Showing posts with label Birding China Fujian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birding China Fujian. Show all posts

6 May 2019

East China Sea Cruise, - China to Japan seabirding, 30th April to 4th May 2019

Brown Booby - Sula leucogaster

On 30th April we sailed from Xiamen bound for Okinawa on the Costa Atlantica

On board were three Hong Kong would-be seabirders (Carrie Ma, Jemi and myself) and about two thousand mainland Chinese Golden Week merry-makers.

We intended to use the four night/three full days schedule to bird two days at sea north of Taiwan, - out and back - and get what birds we could on a very restricted "Tour" of Okinawa.

Here is the route (map by Carrie Ma) with the yellow areas "birdable" in daylight.

Last September we did a similar cruise, from Xiamen to Miyakojima. That time the ship was the Superstar Gemini.

Although the 3rd level deck of Costa Atlantica was spacious, there was no public area with a view of the sea surface to the front of the ship. The only view at the rear was at the 9th level. With space at the ship sides devoted to giving many cabins their own balcony, all round viewing opportunities on Costa Atlantica were more limited than on the earlier ship.

Plenty of deck space on level 3 - but no view front and rear.
It started raining as we left Xiamen (Fujian Province) and wet and windy decks the following morning (May 1st) meant that we were forbidden to go outside on the 3rd level. 

Ominous Xiamen rain clouds
We sneaked out anyway, but after an hour or so ship security staff led us back inside.

Inside “Costa Atlantica”

We ended up at the rear deck of the 9th level, where our only clear view of the sea was from next to the designated smokers’ area.

Most of the birds we saw were distant.  In fact it seemed like some species were actively avoiding the boat.

Here in HK bird photographers call distant bird specks on their image files “sesame seeds”.  Many of these are “sesame seed” images, greatly cropped.

Bulwer’s Petrel - Bulweria bulwerii

Brown Noddy - Anous stolidus

Sooty Tern - Onychoprion fuscatus

Streaked Shearwater - Calonectris leucomelas

Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus

Long-tailed Skua - Stercorarius longicaudus

Masked Booby - Sula dactylata

Red-footed Booby - Sula sula
A strong northerly wind came with the rain, and a few migrant passerines were seen, including a party of seven Yellow Wagtails which settled somewhere on the upper decks.
Eastern Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla tschutschensis

We soon noted that a Peregrine was hunting the birds resting about the ship. 

Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus

Daiyoutai/Senkaku Islands
As we passed the Daiyoutai/Senkaku Islands, up to forty Brown Boobies circled high on the wind-sheltered side to hunt flying fish disturbed by the ship’s passage. In this respect,  the ship was attracting the hunting boobies.

Brown Boobies - Sula leucogaster (there's one under the water)

Brown Boobies - Sula leucogaster

Brown Boobies - Sula leucogaster
This time the flying fish got away.

There were also a few Masked Boobies, and a single (brown morph) Red-footed Booby.
Red-footed Booby - Sula sula

On May 2nd, after Immigration formalities, we all disembarked for the scheduled “Sight-seeing” coach trip on Okinawa.

Docked at Naha, Okinawa, Japan
We called briefly at Senaga Island.

It was a scenic spot with a few waders and co-operative Little Terns.

Little Tern - Sternula albifrons

Little Tern - Sternula albifrons

Little Tern - Sternula albifrons

Our second stop was at Shurijo Castle Park, where Blue Rock Thrushes were numerous and confiding.

Blue Rock Thrush - Monticola solitarius
Shopping was the main objective for many of our shipboard companions. Across the road from the first of three stores the tour coach visited, at Nishizaki, we found more waders on a pleasant little beach.

Nishizaki Beach

Pacific Golden Plover -Pluvialis fulva

Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus

"Ghost" Crab - Ocypode sp. ?
"Also seens" included Grey-tailed Tattler, Ruddy Turnstone and Whimbrel. 

Eventually we got back on board the Costa Atlantica, and a full day at sea (May 3rd ) saw us cover much of the same area as two days earlier, passing close to the north of Taiwan on our way back to the Chinese mainland.

With fine weather, we had unrestricted deck access. Carrie saw and photographed a Sperm Whale, and we all had brief glimpses of dolphins.

Flying fish sp.
From mid- to late morning the Brown Boobies were chasing flying fish again.... 

Brown Booby - Sula leucogaster

Brown Booby - Sula leucogaster

Brown Booby - Sula leucogaster

But later - after we left the disputed islands behind and entered the Taiwan Strait - there were no birds to be seen. 
Taipei - Matsu Islands Ferry

Northern Taiwan
It was a long afternoon as we examined various items of rubbish on the sea surface in the hope of discovering more birds.  

Sunset in the Taiwan Strait (May 3rd 2019)

I think that these trips are as instructive for what we didn't see, as well as what we actually saw.  So, no albatrosses or storm-petrels, but there were areas with regular appearances of Bulwer's Petrels and Brown Noddies, both of which might be breeding in the area.

Red-footed Booby is unusual in Japanese waters, but was probably attracted by the activity of the Brown Booby flock.


Thanks  again to Carrie MA for planning and organising the trip !

Technical matters

An apology

Since the demise of Google+, although I have redone my Google profile, I am strangely unable to reply to comments on my own blog ! 

I'm working on it !

22 September 2018

An East China Sea "pelagic", 14 - 17th Sept 2018

Typhoons can be shared experiences in a place the size of Hong Kong. With concern about danger outdoors, and worries of damage to property at home, people tend to stay indoors and sit them out.

So with Super Typhoon “Mangkut” approaching we were reluctant to leave town, but a short sea birding trip had been booked and paid for weeks earlier.

The trip was researched and organised by Carrie Ma, and there were four of us HK birders in the party. The fourth participant was T P Luk.

Extinct, according to  "A field Guide to the Birds of Japan" (1982 edition) 

Xiamen (formerly Amoy) in Fujian Province, is only four hours away from Shenzhen North Station on China’s new high-speed railway system.  Xiamen is the place where Robert Swinhoe shot the type specimen of Hydrobates monorhis (Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel) in November 1866.

"Superstar Gemini" at Gulang Dock, Xiamen

We boarded the Superstar Gemini at Xiamen’s plush new ferry terminal with three days of pelagic birding in mind.  The other five hundred or so passengers thought they were on some sort of casual cruise, with buffet dinners, cabarets and a chance of poolside frolics. The route, as plotted by Carrie from Google Earth, is here...

Xiamen in the west and the Japanese Ryukyu islands to the east

RED: Ship's track.  YELLOW: parts covered in daylight hours
The ship departed in late evening on the 14th and dawn on the 15th found us off northwest Taiwan sailing into large swells. The ship was very big and stable, but there was a high wind from the front (northeast). 

This was indirectly due to the influence of Typhoon “Mangkut” (according to the "" website ). We were distant from the Typhoon and moving away from most of the rough weather, but perhaps the winds from the east pulled more birds toward the sheltered side of Taiwan.

Chinese Trawler

For safety reasons the sheltered 8/f rear deck was the only available outdoor space on the first day at sea.  But one of our highlights came early with the sight of a string of storm-petrels passing southwards, near some wave-swept trawlers.

Swinhoe's Storm-Petrels - Hydrobates monorhis
Swinhoe's Storm-Petrels - Hydrobates monorhis

Swinhoe's Storm-Petrel - Hydrobates monorhis
Later we saw our only Masked Booby of the trip. These breed on the Daiyutai/Senkaku Islands, which we later passed close to after dark.  

Masked Booby - Sula dactylatra

The more widespread Brown Booby was also noted.
Brown Booby - Sula leucogaster

We were overflown by a migrating flock of fifteen (ten here) Little Curlew. 

Little Curlew - Numenius minutus

Later in the day the wind subsided somewhat and the sun came out. We saw what at first appeared to be a large tern, sitting on the sea surface. Actually, it was a White-tailed Tropicbird. 

White-tailed Tropicbird - Phaethon lepturus

White-tailed Tropicbird - Phaethon lepturus

White-tailed Tropicbird - Phaethon lepturus

We passed some rock stacks before darkness fell.

We arrived at Miyako Island in the Japanese Ryukyu chain at daybreak on 16th September and after Immigration checks commenced our coach tour of the island shortly after 07:00hrs local time. 

At the “Japanese-German Friendship Village” we saw migrant Grey-streaked Flycatchers and resident Japanese White-Eyes. 

Grey-streaked Flycatcher - Muscicapa griseiticta

Japanese White-Eye - Zosterops japonicus

The race of JWE on the Ryukyus is the exotic-sounding loochooensis.

Blue Rock Thrush - Monticola solitarius

The longest coach tour stop was at some kind of shopping warehouse where a variety of "Made-in-Japan" supplements and lotions could be purchased at purportedly bargain prices.   

Outside, beyond the car park, it was good to see Blue Rock Thrushes in good numbers. Brown-eared Bulbuls also lent character to the island landscape. 

Brown-eared Bulbul - Microscelis amaurotis

We saw two each of Pacific Golden Plover and Grey Plover in fields, and about a dozen Common Greenshank on a beach. All seemingly migrating birds.

In early afternoon we sailed away westwards from the Ryukyus in calm seas and this time had access to all the decks. Levels 7 and 8 near the bow of the ship seemed good viewing areas. We had about four hours birding before it got dark.  

There were distant groups of Streaked Shearwaters and other unidentified seabirds. 

Streaked Shearwater - Calonectris leucomelas

Later on, one or two Bulwer’s Petrels came close to the ship, 

Bulwer's Petrel - Bulweria bulwerii

Bulwer's Petrel - Bulweria bulwerii did another hoped-for species, Wedge-tailed Shearwater.

Wedge-tailed Shearwater - Puffinus pacificus

A few flying fish were seen... 

Finally, we had the whole of the 17th September daylight sailing from near the northern tip of Taiwan back to Xiamen.

Early in the morning it was misty and grey, but two pods with a total about thirty Bottlenose Dolphins livened things up.

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus)

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus)

Landbirds that had landed on the ship included Grey Wagtail and Brown Shrike.

Brown Shrike - Lanius cristatus

A lone Whimbrel passed us in flight. 

Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus

There was a distant tussle between a Bulwer's Petrel and what we thought was a first-year Long-tailed Skua (or possibly Arctic Skua, see comments below)

Familiar (to HK birders) were Bridled Terns, often standing on flotsam. 

Bridled Terns - Onychoprion anaethtus

A loose aggregation of Red-necked Phalarope added up to over 120 in total.

Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus

Back at the Xiamen dockside, at around 18:00hrs there was a cheerful scrum to get off the ship, and we were done.

So, Superstar Gemini was often frustratingly distant from the birds, but it was about the stablest platform we could have hoped for. You could seabird with a ‘scope in most conditions.

Thanks again to Carrie for organising the whole thing.

It seems like we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of discovery, so we’ll have to go again !