This tour focuses on the northwestern Chinese province of Qinghai, the fourth-largest province in China but with the third-smallest population in the country. Known as the ‘roof of the world’, much of the province is over 3000 meters (9,800 ft) in elevation and formed by the famed Tibetan Plateau. Our tour starts and ends in Xining, the capital of the province, which is also close to the huge, saline Qinghai Lake, after which the province is named.
Our two-week tour traverses across some stunning landscape in pursuit of some exceptional birds of this high-elevation zone, such as Tibetan Sandgrouse, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Tibetan Snowcock, Tibetan Partridge, Himalayan Snowcock, White Eared Pheasant, Blood Pheasant, Szechenyi’s Monal-Partridge, Ibisbill, Crested Tit-warbler, Snow Pigeon, Black-necked Crane, Tibetan Snowfinch, Tibetan Rosefinch, Tibetan Bunting, Tibetan Babax, Tibetan Serin, Henderson’s Ground Jay, and Grandala.
This tour can be combined with our two preceding China tours, China: 9-day Yunnan Pre-tour and China: 18-day Sichuan, into a mind-boggling 43-day China mega tour. It is even possible to also combine it with our Taiwan Birding Extravaganza tour, which precedes the Yunnan pre-tour of the Sichuan main tour.
Itinerary (15 days/14 nights)
Day 1. Arrival in Xining
Arrival at Xining Caojiabao International Airport, where you will be met and transferred to our hotel. We will spend some time birding the Xining hills. Possible species here may include Pale Rosefinch, Red-billed Chough, Pied Wheatear, Meadow Bunting, Godlewski’s Bunting, Rufous-breasted Accentor, Common Rock Thrush, Common Pheasant, Little Owl, and Przevalski’s Partridge.
Day 2. Morning birding at Dongxia Forest Park and drive to Gonghe
The morning will be spent birding in the Dongxia Forest Park, where we will look for Gansu Leaf Warbler, Przevalski’s and Chinese Nuthatches, Crested Tit-warbler, Goldcrest, Chinese White-browed and Common Rosefinches, White-throated Redstart, Chinese Thrush, Elliot’s Laughingthrush, White-winged Grosbeak, Black-faced Bunting, and Grey-headed Bullfinch. Afterwards we will drive to Gonghe , ready for the next day’s birding.
Day 3. Birding Gonghe and Ela Mountain and travel to Madoi
The morning’s birding will see us in Gonghe, where we will look for Mongolian Finch, Desert Finch, Lesser Whitethroat, Pine and Black-faced Buntings, Isabelline and Desert Wheatears, Rock Sparrow, and Twite, White-rumped, and Rufous-necked Snowfinches. Afterwards at Ela Mountain we will be trying to find Tibetan Rosefinch, Güldenstädt’s Redstart, White-winged Snowfinch, and Brandt’s and Plain Mountain Finches.
Day 4. Madoi to Nangqen
We’ll have a full day’s drive between Madoi and Nangqen, our base for the next few nights. There’s a range of birds possible along the way, and we will keep our eyes peeled for some great roadside birds such as Upland Buzzard, Himalayan Vulture, Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier), Saker Falcon, Daurian Jackdaw, Little Owl, Ruddy Shelduck, Lesser Sand Plover, Bar-headed Goose, Common Redshank, Pallas’s Gull, Brown-headed Gull, Common Tern, Tibetan Lark, Pale Martin, Citrine Wagtail, Salim Ali’s Swift, Eurasian Crag Martin, Asian House Martin, White-rumped and Rufous-necked Snowfinches, Eurasian Hoopoe, Kessler’s Thrush, Chinese Grey Shrike, Ibisbill, Brown Dipper, Hodgson’s and Blue-fronted Redstarts, Alpine Leaf Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, and Common and Great Rosefinches.
Day 5. Birding the Kanda Shan Pass
We will have a full day birding at the Kanda Shan Pass, where we will target Tibetan Bunting, Tibetan Snowcock, Tibetan Partridge, Sichuan Tit, Tibetan Babax, White Eared Pheasant, Szechenyi’s Monal-Partridge, Chinese Rubythroat, Grandala, Chinese Beautiful, Red-fronted, and Streaked Rosefinches, White-browed Tit, White-browed Tit-warbler, Snow Pigeon, White-capped Redstart, Golden Eagle, Plain Mountain Finch, White-winged Grosbeak, and Eurasian Eagle Owl.
Day 6. Birding at Baizha Forest
We will spend a full day birding at Baizha Forest, where we will look for Szechenyi’s Monal-Partridge, Blood Pheasant, Giant Laughingthrush, White Eared Pheasant, Three-banded and Common Rosefinches, White-throated Dipper, Tibetan Babax, Hodgson’s Treecreeper, Long-tailed Thrush, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Chinese Grey Shrike, Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers, Himalayan Bluetail, Slaty-backed Flycatcher, Rosy Pipit, Japanese and Rufous-vented Tits, Grey Crested Tit, Tibetan Serin, Chinese Fulvetta, Black-streaked Scimitar Babbler, Maroon-backed Accentor, Salim Ali’s Swift, Aberrant Bush Warbler, and Sichuan Leaf Warbler.
Day 7. Travel between Nangqen and Qumalai
Today we have another long drive as we make our way through gorgeous mountain landscapes between Nangqen and Qumalai, but we will bird along the way.
Day 8. Travel between Qumalai and Budongguan
We will travel the mountain roads between Qumalai and Budongguan but we will bird along the way, with our main target being Tibetan Sandgrouse.
Overnight: Budongguan (very basic accommodation)
Day 9. Travel between Budongguan and Golmud
During morning birding we will search for Tibetan Sandgrouse, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, and Tibetan Rosefinch. Later we will continue traveling across the stunning mountain landscapes. We make our way to Golmud, birding along the way and keeping our eyes peeled for Mongolian Finch and Great Rosefinch.
Day 10. Travel between Golmud and Dulan
We will travel between Golmud and Dulan. One of the chief targets of the day will be the interesting Henderson’s Ground Jay, and we might also spot Przevalski’s Redstartand Daurian Partridge.
Day 11. Birding in Dulan and travel to Chaka
We will do some birding around Dulan, where we will look for Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Przevalski’s Redstart, and Daurian Partridge, among others. Afterwards we will travel the short distance to Chaka, where we will spend the next couple of days birding.
Days 12 – 13. Birding at Chaka
We will enjoy two full days birding around the Chaka area, with some very special birds being possible, such as Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Tibetan and Himalayan Snowcocks, Tibetan, Chukar, and Daurian Partridges, Chinese Grey Shrike, Henderson’s Ground Jay, Przevalski’s Redstart, Wallcreeper, Desert and Isabelline Wheatears, Pine Bunting, White-winged Grosbeak, and Mongolian Lark.
Overnight (two nights): Chaka
Day 14. Birding at Rubber Mountain and Qinghai Lake, followed by drive to Xining
Our final birding of the tour will take us to Rubber Mountain, where we will look for White-browed Tit, White-rumped and Tibetan Snowfinches, and the pretty Robin Accentor. At Qinghai Lake we hope to find Bar-headed Goose, Pallas’s Gull, Black-necked Crane, Ground Tit, Mongolian Lark, Hume’s Short-toed Lark, Tibetan Lark, and Pere David’s Snowfinch.
Day 15. Departure
The tour will conclude with your departure from Xining Caojiabao International Airport.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors.