3 Sept 2017

Qinghai - Birding around Yushu, 22nd to 24th August 2017

Tibetan Ground Tit - Pseudopodoces humilis

We arrived in Yushu, se Qinghai on 22nd August.  We were due to join some friends for a fairly intensive high-elevation tour on the 25th, so arrived early to acclimatise.  

Yushu (“Jyekyundo” in Tibetan) lies at 3,900 m.  We had last been there in 2007.

It was badly damaged by an earthquake in 2010.

So with a couple of spare days to fill, the first thing we did was to pop round to the town’s Xinhua Bookstore for a local map.  For a modest outlay of 6 RMB we got a sheet with a city map on one side and a map of Yushu Prefecture on the other, bordered by pictures of local attractions.

Yushu City, Qinghai

Up at the “Tagdar lookout” we had views of the city, some rather shy Pikas, and a Little Owl in the last couple of hours of daylight. The map gave us an excuse to chat with the locals about what to see.

Little Owl - Athene noctua

On the map was a photo of Black-necked Cranes with an arrow to where they could be found; - Long Bao National Nature Reserve, about 70 km northwest of town on Route S308. The locals concurred that the area was “good for birds”.

On the morning of 23rd August we headed out to Long Bao NNR, and and saw quite a lot of stuff from the road.  We had hired a Taxi for the morning, and the driver seemed to enjoy the outing, too. 

The S 308 road runs across the valley floor at 4,200metres

Black-necked Cranes were there, in four different family groups. There were Whiskered and Common Terns, Bar-headed Geese and Ruddy Shelduck.  It was probably a bit late in the breeding season to see all the summer breeders.

Long Bao NNR was reported on - as a potential Ramsar Site - in the Oriental Bird Club publication, FORKTAIL (Issue 29) in 2013.

Black-necked Crane - Grus nigricollis

A Red Fox with a pika in its’ mouth was an early highlight (but not for the pika, obviously.)

Red Fox - Vulpes vulpes

Red Fox - Vulpes vulpes

A dense population of Pikas was a sight to behold.  

Plateau Pika - Ochotona curzoniae

Plateau Pika - Ochotona curzoniae

Plateau Pika - Ochotona curzoniae

Mountain Vole - Sp.

Mountain Vole - Sp.

Mountain Vole - Sp.

Himalayan Marmot - Marmota himalayana

Snowfinches included Rufous-necked and White-rumped.  

Rufous-necked Snowfinch - Pyrgilauda ruficollis

White-rumped Snowfinch - Onychostruthus taczanowski

Confiding Tibetan Ground Tits were everywhere.

Tibetan Ground Tit - Pseudopodoces humilis

Tibetan Ground Tit - Pseudopodoces humilis

On the way back to town we passed a Tibetan Wedding party, and also later saw some Himalayan Griffon Vultures on the ground close to the road.

Himalayan Griffon Vulture - Gyps himalayensis


A chat with some local had revealed that Le Ba Gou - a popular weekend picnic area, was also good for birds, so we headed that way the following day (24th August).  It was 30km east of Yushu on the old main road, G214.

The area is part of the San Jiang Yuan (Three Rivers) National Nature Reserve. 

Ibisbill - Ibidoryncha struthersii

We were lucky to find one Ibisbill from the old road, but this juvenile had a drooping right wing, so we wondered how long it would survive.

A party of Common Mergansers at the rivers edge was a nice find, 

Common Merganser - Mergus squamatus

but even better, soon afterwards we interrupted a large party of Tibetan Partridges going down for their morning drink.

Tibetan Partridge - Perdix hodgsoniae

Tibetan Partridge - Perdix hodgsoniae

The rocky hillsides were a good environment for the attractive Glover's Pika.

Glover's Pika - Ochotona gloveri

White Eared Pheasants were spied on the hillside as well. A party of twelve with at least two young.  

White Eared Pheasant - Crossoptilon crossoptilon

In the picturesque valley of Le Ba Gou we saw many Elliot’s Laughingthrushes...

Elliot's Laughingthrush - Trochalopteron ellioti

Le Ba Gou, or "Ziqiong Valley"

A plaque near a picnic area declared that the area is also known as "Ziqiong Valley".


We did a circuit, following a paved road over the mountaintops to Batang, near Yushu Airport. 

Mountain Pass

In fact the road comes out to route G 214 near Princess Wencheng Temple, south of town,  near the airport.  The new PW temple is bigger and a lot more ornate  than ithe earlier version which we had visited in 2007.  There seems to be a lot of rock-carving and painting going on all over the county.

Two birding half-days were enough for us in Yushu’s thin atmosphere, but we felt we were adapting well.


  1. A grand adventure indeed, John. The sight of all those prayer flags reminds me of our trip to Bhutan in 2007

    1. Hi David, Those flags certainly circle the Tibetan world !

  2. Looks as if you had an interesting time

    1. Guy, We did, Thanks - AND the weather was mostly clear and cool...

  3. the three pics above the marmot are not pika but mountain vole

    1. Thanks for that - Although I've got "A Guide to the mammals of China" I've been struggling with identifying these...
      I've added "Mountain vole sp." to the picture captions temporarily.

  4. Amazing location. Looks fantastic.

    1. Hi Stu, where the plateau breaks up and is cut into by big river valleys the scenery is unbeatable.... and there are some good endemics to be seen as well.

  5. Quite a contrast to forest birding. Lots of great photos.
    looked like a great trip.

    1. Thanks, John - almost Alaskan scenery, but the high elevations make going difficult.

  6. Hi John - can you please email about using one of your pics please? brian.clews@btconnect.com. (WildGuides)