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HomeBirdingBirding tour from Beijing to Qinghai

Birding tour from Beijing to Qinghai

Xining,Koko Nor ,Er La pass,Nangqian

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Tour Code: BR-W-006
Duration: 29days
Destination: Beijing, Xining
Good time to visit: from Aug to Oct
Departure date: on request 2016
Effort Nature Culture

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Situated in western China, Qinghai is the ideal place to see a mix of Central Asian specialities, Chinese/Tibetan endemics, and isolated populations of otherwise mostly Siberian species. In zoogeographic terms we will be visiting the Tibetan Plateau and its eastern fringes, with the latter showing particularly strong affinities with the least accessible parts of neighbour Sichuan Province, known for its avifaunally rich Panda reserves. While the scenery is fully on par with the very best of Sichuan and Tibet, tourism is far less developed in Qinghai, and it is cheaper to travel there. Drawing on unequalled birding experience in Qinghai (eleven tours during 1995-2000; six years' residence in the province) the following itinerary has been carefully planned to take in as wide a range of habitats as possible. At the same time sufficient field hours have been allowed to ensure that all specialities can be properly searched for, at a realistic pace. We shall be expecting to see around 200 species in Qinghai, with additional ones possible as we pass through Beijing.


DAY 01: Beijing
Arrival at Beijing, China's capital. What remains of the day after we've transferred to our comfortable hotel will be spent seeing a sight or two, or bird-watching.

DAY 02:Beijing/Xining (BLD)
This morning we'll fly to Xining, capital of Qinghai Province, c1,700 kilometers west of Beijing.Having had time to put on walking boots at the hotel we shall head for the eroded hills on the outskirts of town. Here we have a good chance of finding the endemic Przevalski's Partridge, Mongolian Trumpeter Finch, Sinai Rosefinch, and Meadow and Godlewski's Rock Buntings.

DAY 03:  forest north of Xining(BLD)
Starting early we'll devote the day to forest north of Xining, working an attractive area of spruce and birch forest with adjoining terraced fields and buckthorn scrub. Though scarce, Daurian Partridge is seen on most visits, but it is the warblers, Siberian Rubythroat, and various Redstarts which are the main attractions: with a bit of luck we should see Hodgson's, White-throated and White-bellied Redstarts, Southern Spotted and Chinese Bush Warblers, Yellow-streaked, Hume's and Gansu Leaf Warblers. The last has only very recently been reaccepted as a valid species.Less demanding than the warblers is a fine set of other birds: Common Pheasant, Blue Hill Pigeon, Fork-tailed Swift, Olive-backed Pipit, Grey-backed Shrike, Rufous-browed Accentor, Pere David's and Elliot's Laughing-thrushes, and Songar Tit. Also-possibles include Oriental Turtle Dove, Chinese Nuthatch, and Grey-headed Bullfinch, and we'll make an effort to find the retiring, outrageously beautiful Crested Tit-warbler, and the little-known Przevalski's Nuthatch.

DAY 04:  Koko Nor (BLD)
Heading for the fabled Koko Nor we'll leave Xining behind and soon gain altitude. After a quick breakfast in one of the Wild West-style towns that dot this part of the world we'll reach the plateau by midmorning and many birds later Heimahe, a minor crossroads town at the SW corner of the lake which will be our base for three nights.
Having now reached c3,200 m we're already among true Plateau species, and will be expecting to see Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, various ducks (amongst them Red-crested Pochard), Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon, Upland Buzzard, Saker, Great Black-headed and Brown-headed Gulls, Common Tern, Little Owl, Long-billed Calandra, Mongolian, Hume's Short-toed, Oriental Sky and Horned Larks, Richard's Pipit, Citrine Wagtail, Black Redstart, Isabelline Wheatear, the entertaining Hume's Ground-pecker, Rock Sparrow, and White-rumped, Pere David's and Rufous-necked Snowfinches.

DAY 05-06: Koko Nor(BLD)
As well as providing some outstanding birding our stay at Koko Nor will also help us acclimatize, minimizing the risk of any of us suffering altitude-induced discomfort.
Behind Heimahe a number of valleys give access to stunted scrub which is home to an array of very special birds- we should see our first Robin Accentor, Himalayan Rubythroat, Stonechat, Kessler's Thrush, Tickell's and Dusky Warblers, Stoliczka's Tit-warbler, the endemic White-browed Tit, Tibetan Snowfinch, and Pine Bunting. Our main quarry will be Przevalski's Redstart, arguably the prettiest of the genus (and undoubtedly the one fewest birders have seen), with the aberrant Przevalski's Rosefinch possible in the same habitat.
A stony point below Heimahe overlooks the muddy shore of Koko Nor. Here we should be able to find breeding Mongolian Plover, and perhaps lingering migrants such as Greater Sand Plover, Turnstone, and Temminck's Stint.It is often possible to get fairly close to Bar-headed Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, GBH and Brown-headed Gulls, and various Larks, and photographers may want to set their own pace here.
We'll be keenly mindful of the possibility of vagrants turning up: the Koko Nor area is a magnet to lost migrants, with a June 1999 Yellow Bittern doing its vertical-skulk routine in grass barely an inch deep being an off-beat trip highlight, with a lovely male Tiger Shrike in scrub near a pair of Przevalski's Rosefinches a much appreciated bonus. One morning we'll start early for the desert W of the lake to visit what is usually a reliable site for the strange Henderson's Ground Jay. Pallas's Sandgrouse is seen on most visits, sometimes even on the ground, and Blanford's Snowfinch, a dry-ground specialist, is easier to find here than anywhere else we'll visit. Asian Short-toed Lark and Desert Wheatear are additional species to look for.

DAY 07:  Koko Nor(BLD)
 After a last look at Koko Nor we'll turn south. Aiming for a small town near tomorrow's target area we will stop for anything of interest along the way - Chinese Grey Shrike and Great Rosefinch are sometimes seen, and we may even be able to find Desert Finch, here at the E-most limit of its range.

DAY 08: Er La pass(BLD)
 We will today explore the forbidding Er La pass where Roborovski's Rosefinch is usually seen. Although the species occurs in rather low density we have managed to find it on all visits since 1995, prior to which this Qinghai endemic had gone unseen by Westerners for four decades.
Other species usually seen here are Tibetan Snowcock, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Alpine Accentor, Guldenstadt's Redstart, Eurasian Snowfinch, and Brandt's and Plain Mountain Finches. Blue Sheep are seen on nearly all visits; wolves are around but often elusive, while Snow Leopard, the superbly camouflaged top carnivore of these bleak uplands, is one to dream about. Mind you, dreams come true occasionally: we saw a Snow Leopard in this area in 1995!

DAY 09: (BLD)
Starting early we'll be spending most of the day in the vehicles as we drive towards the Sichuan border. Here we'll be only the third group of birders (and probably only the fourth group of non-Chinese) to visit an extensive forest area reminiscent of Jiuzhaigou, the famous Panda reserve across the provincial border. Logging has been discontinued, and the forest is home to a far healthier and much less wary population of gamebirds than Jiuzhaigou.A surprisingly comfortable guesthouse will be our home for four nights.

DAY 10-13:  (BLD)
Highlights of our pioneering 1999 & 2000 visits included Severtzov's Grouse, Verreaux's Monal Partridge, Tibetan Partridge, Blood and Blue Eared Pheasants, Ibisbill, Black, Rufous-bellied & Three-toed Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Minivet, Maroon-backed Accentor, Red-flanked Bluetail, Long-tailed, Chestnut & Chinese Song Thrushes, Large-billed, Buff-barred and Lemon-rumped Leaf Warblers, Slaty-backed & Sooty Flycatchers, Spectacled Parrotbill, Giant Laughingthrush, Grey Crested and Rufous-vented Tits, Przevalski's Nuthatch, Sichuan Grey Jay, Tibetan Siskin, Pink-rumped, Three-banded, White-browed and Long-tailed Rosefinches, Crimson-browed Finch, and White-winged Grosbeak.We should also be within the range of Oriental Cuckoo, Brown Dipper, and Buff-throated Leaf Warbler, and with serious luck me might even find Chinese Monal, Pere David's Owl (our 2000 visit yielded lost feathers but not the bird itself!), Indian Blue Robin, or Sooty Tit.

DAY 14: Maduo. (BLD)
Today we shall return to the main road and continue south. One of several short stops could yield our first Black-necked Cranes, and we're likely to see good numbers of Upland Buzzards and Sakers where Pikas (or Mousehares) are abundant.The night will be spent in Maduo.

DAY 15: Maduo(BLD)
A stop at a huge wetland S of Maduo is likely to produce several pairs of Black-necked Cranes, and we might see one of the local Pallas's Fish Eagles. Summering Steppe Eagles are occasionally present, and we'll scan the tarn-dotted expanse for Kiang, the stately Tibetan Wild Ass.Pushing on over the rather grim Bayankala pass (at c5,000 m we're here on one of the highest roads in the world) we will eventually descend to the Yangtze and, a short way up a tributary, the town of Yushu. A combination of relatively oxygen-rich air and half an hour of watching a family of Ibisbills en route ensured that the 2000 team drove into colourful Yushu inhigh spirits…

DAY 16-24:  Nangqian(BLD)
Before returning to Yushu in the evening of Day 24 we will have seven days in which to thoroughly cover the valleys, ridges, and passes in the vicinity of remote Nangqian. Searching scrub, juniper thickets, spruce forest, alpine grassland, and wind-blown rocky summits we should see a range of very special birds: Szechenyi's Monal Partridge, Tibetan Snowcock, the stunning White Eared Pheasant, Snow Pigeon, Grandala, Chinese Song Thrush, the weird, extremely retiring, and highly localized Kozlov's Babax, Chinese Fulvetta, Tibetan Grey Shrike, Tibetan Magpie, Yellow-billed Chough, Pink-rumped, Three-banded, Eastern Great, Red-breasted and  Przevalski's Rosefinches, and the startlingly pretty Kozlov's Bunting are all among the expected species. Among the more widespread species occurring here are Golden Eagle, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Asian House Martin, White-throated Dipper, Brown Accentor, Himalayan Rubythroat, Giant and Elliot's Laughingthrushes, Red Crossbill, Daurian Jackdaw, and Godlewski's Rock Bunting. Ibisbills are usually present along the upper Mekong at Nangqian, and we have a fair chance of getting close enough to photograph one. Vast buckthorn thickets exist along the river, and these can hold quite a few migrants in season; barring strays we may, however, have to be content with Kessler's Thrush nearby, Rock Sparrow and Citrine Wagtails on the flats, Common Terns over the river, and Himlayan Griffons and Lammergeiers high above- few birds favor the buckthorn for breeding. By the time we start our return journey we will be in the privileged position of being familiar with most of the birds of this grand, truly inaccessible region.

Day 25-27:  Xining (BLD)
We'll make our way unhurriedly back to Xining. We have sufficient time to look for anything we may have missed on the way south, comb scrub for Przevalski's Rosefinch, take a stroll at Bayankala pass looking for Roborovski's Rosefinch (and Wolf!), stop for Tibetan Gazelles or playful foxes (both Tibetan and Red occur). We may even decide to try again for Snow Leopard at Er La pass!The comforts of Xining - hot shower, nice bed, a choice of beer - will be most welcome after so many days on the road…

DAY 28: Xining/Beijing (BL)
We'll return to Beijing. We may have time to revisit the eroded hills on the outskirts of Xining before departure, or to visit the Friendship Store in Beijing for souvenirs.

DAY 29: Departure.

B-breakfast L-lunch, D-dinner.

Tour Cost:               Currency Converter
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(The cost for the child of 2-12 year old is based on 15 % discount of the adult's tour cost.Any baby less than 2 year old is free of any charges. If it turns out there is cost involved, we reserved to collect the cost.)

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The tour cost includes:

  • Land transfer service,
  • Meals daily as listed in the itinerary(including several picnic lunches when birding, B-breakfast, L-lunch, D-dinner); ,
  • Service of English-speaking guide, experienced driver,
  • Scenic spots admission fee, Nature Reserve Protection fee and camping permit fee (inside nature reserve) if required,
  • All the Foreigner's Travel Permit to Tibet and the remote area/border area if needed;
  • Double-occupancy in 4 star hotel in big city, and the best hotel in small cities or counties, clean guest house/hostel/or home-stay in villages as clarified in the itinerary; camping in non-residential area as mentioned in the itinerary, camping gear like tent, sleeping mattress when required;
  • All domestic flights(economy class)/trains/local airport taxes if there is in the itinerary.

The tour cost does not include:

  • Birding equipment(binoculars, bird Spotting Scopes tripod, camera, etc ), meals in your free time or on the train/plane, personal travel insurance, sleeping bag when camping, tips to tour guide and driver, international flights and related airport taxes, excess baggage charged by Airlines; The medicine for the sickness or accident while on the way, single supplement cost for those who wants to accommodate on a single basis, supplementary trips and services not mentioned, visa costs, any expenses on personal nature not listed above, the extra cost due to the unforeseen events;


  • As the exchange rate of CNY to USD is subject to Change, the final price will be calculated according to the Chinese currency CNY. The price in USD dollar is just for your reference.
  • We reserve to right to choose the train according to the seat. We couldn’t promise the soft or hard sleeper, it could be either of them.
  • The prices do not apply to National Holidays (e.g. Chinese National Day Sep. 30th -Oct.8th , or other Special Festival time).
  •  For less than 10-day tour, reservation should be made at least one week before departure time. For more than 10-day tour reservation should be made at least one month before departure time.
  • We reserve the right to alternate the visiting order of the scenic spots. The entrance tickets to scenic spots are based present price. We reserve the right to revise the price without notice if the tickets price rise up.
  • For more than 10-day birding tour, this is a tentative itinerary, the really itinerary and hotel/hostel maybe different from the itinerary. For the enjoyment of your trip a "go with the flow" attitude is necessary. Many factors will influence your trip, such as weather conditions, health, route conditions, etc. Please prepare one-two days more as "cushion" day in case of delays in travel due to unforeseen events. 
  •  Tourist insurance is a must before going. Take out appropriate travel insurance to cover hospital treatment, medical evacuation and any activities, including adventure sports, in which you plan to participate. Please provide us the confirmation of insurance company when sign up.
  • The part of the area we will visit has not been well developed like Beijing and Shanghai. While it is good to enjoy the well protected nature view and experience unique primitive customs, we should prepare for that even the four star hotel is not so good and the food is not so delicate and various in the small town.

Tips for birding:

  • Essential Birding equipment: Bird Watching Binoculars, bird Spotting Scopes for getting a good view of distant birds, a good tripod for bird watching, etc.
  • Photography: We'll spend our time trying to see birds, but the keen photographer will find plenty of opportunity to make use of the often excellent light.
  • Necessary: Enough films and batteries, Sun-cream with the protection index of 40-60, sunglasses with a sun protection factor of 15, the lip creams and balms with SPF rating, towel, toothpaste, electric torch, snacks. Cloth that you bring must be warm enough and can be removed easily enough according to the temperature when birding. including Jacket, hat, Mittens or gloves, cotton underwear, Socks, Long-sleeve Shirts, T-shirts and Pants comfortable shoes, rain gear (long rain coat is better). 


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