Mammals of N Tibet: 2-15 Oct 2005
An at-a-glance list of 14+ spp of mammals (& birdwatching highlights).
By Jesper Hornskov ***all rights reserved ®*** [this draft 23 Feb 2012]
Please note that the following list is best considered a work in progress. It should not be quoted without consulting the author.
This write-up covers a trip undertaken by A Guillemont, J F Terrasse, M Terrasse & myself.
Thank you for making the journey so enjoyable!
The mammals, the birds (149 species in total), the unbeatable scenery, a stimulating mix of local cultures, wonderful food, comfortable accommodations & (not least) the companionship all came together to produce a trip the more memorable for the region being so under-visited by mammal-watchers.
Anyone considering China as a destination for mammal watching is welcome to contact the author at:
E-mail goodbirdmail(at)gmail.com or goodbirdmail(at)126.com
Tel/fax +86 10 8490 9562 / mobile +86 135 1335 9831
Inquiries concerning future trips to NE Tibet or Yunnan - our trips to China’s biologically most diverse province have been very popular - can be made directly to this author.
We are currently planning a NE Tibet Mammal Special for autumn 2012. The itinerary is inspired by / based on the trip covered by the present write-up, but it has been comprehensively fine-tuned drawing on experience gathered over the intervening years.
In the species list the concept "animal-days" is used - it is the equivalent of man-hours, the day totals added up – it indicates relative abundance but does not consider the “problem” of lingering individuals or, important in a non-scientific context such as a natural history holiday abroad, how satisfying the encounters were. 25 animal-days for e.g. Goitered Gazelle could be one distant herd vanishing in a cloud of dust before you’d had a good look at them, or one individual lingering for 25 days, offering the observers point-blank views anytime in that period…
The sequence of the mammal list follows “A Guide to the Mammals of China”, Smith & Xie (ed.) 2008, while in the list of bird highlights I have followed The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World – 3rd Edition (Dickinson 2003), in my opinion by far the most useful one-volume checklist to date.
Initials in brackets after a few single-observer sightings does not imply that I have doubts as to the correctness of the ID!
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
One seen at close range on 6th.
***In addition, one was found killed on the road along the S edge of the Qaidam. Zhang (1997) listed
the species for nowhere closer than Delingha, roughly at the same longitude but on the N edge of the
Tibetan Fox Vulpes ferrilata
Noted on four dates - 25 individuals in total; daily max 16 on 6th.
***One on 13th was seen hunting a pika: running up, then back, body straight as a board but reaching
an impasse where any next inch of progress would reveal the fox’s presence in time for the pika to dive into its safe burrow. That’s how we left them, in the snowy landscape…
Asian Badger Meles leucurus
One at long range S of the Maduo wetland on 6th.
Pallas's Cat Felis manul
3-4 on 5th & one [AG] on 8th.
Kiang Equus kiang
1,323 animal-days, concerning no less than 1,251 individuals noted on five dates.
Wild Yak Bos grunniens
626 individuals counted: 625 in ‘Yak Valley’, and a distant (10kms!?) lone bull on 13th.
Goitred Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa
56 animal-days. Noted on three dates.
***In the time-honoured way we worked hard for our first sightings only to see more easily later on…
Tibetan Antelope Pantholops hodgsoni
335 animal-days, relating to 287 individuals noted over two days.
***Some were close enough to photograph.
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata
1,072 animal-days, relating to 992+ individuals noted on five dates.
Przevalski’s Gazelle Procapra przewalskii
A group of nine (a buck with four females each with a youngster) was an exceptionally good find.
***The species has recently be ‘downgraded’ to ‘merely’ Endangered (following the discovery of additional herds in 2003) although the world population may be no more than 350-400 mature individuals. See http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/18230/0
***Our animals appear represent an additional ‘undiscovered’ population.
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur
13 animal-days. Two on 5th, six on 13th & five on 15th were all at considerable distance and fewer than we might reasonably have expected as previous, bird-centered trips have yielded groups of up to 30+ animals.
Argali Ovis ammon
67 in ‘Yak Valley’ was a great bonus, particularly as some allowed extended viewing at reasonable range.
***”Seeing Argali, Wild Yak & Kiang in the same ‘scope field-of-view on a hillside is about as much as one can hope for, mammal-wise, in this part of the world.”
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana
One on 4th.
Black-lipped Pika Ochotona curzoniae
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus
Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus
19+ bird-days. Noted on two dates, with 17+ on 14th a bonus.
***Two treated us to excellent, close-up out-in-the-morning-sun views as they cackled, whistled, and excitedly cocked their tails!
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
361+ bird-days. Noted on eight dates with a daily max of 227.
Goosander Mergus merganser
33 bird-days. This charismatic duck was noted on four dates – main event 20 at Koko Nor.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Two, or possibily three, present at Koko Nor on 3rd. At least one was an adult bird…
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Saker Falco cherrug
56 bird-days. Noted on nine dates.
***Mobbing behavior was noted twice on 13th: once the victim was a Lammergeier, while another bird, a juvenile female, was after a Hen Harrier in what appeared to be close to a genuine attack.
Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus
31 bird-days. Noted on eight dates.
***Bone-dropping behavior seen well several times.
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis
121+ bird-days. Noted on ten dates. Main event 42 on 4th.
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
12 bird-days. Noted on five dates. Main event five (four 1st c-y birds & one adult male) at
Koko Nor on 3rd.
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Singles on 5+6th.
***The juvenile at the wetland on 6th was chased by Brown-headed Gulls and then landed on roof beams of a disintegrating hut…
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius
235 bird-days. Noted on ten dates. Main event 128 on 6th. Interestingly, eight at Er La Pass
on 4th were all heading S.
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga
Three bird-days. One on 4th & two on 5th.
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
53 bird-days. Noted on nine dates. Main events 13 migr on 4th (with several seen very well being one of the ingredients in a superb raptor passage which was unfortunately curtailed by heavy hail showers) and 14 migr the next day.
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca
Three bird-days. One immature migr on 6th & two immatures (of which at least one was migr)
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
24 bird-days. Noted on eight dates.
Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo
Patience paid off on 3rd with a flock of c185 passing at 18h22… On 9th four migr over Rubber Mt may have been the last of the season.
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis
28 bird-days, involving as many individuals noted on two dates.
Tibetan Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes thibetana
Six on 13th… mixing in with the Chirus we were photographing: Tingaling!
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo
Two bird-days. One flew across the road N of Gonghe on 9th; the other was seen memorably
in Roadside Wood on 14th.
Little Owl Athene noctua
Long-eared Owl Asio otus
Two migrants roosting in desert poplars on 15th.
Tibetan Grey Shrike Lanius (s.) giganteus
One in desert W of Chaka on 9th.
Tibetan Magpie Pica (pica) bottanensis
One in Wild Yak Valley on 11th & eight W of Dulan on 14th.
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni
Seven bird-days. Seen only in the Qaidam, with three on 10th & four on 14th.
*** Several offered photo opportunities as our driver deftly maneuvered the car turned mobile hide into position.
Hume’s Groundpecker Pseudopodoces humilis
129 bird-days. Noted on 11 dates.
Common Raven Corvus corax
247+ bird-days. Noted on nine dates. Daily maximum 138 on 12th.
***One on 12th was in a playful mood: it hang upside-down from a wire, first holding on with both feet, then just with one, holding on for several seconds before letting go.
Pere David’s Laughingthrush Garrulax davidi
Five near Xining on 2nd.
Guldenstadt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus
27 bird-days. Noted on six dates.
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi
69 bird-days. Noted on two dates. Main event 60 in The Gully on 4th.
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii
93 bird-days. Noted on seven dates. Daily maximum 72 on 6th.
Blanford’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi
36 bird-days. Noted on four dates. Particularly approachable at our lunch stop on 12th…
***The species has a distinctive huizt call: an “eh! Look-over-here” whistle…
Roborovski’s Rosefinch Kozlowia roborowskii
Four females at Er La Pass on 7th.
Zhang, Yongzu et al. (1997) Distribution of Mammalian Species in China. Beijing: China Forestry Publishing House.