Sunday, 15 October 2017

Gutian - Lianghua National Forest Park

We had a planned weekend trip to Gutian with Captain, Brother Kei and Yuen in mid October, however Yuen was suddenly unavailable due to work, so it was just the three of us. Gutian is one of the closest and larger forest reserves to Hong Kong, although it had never been considered a prime site. Approximately 70km away from Hong Kong, this is quite a good site for a weekend trip.

After dinner together at San Tin we took the Cross Border Yellow Bus at Futian and drove all the way to Huidong, there were slight traffic at Shenzhen but not as bad as expected. We got to the hotel at around 10pm. It was only then that Brother Kei was informed he needed to attend a business lunch back in Hong Kong the next day, which meant that he won't be able to bird with us, but he would drive us up to Gutian and return to pick us up later in the evening.

After a quick breakfast of pork buns and dumplings the next morning we drove straight towards the town of Lianghua and towards the 008 Country Road. The actual forest reserve is closed off to public like many other forest reserves in China, therefore we could only go around the north side on the outskirt of the reserve. We drove up the 008 Country Road and towards Lianghua Forest Farm, there's a gate saying "Lianghua National Forest Park" but these seems to be unfinished, to our understanding this area is famous for the plum plantations and attracts some tourists during the flowering season. 

The country road was quite quiet in the morning, we barely encountered a single car or a person. We just got past one of the plum plantations and to a sharp hairpin turn when I suddenly saw two birds perched next to the road, the pair were flushed and fluttered away in a way only Trogons could! I immediately shouted "Trogon!". It was very fortunate that I already had my camera out of my bag, as I quickly got out of the car and fired a few shots at a male perched on a banana tree! This was very unexpected, as this species had never been recorded at this site, and the known closest location to Hong Kong had been Nankunshan, approximately 150km away from Hong Kong, this is therefore a huge advancement southwards of this species, and a step closer to their recolonisation (I hope)!

Red-headed Trogon - male (yamakanensis)

Our car continued up the hill, we stopped approximately 700m elevation. Brother Kei dropped us off and off he went. Captain and I continued walking up, the forest track was easy going and seemed quite newly paved. Along the I spotted a Dark-sided Flycatcher perched on top of a dead tree. We also flushed a Woodcock along the track but it flew away quickly.

008 Country Road

Orchid by the road side

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Polyspora axillaris were flowering, this seems to have attracted a lot of Fork-tailed Sunbirds. Huet's Fulvetta is common here and we encountered several flocks. A single Orange-bellied Leafbird made an appearance, while White-bellied Epornis seems to be another very common species here, with up to six in one flock, which is more unusual in Hong Kong where we often see singles or pairs in a flock.

Polyspora axillaris

Fork-tailed Sunbird

Orange-bellied Leafbird - female

White-bellied Epornis

We walked further up but with little success, and upon seeing a sign that say "Military Zone, No Photographing", we decided it was time to turn back and head down hill. Things were in general quiet, and we didn't encounter much bird waves. A Slaty-backed Forktail was spotted along a small stream, a very much expected species in almost all forest reserves in Guangdong, they absent in most streams in Hong Kong is still a mystery to me. Grey Treepies were common, we also got a few Blue Magpies, as well as common forest species like Scarlet Minivets, Grey-chinned Minivets, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Red-billed Leiothrix and Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers and so on...After hearing the Bay Woodpecker calling twice we finally caught up with one, but it never allowed good views.

Slaty-backed Forktail

Grey Treepie

Bay Woodpecker - requires a bit of imagination...

The ground was littered with many Stag Beetles, of which species I am not entirely sure but they were extremely common, although most were already dead. The weather had became much cooler but also quite windy, it was only 16 degrees up the highest part, but temperature hovered around 20 degrees throughout the day. Around the plum plantations we saw a few trees already blossoming, a strange time to blossom as I usually expect them to flower sometime in January. The habitat around the plantation is quite disturbed, adding a few species such as Long-tailed Shrike, Greater Coucal and Oriental Magpie Robin.

Stag Beetle sp.

Overlooking plum plantation

Long-tailed Shrike

Soon after we arrived back at the location where we saw the Trogons, we walked around there slowly, and soon flushed the male near the small stream. It perched up on the tree briefly for me to take a photo, the female was later found perched on a banana tree. Around the same area we added Emerald Dove, as well as an Orange-headed Thrush which also showed briefly.

Location of the Trogons

Red-headed Trogon - subspecies yamakanensis

Orange-headed Thrush

We took a nap at a temple, resting our tired legs. Wind was picking up and it certainly felt quite cold, especially when I didn't have any jacket with me. Birding was pretty slow in the afternoon, although we added Crested Goshawk and Besra. Chestnut Bulbuls and Mountain Bulbuls were both quite numerous. Two Ashy Drongos perched on the overhead cables. We also heard Chinese Bamboo Partridges calling. One of the better find in the afternoon was probably a single male Verditer Flycatcher, although it was quite distant.


Chestnut Bulbul

Mountain Bulbul

Ashy Drongo - leucogensis

Verditer Flycatcher - male

We got to the park entrance at around 5pm. The car park area was overgrown and felt strangely abandoned, but it seems many of the things were relatively new, including the gates. Why have they built them and left them be I have no idea, could be the fact that they don't have enough money? Either way, they have a park map which indicates the things they intend to build within the park, and I have a feeling that if they were to build them in the near future, this park will become much more popular and packed with tourists. At the meantime we were able to enjoy some peace and quiet.

Brother Kei didn't arrive to pick us up until 7pm, so we sat around for quite a bit. We listened out for owls but nothing much except a very distant Mountain Scops Owl. We spotted an Indochinese Forest Rat carrying some leafs along the roof of the park entrance, perhaps for making it's nest?

Car park near park entrance

Indochinese Forest Rat

All in all, I felt that Gutian holds enough interesting species to make it worthwhile for a short visit, although nothing majorly exciting, but given time there are certainly potential for more good findings, including Silver Pheasants which seems quite likely to occur here. Although the future planning for this area is uncertain due to the construction for the forest park, which could alter the quietness we experienced on this trip.


  1. Interesting finds! I wonder how you discover these great locations?

    1. Thanks Colin, Gutian had been visited before by other birders from Hong Kong, but not frequently, a lot of the time it was just looking on the map for possible good spots and just go there to see, if we're lucky like this time we find some interesting birds.