Day 1: Arrival in Beijing, China.
Met by your AlpineBirding private guide or driver at the airport, then drive directly to the hotel. We can explore the city a bit if time permits. At our welcome dinner tonight, we will have the first taste of Beijing cuisine.
Day 2: Beijing to Yanqing after Forbidden City & Great Wall.
In the morning, we will drive to Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty which is the last dynasty in Chinese history. It was originally built in 1406, for almost 500 years, it served as the seat-bed of the emperors in the Ming and Qing dynasties as well as the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government. Following our visit to the Forbidden City, we will drive on to the Badaling Great Wall and visit it in the less-crowded afternoon time. The Badaling Great Wall is the best-preserved and most complete section with an extremely beautiful natural landscape. We will drive a short distance to Yanqing to spend the night.
Day 3: Yanqing to Beijing via Yeyahu Lake.
Drive a short distance to Yeyahu Lake and start birding there in search of waterfowls including Gadwall, Chinese Spot-billed Duck, Ferruginous Pochard, Tufted Duck, Smew, Black-necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Eurasian Spoonbill, as well as other birds like the Azure-winged Magpie, Marsh Tit, Bearded Reedling, Pallas's Bunting and the spares Falcated Duck, Chinese Grey Shrike, Red-breasted Merganser. After our exploration, we will drive back to the downtown area of Beijing.
Day 4: Visit Hutong, then take a train to Xi'an and visit the Muslim Quarter.
We will begin the morning by exploring one of Beijing's old hutongs and explore the unique architecture and authentic Chinese street life. Then we will drive to the train station to catch a comfortable bullet train to Xi'an. A leisure walk at the Muslim Quarter is optional tonight.
Day 5: Xian to Foping after Terra Cotta Warriors.
In the morning, we will visit the Terra-Cotta Warriors, the eighth wonder of the world which was created to guard the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor to unite ancient China. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Terra Cotta Warriors is one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of all time. After leisurely admire this vast array of soldiers, we will take a short bullet train ride to Foping.
Day 6: Foping to Yangxian.
Spend the morning birding and searching the habitat in Foping for species like Brown Dipper, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Little Forktail, etc., then we will transfer to Yangxian to spend the night.
Day 7: Yangxian to Tangjiahe Nature Reserve.
Located to the south of the Qingling Mountain Range, the species boundary between the south and the north, Yangxian is a very unique birding spot where we can see the endangered Crested Ibis. It was considered an extinct species until 7 Crested Ibises were found in Yangxian in the 1980s, while the population has gradually grown up to 3,000. We will spend the whole morning here until being transferred to the train station to catch our train to Guangyuan. We will take a bus from Guangyuan and drive on a breathtaking country road to the wild panda habitat, Tangjiahe. En route, we will visit a beautiful and peaceful ancient town hide in the deep Mingshan Mountains which has a history of over 1,700 years.
Day 8-9: Tangjiahe Nature Reserve.
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 forests, 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 is our very top target at low elevation, we normally have a good chance of spotting some. With some patient search 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, and Little Forktail. 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, Grey-capped Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Mountain Bulbul, Spectacled Fulvetta, Yellow-bellied Tit, Sooty Bushtit, White-collared Yuhina, Slaty Bunting, Bianchi's Warbler, Martens's Warbler, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Rufous-faced Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, etc.
We will spend one morning doing 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, 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. 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 10: Tangjiahe to Dujiangyan.
We will have a short birding hike around the hotel in the early morning before we complete a 6-hour drive to Dujiangyan.
Day 11: Dujiangyan to Wolong after Mount Qingcheng & Dujiangyan Irrigation System.
Located near the scenic city of Dujiangyan, Mount Qingcheng is one of the best places to gain a deeper understanding of China's indigenous religion of Daoism. With a history spanning thousands of years, Qingcheng is a host to a variety of Daoist monasteries showcasing the elegant architecture of Daoist traditions. Visitors can navigate a series of staircases winding up through peaceful forests in search of practitioners and temples dedicated to notable Daoist deities and figures. The peaceful atmosphere and cultural significance of Mount Qingcheng have even earned its global recognition as a UNESCO world heritage site. The beautiful environment of Qingcheng is also home to a good variety of birds inhabiting the lush forest such as Great Barbet, Black-headed Sibia, Elliot's Laughtinghrush, and Red-billed Blue Magpie.
Once we finish the visit to Mount Qingcheng, we depart for the Dujiangyan Irrigation System. This ancient project was built more than 2,200 years ago and is still working now. As a result of its cultural significance in the area, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System was designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. Following the visit, we will drive on to Wolong.
Day 12-13: Balang Mountain.
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 specials 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, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Chinese Fulvetta, Streaked Rosefinch, Dark-breasted Rosefinch, Dark-rumped Rosefinch, Crimson-browed Finch, Common Rosefinch, Kessler's Thrush (White-backed Thrush), Rufous-vented Tit, Sichuan Tit, Alpine Leaf Warbler, Giant Laughingthrush, White-throated Redstart, etc.
Additionally, we will visit the broad-leaved forest and bamboo undergrowth lower down for Eurasian Nutcracker, Green-backed Tit, Yellow-streaked Warbler, Buff-throated Warbler, Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, White-collared Yuhina, Chinese Babax, Chestnut Thrush, 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.
Day 14: Wolong Panda Base to Chengdu, then visit Jinli Street.
Start early this morning to catch up with the active time of pandas at different ages and quiet time in the morning, so that we can enjoy some less-crowded stay at the Wolong Panda Base. Here we also have good chances to see birds like White-browed Laughingthrush, Chinese Bulbul, Chinese Babax, etc.
In the afternoon, we will drive back to Chengdu and visit Jinli Street, one of the oldest commercial streets in China featuring traditional architectures of Qing and Ming dynasties (1644-1911), and modeled after the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". Ranked at the top of the 21 world's most beautiful streets by CNN Travel in 2019, Jinli Street has something for everyone including delicious street food, handcrafted souvenirs, and live entertainment. We will experience the famous hot pot for dinner tonight.
Day 15: Chengdu City Exploration (Jinsha Site Museum, Kuanzhai Alleys, People's Park).
Served as the capital of the Ancient Shu Kingdom from 12th to 7th century B.C., the Jinsha archaeological site is a speaking witness of the brilliant ancient civilization in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, and it provides crucial evidence to the theory that the origins of ancient Chinese civilization came from multiple sources. Jinsha has probably the richest gold and jade wares and the most centralized elephant tusks in the world. Watching the massive gold, bronze, jade, stone, ivory could bring you to traverse space-time back to 3,000 years to see this brilliant civilization.
This afternoon, we will explore the city more and enjoy its typical laid-back lifestyle by visiting Kuaizhai Alleys, a commercial street that once served as a living area of Manchu soldiers in the Qing Dynasty, now it is an alive place where you can find interesting food and souvenirs. We will also visit the People's Park nearby to experience local people's daily life.
Tonight, an interesting Sichaun opera is optional. We can enjoy the eye-catching performances of fire breathing and face changing at a local theater.
Day 16: Departure from Chengdu.
Following a lovely breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to the airport to depart from Chengdu. This will conclude the services for this scheduled itinerary from AlpineBirding.