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China: Winter Specialties

This short-format tour begins in Beijing before heading south to the magnificent Poyang Lake in search of the beautiful and declining Siberian Crane at its last remaining wintering site. We will try for Baer's Pochard and Scaly-sided Merganser nearby, plus we should see numerous wintering passerines, including Japanese Waxwing, Siberian Accentor and Pallas's Rosefinch, before heading to the tropical island of Hainan for its endemics (including Hainan Partridge and Hainan Peacock Pheasant). Finally, we search impressive limestone karst forests in the far south of the country for the highly range-restricted Nonggang Babbler. Our optional three-night extension focuses on the threatened White-speckled Laughingthrush, Black-and-white Snub-nosed Monkey, plus the other endemics of Yunnan.

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Price: $

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Leaders:

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Single Room Supplement: $

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Group Size Limit:

7

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Yunnan Endemics Extension

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Price: $

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Leaders:

Add a Title

Single Room Supplement: $

TBD

Group Size Limit:

7

Deposit: $

TBD

Despite travel to China sometimes being viewed with trepidation, foreign bird tours to the country have been running successfully throughout 2024. Our participants experienced no issues obtaining visas, ground logistics are running smoothly, and the birding is excellent!

Accommodation:

Comfortable hotels throughout.

Walking difficulty:

Mostly easy roadside birding and short forest trails.

Tour cost includes:

All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes:

Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks, and other items of a personal nature.

We have included ample time at each site so that this trip is not too rushed, which is important if any of the target birds are only visiting their respective hides once per day.


Day 1: Arrivals into Beijing International Airport (PEK). All participants arriving on this day will be met and transferred to our nearby hotel. Night in Beijing.


Day 2: We will depart early towards Lingshan and start our birding in the mid-morning. The cold, snowbound slopes at this time of year host Siberian Accentor, Pallas’s Rosefinch, Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch, Long-tailed Rosefinch, and other wintering migrants such as Cinereous Vulture, Asian Rosy Finch, Red-throated Thrush, Naumann's Thrush, and Güldenstädt’s Redstart. In addition, there are several resident species to look for, including Beijing Babbler, Plain Laughingthrush, Silver-throated Bushtit, and Godlewski’s Bunting. Night at Lingshan.


Day 3: Full morning on-site, searching primarily for the accentor and rosefinches, before driving back to Beijing. We will have time to swing by any spots hosting flocks of Japanese Waxwing, which are usually (but not always!) present at this time of year, before an evening flight to Wuhan. Night in Wuhan.


Day 4: After a lie-in, we'll go searching for the much-wanted Baer's Pochard (some flocks usually winter in this area), and hopefully also be able to find Grey-backed Thrush in one of the town parks. In the mid-afternoon, it will be time to continue onwards to Nanchang, where we'll stay for the next four nights. 


Day 5-6: One of the most astounding sites in the world for wintering waterbirds, Poyang Lake is now the sole wintering area for the beautiful Siberian Crane, often seen alongside the more numerous Hooded and White-naped Cranes. These are not the only threatened waterbirds to target here; Lesser White-fronted Goose, Swan Goose, and Oriental Stork are present in good numbers too. We will also hope for Brown Crake, Red-billed Starling, Marsh Grassbird, and Rustic, Ochre-rumped, and Yellow-browed Buntings. There is certainly potential to come across something rarer here, such as Chinese Grey Shrike, Chinese Penduline Tit, or Buff-bellied Pipit. There will be plenty of time to also look at the more widespread species that are abundant here, including the eastern subspecies of both Taiga Bean Goose and Tundra Bean Goose, plus Greater White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swan, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, the stunning Falcated Duck, and so much more! Nights in Nanchang. 


Day 7: Today we'll take a day trip to nearby Wuyuan, the main target here at this time of year being the Endangered Scaly-sided Merganser, which occurs along the river that flows through the valley. Other possibilities include the stunning Mandarin Duck and maybe Short-tailed Parrotbill or Moustached Laughingthrush if we have some spare time before driving back to Nanchang.


Day 8: Today we'll be removing our winter clothing and flying to Sanya on the south coast of tropical Hainan! We will arrive at Jianfengling National Nature Reserve in time for an afternoon session in the hides today. Night at Jianfengling.


Day 9-10: Two full days inside Jianfengling National Nature Reserve. Above all, we will be hoping to see Hainan Partridge and the previously mythical Hainan Peacock Pheasant, both of which have been regularly visiting feeding hides since 2022 and are now daily attendees! Other main targets are the endemic Hainan Leaf Warbler and “Swinhoe’s” Black-throated Laughingthrush, while near-endemic specialties include Chinese Barbet, Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, plus the Hainan subspecies of Pale Blue Flycatcher and Fork-tailed Sunbird. Red-headed Trogon and Grey-headed Parrotbill are fairly common, while “Hainan” White-winged Magpie is very rare but has been seen in the area. Spotlighting could produce Oriental Bay Owl and Mountain Scops Owl. Nights at Jianfengling. 


Day 11: Flight from Sanya to Nanning (Guangxi Autonomous Region), then drive to the stunning Nonggang National Nature Reserve. We will hopefully arrive in time for some initial birding. Night outside Nonggang.


Day 12-13: Our time in Nonggang will primarily focus on finding the near-endemic Nonggang Babbler, known from a tiny region of limestone karst forest bordering Vietnam. It descends from the limestone pinnacles in winter to visit feeding hides, so we hope to have some excellent views! This area has relatively low diversity and can be hard work, but we hope to also see White-winged and Indochinese Green Magpies, Limestone Leaf Warbler, White-tailed Robin, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Streaked Wren-babbler, and Buff-breasted Babbler. Occasionally, the tricky Bar-backed Partridge visits hides here too (luck is required), but we can also search for it in the forest. Both the mythical White-eared Night Heron and beautiful Blue-naped Pitta have been available in recent winters for visiting birders – we will certainly go for them if at all possible! We will drive back to Nanning in the evening on Day 13.


Day 14: Taking the morning flight from Nanning to Guangzhou International Airport (CAN), the tour ends with a transfer to the international terminal mid-morning.



YUNNAN ENDEMICS EXTENSION


Day 1: After leaving the main group at Guangzhou International Airport, we catch a connecting flight to northern Yunnan. Night in Lijiang. 


Day 2: Birding on the upper floodplains of the Yangtze and surrounding coniferous hillsides, Lijiang’s star attraction is White-speckled Laughingthrush, a stunning and rare species which is now easy to see at a photography blind also attended by Black-faced Laughingthrush, Spotted Laughingthrush, Elliot’s Laughingthrush, and Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler. The other specialties we will be searching out are Yunnan Nuthatch, Black-headed Greenfinch, Eye-ringed Parrotbill, and the evolutionarily unique Rufous-tailed Babbler (perhaps better known as Moupinia). Night in Lijiang. 


Day 3: On our middle day here, we’ll depart before dawn and drive several hours to the Black-and-white Snub-nosed Monkey Reserve. Here we can expect intimate encounters with this unique primate! There are chances for a few birds like Yunnan Fulvetta, Spectacled Fulvetta, White-collared Yuhina, and maybe Tibetan Serin or Sharpe's Rosefinch, before we drive back to Lijiang in the early afternoon. A long day, but very worthwhile indeed! Night in Lijiang. 


Day 4: After another full day around the city for any birds still needed, the tour ends with drop-offs at Lijiang Airport (LJG) in the late afternoon. Participants can book an evening flight back to Beijing International Airprot (PEK) where we started the tour, or otherwise fly to Guangzhou International Airport (CAN) for onwards connections.

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