31 Aug 2012

Yunnan Province – March 2008 三月雲南

Ruili, Husa, Tengchong, Gaoligong Shan, Dali, Ailao Shan and Zixi Shan 瑞麗、戶撒、騰沖、高黎貢山、大理、哀牢山 及 紫溪山
by John and Jemi Holmes


We had been over some of this area in March/April 2006, but we didn’t get around to writing a complete trip report. In 2006 we travelled with TAM Yiu-leung who had himself been to Ruili, Husa and Tengchong on an earlier trip with other Hong Kong birders and Prof HAN Lian-xian of Kunming’s Southwest Forestry Institute. So, thanks to them all for “pioneering” the area.

We also had some comprehensive site comments and day lists notes by Paul Holt, the Wings/Sunbirder Tour Leader from a visit he had made in January 2006. The Trip Reports listed in the references have been useful, before and after the trip.

The weather in March was dry and comfortable most of the time. Many birds were displaying and mating. We had good views of almost 300 species on the trip, but photography, especially at the start of the trip was difficult. Use of snares and catapults by village boys makes the birds very shy.

An interesting area culturally, with the landscape dotted with Burmese-style stupas and many ethnic minorities. There are no really “big name” tourist attractions and thus not many tourists, either domestic or foreign.


Feb 29th
Crossed Border at Lokmachau – flew from Shenzhen to Kunming.

March 1st
Flew Kunming to Luxi/Mangshi. Taxi the remaining 120 km or so to Ruili. Late pm – birded Nanjingli stayed at the Rongchong Hotel, Ruili

March 2nd
Morning birded Nanjingli, Ruili, late pm – Sheng Tai Yuen Botanical Gardens, near Wanding

March 3rd
Morning to Moli Waterfalls, late afternoon to “Pumphouse Forest”

March 4th
Morning to Jiele Reservoir, then to Longdao (to high point of road). Late afternoon to riverside park, Ruili

March 5th
Morning along Nanjingli Ridge 21 km to the end of the road. Late afternoon to Sheng Tai Yuen Ecological Gardens

March 6th
Morning - one hour at Nanjingli then on along Route S233 to Husa, right (east) 8km to “Husa east”

March 7th
Morning – birded Longchuan Ridge (S233 km 152). Afternoon – local dance event in the town

March 8 th
Morning - we hired a minivan to go to Yingjiang. Afternoon bus to Tengchong (2 ½ hours)

March 9th
Morning – Laifeng Shan Park. Afternoon – WW II memorial cemetery

March 10th
Morning to Cherry Blossom Valley. Afternoon – around town, admin

March 11th
Morning to Laifeng Shan Park again. Afternoon to Heshu village

March 12th
Hired minivan from Tengchong to go to Baihualin, Gaoligong Shan

March 13th
Baihualin, Gaoligongshan - birded to the end of the drivable track – slow going (see sketch)

March 14th
Baihualin, Gaoligong Shan - waited around the “Ancient Trail” staging post, photo taking

March 15th
Baihualin, Gaoligong Shan - birded along the Ancient Trail at Ertaipo – (good birds)

March 16th
Hired a minivan to Baoshan. Coach from Bus Station to Xiaguan, taxi to MCA Guesthouse, Dali

March 17th
Morning - minivan up the track to Cang Shan (to 3,000m elev.)

March 18th
Chairlift Dali to Zhonghe Temple (elev. 2,500m) birded “Cloudy Tourist Walk”

March 19th
Bus from Xiaguan to Jingdong (6 ½ hours). Minivan to Ailao Shan Research Station (elev. 2,400m)

March 20th
Birding around Ailao Shan Research Station

March 21st
Birding around Ailao Shan Research Station

March 22nd
Morning – birded around Ailao Shan. Afternoon, descended to Jingdong town

March 23rd
Bus Jingdong to Chuxiong (6hours) taxi to Jixi Shan (Purple Stream Mountain)

March 24th
Birded around Jixi Shan

March 25th
Morning birded around Jixi Shan, van to Chuxiong town, coach to Kunming

March 26th
Kunming City, Green Lake Park and Mandarin Books

March 27th
Flew Kunming to Shenzhen, returned to Hong Kong via Lokmachau


Carey, G.J., (Ed.) (1996) A biodiversity review of China Hong Kong: WWF China programme

Mackinnon, J. and Phillipps,K, (2000) A field guide to the Birds of China UK: Oxford University Press

Robson, C. (2005) New Holland Field guide to the Birds of South East Asia UK: New Holland

Harper, D. et al - (Oct. 2007) China’s Southwest – third edition Lonely Planet

Kilburn, Mike (2006) Birding southwest Yunnan, Hong Kong Birdwatching Society Bulletin (xxx)

LEI Jinyu & Liu Yang, (Eds.) China Bird Reports 2004,2005 and 2006 Beijing: Chinese Ornithological Society


Southern China (2005) Nelles Maps - Nelles Verlag Gmbh

Ruili – “Map of Economic Trade Tourism and Traffic” (buy at Xinhua Bookstore in Ruili, RMB 4)

Internet Trip Reports

Hornbuckle, Jon. (2002) Yunnan, South West China

Anderson, Bjorn. (2006) Ruili, Yunnan, Dec.2006 (updated Feb.2007)
(2007) Tengchong and Ruili, Nov.2007



Ruili – Nanjingli Ridge 瑞麗 南京里

Access with a RMB 30 Taxi ride (12–13km, 20min) north from the centre of town. A minor road from Ruili, then turn left on route S 203 towards Longchuan and Yingjiang . At km 201 on Route S 203 the road goes through a new tunnel. Just before this, turn right on a cobbled track – Route XNO 3. This minor road goes east for about 1 km, then turns west, rises to the ridge and follows it westwards for another 20 km.

Km 1 – At first hairpin bend a dirt track goes straight on eastwards and downhill. About two km of birdable track before emerging into cleared fields. In 2008 a new hut had been built in the woods and clearance was happening fast.

Km 2.5 – Between a white “church” (actually built for a film) and a huge banyan tree uphill from it, the old horse trail goes left (southwards) down towards the main road. Good variety of birds, but very shy.

Km 3 to 7 – woodland on the south side of the road

Km 17 – 19 – patches of trees and cleared fields, but quite birdy when we were there

Km 21 – road drops to a dead end in a village, woodland nearby, but late in the day when we were there.

Best Birds Rusty-fronted Barwing, Silver-eared Mesia, Red-faced Liochichla, Crested Finchbill.



Ruili – Sheng Tai Yuen Botanical Gardens, near Wanding 瑞麗 畹町 生態园

Access A RMB 60 Taxi ride (40 minutes) eastwards towards Wanding. After crossing the Shweli River (Longchuan Jiang) take the right fork on a minor road and then make a right turn again about one km further east (the Garden are signposted). Admission RMB 30. There is a big concrete car park, shaded by large banyans.

The attraction for most visitors is the walk-in aviary with peafowl. Go past this and out the back gate to the south. There are some paddy fields with scrubby edges, a stream that marks the China/Burma border (probably a good idea to stay out of this, there is an official-if minor- fully guarded crossing 1 km upstream). Views of pipits and wagtails can be had from a track beside the stream, swallows and martins perch on telephone lines overhead. You may retrace your steps to the Gardens main entrance when you finish.
Best Birds This is Paul Holt’s site (we think) for his “China First” Wire-tailed Swallow (see China Bird Report 2004 or Forktail 22). We saw them here too. Crimson Sunbird, Purple Sunbird, Red Avadavat, Plain Martin and Striated Swallows also present.


Ruili – Moli Waterfalls Area 瑞麗 莫里瀑布

Access A well-known local scenic site, a RMB 60 Taxi ride (one way) eastwards from Ruili. After 25km, left before the big bridge over the Shweli River, then 5 km (with the river on your right) to the entrance gate. Ticket office opens at 08:00hrs.


We got in earlier and paid on the way out. A concrete road runs up to a parking area (instant noodles available at mid-day), then an ornate path runs beside a stream through to a clearing and then into the woods to the actual waterfall. This is where (Birding Asia 8) Long-billed Thrush was found for the first time in China. This site could be combined with the Sheng Tai Yuen Gardens as one long day trip. Best Birds Dark-sided Thrush, Streaked Spiderhunter, Common Iora, Coppersmith Barbet

Ruili – “Pumphouse Forest”

A site described by John Bryant (report unseen by us) and direction expanded on by Hornbuckle (2002). We still had little confidence we could find this place but recognised it at a distance (on our way to Nanjingli) from Bjorn Anderson’s photo in his Dec. 2006 (updated Feb ’07) report. This woodland forms a patch on top of a hillside slightly lower that Nanjingli. If you want to stay nearby (but it’s only a ten-minute taxi ride from the centre of town) you could try a small-scale tourist development called “Paradise Garden Lodge” (Sai Oi To Yuen San Jong). A neighbouring entrepreneur seems to be determined to remove the woodland with his chainsaw and pick-up, so I don’t think this site will stay worthwhile for birding for long.

Ruili – Jiele Reservoir 瑞麗 姐勒水庫

Entrance is about 15km east of Ruili, near the Jiele Pagoda. We took the drivable road (Y 301) along the east of the reservoir, which is edged by terraces of tea topped by rubber trees, so not much in the way of woodland species. A telescope would have been useful here to sort out the ducks viewed from km 6. Best Birds Common Rosefinch, Little Cormorant, White-browed Laughingthrush, various ducks (good for the triplist !) Burmese Shrike

Ruili – Long Dao 瑞麗 弄島

The Taxi driver had to collect some kind of permit to come here. We arrived a bit late in the morning for best results. We drove southwest of Ruili about 35 km to a junction at Dengxiu and turned right (north) along road XNO 5. Kms 15–17 were birdable woodland, high point of road at km 18. Best birds Indian Roller, White-throated bulbul, Oriental Honey buzzards, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker (pr)

HUSA Village (East) 戶撒

Access Turnoff at S 233 km 142, then drive northeast along a cobbled road about 8km. The main village surrounds a broad street, with a gnarled old pine in the middle. The “Old Pine Bingguan” is a few yards from the tree 古松賓館 , and a modest restaurant opposite. We left Ruili at 08:00 and with birding stops on the way, arrived at 13:30, so we paid RMB 250 to the Taxi driver.

The fields and streams around the village (elev.1300m) have a variety of open-country birds. Best Birds Yellowknib, Grey-headed Lapwing, Black-breasted Thrush, Pied Bushchat, Black-shouldered Kite, Russet Sparrow, Striated Grassbird.



Dong Shan Ridge, Longchuan 戶撒東山

Access The pass at km 152 (i.e. south of Husa west village) on route S 233. At the high point of the road follow the “Tor Lai Ji” (small tractor) trail up the ridge to the north. There is also a trail to the south, popular as a “pit stop” for passing travellers, so be careful where you put your feet.

The northwards trail leads through some partly degraded secondary woodland about 2 km to a newly built and rather shabby shrine. Best Birds Long-tailed Broadbill, Crimson-breasted Woodpecker, Red-tailed and Blue-winged (latter seen 2006) Laughingthrushes.





Tengchong - Laifeng Shan Park 騰沖 來鳳山

Access Admission is 20RMB – locals free. We drove in at 07:30 and drove up the leftward, well-maintained dirt track to the top (paid an exorbitant RMB 35 and let the taxi go). If you are walking up the steps, go right from the entrance and follow the paved road. About 200 metres along, a path with flagstones goes left, uphill. This also leads to the top.



Laifeng hill, topped by a big pagoda, overlooks the town and is popular with morning walkers. We birded around the top until after the morning walkers had mainly dispersed (after 09:00) and then walked slowly down the steps. This really is a pleasant and relatively birdy site. The Chestnut-vented Nuthatches come to ground for biscuit crumbs. Best Birds Brown-winged Parrotbill, Spot-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Tibetan Siskins, Eurasian Jays (leucotis), Large Cuckoo-shrike, Silver Pheasant (seen 2006) Mountain Bamboo Partridge (H)



Tengchong – Cherry Blossom Valley 腾冲櫻花谷 

90 minutes drive east of Tengchong, on a steep hillside overlooking the Shweli River with the Gaoligong range beyond. Paths cut for daytrippers to enjoy the waterfalls, hot springs and the root formations of the occasional large trees. There is a wobbly ropebridge about halfway down, NOT recommended for tallish, overweight or middle-aged foreigners ! Best Birds Slaty-bellied Tesia (near rope bridge), Large Niltava, Mountain Bamboo Partridges at road’s edge on the way


Gaoligong Shan – “Gibbon Research Centre” 高黎貢山,白眉長臂轅保護區

Route S 317 east of Tengchong goes over the spine of the Gaoligong Range via a 2,200m pass at km 22. There is a wide gravel car park with a couple of basic eateries and a public toilet, with the Research Centre up a flight of stairs. There are a few relict primary forest trees on both sides of the road. Jemi was quoted RMB 40 per night to stay at the research centre, but you might be sleeping on the floor and you’d definitely need your own sleeping bag. We had paid RMB 350 for a minivan and pressed on to Baihualin as originally planned.


Gaoligong Shan – Baihualin 高黎貢山百花嶺

Route S230 runs north/south along the west bank of the mighty Salween, at around 700 to 800m elevation. The turnoff is near a village at km 78. A cobbled track climbs to the HQs compound about 1,500m elevation.

Charges at Baihualin seem to vary with your nationality and the whims of the staff. Jemi and I, being current Hong Kong ID card holders, got a price of RMB 250 each per day (included food). Nigel was charged RMB 400 per day. The staff claimed that a group of Europeans had just departed, and their leader had paid US $100 per day for each person. No proper receipts are given and there doesn’t seem to be any official table of charges. Some Hong Kong birders have stayed at a homestay in the nearby village, but still had to pay about RMB 200 each per day, which was claimed to be both admission and management fee. However, there is little evidence of “management” at Baihualin.

Some kind of Hot Springs development is planned for the open area about 2 kms up from HQs. The road may be improved as a consequence. There may also be more accommodation. The reason birders put up with these unnecessary inconveniences is because the best birds can be superb (and the Baihualin staff know this).

The best birdable area is about 8 km uphill from HQs and 500m higher (2,000m elevation). We paid another 200RMB daily (100 RMB up, 100 RMB down) to the driver of a small pick-up van to be driven over the completely unmaintained road. It took about 30minutes from HQs to Danuchang. 大奴廠 The track uphill from here was very quiet for birds the day we went. Hanging around the ancient trail staging post (where local hikers are driven to for their cross Gaoligongshan walk) at Jiujiezi can be productive. We saw many Fire-capped Tits and Giant Squirrel there.

Best birding area for us

Walk uphill to the left from Danuchang 大奴廠 to the Ancient Trail at Ertaipo 二台坡, follow the trail slowly uphill towards Dafengbao 大峰包 Best Birds Red-tailed, Scaly and Grey-sided Laughingthrushes, Slender-billed Scimitar Babbler, Black-headed Shrike Babbler, Rufous-necked Partridge, Ward’s Trogon (heard only). Others have seen Purple Cochoa and Fire-tailed Myzornis further up.







Bigger size map click here

Dali Old City – Cang Shan drive 大理古城 蒼山

Access We got a minivan for the morning (RMB 300) to drive us up the gravel track up the hillside, where we had to halt for a snowdrift at elev. 3,000 metres. Best birds Lady Amherst’s Pheasant (3), Nutcracker, Goldcrest, Yellow-throated Bunting


Dali – “Cloudy Tourist Walk” (CTW) 大理 蒼山 (玉帶路或雲游路)

Access Either get the first chairlift (officially 08:30) to Zhonghe Temple 中和寺. Or stay uphill from the temple at the Higherland Inn and bird the walk before any daytrippers arrive. The CTW is a flat, comfortable walk at about 2,500m elevation, not many people around between kms 10.5 (above Zhonghe Temple) and km 7 (southwards). The front part of the mountain face is covered by monotonous planted pines, but where streams have cut gullys, then there is a variety of native broadleaf bushes and trees, and a better variety of birds. Best Birds Lady A’s Pheasant (male from chairlift), Brown Parrotbill, Chinese Babax, Eurasian Crag Martins, Red-vented Yuhina (Bar-winged Wren Babbler and Chestnut-headed Tesia on earlier trips)




Ailao Shan Research Station, near Jingdong 景東 哀牢山徐家壩保護站

Access We got the bus from Xiaguan’s Taian Road Bus station to Jingdong. Busses run every 40 minutes from 08:40 to 12:40, 6 ½ hours, RMB 46. From Jingdong we hired a minivan up to the Reserve (RMB 300), it took nearly three hours.

We met the Director, Mr LIU Yuhong, who seemed quite interested in the idea of birding visitors at Ailao Shan. His Email is lyh -AT-xtbg.ac.cn We paid RMB 100 per night per person, which included shared food with the researchers.

There have been China Bird Report records of Short-tailed Parrotbill, Giant Nuthatch and Streaked Barwing from this remote site. Apart from these we knew nothing about the area and just turned up late in the evening. The staff, unused to visitors, were too polite to turn us away. The station is in a clearing at about 2,400m elevation. Some of the surrounding primary woodland was magnificent. Better woodland than Baihualin, but the birds seen were perhaps not so spectacular. But we managed 70+ woodland species in 2 ½ days birding. Best birds Streaked Barwing, Sapphire, White-browed and Pygmy Blue Flycatchers, Silver Pheasant, Green Shrike Babbler, Rufous-winged Fulvetta.










Chuxiong – Zixi Shan (Purple Stream Mountain) 楚雄 紫溪山

Access We got the 10:00 bus from Jinggdong (RMB69), arriving Chuxiong at 16:40, Of course there are many busses from both Kunming and Xiaguan (Dali) to Chuxiong as well. A taxi out to Zixi Shan from town was RMB70.

We stayed at the Wang Hei Mountain Villa (139-8708-5897) among pines at elevation of 2,500m. A comfortable place with a restaurant on the premises. The area of Zixi Shan is a bit like Kunming’s Western Hills but without all the tacky developments of recent years. There are planted pine trees on the hilltop, but some good-looking broadleaf on some of the north-facing slopes. Best birds Chinese Thrush, Bar-tailed Treecreeper, Yunnan Nuthatch and party of Collared Grosbeaks (in hotel grounds !)







Bird list of Ruili, Tenchong, Gaoligongshan, Dali

Bird list of AilaoZixiShan Yunnan March 2008

If you need any more details of any part of this report,
don’t hesitate to get in touch: johnjemi -AT- gmail.com