Birding Balangshan (peak space) in June 2023 – 10,000 Birds

In June 2023, I once more went to Balangshan, a mountain about 3 hour’s drive from Sichuan’s capital Chengdu – and once more with Alpinebirding, happily not for them to partially take care of complicated covid restrictions however solely to assist me discover birds that I’m too incompetent a birder to search out alone.

The broader Balangshan space has three totally different components – the low elevation of close by Wolongshan, the upper a part of the street throughout the mountain that’s known as the tunnel space amongst birders, and the precise Balangshan move, which reaches an altitude of 4500 meters or so. And that’s the space this put up, the primary in a sequence of three, covers.

One warning: In case you ever plan to go to Balangshan, be certain to verify with me first – I like to recommend avoiding the place every time I’m there, as that just about invariably means heavy fog alternating with rain. Or as this time (bear in mind, in June) snow. I’m mildly shocked and grateful that given this example, Alpinebirding nonetheless accepts me as a shopper.

The climate situations meant that often, the Alpine Accentors needed to focus their foraging efforts on the few components not coated within the white stuff.

Much like the singing of Taylor Swift, the singing of feminine Alpine Accentors attracts males, as described right here. Although in actuality, I assume most Taylor Swift followers are feminine, however that doesn’t actually match into my storyline.

If the analogy holds, one ought to assume that Taylor Swift’s more moderen songs are extra advanced than earlier ones, because the paper states that “older females, which laid bigger clutches, sang extra advanced songs”.

Apparently, Alpine Accentors breed in polygynandrous (multi-male and multi-female mating) teams: an alpha male and 1-3 unrelated subordinate males share a wide range that overlaps with that of 2-4 unrelated females.

The very best feminine technique appears to be to mate with as lots of the males as potential, as this implies extra assist in feeding the chicks by all of the potential fathers (I assume the fathers shouldn’t have easy accessibility to paternity checks).

Larger-ranking females appear to do that higher than lower-ranking ones, leading to greater survival charges for his or her chicks (supply).

The Tibetan Snowcock at first look seems a bit like Obelix to me – I assume it’s the stripes.

Being lazy, a bunch of researchers used digicam traps to analyze the species somewhat than following the birds immediately (which might have had some well being advantages).

They discovered that the species is diurnal (effectively, utilizing cameras, would they even have seen nightly actions?), with peak exercise between 8 and 10 am (when workplace staff undergo their e-mail inbox) and 6 and eight pm (when workplace staff have their first beer).

And so they discovered that Tibetan Snowcocks like excessive elevations, light slopes, and low ranges of vegetation. With regard to their music style, the analysis outcomes had been inconclusive.

Crimson and yellow are the colours symbolizing a number of various things – for instance, McDonald’s, the Individuals’s Republic of China, Mastercard, and Kodac. Individually, they’re additionally the colours permitting differentiation between the Crimson-billed Chough and the Yellow-billed Chough.

Being a administration guide, I’m well-versed within the science and artwork of bullshitting. Nonetheless, I’m considerably impressed by a paper titled “Integrating advances in inhabitants and evolutionary ecology with conservation technique via long-term research of red-billed choughs”. It has all of the buzzwords one may want for – “built-in”, “ecology”, “conservation”, “long-term”.

And it’s not simply the title. Within the summary, the authors state that they “proactively aimed to attain the twin and interacting aims of advancing inhabitants and evolutionary ecology and advancing efficient conservation”. I used to be type of afraid they forgot to make use of the phrase “proactive”, however no, I needn’t have anxious.

And the final a part of the summary is one other clear winner: “This case examine demonstrates a full iteration via the sequence of major science, evidence-based intervention, quantitative analysis, and suggestions that’s advocated in conservation science however nonetheless occasionally achieved. It thereby illustrates how pure science advances knowledgeable conservation actions to make sure the (short-term) stability of the goal inhabitants, and the way conservation-motivated analyses fed again to advance basic understanding of inhabitants processes.”

Full iteration! Proof-based! Suggestions! Elementary understanding!

In a 1997 paper, Spanish researchers describe feather mites on Crimson-billed Choughs that appear to truly have a constructive impact on the birds, or no less than not a unfavourable one.

However I solely seemed on the summary in a short time, as I missed any thrilling buzzwords.

A third paper no less than used the time period “Age-Particular Reproductive Efficiency”. Amongst different issues, it finds that feminine Crimson-billed Choughs with a number of chicks die youthful whereas these with fewer chicks when younger ceaselessly dwell longer. Moms with a number of younger youngsters will discover these findings very convincing.

The HBW appears to be a bit unsure in regards to the correct title of Pyrrhocorax Graculus – is it Yellow-billed Chough or Alpine Chough? To be secure, each names are used on the identical web site.

A minimum of the second title hints on the greater elevation standing of the Yellow-billed Chough. The HBW notes considerably disparagingly that the chook “could be very a lot a scavenger about human habitation, particularly so about ski resorts in Europe”. This sounds true – I’ve seen the chook feeding on discarded human meals proper on the Balangshan move (although there are not any skiers there, simply Chinese language vacationers, a few of whom fairly shocked by the chilly at 4500 meters, having turned up in shorts and T-Shirt. So that they flip to purchasing fatty meals from the distributors on the move hoping to develop an insulating layer of fats, then understand the meals is somewhat dangerous, throw a part of the meals away, which then finally ends up being eaten by the choughs).

If such human meals just isn’t obtainable, the Yellow-billed Chough goes again to its unique food regimen of (no less than in Europe) grasshoppers, as described right here.

The calls of the Big Laughingthrush are fairly widespread each considerably under the Balangshan peak space and on the tunnel space that can be described in a future put up. The HBW appears to be a fan, describing the vocalization as “loud, clear, candy, fairly wealthy and melodious”.

Me, I nonetheless desire The Nationwide, regardless of the marginally disappointing newest album.

This species would possibly certainly advantage a bit extra analysis – the one paper I discovered on its breeding checked out solely 7 nests (of which 3 failed).

It appears the species (like me) just isn’t very keen on their offspring – the examine discovered that nest attentiveness through the day decreased from 93% earlier than hatching to 59% throughout days 3–7 of the nestling interval, i.e., when the chicks began to babble and name for consideration. Or perhaps there was simply extra want to gather meals, however I like the primary rationalization higher.

There’s a cottage business of publishing papers on DNA sequences of chook species much like this one on the Blue-fronted Redstart: “The whole mitochondrial genome of Phoenicurus frontalis (Passeriformes: Muscicapidae)”. I assume that with about 10,500 chook species, this leaves some work for future generations of ornithologists, although I can not say I discover this very thrilling. Additionally, I discover it type of unusual that such a somewhat generic paper has 6 listed authors, however perhaps that features the man who purchased espresso and sandwiches for the individuals really engaged on the paper.

However what if the choice – looking for papers on the Blue-fronted Redstart – is “Comparative evaluation of the intestinal tract microbiota and feeding habits of 5 sympatric flycatchers”?

The paper no less than accommodates the knowledge that the food regimen for Blue-fronted Redstarts is a mix of bugs (>70%) and plant fruits (<30%) – and naturally, in comparison with the opposite redstarts aren’t that considering fruit, this additionally has an influence on the intestine microbes. Nonetheless, not a bit of knowledge I might wish to share at a dinner desk until on a birding tour with very nerdy fellow vacationers.



The Rosy Pipit appears a bit oversold to me because it takes numerous goodwill to see the rosiness of the species. Being moist appears to assist, although.

BirdingAsia has a report on the primary Rosy Pipit seen in Mongolia. Frankly, I discover such experiences comparatively meaningless, however I assume they provide a way of goal to the listers of this world.

In keeping with the HBW, the Crimson-fronted Rosefinch is the highest-breeding passerine in China, dwelling at an altitude of about 3300-5700 meters

Certainly these images had been taken very near the move, at roughly 4500 meters – the best rosefinch sighting on this journey.

Being monogamous, this massive rosefinch presumably frowns on the polygynandrous Alpine Accentors dwelling on the identical altitude. However happily, they make no efforts to limit the approach to life of the accentors, ban their books, or forestall them from educating their chicks about intercourse.

For a pronunciation train, perhaps the next sentence is an efficient alternative: The Latin species title of the Chinese language Rubythroat is tschebaiewi, because the species was named by the Russian geographer Nikolay Przhevalsky in honor of the Cossack Pamfili Tschebaeiv who accompanied Przevalsky on his travels (word to sticklers: the 2 totally different spellings of Przevalsky are taken immediately from the Wikipedia article).

That’s the Przevalsky/Przhevalsky who apparently despised the Chinese language and brazenly referred to as for Russia’s annexation of bits and items of China’s territory – not fairly what Mr. Xi had in thoughts when he proclaimed a “no-limits friendship” between the 2 nations.

Whereas the Chinese language Rubythroat is expounded to each the Siberian Rubythroat and the Himalayan Rubythroat, the consensus appears to be that this can be a separate species. One examine particularly suggesting this ends with the somewhat ChatGPT-like sounding pompous sentence “Our examine stresses the significance of making use of an integrative taxonomy method to completely unravel the true avian range within the Sino-Himalayan Mountains”. Then once more, the ChatGPT coaching will need to have included hundreds of thousands of similarly-sounding scientific papers, so perhaps the similarity isn’t a surprise.

Additionally obtainable as video right here and right here.

The White-browed Tit-warbler solely gave me a number of unsatisfactory photographs of the feminine this time. So ungrateful. Due to this fact, no factoids about it on this put up.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is White-browed-Tit-Warbler_DSC0093_Balangshan_Jun-05-2023-630x524.jpg


Sadly for the species, the title of the Plain Mountain Finch appears somewhat correct. eBird agrees, calling it a “fittingly-named brown finch … [that is] drab brown general”.

Accordingly, not a lot analysis appears to have been carried out on the species. Not glamorous sufficient, I assume.

Surprisingly, in line with the HBW, among the many nest predators of the species are giant snails.

The Alpine Leaf Warbler is among the many barely extra engaging leaf warblers in China – which admittedly doesn’t imply a lot.

For an introduction to the complete horror of leaf warbler identification, look right here. It has such encouraging picture annotations as “P. affinis [Tickell’s Leaf Warbler] in Xizang. In follow inseparable from P. occisinensis [Alpine Leaf Warbler]”. Apparently, DNA evaluation confirmed that the Alpine Leaf Warbler diverged from Tickell’s Leaf Warbler about 4 million years in the past, however this time was not utilized to develop any helpful visible variations – a little bit of a waste of time if you happen to ask me.

Really, in line with the HBW, these two species are nonetheless only one. Then again, it appears the HBW is commonly reluctant so as to add new species, as a substitute murmuring about future adjustments that often fail to occur. So, I assume it’s best to first wait a number of extra million years and see how issues develop earlier than coming to any ultimate conclusion.

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