Much as with the other cities which we were now familiar, Chengdu is very large and a mass of buildings, roads and people, offering what seems to be very little green birding areas within. The main reason for the stop here was to visit the Giant Panda research base, but the three outings from here proved to offer potential for avian interest also. One night was spent at the Moonstar Hotel in Ya’an. The reason given was to minimise journey times between Ya’an, Chengdu, and Leshan. This did offer the opportunity of a short amount of time for birding around the hotel grounds. Following the large earthquake of 2008, the better known Panda base at Wolong was severely damaged, resulting in the remaining animals being shipped out to a new temporary home at Bifengxia base, near Ya’an. This may have been to our benefit, since the latter is a larger operation in terms of acreage, and may well be a lot quieter. In fact, the first Panda enclosure was accompanied by a calling Common Cuckoo in a tree nearby, which stuck to its task during our entire visit. Predictably, many of the birds were staying within the dense (and soaken) foliage, but a handful could be seen. In addition to the common Light-vented Bulbuls and one or two Common Blackbirds, a small group of Masked Laughingthrushes were playing around in the canopy. One of the small manicured bushes next to some gift shops played host to a pair of Ashy-throated Parrotbills.
The only time devoted to pure birding was less than an hour amongst the few trees and allotments surrounding the Moonstar Hotel, which is situated on a hill overlooking Ya’an. Great Tits were as usual very common here, but a single Asian Brown Flycatcher was assumed to be on migration to its more northerly breeding grounds. Another group of Ashy-throated Parrotbills were busily working their way amongst the bushes of the allotments, where an Asian Barred Owlet flew from the ground to take up residence in another of the bushes. Above was a characteristically noisy Plain Flowerpecker. The most common bird at the location proved to be the white headed variant of Black Bulbul.
The following day was spent at the Giant Buddha of Leshan. A stop on the way to here at a tea plantation and shop, just on the outskirts of the city, actually proved more fruitful for birds than the Buddha site itself (which did turn up a Collared Finchbill on the descent to the waiting car). The bank above the tea shop, which held some tea terraces, was climbed, and it was here that a couple of White-browed Laughingthrushes were picked out, in addition to the local race of White Wagtail. An unknown woodpecker flew past and into the small copse, but it couldn’t be relocated.
The last day
was spent at Mount Qingcheng, which is a
wooded location noted for its forest trails and Taoist temples. This was yet
another popular location for the Chinese tourists. The cable car here was out
of action, which was an undoubted benefit, since much more could then be seen
on the climb up the many steps. The first of a handful of seen and calling Grey-headed
Canary Flycatchers were located over the shops at the base of the climb, but a
much better catch was a Drongo Cuckoo which landed fairly briefly next to the
steps. A busy little group of Black-chinned Yuhinas was totally unaware of out
presence as they mobbed a lone bush right next to the path. Singles of Collared
Finchbill and white headed Black Bulbul, were in clearings at different
elevations of the walk. Having become so used to washed out Great Tits
throughout the trip, it was a pleasant surprise to see a Green-backed Tit with
food for a nearby brood as we were nearing the end of the walk. Last good birds
of the trip were a little unexpected. The restaurant we used after the Mountain
walk was at the base of the climb, and the garden played host to a noisy group
of Black-throated Bushtits.