It may seem incredible that a vertebrate species in China remained undiscovered until the 21st century. That however is the case with Nonggang Babbler Stachyris nonggangensis, discovered by Chinese researchers in 2008.

Nonggang Babbler: From ‘Unknown to Science’ to ‘Automatic Tick’

At Longheng, a village near Nonggang National Nature Reserve in Guangxi, Nonggang Babbler has gone from “unknown to science” to “automatic tick.” This is thanks to enterprising individuals such as Lú Róng (卢荣). Mr. Lu created a setup that he maintains daily. His Nonggang Babbler make nearly guaranteed appearances between the hours of 8 and 11. What an amazing turn of events for a species that was not discovered until 2008.

From 16-21 Dec. 2015, Michael Grunwell, my wife Elaine Du, and I were in Guangxi. In Longheng, we stayed at Mr. Lu’s home, which doubles as a lodge. We noted 76 species. Within walking distance of Longheng we had, besides Nonggang Babbler, White-winged Magpie, close nighttime views of Collared Scops Owl, the elusive Lesser Shortwing, and southern China favorites Sultan Tit, Buff-breasted Babbler, Streaked Wren-Babbler, and Black-breasted Thrush. Farther afield, driving in our rented Mitsubishi Pajero, we found Large Woodshrike in the heavily wooded valley near Longheng, White-browed Piculet and Chestnut-capped Babbler in the cane fields near Longheng, Slaty-bellied Tesia in a thicket along a farm road, Siberian Rubythroat along a stream near Nonggang village, and Red-headed Trogon, Long-tailed Broadbill, Grey-throated Babbler, and Pale-footed Bush Warbler near Nonggang National Nature Reserve. Pin-striped Tit-Babbler and Rufescent Prinia were seen at various points, and Crested Bunting were locally abundant on the road between Chongzuo and Longheng. All of the many Fork-tailed Sunbird that we saw were male. Conspicuous by their absence or near-absence were laughingthrushes (0 species noted) and raptors (3 species noted).

Longheng and karst towers from balcony at Mr. Lu's lodge. Photo by Elaine Du.
Longheng and karst towers from balcony at Mr. Lu’s lodge. (Elaine Du)

Longheng involves a flight to Nanning and an easy, partly birdable three-hour drive south to the village. In the village, you can choose between easy activities such as photographing Nonggang Babbler at the setup and harder work such as owl-watching at night. The villagers are members of China’s largest minority group, the Zhuang. Even though sugar cane fills most flat areas, there is still much good habitat, and even the cane fields are somewhat birdable. In the surrounding forests you can get a good impression of tropical southeast China avifauna. The karst is a strange, romantic landscape. Thickly vegetated limestone towers rise like skyscrapers from the valley floor.

Reach Mr. Lu at any of the following numbers: +86 181-7815-7646, +86 (0) 771-8926541, and +86 181-7718-5027. Accommodation at Mr. Lu’s lodge was spartan, but his wife’s country cooking was just fine. For 150 yuan per person per day, we were getting a room, breakfast and supper, and access to the blinds.

Lu Rong (L), Craig Brelsford (C), and Michael Grunwell searching for White-winged Magpie at Longheng. Photo by Elaine Du.
Lu Rong (L), Craig Brelsford (C), and Michael Grunwell searching for White-winged Magpie at Longheng. (Elaine Du)

Mr. Lu is a good birder and will be happy to go birding with you if he has the time. Mr. Lu led us to the Chestnut-capped Babbler site, and he was with us when Elaine spotted the piculets in the sugar cane. He led the owl walk that got us views of Collared Scops Owl. Mr. Lu is in his 50s, was born in Longheng, knows every square inch of the territory within a 10 km radius, and is full of valuable info.

Around Longheng, one can choose between easy and difficult birding activities. Here is a tough one: finding out that the restless, skulking bird that refused to show was Grey-throated Babbler. By crawling into the bushes, I was able to get our only record of this species for our trip. Our partner Michael Grunwell is standing right. Photo by Elaine Du.
Around Longheng, one can choose between easy and difficult birding activities. Here is a tough one: finding out that the restless, skulking bird that refused to show was Grey-throated Babbler. By crawling into the bushes, I was able to get our only record of this species for our trip. Our partner Michael Grunwell is standing right. (Elaine Du)

Mr. Lu has competition: the young Huáng Yuǎn Chéng (黄远程, +86 133-1781-2383). Mr. Huang controls some of the land around the giant banyan tree just outside the village. In the wooded area near the tree, Mr. Huang has created a beautiful setup using the natural limestone as props. Mr. Huang also has a blind for viewing White-winged Magpie.

It’s possible that Mr. Lu and Mr. Huang gained their wealth of bird knowledge by hunting birds. Now, these men not only don’t hunt, but I am sure they would also stop anyone they found poaching. In tiny Longheng, a bird-photography industry has arisen, centered around Nonggang Babbler. At other places in China, notably Baihualing in Yunnan, the same thing is happening. Chinese bird photographers are the driving force behind this small industry. The lust for photos of these mainly well-off men is having a trickle-down effect, putting cash in the pockets of formerly poor farmers and creating a free-market rationale for protecting birds.

One of the easiest birding activities at Longheng is viewing Nonggang Babbler. Here I am at Mr. Lu's Nonggang Babbler setup. Photo by Elaine Du.
One of the easiest birding activities at Longheng is viewing Nonggang Babbler. Here I am at Mr. Lu’s Nonggang Babbler setup. (Elaine Du)

We did not look into getting permits for Nonggang National Nature Reserve. We had been warned that permits would be difficult to obtain, and I find demeaning the entire application process, in which extra scrutiny and double standards are applied to foreigners. We were happy with Longheng, and in any case the locked gate to the nature reserve lies several hundred meters deep within high-quality secondary forest, and one can bird to the gate without a permit.

Elaine Du was voted Most Valuable Birder of the trip. The election took place on the plane back to Shanghai. The democratic process evolved in this wise: Elaine cast her vote for me. Michael voted for Elaine. In a dramatic tie-breaking maneuver, I agreed with Michael and swung the election to Elaine. The engraving on Elaine’s citation reads: “For spotting and helping ID White-browed Piculet as well as for various & sundry excellent feats & good deeds, Elaine Du is voted Most Valuable Birder!”

Elaine Du, Most Valuable Birder of the Nonggang 2015 Birding Expedition.
Elaine Du, Most Valuable Birder of the Nonggang 2015 Birding Expedition. (Craig Brelsford)

THE TRIP

Wed. 16 Dec. 2015
Nanning

Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, and I flew from Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport to Nanning. We picked up our rented Mitsubishi Pajero. Spent night at hotel near airport.

Thurs. 17 Dec. 2015
Longheng

We counted 17 Crested Bunting on the road between Chongzuo and Longheng.
We counted 17 Crested Bunting on the road between Chongzuo and Longheng. (Craig Brelsford)

Bird of the day: White-winged Magpie

We left our hotel and drove 150 km southwest, taking the G7211 freeway to Chóngzuǒ (崇左). From there we took secondary roads through Xiǎngshuǐ (响水) to our destination, Lónghēng (陇亨). We found Crested Bunting between Chongzuo and Longheng. At a scrubby area near Xiangshui, we found Plain Flowerpecker and female Black-throated Sunbird.

At Longheng we met Mr. Lu, a local man who has set up blinds in the forests nearby. He took us to a blind. There, Michael had his first view ever of White-tailed Robin. Small Niltava and Snowy-browed Flycatcher also appeared. In the evening, Mr. Lu took us to an ancient banyan tree near the village. White-winged Magpie flew off as we arrived.

Fri. 18 Dec. 2015
Longheng

Bird of the day: Nonggang Babbler

After breakfast we were taken to a setup by Mr. Lu. Other bird photographers were there. A flock of 10 Nonggang Babbler arrived. The babblers are extremely tame, so much so that Mr. Lu has not even erected a blind. The photographers sit in the open. The Nonggang Babbler were totally without fear, at times foraging within inches of our feet. The mealworms set out by Mr. Lu are clearly a powerful attractant but are only a part of their diet. The setup also attracted Streaked Wren-Babbler, White-tailed Robin, a female Fujian Niltava, and Red-flanked Bluetail. After we were finished at the Nonggang Babbler setup, we visited another blind, where Michael picked up Black-crested Bulbul, and where I enjoyed another close view of Buff-breasted Babbler. We took a long drive on dirt roads. In one of the few places where forest reaches the road, we found Slaty-bellied Tesia. We drove back to Longheng and took a third road out of the village. This was the only road where the high clearance of our Pajero was necessary. This road led to a remote valley guarded by a skull and hound from hell. It took little imagination to see the rabid dog and scowling skull in the totally natural karst. We called this remote valley “the backcountry.”

Sat. 19 Dec. 2015
Longheng

It is nearly impossible for a single photographer to photograph owls at night. For the shot of this Collared Scops Owl, I am indebted to Michael Grunwell and Mr. Lu, the former for his deft use of the flashlight, the latter for his intelligent guiding.
It is nearly impossible for a single photographer to photograph owls at night. For the shot of this Collared Scops Owl, I am indebted to Michael Grunwell and Mr. Lu, the former for his deft use of the flashlight, the latter for his intelligent guiding. (Craig Brelsford)

Bird of the day: Collared Scops Owl

In the morning we stumbled upon a blind near the giant banyan tree. This well-designed site is the work of the artful Mr. Huang, whom we later met. Here we found Japanese Thrush, Grey-backed Thrush, Black-breasted Thrush, and a stunning male Fujian Niltava. We drove slowly up the steep, overgrown road to the backcountry, where we picked up Large Woodshrike and Sultan Tit. We drove to the creek at Nonggang village, finding there a male Siberian Rubythroat. We drove as far as the locked gate at Nonggang National Nature Reserve. On the way to the gate we passed through very good primary or old secondary forest. We found 4 Red-headed Trogon and 12 Long-tailed Broadbill. We returned to Longheng. Mr. Lu wanted to look for Collared Scops Owl. Michael Grunwell and I followed Mr. Lu in the dark. We were accompanied by two Chinese bird photographers. Mr. Lu supplied the headlamps; I supplied the playback. We walked a few hundred meters down the dirt road. After a while we heard 2 Collared Scops Owl. We climbed through giant bamboo to the base of the cliff. We spotted the owl right above us on the bamboo. Five people were too many, and it soon left. We walked toward the other owl. The Chinese photographers half gave up and were walking back toward Mr. Lu’s house. Michael and I glimpsed a form flying through the treetops. It was the owl. We enjoyed a sustained view.

Sun. 20 Dec. 2015
Longheng

Lesser Shortwing Brachypteryx leucophris just after its bath at photo blind in Longheng, Guangxi, 20 Dec. 2015. F/4, 1/8, ISO 10000.
Lesser Shortwing Brachypteryx leucophris just after its bath at photo blind in Longheng, Guangxi, 20 Dec. 2015. F/4, 1/8, ISO 10000. (Craig Brelsford)

Bird of the day: Lesser Shortwing

We began our day at Mr. Huang’s blind near the giant banyan tree. Mr. Huang came by and took us to another blind, set up to allow photographers to view White-winged Magpie. The magpies arrived, as expected, but only for a few seconds. We drove to Nonggang, where we found Pale-footed Bush Warbler. We drove back to Longheng and revisited Mr. Huang’s Banyan Blind. We waited until after sunset. The light was so low that I could hardly focus my camera. Our patience paid off with Lesser Shortwing.

Through the gloom we could just make out the form of a small bird. So dark was it by now that I could ID the bird only by the photos I was taking of it.

The shortwing helped itself to a few mealworms and took a bath. It had no competition. Its strategy was to wait out the bigger birds and use its tolerance for very low light as an advantage. We got sustained views and photos of a rarely seen bird.

The shortwing was the capstone on another successful project in low-light bird photography. Ever since a magical morning in June 2010, when I photographed Fairy Pitta in the pre-dawn light at Dongzhai, Henan, I have been drawn to photographing forest birds in low light.

The shortwing seems to be looking at us, but actually it has no idea it is being watched. It is simply responding to the soft click of the camera. What an advantage blinds can give birders. Where else but in a blind can one view a Lesser Shortwing, among the shyest of birds, for 10 minutes? F/8, 1/5, ISO 10000.
The shortwing seems to be looking at us, but actually it has no idea it is being watched. It is simply responding to the soft click of the camera. What an advantage blinds can give birders. Where else but in a blind can one view a Lesser Shortwing, among the shyest of birds, for 10 minutes? F/8, 1/5, ISO 10000. (Craig Brelsford)

My current setup is well-suited to this task. I place my Nikon D3S and Nikon 600 mm F/4 lens atop my Manfrotto MVH502AH video head and Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 carbon-fiber tripod. The D3S is now a 6-year-old model; though superseded by newer models such as the D4S, the D3S remains one of the best low-light cameras ever made, easily creating usable photos at ISO 10000.

I put the D3S in mirror-up mode. I tighten the head to the firmest position and slowly follow the movement of the shortwing with my left hand, which holds the wand attached to the head. When the shortwing stops, I release my hand from the wand; because the head is tight and hard to move, the camera always rests in the position to which I guide it.

This dorsal view provides plenty of detail. Note the short wings and stubby tail. F/8, 1/5, ISO 10000.
This dorsal view provides plenty of detail. Note the short wings and stubby tail. F/8, 1/5, ISO 10000. (Craig Brelsford)

I press the button on my shutter-release cable, held in my right hand. The first press opens the mirror; I wait a second, then press the button again, opening the shutter and exposing the image.

Low light is not bad light. With patience, skill, and the right equipment, one can achieve lovely images of birds in near-darkness.

Mon. 21 Dec. 2015
Longheng-Nanning-Shanghai

Bird of the day: White-browed Piculet

In the morning, Michael, Elaine, and I were led by Mr. Lu to a site (22.525578, 107.012304) 7 km from Longheng known to hold Chestnut-capped Babbler. We found 4 amid streamside vegetation and sugar cane. We next looked for Yellow-eyed Babbler at several sites at the edges of sugar-cane fields. We found none but got a fine consolation prize: 3 White-browed Piculet. The piculets were found in the sugar cane at 22.478903, 107.000033 and according to Mr. Lu breed in the heavily wooded village near that point. April is the best time to view the breeding piculets, he said. Our team had spread out and was alerted to the piculets by Elaine’s shouts. She didn’t recognize the piculets, but her vivid description led Mr. Lu to surmise that White-browed Piculet was a possibility. Playback attracted them back, and we all got good views. Michael was ecstatic; his last bird of the trip was a lifer.

We dropped Mr. Lu off at Longheng and enjoyed a smooth ride back to Nanning airport and an uneventful plane ride back to Shanghai.

PHOTO GALLERY

The pale-blue iris and a white crescent behind the ear are among the features distinguishing Stachyris nonggangensis from Sooty Babbler S. herberti, which occurs in Laos and Vietnam and is the species to which Nonggang Babbler is most often compared.
The pale-blue iris and a white crescent behind the ear are among the features distinguishing Stachyris nonggangensis from Sooty Babbler S. herberti, which occurs in Laos and Vietnam and is the species to which Nonggang Babbler is most often compared.
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum tickelli was one of several south-China specialties we enjoyed in Longheng.
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum tickelli was one of several south-China specialties we enjoyed in Longheng. (Craig Brelsford)
Hides are great equalizers. Under normal conditions, birders would struggle to tick Streaked Wren-Babbler. At Mr. Lu's hide, this fellow lingered for minutes at a time, and even scolded us!
Hides are great equalizers. Under normal conditions, birders would struggle to tick Streaked Wren-Babbler. At Mr. Lu’s hide, this fellow lingered for minutes at a time, and even scolded us! (Craig Brelsford)
Noisy, gregarious, and flamboyantly colored, Long-tailed Broadbill provide unforgettable moments to the birder.
Noisy, gregarious, and flamboyantly colored, Long-tailed Broadbill provide unforgettable moments to the birder. (Craig Brelsford)
Sitting patiently in Mr. Huang's hide paid off with this serviceable shot of White-winged Magpie.
Sitting patiently in Mr. Huang’s hide paid off with this serviceable shot of White-winged Magpie. (Craig Brelsford)
Turdus is an easy genus to love. Turdus is powerful, with representatives on all the habitable continents and even Oceania; consistent, with the same basic size and rounded shape common to all species; and beautiful, as in the case of south China's Black-breasted Thrush Turdus dissimilis.
Turdus is an easy genus to love. Turdus is powerful, with representatives on all the habitable continents and even Oceania; consistent, with the same basic size and rounded shape common to all species; and beautiful, as in the case of south China’s Black-breasted Thrush T. dissimilis. (Craig Brelsford)

LISTS

Simple List of Species of Bird Noted Around Longheng and Nonggang National Nature Reserve, Guangxi, China, 16-21 Dec. 2015 (76 species)

Greater Coucal
Collared Scops Owl
Red-headed Trogon
Common Kingfisher
White-browed Piculet
Bay Woodpecker
Common Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Long-tailed Broadbill
Large Woodshrike
Long-tailed Shrike
White-bellied Erpornis
Ashy Drongo
White-throated Fantail
Red-billed Blue Magpie
White-winged Magpie
Large-billed Crow
Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher
Sultan Tit
Japanese Tit
Black-crested Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Light-vented Bulbul
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Puff-throated Bulbul
Black Bulbul
Red-rumped Swallow
Yellow-bellied Warbler
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler
Slaty-bellied Tesia
Pale-footed Bush Warbler
Dusky Warbler
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler
Two-barred Warbler
Bianchi’s Warbler
Rufescent Prinia
Plain Prinia
Common Tailorbird
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
Nonggang Babbler
Grey-throated Babbler
Rufous-capped Babbler
Pin-striped Tit-Babbler
Chestnut-capped Babbler
David’s Fulvetta
Streaked Wren-Babbler
Buff-breasted Babbler
Japanese White-eye
Crested Myna
Grey-backed Thrush
Black-breasted Thrush
Japanese Thrush
Chinese Blackbird
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Fujian Niltava
Small Niltava
Lesser Shortwing
Daurian Redstart
White-tailed Robin
Siberian Rubythroat
Red-flanked Bluetail
Snowy-browed Flycatcher
Stejneger’s Stonechat
Grey Bush Chat
Plain Flowerpecker
Fork-tailed Sunbird
Black-throated Sunbird
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
White-rumped Munia
Scaly-breasted Munia
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Olive-backed Pipit
Crested Bunting
Black-faced Bunting

Systematic List of Species of Bird Noted Around Longheng and Nonggang National Nature Reserve, Guangxi, China, 16-21 Dec. 2015 (76 species)

Accipitriformes: Accipitridae

Crested Goshawk
凤头鹰 (fèngtóu yīng)
Accipiter trivirgatus

1 on 2015-12-21

Cuculiformes: Cuculidae

Greater Coucal
褐翅鸦鹃 (hèchì yājuān)
Centropus sinensis

2 on 2015-12-17
1 on 2015-12-19
1 on 2015-12-21

Strigiformes: Strigidae

Collared Scops Owl
西领角鸮 (xī lǐngjiǎoxiāo)
Otus lettia

2 on 2015-12-19

Trogoniformes: Trogonidae

Red-headed Trogon
红头咬鹃 (hóngtóu yǎojuān)
Harpactes erythrocephalus

4 on 2015-12-19

Coraciiformes: Alcedinidae

Common Kingfisher
普通翠鸟 (pǔtōng cuìniǎo)
Alcedo atthis

1 on 2015-12-17

Piciformes: Picidae

White-browed Piculet
白眉棕啄木鸟 (báiméi zōngzhuómùniǎo)
Sasia ochracea

3 on 2015-12-21

Bay Woodpecker
黄嘴栗啄木鸟 (huángzuǐ lìzhuómùniǎo)
Blythipicus pyrrhotis

1 on 2015-12-17
1 on 2015-12-19

Falconiformes: Falconidae

Common Kestrel
红隼 (hóng sǔn)
Falco tinnunculus

1 on 2015-12-17

Peregrine Falcon
游隼 (yóusǔn)
Falco peregrinus

1 on 2015-12-19

Passeriformes: Eurylaimidae

Long-tailed Broadbill
长尾阔嘴鸟 (chángwěi kuòzuǐniǎo)
Psarisomus dalhousiae

12 on 2015-12-19

Passeriformes: Tephrodornithidae

Large Woodshrike
钩嘴林䴗 (gōuzuǐ línjú)
Tephrodornis virgatus

20 on 2015-12-19

Passeriformes: Laniidae

Long-tailed Shrike
棕背伯劳 (zōngbèi bóláo)
Lanius schach

5 on 2015-12-17
2 on 2015-12-18
1 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Vireonidae

White-bellied Erpornis
白腹凤鹛 (báifù fèngméi)
Erpornis zantholeuca

1 on 2015-12-17
6 on 2015-12-19
7 on 2015-12-20

Passeriformes: Dicruridae

Ashy Drongo
灰卷尾 (huī juǎnwěi)
Dicrurus leucophaeus hopwoodi

1 on 2015-12-19

Passeriformes: Rhipiduridae

White-throated Fantail
白喉扇尾鹟 (báihóu shànwěiwēng)
Rhipidura albicollis

2 on 2015-12-18
7 on 2015-12-19
4 on 2015-12-20

Passeriformes: Corvidae

Red-billed Blue Magpie
红嘴蓝鹊 (hóngzuǐ lánquè)
Urocissa erythroryncha

1 on 2015-12-17

White-winged Magpie
白翅蓝鹊 (báichì lánquè)
Urocissa whiteheadi

3 on 2015-12-17
3 on 2015-12-20
2 on 2015-12-21

Large-billed Crow
大嘴乌鸦 (dàzuǐ wūyā)
Corvus macrorhynchos

7 on 2015-12-17
1 on 2015-12-18
1 on 2015-12-20
2 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Stenostiridae

Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher
方尾鹟 (fāngwěi wēng)
Culicicapa ceylonensis

1 on 2015-12-19
2 on 2015-12-20

Passeriformes: Paridae

Sultan Tit
冕雀 (miǎn què)
Melanochlora sultanea

3 on 2015-12-19
4 on 2015-12-20
1 on 2015-12-21

Japanese Tit
远东山雀 (yuǎndōng shānquè)
Parus minor

5 on 2015-12-17
5 on 2015-12-20
1 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Pycnonotidae

Black-crested Bulbul
黑冠黄鹎 (hēiguān huángbēi)
Pycnonotus flaviventris

1 on 2015-12-18

Red-whiskered Bulbul
红耳鹎 (hóng’ěr bēi)
Pycnonotus jocosus

20 on 2015-12-17
15 on 2015-12-18
30 on 2015-12-19
20 on 2015-12-20
30 on 2015-12-21

Light-vented Bulbul
白头鹎 (báitóu bēi)
Pycnonotus sinensis

8 on 2015-12-21

Sooty-headed Bulbul
白喉红臀鹎 (báihóu hóngtúnbēi)
Pycnonotus aurigaster

10 on 2015-12-17
10 on 2015-12-21

Puff-throated Bulbul
白喉冠鹎 (báihóu guānbēi)
Alophoixus pallidus

4 on 2015-12-20

Black Bulbul
黑短脚鹎 (hēi duǎnjiǎobēi)
Hypsipetes leucocephalus

10 on 2015-12-18
36 on 2015-12-19
4 on 2015-12-20
2 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Hirundinidae

Red-rumped Swallow
金腰燕 (jīnyāo yàn)
Cecropis daurica

15 on 2015-12-17
15 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Cettiidae

Yellow-bellied Warbler
黄腹鹟莺 (huángfù wēngyīng)
Abroscopus superciliaris

2 on 2015-12-17
6 on 2015-12-18
10 on 2015-12-19
8 on 2015-12-20

Brown-flanked Bush Warbler
强脚树莺 (qiángjiǎo shùyīng)
Horornis fortipes

8 on 2015-12-20

Slaty-bellied Tesia
金冠地莺 (jīnguān dìyīng)
Tesia olivea

1 on 2015-12-18

Pale-footed Bush Warbler
淡脚树莺 (dànjiǎo shùyīng)
Urosphena pallidipes

3 on 2015-12-20

Passeriformes: Phylloscopidae

Dusky Warbler
褐柳莺 (hè liǔyīng)
Phylloscopus fuscatus

1 on 2015-12-19

Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
黄腰柳莺 (huángyāoliǔyīng)
Phylloscopus proregulus

1 on 2015-12-18

Yellow-browed Warbler
黄眉柳莺 (huángméi liǔyīng)
Phylloscopus inornatus

8 on 2015-12-17
8 on 2015-12-18
3 on 2015-12-19
3 on 2015-12-20
3 on 2015-12-21

Two-barred Warbler
双斑绿柳莺 (huāngbān lǜliǔyīng)
Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus

1 on 2015-12-17
1 on 2015-12-19
1 on 2015-12-20

Bianchi’s Warbler
比氏鹟莺 (bǐshì wēngyīng)
Seicercus valentini

3 on 2015-12-19
1 on 2015-12-20

Passeriformes: Cisticolidae

Rufescent Prinia
暗冕鹪莺 (ànmiǎn jiāoyīng)
Prinia rufescens

3 on 2015-12-17
8 on 2015-12-18
5 on 2015-12-19
8 on 2015-12-20

Plain Prinia
褐头鹪莺 (hètóu jiāoyīng)
Prinia inornata

2 on 2015-12-17
5 on 2015-12-19
8 on 2015-12-21

Common Tailorbird
长尾缝叶莺 (chángwěi féngyèyīng)
Orthotomus sutorius

3 on 2015-12-17
3 on 2015-12-18
10 on 2015-12-19
15 on 2015-12-20
6 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Timaliidae

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
棕颈钩嘴鹛 (zōngjǐng gōuzuǐméi)
Pomatorhinus ruficollis

6 on 2015-12-17
5 on 2015-12-18
30 on 2015-12-19
30 on 2015-12-20

Nonggang Babbler
弄岗穗鹛 (nònggǎng suìméi)
Stachyris nonggangensis

10 on 2015-12-18

Grey-throated Babbler
黑头穗鹛 (hēitóu suìméi)
Stachyris nigriceps

2 on 2015-12-19

Rufous-capped Babbler
红头穗鹛 (hóngtóu suìméi)
Stachyridopsis ruficeps

8 on 2015-12-17
6 on 2015-12-18
15 on 2015-12-19
5 on 2015-12-20
7 on 2015-12-21

Pin-striped Tit-Babbler
纹胸鹛 (wénxiōng méi)
Macronus gularis

8 on 2015-12-17
3 on 2015-12-18
20 on 2015-12-19
20 on 2015-12-20

Chestnut-capped Babbler
红顶鹛 (hóngdǐng méi)
Timalia pileata

4 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Pellorneidae

David’s Fulvetta
灰眶雀鹛 (huīkuàng quèméi)
Alcippe davidi

20 on 2015-12-17
20 on 2015-12-18
40 on 2015-12-19
25 on 2015-12-20

Streaked Wren-Babbler
短尾鹪鹛 (duǎnwěi jiāoméi)
Napothera brevicaudata

1 on 2015-12-18
1 on 2015-12-19

Buff-breasted Babbler
棕胸雅鹛 (zōngxiōng yǎméi)
Pellorneum tickelli

6 on 2015-12-17
3 on 2015-12-18
3 on 2015-12-19
3 on 2015-12-20

Passeriformes: Zosteropidae

Japanese White-eye
暗绿绣眼鸟 (ànlǜ xiùyǎnniǎo)
Zosterops japonicus

2 on 2015-12-17
2 on 2015-12-18
6 on 2015-12-20
2 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Sturnidae

Crested Myna
八哥 (bāgē)
Acridotheres cristatellus

1 on 2015-12-17

Passeriformes: Turdidae

Grey-backed Thrush
灰背鸫 (huībèi dōng)
Turdus hortulorum

1 on 2015-12-19
1 on 2015-12-20

Black-breasted Thrush
黑胸鸫 (hēixiōng dōng)
Turdus dissimilis

1 on 2015-12-19
2 on 2015-12-20
1 on 2015-12-21

Japanese Thrush
乌灰鸫 (wūhuī dōng)
Turdus cardis

1 on 2015-12-19
1 on 2015-12-20

Chinese Blackbird
乌鸫 (wū dōng)
Turdus mandarinus

1 on 2015-12-17
1 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Muscicapidae

Oriental Magpie-Robin
鹊鸲 (quèqú)
Copsychus saularis

4 on 2015-12-17
2 on 2015-12-18
2 on 2015-12-20
2 on 2015-12-21

Fujian Niltava
棕腹大仙鹟 (zōngfù dàxiānwēng)
Niltava davidi

1 on 2015-12-18
1 on 2015-12-19
1 on 2015-12-20

Small Niltava
小仙鹟 (xiǎo xiānwēng)
Niltava macgrigoriae

1 on 2015-12-17
2 on 2015-12-20

Lesser Shortwing
白喉短翅鸫 (báihóu duǎnchìdōng)
Brachypteryx leucophris

1 on 2015-12-20

Siberian Rubythroat
红喉歌鸲 (hónghóu gēqú)
Calliope calliope

1 on 2015-12-19

Red-flanked Bluetail
红胁蓝尾鸲 (hóngxié lánwěiqú)
Tarsiger cyanurus

2 on 2015-12-17
4 on 2015-12-18
12 on 2015-12-19
10 on 2015-12-20
3 on 2015-12-21

Snowy-browed Flycatcher
棕胸蓝姬鹟 (zōngxiōng lánjīwēng)
Ficedula hyperythra

1 on 2015-12-17

Daurian Redstart
北红尾鸲 (běi hóngwěiqú)
Phoenicurus auroreus

1 on 2015-12-21

White-tailed Robin
白尾蓝地鸲 (báiwěi lándìqú)
Myiomela leucura

1 on 2015-12-17
5 on 2015-12-18
2 on 2015-12-19
2 on 2015-12-20

Stejneger’s Stonechat
东亚石䳭 (dōngyà shíjí)
Saxicola stejnegeri

4 on 2015-12-17
3 on 2015-12-18
2 on 2015-12-21

Grey Bush Chat
灰林鵖 (huī línjí)
Saxicola ferreus

3 on 2015-12-18
2 on 2015-12-19
1 on 2015-12-20
4 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Dicaeidae

Plain Flowerpecker
纯色啄花鸟 (chúnsè zhuóhuāniǎo)
Dicaeum minullum

1 on 2015-12-17

Fork-tailed Sunbird
叉尾太阳鸟 (chāwěi tàiyángniǎo)
Aethopyga christinae

8 on 2015-12-17
6 on 2015-12-18
6 on 2015-12-20

Black-throated Sunbird
黑胸太阳鸟 (hēixiōng tàiyángniǎo)
Aethopyga saturata

1 on 2015-12-17

Passeriformes: Passeridae

Eurasian Tree Sparrow
树麻雀 (shù máquè)
Passer montanus

ca. 100 on 2015-12-17
25 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Estrildidae

White-rumped Munia
白腰文鸟 (báiyāo wénniǎo)
Lonchura striata

10 on 2015-12-17

Scaly-breasted Munia
斑文鸟 (bān wénniǎo)
Lonchura punctulata

8 on 2015-12-17
8 on 2015-12-19
12 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Motacillidae

Grey Wagtail
灰鹡鸰 (huī jílíng)
Motacilla cinerea

1 on 2015-12-17

White Wagtail
白鹡鸰 (bái jílíng)
Motacilla alba

10 on 2015-12-17
3 on 2015-12-19
3 on 2015-12-20
2 on 2015-12-21

Olive-backed Pipit
树鹨 (shù liù)
Anthus hodgsoni

2 on 2015-12-17

Passeriformes: Emberizidae

Crested Bunting
凤头鹀 (fèngtóu wū)
Emberiza lathami

17 on 2015-12-17
3 on 2015-12-21

Black-faced Bunting
灰头鹀 (huītóu wū)
Emberiza spodocephala

1 on 2015-12-17

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brazil, Mark. Birds of East Asia. Princeton University Press. Does not cover Guangxi province. Consulted in Shanghai.

del Hoyo, Josep, et al., eds. The Handbook of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions.

Lynx Edicions. The Internet Bird Collection. ibc.lynxeds.com

MacKinnon, John & Karen Phillipps. A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford University Press. We had a copy of MacKinnon at our lodge and consulted it at night.

Oriental Bird Club. Oriental Bird Images. orientalbirdimages.org.

Robson, Craig. Birds of Southeast Asia. Princeton University Press. Our first reference. “E Tonkin” (Vietnam) is the region closest to Nonggang.

Smith, Andrew T. & Yan Xie, eds. Mammals of China. Princeton University Press.

Xeno-Canto Foundation. Xeno-Canto: Bird Sounds from Around the World. xeno-canto.org. Craig has downloaded hundreds of calls from this Web site.

EQUIPMENT

Cameras: Nikon D3S; for landscapes, Apple iPad, Apple iPhone 4S, and Apple iPhone 6
Lens: Nikon VR 600mm F/4G
Sound recorder: Olympus DM-650
Binoculars: Swarovski EL 8 x 32 (Craig), Zeiss Conquest HD 8 x 42 (Elaine)
Spotting scope: Swarovski ATX-95

Featured image: It may seem incredible that a vertebrate species in China remained unknown to science until the 21st century. That however is the case with Nonggang Babbler Stachyris nonggangensis, discovered by Chinese researchers in 2008. (Craig Brelsford)

Published by

Craig Brelsford

Craig Brelsford lived in Shanghai from 2007 to 2018. When he departed China, Craig was the top-ranked eBirder in the country, having noted 932 species, as well as the top-ranked eBirder in Shanghai (323 species). A 1993 graduate of the University of Florida, Craig was an award-winning newspaper editor in the United States for 10 years. In 2002, Craig earned a master's in business administration from the University of Liege in Belgium. Craig lives in Debary, Florida with his wife, Elaine, and their son, Tiny.

2 thoughts on “Nonggang Babbler: From ‘Unknown to Science’ to ‘Automatic Tick’”

  1. It is a real joy to read your reports. The last one Nonggang Babbler is a small masterpiece. You are born with the pen in your hand and open eyes and mind!

  2. Hi, Enjoying your website today. Recently a very young black bird came to our balcony in Nanning. It is approximately 3 to 4 months old. We have fallen in love. What a smart bird. It bathes twice a day and has a dynamic personality. We don’t know if it is a starling or tri-colored blackbird. White tips at the end of it’s tail and hidden white color in the wings with a splash of white near the low part of the wing. You’re welcome to join us in Nanning.

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