Mammals of N Tibet, 18-30 Oct 2012:
An at-a-glance list of 23 species of mammals (& birdwatching highlights).
By Jesper Hornskov ***this draft 4 Nov 2012*** ALL RIGHTS RESERVED®
Please note that the following list is best considered a work in progress. It should not be quoted without consulting the author.
Based mostly on my own field notes, this brief write-up covers mammals noted by P Benstead (Greentours), J Blincow, S Da Prato, A Hawkins, M & P Henriksson & myself during the 2012 Greentours ( www.Greentours.co.uk ) visit to China’s Qinghai province.
The mammals, the birds (178 species in total), the unbeatable scenery, a stimulating mix of local cultures, wonderful food, mostly comfortable accommodations & (not least) the companionship all came together to produce a trip the more memorable for the region being so under-visited by naturalists.
Anyone considering China as a natural history destination is welcome to contact the author at:
E-mail goodbirdmail(at)gmail.com or goodbirdmail(at)126.com
Tel/fax +86 10 8490 9562 / NEW MOBILE +86 139 1124 0659
Enquiries about the scheduled 2013 Greentours ‘Mammals of the Roof of the World’ trip to Tibet should be directed to enquiries@Greentours.co.uk
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!
Tibetan Dwarf Hamster Cricetulus tibetanus
One was seen very well on 22nd.
Mid-Day Gerbil Meriones meridianus
Three animal-days. Noted on two dates but not exactly easy to get on…
***’The most desert-adapted of all gerbils. It occupies sandy terrain with different degrees of soil stabilization, preferring brushy habitat characterized by thorn scrub under which it constructs it
burrows. Primarily nocturnal (in contrast with M. unguiculatus); it is only active during the day during winter. It is unclear how it was given the common name.’: Smith & Xie (2008).
Gansu Pika Ochotona cansus
Just one seen [AH] on 23rd.
Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae
Widespread – not systematically recorded.
Glover’s Pika Ochotona gloveri
8+ animal-days. Noted on two dates – one on 25th ‘up on massive boulder across the river somehow spotted by AH as it sat silhouetted against the far-off sky, in the absence of fiercer creatures absolute ruler of that piece of hard-to-get-to real estate’..
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus
9+ animal-days. Seen on at least five dates – main event 4+ on 23rd, when numerous tracks crisscrossing the fresh snow suggested that at least twice that number were present.
Pallas’ Cat Felis manul
One allowed extended ‘scope views as it sat out on a sunny knoll on 22nd.
***Snow Leopard Uncia uncia
Tracks in the snow…
Wolf Canis lupus
11 animal-days. Noted on four dates – a long session with two individuals at c4,800m on 24th: one of them was seen trying to punch through a patch of frozen snow, then carried on tentatively while the other animal was lying down. All of a sudden that one was making off in a different direction carrying a Tibetan Fox (!), seemingly trying to take advantage of the lay of the land to get away and not share the meal with its companion… nice plan, but as they disappeared from view the more active individual was firmly on the trail of the meal-carrying one.
Tibetan Fox Vulpes ferrilata
48 animal-days. Noted on no fewer than seven dates, with any number of satisfying encounters and several photo opportunities: what an animal!
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
Singles were noted on four dates.
Mountain Weasel Mustela altaica
We were pleased to get extended views (and repeated photo ops!) when one was spotted darting about on 27th.
Kiang Equus kiang
788 animal-days. Noted on five dates. It was a real pleasure to watch these dignified ‘donkeys’ - in the absence of hunters they (and other large mammals on the Plateau) are fairly confiding, and in a couple of cases we were able to get good-to-decent photos even without the help of long lenses!
Siberian Roe Capreolus pygargus
5+ on 18th got our trip off the ground in style.
MacNeil’s Deer Cervus macneilli
Seven S of Yushu on 25th.
***macneilli is ’the pale red-grey deer of the eastern margins of the Tibetan plateau’: Groves (2005).
Gansu Red Deer Cervus kansuensis
No fewer than 55 animals in a morning! Memorable ‘scope views of several magnificent stags – the crisp air was vibrating with their rutting-time roars, which were audible even from our breakfast spot.
***vide Groves (2005), kansuensis is ‘quite distinct, the winter pelage being especially different: macneilli stags are very light, creamy grey, while kansuensis stags are deep steely grey. The black on the croup […] is much more conspicuous in kansuensis.’
***Subsequently (Groves & Grubb: Ungulate Taxonomy (2011)) it was felt that kansuensis is probably NOT a valid taxon. There are specimens from S Koko Nor Range 37*N 100*E (where sightings by birders have resulted in claims of White-lipped Deer!) & from Tatung Shan 37*15’N 100*E, and there are sight records from Qilian Shan.
***If kansuensis ends up being considered invalid the animals we saw were still not ‘Red’ Deer Cervus ‘elaphus’ but Cervus canadensis alashanicus.
White-lipped Deer Przewalskium albirostris
39 animals in a single day. A herd of 29 included five huge-antlered stags & a full mix of juveniles, females, and ‘lesser’ stags – at x60 magnification we could see the senior stag roaring repeatedly as it stood silhouetted against the sky, allowing undistorted looks in crisp afternoon air, but what with the distance & the flowing river we were unable to hear it.
Goitred Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa
31 animal-days. Noted on two dates – 28 in a day was pretty good, especially as the magnificent dawn air allowed undistorted ‘scope viewing on x60 magnification.
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata
808+ animal-days. Noted on seven dates – as is the case with Kiang, in the absence of human hunters these nimble creatures are fairly confiding (if still jumpily high-strung, no doubt on account of the healthy population of wolves roaming the hills: in August 2005 we were even privileged to witness four particularly mean-looking wolves undertake a successful hunt, killing and ripping apart a Tibetan Gazelle) - we were able to get frame-filling photos even without the help of heavy artillery lenses.
Przevalski’s Gazelle Procapra przewalskii
76 on 20th – all were female/juveniles.
***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 to represent an as far as the IUCN is concerned ‘undiscovered’ population.
Wild Yak Bos grunniensis
111 animal-days. These impressive animals were seen in to separate areas… WOW! views were had by all.
Argali Ovis ammon
24 animal-days. Noted on two dates – watching a herd of 14 (incl at least three good-sized males) for a couple of hours was just the sort of relaxed, in-depth experience we’d hoped for.
Tibetan Antelope Panthalops hodgsonii
Seeing 80 along the remotest Roof of the World stretch of road was truly something to remember.
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur
c158 animal-days. Noted on three dates.
Birds – among the highlights (a detailed list is being prepared):
Przevalski's Partridge Alectoris magna
Daurian Partridge Perdix dauurica
White Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon crossoptilon
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Baikal Teal Anas formosa
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Saker Falco cherrug
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis
Black Vulture Aegypius monachus
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Himalayan Buzzard Buteo burmanicus
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis
Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus
Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus
Tibetan Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes thibetana
Pallas’ Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes paradoxus
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis
Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus
Tibetan Grey Shrike Lanius (s.) giganteus
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Tibetan Magpie Pica (pica) bottanensis
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni
Hume’s Groundpecker Pseudopodoces humilis
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus
Rufous-vented Tit Parus rubidiventris
White-browed Tit Parus superciliosus
Stoliczka’s (= White-browed) Tit-Warbler Leptopoecile sophiae
Long-billed Calandra Lark Melanocorypha maxima
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita tristis
Kozlov’s Babax Babax koslowi
Elliot’s Laughingthrush Garrulax elliotii
Chestnut Thrush Turdus rubrocanus
Kessler’s Thrush Turdus kessleri
Northern Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus
Przevalski’s Redstart Phoenicurus alaschanicus
White-throated Redstart Phoenicurus schisticeps
Guldenstadt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis
Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula parva
Red-throated Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus
Henri’s Snowfinch Montifringilla henrici
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii
Pere David’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda davidiana
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis
Blanford’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens
Przevalski’s Rosefinch Urocynchramus pylzowi
Pink-rumped Rosefinch Carpodacus eos
Pallas’s Rosefinch Carpodacus roseus
Chinese White-browed Rosefinch Carpodacus dubius
Eastern Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilloides
Spotted Great Rosefinch Carpodacus severtzovi
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos
Eastern Rock Bunting Emberiza godlewskii