Tuesday, June 9, 2009

China - raptors

Too busy for words in the field season but will squeeze in a quick post to finish off the China series while I can.

There were some great raptors on show in China, although not nearly as many species as in India. One of my favourite experiences was watching the huge Himalayan Griffons sailing around the cliffs high in the mountains, using updrafts and soaring over the valleys. At one point I walked up to a ridge only to be greeted by the huge bill of one of these magnificent birds riding the current and coming straight up the cliff face… for a split second I thought we might have a head-on collision but the huge bird cleared my head by a few metres… needless to say I was awestruck. The series below shows them from several angles – the first from a distance to show how they sail over the forest, the others up close and personal.

Another extremely impressive raptor of the Himalaya is the Lammergeier. This huge vulture with their distinctive shape always leaves an impression… on birds as well as people!

This second image shows the Lammergeier in their habitat – above the rocky cliffs

I also enjoyed great views of the classy Upland Buzzard flying around on the Tibetan Plateau.

A rather different raptor in a rather different ecozone (down in the forest not high above the trees) from the above, this Besra (a small Accipiter) was waiting by a bat cave in the very early morning, perhaps hoping to snatch breakfast.

Switching to my favourite order – the owls – this Asian Barred Owlet pokes out from behind the foliage in the early morning

Up on the Tibetan Plateau, the huge Eurasian Eagle Owl, largest owl in the world (or perhaps equal first with Blakiston’s Fish Owl) and much bigger than their cousin the Great Horned Owl, sits on a pole at dawn before disappearing into one of the smallish copses of trees that dot the high elevation grasslands.

While nearby a Little Owl also finds the pole tops an attractive perch in the open landscape

Even in Beijing one can find interesting birds! An afternoon visit to Yiheyuan before flying out seemed doomed to be rather fruitless as rain was clearly imminent. Discouraged by the enormous number of people in the gardens and the subsequent lack of birds, not to mention the sweltering heat, I paused to remove my sweaty shirt and take a quick breather under a waterside willow. Lying on the grass I noticed a “strigidesque” lump above my head, which turned out to be none other than this beautiful Oriental Scops Owl. What a bonus! Ten minutes after I got this photo the heavens opened and the downpour began.

That's it for China - sorry for the delay. I'll try to process some photos from this summer as soon as possible!


  1. It is so interesting to see birds from another part of the world.This is perhaps the only way I will experience these birds.Thanks.

  2. Nice shots on the raptors. Love it!
    Wee Jin


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