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

22 August 2014

Two half-days at Luokeng Nature Reserve, north Guangdong

The road to Luokeng

In September 2002 a team from Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (HK), together  with mainland Chinese researchers did a "Rapid Biodiversity Assessment" of Luofeng NR in north Guangdong.  The area has a population of the rare Crocodile Lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus), the main reason for Nature Reserve status. Luokeng Nature Reserve was upgraded to National NR status in 2013.

Among the KFBG report findings was that Himalayan Swiftlets (Collocallia brevirostris) were using a cave at Luokeng. This was the first record for Guangdong Province. A link to the report pdf is here:-

There have been regular (mostly winter) sightings of swiftlets in Hong Kong, and they have mostly been ascribed to brevirostris, although the possibility that some other types are occurring is being considered.

With a few unusual summer swiftlet records in HK this year, it seemed timely to check out the Luokeng Swiftlets, with a view to firming up some identification criteria, so Richard Lewthwaite organized a trip to go up to Luokeng to look for them. Ruy and Karen Barretto, Martin Hale and I joined him.

After a dawn rendezvous at Lok Ma Chau Boundary Crossing Point we were met by our driver, Mr YIP, and driven though some steady rain up the highway from Shenzhen. It was about 280 km to get to the turnoff for Luokeng, which lies 40km westwards from the highway along the x317 road.

After some uncertainty (only RWL and R & KB had been there before, in 2004, but had arrived in the dark) we found the Nature Reserve HQs. A staff member was sent to show us the "Swiftlet cave" and we duly arrived after a ten-minute drive from town.

There were no signs of swiftlets using the cave, and only a few bats were present.

We birded around the area near the swiftlet cave until dusk,  Swifts, both House Swift and Pacific were seen but no swiftlets were noted. No birds appeared to be using the cave. At last light we noted a Peregrine perched on a branch near the mouth of the cave, but concluded that it was waiting for bats to come out.

The weather improved overnight, and no swifts or swiftlets of any kind were seen on 21st August. 

Morning mist, Luokeng

The nearby fields produced a flock of eight Black Bazas...

 …..and a Chinese Sparrowhawk.

Some winter visitors had arrived, including this Grey Wagtail

Intriguingly, we had glimpses of a largish possible Mountain Pigeon a couple of times, but couldn't nail the ID. 

A large migrant flock of mostly Little Egrets dithered at the edge of the reservoir.

Some Yellow Wagtails and a Stejneger's Stonechat were in grassland near the edge of the reservoir, too. It was good to see birds we consider winter visitors to Hong Kong on their way south.

Livelihoods have improved in recent years for the residents of Luokeng, but rural development has not flattened every historical building, so some vintage stuff remains, including this old residence outside the town. 

We noted this collection of agricultural implements, ready for the rice harvest in October.

Even now "Outdoor Facilities" are a reality for some, - but there's no "Greener" way to do your business !

A reminder of the "bad old days" in rural China was this fortress near one of the villages.  Villagers built these forts a century or so ago with a view to to barricade themselves inside as protection against marauders.

Papaya trees against the ramparts..sweet potatoes in the field

Shortly before midday we departed and were driven back to Shenzhen.  We saw fifty-or-so species in our few hours of birding, but drew a blank with the swiftlets.

Whatever the outcome, though, it's always worth going "into the field" to check things out for oneself, and the fresh, cooler air of northern Guangdong made a nice break.

13 July 2011

"Life's a beach...."

“Life’s a beach..” - if you’re a tern, that is. Tern life is also things like “plucking sprats from the surf” but most of those activities don’t make for a catchy blog post title.
Black-naped Tern, Haifeng County, East Guangdong

But I digress (as the great Tom Lehrer used to say).

Last Friday afternoon (8th July) Jemi and I met  Brian Ivon Jones and Jonathan Martinez at Luohu bus station in Shenzhen for the journey to Haifeng, about 130 km ENE of Hong Kong.

Bright and early on Saturday morning at the east end of Dahu Beach a couple of Swinhoe’s Plover were sighted at the shoreline, and a large grouping of terns was on a sandbar perhaps 100m away.  It was obvious with views through Jonathan’s scope that several tern species were present.

Jemi persuaded a boatman to take us over, but I stayed ashore, fearing that four of us in a sampan with the boatman and his gear would be a bit crowded. I also wanted to try to get shots of Swinhoe’s Plovers without treading on other people’s toes.

Little Terns – which breed at Dahu - were present, and Great Crested Terns were quickly identified.  Roseate, Bridled and Black-naped (familiar HK breeders) were there with Eastern Common and Gull-billed.  Single juveniles of White-winged and Whiskered brought the total to nine species !

Meanwhile, I found a Hoopoe, well camouflaged among the flotsam on the beach.

The Swinhoe’s Plovers seemed to be fewer and shyer than my previous visit two weeks earlier, but with the 800mm lens this time I still got a few pics.

Jemi and I left Jon and Brian on the beach and returned earlier to Haifeng. Later we got the bus to Zhelang on the coast south-west of Dahu.  But the seafront shops selling swimsuits, beach balls, buckets and spades were a clue that any stretch of sand in the area would be largely occupied by holidaygoers. And so it proved. A tricycle ride to the windfarm peninsula of Baishabundao – despite the name - revealed a mostly rocky coastline. (Locals call it "Windmill Island".)  Beside the causeway between the power station and the island we saw a rocky outcrop with about twenty Black-naped Terns. A more distant sandbar held many more terns, but it was too far to see what they were.

On Sunday BIJ and JM did the fields and fishponds north of Dahu Beach, before returning to Shenzhen.  We (J & J) headed to Shajiaowei on the promontory south of Shanwei.  There the locals take tourists for speedboat rides (RMB 300 !) to the island of Guilingdao, which has a temple, a couple of rooms to stay, and two newish statues which seem to be successful at attracting island visitors.



Nearby there were rocky islets with breeding Bridled and Black-naped Terns. Eastern Reef Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons were also present.  A lone Common Sandpiper on a rock might have been an early southbound passage migrant.

A bus from Jiesheng near Shajiomei took only 45 minutes to return to Haifeng.


On Monday morning we got a local bus to Lianhuashan, called “Lotus Mountain Resort” in English. The tourist complex and temple (opened 2010) sit at the foot of the mountain with steep, mostly scrub-covered hillsides above.

The main natural attraction is a waterfall. The stream below this held breeding Slaty-backed Forktails and Plumbeous Water Redstarts.  Other typical south China woodland species included Scarlet Minivet, Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Rufous-capped Babbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler and Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (CWC).  A pair of CWCs were seen bullying a Sooty-headed Bulbul.

Asian House Martins showed well over the boating lake as it began to rain. We took that as our cue to return to Haifeng and eventually, back to Hong Kong.  Although Lianhuashan was not brilliant birding, it made an interesting counterpoint to the bird activity elsewhere in Haifeng County.

So it looks like the Swinhoe's Plovers are dispersing, but there is still plenty to see in the area.  Many Thanks to both Brian and Jonathan for the pleasure of their company over the weekend.

30 June 2011

"Swinhoe's Plover" on Dahu Beach, east Guangdong

Charadrius (alexandrinus) dealbatus

Last weekend I arranged to accompany Shenzhen-resident Brian Ivon Jones to Dahu Beach, near Haifeng. My aim was specifically to see and photograph the  Swinhoe's Plovers Brian discovered breeding there in late May. 

The background to the belated identification of these long-overlooked  birds is set out here:-

Although the article, by Peter Kennerley and David Bakewell, is titled "Malaysia's Mystery Plovers" , they were later found to be breeding in Fujian Province, and  - thanks to Brian - now known to be doing likewise in Guangdong.  With wintering records from Hainan Island as well, they are very much south China's "mystery" too.

Although I've seen breeding WFPs before - at Changle Beach, Fujian Province, in 2008 - the sighting of an odd juvenile plover in Hong Kong on May 31st  re-kindled my interest in this enigmatic bird. Hence my eagerness to get to this nearby site.

In turn, Brian was continuing his weekly monitoring of breeding progress of these birds. He has been reporting progress on the "Surfbirds" website here:-

It took just under three hours to get from Shenzhen to Haifeng  on a comfortable coach, where Brian was greeted like a long-lost cousin by all and sundry at his usual hotel.

On Saturday, June 25th, a 05:30 start and a taxi ride got us to Dahu beach bright and early.  A small party of WFPs were seen straight away, and they were more-or-less in view the whole four hours it took us to cover the length of the beach.

It was pretty warm by the time we finished, and I'll admit my concentration was flagging, but Brian was relishing the challenge.

Just offshore, fishermen bashed the sea surface in the time-honoured way to get the fish into their nets.  Back on the beach, the plovers - numbering 120 in total - displayed an impressive variety of plumages.

(juvenile - left, adults centre and right)

(Adult - left,  juvenile - right)

(This one really is young - note yellow legs)

The closest I could find to the Hong Kong bird of 31st May !

(Female, I think)

(Charadrius (a) dealbatus)

The whole area is part of the "Guangdong Haifeng Dahu Provincial Nature Reserve" as depicted in this mapboard. 

The site includes some tidal pools, fishponds, agricultural fields, a rare (for China) breeding spot for Purple Swamphen and an egretry. WWF Hong Kong have recognised the potential of the site, and are using sponsorship money from HSBC to maintain an observation platform at the egretry. 

June can be a quiet time for birding in south China, but it's obvious that there will be birds to see year-round at Dahu.  It's become Brian's selected "local patch" and I'm not the only one looking forward to seeing what turns up there as the seasons pass.

Watch this space.