Sichuan is a fantastic destination for any natural history enthusiast. Within reasonably easy reach of Chengdu, and its international airport, lies an exciting diversity of habitat. From the butterfly rich farmland and rivers of the Sichuan basin, rising to sub-tropical mountain forest at sites like Wawu and Emei and then peaking in the spectacular Tibetan Plateau mountain ranges of the west, with their rolling grasslands, and the sub-alpine forest. The geographic placement of Sichuan also promotes the widest range of biodiversity found within the palearctic. Lying in Western China - situated in a biological transition zone where the East and Central Asian zones of the Palearctic border with the Indo-Malayan ecozone, – its natural-history is a rich mix of the temperate and sub-tropical.
Pictures from left to right; Blue Eared Pheasant, Himalayan Griffon, White-capped Water Redstart, Black-necked Crane, Blood Pheasant, Giant Laughingthrush
Sichuan can boast a bird list of well over 500 species and our guides have been involved in longer summer trips were over 300 of these have been spotted. With current taxonomy trends that constantly split and lump species, we can presently include over 50 resident and breeding endemics in that list, which further adds to Sichuan’s popularity with world birders. Maybe the jewels in the crown species are the pheasants, with stunners like Golden and Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, The Eared Pheasants and Chinese Monal being a major draw. But even for the more relaxed bird enthusiast, one who doesn’t want dawn starts, long birding treks and hours of spotting scope scanning, there is still much to enjoy. Huge Griffon Vultures and maybe a Lammergeier sailing over the craggy peaks of Balang Mountain or vividly coloured Sunbirds joining a mixed flock of small songbirds, who are angrily responding to the daytime calls of a Collared Owlet. For more information on Sichuan birds, please read here.
Pictures from left to right; Young Tibetan Macaque, Tibetan wolf, Moupin Pika, Chinese Desert Cat, Asiatic Black Bear, Blue Sheep
Sichuan’s rich biodiversity is also reflected in its mammal list, with the province holding around 40% of China’s species. The province boasts some of the world’s most iconic animals – Giant Panda, Red Panda and Snow Leopard are all on the local menu. Over recent years increasing numbers of visitors have taken trips that focus on mammal watching/photography and we have been able to log up a lists of over 40 species – especially when trips spend time on the Tibetan Plateau where wolf is a regular sighting and plateau endemics like Tibetan Fox and Tibetan Gazelle are still plentiful. Much of the watching is done during night drives, where guides use powerful spotlights, locating animals by eye-shine. The best Sichuan seasons for mammal watching are autumn, early winter and early spring. On the Tibetan plateau, summer watching can also give good results. For more information on Sichuan Mammals please read here.
Pictures from left to right; Tabby, Chinese Nawab, Saphir, Spotted Sergeant, Chinese Yellow Swallowtail, Yellow Coster
During the summer months, Sichuan offers some great Butterfly watching, with many interesting species found at all altitudes. There are excellent photographic opportunities, and a collection of Sichuan Butterfly pictures can be found here.