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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

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  • Photograph of Giant Panda

    A rare photograph of a wild Giant Panda, taken in the Foping Reserve by Coke & Som Smith when foreign visitors were welcomed.

    CENTRAL CHINA

    Best Wildlife in Central China

    Mammals
    Golden Snub-nosed Monkey, Golden (Sichuan) Takin, Chinese Serow, Chinese Goral, Forest Musk and Tufted Deer, Reeve's Muntjac, Leopard Cat, Tibetan Macaque, Malayan Porcupine, Chinese Ferret Badger, Hog Badger, Masked Palm Civet and Confucian Niviventer. Also a slim chance of Giant Panda (most likely Feb-Jun and Aug-Nov, especially mid-March to April, and the first half of November), as well as Red-and-white Flying Squirrel, (Asiatic) Black Bear and Yellow-throated Marten.

    Photograph of Ibisbill

    There are plenty of great birds to see in addition to the mammals in Central China, not least Ibisbill. This great flight shot was taken by Roger Wyatt.

    Birds
    Temminck's Tragopan, Ibisbill, Black-capped and Crested Kingfishers, (Red-billed) Blue and (Asian) Azure-winged Magpies, Wallcreeper, Gould's Sunbird, and some of China's 60 or so endemics including Golden Pheasant, Crested Ibis, Rusty-throated (Przewalski's), Spectacled and Three-toed Parrotbills, and Slaty Bunting, as well as Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Chinese Pond Heron, Golden Eagle, Grey-headed Lapwing, woodpeckers including White-backed, Long-tailed Minivet, Black-throated and Fire-capped Tits, Brown Dipper, Collared Finchbill, Fulvous and Vinous-throated Parrotbills, Plumbeous and White-capped Redstarts, Little and White-crowned Forktails, laughingthrushes, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Pygmy Cupwing, Scaly-breasted Wren Babbler, Chinese Babax, Red-billed Leiothrix, Green Shrike Babbler, Golden-breasted Fulvetta, Nutcracker, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Yellow-throated Bunting and White-winged Grosbeak. Also a chance of Koklass Pheasant, Mandarin Duck, Long-billed Plover, Indian Blue Robin, White-bellied Redstart, Great Parrotbill, Maroon-backed Accentor and Grey-headed Bullfinch, and an outside chance of Blackthroat (mid-May, in Changqing and Foping NNRs). Species present during the northern summer only include Cinnamon Bittern, White-throated Needletail, Dollarbird, Swinhoe's Minivet, Asian Paradise and Blue-and-white Flycatchers, Fujian and Rufous-bellied Niltavas, Firethroat and Forest Wagtail.

    Plants
    Numerous spectacular rhododendrons, which most usually flower in April and cover whole mountain slopes in places.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Central China

    Best Times for Wildlife in Central China

    The peak times to look for Giant Panda are mid-March to April, when the females are in oestrus and being sought by males and before the growing thickness of the vegetation makes them even more difficult to see, and the first half of November, when the vegetation becomes less thick and before the winter weather sets in and makes getting about on foot much more difficult. The peak time to look for truly wild Golden Snub-nosed Monkeys is October-November, when they usually move to lower altitudes for the winter. Unfortunately neither mid-March to April nor October-November coincide with the peak time for birds, which is late May and June, when summer visitors including Asian Paradise Flycatcher are present and the territories of high altitude specialities such as Temminck's Tragopan are more accessible.

    Recommended Books etc. for Central China

    Mammals of China (Pocket Edition) edited by A Smith and Y Xie. PUP, 2013.

    A Guide to the Mammals of China by A Smith, Y Xie et al. PUP, 2008.

    The Mammals of China by Sheng Helin et al. China Forestry Publishing House, 1999.

    Bradt Travel Guide: Chinese Wildlife by M Walters. Bradt, 2008.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of China by J MacKinnon and K Phillipps. OUP, 2000.

    Helm Field Guide: Birds of East Asia by M Brazil. Helm, 2009.

    Where to watch birds in Asia by N Wheatley. Helm, 1996.

    Don’t know which country/countries/regions to visit in Asia? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them in the region, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Central China

    Many trip reports, some for Central China, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Central China. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Central China' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Central China

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Central China

    Some Organized Tours to Central China

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours or can arrange custom tours to Central China include the following.