsure of appropriate etiquette when squatting alongside another person!

In the late afternoon we explored the fields and woodland edges around the village, seeing Spotted Nutcracker among other birds.

6th April. We had the morning to explore the area around Lao Xian Cheng village, finding several trails into the surrounding deciduous woodland. Although the trees were bare and there was still some lying snow migrants seemed to be arriving. Golden Pheasants were calling and appeared to be numerous, but views were at a premium in the dense thickets. Other forest species seen were Red-flanked Bluetail, Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Barred Laughing-Thrush, Grey-crested Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, while around the village we located Rufous-breasted Accentor, Russet Sparrow, Wren, Long-tailed Tit, Olive-backed Pipit, and Dusky thrush.

After fuelling up on the inevitable noodles and steamed buns for an early lunch we donned our rucksacks and started our trek up the valley. We were accompanied by Mr Cheung and two rangers, Mr Hau and Mr Tau. They were amazingly fit considering they both smoked like chimneys. We hardly managed to tell them apart, but both were absolute diamonds who did their very best to look after us on the trek. This was along a well defined trail initially, but we ended up clambering over boulders along a stream bed and easing our way through bamboo thickets before we reached our campsite 8km in a direct line from the Centre. Few birds were seen on this hike, but a displaying Northern Goshawk was excellent and a male Citrine Wagtail provided a splash of colour as did the only butterfly I could positively identify – the Camberwell Beauty. The clear stream held populations of salmonids, which with black spots would appear to be a species of Salmo. J was suffering from a debilitating lung infection, so it was a relief to reach our destination and pitch camp.

7th April. It was a warm and sunny day after an intense frost and we set off in the early morning to trek into the surrounding mountains. J was still very unwell and rested at the campsite – just as well because the trekking was extremely arduous. Apart from the fact that the altitude was not high enough to be a significant factor this was the hardest walking I have ever experienced. There were no trails so it was a question of clambering over boulders, jumping across streams, and toiling up and down severe slopes, often through thorn thickets and bamboo. Gorilla tracking had nothing on this. We had not brought trekking poles with us, but I improvised some from some sturdy lengths of pine. Some sort of support was really essential.

Over nine hours we climbed to several ridges which gave extensive views. There was a large amount of animal sign, but finding the animals themselves was a real challenge. Takin would appear to be common, with droppings, hoof prints and rubbing trees everywhere, but the only mammal seen was a brief glimpse of Chinese Goral. Giant Panda sign was also regularly located, with droppings and feeding areas in Bamboo, as well as carnivore kills and droppings.

Birds seen included Blood Pheasant, Nutcrackers, Long-tailed Minivets, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Yellow-browed Warbler, Brown Dipper, Red-flanked Bluetail, and the inevitable Red-billed Blue-Magpies.

8th April. There had been some snow overnight, but it appeared to be clearing in the morning so bearing in mind how hard the walking had been yesterday I pared my load back to a minimum and left my heavy waterproof jacket behind. This proved to be a big mistake as shortly after we had set off (again without J) the weather closed in and it began to sleet. We trekked a different route, seeing very little in the worsening conditions until we reached a Rhododendron forest 4 hours from camp. Mr Cheung said the intention was to reach a ridge above us, but this would require another hours climbing. With the possibility of hypothermia becoming a reality I suggested a return. We had just turned back when I heard a loud bleating call from a forest of bamboo to our left. I immediately guessed this was Giant Panda and this was confirmed by Mr Hau. It became clear there were two Pandas calling to each other, perhaps just 50m away from us. The two Pandas continued calling, working closer together over several minutes, then giving vent to startlingly loud growls and roars when they met. The Pandas then fell silent and we moved into the forest to try to locate them. After some searching Mr Tau located a Panda. I was alongside in seconds but the Panda had already melted back into the bamboo, leaving just footprints and urine in the snow, to which I could have added my tears. This whole area showed a great deal of Panda and Takin sign. Moving through the bamboo had soaked us to the skin. I had assumed that Mr Tau and Mr Hau had been equipped with decent weatherproof gear by WWF, but in fact their clothing was inadequate as mine. Only Mr Cheung, who was equipped like a model from the Berghaus catalogue was coping with the elements! However we made it back to camp and with a lull in the sleet we were able to dry our clothes over a fire.

9th April. A Giant Panda was calling at dawn above our camp, but the sheer difficulty of terrain and the thickness of the vegetation put even me off trying to locate it – it was also rather distant.

The weather had substantially improved and J set out with us on the days trek, but with her lung condition still found the gradient too severe and had to stop. She was joined by Mr Tau who skidded on a sharp rock and injured his leg in a fall. I would have bet heavily on myself having an accident if anyone was going to because Mr Haus and Mr Taus plimsolls were actually far more secure on wet rocks than my walking boots. Mr Tau was clearly in considerable pain but at least he hadn’t broken a leg. A first aid kit is a sensible safeguard for trekking in the Qinling Mountains.

We trekked up to the site of yesterdays Giant Panda encounter and waited for two hours by the Bamboo, but had no sight or sound of the animals. The improved weather had brought a burst of bird activity and a range of species was seen, with Fulvous Parrotbill, Tickell’s Leaf-warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Streak-throated Fulvetta, and Eurasian Treecreeper all being new. Finally on our return to camp White-crowned Forktail was found along the stream.

10th April. J had been so ill I doubted her capability of trekking back to Lao Xian Cheng, but she had shown some small improvement today, and it was downhill and mercifully she was able to make it. A number of raptors were seen soaring or displaying in the fine conditions over the ridges, and Golden Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel and Crested Goshawk were noted. The latter species would appear to be well out of range, but it was giving the very distinctive display so I am certain of this identification. Further views of raptors and other birds were had in the afternoon when I walked back up the valley, and these included Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Two-barred Greenish warbler, Brambling, Marsh Tit and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. A Muntjac showed its objections to our presence by barking from a thicket.

At night I tried spotlighting for 2 hours around the forest edges but saw absolutely nothing; so much for my hopes of finding a Hog-badger!

11th April. We were out on a frosty dawn at Lao Xian Cheng, having great views of Golden Pheasant and Eurasian Woodcock. Quite surprising that the only wader of the trip was an addition to my Chinese list of 42 species!

We then left at 7.00 for the drive to the Golden Monkey Reserve. We made good progress to the unsealed but well signposted road that leads to the reserve, but then encountered an unforeseen problem in the shape of road works. Gangs of workers manhandling rocks could be steered around while we had to frequently leap out to clear landslides, but a massive mechanical digger seemed an impossible obstacle. However we had given a lift to a park official and he negotiated our way round, with only one of our tyres on the edge of the precipice as we squeezed past.

After all this effort it was still quite a climb, albeit up a good path to the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey site, where a habituated troop of 100+ individuals can be found. J was barely able to make it but finally did so and we than spent an hour watching these engaging animals. Arguably the world’s most beautiful primate, they are certainly one of the most striking and unusual. Distraction was offered by several Squirrel sp, and a White-backed Woodpecker industriously debarking a dead tree. A range of other birds was seen on the climb to and from the site, such as numerous Two-barred Greenish Warblers, White-throated Laughing-Thrushes, Yellow-bellied tit, Northern Goshawk, and Grey-headed Woodpecker.

On the return journey we again were thwarted by the digger, and this time had to wait two hours as it cut a passing place into the cliff, but I used this as an opportunity to walk down the valley, seeing among other birds Dark-throated Thrush.

We passed a construction site here that Mr Cheung said was to be for ‘an International Hunting Club’, and the intention was for tourists to hunt ‘pheasants and rabbits’. I cannot imagine this would be a success because wildlife in China is so sparse and shy that hunting opportunities would be very limited , compared with (say) Mongolia, Namibia or eastern Europe. Because of the hold up it was quite late before we returned to Xian. Another mammal was added here to our short list – large numbers of bats flying around the Bell Tower. Returning to the normal tourist accommodation gave welcome luxury, and a superb meal in the hotel restaurant.

12th April. The day was spent in transit to Beijing. We were picked up at the airport and taken through Beijing’s traffic chaos to the New World Courtyard Hotel. Up until now the ground arrangements, as organised by Xing travel and assisted by the excellent Mr Cheung had been faultless, but we were less than impressed with the Beijing side of the operation. Our agent told us the hotel restaurants were closed – a blatant lie, and instead he took us to a garish tourist restaurant, that I assume either let him pocket the difference on the meal we should have had, or paid him commission. The restaurant was like a Chinese version of McTavish’s Kitchen (no recommendation) and offered the worst food we had so far eaten in China. We then decided to walk to Tiananmen Square but violent stomach cramps, possibly not unconnected with the meal I had eaten two hours previously forced us to turn back.

13th April. I had recovered sufficiently to do justice to the Courtyard Hotels breakfast buffet and contemplate a walk to Tiananmen Square. The queues for the Forbidden City were awesome so we visited the adjacent very quiet and beautiful park, populated only by elderly Chinese performing an amazing range of keep fit activities and Azure-winged magpies.

After yesterdays journey I was frankly sceptical that the tour company’s agent had arranged sufficient time for our transfer to the airport (3 hours) but he assured me they had never missed a flight. However when the taxi was only a minute late I smelled a rat and a phone call confirmed they had forgotten about us. The taxi eventually arrived 20 minutes later and we then enjoyed the equivalent of a police pursuit through Beijing’s traffic. At the airport I nailed a savvy and enterprising young porter who spoke enough English to appreciate the urgency of our situation and he spirited us to the check in desk with amazing speed to allow us to be the very last passengers to check in!

The Qinling Mountains are a beautiful and fascinating centre of endemism and definitely worth a visit, although clearly seeing any sort of mammal is very difficult. To be able to trek for 37 hours in the core area of a national park, and not actually see a single mammal emphasises this, although I did come agonisingly close to viewing the star attraction of Giant Panda. Where on earth the Takin were hiding I cannot imagine. At the time of our visit the forests were relatively open and it must become even harder to locate mammals as the canopy and undergrowth develops. However, a later visit would probably produce a greater diversity of birds and reveal more of the fantastically rich flora. At present very few tourists have ever visited the Qinling Mountains – it is possible in the future the Giant Panda might be ‘cracked’ and sightings become more regular, in which case a return visit might be tempting, but at the moment my failure has to rate as the ‘dip of a lifetime’.

Species Lists

This follows ‘A field guide to the birds of China’, by John MacKinnon and Karen Phillips.

Blood Pheasant Ithaginis cruentus. Small groups regularly encountered in bamboo and rhododendron thickets in the Qinling mountains. Fairly shy, they would quickly move into cover, giving vent to distinctive alarm calls.

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus. Quite numerous in the farmland around Lao Xian Cheng, also seen at the Crested Ibis site and occasionally on journeys through the mountains.

Golden Pheasant Chrysolophus pictus. I rubbed out the pencil tick I awarded after seeing this species in East Anglia, as that didn’t compare with the thrill of seeing birds in their natural range. Numerous around Lao Xian Cheng, and at our camp, but extremely elusive and difficult to see. However with patience we had good views of what, for my money, is one of the most fabulous birds in the world.

Lesser-spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus minor. One seen in woodland at Lao Xian Cheng.

White-backed woodpecker Dendrocopus leucotos. Brilliant views of one feeding on a dead tree at the Golden Monkey Reserve. It spent long periods removing large sections of loose bark – if this is typical behaviour it is clear why this species requires large quantities of standing dead timber and why it has declined so much in its European range.

Great-spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major. Fairly common in the Qinling Mountains, and also seen in Xian.

Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus. Singles seen at the Crested Ibis site at Yang, and close to the Golden Monkey Reserve.

Crested Kingfisher Megaceryle lugubris. Two seen along mountain rivers in the Qinling Mountains.

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops. Found nesting in the park in Xian, and fairly common in pasture land around Lao Xian Cheng, with small numbers seen daily.

Common Swift Apus apus. Small numbers had arrived in Xian on the 12th April.

Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides. I had heard but never previously seen this species, so it was nice to get good views of one being mobbed by small birds at the Crested Ibis reserve.

Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis. Small numbers seen in the Qinling Mountains, and common around Yang, with 50-100 seen daily.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis. A few examples seen in the lowlands, e.g in parks in Xian.

Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola. Two seen at Lao Xian Cheng, and one at the Golden Monkey Reserve. All were flushed; no roding observed. The only wader of the trip but it was an addition to my Chinese wader list (that now totals 43 species).

Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilohynchus. One seen soaring over forested hills at Lao Xian Cheng.

Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus. One seen over forest near Lao Xian Cheng. This is outside the range given in Mackinnon and Phillips, but the bird was giving the diagnostic display flight – circling round with undertail coverts fluffed out, and wings held below horizontal and intermittently quivered – so I am certain of this identification.

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis. One circling over forest above Lao Xian Cheng, and one flying along the valley towards the Golden Monkey Reserve, splendid close views of both.

Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus. Two seen mobbing a perched Common Buzzard in the lower slopes of the Qinling Mountains, showing rather harrier like, but flat winged profile, and surprising agility as they dived at the Buzzard.

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo. A few birds seen in the Qinling Mountains, and a single close to Xian.

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos. One seen several times circling over hills above Lao Xian Cheng.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus. One seen at Lao Xian Cheng.

Eurasian Hobby Falco subuteo. One seen hawking insects near Xian.

Peregrine Falco peregrinus. One seen flying with a kill (feral pigeon) from our hotel in Yang.

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. Some 20-30 birds roosting in trees in an impoundment close to Xian.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta. Small numbers seen along mountain rivers in the Qinling Mountains, and larger numbers (probably 100s of pairs) nesting in the heronry at Cao Ba.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea. Small numbers seen along mountain rivers in the Qinling Mountains, and larger numbers (probably 100s of pairs) nesting in the heronry at Cao Ba.

Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax. Certainly the most numerous species in the heronry at Cao Ba, with several hundred roosting birds.

Crested Ibis Nipponia nippon. This extremely rare species was quite confiding and easy to see in Yang County. We found six flying to roost in on 4th April, their salmon pink underwings striking in the evening sun, and similar numbers were seen in flight or perched at Cao Ba on 5th April. We had close views of a nesting bird in an urban garden, watching it turn the eggs. This bird was breeding in the grey juvenile plumage, that is retained by some adults.

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius. Seen most days in small numbers in forest in the Qinling Mountains.

Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha. A common and striking bird that was seen daily in many locations in the Qinling Mountains, nearly always in small parties. It had a confusingly large repertoire of calls, but the birds usually removed confusion by showing themselves.

Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus. Several parties seen in the Wild Goose Pagoda at Xian, and in Beihai Park in Beijing.

Black-billed Magpie Pica pica. Fairly common and widespread.

Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes. A common forest bird around Lao Xian Cheng, usually either picked out when calling from the top of a pine, of flying over the forest in small flocks.

Carrion Crow Corvus corone. A few seen in the lowlands around Xian.

Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorynchos. Fairly common in the Qinling Mountains, typically seen in seen in small parties in vicinity of villages.

Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus. A few examples seen most days in the Qinling Mountains, usually in pairs.

Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula. A few seen in the Park of the Wild Goose pagoda in Xian.

Dark-throated Thrush Turdus ruficollis. A bird of the form ruficollis was seen along the road from the Golden Monkey Reserve. Nice to catch up with this bird, having failed to see one in Essex in 1992.

Dusky Thrush Turdus naumanni. Examples of this species were seen at the Crested Ibis reserve, and one or two daily in forest edge around Lao Xian Cheng.

Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus. Having only seen an incomplete bird before (it lacked a tail) it was nice to see several examples in the forest above Lao Xian Cheng. Males of the race rufilatus were quite stunning with bright ultramarine rump, coverts and supercilium.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros. A few birds seen around villages in Yang County.

Daurian Redstart Phoenicrurus auroreus. A few examples seen daily in the Qinling Mountains, and common around the village of Lao Xian Cheng.

White-capped Water Redstart Chaimarrornis leucocephalus. A fairly common sight along fast flowing rivers in the Qinling Mountains.

Plumbeous Water Redstart Rhyacornis fuliginosus. As with the previous species a fairly common species along mountain rivers.

Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva. One example of this neat bird seen in scrub at Lao Xian Cheng.

White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti. One seen briefly on two occasions along the stream by our camp in the Qinling Mountains.

Red-billed Starling Sturnus sericeus. A flock of 12 or so birds seen at the Crested Ibis reserve on 3rd April.

Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus. Two birds seen in Xian.

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea. Quite common in forest around Lao Xian Cheng.

Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris. Common in forest around Lao Xian Cheng.

Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes. Quite common in the mountains.

Coal Tit Parus ater. A few examples were seen in forest above Lao Xian Cheng. These birds were strikingly different from ater, being of the crested form, aemodius.

Yellow-bellied Tit Parus venustulus. One seen along the road to the Golden Monkey reserve.

Grey-crested Tit Parus dichrous. Fairly common in forest at Lao Xian Cheng, with a few birds seen daily.

Great Tit Parus major. A few seen at the Crested Ibis reserve.

Green-backed Tit Parus monticolus. Quite common in woodland, both in the lowlands and in the mountains.

Marsh Tit Parus palustris. A few birds seen in thickets near Lao Xian Cheng.

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus. A few examples seen in scrub and woodland around Lao Xian Cheng.

Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus. Several small parties of this neat little bird seen in scrub around the Crested Ibis Reserve.

Sooty Tit Aegithalos fuliginosus. This endemic is described as uncommon in Mackinnon, but it was probably the most common tit in the Qinling mountains, and several were seen most days.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. Fairly common in lowland areas such as around Yang and Xian.

Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica. Fairly numerous around Yang, and saw the vase like nests in a number of locations.

Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus. Large numbers seen around cliff faces in the north of the Qinling Mountains, where the main road from Xian cut through a ravine.

Brown-breasted Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthorrhous. Less numerous than Chinese Bulbul, but still fairly common around Xian An Yang in the lowlands.

Chinese Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis. Very common around villages and in scrub around Yang, and also seen at Xian.

Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques. A common and noisy species at Cao Ba, with a few examples seen around the village at Lao Xian Cheng.

Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus. Fairly sure a few examples were seen in the bare canopy of forest above Lao Xian Cheng.

ArcticWarbler Phylloscopus borealis. Seen at the Crested Ibis Reserve. The yellowish flanks would suggest the birds were of the race xanthrodryas.

Two-barred Warbler Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus. Rather common with many singing along the path to the Golden Monkey Reserve.

Tickell’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus affinis. A few examples of this species seen in scrub around Lao Xian Cheng.

Chinese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus sichuanensis. Looking like a washed out Pallas’s one came to bathe at a small pool at Cao Ba, as did a variety of small birds.

Chestnut-crowned Warbler Seicercus castaniceps. One seen in forest edge above Lao Xian Cheng.

White-throated laughing Thrush Garrulax albogularis. A few birds seen working through trees at the Golden Monkey Reserve.

Barred Laughing Thrush Garrulax lunulatus. This near-threatened endemic forages on the woodland floor, noisily clearing leaves like a Chowchilla. One party seen in forest just above Lao Xian Cheng.

Elliot’s Laughing Thrush Garrulax elliotii. Seen at a roadside stop in the mountains (by the tunnel) and in scrub near to Lao Xian Cheng.

Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus erythocnemis. One calling and seen moving through scrub at Cao Ba.

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis. One in scrub above Lao Xian Cheng.

Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea. Nice to see this attractive species out of a cage. A party gave great views drinking and bathing at a small pool at Cao Ba.

Grey-cheeked Fulvetta Alcippe morrisonia. A few birds seen in scrub at Cao Ba.

Streak-throated Fulvetta Alcippe cinereiceps. The race fessa found in the Qinling Mountains has a plain ashy head with no lateral lines.

Vinous-throated Parrotbill Paradoxornis webbianus. Not shy, but keeping to cover, small parties were seen in oilseed rape at the Crested Ibis reserve, and coming to drink at a pool at Cao Ba.

Fulvous Parrotbill Paradoxornis fulvifrons. Small parties were seen in mixed species associations on two occasions in the Qinling Mountains.

White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata. A flock was flushed along the track to the Crested Ibis Reserve.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus. Fairly common and widespread, seen in towns and villages.

Russet Sparrow Passer rutilans. Small numbers with Tree Sparrows in Lao Xian Cheng.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba. Fairly common and widespread, even in towns.

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea. Common along mountain streams and rivers throughout the Qinling Mountains.

Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola. Just one, but at least a sparkling male seen with T

Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni. Two of these tail pumpers seen creeping about in wet pasture at Lao Xian Cheng.

Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella strophiata. Quite common around the village area at Lao Xian Cheng.

Grey-capped Greenfinch Carduelis sinica. Seen around Xian, common at Yang, and also seen in Beijing.

Brambling Fringilla montifringilla. A party of eight, including some smart males seen near Lao Xian Cheng.

Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans. A very striking bunting, this species was quite common in open areas and scrub in the Qinling Mountains, but was not seen on the days spent trekking.

Yellow-browed Bunting Emberiza chrysophrys. Two examples were found feeding along a bund of a rice paddy at the Crested Ibis site, giving good scope views.