Non-mammal watching trip to China with 7 species

So unlike Sjef, I had a good session in the “How NOT to mammal-watch in China” school.

1. Don’t go to the places where all the tourists go (Jiuzhaigou, Emeishan, Tianmen, Zhangjiajie…)

2. Don’t expect to mammal-watch when your mom (who is paying for the trip) thinks going out of the way to non-famous places to find some animals is a waste of time..


Regardless, I saw some AMAZING things in China, and a ton of incredible places for which I’m very thankful to have seen. And our schedule was so packed, with flights and long drives every other day, and besides 2 consecutive nights in Beijing we did not sleep in the same place twice, so it’s not like I had a few hours here and there to separate from the group and go on my own. Next time, when I go on my own (or with mammal-watching buddies) I will be able to concentrate on wildlife… That being said, I did keep my eyes out for animals at all times and saw both Rhesus and Tibetian Macaques in Zhangjiajie and Emeishan respectively, 3 squirrels and 1 chipmunk (photos attached) and one unidentifiable mouse at Huanglong (I saw it perfectly well, and for several seconds, but no picture)
1. Squirrel in Bifenxia (Sichuan), right outside the Giant Panda rehab center:

Bifenxia Squirrel Bifenxia squirrel

2.  Chipmunk in Jiuzhaigou’s primary forest:


3. Squirrel in Jiuzhaigou, somewhere down the trail between Multi-Color Lake and Mirror Lake (I think)

IMG_6269 IMG_6267

4. Squirrel on top of Tianmen Mountain (Hunan):

IMG_5247 IMG_5243

I’ve never been good at identifying squirrels, bats, or mice.. So feel free to help 🙂

It looks like #1 and 4 might be similar, but upon closer investigation (aside from the fact that the underside of #4 is orange and #1 is red) it looks like the colorful parts do not appear on the same bodyparts. Also the ears, noses and tails are completely different.




  • sjefo

    Hi Tomer,

    It is probably little consolation but finding mammals – also in the good areas – was hard work and we spent hours and hours scanning with scopes and bins, and often came back empty-handed or got frustratingly short views (deer species were particularly and unexpectedly frustrating). The only one that was “ easy” was takin in Tangjiahe (apart from plateau pika and Himalayan marmot).

    With respect to squirrel IDs, I would say:

    1. Pallas’s Squirrel
    2. Looks like Swinhoe’s Striped Squirrel to me
    3. This is a difficult one without having seen it, but my guess would be Pere David’s Rock Squirrel
    4. This looks like one of the long-nosed squirrels. I would go for red-hipped squirrel, Dremomys pyrrhomerus. This is a cool little squirrel!!



  • tomeslice

    Thanks Sjef!

    No worries, I’m in no way disappointed about my trip to China..It was just not a mammal-watching or wildlife-watching trip. I saw a bunch of cool and interesting places, including of course the great wall, some shows, the city of Chengdu (which is really cool itself), and of course the national parks and forests I listed. I most definitely wanted to see those places, and am glad my mom and sister (along with another family of friends) came along.

    The only thing is – maybe I had slightly higher hopes because in my mind I saw the national parks being like Yosemite or Yellowstone in the US: You can see the scenic stuff, and also find your way out of the crowds and see a TON of interesting animals.. In Yosemite I enjoyed half-dome, the sequoias, etc. etc. etc. but also found a marten and a bobcat among other things. In Jiuzhaigou I thought I could do the same thing, but opportunities are super-limited, especially with the park closing rather early and the fact that only buses can be used inside the park. In fact, Jiuzhaigou, while a truly amazing place with incredible scenery and insanely beautiful clear lakes, is probably the worst place in Sichuan to see mammals, even though I have heard of people who saw yellow-throated martens, serows and deer there… But I take it it’s just pure luck.
    We stayed inside the park, at a guest house inside of one of the tibetian villages and started super-early in the morning before the crowds got there, and found 0 mammals that morning. But now I have an appreciation for the area, the culture, the food, and next time I will hire your guide. Would you recommend him?

    • sjefo

      Yes, he worked very hard, is dedicated and we made long days, much longer than I would have done myself:), but he is first and foremost a birder in his approach. Since I was looking for both birds and mammals, that worked out fine but if you want a “pure” mammal trip, it would be good to discuss that beforehand because it might require a different preparation and selection of places to visit. That said, he knows the nature reserves/areas well where one can find key mammals such as red panda, wolf, takin, Tibetan fox, and Pallas’s cat.

      Giant panda will remain extremely difficult anywhere since it appears that the reserves in the Qingling Mountains will remain closed to foreigners. They are planning to offer a high-end panda tracking experience in Wolong/Wuyipeng in the near future. High end may only refer to the prices asked (i.e., modeled after gorilla tracking in Uganda/Rwanda), but not necessarily quality guiding, near-guaranteed sightings, etc. Worth keeping an eye on the developments though.


      • tomeslice

        I also am interested in the birds as well!
        We did manage to see some cool ones (with several different species having extremely long tails), but from ground-dwelling families we only saw two things: one of what may have been a golden pheasant from the bus in Jiuzhaigou, in an open grassy area, which of course the bus doesn’t stop next to so it was only a quick look of a silhouette of a chicken-looking bird with an extremely long tail; and in Huanglong from the cable car we saw a couple (literally) of ground-dwelling birds crossing the clearing under the the cable car which may have been anything from chinese monals to temminck’s tragopan, but from above they looked rather dull-colored because of the light angle.

        I’m totally ready for long days and nights, and hours of fruitless scanning and waiting… As long as I come out with a red panda ;-P
        But seriously, a single yellow-throated marten would have sufficed to make me feel like i experienced the wild side of China. Of course a bunch of deers, serows, gorals and takins wouldn’t hurt either, as would the incredible golden monkey.

  • PandaSmith

    I agree with Sjef’s ID’s. Nice squirrel selection! And even on an intensive mammal-focused expedition, I have often come of with mammal counts NOT that much higher than 7, so good job!


  • PandaSmith

    Oh and I have seen literally hundreds of Pallas’s and I could never quite figure out why they were also called “Red-bellied Squirrels” until seeing your images….Sheesh!

    • tomeslice

      Lol Coke I looked at your trip reports from Sichuan and the area… I’m still drooling over the stuff you saw.

      And yes, I was very impressed with this so-called “red-bellied” (Pallas’s) squirrel. This squirrel definitely had the most vivid red-colored fur I’ve ever seen on a mammal. It must be my favorite squirrel (though I haven’t seen any from the Callosciurus family, or the Giant Black squirrel)

      • Israel

        red-bellied squirrels are really variable in shade. I was really confused over the ones I saw in Burma because they were more pinky-orangey than red, nothing like ones I’d seen elsewhere.

        Species are indeed as noted by the others:
        1.Red-bellied (Pallas’) squirrel (which is a Callosciurus ;))
        2.Swinhoe’s striped squirrel (note the white tufts on the ears which the Siberian chipmunk lacks)
        3.Pere David’s rock squirrel
        4.Dremomys sp (I don’t have a book to hand to check which species are found there!)

        Good to hear you had a fun trip, even if you now need to go back for even more animals!

  • tomeslice

    Aha! So I DID in fact see a squirrel in the Callosciurus family 🙂

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