Two things really give me a high when birding - the first is seeing a lifer and the second (and equally important), is getting a good photo. With the nature of our subjects (wild birds) and environment where they are found, both are not always possible. All bird photographers have tales of coming home empty handed after hours of waiting and walking. So when one hears of a place where "one can shoot all day as if in a gallery", it is be a place worth going to, or at least worth considering. I cannot recall anymore where or how I came to know of Baihualing. But I recall googling it (a lot!) and began to dream about visiting this place which one blogger described as a Birding Paradise. So when WBPP's Raymond Dan organized a trip to Baihualing, I signed up.
Baihualing is a town located on the slopes of the Gaoligong Mountains, in the province of Yunnan, China, near the border of Myanmar (formerly Burma). It is part of the Gaoligongshan National Nature Reserve (GNNR) which is a protected area. The GNNR includes "...the Gaoligong Mountains and the nearby Nu Jiang Reserve in the western Yunnan Province of China, near the international boundary of Burma. It covers a vast stretch of the junction of Baoshan City, Tengchong and Lushui County, towards the west side of Nu (Salween) River.
It is a nature reserve of China, under the authority of the Chinese Ministry of Forestry. International organizations have also recognized it. It is a class Protected Area of World Wildlife Fund, and World Biosphere Reserve and a part of World Heritage Site of UNESCO." (source: wikipedia).
Our journey to Baihualing began at dawn of January 13, 2018 with an early morning flight to Hongkong, followed by a flight to Kunming, a seven-hour lay-over, then a flight to Baoshan, and capped by a two-hour road trip over twisting mountainous roads (at 10:30pm-12:30am), in a car driven by a guy who spoke very little english. An error by our travel agent, caused our party of seven to be separated (they spent their 7-hour lay-over at HK airport!). As a result we only saw each other on the Kunming-Baoshan flight at 9pm, (but that is another story). After an almost 18-hour journey, we arrived at our "homestay" exhausted and shivering, but very excited for the coming days. I placed homestay in quotation marks because while it is called a homestay, it is a facility with four buildings and 48 rooms, and each room has two large beds, a bathroom, desk, and other amenities.
At the Baoshan Airport, cold, exhausted, but full of excitement for the coming days
Our drivers stopped by a local eatery on the last village before going up the Gaoligong Mountains. We had our first taste of local Chinese food. Simple but hot and tasty.
We had breakfast before sunrise the following morning so that we could be at Hide # 8 early. The dining hall is located on a separate building downhill. Breakfast was a choice of unli-noodles or unli-rice with unli-DIY toppings. There was also unli-siopao like bread (with or without palaman). For this first morning, I opted for noodles.
Early morning downhill walk (in the cold) to the dining hall (and an uphill trudge back to the homestay). The dawn and the cold air made it feel like a Simbang Gabi walk.
Before long we left for our birding destination for the day, Hide # 8. And as soon as we have set up our cameras and tripods, it was non-stop shooting - from 7:00am until 5:30pm. The birds came in waves upon waves. Lunch and tea were consumed while we were seated in front of our cameras. Bathroom breaks were hurried because we did not want to miss any lifers. Baihualing, at least on this day, lived up to its promise of a gold mine. Here are some of the images I was able to create on day 1 - January 14, 2018.
Male Himalayan Bluetail, also known as Himalayan Red-flanked Bush Robin or the Orange-flanked Robin
Either a Pygmy Wren Babbler or a Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, very difficult to tell these two species apart (similar in look and size)
Large Niltava, male
Black-breasted Thrush, male
At the time we shot this, somebody said it was an Assam Laughingthrush. But the guidebook says it is a Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush. A quick google search reveals that the Assam used to be a sub-species of the Chestnut-crowned but it has been split. I am not sure if this is an Assam or Chestnut-crowned.
Grey-backed Thrush, female
Himalayan Bluetail, female
White-browed Shortwing, male
Large Niltava, female
Rufous-bellied Niltava, female
Rufous-throated Hill Partridge
Black-breasted Thrush, female
Golden Bush Robin
Orange-bellied Leafbird, female
Orange-bellied Leafbird, male
And that was our first morning - thirty-one (31) lifers by my count. Our lunch arrived but as I said, we all ate hurriedly and in front of our tripods for fear that new birds might suddenly arrive.
Packed lunch, delivered hot...
Most of the birds that came in the morning also appeared in the afternoon, giving us a chance to get better shots. These following photos are of those birds that arrived only after lunch.
Rufous-Hill Partridge pair
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
My tally for the day was thirty-seven (37) species, all but one (the White-browed Shortwing), are lifers. If only all birding sites were as abundant as Hide #8...
After downloading my shots that night, I was somewhat surprised that I took more than 6000 shots that day. It was a good thing that I brought along a new 2GB portable hard drive. Otherwise, I would have run out of memory cards and hard disk space in my laptop.
And if you are wondering how this magical birding place looked, this is the "shooting area" of Hide #8:
I took these with my phone camera just before we left.
Looks very doable in Coron...