Thursday 3rd May – Wednesday 16th May 2012
In this unique ZOOTHERA tour we target some of Asia’s rarest and most enigmatic birds as we visit areas of south-east China rarely visited by western birders. During this adventure we will begin by visiting what has been called the best site in the world for seeing Spoon-billed Sandpipers. This is their last staging post before leaving for their breeding grounds in eastern Russia and we have a chance of seeing one in its breeding finery if we are lucky. A multitude of other migrant waders should also be seen, as well as endemics such as Reed Parrotbill and Marsh Grassbird. From here we travel to the stunningly scenic mountains at Wuyishan which is the most easily accessible site for Cabot’s Tragopan, one of the rarest ‘pheasants’ in the world. We follow this with the exceedingly rare Courtois’s Laughingthrush at Wuyuan, a species only discovered 12 years ago and which has a world population of under 200 individuals – and has only been seen by a handful of birders. Finally we visit the Minjiang Estuary which is undoubtedly the best place in the world to see the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern, whose world population may not exceed 50 individuals. Add to this a fine supporting cast including Chinese Bamboo-partridge, White-necklaced Partridge, Elliot’s and Koklass Pheasants, Oriental Stork, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Asiatic Dowitcher, Saunder’s and Relict Gulls, Fujian Fulvetta, Hartert’s Warbler, Grey-sided Scimitar-babbler as well as a whole host of spring migrants to add a little more ‘stardust’ to an already incredible tour jam-packed with quality birds. Spring Migration will be in full flow and we should see a good selection of 'eastern vagrants' such as Siberian Blue Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Blyth's Pipit, Thick-billed, Lanceolated, Two-barred Greenish, Pallas's, Radde's and Dusky Warblers, Siberian, White's and Eye-browed Thrushes, and Little and Pallas's Reed Buntings amongst many others.
Days 1 - 3 UK - Shanghai - Rudong - 3rd May
We depart UK with an overnight flight on 3rd May, arriving Shanghai in the early morning of 4th May and then drive to Rudong. This is the single best site in the whole of China, and arguably the most accessible reliable site in the world for Spoon-billed Sandpiper, one of the world’s rarest and most enigmatic waders. We have timed our visit to give us a chance of seeing these exceedingly rare birds in their splendid brick-red breeding finery just before they depart for their breeding grounds in north-east Russia – something that very few western birders have had the privilege to witness. It will take some finding in this vast area, especially considering that tens of thousands of shorebirds pass through here each Spring, so we'll need a good slice of luck as well! Indeed, it is possible to see over thirty species of wader here in a day! Amongst a superb selection of other waders we can find such sought-after species as Lesser and Greater Sandplovers, Great Knot, Kentish Plover, Broad-billed, Sharp-tailed and Terek Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank, Red-necked and Temminck’s Stints and Grey-tailed Tattler. There are also good opportunities to find the highly-prized Asiatic Dowitcher and Nordmann’s Greenshank amongst huge flocks of more familiar waders. The recently discovered White-faced (or Swinhoe's) Plover is also a distinct possibility here. Further searching of the mudflats should reveal Gull-billed Tern and if we are lucky Saunder’s or even Relict Gull. This area is also home to a couple of very special endemics, with the impressive Reed Parrotbill and Marsh Grassbird inhabiting the taller vegetation and marshes nearby. At this time of year migration will be well underway and this opens up a whole new realm of possibilities to add to the resident population. The nearby Magic Forest is a local migrant trap where many surprises can turn up and we could find Dark-sided, Yellow-rumped and Taiga Flycatchers, Brown Shrike, Siberian Rubythroat, Siberian Blue and Rufous-tailed Robins, White-throated Rock-thrush, Siberian, Eye-browed and Grey-sided Thrushes, Dusky Warbler, Forest Wagtail, Olive-backed and Pechora Pipits, Black-browed Reed-warbler, Pale-legged and Eastern Crowned Warblers and both Chestnut-eared and Elegant Buntings. Other species we may encounter in the general area include Falcated Duck, Yellow Bittern, Intermediate Egret, Pied Harrier, Grey-headed Lapwing, Oriental Turtle-dove, Black-capped Kingfisher, Lesser Coucal, Pacific Swift, Chinese Grosbeak, Chinese Blackbird, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Japanese White-eye, Meadow and Black-faced Buntings and Crested Myna. Nights in Rudong.
Day 4 Rudong - Shanghai - Nanchang
We can spend the first couple of hours after sunrise around the estuary and woodland before returning to Shanghai airport and taking a flight to Nanchang where we will stay the night.
Days 5 - 7 Wuyishan Nature Reserve
An early start will see us driving to Wuyishan in north-west Fujian Province, a world biosphere reserve and is home to the largest remaining tract of pristine forest in southern China. After entering the reserve the road follows a river through a scenic valley offering awe-inspiring views before it quickly winds its way ever upwards, through cultivated areas followed by large tracts of mature bamboo just before the 1100m mark. The main purpose of our visit is to find Cabot’s Tragopan, a species which is endemic to south-east China. Although this is the best site in the country to find this species, it is still very shy and moves quietly through the bamboo but emerges onto the tracks to take grit in the early mornings and late evenings. This mountain’s other main prize is White-necklaced (Rickett’s) Partridge for which we will make a special effort to find, along with Silver and Koklass Pheasants. The road carries on above the treeline to the top of the mountain at Huangang Shan at 2100m, the highest mountain on mainland south-east China. At this elevation beautiful alpine meadows and scub are home to Upland and Rosy Pipits, Russet and Brown Bush-warblers and Buff-throated Warbler amongst others. As we descend the mountain into the bird rich subtropical forest we will have plenty of time to fully explore this under-watched area and other species present include Barred Cuckoo-dove, Speckled Piculet, Bay and White-backed Woodpeckers, Great Barbet, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Brown Dipper, Bull-headed and Long-tailed Shrikes, Blue-throated and Ferruginous Flycatchers, Small Niltava, Lesser Shortwing, Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, Mountain and Black Bulbuls, White-browed and Green Shrike-babblers, Red-flanked Bluetail, Daurian Redstart, Golden and Vinous-throated Parrotbills, Fujian (split from Grey-hooded) Fulvetta, Pere Davids (split from Grey-cheeked) Fulvetta, Striated and Black-chinned Yuhinas, the endemic Yellow-bellied and Yellow-cheeked Tit, Grey-throated Minivet, Brownish-flanked and Yellowish-bellied Bush-warblers, Sulphur-breasted, Bianchi’s, White-spectacled, Alstrom’s, Rufous-faced and Chestnut-crowned Warblers, Hartert’s Warbler (split from Blyth’s Leaf-warbler), Kloss’s Leaf-warbler (split from White-tailed Leaf-warbler), Rusty and Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush, Spotted and Pygmy Wren Babblers, Yellow-browed Tit, Brown Bullfinch and Oriental Greenfinch. At night we can hear Mountain Scops-owl and Collared Owlet. Nights at Wuyishan.
Day 8 Wuyishan - Wuyuan
Following a full morning’s birding at Wuyishan we will leave after lunch for the drive to Wuyuan in east Jiangxi Province, birding all the way of course! We will look for Long-billed Plover along the way and keep our eyes to the skies for the impressive White-throated Needletail. Night in Wuyuan.
Days 9 - 10 Wuyuan
One of the most important recent discoveries in Asian birding was made in 2000 when local ornithologists discovered a population of Courtois’s Laughingthushes at Wuyuan. Previously known from two museum specimens collected in 1919 it has spent ‘time’ lumped within Yellow-throated Laughingthrush but is now, quite rightly, given full species status. It is a fascinating bird and unlike nearly all other Laughingthrushes it nests in loose colonies, and more amazingly has only been found nesting in large trees within small villages in the remote, traditional countryside. A strange bird indeed and one that only a handful of western birders have yet encountered and we shall count ourselves extremely privileged to see such a rare and beautiful bird. Less than 200 individuals are known to date making this one of the rarest birds in the world. The area we will search is a complete contrast to most of the lowlands of south-east China, retaining much of the original way of life with small, picturesque villages situated amongst the rice fields that are still worked using traditional methods. We will also make a special effort to find the shy Elliot’s Pheasant nearby if we haven't seen it already, another south-east Chinese endemic. Birds are numerous in this area and amongst a whole host of other possibilities we can find the delightful Pied Falconet, as well as Mandarin Duck, Black Baza, Chinese Sparrowhawk, Large Hawk-cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Crested Kingfisher, Grey-capped Woodpecker, Swinhoe’s and Grey-chinned Minivets, Brown-chested Jungle-flycatcher, Narcissus Flycatcher, Japanese White-eye, Fujian Niltava, Chinese and Chestnut Bulbuls, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Dusky and Grey-cheeked Fulvettas, Collared Finchbill, Olive-backed Pipit, Grey-headed Parrotbill, White-crowned Forktail, Chinese Hwamei, Grey-sided (split from Spot-breasted) and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babblers, White-browed, Masked and Moustached Laughingthrushes, Black-throated Tit, Black-collared and Red-billed Starling and Grey Treepie. Nights in Wuyuan.
Day 11 Wuyuan - Nanchang - Fuzhou
We’ll spend the morning searching for any species we might have missed. In the afternoon we’ll return to Nanchang and along the way we hope to find Oriental Stork which has recently undergone a southwards expansion and has begun to breed in very small numbers in this region. Later in the day we will take the one hour flight to Fuzhou in Fujian Province. Night in Fuzhou.
Day 12 Minjiang Estuary
Along the rocky coastline of Fujian, the wide-open mudflats of the Minjiang Estuary provide the best opportunity in the world to see the Critically Endangered Chinese Crested Tern, who has a population estimated at less than 50 individuals. Presumed extinct up to 12 years ago, a small population has been found breeding off Taiwan and there have been erratic occurrences at other sites in south-east Asia but nowhere is as reliable as here. There should hopefully be a few individuals in perfect breeding plumage loafing on the mudflats in company with flocks of Great Crested Terns. This is one of those very special species that most birders have never really considered it a possibility of seeing - until now that is! At this time of the year migration is in full swing and there will be numerous species present and definitely the odd surprise or three! Many waders should be present including Red-necked Stint, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Far Eastern Curlew, and there could also be Saunder’s and Black-tailed Gulls as well. Depending on our success with the terns we could explore the fields around the estuary which usually prove attractive to tired migrants and possibilities include Japanese Quail, Amur Falcon, Little Whimbrel, Chinese Penduline-tit, Siberian Rubythroat, Yellow-browed, Dusky and Radde’s Warblers, Blyth’s and Richard’s Pipits, Japanese Reed, Black-faced, Yellow-browed, Little and Chestnut-eared Buntings and White-shouldered Starling among many possibilities. Night in Fuzhou Forest Park.
Day 13 Fuzhou Forest Park - Shanghai
Morning birding in Fuzhou Forest Park where we’ll search for Chinese Bamboo-partridge, Rufous Woodpecker, Spotted Wren-babbler, Large Woodshrike, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Chinese Grosbeak and Ashy Minivet. This is also a good place for migrants and lingering winter visitors such as Whites, Grey-backed and Pale Thrushes, Pallas’s and Yellow-browed Warblers, Daurian Starling and Tristram’s Bunting. In the afternoon we will take the short internal flight back to Shanghai where we will spend our last night.
Day 14 Shanghai - UK and End of Tour - 16th May
Transfer to the international airport and onward journey back to the UK and the conclusion of a wonderful tour.
Leader: Nick Bray and local guides.
Ground Price: £2295.00 - Shanghai/Shanghai
Single supplement: £295.00
Group size: Minimum for tour to go ahead 5 and maximum 8 with 2 leaders.
Included in cost: Accommodation in twin rooms, mostly en-suite, all meals, all entrance fees, internal flights, all transport throughout, and services of leaders and an English speaking guide.
Not included: International airfare, visa fee, insurance, drinks, tips, and items of a personal nature.
Accommodation: Considering this tour is venturing into the relatively unknown, most of the hotels and lodges used on this tour are of a reasonably good standard. Although please bear in mind we are going to be well off the tourist trail! But we are staying in the best available hotels closest to the birding sites.
Tour Code: This is definitely an exciting tour as we will stray a long way off the tourist circuit into areas hardly visited by any other western birder. Expect good food, reasonable hotels, some long drives and a mixture of weather. Above all, you need to expect the unexpected! This is definitely not a standard tour and we will spend long days in the field and will need to be especially persistant to find some of the target species. For example, at the Rudong Estuary it may be necessary to wade across the mudflats to get closer to some of the more distant waders. And there may be some long walks in the mountains or a lot of waiting in the coach for some of the pheasants, so a large dose of patience will be required. The weather is generally unsettled at this time of year, so expect some cooler weather and odd showers during the first week, followed by warmer weather during the second week.
View Tour Itinerary as a Pdf.
View photo gallery
Receive our e-newsletter:
Join the Zoothera e-mailing list for up-to-date news on new tours, tour reports and special offers.
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
Recommended Books, CD's and more from NHBS. Click on - Buy from NHBS - to go straight to website!
The air holidays and flights shown are ATOL protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is 10436. Please see our Terms and Conditions for more information.