Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds

Animalstuffstore WeChat-Image_20230218060343-630x306 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

Wawushan is a bizarre sort of mountain – it’s virtually flat on the high. The truth is, it’s the world’s second-largest desk mountain with a most altitude of 3,522 meters. 

In some ways, birding Wawushan is a nightmare for a solitary and crowd-hating birder like me. It’s a Chinese language vacationer place – the crowds should not big by Chinese language requirements (there are most likely twenty instances as many vacationers at close by Emei Shan on the identical time), however there isn’t any method of escaping them. An unnamed chook information referred to as them “avoidless vacationers”, which sums it up slightly properly. Most of them had introduced youngsters alongside as effectively (most likely amongst my least favourite mammals), which had been pulled on gaudily coloured snowboarding sleds by their hapless mother and father, creating a relentless raucous noise.

Add to this that in the entire about 4 km walkway on high of the mountain, there have been fixed loudspeaker messages warning of the hazards of slipping on the icy path, and the primary (and second and third) impressions of Wawushan had been decidedly unfavorable.

Thankfully, security appeared to be a precedence at Wawushan. So, for instance, there was ample warning of the hazard of snow.

Elsewhere, ongoing development solid some doubts about the way forward for the place.

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A pity, as total the habitat seemed slightly good (I’ve discovered that to pose as an skilled birder, it helps to steadily touch upon presumed habitat high quality).

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So, all this makes birding this place an often lower than nice expertise. Nevertheless, it’s nonetheless value it, if just for the parrotbills, 4 of which I encountered right here inside just a few hours.

A couple of basic phrases about parrotbills to satisfy my academic obligation in direction of you, the valued reader. The household has about 37 species, however that features a number of fulvettas – solely 21 of the species have “parrotbill” of their names (and albeit, the payments of fulvettas don’t seem like these of parrots in any respect).

Up to now, when making an attempt to uncover the evolutionary relationship of parrotbills, Bearded Reedlings had been used as research objects, as apparently this species is less complicated to pay money for (source). The drawback is that this isn’t a typical parrotbill in any respect – it’s a bit just like the outdated joke of looking for your keys not the place you misplaced them, however the place there may be loads of mild to facilitate the analysis.

The Wikipedia entry on parrotbills has a protracted part on their wrestle to keep away from being parasitized by cuckoos. One fascinating paper argues that opposite to what may appear logical, cuckoos don’t intention to put eggs particularly into the nests of these parrotbills whose egg coloration and sample match their very own. The rationale consists of the pace of the laying (too quick to examine for coloration matches) and the low variety of egg-laying makes an attempt (i.e., it’s uncommon {that a} feminine cuckoo decides to not deposit an egg, which ought to be frequent if egg matching was an necessary facet). The paper concludes that “cuckoo egg laying, primarily based on the looks of their very own eggs, is maladaptive for host choice”. (I just like the phrase “maladaptive” and can attempt to sneak it into my on a regular basis dialog sooner or later – even when solely speaking to my cats. “Cease biting me, Wolfie – that is maladaptive conduct!”).

So, 4 species of parrotbill right here, presumably additionally vocalizing, although this can’t be heard because of the loud noise of the plastic sleds grinding over ice and sand, and loud mother and father with their louder youngsters.

My favourite right here was the Fulvous Parrotbill, one of many smaller and extra colourful parrotbills. It was a tremendous sight to have a flock of about 50 of them flying straight towards me, although ultimately skillfully avoiding me to succeed in the opposite facet of the highway, like a military of extremely subtle, quick, and colourful drones.

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A paper on breeding of the species was truly researched proper right here at Wawushan. Sadly, their total nesting success was solely 18%. The authors speculate that “human disturbance (i.e. vacationer mountain climbing on paths near nest websites) may immediate nest desertion inflicting the low reproductive success of fulvous parrotbill within the reserve”.

Animalstuffstore Fulvous-Parrotbill_DSC5553_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x510 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

My guess is that there have been far fewer vacationers in 2014, when the paper was researched, than in 2023 …

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In accordance with the HBW, the Brown Parrotbill differs from the very comparable Three-toed Parrotbill “primarily in having darker crown, brow not noticeably paler, blacker supercilium (notably behind eye), darker and hotter upperparts, warmer-looking wings, browner tail, darker-looking head facet with extra contrasting pinkish-silver streaks or mottling, paler throat, greyer and paler underparts”. That’s the sort of detailed description I personally discover extra complicated than useful, revealing my limitations as a birder. Extra memorably, and extra useful to me, Bella from Alpinebirding (my information at Wawushan) informed me that the Brown Parrotbill appears extra aggressive to her.

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Some Chinese language researchers discovered one (1) nest of a Brown Parrotbill at Gaoligongshan and wrote a paper on it. Environment friendly use of the restricted useful resource parrotbill nests, I suppose.

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The Three-toed Parrotbill is the one passerine with solely three toes, in keeping with the HBW.

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Generally, at parrotbill household conventions, an uncle from this species shocks the chicks of different parrotbill species by exhibiting them his toes. By no means fails to startle them.

“See, solely three!”

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As soon as they’ve recovered from their preliminary shock, the uncle explains to them that his Latin species title paradoxus (“unusual, unbelievable, extraordinary”) might be additionally derived from this peculiarity.

Animalstuffstore Three-toed-Parrotbill_DSC5979_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x473 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

The Nice Parrotbill not too long ago unsuccessfully petitioned to be renamed to Large Parrotbill, citing the panda instance as proof of the advantages of getting this title. Nevertheless, it was identified to the chook that the recognition of the Large Panda is predicated extra on its similarity to plush toys, its relative rarity, and its remarked incapability to steer a wholesome intercourse life than on its particular title.

Animalstuffstore Great-Parrotbill_DSC6107_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x436 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

It’d extra sense to ask for its Latin species title to be modified – “Conostoma aemodium” to me appears like an sickness or therapy for a digestion downside, although in actuality aemodium will not be a diarrhea therapy however means “of the Himalayas”. Nonetheless, I may perceive a chook worrying concerning the affiliation.

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In 1980, an American and not using a highschool diploma was 2.6 instances extra prone to be married inside his or her personal group than random matching would predict. By 2013, this ratio had elevated to 7.2 (source). Paraphrasing from this supply, as a consequence of this stronger assortative mating on the backside of the academic distribution, extra youngsters are born into households the place each mother and father are negatively chosen when it comes to human capital, which can in flip lead to elevated inequality. In Elliot’s Laughingthrush, assortative mating can be observed.

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Certainly, constructive assortative mating, primarily based on culmen size, tarsus size, and physique mass, was discovered throughout breeding pairs.

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Or in different phrases, “The wealthy get richer and the poor get poorer” (Shelley), or regardless of the equal of wealth is in avian phrases (you’ll be able to inform I’ve written about Elliot’s Laughingthrush earlier than and am operating out of fascinating issues to say concerning the species).

Hemoglobin is a key molecule in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the person cells requiring it for his or her metabolism. Apparently (notably for a chemist like me), there are variations inside the hemoglobin of the identical chook species relying on whether or not the species lives at excessive or low altitudes. Particularly, Gray-crested Tits dwelling at excessive altitudes had been proven to have a extra environment friendly hemoglobin variant (source).

Animalstuffstore Grey-crested-Tit_DSC5422_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x457 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

At Wawushans 3500 meters of altitude, you higher use good hemoglobin.

Animalstuffstore Grey-crested-Tit_DSC5655_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x463 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

The gorgeous crimson eyes of the species are additionally value mentioning, I feel …

Animalstuffstore Grey-crested-Tit_DSC5395_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x505 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

The one that got here up with the Latin species title apparently did so after a protracted day of tedious work, thus missing any inspiration or specificity. This resulted in “dichrous“, or two-colored.

Animalstuffstore Grey-crested-Tit_DSC5513_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x485 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

And naturally, there have been quite a few Rufous-vented Tits. Nevertheless, as the primary a part of the species title makes it more durable to crack unhealthy semi-pornographic jokes, I cannot additional touch upon this chook on this publish.

Animalstuffstore Rufous-vented-Tit_DSC5719_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x619 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

That leaves the Gray-hooded Fulvetta, a chook that to me appears far more enticing than the title or the eBird description (“small brown chook with a bulbous grey head and staring white eyes”) suggests.

Animalstuffstore Grey-hooded-Fulvetta_DSC4919_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x538 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

Really, the HBW description is even much less interesting: “Small brownish, plain-headed and nondescript fulvetta”, once more main me to consider that a number of the HBW contributors is perhaps happier switching to different jobs which are much less targeted on birds.

Animalstuffstore Grey-hooded-Fulvetta_DSC4944_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x468 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

Non-intuitively (not less than to me), the Gray-hooded Fulvetta can be a member of the parrotbill household, the Paradoxornithidae. At the least till the subsequent reorganization of the avian household tree.

Animalstuffstore Grey-hooded-Fulvetta_DSC4975_Wawushan-Feb-02-2023-630x432 Birding Wawushan, Sichuan – 10,000 Birds Bird

Whereas Large Pandas are celebrated in as we speak’s China, this was not all the time the case. In pre-communist China, Large Pandas had been thought of the aristocrats amongst Chinese language mammals. Predictably, that received them into bother throughout the cultural revolution – they had been denounced as belonging to the “5 Black Classes” (although it was by no means precisely clarified to which of the 5 undesirable classes they belonged to – the landlords, wealthy farmers, counter-revolutionaries, unhealthy influencers or right-wingers). Many Large Pandas had been despatched to the countryside for reeducation. And for a lot of of them, it worked- they rehabilitated themselves, tailored, and gave up a few of their grandiose postures and lazy way of life in addition to their aristocratic black-and-white look. To point and acknowledge these adjustments, these pandas had been henceforth given the honorary new title “Crimson Panda”.

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After all, now that China has modified and Large Pandas are again in style and even celebrated, some Crimson Pandas remorse their transformation. They now have to search out their very own meals whereas many Large Pandas lead an opulent life, being fed fastidiously chosen bamboo and watching panda porn all day.

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