Day 1: Arrival in Chengdu, China.
Upon arrival at the airport in Chengdu—a city known as the "Country of Heaven" or "Land of Abundance", you will be met by either your guide or driver before being escorted to your hotel accommodation.
Day 2: Chengdu to Tangjiahe (Alt.: 500-1,500m).
We will have a short visit to the Chengdu Botanical Garden before we start our long drive to the national nature reserve in Tangjiahe. Chengdu Botanical Garden is considered one of the best city parks for birding due to its big diversity of flora and high forest coverage. We can find some urban and special resident birds here, including Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Chinese Bulbul, White-browed Laughingthrush, Red-billed Leiothrix, Japanese White-eye, Chinese Blackbird, Chinese Grosbeak, Collared Finchbill, Long-tailed Shrike, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Hoopoe, etc.
Followed the exploration, we will complete a fairly long (around 6 hours) journey to Tangjiahe. By the time we arrive, it should be around sunset time when animals normally come down close to the river-side meadow for water and salt. We will likely encounter our first Takin. Besides, Reeves's Muntjac and Masked Civet are also relatively easy and often found by the road. By contrast, although the elusive Leopard Cat is also active at night, but is not so easy to see it. We will continue our search in the coming days and prioritize spotting all of the species here.
Day 3-4: Tanghiiahe Nature Reserve (Alt.: 1,500-2,600m).
Hiding in the depth of the Mingshan Mountains, Tangjiahe is one of the panda reserves in China that hosts a variety of rare mammals and birds. Tangjiahe is also known as a premier biodiversity hotspot, consisting of murmuring streams, lush mixed broadleaf-conifer forest, and cliffs. These factors have made it one of the best places to search for mammals and birds in China. Our main activities here will be arranged in the mornings and late afternoons. We will focus on two main valleys at low elevation and one trail that winds up to the middle elevation area. The Golden Pheasant will be our very top target at low elevation, we should have a good chance of spotting some. With some patient searches along the streams, we can encounter Brown Dipper, Plumbeous Water Redstart, White-capped Water Redstart. Without much difficulty, we can also find Crested Kingfisher, White-crowned Forktail, Little Forktail, and Blue Rock Thrush. There is a chance to find the spectacular Tawny Fish Owl, but it requires a good amount of work and some luck.
In the broad-leaved forest, we will look for Speckled Wood Pigeon, Asian Koel, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Himalayan Cuckoo, Pacific Swift, Grey-capped Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Mountain Bulbul, Spectacled Fulvetta, Pygmy Cupwing, Yellow-bellied Tit, Sooty Bushtit, White-collared Yuhina, Slaty Bunting, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Sichuan Leaf Warbler, Bianchi's Warbler, Martens's Warbler, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Rufous-faced Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, etc.
In one morning, we will do a special hike. We will get there early to ensure we get the best chance to try Temminck's Tragopan. The dense broadleaf foliage and bamboo forest are also home to other interesting species including Rufous-capped Babbler, Barred Laughingthrush, White-throated Laughingthrush, Elliot's Laughingthrush, Black-faced Laughingthrush, Red-winged Laughingthrush, Indian Blue Robin, Blue Whistling Thrush, etc. Occasionally, we can see Spectacled Parrotbill and Koklass Pheasant in this area.
Our mammal safari is sure to be one of the highlights of this trip. We will spend one morning looking for the spectacular Golden Snub-nosed Monkey, a stunning animal that is known for its golden fur and blue face. Besides, Takin is relatively easy to find and sometimes can be spotted from a close distance. Other widespread species like Tibetan Macaque, Reeves's Muntjac, Asian Wild Boar like wandering along the riverside, while Chinese Goral is often spotted along the steep cliffs. We may also see some challengeable species like Hog Badger, Leopard Cat, Serow, Yellow-throated Marten, Tufted Deer, and with some luck, even the elusive Asiatic Black Bear.
Day 5: Tangjiahe to Chuanzhusi (Alt.: 1,500-3,000m).
We will continue our exploration before driving on to our next destination. We will have some birding stops along the way looking for birds like Collared Crow, Przevalski's Nuthatch, Maroon-backed Accentor, Grey-crested Tit, Rufous-vented Tit, etc.
Day 6: Chuanzhusi to Ruoergai via Gonggangling (Alt.: ~3,500m).
Gonggangling has lush Alpine coniferous forests where it is home to many special alpine forest birds. We will search for the endemic and rare Sichuan Wood Owl (Pere David's Owl) here, as well as the elusive Chinese Grouse and other forest species like Blue Eared Pheasant, Blood Pheasant, Three-banded Rosefinch, Chinese White-browed Rosefinch, Grey-headed Bullfinch, White-browed Tit Warbler, Crested Tit Warbler, Przevalski's Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Chinese Rubythroat, Sichuan Tit, Rufous-vented Tit, Grey-crested Tit, Buff-barred Warbler, Sichuan Leaf Warbler, Alpine Leaf Warbler, Greenish Warbler, Chinese Fulvetta, Grey-backed Shrike, White-backed Thrush, Chestnut Thrush, White-bellied Redstart, Blue-fronted Redstart, Himalayan Bluetail, Rufous-breasted Accento, Maroon-backed Accentor, Collared Grosbeak, White-winged Grosbeak, etc.
After searching, we will drive on to Ruoergai, a vast plain of the Tibetan Plateau known as the "lungs of Sichuan". We will enjoy picturesque views of the high mountains on either side of the road.
Once we arrive, we can expect some grassland species like Himalayan Griffon, Upland Buzzard, Black Kite, Common Kestrel, Amur Falcon, Daurian Jackdaw, Horned Lark, Azure-winged Magpie, Oriental Skylark, Carrion Crow, Grey-backed Shrike, Rock Sparrow, Siberian Stonechat, Citrine Wagtail, etc.
From now on, we will also keep our eyes open for plateau mammals, the adorable Plateau Pika emerge from their nests and graze with great alertness on the grassland near its hole, while the Himalayan Marmot tends to lay prone on the ground. Other sought-after mammals we can expect in the following days including Tibetan Fox, Red Fox, Hog Badger, Tufted Deer, and the scarce Grey Wolf, Chinese Mountain Cat, and Tibetan Roe Deer.
Day 7-8: Roergai Grassland (Alt.: ~3,500m).
We will spend two days on the grassland searching for plateau birds and mammals. We will spend one morning in the mountain with virgin forests at the edge of the plateau that provides good habitats for forest birds such as the rare Chinese Grouse, Blue Eared Pheasant, Sichuan Jay, Black Woodpecker, Przevalski's Nuthatch, Snowy-browed Nuthatch, Plain Laughingthrush, Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush, Giant Laughingthrush, Elliot's Laughingthrush, Sichuan Tit, White-browed Tit Warbler, Crested Tit Warbler, Chinese Leaf Warbler, Sichuan Leaf Warbler, Yellow-streaked Warbler, Chinese Fulvetta, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Spectacled Parrotbill, White-throated Redstart, Hodgson's Redstart, Black Redstart, Common Rosefinch, Common Crossbill, Godlewski's Bunting, etc.
In one afternoon, we will visit Flower Lake which is one of the most important plateau wetlands in China, it attracts many migratory birds in the summertime. We normally can have a good observation of the elegant Black-necked Crane, which is the only crane species breeding on the plateau. We will slowly walk on the well-paved boardwalk searching for waterfowls and grassland birds including Greylag Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Tufted Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Ruddy Shelduck, Brown-headed Gull, White-winged Black Tern, Whiskered Tern, Black Stork, Great Bittern, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Chinese Pond Heron, Lesser Sand Plover, Common Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Citrine Wagtail, Little Ringed Plover, White-rumped Snowfinch, Rufous-necked Snowfinch, Oriental Skylark, Tibetan Lark, Horned Lark, Saker Falcon, Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture), Himalayan Vulture, Upland Buzzard, Common Kestrel. Some difficult species like Whooper Swan and Bar-headed Goose are occasionally spotted from distance.
Besides, the vast montane grassland and marshland have made it a paradise for plateau mammals, we will carefully searching Tibetan Fox, Chinese Mountain Cat, Sika Deer, Tufted Deer, and even the elusive Tibetan Gazelle and Wolf. We will spend one day focusing on the grassland, especially some quarries for Pallas's Cat.
Day 9: Ruoergai Grassland to Maerkang (Alt.: 3,500-2,600m).
This morning we will have chances to try for some key species we may still need to find before driving to Maerkang. We will have several stops along the way looking for Black-necked Crane, Przevalski's Pinktail, Ground Tit, White-browed Tit, Robin Accentor, Tibetan Partridge, etc.
Day 10: Mengbi Mountain (Alt.: 2,600-4,100-2,600m).
Standing between Xiaojin County and Maerkang City, Mengbi Mountain is another important birding site that we visit on this trip. Significant differences in elevations along with well-protected virgin forest, abundant flowers, and few people have made this site a paradise for birds, including endemic birds like Chestnut-throated Partridge (Verreaux's Partridge), and the rare Sichuan Jay.
In the early morning, we will drive to the top of the mountain standing at 3,900 meters, and either walk or drive slowly down the mountain to search for birds. We will spend the whole day birding in different elevations of the mountain looking for the endemic targets and other fascinating birds like Blood Pheasant, Crested Tit Warbler, Chinese Fulvetta, the range-limited Crimson-browed Finch, Three-banded Rosefinch, Pink-rumped Rosefinch, Streaked Rosefinch, White-throated Needletail, Golden Eagle, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Himalayan Buzzard, Long-tailed Thrush, Przevalski's Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Rufous-vented Tit, Grey Crested Tit, Hodgson's Treecreeper, White-winged Grosbeak, Spotted Nutcracker, Grey-headed Bullfinch, Hume's Warbler, Sichuan Leaf Warbler, Buff-barred Warbler, Collared Grosbeak, White-winged Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, etc.
Day 11: Maerkang to Rilong (Alt.: 2,600-3,500m).
We will spend some time birding around Maerkang looking for Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Great-spotted Woodpecker, etc. We can also have a short stop in Mengbi Mountain to look for our targets again if needed. Then we drive on to Balang Mountain to look for Red-billed Chough, Yellow-billed Chough, Grandala, Pink-rumped Rosefinch, Beautiful Rosefinch, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Common Rosefinch, Streaked Rosefinch, Plan Mountain Finch, Brand's Mountain Finch, White-winged Grosbeak, etc.
Day 12-13: Balang Mountain (Alt.: 3,500-4,480-3,500m).
We will spend two days birding on this fascinating birding site. Balang Mountain is the first high mountain standing between the Sichuan Basin and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, from the foot to the pass, the elevation rises sharply from 2,000m to 4,500m which provides a wide variety of habitats to support a lot of creatures. The mountain pass at around 4,500 meters is the highest point we will reach on this entire tour. Around the snow line of the alpine flowstone slope, we will search for the scurrying Snow Partridge, Tibetan Snowcock, and Grandala. Other high altitude specialties we can see include Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture), Golden Eagle, Red-billed Chough, Yellow-billed Chough, Alpine Accentor, Brandt's Mountain Finch, Snow Pigeon, Red-fronted Rosefinch, Rosy Pipit, etc.
We will also spend some time at the lower elevations around the timberline where alpine meadows and scrubs carpet the snow-covered mountain. We will visit this area several times in search of birds including the endemic Chinese Monal, White Eared Pheasant, Chestnut-throated Partridge, as well as Blood Pheasant, Koklass Pheasant, Firethroat, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Chinese Fulvetta, Chinese Rubythroat, Golden Bush Robin, Streaked Rosefinch, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Dark-rumped Rosefinch, Crimson-browed Finch, Common Rosefinch, Kessler's Thrush (White-backed Thrush), Rufous-vented Tit, Sichuan Tit, Asian House Martin, Alpine Leaf Warbler, Giant Laughingthrush, White-throated Redstart, etc. We can also look for Chinese Goral, Blue Sheep in this area.
Additionally, we will visit broad-leaved forest and bamboo undergrowth lower down for Large Hawk Cuckoo, Himalayan Cuckoo, Eurasian Nutcracker, Green-backed Tit, Yellow-streaked Warbler, Buff-throated Warbler, Chinese Leaf Warbler, Sichuan Leaf Warbler, Martens's Warbler, Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, White-collared Yuhina, Chinese Babax, Chestnut Thrush, Verditer Flycatcher, Daurian Redstart, Slaty Bunting, Yellow-throated Bunting, etc. Golden Pheasant's call normally can be heard here, but it normally hides in the bush, we may see it with luck. Red Panda is also occasionally spotted here, but we normally get a better chance in our extension tour in Labahe.
Day 14: Balang Mountain to Chengdu via Shenshuping Panda Base.
Drive to Balang Mountain to try our targets again, then we will pay a visit to Wolong Panda Base to enjoy panda at different ages, and spend some time with the adorable creature before driving back to Chengdu.
Day 15: Departure from Chengdu.
Following a lovely breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport to depart from Chengdu or load on our bus for the 7 days "Sichuan Red Panda & Parrotbills Extension". This will conclude the services for this scheduled itinerary from the AlpineBirding.