Cabot's Tragopan

Back in 2018, We made a casual and first trip to Philippines and was humbled by Peter Ting’s all around hospitality. It was time to pay back the prodigal son of Quanzhou with a bird he wanted to see for a long time. Cabot’s Tragopan was high on his wishlist and i wanted to make sure he scored a few more new species along with the Tragopan.

Both me and Peter were not strangers to Fujian, infact Peter has roots in Fujian(Quanzhou) and i have spent atleast few weeks over the last two years looking for the pheasants and butterflies in Fujian. Spring/Summer had been extremely productive with butterflies but we saw less pheasants. This being the winter, i expected the tables to be turned. Our destination was JunFeng temple in Ziyun village. I saw my first Cabot’s Tragopan in Emeifeng few years ago but the male eluded me for several years and it was a perfect time to make up for everything.

We took the high speed train from Shanghai Hongqiao, Peter boarded at Hangzhou and it took about 4 hours to get to Sanming. Quickly, picked up the rental car at Yi Hai and a 3 hour drive saw us right infront of the Junfeng temple. There has been change in the monks who were there a year ago, the younger ones have moved on along with the temple mascot and we were met with a old monk. He said there will be some pheasants show up close to dusk. We saw a good wave passing through the bamboo consisting of White-bellied Erpornis, Grey-Chinned Minivet, Black-throated Tit, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler.

At Cabot's Tragopan temple
Elliot’s Pheasant – Male
Elliot's Pheasant at infamour Cabot's Tragopan temple
Elliot’s Pheasant – Male

First to show up was a stunning male Elliot’s Pheasant, it appeared in a blink of eye, soon followed by a big flock of immature and female silver phesants. The light was going down very fast, no signs of the Tragopan yet but there were few more female Elliot’s Pheasant arrived at the part. As many have witnessed on how the Cabot’s Tragopan shows up early in the morning and late in the evening, a male showed up just before when it went to total darkness.

Cabot's Tragopan
Legend of the WuyiShan mountain Range – Cabot’s Tragopan (Male)
Cabot's Tragopan
Total Darkness – no prob. ISO 25000, F2.8 with a shutterspeed of 1/40
Cabot's Tragopan
Cabot’s Tragopan to the left, Silver Pheasant to the right and boom photo bomber Elliot’s Pheasant in the middle

All the pheasants disappeared with the remaining light and we also paid our donations to the temple (RMB 300/person) and headed back to the village. There are few homestays in the village and we stayed with XiaoYang’s grand parents.(+8615859828858). The facilities are above par for a remote village but only downside is XiaoYang doesn’t communicate well to his parents/grandparents. Last year, they missed to pick up my friend at Sanming station and this time he din’t inform them about our visit. Despite, the warmer daytime, the evening got super cold and we tucked in early.

The next day morning, saw us led by XiaoYang’ grandfather to the edge of the forest crossing their fields, poultry farm n pig sty. A small hide made amidst the bamboo separated by a dry canal. Rufous-faced Warblers, White-crowned forktail were in the vicinity. Chinese Bamboo Partridge was heard several times and we flushed a couple enroute to the hide. 45 minutes later, we heard several calls of the Silver Pheasant and they were the first ones to come to the hide and shortly later joined by two White-necklaced Partridge.

White-necklaced Partridge
White-necklaced Partridge – named for a reason
White-necklaced Partridge
White-necklaced Partridge

After agonizingly falling short everytime when you hit the mountain ranges in Jiangxi and Fujian, this has been very satisfying to see a pair of these Partridges showing up very well. Few years before, in Emeifeng we failed to see the bird despite it was calling very loudly within a foot distance in a thick undergrowth. Even, last year at this very location, we failed to see a single bird despite several of them were making contact calls.

With all the target birds have ticked, we ventured out in hopes of finding some more passerines. This started very well with a female “Japanese Robin” popped out briefly. Both of us were caught in surprise as no one was expecting each other. Given, this is is my second only Japanese Robin, it has trumped all others birds and instantly became the bird of the trip. The roads leading to the village has been in construction for several years now which is a huge surprise as China finishes up these kind of infrastructures in a short duration. We saw more land slides on the western side of the village and there has been huge sections of road has been washed away during the autumn rains. Getting good roads here is a year around work.

Butterflies were very less in winter and i only saw about a handful of them. The two new species for me are the Tailless Plusblue (Flos areste) and Dark Cerulean (Jamides bochus)

Tailless Plushblue (Flos areste)
Dark Cerulean (Jamides bochus)

On the last morning, we quickly stopped by at checkdam and was instantly rewarded with a big wave consisting of Sultan Tit, Huet’s Fulvetta, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Yellow-cheeked Tit, White-bellied Erpornis, Grey-Chinned Minivet, Grey-headed Parrotbill, last but not least a small party of Chinese Bamboo Partridges sparring withe each other.

Extremely elegant Sultan Tit
Huet’s Fulvetta
Grey-chinned Minivet
White’s Thrush
Yellow-cheeked Tit

Bird List:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3