Chindwin Giant Flying Squirrel
Chindwin Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista sybilla) is generally considered as a member of the Spotted Giant Flying Squirrel (P. elegans) complex. It is similar to Grey-headed Giant Flying Squirrel (P.caniceps), which is another Central China species, but lacks the same extent of grey on its head. These are smaller Giant Flying Squirrels and when seen in the field they are easily seen to be much smaller than larger species such as Red and White. We mostly see this species at Labahe, mainly on rocks or concrete coverings to unstable rock surfaces, where the animals seem to able to lick salt or other minerals. Like other flying squirrels they are nocturnal.

 

Red and White Giant Flying Squirrel
Red and White Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista alborufus), with a total body/tail length of around one metre, is the largest Flying Squirrel we see in Sichuan. At Labahe it’s a regular sighting and is most easily seen during night trips on the cliff areas bordering the main access road. With its distinctive colouration it’s among the easiest of the flying squirrels to identify. Like the other species it is often inactive, sitting still for long period on rock ledges or tree branches but occasionally we get to see it glide distances that must equal 50 metres or more. Flying Squirrels have padded paws that cushion the impact of landing, which must be especially hard when coming to ground on cliff faces.

 

Red and White Giant Flying daytime Squirrel
Like the other species, Red and White Giant Flying Squirrel use cavities and can be found living in either tree holes or cliff crevices. Occasionally, especially when disturbed, there is a chance to get daytime views but feeding activity, which consists of leaves, nuts, fruits and reportedly insects and larvae, is only observed at night.

 

Red Giant Flying Squirrel
Red Giant Flying Squirrel (Petaurista petaurista) is only slightly smaller than Red and White and shares a rich rufous pelage. However, it’s easy to identify since it doesn’t share the distinctive white face of Red and White and we generally find it in lower, lusher habitats where it can be seen in forest situations with larger trees that are old enough to provide suitable cavities. This species is common in the Emei Mountain area.

 

Red Giant Flying Squirrel daytime
Red Giant Flying Squirrel seen emerging from a tree cavity, this species will emerge in daylight when disturbed. Flying squirrels use latrines and piles of their droppings can be found on forest floors. The droppings are used in tradition Chinese medicine as a blood circulation stimulant – but, so far, the author hasn’t been brave enough to try it out!

 

Pere David's Rock Squirrel
As its name suggests, Pere David’s Rock Squirrel (Sciurotamias davidianus), spends more time among boulders and around rock faces and even on rocky forest floors will rarely climb vegetation. It nests in crevices/holes in rocky ground and Tangjiahe is a good site to find it, where is can often be see crossing the road or feeding around large boulders. It’s a smallish, dark squirrel with a distinctive eye ring and is quite widespread and locally common in suitable habitat. It also gives a distintive peep type call that, when first heard, can be confused for a bird call.This species is a China endemic.

 

Perny;s Long-nosed Squirrel
Perny’s Long-nosed Squirrel (Dremomys pernyi) is around the same size are Pere David’s Rock Squirrel and also forages on the ground. However, this species will readily climb and is fully arboreal. Its head shape doesn’t really live up to its name since the length of its nose isn’t a very distinctive feature. For identification It lacks the eye-ring of the rock squirrel and, when climbing, can be told from Pallas’s by it pale belly and smaller size. It seems active throughout the day rather than being more crepuscular like the pallas’s.

 

Pallas's Squirrel
Pallas’s Squirrel (Callosciurus erythraeus) is a larger arboreal species that is easily identified by its rufous belly. Without seeing branch movement, it can be difficult to find but is often located by it distinctively harsh call. It seems most active around dawn and dusk when the call is commonly heard. This is an animal we most often spot at lower woodland/plantation areas and it is common in the forested hills around Dujiangyan/Qingcheng Mountain.

 

Swinhoe's Striped Squirrel
Swinhoe’s Striped Squirrel (Tamiops swinhoei) is a small chipmunk like squirrel that’s easily recognised by the striping of its dorsal pelage. It’s found in alpine woodland/forest, where it can often be seen in mossy shrub type vegetation. A widespread species in suitable habitat but attention must be paid to identification in Northern Sichuan, where the far less common Siberian Chipmunk also has a distribution. The higher parts of Labahe hold this species and it is often seen at that site when looking for Red Panda.

 

Alashan Ground Squirrel
Alashan Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus alashanicus) is a species we only encounter in Qinghai. It is a ground burrowing animal and we find it in the dry semi-desert type habitat that surrounds Xining. This species is a China endemic.

 

Himalayan Marmot
Himalayan Marmot (Marmota himalayana) is a grassland species that’s found on high alpine pasture and the grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau. It lives in family groups in large burrow complexes and in favoured habitat can easily be seen surveying their surroundings from ridge tops close to their home burrows. It’s a vocal animal and has a loud multi-note call that sounds very wader like. Family groups often congregate and young animals can often be seen ‘playing.’ However, the adults are large animal and we have seen Tibetan Foxes being chased off when approaching too close. The Marmot hibernates, and when the first cold spells hit the plateau in October their activity decreases, while November sees them totally disappear from our sightings. Carrying fleas that transmit bubonic plague it’s not a good idea to get too near marmots – which is a possibility it you find a freshly killed animal.