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birdwatching places in Yunnan

  

 Yunnan:

    With terrain ranging from tropical rainforest to snow-capped peaks and peoples from Thai to Tibetan, Yunnan is the most varied of China's provinces and is one of the most alluring destinations in the entire country. It is also the sixth-largest province and home to a third of China's ethnic minorities (nearly 50%). There are 55 minorities in China, 25 of them live in Yunnan and the province also boasts half of China's plant and animal species.Yunnan is also well known for its year-round mild climate and the word 'Yunnan' actually means 'South of the Clouds. There are numerous excellent areas for bird watching in Yunnan.

   

    Kunming

    Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province and also called the 'Spring City' has a population of four million, though only about one million of these inhabit the urban area. The city is surrounded on three sides by the mountain ranges of Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau while the huge Lake Dian is located to the south. With an elevation of 1891 meters Kunming has a mild climate and can be visited at anytime of year. There is a fairly even spread of temperatures from April to September, winters are short, sunny and dry while in summer (June to August) Kunming offers cool respite, although rain is more common at that season.

   

     

    Western Hills

    Chinese name = Xi Shan

    South of Kunming this range of mountains spreads across a 40 long-long wedge of parkland on the western side of Lake Dian. Also known as the 'Green Peacock Mountains' or more commonly, the 'Sleeping Beauty Hills', a reference to their undulating contours resembling a reclining woman with tresses of hair flowing into the sea they are a good and easily accessible birding site. Birds on Xishan include Himalayan Wood Owl; Black-breasted, Chestnut and Chinese Thrushes; Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Buff-throated Warbler, White-browed Laughingthrush, Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Spectacled Fulvetta, Red-tailed Minla, Vinaceous Rosefinch. There are even recent records of Giant Nuthatch, Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Blanford's Rosefinch and Crimson-browed Finch. The park is free and easily reached by taxi or public bus from Kunming but weekends and holidays are best avoided.

   

    Xishuangbanna

    The Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, or usually just 'Banna', is in the subtropical south of Yunnan province. Bordering Myanmar and Laos the area has a laid-back, South-East Asian feel, with its small villages, tropical forests and the occasional stupa. It has become China's own 'mini-Thailand'. About one-third of the region's population of 800,000 are Dai, another third or so are Han Chinese and the rest are minorities.

   

    Jinghong:

    Located beside the mighty Mekong River, is the capital of Xishuangbanna and there are daily flights from Kunming and less frequent services to Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. The city is also connected by a daily bus service to Kunming (15 hours). Jinghong airport: It is only 5kilometres away from city.

   

    Xishuangbanna boasts a wealth of Southeast Asian birds some of the more appealing include -

    Dehong Prefecture:

    Chinese name = Dehong Diqu

    Dehong Lisu and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture in the far west of Yunnan borders, like Xishuangbanna, Myanmar and is populated by distinctive minority groups. Most Chinese in Dehong are involved in trading with Myanmar and the towns of Ruili and Wanding are particularly important in this respect. Mangshi (Luxi) is Dehong's air link with the outside world and if you travel to Ruili Mangshi airport is the easiest way to do it. There are numerous taxis, both private and shared, as well as regular buses plying the 80 kilometers between Mangshi and Ruili and the journey will take approximately two hours.

    Ruili:

    It is one of the more interesting towns in South-west China. It's just a few kilometers from Myanmar and has a real border-town feel to it. The main reason tourists come to Ruili is to visit the border villages and to experience the lives of the area's different minorities. Few tourists, other than birders, are interested in visiting the area's the forest and rain forest.

   

    Birds in the Ruili area include 每 Chinese Francolin, Rufous-throated Partridge, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Red-headed Trogon, Hodgson's Frogmouth, Pin-tailed Green Pigeon, Black-tailed Crake, Rusty-naped Pitta, Jerdon's Baza, Silver-breasted and Long-tailed Broadbills, Burmese Shrike, Black-breasted Thrush, Large Niltava, White-gorgeted Hainan and Hill Blue Flycatchers, White-vented Myna, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Striated Swallow, Rufous-necked, Black-throated, Moustached and Red-tailed Laughingthrushes, Red-faced Liocichla, Lesser and Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbills. Its likely that Green Peafowl maintains a precarious foothold in the region and in recent years a number of additions to the Chinese bird list have been made in the Ruili area 每 Alexandrine Parakeet, Wire-tailed Swallow, Black-backed Forktail and Rufous-chinned Laughingthrush. Particularly productive areas to go birding around Ruili include 每

    a. Mengxiu road 30 minutes drive north of Ruili. Turn right off the main Ruili to Longchuan road immediately before the large road tunnel 18 kms from Ruili. Drive up this side road for about four kilometers to an abandonned old church. There are decent birding trails to the left and right of the ridge road here.

    b. Sheng Tai Yuan Ecological Gardens 每 a locally well-known tourist 40 minutes drive from Ruili towards Mangshi. Park is open from 0008:00 每 19:00 (though the cage with numerous captive Green Peafowl closes one hour earlier).

    c. Moil Park 40 minutes drive northeast of Ruili. Also known as Zha Duo after the large waterfall in the center of the park.

    d. Jiele Reservoir.

    e. Trail in the Tong Bi Guan Forest near Nei Duo. An area of decent forest almost 1.5 hours drive west of Ruili. Accessed by driving west on route S321 from Ruili to Dengxiu. In Dengxiu, about 30.5 kms from Ruili, turn right off the main Ruili to Nongdaozhen road, on to minor road XN05. This, essentially cobbled, road leads to the small border village of Tu You Ba and takes you away from the floodplain of the Ruili river & up in to the hills. Drive past Banling (note that there are at least three settlements called Banling in this area!) to the crest of the ridge. This site is quite obvious & there's even a small shrine, or something similar, on the right hand side of the road here. You reach the crest after driving about km 18.5 on this road and there's a trail in to the forest on the right side of the road here.

    f. Ruili riverside park (Jiang Bian Guang). Ruili River at the Jiang Bian Guang (riverside park) 每 between Ruili city & the border crossing settlement of Jie Gao. This site is just over three kilometers south-west of Ruili town center.

   

   

    Gaoligongshan:

    There are three main parts to the Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve - Baihualing Nature Reserve, Dahaoping Nature Reserve and Nankang Nature Reserve. All are relatively easily accessed from Kunming. Baoshan (a small city that is easily explored on foot) is connected by daily flights to Kunming (one hour) and is the main stepping off point for birders visiting Gaoligongshan. It then takes three hours to drive from Baoshan airport to Baihualing Nature Reserve in the Galigong mountains. Baihualing is by far the best, and also the most easily accessible part of the Gaolingong Mountains. Decent accommodation and food are available at the reserve guest house. Visitors must to contact the reserve management in advance and a daily fee is payable, the size of this fee depending on the size of your group. Single travelers can expect to pay $150US/day all inclusive though this can be substantially reduced for groups of four or more. The reserve staff can also arrange pick-ups and transfers to and from Baoshan airport and will provide a vehicle for your use while in the area. China Bird Tours can organize your trip here and many birders have previously combined visits to Gaoligongshan with trips to Nabang (a site close to the Myanmar border and to the west of Tengchong) and Ruili.

    Birds at Baihualing include 每 Sclater's Monal (high elevations only), Silver and Mrs. Hume's Pheasants, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Ward's Trogon (rare), Brown Wood Owl, Hodgson's Frogmouth, White-bellied Green Pigeon, Long-tailed Broadbill, White-winged Magpie (rare), three species of shortwing including Gould's, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Spotted, Grey-sided, Blue-winged, Scaly and Red-tailed Laughingthrushes, Coral and Slender-billed Scimitar Babblers, Grey-bellied Wren Babbler, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Yellow-throated Fulvetta and Beautiful Sibia. Arguably Baihualing's greatest avian attraction however is Cachar Wedge-billed Wren, a species that's not uncommon here. Dark-rumped Swift has even been reported here. A visit of at least four days would be recommended.

   

    Lijiang:

    Northwest of Kunming and in a region that borders Tibet, the wonderfully picturesque old town and surroundings of Lijiang are another great spot.. It boasts Naxi, Tibetan, Mosu, Lisu and Pumi nationalities, breathtaking mountain and lake scenery, Tibetan monasteries, deep gorges and the backpacker comforts of Lijiang's lovely old town. There are proposals to create the Chinese equivalent of Yellowstone Park here, a 66,000 square long Three Great River National Park, where the Yangtze, Mekong and Salween all pass within 70 kilometers of each other. Lijiang is a popular tourist resort, there are numerous hotels of all conceivable standards and even more restaurants. There's also a daily flight from Kunming to Lijiang airport (28 kilometers from the old city).

    There are several good areas to go birding around Lijiang -

    a. Heilongtan or Black Dragon Pool Park (or occasionally also known as Yu Quen Park) is right on the northeastern edge of Lijiang town This is the best site in China for Giant Nuthatch - search the 'relict pines' near the second pavilion/pagoda near the stepped track around Elephant Mountain.

    b. Lashihai (Lashi Hai & previously more commonly known as Lashiba Hai) 每 a sizeable lake 20 kilometers almost directly west of Lijiang that holds large numbers of wintering waterfowl (often including small numbers of Falcated Duck), Common Cranes and occasional birds of prey such as White-tailed Eagle.

    c. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Chinese Name = Yulong Xueshan)

    About 35 kilometers (50 minutes drive) north of Lijiang is this spectacular mountain. In winter its largely inaccessible but spring visits can produce Buff-throated Partridge, White Eared & Lady Amherst's Pheasants, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, White-throated Redstart, Giant Laughingthrush, Rufous-tailed Babbler & both Alpine & Maroon-backed Accentors here. There are several chairlifts up the mountain 每 the one at Yun Shan Ping Suo Dao starts at 09:00 & goes up to Yun Shan Ping (4700 meters) and is the best for birding.