China: Winter Highlights

This is a short-format tour begins in Beijing to search primarily for wintering Siberian Accentor and Pallas's Rosefinch, before heading south via. Reeve's Pheasant and Crested Ibis to Poyang Lake. This magnificent wetland is a haven for hundreds of thousands of wintering waterbirds, including threatened species like Swan Goose and Lesser White-fronted Goose. But most importantly, this is now the only wintering site for the beautiful and tragically declining Siberian Crane. Nearby, we will try for Scaly-sided Merganser before heading to the tropical island of Hainan which holds several endemics, before our final session of birding almost at the southern border of this huge country will see us searching impressive limestone karst forests for the highly range-restricted Nonggang Babbler.

Next dates

12-25 January 2025

Tour length: 14 days

Group size limit: 7


Joshua Bergmark and a local leader

Spaces available

NOTE: We understand that people may be wary of booking tours to China in the current climate. Ornis is committed to objectively reassessing the situation six months before this tour, then providing a full and immediate refund of deposit should we decide to cancel it (as per our Terms & Conditions).

Day 1: Arrival into Beijing International Airport (PEK). Night in Beijing. It is important to note that this tour includes all hotel transfers and domestic flights from PEK to CAN (two of the three largest international airports in China), so participants will not need to navigate these somewhat confusing cities themselves.

Day 2: We will depart early towards Lingshan, and start our birding in the mid-morning. The cold snowbound slopes at this time of year host Siberian Accentor, Pallas’s Rosefinch, Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch, and other wintering migrants which include Cinereous Vulture, Long-tailed Rosefinch, Asian Rosy Finch, Red-throated Thrush, Naumann’s Thrush, and Güldenstädt’s Redstart. In addition, there are several resident species to look for such as Beijing Babbler, Plain Laughingthrush, Silver-throated Bushtit and Godlewski’s Bunting. Night at Lingshan.

Day 3: Full morning on-site, searching primarily for the accentor and rosefinches, before driving back to Beijing to connect with an afternoon bullet train departing south to Xinyang, near Dongzhai NNR.

Day 4: Full day birding inside Dongzhai NNR. Our primary focus here is to observe the spectacular Reeves’s Pheasant at a feeding station, but we will also target the the scarce Collared Crow and reintroduced Crested Ibis.

Day 5: Morning travelling south to Poyang Lake for afternoon birding. Poyang is renowned for wintering waterbirds, and is in fact now the sole wintering area for the beautiful Siberian Crane, often seen alongside the more numerous Hooded and White-naped Cranes. These are not the only threated waterbirds to target however, since Lesser White-fronted Goose, Swan Goose and Oriental Stork are always present in good numbers here too. We will also hope for Brown Crake, Red-billed Starling, Marsh Grassbird, Rustic Bunting, Ochre-rumped Bunting, and Yellow-browed Bunting. There is certainly potential to come across something rarer here, such as Baer’s Pochard, Chinese Grey Shrike, Chinese Penduline Tit, or Buff-bellied Pipit. Night near Poyang Lake.

Day 6: Full day at Poyang Lake looking for all the species mentioned on the previous afternoon. There will be plenty of time to also look at the more widespread species which are abundant here, including the eastern subspecies of both Taiga Bean Goose and Tundra Bean Goose, plus Greater White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swan, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, the stunning Falcated Duck, and so much more! Night at Poyang Lake.

Day 7: Morning at Poyang Lake for any remaining species we may have before driving south to Wuyuan after lunch. Night in Wuyuan.

Day 8: The main target at this time of year in Wuyuan is Scaly-sided Merganser along the river which flows through the valley. Other possibilities include Mandarin Duck, Moustached Laughingthrush, Brown Crake, Yellow-browed Bunting, and a small chance for Long-billed Plover. In the afternoon we will drive back to Nanchang before removing our winter clothing and flying to Sanya on the south coast of tropical Hainan!

Day 9: Following breakfast, we drive to Jianfengling, arriving for lunch and afternoon birding for our first Hainan endemics. Night at Jianfengling.

Days 10-11: Two full days inside Jianfengling National Nature Reserve. Our main targets are the endemic Hainan Leaf Warbler and “Swinhoe’s” Black-throated Laughingthrush. We hope to also successfully see Hainan Partridge, but the scarce Hainan Peacock-Pheasant will require great luck. Other specialties here include Chinese Barbet, Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, and the Hainan subspecies of Pale Blue Flycatcher and Fork-tailed Sunbird. Nights at Jianfengling.

Day 12: Early morning flight from Sanya to Nanning, then drive to Nonggang NNR. We will hopefully arrive in time for some initial birding. Night outside Nonggang NNR.

Day 13: Our full day inside Nonggang NNR will primarily focus on finding the near-endemic Nonggang Babbler, a species only described in 2008 and only known from a tiny region of limestone karst forest bordering Vietnam. This area has relatively low diversity and can be hard work, but we hope to also see White-winged Magpie, Indochinese Green Magpie, Limestone Leaf Warbler, White-tailed Robin, Streaked Wren Babbler and Buff-breasted Babbler. We will drive back to Nanning in the evening. Night in Nanning.

Day 14: We will take the morning flight to Guangzhou International Airport (CAN) where the tour ends mid-morning. NOTE: We can assist in arranging any targeted extensions either with Ornis, or directly with our local leader. Possibilities might include Relict Gull, Red-crowned Crane, visiting the dedicated photography hides in Sichuan, or even a day to see the Great Wall. Ibisbill and Japanese Waxwing are usually (but not always) present just outside of Beijing at this time of year, so arriving one day before the tour starts could pay off.

Tour details

$ 5,200
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ TBC

It is important to note that this tour includes all hotel transfers and domestic flights from PEK to CAN (two of the three largest international airports in China), so participants will not need to navigate these somewhat confusing cities themselves.

Accommodation: Comfortable hotels throughout.

Walking difficulty: Mostly easy roadside birding and short forest trails.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.