Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Cabot’s Tragopan’

Birders don’t call these games, but consider the following activities.

Life List

The most basic birding game is simply keeping a list of all the birds that you have ever seen anywhere.  Not much beats the thrill of seeing a bird for the very first time, so this game is played by nearly all birders everywhere.  I clearly remember foolishly wondering, shortly after starting my life list, what I would do after I had seen all the birds possible in nearby locations. And, then I learned about all the other birding games.

Cabot's Tragopan on my 2012 China trip. One of my favorite birds ever! Photo by Tony Mills.

Cabot’s Tragopan on my 2012 China trip. One of my favorite birds ever! Photo by Tony Mills.

State List

Many birders keep a list of all the birds that they have seen in a particular state, usually the state in which they live.  This activity usually involves actively “chasing” rare birds that appear anywhere in the state in order to increase one’s state list.

County List

This activity is similar to State List, but for just one county, usually the location of one’s residence.  Even more so than with State List, birders will cancel other plans, call in sick to work, or do whatever is necessary to see any new bird that shows up in their county.

Bad photo, but great bird - the first Whimbrel ever observed in Forsyth County.

Bad photo, but great bird – the first Whimbrel ever observed in Forsyth County.

ABA List

Some birders put the most importance on their ABA list, birds observed in the ABA (American Birding Association) Area, most simply defined as North American north of Mexico.  For some, their ABA list has a higher priority than their life list.  Birders who are obsessed interested in their ABA List may fly across the country to see birds already seen elsewhere just to get them on this list.

Other geographic areas

Any geographic area that you can name can be the target for a birding list – Ecuador, China, Asia, the Western Hemisphere, the Lower 48 (US states) – the possibilities are nearly endless.

Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager in Ecuador.

Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager in Ecuador.

Big Year (ABA Area)

Until recently “Big Year” meant ABA Big Year. This is the game that was made into a book and a movie, “The Big Year.”  It told the story of three men obsessed with “winning” the most birds in 1998.  People have mortgaged their homes to pursue this activity. It also requires tremendous effort and the stamina to endure heat, cold, loss of sleep, and other discomforts. In spite of these challenges, the majority of us who do not have the time, money, and endurance to play this game have fantasized about it.

If I were doing a Big Year in 2017, this Smooth-billed Ani seen in Florida would be a good start.

If I were doing a Big Year in 2017, this Smooth-billed Ani seen in Florida would be a good start.

Big World Year

This is now the ultimate game – how many birds can you see in one calendar year with the entire planet as the playing field. In 2008, British couple Alan Davies and Ruth Miller traveled around the world attempting to see 4,000 species. They completed the year with 4,341 species and wrote a book about their adventure, The Biggest Twitch. In 2015, Noah Strycker set out to see half the world’s species, approximately 5,000 birds. He also met his goal and set the new world record with 6,042 bird species. Noah’s record was immediately challenged by Dutch birder Arjan Dwarshuis in 2016. He finished the year with 6,833 bird species.

The closest I'll ever get to a world big year was in 2014 when I went to both China and Belize, where I saw this Great Kiskadee.

The closest I’ll ever get to a world big year was in 2014 when I went to both China and Belize, where I saw this Great Kiskadee.

Big State Year and various location/year combinations

Where I live, Forsyth County (NC) Year List is a popular game, although I don’t know anyone who will admit to playing it. However, about a dozen birders go birding nearly every day. They make it a point to see species that require special effort like American Woodcock, a bird that is usually seen only in particular places at dusk.  If anyone else finds a “good” bird (i.e. uncommon for our area), they will go look for it. I keep trying to break my addiction to this game, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful. And, I’m not sure that I really want to quit. We have the friendliest birding community that I know of anywhere. We don’t compete with each other and everyone is quick to share the news when they find a good bird.

The adult male Anna's Hummingbird in Buxton - a nice addition to my 2017 NC list.

The adult male Anna’s Hummingbird in Buxton – a nice addition to my 2017 NC list.

Want to read more about Big Year birding? There is even a Wikipedia article called Big Year.  The American Birding Association (ABA) outlines the official listing rules at Listing Central and displays the numbers that ABA members have reported.  All of these birding games are made easier by using eBird, which automatically maintains many of these lists for you as well as providing alerts for “needs” and rare birds.

County Birding

This is a little different than the basic County List because it focuses on finding birds in ALL the counties in a state. One common version is 100 birds in every county. In Maryland, which has only 23 counties, they play 200 birds in every county.

50 Birds in 50 States

I have friends who are working on these lists – to see 50 species in each of the 50 US states.  What a great way to see the country!

I don't have 50 birds in Iowa yet, but this young Harris's Sparrow got my list off to a good start.

I don’t have 50 birds in Iowa yet, but this young Harris’s Sparrow got my list off to a good start.

Bird-A-Day

Bird-A-Day is a twist in which one records a different species observed every day for as many days as possible throughout the year.  In 2016, I made it through half the year recording my last new bird on July 1.  I swore that I would not do it again, but here I am deep into it in late February 2017 and plotting how I can beat last year’s attempt.

Photographed Birds

Any of the above games, but only birds that you photograph count.

Great Crested Flycatcher. One of my favorite photos.

Great Crested Flycatcher. One of my favorite photos.

Birders are creative and I’m astounded by the new things that I am learning every day. Day List? Yes, some people even keep lists for each calendar day of birds seen in any location, in any year, but on that specific day.  This list of lists could go on and on, but I’ll quit now and leave it up to you to find more or even invent your own birding game.  I’ve got to go look for a Woodcock now.

Read Full Post »

The morning after our arrival in Nanchang, we made the long drive to Wuyishan National Key Nature Reserve.  But first we had to have breakfast.  In China, breakfast food is frequently the same as dinner, but noodle shops are also popular.  They all looked pretty much the same, so the photo below may or may not be where we ate breakfast on our first morning.  One of the regional specialties of this area is green dumplings, which were one of my favorite foods in China.  I have no idea what was in them, but they were delicious.  On some days, we started out for birding before the noodle shops opened at 6 AM, but when we did indulge in breakfast, it was usually a bowl of noodles with a fried egg and green dumplings.

Wuyishan National Key Nature Reserve is the largest and the most comprehensive surviving semi-subtropical forest in southeast China.  While we saw devastating habitat loss in much of China, especially along the coast, the Chinese seem to be continuing twelve centuries of tradition in protecting areas in the Wuyi Mountains.  The Wuyishan Reserve became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1987 and a UNESCO World Heritage  site in 1999 .  (Wuyishan Biosphere Reserve info and Wuyishan World Heritage info.)

The reserve’s winding road to Huanggang Mountain, the highest peak in the Wuyi range at 7080 feet, provided spectacular views of the mountains, their gentle waterfalls, and changing vegetation as we ascended the mountain, progressing from tea and bamboo to evergreen broad-leaved forest to the treeless summit.  We were told that the number of visitors is limited and that the fees to enter the park are quite high.  These restrictions gave us our own private escort and we saw no other tourists during our two days in the park.  I finally found this news article which describes the restricted access to the reserve which began in 2009 to protect the environment.

Wuyishan

Wuyishan

Wuyishan National Key Nature Reserve is reputedly the easiest place in the world to see Cabot’s Tragopan, a vulnerable species which is endemic to southeast China.  We were fortunate to find this splendid male on our first afternoon in the reserve.

Cabot's Tragopan

Cabot’s Tragopan

We observed him from our minibus for 20 minutes, only a few feet from the road feeding in small trees.  No words are adequate to describe that head, but the rest of the bird was equally fascinating.  The pattern on his back looked like it was created with intricate bead work which seemed to fade to lace on the ends of the wings and tail.  That tragopan was the most gorgeous bird I’ve ever seen.

Cabot's Tragopan

Cabot’s Tragopan

The next morning we headed for the summit at 4:30 AM, but dense mist and high wind made for poor visibility and not much fun.  We had rain in the afternoon which became heavier during the night.  In between the showers, though, we did see some nice birds including the following.

Pygmy Wren-babbler (Pnoepyga pusilla, now called Pygmy Cupwing)

Pygmy Wren-babbler (Pnoepyga pusilla, now called Pygmy Cupwing)

Fujian Fulvetta

Fujian Fulvetta

White-browed Shrike-babbler

White-browed Shrike-babbler

Hartert's Warbler

Hartert’s Warbler

On our last morning in the Wuyishan Reserve, we drove to the summit again and were much luckier with the weather than we had been the previous morning.

Wuyishan summit

Wuyishan summit

We missed the Upland Pipits that we’d hoped for, but all had nice views of Rosy Pipits and a few other birds including this Brown Bush Warbler.

Brown Bush Warbler

Brown Bush Warbler

A monument proudly proclaimed that we were at the highest peak of the Wuyi Mountains.

Wuyishan was my favorite part of the trip, so I was sad to leave, but we had more wonderful birds to see in other places, so it was back in our minibus for the long afternoon drive to Wuyuan.  Our target there was Courtois’s Laughingthrush, one of the world’s rarest birds with a wild population estimated at 200 – 250 individuals.  Much has been written about its rediscovery in 2000; previously it was known only from two museum specimens collected in 1919.  For a thorough accounting of the story see Little-known Oriental Bird: Courtois’s Laughingthrush.  Since that report, the Courtois’s Laughingthrush has been awarded full species status.

To say that I was not disappointed would be a huge understatement.  Here was a bird that was not only rare, but it was big, beautiful, colorful and gregarious.  Unlike most other Laughingthrushes, Courtois’s Laughingthrush nests in loose colonies.  We were fortunate to observe nest-building, mutual preening, and much interaction between the 50 or so birds in the area that we visited.

Courtois's Laughingthrush

Courtois’s Laughingthrush

The little island in the middle of a river running by a small rural village where we saw the Courtois’s Laughingthrush was quite interesting.  The large trees on the island where the birds nest have been protected by the villagers for centuries and are probably the reason that the birds still survive.  The island was shared with many other bird species, dozens of chickens running around, and a water buffalo grazing.  In addition to our group, there were about about a dozen Chinese photographers admiring the Laughingthrushes.

In the river surrounding the island with the Courtois’s Laughingthrushes, we saw these gorgeous drake Mandarin Ducks.

Mandarin Ducks

Mandarin Ducks

Other great birds in Wuyuan included White-browed Laughingthrushes.

White-browed Laughingthrushes

White-browed Laughingthrushes

Also found nearby was a Long-billed Plover.  This species is not rare or endangered, but it was a target bird for the trip as its range is limited to East Asia.

Long-billed Plover

Long-billed Plover

On our second morning at Wuyuan, we had a surprising view of two Chinese Bamboo-partridges fighting on the side of the road.  This is a species rarely seen in the open.

Chinese Bamboo-partridge

Chinese Bamboo-partridge

Chinese Pond Heron is a common bird in China and I enjoyed seeing them in their finest breeding plumage.  In non-breeding plumage, they are just plain brown birds.

Chinese Pond Heron

Chinese Pond Heron

After three full days in Wuyuan, it was time to head to the airport once again for our flight to Fuzhou and the last part of our birding trip.

Thanks again to Tony Mills for the generous use of his photos in this post. For more of Tony’s work, see Photo Art by Tony Mills and Not Just Birds.

Read Full Post »