Ba Da Gong Shan 八大公山

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birding southeast china



This reserve comprises three disconnected areas and some excellent temperate hill forest where the birds include a number of species on the edge of their predominantly south-west China range. The rugged high country is suitable for cattle and the sound of tinkling cowbells is an evocative feature of this remote area. The lookout tower in the eastern section gives a beautiful view over rolling hills covered by pristine temperate forest.


Key Species

Temminck’s Tragopan, Spotted Laughingthrush, Elliot’s Laughingthrush, Streak-throated Fulvetta, Black-headed Sibia, White-collared Yuhina, Blue-throated Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Bunting, Vinaceous Rosefinch. Koklass Pheasant, Reeves’s Pheasant, Golden Pheasant and Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher have also been recorded.


Other Species

Common Pheasant, Asian House Martin, Olive-backed Pipit, Collared Finchbill, Brown-breasted Bulbul, Chinese Babax, White-browed Laughingthrush, Black-chinned Yuhina, Brown Bush Warbler, Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Blyth’s Leaf Warbler, Golden Spectacled Warbler, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Ferruginous Flycatcher, Green-backed Tit, Gould’s Sunbird.


Other Wildlife

Asiatic Black Bear, Leopard, Serow, Pangolin, Giant Salamander.



West section: Yellow-throated Bunting breeds around Ba Da Gong Shan village. Most of the other interesting birds are found around the reserve station. White-collared Yuhina and Elliot’s Laughingthrush are the commonest birds in the secondary shrub. Brown Bush Warbler and Vinaceous Rosefinch also occur at the highest altitude, but are rather less common. The mountain streams support all the common riverine species.
Central section: not known.
East section: the beautifully forested hills above the hotel area are very rich in birds. Temminck’s Tragopan is fairly shy but not uncommonly seen foraging in the leaf litter. Spotted Laughingthrush is common and easy to locate once the call is learned. Blue-throated, Dark-sided and Ferruginous Flycatchers are all found in summer with the former most numerous. Mixed species flocks may include Black-headed Sibia and Elliot’s Laughingthrush, though the latter is much more common in the east section. Most flocks comprise Green-backed Tits, ‘Golden Spectacled Warblers’ and Blyth’s Leaf Warblers, as well as other species. Grey-backed Thrush is also common and may breed.


Habitat and Vegetation

West section: the village of Ba Da Gong Shan is surrounded by paddy fields but the path soon enters a narrow shrubby valley. The shrub continues right up through the valley and is broken only by some areas of planted Pinus massonia. Above 1400m the shrub becomes thicker and more permanent. However, relatively good forest is found only quite close to the reserve station above 1500m. The quality of the vegetation is generally not as good as the east section, though appears to be better close to the Hubei border.
Central section: unvisited but the remoteness of the area makes it more likely that there is good forest here.
East section: from the main road the side track heads through a broad valley of paddyfields, reaching a steep incline at about 500m. From here the road winds carefully up through scrub forest, gradually improving in quality until it reaches the ridge entrance at 1320m. The deep valley on the left includes some good forest. The hills are covered with excellent protected temperate forest which includes some 600 year old Dove Trees Davidia involucrata. Typical trees of this upland forest include Fluceisa rohol, Betula insignis, Tetrarentron sinense and Ctunzanmouii hanae. The rare Roundwing Cyclocarya Cyclocarya paliurus also grows here and Chinese Tulip Tree Liriodendron chinense has been planted as a shade tree along the road north of the hotel. The local people have an established business removing the yellow bark of one tree species grown here and supplying it as a dying agent to a paint factory.


Getting there

From Zhangjiajie take a bus north-west over the hills to Sangzhi. The county town of Sangzhi 桑植is the best place to base yourself for visiting any of the three sections of the reserve. The Sangzhi hotel optimistically attempts to charge Rmb388 for a room but will happily accept as little as Rmb120 from a single person. Buses to the reserve areas leave from a station about 800m north of the bridge across the river.
West section: a direct bus leaves at 8.30am and takes about four hours to reach Ba Da Gong Shan village. Basic accommodation here costs about Rmb20. From here it is a four hour walk and a climb of 600m up to the reserve station. Itinerant pedlars use this route to cross the mountains into Hubei 湖北. The station is a pleasant and imposing traditionally designed wooden building. After a hard day’s birding you can look forward to sitting around the open fire eating and chatting with the friendly reserve staff, though you may need to escape now and again as the wood smoke swirls around with no roof exit. There is dormitory accommodation for Rmb10 and entrance to the reserve costs Rmb30. Food and guide charges come to Rmb20 each per day.
Central section: probably the best way to get to this section is to take the bus to Wu Dao Shui 五道水 and then enquire from there.
East section: there are several buses each day to Wu Dao Shi, which take just over two hours to get to the junction for Tien Pun Shan 天平山  at Shui Tian Ba 水田坝. At this point you are stuck for public transport and will have to resort to hitching or arranging a motorbike from Sha Ta Ping 沙塔坪. There is very little traffic on this road and it is a 12km walk up to the hotel, a gentle rise from altitude of 400m to 500m over the first 8km and then a steep winding climb up to 1300m. The hotel is basic - even a hot shower can be difficult to arrange so do not feel guilty bargaining down the ‘standard’ price way below the Rmb160 initially demanded.


General Information

County:   Sang Zhi                  Area: 200 sq. km
Altitude: 380-1890m              Location: 29°38’-29°49’N, 109°41’-110°10’E
Disturbance: not considered a major problem.