16 Oct 2011

Kanbula National Forest Park, Qinghai Province

Red Crossbill - Loxia curvirostra

Chinese Nuthatch - Sitta villosa

We covered just over 5,000 km with our friends from Hong Kong in the second half of August.  Thanks to Anthony and Doris for organizing a memorable trip, and everyone else for being good company. After they went back to Hong Kong  we reverted to our usual travel mode - the bus network !

Staying on in Xining, we visited the Provincial Museum and saw a photo of the sandstone formations at Kanbula, about 100km south of the city.

Kanbula is a spectacular area of weathered red sandstone, overlooking a reservoir on the headwaters of the Yellow River.  This form of sandstone is called "Danxia" after an area in Guangdong Province.

Kanbula National  Forest Park - a "Geopark"

The bus ride from Xining takes a leisurely two hours and forty-five minutes, but most vehicles could safely get there in less than two hours.

Alighting from the bus in a town about 2km from the reserve entrance, we hired a local  van driver to take us into the reserve.

We kept asking him whether there was any accommodation inside the reserve, and kept being told "no". 

But Chinese is not a language of absolutes, and for people hoping to ensnare tourists, the truth is very flexible, too. Our van driver would rather we stayed at his relative's guesthouse in the town than in the homestay of strangers inside the reserve.

Eventually, we found a place that was obviously a guesthouse in a village at km 28.  "Yes" there were rooms, said the locals...

(The building with a red roof on the right)  The farmhouses are all in high-walled compounds, which suggests it must be seriously cold in the winter.

There was no running water in the place -like most of the houses in the village. Water was brought up from a stream in tanks on the back of  "Tor Lai Ji" - the ubiquitous small tractors of rural China.

We washed our hands at a tap in a plastic tank and the toilet was an enclosure at the edge of a field, extreme right of photo.

But this was the view outside on our first morning...as the locals reaped the wheat harvest at first light.

And a spectacular sunrise from the window on our second morning.  

The grain was spread on the road to dry 

With some very traditional winnowing going on

We ate with our hosts... dumplings to celebrate the harvest

Common Pheasants were, well, common around the field edges

Red-billed Chough Corvus dauuricus

Large-billedCrow Corvus macrorhynhos

Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius

White-winged Grosbeak Mycerobas carnipes

Songar Tit  Poecile songara

Chinese Nuthatch - Sitta villosa

We didn't get shots of everything... Black Woodpeckers and a sprinting Blue-eared Pheasant were too quick for us, but some quality birds in this kind of landscape made it just about our favourite site of the trip.


  1. Beautiful part of the world............with Crossbills (my fave small bird) to boot......

  2. Looks a lovely place to visit and bird. I'm envious.

  3. my favourite pic is the dumplings! reminds me of long saturday lunches at PTU with table tennis tables groaning under the weight.............

  4. Wow terrific landscape! Still wondering why I haven't heard about this place before. The Chinese Nuthatch is so cute and the Red Crossbill shot is beautifully composed too!

  5. Stu, Nick, Ayuwat and Pete;

    Kanbula came as a pleasant surprise to us, too… as we hadn't heard of it either until a couple of days before we went.

    It was the first of four sites we went to "on spec." in east Qinghai and adjacent south Gansu… two were disappointing, but Kanbula and one of the Gansu sites were good.

    More later about those...