31 days

Tibet, the very word conjures up images of one of the most exotic, forbidding and inhospitable places on earth. Impossible to visit until a few years ago, it is now feasible to travel fairly widely there. Our tour will consist of driving right across the richest part of the Tibetan Plateau, "The Roof of the World," from north to south, starting at Xining and ending up in Lhasa. First we'll drive onto the northeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau to Koko Nor and several sites for special birds to the west in the Qaidam Basin. Then we'll double back past Koko Nor and make an extensive foray into SE Qinghai Province to a special endemic area near the headwaters of several of the great Asian rivers, the Yangtze, Yellow, Mekong, and Salween. Next, we'll head south to southeastern Tibet for some more Tibetan endemics before driving west to Lhasa.

The tour is designed to give us a good opportunity to see all the Tibetan Plateau endemic bird species, as well as a number of other birds that are not readily seen anywhere else, such as:  Bar-headed Goose, Yellow-nib Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Lammergeier, Upland Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Tibetan Snowcock,  Buff-throated (Szechenyi's Monal-),  Rusty-necklaced,  Daurian and Tibetan Partridges,  Blood Pheasant, White and Tibetan Eared Pheasants, Black-necked Crane, Ibisbill, Great and Brown-headed Gulls, Tibetan (with luck) and Pallas's Sandgrouse, Snow Pigeon, Derbyan Parakeet, Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Little Owl, Tibetan, Mongolian, Hume's and Asian Larks, Pale Martin, Yellow-hooded Wagtail, Rufous-tailed and Chinese Grey-Shrikes, Alpine, Robin and Brown Accentors, Siberian and White-tailed Rubythroats, Ala Shan, White-throated, White-winged and White-bellied Redstarts, Isabelline, Desert and Pied Wheatears, Chestnut and White-backed Thrushes, Giant and Tibetan (Koslov's) Babaxes, Brown-cheeked (Prince Henri's) Laughingthrush, Yellow-throated and Streak-throated Fulvettas, Beautiful Sibia, Spotted and Chinese Bush-Warblers, 12 Phylloscopus warblers (including Yellow-streaked, Gansu Leaf-, Chinese Leaf- and Hume's), Black-faced Warbler, Small Whitethroat, White-browed and Crested Tit-Warblers, Vivid Niltava, Black-browed Tit, Songar and White-browed Tits, Tibetan Ground-Tit (Hume's Ground-Jay or Groundpecker), Wallcreeper, Gould's Sunbird, Pine and Tibetan (Koslov's) Buntings, Plain and Black-headed Mountain-Finches, Mongolian and Desert Finches, 10 rosefinches (including Pink-tailed [Przevalski's], Pink-bellied, Pale, Streaked, Great, Red-fronted and Tibetan [Roborowski's]), Crimson-browed and Scarlet Finches, Brown and Grey-headed Bullfinches, Spot-winged Grosbeak, Rock Petronia, 6 snowfinches, and Mongolian Ground-Jay. There are some interesting mammals: Tibetan Wild Ass, wolf and Blue Sheep -- and even the remote possibility of seeing a Snow Leopard. We saw a Pallas's Cat on our 1998 trip.

This is by far the most physically demanding tour we offer, involving raw weather (cold, ice, rain, mud, snow, etc.), poor accommodations (unheated, basic buildings), basic food, and high altitudes (3 weeks over 3,300 m. [11,000 ft.], birding up to 4,800 m. [15,850 ft.]). NO camping. Yes, it will be a difficult trip, which is why so few have done or will ever do it. The rewards are some uniquely fascinating birds and some of the most magnificent scenery on earth. Leader: Ben King.