Editor’s note: The photo above shows a remnant of the reed beds that used to cover Nanhui and much of the Shanghai Peninsula. The photo is from Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), part of a reed bed 450,000 square meters in size lining the Dazhi River near Binhai. As the birding areas at Nanhui fall to the backhoe, future birders searching for species will turn to hidden corners such as this one.
This post is part of a series on the riches of the environment in Nanhui and the threats to those riches. Other posts in the series:
Though its position between the Yangtze River and Hangzhou Bay makes it among the richest birding areas on the coast of China, the southeastern tip of Pudong enjoys virtually no protection. The continued transformation of Cape Nanhui is likely, with the reed beds at particular risk. As the backhoes advance, birders ask: Where will we go to find our birds?
Answer: to the remnants.
Like archeologists examining a ruin, future birders at Cape Nanhui will scour the fragments of a once-great coastal wetland and try to imagine how the place once looked. Most of the land will have been transformed. Even now, in some of the agricultural areas around Binhai (31.007757, 121.885624) and Luchao (30.857299, 121.850590), nearly all of the original reed-bed habitat has disappeared.
If those future birders look hard, though, they will find intact pieces, islands of untouched habitat. Even around Binhai and Luchao, there are such places. Reed beds line man-made canals and larger waterways such as the Dazhi River, the mouth of which holds about 450,000 square meters of good reed-bed habitat. In these fragments, wild birds flourish, much as they always have done, though on a smaller scale.
Binhai lies to the north of the main birding areas east of Dishui Lake. Luchao is to the south. These towns border the 30-km stretch of coastline at Cape Nanhui. These built-up places point to the likely future of the areas just east of Dishui Lake, which have developed more slowly and to this day still hold pristine reed beds. (One of the largest covers 1.4 sq. km and has its center point at 30.876060, 121.945305.)
The reed beds east of Dishui are impenetrable–a wilderness within the city. We know that they are rich in birds, and we know that they hold species at risk, among them breeding Marsh Grassbird Locustella pryeri, listed as Near Threatened by IUCN. Judging by their frequency of occurrence at the edges of the reed beds, where they are regularly seen and heard, Near Threatened Reed Parrotbill must number in the high hundreds at Nanhui. Just this past Saturday, our team found Near Threatened Japanese Reed Bunting.
Even the tiny fragments near the towns hold a surprisingly high number of species. At a site (30.850707, 121.863662) north of Luchao, in reeds lining a canal at the base of the sea wall, Yellow-breasted Bunting have been present throughout November. On Saturday we found this Endangered species for the sixth time in six tries since our first sighting there on 5 Nov.
The site, part of a reedy area 75 m wide and 2500 m long, also yielded a small flock of Reed Parrotbill as well as wintering Chestnut-eared Bunting and Pallas’s Reed Bunting. Just north of the site, near Eiffel Tower (30.850531, 121.878047), there is an even smaller fragment of reed bed. There, we had juvenile Lesser Coucal.
Reed beds are an extremely rich habitat, and even a tiny area can hold many birds. Even if disaster continues to befall the large reed beds that still exist near Dishui Lake, not quite everything will have been lost. Birding will go on–in the remnants.
78 SPECIES AT CAPE NANHUI
On Sat. 19 Nov. 2016, Michael Grunwell, Elaine Du, and I birded Cape Nanhui. We found 78 species. We had Japanese Reed Bunting on the north side of the defunct wetland reserve (30.926452, 121.958517), the Hooded Crane that apparently spent a week in Nanhui, a single Baikal Teal (and presumably others shrouded in haze), a juvenile Lesser Coucal very much at home in remnant reed bed near Luchao, and Yellow-breasted Bunting at its reliable spot (30.850707, 121.863662).
Non-passerines: Tundra Swan (bewickii) 6 on the mudflats, Black-faced Spoonbill 6 in the defunct wetland reserve, Eurasian Spoonbill 45, Black-faced/Eurasian Spoonbill 30 in haze with bills tucked in, Black-tailed Godwit 1, Red Knot 2, Temminck’s Stint 1, Red-necked Stint 7, Dunlin 850.
Passerines: Brown-flanked Bush Warbler 1, Naumann’s Thrush 1, Chestnut-eared Bunting 15, Taiga/Red-breasted Flycatcher 1 (seen in poor light by Elaine; presumably the same confirmed Red-breasted Flycatcher found by Kai Pflug).
SIDE TRIP TO BINHAI FOREST PARK
On Saturday our team made its first trip since 31 Oct. 2015 to Binhai Forest Park (30.966324, 121.910289). The site yielded a late Mugimaki Flycatcher. More importantly, the brief visit gave us insights into the nature of migratory birds.
Though just 4.5 km inland, Binhai offers a mix of birds more akin to that of Century Park (22 km inland) than the coastal areas much nearer-by. Passerines moving through our region clearly hug the shoreline, especially around headlands such as Cape Nanhui.
Some of the smaller Nanhui microforests, such as Microforest 2 (30.926013, 121.970705), are about the size of a tennis court. But as they are a stone’s throw from the sea, they hold a much greater density of passage migrants than Binhai, which is 1600 times larger (1.5 sq. km) than Microforest 2.
HOW WE FOUND JAPANESE REED BUNTING
Michael, Elaine, and I were on the unpaved track on the north side of the defunct Nanhui reserve (30.926452, 121.958517). We were studying the roosting shorebirds and spoonbills. I got a call from Wāng Yàjīng (汪亚菁), who along with her husband Chén Qí (陈骐) found Swinhoe’s Rail at Nanhui last month. She told me a Hooded Crane was in the rice paddies 1.5 km north of us.
As we were rushing back to the car, I noted a lone reed bunting in the thick vegetation lining the dirt track. A lone reed bunting struck me as odd; Pallas’s Reed Bunting are common in the area and usually in flocks. I pulled out my camera and got a few images, which I did not have time to check. We got in the car and drove to see the crane.
Only the next day, when I sat down to look at Saturday’s photographic results, did I realize that I had photographed Japanese Reed Bunting Emberiza yessoensis.
List 1 of 2 for Sat. 19 Nov. 2016 (69 species)
Birds noted around Pudong Nanhui Dongtan Wetland (Pǔdōng Nánhuì Dōngtān Shīdì [浦东南汇东滩湿地]; 30.920507, 121.973159), Pudong, Shanghai, China. We covered the coastal road from Binhai (Bīnhǎi Zhèn [滨海镇]; 31.006250, 121.885558) to Luchao (Lúcháo Gǎng [芦潮港]; 30.851109, 121.848455). Among the points along this 30 km stretch are Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), a site providing access to the reed beds at the mouth of the Dazhi River (Dàzhì Hé [大治河]); Big Bend (31.000321, 121.938074); Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083); Microforest 1 (30.923889, 121.971635); Magic Parking Lot (30.884898, 121.968229); Magic GPS Point (30.880563, 121.964551); South Lock (30.860073, 121.909997); Eiffel Tower (30.850531, 121.878047); & the Marshy Agricultural Land (30.850707, 121.863662). List does not include Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). Cloudy, hazy/smoggy. Low 16° C, high 22° C. Humidity 72%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind N 11 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 200 (very unhealthful). Sunrise 06:26, sunset 16:53. SUN 19 NOV 2016 07:10-09:40, 10:40-17:10. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.
Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris 21
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 6
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope 10
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 45
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 20
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 50
Northern Pintail A. acuta 2
Baikal Teal A. formosa 1
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 200
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 40
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 130
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 120
Great Egret A. alba 15
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 160
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 45
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 6
Eurasian/Black-faced Spoonbill P. leucorodia/minor 30
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 1
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
rail sp. 1 completely dark
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 8
Hooded Crane Grus monacha 1
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 15
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 30
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 45
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 1
Red Knot Calidris canutus 2
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii 1
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 7
Dunlin C. alpina 850
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 19
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 1
Spotted Redshank T. erythropus 12
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 6
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 3
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 8
Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis 1 juv.
Long-eared/Short-eared Owl Asio otus/flammeus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 15
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 3
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 45
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 25
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 8
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 2
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 8
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 12
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 70
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 40
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 1
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 2
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 9
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 18
Naumann’s Thrush T. naumanni 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 6
Taiga/Red-breasted Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla/parva 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 20
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 180
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 3
White Wagtail M. alba 17
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 1
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens 12
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 15
Little Bunting E. pusilla 2
Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 7
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 20
Japanese Reed Bunting E. yessoensis 1
List 2 of 2 for Sat. 19 Nov. 2016 (20 species). Shanghai Binhai Forest Park (Shànghǎi Bīnhǎi Sēnlín Gōngyuán [上海滨海森林公园]; 30.966324, 121.910289), a green space in Pudong, Shanghai, China. Cloudy, hazy/smoggy. Low 16° C, high 22° C. Humidity 72%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind N 11 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 200 (very unhealthful). Sunrise 06:26, sunset 16:53. SUN 19 NOV 2016 09:40-10:40. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 1
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 10
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 50
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 1
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 10
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 100
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 1
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 2
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 25
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 20
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 15
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 50
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 2
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 2
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens 15
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 1