During a short birding trip to Hong Kong earlier this year, I was determined to squeeze in a few days on mainland China. The original plan was to visit Ba Bao Shan (north of Shaoguan), however this proved logistically impossible due to Labour Week public holidays. So; where to go with only a couple of days on the edge of this vast country? My hosts at Mai Po marshes suggested the national nature reserve (China’s first) at Dinghu Mountain, 18 kms northeast of the city of Zhao Qing in western Guang Dong province. The site occupies several forested limestone hills and is billed very much as a country retreat serving the nearby city. It therefore attracts a lot of visitors, especially at weekends and holidays. Nevertheless, the mixed forest here supports a fair range of the typical lowland and foothill birds of southeast China.
2. Site access, accommodation & food
Zhao Qing is 3 hours from Hong Kong, either by river boat from the Kowloon ferry terminal or the train from Kowloon railway station. China Travel agencies in Hong Kong will sort out advance ticketing. A taxi from the city centre takes less than 20 minutes to the entrance gate of the reserve. From there you walk or take one of the small buggies up to the accommodation base. Available here are a fairly expensive hotel, holiday chalets and an international youth hostel. The latter is by far the cheapest option, where the well-maintained dormitory accommodation is totally adequate for most birders on a short let. Cheap meals are available from a cluster of outdoor restaurants a few minutes from the hostel and essentials (snacks and drinking water etc.) may be bought from any of the small stalls in the vicinity during the day.
A map of the site is provided with your entrance ticket at the gate, but this is very diagrammatic and not so useful for trekking purposes. However it shows the main points of interest and how these inter-relate when viewing signage within the site. The first thing the birder will note is the division of the reserve into “open access” and “nature reserve” (ie. closed) areas. Do not be dismayed at what this may imply however; I wandered about more-or-less at will seeking out the quieter corners of the site (ignoramus that I am), entirely unchallenged for the duration of my stay. There is a network of informal (staff service) trails heading off the central vehicular access road and away from various strategic buildings, especially one leading uphill towards a telecommunications building on a low summit above the Qingyun temple and monastery complex (which is a further, possibly quite pleasant, food and accommodation option).
Silver pheasant Lophura nycthemera
2 males, seen from the trail leading uphill from the Qingyun temple.
Great barbet Megalaima virens
Heard only, around and above Qingyun mostly.
Black-browed barbet Megalaima oorti
Commoner than the above and heard all around the site. I had good views of a couple in the quieter forest behind the staff quarters between the entrance gate and the youth hostel.
Grey-chinned minivet Pericrocotus solaris
Half a dozen or so at Qingyun temple and from the central vehicular access road beyond and above the youth hostel.
Scarlet minivet Pericrocotus flammeus
A pair in tall trees around the outdoor restaurants.
Red-whiskered bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus
Mountain bulbul Ixos mcclellandii
1 on the staff trail behind the Qingyun temple.
Chestnut bulbul Hemixis castanonotus
A bunch together at Qingyun; then singles in forest off the road beyond the youth hostel.
Asian barred owlet Glaucidium cuculoides
Heard only, above Qingyun temple.
Bronzed drongo Dicrurus aeneus
5+ from the road above the youth hostel.
Black-naped monarch Hypothymis azurea
1 male watched fly-catching from the trail above Qingyun temple.
Crested serpent-eagle Spilornis cheela
1 soaring above Qingyun, being harried by the following species.
Besra Accipiter virgatus
1 at Qingyun.
Hainan blue flycatcher Cyornis hainanus
1 observed singing from the road above the youth hostel.
Barn swallow Hirundo rustica
Around for the duration.
Brownish-flanked bush warbler Cettia fortipes
Heard only, in scrub/bamboo below the road c. 1-2 km beyond the youth hostel.
Russet bush warbler Bradypterus mandelli
Heard only, same place as above species.
Yellow-cheeked tit Parus spilonotus
A couple seen higher up the trail above the Qingyun temple, and around the youth hostel.
Great tit Parus major
Black-throated tit Aegithalos concinnus
A flock at Qingyun, then several from the road above the youth hostel.
Japanese white-eye Zosterops japonicus
Greater necklaced laughingthrush Garrulax pectoralis
Several groups encountered above Qingyun and on the road above the youth hostel.
Rufous-capped babbler Stachyris ruficeps
Singles on the road above the youth hostel, one attending young.
Streak-throated scimitar babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis
Frequent and easily whistled-in from the road c. 1-2 km beyond the youth hostel.
Red-billed leiothrix Leiothrix lutea
Several in a mixed flock with the following species, high on the trail above the Qingyun temple.
Grey-cheeked fulvetta Alcippe morrisonia
Frequent in small flocks throughout.
Striated yuhina Yuhina castaniceps
1 from the road above the youth hostel.
Fork-tailed sunbird Aethopyga christinae
Several from the road above the youth hostel.
Scaly-breasted munia Lonchura punctulata
Several in scrub below the road c. 1-2 km beyond the youth hostel.