Qinghai tour highlights and need help with Pika/Vole/Hamster IDs
My wife and I returned from a 4-week trip to Qinghai including a 2-day Tangjiahe add-on. August is not an ideal month to travel in Qinghai but we still scored a lot of amazing mammals (and the scenery is sensational and very lush and green). Thanks is due to Coke Smith whose wonderful Qinghai/Kekexili report inspired me to do this trip (and it was very useful for trip planning).
Pallas’s Cat (prolonged views of a female with two kittens!!! But I messed up the photos (aaargh), but will include the record shots in the trip report)
Argali (superb males, scope only) and Wild Yaks in Yeniugou (Wild Yak Valley), mammals (except Tibetan gazelles) in Yeniugou were far from the road at this time of year.
White-lipped Deer including some stunning males
Gansu and McNeill’s Red Deer
Alpine Musk Deer!!
Wolf (2 sightings)
In Tangjiahe we got: tufted deer, takin, Chinese serow, Chinese goral, and wild boar
Only disappointment was not seeing any mustelids alive (only roadkills).
Full trip report will folllow (and the Sichuan report from April is almost ready).
I have also attached some photos of a dead pika and mystery voles/hamsters.
The roadkill pika appears to be a Chinese red pika. Can anyone shed a light on this? Photo from the Huzhu Beishan north of Xining. There was a rocky area with cavities in the rocks where we saw the dead pika.
The vole/hamster photos
These animals lived together with plateau pikas but were much smaller. The area was a depression/valley with a mosaic of moist grassland, proper wetland areas and drier grassland. They lived one the edge of the valley so not in the lowest/wettest parts, but it was still quite muddy. Initially we even thought they might be juvenile plateau pikas but studying the pictures I noticed they actually have tails! Animals were seen between Qumarleb/Qumalai and Budongquan (about 120 km east of Budongquan). The ones that seem to fit best are Smokey Vole, Irene’s Mountain Vole and Blyth’s Mountain Vole.
For the first two the habitat and the pelage colour fits quite well, but they were seen a little outside the range of the IUCN maps but that may reflect a lack of data. Blyth’s Mountain Vole is the only one for which Mammals of China mentions it lives in colonies. I saw at least 5 different animals together, but maybe it was just a family group. However, the colour of the dorsal pelage should be pale yellowish brown for Blyth’s?
Other options in this region are Stoliczka’s Mountain Vole (seems to like more arid areas) and Lacustrine Vole (dorsal pelage should be “distinctly yellow”). I don’t think it is a hamster but maybe I am wrong.
Thanks for any help on the IDs!