Birding in Qinghai and Tibet：
Xining, Yushu, Lhasa, Namtso,
Tour Code: BR-W-007
Destination: Xining, Yushu, Lhasa
Good time to visit: from Jun to Nov
Departure date: on request 2016
During this epic journey we will explore areas only rarely visited by western ornithologists and we have an excellent chance of finding all of the Tibetan Plateau's endemic birds. Summer is a superb time to go birding in this region, as the weather is at its mildest, breeding birds are in full song, wildflowers are at their peak and the grasslands are a dazzling shade of green, contrasting with the icy summits of the mountain ranges.
We shall begin our travels in Beijing, but after a short stopover we travel onwards to our first real goal, Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, where we will watch Gansu Leaf Warblers, Crested Tit-Warblers and Przevalski's Nuthatches. From here we climb slowly up onto the Tibetan Plateau itself, taking it easy at first whilst we acclimatize, and then head towards southeastern Qinghai. The vast marshes at the headwaters of the Huang He or Yellow River are an important breeding area for Black-necked Cranes, Bar-headed Geese and Brown-headed Gulls, and the surrounding steppes and mountains hold six species of snowfinch and perhaps the greatest density of Upland Buzzards and Sakers in the world. To the south two more of Asia's greatest rivers, the Yangtze and the Mekong, flow within 100 kilometres of each other through deep, arid gorges. On the grassy mountain slopes and in the relict juniper forests we will look for two of Asia's least known birds: Kozlov's Babax and Kozlov's Bunting, as well as other specialities such as Szechenyi's Monal Partridge, White Eared Pheasant and Giant Laughingthrush. On our return journey northwards we will search for Tibetan Sandgrouse and the little-known Roborovski's Rosefinch at a high pass with truly awesome scenery and then explore the margins of the famous Koko Nor and the dry country at the edge of the Zaidam depression, home to Przevalski's Partridge, Pallas's Sandgrouse, Przevalski's Redstart and Henderson's Ground Jay. After returning to Xining we shall fly right across the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa and then travel northwards to visit the awesomely beautiful Nam Tso lake, where we can expect to come across Lesser Sand Plover, Blanford's Snowfinch and other high altitude specialities, and look for Giant Babax, Prince Henri's Laughingthrush and the beautiful Tibetan Eared Pheasant not far from an ancient Buddhist monastery. Finally we will explore our ultimate goal, the long-forbidden city of Lhasa, dominated by the immense Potala Palace. After a chance to see this greatest of all monuments to Tibetan Buddhism we will return home by way of Beijing after what will surely have been an epic journey, reluctantly re-entering the modern world after seeming to live on another planet for most of the last few weeks.
DAY-BY-DAY DETAILED ITINERARY:
Day 1 Arrival at Beijing (pick up service)
Meet you at the airport, transfer to 4-star hotel in Beijing.
Day 2 Beijing/Xining (BL)
Morning take a flight to Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, for a two nights stay. Xining is a small city lying at about 2500m in a river valley that cuts into the northeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The steep, dry, eroded mountainsides that rise high above the valley offer dramatic views over the city and the surrounding fields, poplar shelter belts and irrigation channels and also hold a selection of birds including White Wagtail, Pied Wheatear, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Père David's Laughingthrush, Red-billed Chough and Godlewski's and Meadow Buntings. Even an isolated population of Sinai Rosefinches inhabits this arid landscape. Stay in 4-star hotel in Xining.
Day 3 Laoyeshan (BLD)
To the north of Xining is the town of Datong, dominated by the pyramidal massif of Laoye Shan. From the south the mountain looks precipitous and bare, but on the north face a relict tract of mixed coniferous and broadleaf forest survives and this habitat and the surrounding cultivated areas hold many interesting birds, some at the edge of their range. Here we may well see Eurasian Hobby, Daurian Partridge, Common Pheasant (here in their natural home), Common Cuckoo, Oriental Skylark, Olive-backed Pipit, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Siberian Rubythroat, Common Stonechat (the local form sometimes split as Siberian Stonechat), Chinese Bush Warbler, Greenish, Hume's Leaf and Yellow-streaked Warblers, Gansu Leaf Warbler (split from Lemon-rumped), Elliot's Laughingthrush, Rufous-vented Tit, Songar Tit (split from Willow), Eurasian Magpie, Daurian Jackdaw, Rook, Large-billed Crow, Grey-capped Greenfinch, Common Rosefinch and Grey-headed Bullfinch. Not far away, an area of pine forest holds the delightful little Crested Tit-Warbler, Goldcrest, Chinese Nuthatch, Przevalski's Nuthatch (split from White-cheeked) and White-browed Rosefinch.
Day 4 Wenquan (BLD)
Today we head southwards to Wenquan for an overnight stay. From Xining we climb steadily upwards through cultivated valleys hemmed in by increasingly stark and arid hills. Gradually we emerge onto the northeastern rim of the Tibetan Plateau. Much of the landscape is vast dry plains, but in places the road winds its way through dry, rolling hills cut by deep gullies. At times the road passes through wide valleys where barley can still be grown but as we continue deeper onto the plateau the country becomes drier and cultivation is replaced by immense areas of grassland. We will stop along the way to look for Black Kite (of the distinctive form lineatus, sometimes split as Black-eared Kite), Hill Pigeon, Little Owl, Common and Pacific Swifts, Mongolian, Horned and Greater Short-toed Larks, Asian Short-toed Lark (split from Lesser Short-toed), Richard's Pipit, Isabelline and Desert Wheatears, Chinese Grey Shrike, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Rufous-necked, White-rumped and Tibetan (or Adams's) Snowfinches, Twite and Desert Finch. Flocks of Père David's Snowfinches favour the sandier stretches of steppe dotted with bunchgrass, but best of all are the delightful little Hume's Ground Jays that bound across the steppe like some kind of bizarre wheatear, stopping every so often to peck furiously at the ground. After a time the road reaches the mountains and to the south we will see the great peak of Amne Machin (6282m), once thought to be the highest mountain in the world. Eventually the highway winds up over the spectacular Er La, a pass of over 4500m where the road is surrounded by snow-covered peaks that stretch away toward the distant horizon. Eventually we will reach the little township of Wenquan, where natural hot springs bubble up out of the ground. Wenquan, like most small settlements on the Tibetan Plateau, looks like a cross between a prisoner of war camp (Korean War style) and a Wild West town, with a row of single-storey, barrack-like buildings along the 'main street'. Here we will have our first experience of the small, muslim-run restaurants that are virtually the only source of food for travellers on the plateau and which will soon become very familiar to us. In spite of one's initial misgivings on entering such bizarre establishments, often complete with wild-looking Tibetans with heavy felt cloaks, broad-brimmed hats and sometimes silver-handled daggers, one soon learns that they can serve up appetizing dishes of piping hot noodle soup mixed with vegetables and meat together with spicy 'Muslim Tea' complete with large chunks of crystalline sugar as a sweetener! Stay in Wenquan.
Day 5 Maduo (BLD)
After some early morning birding near Wenquan, where we may well find Tibetan Snowcock, Common Raven (of the huge Tibetan race) and Great Rosefinch, we will continue southwestwards towards Maduo for an overnight stay, travelling across almost endless expanses of grassland that is only punctuated by an occasional mountain range. This dramatic piece of country is home to many raptors and as well as numerous Upland Buzzards we can expect to see Himalayan Griffon Vulture, the impressive Lammergeier, Steppe Eagle and, most remarkable of all, numerous Sakers (we once counted a total of 107 on this single stretch of road!). The grassy steppes are home to Black-lipped Pikas, the staple diet of both Upland Buzzard and Saker. The burrows of these 'mouse hares' pepper the flatter areas and provide nest holes for numerous White-rumped Snowfinches.
Day 6 Maduo-Yushu (BLD)
Maduo is a small town situated close to the first bridge over the Huang He or Yellow River. At this point the river is under 100m wide and gives little indication that it will, as it gathers its tributaries, soon become a gigantic force that has frequently reshaped the landscape of northeastern China whilst on its long march to the Yellow Sea, shifting its course by as much as 200 kilometres to the north as the result of just one stupendous flood in 1852! The marshes around the headwaters of the Huang He are important breeding grounds for the rare and endangered Black-necked Crane and also for Bar-headed Geese, both of which we will see today. There will of course be much else to see in this interesting area including Ruddy Shelduck, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Common Redshank, Pallas's (or Great Black-headed) Gull, Brown-headed Gull, Common Tern (of the interesting very dark, black-billed race tibetana), Tibetan (or Long-billed Calandra) and Hume's Short-toed Larks, Plain Martin (split from Sand) and Citrine Wagtail. We should also see some herds of Kiang or Tibetan Wild Ass and small numbers of Tibetan Gazelles. Numerous yaks graze on the thin grasses of these high-altitude steppes, watched over by swarthy-looking Tibetans on tough little ponies who are frequently accompanied by huge mastiffs with spiked collars. In spite of the difficulties of living in such a remote place the people are extremely friendly and eager to meet travellers, although the girls with their traditional silver ornaments bound into their hair are likely to run off giggling uncontrollably if one returns their fascinated stares. Later we will drive on southwards across the high plains, stopping to look at anything of interest en route. The scenery is endlessly changing and endlessly dramatic, with one beautiful vista following another. Eventually we leave the high plains behind and descend a valley that leads to the deep gorge of the Chang Jiang or Yangtze River. Soon after crossing the river, already impressively large, we will reach the town of Yushu where we will overnight.
Day 7 Yushu/Nangqian (BLD)
From Yushu we will drive to Nangqian for a two nights stay, stopping from time to time to look for birds en route. We are now in the 'gorge country' of extreme southeastern Qinghai, a unique area where the increased rainfall allows scrub to flourish on the south-facing slopes and even quite mature areas of forest survive in sheltered valleys. The scenery seems almost 'alpine' after the high 'central asian' feel of the high plateau. Along the river valleys the gravel spreads and flooded meadows provide ideal habitat for Ibisbills and we should see a number of these curious birds during our journey today. Other likely species today include Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Asian House Martin, Robin and Brown Accentors, Hodgson's and Blue-fronted Redstarts, Kessler's Thrush, Tickell's Leaf Warbler, Grey-backed Shrike and the the distinctive form giganteus of the Chinese Grey Shrike (which may well be split in future as Tibetan Grey Shrike).
Day 8 Nangqian (BLD)
Nangqian is a small market town situated on the upper Mekong, which here runs from northwest to southeast through a deep, rather arid but dramatically beautiful gorge partly clothed in scrub. Some extensive areas of juniper and fir forest can be found in the more sheltered side valleys. Through a remarkable trick of geology three of the greatest rivers in Asia virtually coincide at this point - only about 100 kilometres to the northeast is the Yangtze, on its way to the China Sea, whilst some 150 kilometres away to the southwest is the Salween, en route to the Andaman Sea. This fascinating area holds especial interest for birdwatchers due to the presence of two very special eastern Tibetan Plateau endemics, Kozlov's Babax and Kozlov's Bunting. The last of these being known only from the dry valleys of the Mekong and Yangtze in Qinghai and adjacent Chamdo in Tibet. Other species in this area include Golden Eagle, Tibetan Partridge, Snow Pigeon, the gorgeous White-tailed Rubythroat, the superb White-throated Redstart, the lovely White-capped Redstart, Dusky Warbler, the superb little lilac-tinged Severtzov's Tit-Warbler, White-browed and Great Tits, the marvellous Wallcreeper, Alpine Chough, Plain Mountain Finch, Beautiful, Pink-rumped (or Stresemann's) and Streaked Rosefinches, the enigmatic Przevalski's Rosefinch (which may actually be a bunting) and White-winged Grosbeak.
Day 9 Nangqian (BLD)
Today we will set off early in order to explore a relict tract of fir and juniper forest in a deep and spectacular valley. Here we may well come across Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Szechenyi's Monal Partridge, Blood Pheasant, the impressive White Eared Pheasant, Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers, Rosy Pipit, White-throated Dipper, Red-flanked Bluetail, Lemon-rumped Warbler, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Giant Laughingthrush, Chinese Fulvetta and Grey-crested Tit amongst others. If we are lucky we will come across the shy Severtzov's Grouse. We will overnight at a remote and beautifully situated Buddhist monastery in very simple conditions.
Day 10 Nangqian (BLD)
After spending much of the day in the forest we will return to Nangqian for an overnight stay.
Day 11 Nangqian/Yushu (BLD)
After some final birding in the Nangqian area we will return to Yushu for an overnight stay.
Day 12 Wenquan (BLD)
Whilst retracing our steps to Wenquan, where we will spend two nights, we will have another chance to admire the scenery, look for Black-necked Cranes and see numerous Upland Buzzards, Saker Falcons and amusing little pikas.
Day 13 Er La Pass, (BLD)
Now that we are well-acclimatized we will explore the dramatic Er La Pass, enjoying the awesome panorama of snow-capped peaks stretching away on all sides as we hike along the high mountain ridges. Birds are sparse in this deeply inhospitable terrain but very special! Here we will hope to find the uncommon and sometimes elusive Tibetan Sandgrouse, the least known member of its family, the striking Güldenstdt's Redstart, Prince Henri's Snowfinch (split from White-winged) and Brandt's Mountain Finch, all of which seem to be able to eke out a meagre living from the stony slopes. Most exciting of all, the enigmatic Roborovski's Rosefinch, a species only rarely seen since its discovery late last century, is not uncommon here and we may well find the deep-pink males and sandy-grey females feeding their newly-fledged young.
Day 14 Koko Nor (or Qinghai Hu) (BLD)
Heading northwards once more, we will come to the vast Koko Nor (or Qinghai Hu), one of the largest lakes in Asia and a classic locality that appears time after time in the annals of the early ornithological exploration of the Tibetan Plateau. The lake is situated at only 3200m (low by Tibetan Plateau standards) and is surrounded by green and brown hills and snow-spattered mountains that contrast with the deep blue waters of the lake and the pale blue sky. A number of marshy areas fringe Koko Nor, which is known for its breeding colonies of Bar-headed Geese and Pallas's and Brown-headed Gulls. Other species we may encounter today include Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes, Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Spot-billed and Ferruginous Ducks, Red-crested and Common Pochards, Tufted Duck, Common Goldeneye, Eurasian Coot, Kentish Plover, Northern Lapwing, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew and Yellow Wagtail. Later we will continue to Chaka for a two nights stay.
Day 15 Chaka region (BLD)
A large salt lake, now almost dried out, occupies the bottom of the Chaka depression, which is ringed by high, arid mountains. Here in this semidesert environment we should find Pallas's Sandgrouse and the localized Henderson's Ground Jay, while the nearby mountains hold Przevalski's Partridge (a species endemic to the northeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau), the localized Przevalski's Redstart (also endemic to this region of China), Mongolian Finch and Pine Bunting.
Day 16 Xining (BLD)
After some final birding in the Chaka region we will return to Xining for an overnight stay, stopping to look for anything of interest en route.
Day 17 Xining/Lhasa (BLD)
This morning we will take a flight southwards across almost the full north-south expanse of the Tibetan Plateau to Lhasa. If the weather is clear we shall enjoy some dramatic scenery. Upon arrival at Lhasa airport, which is situated well to the south of the city in the arid, almost desert-like Tsangpo valley, we will drive northwards to Damxung for a three nights stay. Along the road small villages of flat-roofed, stone-built houses arranged in ortified clusters are positioned at strategic points, for life here was even harsher in years gone by when roaming bandits were a constant fact of life for local people.
Days 18-19 Reting Gompa (BLD)
From Damxung we will travel through the mountains to Reting Gompa, a ancient monastery of the Kadampa sect founded in 1056 AD. The presence of the monastery has protected the surrounding juniper woodland, creating an oasis in an otherwise largely treeless area. The beautiful Tibetan (or Elwes's) Eared Pheasant, the noisy Giant Babax and Prince Henri's Laughingthrush, three species endemic to southern Tibet, occur in good numbers in this woodland and we shall of course be concentrating on finding these local specialities. Other species in this habitat include Eurasian Treecreeper. As we wander around the area we may hear the chanting of the monks drifting across from the monastery and after birding is over for the day we will have a chance to wander around and admire the prayer wheels, statues and relics of this timeless place.Beyond the mountains that tower above Damxung itself is remote Nam Tso (or Tengri Nor), one of the largest lakes in Asia, a huge expanse of turquoise surrounded by green steppes and a perimeter wall of snow-capped mountains. Here amidst stunning scenery (yet again!) we will have another chance to look for Tibetan Sandgrouse, perhaps watching a fast-flock sweeping in to a river bed and then scurrying down to drink with an awesome panorama of snow-encrusted peaks in the background. Many waterbirds, including Bar-headed Goose and Black-necked Crane, can be found in the shallow bays and marshy edges, whilst the surrounding steppe holds healthy populations of Lesser Sand Plover and the localized Blanford's Snowfinch. Along the southern shore an isolated rocky massif projects out into the lake. Here amidst strangely sculpted rock pinnacles is the hermitage of Tashiy Do, an ancient site of Buddhist meditation consisting of numerous cave temples and grottoes that is still in use even today. The combination of extraordinary natural beauty and peaceful contemplation gives Tashiy Do a strange power that rarely fails to affect the visitor. As we cross the pass through the mountains that divide the lake from Damxung we will stop to look for Tibetan Snowcock, Brandt's Mountain Finches and other interesting birds. The pass is still used by the last of the salt caravans that still trek far out across the Chang Tang to trade with the nomads and we may well see a line of heavily-laden pack yaks toiling up the twisting trail, urged on by several Tibetans on horseback, or even mounted on yaks themselves.
Day 20 Damxung area (BLD)
After some final birding in the Damxung area we will drive to Lhasa for a two nights stay, having our first view of the dramatic Potala Palace that dominates the city.
Day 21 Lhasa (BLD)
Lhasa, the sight of the huge Potala Palace soaring into the sky on the top of the Marpori (or Red Mountain) is still one of the greatest travel experiences in the world. The interlinked 'white' and 'red' palaces tower 13 storeys high and completely dominate the city below. This truly enormous structure, built between 1645 and 1694, contains over 1000 rooms, including numerous chapels, shrines, assembly halls and mausoleums. In addition to the famous Potala we will also visit the Jokhang Temple, the religious centre of Tibet. Founded in 650 AD by Songtsen Gampo, one of Tibet's greatest monarchs, the Jokhang is the religious centre of Tibet and a magnet for pilgrims from all over the country. Throughout the day a colourful throng circumambulate the temple, chanting and prostrating themselves. Inside, past rows of prayer wheels, are dark chapels containing a bewildering richness of rescoes and statues. The overpowering, unforgettable smell of butter candles permeates the temple, which now, following the re-establishment of buddhism in Tibet, is once more watched over by seemingly ageless lamas. Even ornithological pilgrims soon find themselves captivated by this remarkable, other-worldly place.
Day 22 Lhasa/Beijing (BL)
Take the flight back home
B-breakfast L-lunch, D-dinner
Tour Cost: Currency Converter
| ||4-5 person||6-9 person||Over 10 person||Single Supplement|
|Tour Cost||On request||On request||On request||On request|
(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.)
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)．