11 February 2013

Daxueshan National Nature Reserve, Yongde County, Yunnan

Bar-throated (formerly "Chestnut-tailed") Minla Minla strigula

Yongde county, Yunnan - 10th January 2013

Enquiries at Womulong weren't getting us anywhere so our next overnight stop was the hamlet of Mahuangqing, 26 km closer to Lincang city. 

A new record cheap room for us (RMB 20) ! A view of the slopes of Daxueshan across the valley compensated for lack of more conventional facilities.  The following day, Crested Finchbills seemed to be everywhere.....

Crested Finchbill Spizixos canifrons

In a local minivan we went back up to the high point of Route S 313  around km62 and turned up a track westwards. A short walk up through a graveyard led us to the edge of the big trees, with the elevation about 2,500m. According to "A Biodiversity Review of China" (WWF HK - 1996) Daxueshan NNR has the most southerly stand of Himalayan Hemlock (Tsuga dumosa) trees in China.  These may be higher up on the mountain, we didn't see them.

the path to Daxueshan

White-tailed Nuthatch  Sitta himalayensis

In the time we were there we found three species of "Minla" and four species of "Yuhina" and other  birds typical of moss-covered big trees, here are some examples.

Black-headed Shrike Babbler Pteruthius rufiventer

Streaked Barwing Actinodura souliei

Rufous-vented Yuhina Yuhina occipitalis

Yellow-cheeked Tit Parus spilonotus

"Himalayan" Bluetail  Tarsiger rufilatus

Back to the main road, and we birded a track to a fire lookout opposite the Nature Reserve.  Grey-headed Bullfinch and Maroon-backed Accentor were seen but these often-confiding species were very shy.

View east from the fire lookout

Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus

Gould's Sunbird Aethopyga gouldiae

Rufous-bellied Squirrel

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris (female)


Not wanting to outstay our welcome in Mahuangqing, we hurried on to Lincang city.  To the east of the city lies Wulaoshan National Forest Park.  The going rate for a taxi up there is RMB 150. After 18km there is an entrance gate and a cobbled road runs along a dry ridge for 8km.

where we stayed - the 3 story building

The area we stayed had experienced various attempts to make a commercial success of the place with a derelict fountain and ornamental garden, some landscaping around a small reservoir, various pagodas and a sorry excuse for a zoo. 

Nearly all the original trees were long ago felled. There are pockets of native broadleaf and a few aged pines, but much of the area is covered by a blanket of planted pine trees, in many places in straight rows. It is similar habitat to places like Jixi Shan (Chuxiong) or Shibao Shan (near Lijiang). We thought we heard Yunnan Nuthatches on our first afternoon, but we didn't actually see any in two days of birding there.

Here are a few of the birds on the mountain top and the access road.

Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis

Common Buzzard Buteo (b) vulpinus

Streak-throated Fulvetta  Fulvetta manipurensis

White-collared Yuhina Yuhina diademata

Black-headed Sibia Heterophasia melanoleuca

Grey-cheeked Fulvetta  Alcippe fratercula

Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus

Gould's Sunbird Aethopyga gouldiae

Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis

Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis

Red-tailed Minla Minla ignotincta

Wulaoshan must be a summer retreat for people in Lincang city, so it was understandably quiet up there in January.  The birds were mostly uncooperative, and even the buntings didn't allow close approach.

"What, US worry ?" 

Lincang city is undergoing a huge building boom.  Banners in town celebrated the recent appointment of a local representative to China's NPCCC for the first time.

It was refreshing to see a few egrets in agricultural fields and ponds near Lincang. Our final surprise was an  Asian Openbill.  They seen to be spreading north into Yunnan Province, after a first record as recently as October 2006 (China Bird Report 2006). They now seem to be quite common in Xishangbanna, for example.

Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans

Openbills are spreading south to Malaysia and Singapore, too..- see here:

and here:

No more bus journeys for us; we flew back to Kunming a couple of hours after seeing the Lincang Openbill.

(The bird names used in the captions are in accordance - I trust - with my 2011 edition of Craig Robson's "Birds of SE Asia". )


  1. Very exotic again John (well apart from the Buzzard!).

    1. Thanks, Stu. Buzzards get a bad press everywhere, it seems !

  2. Fabulous collection of birds. Sadly I don't think I could persuade Mrs. H to undertake any trip that lacks 5 star facilities. Personally I'd be content with the 5 star birds. Well done.

    1. Andrew, Thanks !

      No five star places out in Yongde, I'm afraid...an absence of rodents was the most positive thing I could say about a couple of places we stayed !

  3. A great collection of little feathered jewels. The Gould's Sunbird looks stinning. Well done, John.

  4. Thanks, Mun !

    All the sunbirds are great, that's for sure...

  5. This was a thrilling post. I would love to explore that part of China someday. I got to see several of those wonderful birds on top of Doi Inthanon, Thailand's highest peak.

    1. Thanks, John ! Doi Inthanon is a great birding spot, but I confess I haven't been there for ages.

  6. Very nice selection of birds as usual, John!
    I believe the booming population of Openbill elsewhere is mainly caused by the increasing rice cultivation in Thailand. This bird is definitely overpopulated here. They seem to be forced to move either more southward or northward. Not sure if that's a good thing or not. Also, interesting to see the flowers that the sunbird feeds on. It's exactly the same species of flower that both Mrs Gould's and Fire-tailed favour here in Thailand.

  7. Hi Ayuwat,

    It's interesting to see a population of birds on the move, anyway. Good to hear that the sunbirds prefer the same trees everywhere...!