27 Feb 2013

Common/Eurasian Golden Plover at the Mai Po Boardwalk

You won't find any of that immediacy and relevance on this blog, oh no.

So first, news of a bird that turned up on the last fortnightly cycle of tides at the Mai Po boardwalk, on 12th February to be precise.  Very well found by John Allcock, a Golden Plover as big as the Grey Plovers…  Common Golden Plover will - if accepted - be a first for HK, and I don't think there are any mainland Chinese records either.

I had only just got on to it - directed by John - when the flock flew, but here are three shots which I hope show the disparity in size between what used to be called "Greater" and "Lesser" Golden Plovers. The suspect "Greater" Golden Plover is to the right and behind the curlew in this shot, with a Pacific Golden Plover at left and several Grey Plovers in shot, too.

(At rear - Common Golden Plover Pluvialis  aricaria)

We get wintering Pacific Golden Plovers in small numbers in Deep Bay.  They showed well on the 13th ... two examples below;

Pacific Golden Plover   Pluvialis fulva

"EA" - flagged at  Chongming Island, Shanghai

Saunders's Gull  Saundersilarus saundersi

And some of the other mudflat favourites..

Pied Avocet   Recurvirostra avosetta

Marsh Sandpiper  Tringa stagnatilis - Whoops ! should be "Common Greenshank"

Black-faced Spoonbill   Platalea minor

Little Ringed Plover   Charadrius dubius

All the above taken from the Mai Po boardwalk hides with the 800mm 5.6.   Here are some other wintering birds taken here and there with a 500mm f4 lens…

Azure-winged Magpie   Cyanopica cyanus

White-cheeked Starling  Sturnus cineraceus

"Eastern" Yellow Wagtail  Motacilla tschutschensis

Grey Heron   Ardea cinerea

And as I type I can hear Savanna Nightjars calling….. spring is definitely here !

22 Feb 2013

The "Old Quarter", Shantou

Shantou, formerly known as "Swatow", is the easternmost big city on the Guangdong coast before you get to Fujian Province.

In 1858-or-so several western powers bullied China to sign the "Treaty of Tientsin". The treaty allowed Britain, France, Germany and the USA to get access to several Chinese coastal cities as "Treaty Ports".  One of these was Shantou.

The western countries were able to get various commodities into China via the Treaty Ports, the most notorious of which was opium.  Shantou also became a place from which many labourers went all over the world.   Don't take my word for it; here are a couple of links:

 By the 1930s Shantou was a very prosperous place, built on trade and money remitted home from overseas.  Many of the buildings from this period are still standing (just) in an enclave in the southwest of the city.

(This is where Stu in Hokkaido can buy his "Ipud").......the "Ipple" store - where else ?

After 1949 the buildings fell into a state of neglect. It appears that the local government doesn't seem to know what to do with the buildings, but I'd say that renovation, where possible, would be a brilliant way to boost the local sense of identity, and create a unique, but still distinctly Chinese tourism attraction.  

Some locals are aware of the importance of the buildings. A University student was pleased to get me to fill in her questionnaire about them.

Anyhow, it looks like the powers-that-be in Shantou are just waiting for the buildings to collapse out of neglect.  I know there may be complicated ownership issues here, but it would be a great pity if this kind of architectural heritage was lost.

Here in Hong Kong we've bulldozed plenty of "Heritage" in the past thirty years or so.  Shantou ! Don't make the same mistake !

11 Feb 2013

Daxueshan National Nature Reserve, Yongde County, Yunnan

Bar-throated (formerly "Chestnut-tailed") Minla Minla strigula

Yongde county, Yunnan - 10th January 2013

Enquiries at Womulong weren't getting us anywhere so our next overnight stop was the hamlet of Mahuangqing, 26 km closer to Lincang city. 

A new record cheap room for us (RMB 20) ! A view of the slopes of Daxueshan across the valley compensated for lack of more conventional facilities.  The following day, Crested Finchbills seemed to be everywhere.....

Crested Finchbill Spizixos canifrons

In a local minivan we went back up to the high point of Route S 313  around km62 and turned up a track westwards. A short walk up through a graveyard led us to the edge of the big trees, with the elevation about 2,500m. According to "A Biodiversity Review of China" (WWF HK - 1996) Daxueshan NNR has the most southerly stand of Himalayan Hemlock (Tsuga dumosa) trees in China.  These may be higher up on the mountain, we didn't see them.

the path to Daxueshan

White-tailed Nuthatch  Sitta himalayensis

In the time we were there we found three species of "Minla" and four species of "Yuhina" and other  birds typical of moss-covered big trees, here are some examples.

Black-headed Shrike Babbler Pteruthius rufiventer

Streaked Barwing Actinodura souliei

Rufous-vented Yuhina Yuhina occipitalis

Yellow-cheeked Tit Parus spilonotus

"Himalayan" Bluetail  Tarsiger rufilatus

Back to the main road, and we birded a track to a fire lookout opposite the Nature Reserve.  Grey-headed Bullfinch and Maroon-backed Accentor were seen but these often-confiding species were very shy.

View east from the fire lookout

Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus

Gould's Sunbird Aethopyga gouldiae

Rufous-bellied Squirrel

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris (female)


Not wanting to outstay our welcome in Mahuangqing, we hurried on to Lincang city.  To the east of the city lies Wulaoshan National Forest Park.  The going rate for a taxi up there is RMB 150. After 18km there is an entrance gate and a cobbled road runs along a dry ridge for 8km.

where we stayed - the 3 story building

The area we stayed had experienced various attempts to make a commercial success of the place with a derelict fountain and ornamental garden, some landscaping around a small reservoir, various pagodas and a sorry excuse for a zoo. 

Nearly all the original trees were long ago felled. There are pockets of native broadleaf and a few aged pines, but much of the area is covered by a blanket of planted pine trees, in many places in straight rows. It is similar habitat to places like Jixi Shan (Chuxiong) or Shibao Shan (near Lijiang). We thought we heard Yunnan Nuthatches on our first afternoon, but we didn't actually see any in two days of birding there.

Here are a few of the birds on the mountain top and the access road.

Streak-breasted Scimitar-babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis

Common Buzzard Buteo (b) vulpinus

Streak-throated Fulvetta  Fulvetta manipurensis

White-collared Yuhina Yuhina diademata

Black-headed Sibia Heterophasia melanoleuca

Grey-cheeked Fulvetta  Alcippe fratercula

Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus

Gould's Sunbird Aethopyga gouldiae

Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis

Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis

Red-tailed Minla Minla ignotincta

Wulaoshan must be a summer retreat for people in Lincang city, so it was understandably quiet up there in January.  The birds were mostly uncooperative, and even the buntings didn't allow close approach.

"What, US worry ?" 

Lincang city is undergoing a huge building boom.  Banners in town celebrated the recent appointment of a local representative to China's NPCCC for the first time.

It was refreshing to see a few egrets in agricultural fields and ponds near Lincang. Our final surprise was an  Asian Openbill.  They seen to be spreading north into Yunnan Province, after a first record as recently as October 2006 (China Bird Report 2006). They now seem to be quite common in Xishangbanna, for example.

Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans

Openbills are spreading south to Malaysia and Singapore, too..- see here:

and here:

No more bus journeys for us; we flew back to Kunming a couple of hours after seeing the Lincang Openbill.

(The bird names used in the captions are in accordance - I trust - with my 2011 edition of Craig Robson's "Birds of SE Asia". )