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

22 June 2011

Wuyuan County, Jiangxi - 16th to 18th June 2011

Heavy rain in June has meant misery for many in the Chinese Provinces that border the Yangtze River.  But our tickets were booked and paid for, so, with the usual optimism of birders, last week we flew from Shenzhen to Jingdezhen for three full days of birding in Jiangxi Province.  

Apart from ourselves, there was Roger Muscroft and Tim and Thelma Woodward. Tim is the author of the excellent "Birding South-East China" and -naturally- had been to Wuyuan before.  Tim's "South China Birder" website is here: -

The main target bird was the Critically Endangered Blue-crowned (or Courtois's) Laughingthrush.

Dryonastes courtoisi

Wuyuan was seventy kilometers eastwards from Jingdezhen along a splendid new highway. We could see that a lot of the low-lying field and roads were flooded. We arrived in the dark. 

The county town turned out to be something of a bustling - albeit wet - metropolis. But next morning, once we left Wuyuan Town, things got more rustic in the countryside. People were busy planting - or re-planting after the flooding- rice in the fields.

Grey-headed Lapwings were seen regularly, often, as here, with young at the edges of rice paddies.

Vanellus cinereus

The traditional style of house in the area is quite attractive.

Red-rumped Swallows were nesting in the villages, and circling everywhere when the rain eased off.

Cecropsis daurica

Wuyuan County is famous for the tea grown there.

At Wuyuan, Blue-crowned Laughingthrushes are known to nest in a wood between a tea plantation and the river.  The water was too high to cross into the wood itself, but the Laughingthrushes obliged, coming down to the waters' edge opposite to forage for nesting material among the flotsam.

Dryonastes courtoisi

An Ashy Drongo - race  leucogenis  - sallied from a bare perch.  These are really "Ashy", unlike  some of the other forms of this species in south and southeast asia.

Dicrurus leucophaeus

We saw Crested Kingfishers in several places, including these juveniles. One  juvenile permitted a closer approach.

Megaceryle lugubris

On to Xiaoqi, in picturesque hills further to the northeast, where we were treated to views of Pied Falconets from the roof of the guesthouse.  The falconets use the bare branches of huge Camphor trees as lookout points. 

Microhierax melanoleucus

These fierce little raptors subsisted mainly on dragonflies, but, with young to feed, we saw the female take a Great Tit. After stripping the feathers off, the carcass was carried to the falconet nest hole.

Microhierax melanoleucus

There was attractive scenery continuing further up the valley, closer to the provincial border with Zhejiang. In fact the whole area is marketed to domestic Chinese tourists as a "Scenic Area".  It is popular, but not yet too over-visited.

At the end of a road seemingly built just so that tourists like us could admire the view, we found a pair of obliging Meadow Buntings.

Emberiza cioides

And that was about it.  Despite the wet weather, a lot of birding was packed into our visit. Our total was about seventy species.

On Sunday morning we returned to Hong Kong and I had a knot tied in my sodden handkerchief to remind me to "Bird Eastern China More Often" !

9 June 2011

The real "deal" ?

A puzzling (to me) juvenile "Charadrius" plover with a hindcollar, seen in front of Mai Po's boardwalk hide on 31st May 2011. 

The hindcollar should eliminate Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, and these don't usually return to Hong Kong in juvenile plumages until late july.

Little-ringed Plover seemed a possibility, it breeds locally, but I eliminated it due to LRP's smaller size, brighter yellow legs and -usually- LRP's complete collar across the breast.  

Common Ringed Plover and Long-billed Plover are both rare winter visitors. Neither seemed "right" for this individual.

Kentish Plover - is a spring and autumn migrant, numerous winter visitor - to my mind more delicate than this.

So I was still guessing about the identification until I heard that the recently re-discovered "dealbatus" form of Kentish Plover, known as "White-faced" Plover was found breeding on a beach in late May at Shantou, Guangdong Province, by Brian Ivon Jones.

For photos of young plovers on the beach,  and other shots of "dealbatus" see Oriental Bird Images at :

There is a good online account of the re-discovery of "dealbatus" by Peter Kennerley and David Bakewell here at Surfbirds :

To sum up, "dealbatus" is:
(1) slightly larger than the Kentish Plovers that winter in south China, 
(2) bigger-billed and 
(3) longer-legged, especially above the knee. 
(4) the legs are paler in colour than wintering Kentish Plovers. 
(5) in flight: broad white trailing edge to secondaries, pale tips to the outer greater coverts and extreme white in outer rectrices, more so than Kentish would show (see below).

I may be guilty of making 2 + 2 = 5, but I think this could be a "White-faced" Plover, Charadrius (alexandrinus) dealbatus.

Science has not yet determined whether this form is a race of Kentish Plover, or a separate species.

I have exchanged Emails and my photos above with Peter Kennerley and David Bakewell - the co-authors of the "dealbatus" identification papers in Forktail and Birding Asia, as well as the Surfbirds article linked to above.

They have been quite positive, but have expressed reservations about whether these photos  absolutely confirm the identification, especially because the identification features of juvenile "dealbatus" are still not well known.

A weekend excursion to Shantou to study juvenile "dealbatus" is required !

21 December 2009

Po Yang 1989 - Part I

Peter Kennerley's paper in the 1984/5 Hong Kong Bird Report is an account of a survey of Po Yang Lake, on the Yangtze River in the north of Jiangxi Province. He described the place as "..the avian spectacle of China".

I flew to Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi Province with Nigel Croft and Mike Turnbull. We had no official contacts and no reservations but we had spoken to some other Hong Kong Birders, including Mike Chalmers, who had just got back.

From the CAAC Airport Bus we noted Northern Lapwings in the cold dry paddyfields on the way into town. We were assigned a room in the Nanchang Hotel which seemed to be part of an illegal extension to the roof, but we shrugged it off as we had no intention of dallying there.

It was still dark when we boarded the public ferry to Wucheng. My yellowing notebook records that we paid RMB 5 each. By the time it got light we were moving through a mainly featureless, flat landscape. Strong winds blew across the open plains and the temperature hovered just above freezing. Fortified by large bowls of spicy noodles we shivered on wooden benches as the boat went aground several times, and people got off and on at unidentifiable spots on the bare river banks.We were impressed at the sight of a very hardy dog swimming across the river.

MT in front of the Wucheng Pagoda

We knew that Wu Cheng, at the confluence of two of the Yangtze tributaries, could be recognised by a large pagoda and a white "Crane Viewing" tower. We planned to seek rooms at the Nature Reserve HQs, but if these were too expensive we'd find rooms in the town and hope to see some birds before we got kicked out.

After seven hours on the boat we were relieved to strike a deal with the Nature Reserve people. Someone was even assigned to us to make sure we didn't get lost.

Wucheng lay at the eastern end of a long ridge (an island when summer rains made the lake higher). It had been a prosperous town at the edge of Po Yang Lake but seemed never to have recovered from bombing by the Japanese in the late 1930s.

Birding around the edges of town we picked up familiar species such as Grey Heron, Little Grebe and Black-headed Gull, but several hundred Greater White-fronted Geese on the distant grassland and some overflying Bewick's Swans were new.

Dec. 24th
Overnight at Reserve HQs we had beds with warm quilts with cranes embroidered on them, rusty bathroom fittings and sleep interrupted by crackling sounds which turned out to be mice scampering up behind the sofa to nibble our plastic-wrapped snacks. Wherever we tried to hide the food, the mice could always find it: - they had played this game before !

Daybreak found us wandering along the shore of Da Hu Chi, encountering large flocks of Swan Geese in the lakeside mud.

This was only a prelude to what awaited us. After a morning's walk, we rounded a corner and beheld this sight -

The "Avian Spectacle of China" ....

There were hundreds of Siberian and White-naped Cranes on the lakeside mud, with Swan Geese in front and Dalmatian Pelicans overhead.

This was what we had come for.

to be continued.....

Po Yang 1989 - Part II

We engaged a ferryman to take us to the island of Ling Gong Zhou. Earlier in the month we knew that the HK birders had there seen Swinhoe's Crake - the sight of a bird with a scientific name like "Coturnix exquisitus" was a compelling reason to have a look. Sadly, most of the grass had been harvested, and we missed the crake.

Once, a Chinese Water Deer broke cover from reeds at the waters' edge, and raced greyhound-like out of sight.

We settled instead for Great Bustards in the distance, beyond another host of Whitefronts.

Nigel and I were admiring a pair of Common Mergansers in a creek when we became aware that MT was having conniptions. He pointed out a drake Merganser further back:- "Scaly-sided Merganser !" This was a bird the previous visitors had missed, and seeing it was a surprise in the days before it was more generally known that S-SM breed in the east of Jiangxi. It was great to get our "Bird of the Trip" on Christmas day.

In Po Yang's wide-open landscape the birds were often quite distant, but there were LOTS of them: hundreds of Cranes and literally thousands of swans and geese.

On Boxing Day we wandered over the hillsides to the west of Wucheng. A variety of buntings, Daurian Redstart and Grey-backed Thrushes could be found at the edges of fields and woods.

We paused to count the cranes on the mudflats of Da Hu Chi below. (In fact NJC was delegated to do it, I was "scanning for raptors".. ZZZZZZZ).) We estimated that there were 800 Siberian Cranes in view from this one viewpoint.

Later in the day we were pleasantly surprised to find another lone birder at Reserve HQs. Over dinner Krys Kazmierczak recounted his adventures of the winter, including getting turned away from then "closed" Caohai (a site for Black-necked Crane) in Guizhou Province.

Dec 27th
A longish walk out to Mei Xi Hu. Views of Eastern Marsh Harrier, including a nice male and a variety of geese and cranes dropping in to the lake, set among grassy sand dunes to the northeast of Wucheng.

Raptors, as had been remarked upon by others before us, were surprisingly rare at Po Yang. We came across a dead Harrier and a mess of entrails by the riverside. In those days, villagers poisoned the ducks using rice laced with strychnine. The plan was to catch the duck after it had keeled over, and rip the guts out before the poison spread to the duck's flesh. It was apparent that birds of prey eating the discarded duck entrails were perishing as well. There were also examples of human duck-meat consumers dying of strychnine poisoning, but the practice continued.

But the thoughts of this didn't dampen our overall enthusiasm for Po Yang, though. It really did seem like as fine an avian spectacle as one might hope to see anywhere in asia.

Dec 28th
Our ferry return to Nanchang proved even more sporting, as we were now going upstream, and the river had had another week to fall even lower. We were getting used to the cold by then, and the hotel in Nanchang didn't seem quite as bad as it had a few days earlier. Also, it must be said, we weren't on the illegal rooftop extension.

We arrived back in Hong Kong, having missed the excesses of Christmas partying, but knowing that New Year would give us a chance to catch up !