China: Winter Highlights

This short-format tour begins in Beijing to search primarily for wintering Japanese Waxwing, Siberian Accentor and Pallas's Rosefinch, before heading south 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 (including Hainan Partridge and Hainan Peacock-Pheasant which are now both visiting feeding hides), 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

15-28 February 2025

Tour length: 14 days

Group size limit: 7


Joshua Bergmark and a local leader

Spaces available

The feeding hides on Hainan are now stable, so we can expect high chance of success with Hainan Partridge and Hainan Peacock-Pheasant on this tour.

Despite travel to China sometimes being viewed with trepidation, foreign bird tours to the country have been running successfully in 2024. Participants experienced no issues obtaining visas, ground logistics are running smoothly, and the birding is excellent!

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 . We will have time to swing by any spots hosting flocks of Japanese Waxwing, which are usually (but not always!) present at this time of year before an evening flight to Nanchang.

Day 4-5: One of the most astounding sites in the world for wintering waterbirds, Poyang Lake is 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. 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 near Poyang Lake.

Day 6: Morning at Poyang Lake for any remaining species before driving south to Wuyuan after lunch. Night in Wuyuan.

Day 7: 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, Brown Crake, Moustached Laughingthrush, Masked Laughingthrush, Short-tailed Parrotbill, Yellow-browed Bunting, and a small chance for Long-billed Plover. We will spend a full day in the valley and overnight again in Wuyuan.

Day 8: Early drive back to Nanchang before removing our winter clothing and flying to Sanya on the south coast of tropical Hainan! We will arrive at Jianfengling in time for an afternoon session in the hides today.

Day 9-10: Two more full days inside Jianfengling National Nature Reserve. We hope to also successfully see Hainan Partridge and the previously mythical Hainan Peacock-Pheasant which have both been regularly visting feeding hides since 2022! Other main targets are the endemic Hainan Leaf Warbler and “Swinhoe’s” Black-throated Laughingthrush, while near-endemic specialties include Chinese Barbet, Rufous-cheeked Laughingthrush, Ratchet-tailed Treepie, Yellow-billed Nuthatch, plus the Hainan subspecies of Pale Blue Flycatcher and Fork-tailed Sunbird. Red-headed Trogon and Grey-headed Parrotbill are fairly common, while “Hainan” White-winged Magpie is very rare, but has been seen in the area. Spotlighting could produce Oriental Bay Owl and Mountain Scops Owl. Nights at Jianfengling.

Day 11: 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 12-13: Our time in Nonggang NNR will primarily focus on finding the near-endemic Nonggang Babbler, known from a tiny region of limestone karst forest bordering Vietnam. It descends from the limestone pinnacles in winter to visit feeding hides, so we hope to have some excellent views! 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, Black-throated Laughingthrush, Streaked Wren Babbler and Buff-breasted Babbler. Occasionally the tricky Bar-backed Partridge visits hides here too (luck is required), however we can also search in the forest. Both the mythical White-eared Night Heron and beautiful Blue-naped Pitta have been available in recent winters for visiting birders – we will certainly go for them if at all possible! We will drive back to Nanning in the evening on Day 13.

Day 14: Taking the morning flight to Guangzhou International Airport (CAN), the tour ends with a transfer to the international terminal mid-morning.

We can assist in arranging any targeted extensions either with Ornis, or directly with our local leader. Possibilities might include Relict Gull, Reeves’s Pheasant, or even a day to see the Great Wall.

Tour details

$ 5,200
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 400

We have included ample time at each site so the trip is not too rushed, which is important if any of the target birds are only visiting their respective hides once per day.

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.