The Case for Conserving Nanhui

Editor’s note: Do you like the view above? Reed beds indeed have a special allure. This tranquil scene is from Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), home of Reed Parrotbill and dozens of other species, and part of the large reed beds on the Dazhi River at Cape Nanhui. In the face of manic development, and in spite of being under no protection, Cape Nanhui conserves the best reed beds on the Shanghai Peninsula as well as mudflats critical to tens of thousands of migrating shorebirds. To save these treasures, Shanghai people must act now.

Who will save Cape Nanhui? Not foreigners like me, but the people of Shanghai. We foreigners are numerous in Shanghai and are disproportionately represented among the birders here. We can offer valuable perspectives. But if the people of Shanghai themselves do not wish to ensure a bright natural future for Cape Nanhui, then there is little that anyone can do.

I happen to think that the people of Shanghai are ready for real conservation on the Shanghai mainland. Basic conservationist ideas have broad appeal, and an easily accessible, world-class, “people’s wetland reserve” at Cape Nanhui is a basic conservationist idea.

If I were Chinese and were arguing for a people’s wetland reserve for Cape Nanhui, then I would bring to light the following points.

SHANGHAI IS NOT A CITY IN THE CONVENTIONAL SENSE

The largest component of the city-province of Shanghai is the Shanghai Peninsula, a projection of land between the Yangtze River and Hangzhou Bay. Cape Nanhui is the tip of the peninsula, is a critically important stop for migrating birds, and is completely unprotected. A nature reserve at Cape Nanhui would form a third ‘stepping stone’ for birds crossing the Yangtze Delta, joining the reserves at Chongming Dongtan and Jiuduansha. Photo by NASA, customized by Craig Brelsford.
The largest component of the city-province of Shanghai is the Shanghai Peninsula, a projection of land between the Yangtze River and Hangzhou Bay. Cape Nanhui is the tip of the peninsula, is a critically important stop for migrating birds, and is completely unprotected. A nature reserve at Cape Nanhui would form a third ‘stepping stone’ for birds crossing the mouth of the Yangtze, joining the reserves at Chongming Dongtan and Jiuduansha. Photo by NASA, customized by Craig Brelsford.

Shanghai “市” isn’t really a city or a “municipality,” as 市 is often translated. It is a city-province, accountable to no government but the national government. The city-province is vast, covering an area greater than the U.S. states of Delaware and Rhode Island. Shanghai is twice as big as Luxembourg, half as large as Northern Ireland, and a third the size of Wales.

From a conservationist’s perspective, it is important to view Shanghai as a province and not a city, because cities are not usually thought of as being responsible for maintaining large nature reserves within their borders. Provinces, by contrast, are large enough to accommodate nature reserves.

I propose that, where workable, we stop referring to Shanghai as a city or municipality and start applying to it the more accurate label of city-province.

SHANGHAI OCCUPIES LAND UNUSUALLY IMPORTANT TO CONSERVATION

Reed Parrotbill. Far left: Yangkou, Rudong, Jiangsu, May 2010. Upper middle: Yangkou, October 2010. Bottom middle and far right: Nanhui, Shanghai, May 2016.
Reed Parrotbill is a a symbol of Shanghai and candidate for Shanghai Provincial Bird. Nowhere do the people of Shanghai have a better chance of seeing this Near Threatened species than in the reed beds at Cape Nanhui. Protection of the reed beds at Cape Nanhui would send a message to the world that Shanghai takes conservation seriously. Photos by Craig Brelsford.

Any jurisdiction covering an area the size of a small country would be expected to conserve substantial amounts of its area. In the case of Shanghai, the call to conserve is even louder, because the area it occupies is unusually important for conservation. The Shanghai Peninsula is situated between the mouth of Asia’s greatest river and Hangzhou Bay. It is on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and attracts tens of thousands of passage migrants representing a few hundred species.

Cape Nanhui is the tip of the Shanghai Peninsula and attracts passage migrants and winter visitors such as the Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. Its large reed beds are the final stronghold on the Shanghai Peninsula of Near Threatened Reed Parrotbill, a candidate for Shanghai Provincial Bird, as well as Near Threatened Marsh Grassbird.

An abandoned sign about Ruddy Turnstone has been turned into a wall by a fisherman for his shack in the defunct nature reserve at Nanhui. 9 Nov. 2016. Photo by Craig Brelsford.
An abandoned sign about Ruddy Turnstone has been turned into a wall by a fisherman for his shack in the defunct nature reserve at Nanhui. Craig Brelsford.

Cape Nanhui is completely unprotected; indeed, an attempt at a small wetland reserve has been shut down. The boardwalks and signs of the defunct reserve are crumbling, and the backhoes are standing by, waiting for the green light to smash what remains.

SHANGHAI, AN ENVIRONMENTAL UNDER-PERFORMER

No one is saying that Shanghai, a city-province of 26 million people, needs to create a Yellowstone. Any reasonable person understands the pressures the huge population of Shanghai puts on its natural resources.

Also, it must be pointed out that in the far-flung areas of the city-province, Shanghai has made an attempt at conservation. Chongming Dongtan preserves the eastern nub of Chongming Island, and Jiuduansha covers intertidal shoals near Pudong Airport.

Marsh Grassbird performing song flight at Nanhui, Shanghai, 10 April 2016.
Marsh Grassbird performing song flight at Cape Nanhui, 10 April 2016. The reed bed over which this grassbird was displaying is the largest at Cape Nanhui. It measures 1.4 sq. km and has its center at 30.876060, 121.945305. This reed bed is one of the last places on the Shanghai Peninsula where the song flight of Marsh Grassbird can be seen. Craig Brelsford.

But Shanghai under-performs overall. Nowhere is the poor conservation performance more evident than in Pudong, the coastal city-within-a-city. Pudong is nearly double the size of Singapore and is half the size of Hong Kong. Yet the district contains zero wetland reserves on its mainland. Both Singapore and Hong Kong manage to hold in reserve significant portions of their territory.

The southeastern tip of Pudong is Cape Nanhui, a place that despite being under no protection still brims with natural treasures. No place on the Shanghai Peninsula has as many reed beds. The projection of land attracts birds making the long journey across Hangzhou Bay and the wide mouth of the Yangtze.

Moreover, Cape Nanhui is easily accessible to common people. It would be the perfect place for a world-class wetland reserve on the model of Sungei Buloh in Singapore and Yeyahu National Wetland Park in Beijing.

MORE INFORMATION

Craig talks to Pudong TV about the opportunities for conservation at Nanhui. Photo by Elaine Du.
On 12 Nov. 2016 I was interviewed by Pudong TV about the opportunities for conservation at Nanhui. Later this month, Pudong TV plans to do a more extensive interview with me. UPDATE, 24 DEC 2016: Video of interview here. Photo by Elaine Du.

Later this month I will be doing an interview with Pudong TV about saving Cape Nanhui. I will let you know how it goes. UPDATE, 24 DEC 2016: Video of interview here.

On shanghaibirding.com I have addressed the issue of conserving Nanhui:

Save the Nanhui Wetland Reserve! (cri de coeur plus call to action)
Remnants (preparation for probable demise of Cape Nanhui)
Reed Parrotbill, Symbol of Shanghai (naming Reed Parrotbill Provincial Bird of Shanghai will send a message about the importance of the reed beds such as those at Cape Nanhui)
Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Nanhui (proof of yet another endangered species using the defunct wetland reserve at Nanhui)
Will the Spoon Survive? (Nanhui is not the only area under threat. You ought to see the mess at Yangkou, Jiangsu. Conserving Nanhui will offset the losses elsewhere on the Chinese coast and will put a conservationist feather in Shanghai’s cap)
Meet Kai Pflug, Nanhui’s Mr. Clean (tribute to a birder doing his small part)

NEXT STEPS

We foreigners have had much to say about the future of Nanhui. I would like to hear more from Chinese. Is the case for a world-class wetland reserve at Nanhui convincing to you? If so, then what do you propose to do to bring it about?

THE GRAND SHANGHAI TOUR

Siberian Crane at the newly reclaimed extension of Hengsha Island, Nov. 2016.
Siberian Crane at the newly reclaimed extension of Hengsha Island, 29 Nov. 2016. The cranes have been at this spot (31.321708, 122.018141) since at least 12 Nov. 2016. It is not known exactly what drew the cranes to Hengsha. Disturbances at Lake Poyang, the wintering location of nearly every member of the species, may be a factor. Since 2000 Grus leucogeranus has been listed as Critically Endangered. Only about 3750 individuals remain. Photo by Craig Brelsford.

Elaine Du and I birded five of the eight days from Thurs. 24 Nov. through Thurs. 1 Dec. 2016. We noted 119 species. We did the Shanghai Grand Tour, covering Zhongshan Park, a small, inner-city park; Binjiang Forest Park and Binhai Forest Park, large, suburban parks; the coastal areas at Cape Nanhui; Hengsha Island; and Chongming Island. We birded one of the days with Shanghai-based British birder Michael Grunwell and two days with Phil Birch.

We had 3 Siberian Crane and 8 Mandarin Duck on Hengsha, 98 Hooded Crane at their normal wintering spot on Chongming Island, 5 Baikal Teal and Japanese Grosbeak at Cape Nanhui, and 51 Swan Goose at Nanhui and on Chongming. Black-faced Spoonbill were present in diminished numbers at Nanhui and on Hengsha.

Nanhui gave us Common Shelduck, Greater Scaup, Black-necked Grebe at Dishui Lake, and Brown-cheeked Rail near Iron Track. Eurasian Curlew were foraging on mud near 3 Black-tailed Godwit and a single Bar-tailed Godwit. At a high-tide roost in the defunct nature reserve, a single late Red-necked Stint stood out among 600 Dunlin. We found 2 Bluethroat at a new location north of the Dazhi River. Reed Parrotbill maintained their regular presence around Iron Track, and we found 4 Rustic Bunting at Binhai Forest Park, 4 km inland from the coastal birding areas at Nanhui.

Bluethroat, scarce winter visitor to Shanghai.
Bluethroat, scarce winter visitor to Shanghai, 27 Nov. 2016. Craig Brelsford.

Hensgha also gave us Common Merganser, late Intermediate Egret, 2 Hair-crested Drongo, and 1 of our 2 Chinese Grey Shrike (the other was at Nanhui). Chongming yielded 3 Common Crane with the Hooded Crane as well as Northern Lapwing, 3 juv. Rook, and 35 Lapland Longspur.

Binjiang Forest Park added to our list Great Spotted Woodpecker, a species that in Shanghai’s parks is reliable only at Binjiang and Century Park. We had 3 Hawfinch, Collared Finchbill, and 3 Naumann’s Thrush.

NOTES

— In recent days at its special site (30.850707, 121.863662) north of Luchao, Yellow-breasted Bunting was not found on two occasions. We found it there six times throughout most of November.

Yellow-throated Bunting and most other woodland birds were absent from the Cape Nanhui microforests. The leaves of the locust trees in the microforests have fallen, the undergrowth has died off, and the woodsy feel has faded even at large Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083). Eurasian Tree Sparrow have invaded some of the microforests. We found Pallas’s Reed Bunting in Microforest 4 but neither Red-flanked Bluetail nor White’s Thrush.

Comparison of adult-male Chinese Grosbeak (bottom L) and Japanese Grosbeak (all others). Craig Brelsford.
Comparison of adult-male Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria (bottom L) and adult-male Japanese Grosbeak E. personata (all others). The half-hood and completely yellow beak of male Japanese are easily recognizable features and contrast with the full hood and black-tipped bill of Chinese. The wing of Chinese (bottom L) shows a larger white patch on the primaries as well as white tips. Secondaries and tertials are fringed white. Japanese (middle L) shows only a simple white patch on otherwise blue-black primaries. Thrush-sized Japanese is also 20 percent larger than Chinese. Chinese Grosbeak is present year-round in Shanghai and even breeds in inner-city parks. Japanese Grosbeak is an uncommon passage migrant. Bottom L: Wusong Paotaiwan Park, Shanghai, 19 Sept. 2009. Others Magic Parking Lot, Nanhui, 28 Nov. 2016. All by Craig Brelsford.

Japanese Grosbeak found in Magic Parking Lot 28 Nov. provided my longest and best view ever of the species. I appreciated its large size, like a thrush; I noted its half-hood and completely yellow bill; and I observed its single white spot on the primaries.

HOW WE DO HENGSHA

On the chat group Shanghai Birding, the WeChat companion to shanghaibirding.com, members trade sightings and ask each other questions. To join, go to our Sightings page and fill out the form.

Recently on Shanghai Birding, I was asked how I prefer to cover Hengsha Island. Here is my response:

(1) I prefer to arrive at Hengsha the night before. Ferries run until about 20:00.

(2) I spend the night at a bed-and-breakfast near the reclaimed area. Elaine and I like Héngshā Bànrìxián Mínsù (横沙半日闲民宿), +86 150-2164-5467, +86 135-0185-1814, no English.

(3) Next day, get into reclaimed area before dawn. (Guards man the gate at 08:00 and will bar your entry.)

(4) Bird reclaimed area until about 10:00, then return to ferry terminal.

We have followed this procedure several times. The ferry has never been crowded in the evening and has never been crowded the next forenoon. By contrast, I have never sailed through when attempting to get the 07:00 or 07:30 ferry. The line has always been long.

Besides saving time waiting in line, an advantage to spending the night on Hengsha is that one gets more sleep. You are fresher the next morning, and you are in the reclaimed area earlier.

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 1 for Thurs. 24 Nov. 2016 (11 species)

Photo by Mr. Wang.
On 24 Nov. 2016, I was standing beside Wāng Jìn Róng (汪进荣) when he got this shot of an adult-male Eyebrowed Thrush. The thrush was drinking from a cavity high in a tree at Zhongshan Park. In recent days, seven species of thrush have been recorded around the Little Central Pond in the 102-year-old park.

Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán [中山公园]; 31.221888, 121.420066), urban green space in Changning District, Shanghai. Mostly cloudy. Low 3° C, high 9° C. Humidity 58%. Visibility 10 km. Wind N 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 134 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:30, sunset 16:52. THU 24 NOV 2016 15:10-16:45. Craig Brelsford.

Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 20
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 4
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 25
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 6
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 1
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 8
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 4
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 50

List 1 of 1 for Sun. 27 Nov. 2016 (71 species)

Views of Buff-bellied Pipit in flight. Top 2: 12 Nov. 2016. Bottom 3: 27 Nov. 2016. All taken near the reed beds north of Luchao. Craig Brelsford.
Buff-bellied Pipit in flight. Top 2: 12 Nov. 2016. Bottom 3: 27 Nov. 2016. All taken at Marshy Agricultural Land north of Luchao (30.850707, 121.863662). Craig Brelsford.

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). Sunny. Low 6° C, high 12° C. Humidity 55%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind NNW 18 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 182 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:33, sunset 16:51. SUN 27 NOV 2016 06:50-16:25. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Swan Goose Anser cygnoides 8
Tundra Bean Goose A. serrirostris 11
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 20
Falcated Duck Anas falcata 1
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 100
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 200
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 70
Baikal Teal A. formosa 3
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 600
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 92
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 40
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 120
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 9
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 130
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 80
Great Egret A. alba 5
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 30
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 5
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 78
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 2
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 2
Hen Harrier C. cyaneus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 4
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 7
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 400
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 10
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 8
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 120
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 40
Dunlin Calidris alpina 120
Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 4
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 3
Spotted Redshank T. erythropus 202
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 9
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 8
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 3
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 32
Chinese Grey Shrike L. sphenocercus sphenocercus 1
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 4
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 30
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 10
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 4
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 3
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 25
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 6
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 13
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 2
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 5
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 53
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica 2
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 10
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis taivana 30
White Wagtail M. alba 17
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 1
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 140
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 17
Little Bunting E. pusilla 6
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 10
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 17

List 1 of 2 for Mon. 28 Nov. 2016 (76 species)

Eurasian Hoopoe, sea wall at Cape Nanhui, 27 Nov. 2016. Also seen nearby the following day. Craig Brelsford.
Eurasian Hoopoe, sea wall at Cape Nanhui, 27 Nov. 2016. Craig Brelsford.

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 includes birds found at Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). Sunny. Low 6° C, high 13° C. Humidity 57%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind N 18 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 127 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:34, sunset 16:51. MON 28 NOV 2016 06:15-14:40, 16:00-17:00. Phil Birch, Craig Brelsford, & Elaine Du.

Swan Goose Anser cygnoides 15
Tundra Bean Goose A. serrirostris 11
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 10
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 25
Falcated Duck Anas falcata 200
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 30
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 50
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 80
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 40
Northern Pintail A. acuta 30
Baikal Teal A. formosa 2
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 150
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 1
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 30
Greater Scaup A. marila 3
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 4
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 60
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 10
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 12
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 100
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 70
Great Egret A. alba 20
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 80
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 4
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 6
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 30
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 2
Western Osprey Eurasian Pandion haliaetus 2
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Water/Brown-cheeked Rail R. aquaticus/indicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 150
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 2
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 30
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 100
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 3
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 3
Bar-tailed Godwit L. lapponica 1
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis 1
Dunlin C. alpina 600
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 7
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 150
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 12
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 4
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 18
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 2
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 4
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 1
Falco sp. 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 30
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 6
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 15
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 12
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 5
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 8
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 12
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 30
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 5
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 60
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 11
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 33
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 14
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 100
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis taivana 8
White Wagtail M. alba 20
Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens 8
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 1
Japanese Grosbeak Eophona personata 1
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 8
Little Bunting E. pusilla 2
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 8
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 2

List 2 of 2 for Mon. 28 Nov. 2016 (19 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. Sunny. Low 6° C, high 13° C. Humidity 57%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind N 18 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 127 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:34, sunset 16:51. MON 28 NOV 2016 14:40-16:00. Phil Birch, Craig Brelsford, & Elaine Du.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 2
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 5
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 6
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 7
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 25
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 4
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 3
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 5
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 8
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 20
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 5
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 8
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 2
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens 1
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 2
Rustic Bunting Emberiza rustica 4
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 3

List 1 of 3 for Tues. 29 Nov. 2016 (46 species)

Eastern Marsh Harrier, Hengsha. Craig Brelsford.
Eastern Marsh Harrier, Hengsha, 29 Nov. 2016. Craig Brelsford.

Birds noted on Hengsha Island (Héngshā Dǎo [横沙岛]), small alluvial island at mouth of Yangtze River in Shanghai, China. S gate to reclaimed area at 31.298821, 121.854439. Cloudy. Low 7° C, high 13° C. Humidity 67%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind ENE 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 53 (moderate). Sunrise 06:34, sunset 16:51. TUE 29 NOV 2016 06:20-09:40. Phil Birch, Craig Brelsford, & Elaine Du.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 8
Gadwall Anas strepera 40
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 5
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 15
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 4
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 50
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 15
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 3
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 35
Great Egret A. alba 2
Intermediate Egret A. intermedia 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 30
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 6
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 13
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 1
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 3
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Water/Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus aquaticus/indicus 1
Brown-cheeked Rail R. indicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 15
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 6
Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus 3
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 14
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 12
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 8
Chinese Grey Shrike L. sphenocercus sphenocercus 1
Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus 2
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 2
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 1
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark A. arvensis/gulgula 6
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 15
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 5
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 2
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 6
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 4
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 12
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 25
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 2
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 6
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 25
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 5
Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens 12
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala 1
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 1

List 2 of 3 for Tues. 29 Nov. 2016 (35 species). Around Chongming Dongtan National Bird Sanctuary and Nature Reserve (Chóngmíng Dōngtān Niǎolèi Guójiājí Zìrán Bǎohùqū [崇明东滩鸟类国家级自然保护区]), Chongming District, Chongming Island, Shanghai, China (31.510109, 121.961955). Cloudy. Low 7° C, high 13° C. Humidity 67%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind ENE 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 53 (moderate). Sunrise 06:34, sunset 16:51. TUE 29 NOV 2016 11:10-13:05. Phil Birch, Craig Brelsford, & Elaine Du.

Swan Goose Anser cygnoides 28
Tundra Bean Goose A. serrirostris 30
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 5
Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 100
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 7
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 60
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 20
Great Egret A. alba 2
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 10
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 1
Common Crane Grus grus 3
Hooded Crane G. monacha 98
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 50
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 1
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 10
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 2
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 30
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 4
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 8
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 20
Rook Corvus frugilegus 3
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 1
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 5
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 3
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 10
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 2
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 12
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 4
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus 1
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens 4
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 400
Lapland Longspur Calcarius lapponicus 35

List 3 of 3 for Tues. 29 Nov. 2016 (25 species). Binjiang Forest Park, Pudong New Area (Pǔdōng Xīn Qū [浦东新区]), Shanghai, China (31.383916, 121.523818). Cloudy. Low 7° C, high 13° C. Humidity 67%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind ENE 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 53 (moderate). Sunrise 06:34, sunset 16:51. TUE 29 NOV 2016 14:30-16:00. Phil Birch, Craig Brelsford, & Elaine Du.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 10
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 5
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 3
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 4
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 20
Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus 2
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 3
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 3
Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus 20
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 18
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 35
Naumann’s Thrush T. naumanni 3
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 7
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 11
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 10
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes 3
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 2
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 2

List 1 of 1 for Thurs. 1 Dec. 2016 (9 species)

Panorama of Little Central Pond, Zhongshan Park, 1 Dec. 2016. Thrushes are drawn to the berry-laden trees on either side of the pond. The photographer to the left is Wāng Jīnlóng (汪金龙), a mainstay at Zhongshan Park and a source of information about the birds there. Craig Brelsford.
Panorama of Little Central Pond, Zhongshan Park, 1 Dec. 2016. Thrushes are drawn to the berry-laden trees on either side of the pond. Currently, seven species of thrush may be found there: the four listed below plus three missed by us on 1 Dec. (White’s Thrush, Dusky Thrush, and Japanese Thrush). The photographer to the left is Wāng Jìn Róng (汪进荣), a mainstay at Zhongshan Park and a reliable source of information about the birds there. Craig Brelsford.

Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán [中山公园]; 31.221888, 121.420066), urban green space in Changning District, Shanghai. Mostly cloudy. Low 9° C, high 14° C. Humidity 57%. Visibility 10 km. Wind N 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 192 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:36, sunset 16:51. THU 01 DEC 2016 15:10-16:15. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 5
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 8
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 3
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 4
Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus 3
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 4
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 1

Qinghai 2016 Week 8

This post is about my Qinghai 2016 summer birding trip. It covers the eighth and final week. The featured image shows dunes and mountain in the remote back country of Wulan County, where I spent most of Week 8.

A post on Weeks 5-6 was published Thurs. 27 Oct., and Week 7 appeared Thurs. 10 Nov. Together, this and the two previous posts cover Month 2 of the two-month trip.

For more on the first month, please see these posts:

Qinghai 2016 Week 1-2 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 3 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 4 Highlights
Tibetan Lynx, Kanda Mountain, Qinghai
A Batch o’ Qinghai Goodies

The Qinghai 2016 birding trip began on 26 June 2016 and was originally scheduled to last a month. My wife Elaine Du and I extended the trip another month, from 24 July to 21 Aug. 2016. In Month 2 we drove 2260 km (1,400 miles) in Xining, Haibei, Haixi, and Hainan prefectures and noted 136 bird species. We discovered at previously unknown locations Tibetan Snowcock, Przevalski’s Partridge, Tibetan Sandgrouse, and Gansu Leaf Warbler. I became one of the few foreign birders to visit Hala Lake, where we found Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, and Lake Xiligou, where we found Mongolian Goitered Gazelle. At the Przevalski’s Site in the Dulan Mountains, we spied a trio of Tibetan Wolf.

THE FINAL WEEK

Stunning sunset over Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.
Stunning sunset over Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.

This post covers the eighth and final week of my Qinghai 2016 birding expedition, from Sun. 14 Aug. to Sun. 21 Aug. 2016. Elaine Du and I spent most of Week 8 in Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture. Amid stunning scenery, we found Tibetan Wolf, discovered a new location for Przevalski’s Partridge, and around Lake Xiligou had a rare eastern record of Water Rail as well as Qinghai favorites Black-necked Crane, Tibetan Lark, and Henderson’s Ground Jay. The lake held Black-necked Grebe and a noisy super-flock of 4610 Ruddy Shelduck, and Mongolian Goitered Gazelle were in the hills behind. Near Chaka we had Mute Swan, and at a site south of Gonghe-Qiabuqia we noted Dusky Warbler, the 195th and final species of our two-month trip.

WORKING ‘VACATION’ IN WULAN

The view from our room at the hotel in Wulan. A new public square adds life to the town.
The view from our room at the hotel in Wulan Xiancheng. A new public square adds life to the town. The elevation here is 2950 m. The weather in August is warm and dry, a welcome contrast to the cold we endured the previous week at Hala Lake.

Elaine and I had spent 15 straight nights in our tent when in the afternoon of Sun. 14 Aug. we pulled into Wūlán Xiàn Hóngxiáng Jiǔdiàn (乌兰县鸿翔酒店, +86 (0) 977-8245666, 36.927295, 98.479888). This comfortable hotel in Wulan Xiancheng would shelter us for the next three nights. We did no more birding on the 14th. The next day, the 15th, a group of Elaine’s former co-workers who happened to be vacationing in the area stopped by our hotel for a big lunch. As in Xining in July, our vacation-within-a-vacation gave us the breather we needed.

Our explorations resumed on Tues. 16 Aug. In the morning, we reconnoitered the north side of Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896), the little-birded saline lake south of Wulan. The elevation around Lake Xiligou is 2950 m, more than 1100 meters lower than chilly Hala Lake, where we had spent the previous week.

This is the productive marshy area at 36.899263, 98.494709. We heard Water Rail calling from the reeds.
This is the productive marshy area near Wulan Xiancheng at 36.899263, 98.494709. From these reeds we heard the squeals of Water Rail, and nearby we found Tibetan Lark.

At a productive marshy area (36.899263, 98.494709) we heard Water Rail calling from the reeds, picked up trip-first Richard’s Pipit, and welcomed back Tibetan Lark to our Qinghai list. The scrub nearby yielded a single Henderson’s Ground Jay.

Despite those successes, approaching Lake Xiligou from the north was not optimal, because the lake is shrinking, and the shrinkage is most pronounced on the north shore. The more remote south shore, by contrast, which we visited in the afternoon, was a revelation.

Mongolian Goitered Gazelle, Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.
Mongolian Goitered Gazelle, Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016. Goitered Gazelle ranges from the Arabian Peninsula to China. The IUCN lists it as Vulnerable, mainly because of poaching and habitat loss. The latter problem is glaringly acute in Qinghai, where numbers of domestic livestock continue to increase, straining the land and pushing the wild ungulates out.

The show started while we were still in the semi-desert. We found a black-tailed gazelle that did not bound away like a Tibetan Gazelle, but galloped. It was Mongolian Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa hilleriana. We found 12.

As we approached the south shore, we heard a roar coming from the water. The source was Ruddy Shelduck, of which we counted 4610. Next in numbers was Brown-headed Gull (625), Black-necked Grebe (275), and Black-winged Stilt (210). 4 bugling Black-necked Crane made up with charisma and grace what they lacked in numbers. Lake Xiligou also yielded a single Greylag Goose, 7 Common Shelduck, 20 Northern Shoveler, 4 Common Pochard, 1 Great Crested Grebe, and 35 Pied Avocet.

Elaine Du walks through a sea of grass near the south shore of Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016. In the distance the town of Wulan can be seen.
Elaine Du walks through a sea of grass near the south shore of Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016. In the distance the town of Wulan can be seen.

Driving out in the dark, we found 3 jerboa, two of them long-eared and presumably either Gobi Jerboa or Mongolian Five-Toed Jerboa, and the third short-eared and long-tailed and presumably Northern Three-toed Jerboa. What fun it is to watch these “jumping mice” (跳鼠) hop across the chaparral.

THE BACK COUNTRY OF WULAN COUNTY

Rusty-necklaced Partridge, Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, 17 Aug. 2016.
We found this Przevalski’s Partridge at a spot (36.826334, 97.965649) 66 km southwest of Wulan. Endemic to China, Alectoris magna has a compact range that extends from northeastern Qinghai to central Gansu. It is similar to Chukar Partridge A. chukar and is distinguished from it by the chestnut line on the neck. This line gives rise to its other English name, ‘Rusty-necklaced Partridge.’

On Wed. 17 Aug. Elaine and I were back on the road, exploring the area south of Wulan and north of Dulan (36.299080, 98.091569). Here Elaine and I found some of the best scenery and most remote country of the Qinghai trip. We drove for hours, not passing a single car. We saw more Przevalski’s Partridge than people, the result of our finding a new site (36.826334, 97.965649) for the species 66 km southwest of Wulan. The covey contained 13 birds. The site, at elev. 3380 m and with well-vegetated hillsides and steep cliffs for roosting nearby, meets the basic demands of the species and may hold the partridges throughout the year.

Asian Short-toed Lark, in semi-desert near Jinzi Lake, Wulan County, 19 Aug. 2016. The four panels show a single individual, a juvenile. Note the stubby bill, the noticeable extension of the primaries beyond the short tertials (Panel 2), and the streaked breast (4). Hume's Short-toed Lark and Greater Short-toed Lark show tertials overlapping the primary tips, and neither has streaking across the breast.
Asian Short-toed Lark in semi-desert near Jinzi Lake, Wulan County, 19 Aug. 2016. The four panels show a single individual, a juvenile. Note the stubby bill, the noticeable extension of the primaries beyond the short tertials (Panel 2), and the streaked breast (4). Hume’s Short-toed Lark and Greater Short-toed Lark show tertials overlapping the primary tips, and neither has streaking across the breast.

On Thurs. 18 Aug., on the way to Jinzi Lake (36.719109, 97.886371), we found a group of Mongolian Goitered Gazelle sprinting across the road. I once again noted the power and speed of these animals. Jinzi Lake is a spring-fed freshwater pond, elev. 2990 m. Here we found adult and juvenile Black-necked Grebe and Great Crested Grebe. At the lake we added to our Qinghai 2016 list Eurasian Coot, and later in the desert Tarim Babbler joined the list. We studied carefully the short-toed larks in the marshy areas near the lake. All were Asian Short-toed Lark.

I drove into a sand dune and got stuck. With our handy shovel I dug the car out. I learned two lessons from the incident. First, sand is treacherous; never approach it flippantly. Second, always have tools in your car, especially in remote places. Without that shovel, I would not have been able to dig the car out. I would have been at the mercy of some local–assuming we had found someone. Because we had the shovel, we were able to continue birding after a short delay.

Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula margelanica.
Desert Whitethroat Sylvia minula margelanica near Jinzi Lake.

On the morning of Fri. 19 Aug. we found a watering hole in the desert near Jinzi Lake. The pool attracted Desert Whitethroat, a lone Temminck’s Stint, Tarim Babbler, several Isabelline Wheatear, and a Citrine Wagtail.

RESCUING REDSTARTS

Dunes and mountain near Lianhe Cun, Dulan County, Qinghai, 19 Aug. 2016.
Dunes and mountain near Chacha Cun (36.674281, 98.133550), Dulan County, Qinghai, 19 Aug. 2016. Nikon D3S and 600 mm F/4, F/11, 1/500, ISO 500.

On the afternoon of Fri. 19 Aug. Elaine and I were driving through Lianhe Cun (36.622738, 98.233933). We did a double-take. Someone had hung bird netting along the main road, in plain view. The nets were apparently some ill-advised attempt to protect the local crop of wolfberry growing in the gardens behind. Wolfberry or gǒuqǐ (枸杞) is an edible fruit grown in irrigated cropland in Haixi Prefecture.

The scheme was not only callous but also futile, as nearly all the birds could see the netting and were flying over it into the gardens. The only result the netting was having was to kill a few of the birds–and demonstrate the ignorance of the net-setters.

I saw two Black Redstart enmeshed in the netting. They were alive and struggling. In full view of the farmers, who were selling their wolfberry just yards away, I pulled out my knife and cut the redstarts out.

It was quite a job. The netting catches onto any irregular surface–claws, toes, wings, bill. And the redstarts are fragile. If I squeezed the frightened bird even a little too much, it would die in my hand. As I handled one of the beauties, a sleek adult male, the redstart pecked weakly at my fingers.

I set the redstarts free and drove off. I looked at the hard-bitten farmers, their faces wrinkled like raisins after years toiling in the desert sun. I told Elaine: “Poor folks can be materialistic, too–all that cruelty for a measly couple of yuan.”

TIBETAN WOLF

View looking north at 'Przevalski's Site' in the Dulan Mountains, 19 Aug. 2016.
View looking north at Przevalski’s Site in the Dulan Mountains, 19 Aug. 2016. The point here is 36.460567, 98.503088. The base of Przevalski’s Hill, where Przevalski’s Partridge often gather, is visible to the left of the gully. The wolves were found on the farthest ridge back. Przevalski’s Redstart have been found on the conifer-spotted sunlit hillside in the mid-ground. Pine Bunting often sing from the base of Przevalski’s Hill and in the grass in the foreground.

Later on Fri. 19 Aug. we found 3 Tibetan Wolf at the well-known “Przevalski’s Site” (36.457249, 98.502578). With our trip winding down, and steadily making our way east toward Xining and the airport, Elaine and I passed by the Przevalski’s Site and decided to make a lunch stop there. We drove off the G109 and motored through the arid grassland to the base of “Partridge Hill,” where Przevalski’s Partridge are often found.

After lunch, I said to Elaine, “I’m going to read that slope like a book.” I was talking about the slope that rises about 700 m from the valley floor where we were parked and is about 1500 air-meters away. During our visit in July with Jan-Erik Nilsén, I studied the slope and found Blue Sheep clinging to the nearly vertical wall.

I pulled out my Swarovski ATX-95 and mounted it atop my Manfrotto head. To reduce the effect of the wind, I was seated with the legs of the tripod unextended. As is my habit, I scanned the ridges first.

I found 3 Tibetan Wolf on the ridge. Canus lupus chanco is a small ssp., and at first I mistook the wolves for foxes. They had black-tipped tails, ocher fur on the back and outer legs, an off-white band on the upper back, and a white muzzle and throat. They moved with ease across the slope.

Battling heat haze, I struggled to keep up with the wolves. I held on for 5 to 10 minutes, during which time I noted their efficient gait, saw them investigating every nook and cranny in their path, and watched them sure-footedly clamber up steep rocks. Elaine peeked in, her first look ever at a wolf.

The wolves disappeared, and strangely enough about 30 minutes later a flock of 40 Blue Sheep, including several lambs, moved into the area. We waited for the wolves to attack, but no attack came.

A major birding location in Dulan County, the Przevalski’s Site is so named because it is reliable for Przevalski’s Partridge and Przevalski’s Redstart. On 19 Aug. the site delivered a covey of 18 partridges, emerging as if on cue from the base of Partridge Hill for a late-afternoon feed. No Przevalski’s Redstart were found, the wheeze of Pine Bunting was no longer heard, and even that little fighter Alpine Leaf Warbler was subdued.

As I stood there watching the now-skulky Alpine Leaf Warbler, so feisty when we arrived in Qinghai in June, it occurred to me that Elaine and I had spent virtually the entire summer in Qinghai.

We continued east, to Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878). At a spot (36.787688, 98.987532) for Henderson’s Ground Jay west of town, now flooded after much recent rain, we added our 194th species of bird for Qinghai 2016: Mute Swan.

THE END

On Sat. 20 Aug. Elaine and I drove from Chaka to a point (36.206372, 100.534206) south of Gonghe-Qiabuqia. There we spent our final night. The next morning, in the scrub near our camp I found Crested Lark and Dusky Warbler, the latter the 195th and final species of the trip.

We drove to Xining Caojiabao Airport, returned the Sportage, and flew back to Shanghai.

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List. All observations by Craig Brelsford and Elaine Du.

List 1 of 2 for Sun. 14 Aug. 2016 (6 species). Birds noted in mountains of Delingha County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. Approximate location: 37.486489, 97.384522.

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 2 (3630 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 4 (3870-4080 m)
Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 5 (3900-4280 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 4 (3870-4080 m)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 1 (3900 m)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 1 (3860 m)

Mammals

Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 20

List 2 of 2 for Sun. 14 Aug. 2016 (11 species). Birds noted at Gahai Lake (37.128349, 97.551656), Delingha County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 2850 m. 14:00-14:25.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 8
Common Shelduck T. tadorna 1
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 2
Garganey Anas querquedula 1
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 1
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 1
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 6
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 15
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 4

List 1 of 1 for Tues. 16 Aug. 2016 (31 species)

Dusk at Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.
Dusk at Lake Xiligou, 16 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted at Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896), Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 2950 m. 10:00-14:15, 16:35-19:40.

Greylag Goose Anser anser 1
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 4610
Common Shelduck T. tadorna 7
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata 20
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 4
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 275
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus 1 calling in marshy area at 36.899263, 98.494709
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis 4
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 210
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 35
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 25
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 625
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 4
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 10
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 7
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 3
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 5
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni 1
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 6
Hume’s Short-toed Lark Calandrella acutirostris 7
Tibetan Lark Melanocorypha maxima 4 (2 ads., 2 juvs.)
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 12
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 5
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 32
Rufous-breasted Accentor Prunella strophiata 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 6
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 1

Mammals

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 2
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 1
jerboa sp. 3
Mongolian Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa hilleriana 12

List 1 of 1 for Wed. 17 Aug. 2016 (15 species)

The sand in these dunes was deposited grain by grain from the wind. Wulan County, Qinghai, 17 Aug. 2016. F/7.1, 1/200, ISO 1250.
Dunes near the Przevalski’s Partridge site in Wulan County, Qinghai, 17 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted between Lake Xiligou (36.838594, 98.462896) & 36.856334, 97.863822, a point in Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 15:35-20:25.

Przevalski’s Partridge Alectoris magna 13 (covey) at 36.826334, 97.965649 (3380 m)
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 3 (3310-3380 m)
Steppe Eagle Aquila nipalensis 1 (3310 m)
Common Swift Apus apus 3 (3310 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 3 (3300 m)
Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus giganteus 1 (3500 m)
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 4 (3310-3380 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 77 (3310 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 20 (3310-3480 m)
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 2 (3490 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 2 (3300 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 15 (3300 m)
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens 1 (3300 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30 (3300 m)
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia 1 (3300 m)

Mammals

When approached by this photographer, this Woolly Hare decided to sit tight. From a survival perspective, the strategy paid off. Nikon D3S, 600 mm F/4, F/9, 1/250, ISO 8000, hand-held. Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai, 17 Aug. 2016.
When approached by this photographer, this Woolly Hare decided to sit tight. From a survival perspective, the strategy paid off. Nikon D3S, 600 mm F/4, F/9, 1/250, ISO 8000, hand-held. Wulan County, 17 Aug. 2016.

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 4 (3300-3380 m)
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 8 (3310 m)

List 1 of 1 for Thurs. 18 Aug. 2016 (32 species). Birds noted between 36.856334, 97.863822 & Jinzi Lake (36.719109, 97.886371), Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 15:35-20:25.

Greylag Goose Anser anser 17 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 45 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca 1 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 15 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1 (3000 m)
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 29 (17 ad., 12 juv.) at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 26 (10 ad., 16 non-br./juv.) at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 2 (3000 m)
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 1 (3000 m)
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 20 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis 2 (3000 m)
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 49 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii 1 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 3 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 4 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 22 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 (3310 m)
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 9 (2970-3000 m)
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni 2 (3310-3360 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 3 (3410-3460 m)
Northern Raven Corvus corax 2 (3000 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 4 (3000 m)
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 19 (3000 m)
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 80 at Jinzi Lake (2990 m)
Tarim Babbler Rhopophilus albosuperciliaris 1 (3000 m)
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti 2 (2970-3080 m)
Isabelline Wheatear O. isabellina 58 (2950-3310 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 6 (2970-3000 m)
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia 1 (2990 m)
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 2 (3000 m)
White Wagtail M. alba leucopsis 5 (2970-3000 m)

Mammals

Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata 1 (3410 m)
Mongolian Goitered Gazelle Gazella subgutturosa hilleriana 6 (3240 m)

List 1 of 2 for Fri. 19 Aug. 2016 (14 species)

Isabelline Wheatear are abundant in the semi-deserts of Wulan County. 18 Aug. 2016.
Isabelline Wheatear are abundant in the semi-deserts of Wulan County. We counted 58 on 18 Aug. and 110 on 19 Aug.

Birds noted between Jinzi Lake (36.719109, 97.886371), Wulan County & Lianhe Cun (36.627763, 98.235107), Dulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 08:35-13:45.

Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii 1 (3000 m)
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 1 (3000 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 3 (3000 m)
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 2 (3130 m)
Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus 7 (3000-3130 m)
Henderson’s Ground Jay Podoces hendersoni 1 (3330 m)
Asian Short-toed Lark Alaudala cheleensis 14 (3000 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 3 (3130 m)
Desert Whitethroat Desert Sylvia minula margelanica 3 (3000 m)
Tarim Babbler Rhopophilus albosuperciliaris 2 (3000 m)
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 3 (3130-3260 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 300 (3130 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 110 (3000-3260 m)
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola 3 (3000 m)

List 2 of 2 for Fri. 19 Aug. 2016 (16 species). Birds noted from Przevalski’s Site (36.457249, 98.502578) in Dulan Mountains, Dulan County E to Chaka (36.791576, 99.078878), Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 14:25-19:30.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor 1 in marshland along highway at 36.787688, 98.987532 (3070 m)
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 28 (3070 m)
Przevalski’s Partridge Alectoris magna 18 (covey) at Przevalski’s Site (3820 m)
Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 1 juv. (3820 m)
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 1 (3820 m)
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1 (3070 m)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 8 (3070 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 1 (3550 m)
Common Swift Apus apus 8 (3340 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 (3820 m)
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 5 (3820 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 25 (3820 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 4 (3820 m)
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 1 (3820 m)
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 4 juvs. (3820 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 2 (3820 m)

Mammals

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 7 (3000-3820 m)
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 6 (3820 m)
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 40 (3820 m)
Tibetan Wolf Canis lupus chanco 3 at Przevalski’s Site (3820 m)

List 1 of 1 for Sat. 20 Aug. 2016 (10 species). Birds noted at Dashui Reservoir (36.716292, 99.471655), Wulan County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 3390 m. 13:25-15:05.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 48
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 21
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 13
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 2
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 2
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 3
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 1
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 1

List 1 of 1 for Sun. 21 Aug. 2016 (4 species). Birds noted at spot S of Gonghe-Qiabuqia at 36.206372, 100.534206, Gonghe County, Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 2920 m. 07:30-09:30.

Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 7
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 4
Crested Lark Galerida cristata 3
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 1

Places Mentioned in This Post

Note: Many places in Qinghai have Tibetan or Mongolian names. For simplicity I have written place names only in English, simplified Chinese, and Pinyin.

Chacha Cun (Cháchá Cūn [查查村]): village Dulan County. 36.674281, 98.133550.

Chaka (Chákǎ Zhèn [茶卡镇]): town & tourist center Wulan County. 36.791576, 99.078878.

Dashui Reservoir (Dàshuǐ Shuǐkù [大水水库]): dam & artificial lake. 36.716292, 99.471655.

Delingha County (Délìnghā Shì [德令哈市]) sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture. Officially, Delingha “City” (市).

Dulan County (Dūlán Xiàn [都兰县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture.

Gahai Lake (Gǎ Hǎi [尕海]): freshwater lake Delingha County. Elev.: 2850 m (9,350 ft.). 37.128349, 97.551656.

Gonghe County (Gònghé Xiàn [共和县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Hainan Prefecture.

Haibei Prefecture (Hǎiběi Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海北藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai.

Hainan Prefecture (Hǎinán Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [海南藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area E Qinghai.

Haixi Prefecture (Hǎixī Měnggǔzú Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海西蒙古族藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area occupying all of NW & NC Qinghai & a portion of SW Qinghai. Area: 325,785 sq. km (125,786 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): slightly larger than New Mexico. Largest prefecture in Qinghai.

Hala Lake (Hālā Hú [哈拉湖]): inland sea N Qinghai in Haixi Prefecture. Second-largest lake in Qinghai. Area: 607 sq. km (234 sq. mi.). Elevation: 4077 m (13,373 ft.). 38.267875, 97.575430.

Huzhu County (Hùzhù Tǔzú Zìzhìxiàn [互助土族自治县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haidong Prefecture.

Jinzi Lake (Jīnzi Hǎi [金子海]): freshwater lake Wulan County. Elev.: 2990 m (9,810 ft.). 36.719109, 97.886371.

Lake Xiligou (Xīlǐgōu Hú [希里沟湖]): saline lake Wulan County. Elev.: 2950 m (9,680 ft.). 36.838594, 98.462896.

Lianhe Cun (Liánhé Cūn [联合村]): village Dulan County. 36.627763, 98.235107.

Przevalski’s Site: birding area Dulan Mountains, Dulan County. Turnoff at KM 2335.5 on G109. Birding area at 36.457249, 98.502578.

Qiabuqia (Qiàbǔqià Zhèn [恰卜恰镇]): urbanized area Gonghe County, seat of Gonghe County & Hainan Prefecture. Commonly referred to as Gonghe. 36.275266, 100.624701.

Map of Qinghai showing the eight prefectural-level divisions. With just 5.6 million inhabitants in an area larger than Texas, Qinghai is a vast, sparsely populated province. Map courtesy Wikipedia.
Map of Qinghai showing the eight prefectural-level divisions. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Qinghai (Qīnghǎi Shěng [青海省]): province NW China. Area: 720,000 sq. km (278,000 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): three times larger than United Kingdom; slightly larger than Texas. Pop.: 5.6 million.

Wulan County (Wūlán Xiàn [乌兰县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture. Also known as Ulan County. Area: 10,784 sq. km (4,164 sq. mi.)

Xining Caojiabao Airport (Xīníng Cáojiābǎo Jīchǎng [西宁曹家堡机场]): airport 30 km E of downtown Xining. 36.527923, 102.040889.

Xining Prefecture (Xīníng Shì [西宁市]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai. Capital of Qinghai. Officially, Xining “City” (市).

Remnants

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:

Reed Parrotbill, Symbol of Shanghai
Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Nanhui
Save the Nanhui Wetland Reserve!

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.

Craig Brelsford searches for Brown-cheeked Rail in one of the extensive reed beds east of Dishui Lake. Photo taken 16 Jan. 2016 by Elaine Du.
Craig Brelsford searches for Brown-cheeked Rail in one of the extensive reed beds east of Dishui Lake. All may seem well here, but the reeds to the south of the photo have been destroyed, and to the north is the defunct nature reserve. It is highly possible that here too the reed bed will be dredged and plowed under and that in the end only fragments of the original habitat will remain. That would be a pity, because the reed beds at Cape Nanhui are some of the largest and best-preserved on the central Chinese coast. Photo taken 16 Jan. 2016 by Elaine Du.

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.)

Craig Brelsford leaves walks up the inner base of the sea wall near Luchao, 10 Nov. 2016.
Craig Brelsford walks up the inner base of the sea wall near Luchao, 19 Nov. 2016. In the midground is a narrow line of reeds in which a Lesser Coucal was foraging. The coordinates of this point are 30.849433, 121.881834. Half a kilometer south, a more extensive reed bed measures 75 m by 2500 m. Photo by Elaine Du.

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.

Lesser Coucal in remnant reed bed near Eiffel Tower (30.850531, 121.878047). The coucal was very much at home and gave us the impression that it had been born there. The reed beds in the Luchao area have been reduced to about 1% of their historic extension, but even that 1% is enough to support a small community of birds, among them Yellow-breasted Bunting at a nearby site (30.850707, 121.863662).
Lesser Coucal in remnant reed bed near Eiffel Tower (30.849433, 121.881834). The coucal was very much at home and may have been born there. The reed beds in the Luchao area have been reduced to less than 1 percent of their historical extension. Those specks of habitat support a scaled-down community of the birds once common in Shanghai.

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.

Chestnut-eared Bunting amid a world of reeds at the site north of Luchao, 19 Nov. 2016.
Chestnut-eared Bunting in a world of reeds at the site (30.850707, 121.863662) north of Luchao currently reliable for Yellow-breasted Bunting. The site is part of a reed bed measuring 75 m by 2500 m–188,000 square meters of precious reed-bed habitat. Decades ago, such a modest parcel of land would have seemed a drop in the bucket. Today, remnants such as this provide habitat critically important to dozens of species once common in the area, among them the two aforementioned species of bunting as well as Brown Crake, Lesser Coucal, and Reed Parrotbill.

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

The Hooded Crane was feeding, a sign that it was relaxing despite being 60 km away from the regular wintering site of Hooded Crane at eastern Chongming Island. On Sat. 12 Nov. Elaine, Michael, and I had the first record of Hooded Crane in the history of the Shanghai Peninsula (see latest post on shanghaibirding.com). This almost certainly is the same bird. Hooded Crane is listed as Vulnerable. About 11,500 individuals remain. The key threats to its existence are, in the words of IUCN, "wetland loss and degradation in its wintering grounds in China and South Korea."
The Hooded Crane was feeding, a sign that it was functioning normally despite being at Nanhui, a location not really suitable to cranes and 60 km south of the regular Hooded Crane wintering site on eastern Chongming Island. On Sat. 12 Nov. 2016, Michael Grunwell, Elaine Du, and I had the first record of Hooded Crane in the history of the Shanghai Peninsula. The crane shown here, found at a point (30.940284, 121.958120) just a few hundred meters from the site of that first encounter, is almost certainly the same bird. Grus monacha is listed as Vulnerable. About 11,500 remain. The main threats to its existence are, in the words of IUCN, “wetland loss and degradation in its wintering grounds in China and South Korea.”

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

'Cape Nanhui' is the southeastern-most point of Pudong (red) and the city-province of Shanghai. Map courtesy Wikipedia.
I published this map last week, but I think it is worth examining it again. ‘Cape Nanhui’ is an important birding area not just because it is coastal but also because it is a headland–the southeastern-most point of Pudong (red) and the entire city-province of Shanghai (yellow areas plus Pudong). Migrating birds hugging the coastline are drawn to areas that jut out. Just a few hundred meters inland, however, the intensity fades. The bird mix at places such as Binhai Forest Park (30.966324, 121.910289), just 4.5 km inland, closely resembles that of the urban parks farther inland. Map courtesy Wikipedia.

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

Japanese Reed Bunting Emberiza yessoensis. The IUCN lists it as Near Threatened because of the loss of wetland habitat in its breeding range (which includes Heilongjiang) as well as in its wintering grounds. The continued degradation of the Nanhui coastal marshes is a prime example of the general problems this species faces.
Japanese Reed Bunting Emberiza yessoensis, defunct nature reserve (30.926452, 121.958517), Nanhui, 19 Nov. 2016. Owing to the loss of wetland habitat in its breeding range (which in China includes Heilongjiang) as well as in its wintering grounds, IUCN lists the species as Near Threatened.

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.

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 19 Nov. 2016 (69 species)

Blue Rock Thrush is a gem of a bird. Usually I would hesitate to process a photo of a bird on the braces at the base of the Nanhui sea wall, as it is an unnatural environment. But for Blue Rock Thrush, the concrete IS a natural environment, or a close enough replica of the rocky habitats that it favors. Blue Rock Thrush would likely shy away from a completely natural muddy Nanhui coastline.
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis, Nanhui, 19 Nov. 2016. Usually I would hesitate to process a photo of a bird on the concrete base of the Nanhui sea wall, as it is an unnatural environment. But for Blue Rock Thrush, this is a natural environment, or a close enough replica of the rocky habitats that it favors. Note the red string attached to the bird’s right tarsus.

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

First Mainland Shanghai Record of Hooded Crane

Editor’s note: The photo above shows Hooded Crane flying above fields at Nanhui on 12 Nov. 2016. Before our sighting, Grus monacha had never been recorded on the Shanghai Peninsula. Each year, about 100 Hooded Crane overwinter on eastern Chongming Island, 60 km north of Nanhui at the mouth of the Yangtze River.

Elaine Du and I birded three of the four days between Sat. 12 Nov. and Tues. 15 Nov. 2016. We noted 105 species. On Saturday we had the first-ever record in Nanhui of Hooded Crane. We also found Baikal Teal on Saturday as well as Greater White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swan, and Jack Snipe. Sunday was also spent at the coastal site in Pudong and gave us calling Brown-cheeked Rail as well as Hair-crested Drongo and late Rufous-tailed Robin. Other weekend Nanhui records were Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill holding steady at the defunct nature reserve (30.920500, 121.973167), Amur Falcon feasting on gnats small enough for leaf warblers, an uncommon Shanghai record of Water Pipit, and two more sightings of Endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting at its increasingly reliable site (30.850707, 121.863662). On Tuesday at Shanghai’s Zhongshan Park (31.221888, 121.420066) we had a very late Narcissus Flycatcher.

ELAINE’S FEAT OF BIRDING

The flyby sighting of Hooded Crane was Elaine’s finest hour. Michael Grunwell was in the back seat and, blinded by the roof, would have never seen the crane. I was busy driving along a very uncertain dirt track. We see so many Grey Heron at Nanhui, and it is so easy to disregard them, and sure enough two of the three birds flying together were Grey Heron. But one was not, and Elaine caught it.

Elaine got her first pair of binoculars in 2013 and is now making big discoveries. “You’ve come a long way, baby!”

Thanks to Shanghai birder Xiao Cao for his knowledge of species histories in Shanghai. It was he who told us that our Hooded Crane was a first record for mainland Shanghai.

JACK SNIPE AT IRON TRACK

Michael Grunwell, Iron Track, 5 Nov. 2016. Photo by Craig Brelsford.
Michael Grunwell at Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), 5 Nov. 2016. The reed beds around Iron Track line the Dazhi River and are a remnant of the habitat that used to cover the area. The reed bed is unlikely to be developed and provides excellent habitat for Reed Parrotbill and wintering Chestnut-eared Bunting and Jack Snipe. The latter species was found 12 Nov. 2016 by our group.

The experience with Jack Snipe occurred Saturday near dark at Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883). Our partner Michael Grunwell, Elaine, and I were looking for Brown-cheeked Rail. The snipe sneezed when flushed, flew to a towering height in a tighter formation than is typical in Common Snipe, and after all the fuss ended up landing only 150 m from where they had started.

When the snipe began their flight, I figured they were Common and continued looking for rails. Then I heard Michael cry out, “Possible Jack!” The snipe flew directly over us. The bill was noticeably shorter than the bill of the Common I have come to know. Elaine too saw the short bill.

The three of us feel confident in our record of Jack Snipe and urge others to be on the lookout for this species. Get pictures if you can.

Another look at Iron Track area, looking back toward the road.
Another view of Iron Track, looking back toward the road.

Iron Track is part of the extensive reed-bed habitat lining the Dazhi River (大治河). It provides excellent habitat for Chinese Pond Heron, White-breasted Waterhen, Brown-cheeked Rail (and possibly Water Rail), wintering Bluethroat, and wintering Jack Snipe. Reed Parrotbill is resident.

The beds are on either side of the river, are unlikely to be developed, and are in good condition. They are a remnant of the habitat that used to cover the entire area.

YELLOW-BREASTED BUNTING IN SHANGHAI

Yellow-breasted Bunting at site north of Luchao, 12 Nov. 2016.
Yellow-breasted Bunting at site north of Luchao, 12 Nov. 2016.

As reported above, on Saturday with Michael and yet again on Sunday our site near Luchao delivered Yellow-breasted Bunting. The site is at 30.850694, 121.863667. We are now five-for-five in sightings of Yellow-breasted Bunting since our Nov. 5 discovery of the species there.

It will be interesting to see how long into the winter the Yellow-breasted Bunting remain. I hope they stay awhile, because it is unlikely any of the locals will catch ’n’ roast ’em. (The greatest factor in the endangerment of Emberiza aureola is massive poaching of the species for snacks in south China.)

Recently the site has yielded Black-browed Reed Warbler and Chestnut-eared Bunting and a late record of Barn Swallow. An un-ID’d rail has been spotted twice in the area.

To get to the site, from Luchao drive 1.5 km north from the bend in the road north of the canal, where the road begins to run parallel with the sea. Pull onto the unpaved track and park on the bridge of white cement. The buntings seem to be concentrated a few dozen meters south, near the place where picnickers dumped a big load of trash. Be on the lookout for individuals flying into the narrow reed bed after foraging runs in the adjacent rice paddies.

ID’ING BROWN-CHEEKED RAIL ON CALL

On Sunday at Nanhui we positively identified 2 Brown-cheeked Rail on call. Here is the recording I made (00:28; 2.7 MB):

The pitch matches closely the pitch in the recordings by Anon Torimi of rails assigned to Rallus indicus. I downloaded Torimi’s recordings from xeno-canto.org. I invite Shanghai birders to do the same. Get to know the sounds of both R. indicus and the extralimital R. aquaticus and start adding these species to your own Shanghai lists.

AMUR FALCON CATCHING GNATS

Amur Falcon catching gnats at Nanhui, 12 Nov. 2016.
Amur Falcon catching gnats at Nanhui, 12 Nov. 2016.

On Saturday we were amazed to see Amur Falcon catching flies with their talons. We had five near Big Bend (31.000321, 121.938074). In top left of the three-panel photo above, the falcon has spotted its prey and is accelerating toward it. In bottom left, the gnat is visible as the falcon zeroes in. At right, the falcon raises its talons for its tiny prey.

The instinct to use its talons is inefficient in this case and shows that Amur Falcon has evolved to hunt larger game. Smaller aerialists such as swifts, nightjars, swallows, and flycatchers snatch up their prey directly with the mouth.

PREACHING THE GOSPEL OF CONSERVATIONISM

Craig talks to Pudong TV about the opportunities for conservation at Nanhui. Photo by Elaine Du.
Craig talks to Pudong TV about the opportunities for conservation at Nanhui. Photo by Elaine Du.

I saw the car with lettering saying “Pudong TV” and waved the journalists over. I told them I had something they might want to hear. Echoing my recent post Save Nanhui, I told the pair that Shanghai can have it all. It can be a world financial hub and China’s greatest metropolis and be a green city. It can follow Hong Kong and Singapore and develop a world-class urban wetland reserve easily accessible to nature lovers without their own car. Nanhui’s old wetland, I said, pointing to the defunct reserve behind us, could be the site of such a reserve.

As I talked, a small crowd gathered. Most seemed supportive of my ideas. I was not surprised. A world-class wetland at Nanhui is a basic conservationist idea, and basic conservationist ideas have broad appeal.

UNUSUAL APPEARANCE OF NARCISSUS FLYCATCHER

Photographers assemble before a setup designed to attract a male Naricissus Flycatcher at Zhongshan Park, 15 Nov. 2016.
Photographers assemble before a setup designed to attract a male Naricissus Flycatcher at Shanghai’s Zhongshan Park, 15 Nov. 2016.

A male Narcissus Flycatcher made a rare late-autumn Shanghai appearance in Zhongshan Park (31.221888, 121.420066). On Tues. 15 Nov., the spectacle attracted 30 photographers.

The flycatcher was attracted by mealworms speared by photographers onto a soft steel wire. The wire was hung from a branch, enticing the flycatcher to hover to snatch the bait. The bird was appearing every 10 minutes.

I expressed concern but did not feel the need to be critical or intervene. The photographers obviously liked the flycatcher, did not think that they were harming it, and were enjoying themselves immensely.

I watched the flycatcher attack the mealworms. I think it unlikely that the wire would harm the bird. The bigger problem may be that the free protein will keep the bird here an unnaturally long time. A passage migrant through Earth’s largest city, Narcissus Flycatcher should be in Borneo by now.

INTERESTING WECHAT EXCHANGE ON ARCTIC WARBLER

Join Shanghai Birding for the very latest bird sightings in Shanghai.
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Shanghai Birding is the WeChat companion to shanghaibirding.com. In it, we exchange real-time reports and engage in discussions about birding in Shanghai and all China.

A discussion on 10 Nov. about Arctic Warbler showed the utility to birders of social media in general and Shanghai Birding in particular. Members Jonathan Martinez (based in Shenzhen) and Paul Holt (based in Beijing) shared their knowledge about Arctic Warbler and its sister species. In so doing, they shed light on the situation, still very imperfectly understood, of the Arctic-type complex in Shanghai.

Holt led off:

Paul Holt (PH): I see from a recent posting that @李伟 photographed an Arctic Warbler at Nanhui on the 28 October. Great images! Isn’t that extremely late? The latest ever Beijing record’s over two weeks earlier than that.

I then posted a long list of my Arctic-type records from autumn 2014 and autumn 2015. In the list, I bunched together all members of the Arctic Warbler Complex (Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis borealis and P. b. kennicotti, Kamchatka Leaf Warbler P. examinandus, and Japanese Leaf Warbler P. xanthodryas). I list all three species because, although it is presumed that the vast majority of spring and autumn records in Shanghai pertain to borealis, it is far from certain what the proportions are. (Arctic Warbler and its sister species are nearly impossible to separate on morphology but are distinguishable by voice.)

The latest autumn record I had of an Arctic-type warbler was 24 Oct. (2015).

Holt wrote back:

PH: Thanks @Craig (大山雀) Unless I’m missing something 28 October is later than any of the records you cite (but just by four days). Could it be that the Nanhui sighting is Shanghai’s latest ever? Also it’s interesting that you mention all three species. Have any of your region’s Arctic-types been identified to a species other than borealis?

Shanghai's Big 5 Leaf Warblers: Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (1), Arctic Warbler (2), Eastern Crowned Warbler (3), Pallas's Leaf Warbler (4), and Yellow-browed Warbler (5).
Leaf warblers are a tough group and are a perennial source of discussion in the Shanghai Birding WeChat group as well as on shanghaibirding.com. On 26 Sept. 2016, shanghaibirding.com published a study of Shanghai’s Big 5 Leaf Warblers: Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (1), Arctic Warbler (2), Eastern Crowned Warbler (3), Pallas’s Leaf Warbler (4), and Yellow-browed Warbler (5).

Craig Brelsford (CB): @Paul Holt I have not recorded anything other than borealis around Shanghai. (All confirmed borealis records are of individuals singing in spring.) I also suspect that a record of xanthodryas is next to impossible in Shanghai. I am aware that citing all three names is not a perfect solution. I list all three species because I believe information is insufficient. No one knows how many Arctic-type in Shanghai are borealis and how many examinandus. Very basic facts about the species in east-central China are unclear. Maybe someday studies will confirm that an Arctic-type in east-central China is borealis, with a probability of 99%. In that case, I would probably assign any silent Arctic-type I saw to borealis. Do you have any suggestions?

A few minutes later, I added:

CB: Just remembered that Michael Grunwell, Elaine Du, and I had Arctic-type this past Sat. 5 Nov. We got a good look at the bird, too. October was a warm, wet month in Shanghai, and the entire fall migration season seems to be late a week or two. Would others here agree?

PH: I’ve never seen xanthodryas in mainland China, have only ever encountered two examinandus (which were the first records for Liaoning & Hebei. Both sound recorded) here & have too little to go on I’m afraid @Craig (大山雀). Personally I log everything as Arctic Warbler by default, though that’s far from perfect. Until more of us work on this awkward group & make an effort to sound-record them, it’ll be a long time yet before a truer picture of their patterns of occurrence emerges. Cracking late record last weekend @Craig (大山雀). Surely that must be a good candidate for being the latest ever.

CB: @Paul Holt Maybe for simplicity’s sake I should log everything as Arctic. I have hesitated because I dislike speculation, and besides your very reliable records from up north I have little else to go on.

At this Martinez came in with his south-China perspective:

Jonathan Martinez (JM): I’ve heard xanthodryas on Fujian coast in early May and had a bird caught in October at Xitou identified as xanthodryas by DNA on tail feathers among about 15 borealis. I found an examinandus in central Guangxi in September, first suspected by call on a bird wave and clearly identified with call a few days later. I suspect examinandus is not a coastal migrant and probably goes through mainland China. I think still the only species recorded in Hong Kong is borealis, despite many looking for these.

CB: Thanks! With a confirmed xanthodryas in Fujian and examinandus only “suspected” not to use the Chinese coast, I’ll keep my clunky three-species listing. Arctic-type Warbler in China is a subject crying out for more research.

CAPE NANHUI

'Cape Nanhui' is the southeastern-most point of Pudong (red) and the city-province of Shanghai. Map courtesy Wikipedia. By Mikey641 - File:China Shanghai location map.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50893597
‘Cape Nanhui’ is the southeastern-most point of Pudong (red) and the city-province of Shanghai (yellow). The Shanghai Peninsula could be construed to be the mainland areas of Shanghai. Map courtesy Wikipedia.

Did you know that the birding area at Nanhui is a cape? This is an aspect of Nanhui that perhaps requires more discussion. The 30-km stretch of coastline is the southeastern-most point of Pudong as well as of the entire city-province of Shanghai.

Cape Nanhui (I like the ring of that) juts out between the mouth of the Yangtze River and Hangzhou Bay. The cape aspect of Nanhui makes it even more valuable to migrating birds than regular coastline. Nanhui is a stepping stone, catching birds that have just made a non-stop crossing of the mouth of the Yangtze River (in fall) or a non-stop crossing of Hangzhou Bay (in spring).

I also find it interesting that one never hears of the “Shanghai Peninsula.” It’s a term with explanatory power. Although rather nubby, the Shanghai Peninsula is clearly a promontory between the mouth of the Yangtze River and Hangzhou Bay. Cape Nanhui is the tip of the promontory.

If conservationists talk about a nature reserve for “Cape Nanhui,” the tip of the “Shanghai Peninsula,” then maybe they will have a stronger case.

A NOTE FROM TOMMY PEDERSEN

Tommy Pedersen is a pilot with Emirates. He is Norwegian and has been based in Dubai for many years. An accomplished birder, Tommy created uaebirding.com. This outstanding site is the best introduction to birding in the United Arab Emirates and the Arabian Peninsula.

Tommy recently sent a message to shanghaibirding.com:

I had a work flight to Shanghai 9-11 November 2016, and following Craig’s excellent site, I decided to visit Nanhui.

I booked a room at Holiday Inn Express (no English spoken, cold and drafty rooms), close to the Magic Parking Lot and Nanhui Nature Reserve. Two targets: Saunders’s Gull and Reed Parrotbill.

On Day 1, 9 November, I was extremely lucky and bumped into Craig and Elaine with Erica, who took me to the nature reserve. We had a jolly good time (at least I was), and Saunders’s Gulls were soon spotted (http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32503941).

Day 2 saw me walking 16 km in total, enjoying a near windless morning with massive migration overhead. It was magic: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32503940

Hope to be back soon

Tommy Pedersen
www.uaebirding.com

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 1 for Sat. 12 Nov. 2016 (80 species)

Michael Grunwell and Elaine Du view Baikal Teal on the coastal road at Nanhui, 12 Nov. 2016.
Michael Grunwell and Elaine Du view Baikal Teal on coastal road at Nanhui, 12 Nov. 2016.

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. List includes birds found at Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). 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), 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). Partly cloudy. Low 12° C, high 21° C. Humidity 60%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind SSW 23 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 85 (moderate). Sunrise 06:20, sunset 16:57. SAT 12 NOV 2016 06:40-17:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons 48
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 14
Gadwall Anas strepera 8
Falcated Duck A. falcata 3
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 160
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 130
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha ca. 800
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 70
Northern Pintail A. acuta 60
Baikal Teal A. formosa 40
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 50
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 2
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 50
Greater Scaup A. marila 8
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 7
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 25
Great Cormorant Eurasian Phalacrocorax carbo 75
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 150
Great Egret A. alba 15
Intermediate Egret A. intermedia 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 30
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 1
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 2
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 3
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 16
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 3
Eurasian/Black-faced Spoonbill P. leucorodia/minor 53
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 2
Hen Harrier C. cyaneus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 4
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 30
Hooded Crane Grus monacha 1
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 1
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 1
Sanderling Calidris alba 1
Dunlin C. alpina 8
Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus 8
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 5
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 3
Spotted Redshank T. erythropus 250
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 30
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 4
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 2
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 3
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 2
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Amur Falcon F. amurensis 6
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 35
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 30
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 6
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 4
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 1
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 6
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 16
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 40
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 30
Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus 1
White-cheeked Starling S. cineraceus 6
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 1
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 3
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 6
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 2
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 13
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 50
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 11 (10 taivana, 1 tschutschensis)
White Wagtail M. alba 15 (1 ocularis)
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 1
Water Pipit A. spinoletta 1
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens 12
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 1
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 21
Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola 5
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 3
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 56

List 1 of 1 for Sun. 13 Nov. 2016 (69 species)

Rufous-tailed Robin <em>Larvivora sibilans</em>, record for Shanghai. 13 Nov. 2016, Microforest 4, Nanhui.
Rufous-tailed Robin Larvivora sibilans, late record for Shanghai. 13 Nov. 2016, Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083), Nanhui.

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. List does not include Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124), which was shrouded in fog. 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), 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). Cloudy, foggy, with intermittent drizzle. Sunrise 06:20, sunset 16:57. SUN 13 NOV 2016 06:40-16:40. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Cezary Raczko.

Gadwall Anas strepera 8
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 30
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 8
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 150
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 2
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 1
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 4
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 25
Great Cormorant Eurasian Phalacrocorax carbo 40
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 100
Great Egret A. alba 30
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 60
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 1
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 1
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 17
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 15
Eurasian/Black-faced Spoonbill P. leucorodia/minor 30
Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus 2
Water/Brown-cheeked Rail R. aquaticus/indicus 3
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 3
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 4
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 3
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 1
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 14
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 2
Spotted Redshank T. erythropus 80
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 5
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 3
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 3
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 3
Amur Falcon F. amurensis 1
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 1
Falco sp. 2
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 40
Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus 1
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 1 singing
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 8
Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus 4
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 20
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 25
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 18
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 4
Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 4
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 18
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 35
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 2
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 10
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 7
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 5
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 2
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 6
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 4
Rufous-tailed Robin Larvivora sibilans 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 19
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 18
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 150
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis taivana 8
White Wagtail M. alba 14
Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens 80
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 7
Rustic Bunting E. rustica 2
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 3
Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola 3
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 14
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 16

List 1 of 1 for Tues. 15 Nov. 2016 (16 species). Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán [中山公园]; 31.221888, 121.420066), urban green space in Changning District, Shanghai. Partly cloudy. Low 12° C, high 17° C. Humidity 62%. Visibility 10 km. Wind NE 23 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 93 (moderate). Sunrise 06:22, sunset 16:55. TUE 15 NOV 2016 13:00-15:00. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 5
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 30
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 4
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 1
Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus 3
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus 4
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 3
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 3
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 4
Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 2

Reed Parrotbill, Symbol of Shanghai

Did you know that Shanghai is going to have a municipal bird? Guess what the two main candidates are: Light-vented Bulbul and Reed Parrotbill. Although I can understand why Light-vented Bulbul needs to be in the running, Reed Parrotbill is clearly the better choice. Let me tell you why.

Reed Parrotbill, Iron Track, 5 Nov. 2016.
Reed Parrotbill, lively little sprite of the Shanghai reed beds. Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), Pudong, 5 Nov. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)

The argument for Light-vented Bulbul is that it is a bird of the people. As the versatile little bird lives even in the deepest recesses of the urban jungle, many Shanghai residents are familiar with it. Reed Parrotbill, by contrast, is less well-known.

One reason Reed Parrotbill is less known, of course, is that the reeds that used to cover the coastline and line the banks of the Yangtze River are disappearing. The disappearance of those reeds is perhaps the best reason to make Reed Parrotbill the municipal bird.

Reed Parrotbill, Iron Track, Nanhui, 5 Nov. 2016.
Reed Parrotbill is a curious little bird and will often shimmy up the reed to see what’s going on. Iron Track, 5 Nov. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)

The choice of Reed Parrotbill would be a bold endorsement of Natural Shanghai, the city at the mouth of Asia’s greatest river and on Earth’s greatest migratory flyway. It would be a way of saying that Earth’s largest city values not only Reed Parrotbill but also the threatened habitat in which Reed Parrotbill lives.

The choice of Light-vented Bulbul, by contrast, would constitute a failure of imagination. It would be not a celebration of Natural Shanghai but a ratification of the environmental degradation afflicting this city. Light-vented Bulbul is a species that thrives in the degraded habitats that are all too common in Shanghai.

Reed Parrotbill, Nanhui, 17 May 2016.
In breeding season Reed Parrotbill is more conspicuous than at other times of the year. Here’s one in the reeds near Microforest 2, Nanhui, 17 May 2016. (Craig Brelsford)

The choice of Reed Parrotbill for municipal bird is far more than a political statement. The bird is full of personality and is beautiful, with rusty flanks, a grey head with a long black eyebrow, and a big yellow bill. The latter it uses to pry open reeds to get the insect larvae inside.

Reed Parrotbill is not a birder's bird but the people's bird. It is a species totally dependent on reeds, a plant that is part of the very fabric of Shanghai.
Reed Parrotbill is not just a birder’s bird but is the people’s bird. Paradoxornis heudei is a species totally dependent on reeds, a plant that is part of the very fabric of Shanghai. Reed Parrotbill represents well the natural heritage of Earth’s greatest city. Nanhui, 30 March 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

Reed Parrotbill has a varied repertoire of calls, all lively and colorful. To this day the calls and song of this species are among the most common bird sounds heard at Nanhui and on Hengsha Island and Chongming Island.

The chirr sound is perhaps the best-known. I recorded all the sounds below at Nanhui, with the exception of “siren,” recorded on Chongming. Enjoy them and get to know Shanghai’s best choice for municipal bird, Reed Parrotbill.

chirr (00:03; 930 KB)

insistent (00:05; 1 MB)

plaintive (00:04; 958 KB)

merry (00:20; 1.6 MB)

siren (00:04; 954 KB)

CONSERVATION STATUS

Because of the continued degradation and reclamation of the reed-bed habitat on which it is totally dependent, Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei is listed by IUCN as Near Threatened. In Chinese it is known as “Chinese Parrotbill” (Zhèndàn Yāquè, 震旦鸦雀). Nearly its entire range is in China, from Heilongjiang south to Zhejiang. Small parts of its distribution spill over into Mongolia and the Russian Far East.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you agree that Reed Parrotbill should be the municipal bird of Shanghai? Would you prefer another species? Readers want to know what you think! Leave a comment below.

115 SPECIES AT PUDONG SITES

Our partner Mike May got this image of a Yellow-breasted Bunting feeding on rice near Luchao. The endangered buntings were found at the spot we call the Marshy Agricultural Land (). On 5 Nov. 2016 we first found Yellow-breasted Bunting there. We returned on 8 Nov., when Mike got this shot, as well as 9 Nov., finding the species there each time.
Our partner Mike May got this image of a Yellow-breasted Bunting feeding on rice near Luchao. The endangered bunting was found at the spot we call the Marshy Agricultural Land (30.850707, 121.863662). On 5 Nov. 2016 we first found Yellow-breasted Bunting there. We returned on 8 Nov., when Mike got this shot, as well as 9 Nov., finding the species there each time.

Since last we posted, Elaine Du and I birded three days: Sat. 5 Nov., Tues. 8 Nov., and Wed. 9 Nov. 2016. We noted 115 species. At Nanhui’s defunct nature reserve (30.920507, 121.973159) we had Long-billed Dowitcher and Endangered Great Knot, and we noted the continued presence there of Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124) yielded Smew, Greater ScaupBlack-necked Grebe, and an uncommon Shanghai record of Black Kite. We had Reed Parrotbill and Brown-cheeked Rail at a new site called the Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), and we went three-for-three with Endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting at a point (30.850707, 121.863662) north of Luchao, where we also attained an autumn record of Black-browed Reed Warbler. Drives along the sea-wall road gave us Amur Falcon and Peregrine Falcon, and Japanese Sparrowhawk dove for cover into Microforest 7.

Amur Falcon, 2 of 3 noted by us on 5 Nov. 2016 at Nanhui.
Amur Falcon, 2 of the 3 noted by us on 5 Nov. 2016 at Nanhui. (Craig Brelsford)

We found Tundra Swan (bewickii) on all three days, with a high count of 11 on 9 Nov. on the mudflats near Big Bend (31.000321, 121.938074). The previous evening near Big Bend we had a rare Shanghai record of Greater White-fronted Goose. In the mudflats north of South Lock (30.860073, 121.909997) we had Eurasian Curlew and a rare Shanghai record of Mew Gull Larus canus.

Among shorebirds, Dunlin and Kentish Plover not surprisingly were the most numerous. Careful scanning allowed us to sift out more southerly winterers such as the Great Knot as well as small numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, and Sanderling. Vulnerable Saunders’s Gull were at the defunct nature reserve.

Microforest 4 yielded Japanese Robin on 7 Nov., seen and photographed by Shanghai birder kaca. A careful search by us the following two days failed to turn up the rare passage migrant. On 5 Nov. we had a late record of Arctic Warbler. Other interesting passerines were Hair-crested Drongo and Naumann’s Thrush. Scaly-breasted Munia was at the Iron Track, we had season’s first Rustic Bunting, and the skies gave us Red-rumped Swallow and Asian House Martin.

On 5 Nov. Elaine and I were joined by Michael Grunwell, the Shanghai-based veteran British birder. On 8 Nov. we welcomed U.K. birder Mike May, and on 9 Nov. we partnered with U.S. birder Erica Locke.

PLEASE REPORT ABUSE

On 8 Nov. we found a bird photographer with a cage baited with mealworms. We asked him politely but firmly to put the cage away, and he complied. If you see persons trapping or otherwise abusing birds at Nanhui, call the forestry department at 21-51586246 or the Pudong New Area Wildlife Protection Station at 21-61872122.

Hair-crested Drongo is an uncommon passage migrant in Shanghai. Photo by Mike May.
Hair-crested Drongo is an uncommon passage migrant in Shanghai. Photo by Mike May.

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 5 Nov. 2016 (6 species). Birds noted at sod farm south of Pudong International Airport (31.112586, 121.824742), Pudong, Shanghai, China. Sunny and hazy/smoggy. Low 12° C, high 22° C. Humidity 88%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind SSE 6 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 176 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:14, sunset 17:01. SAT 05 NOV 2016 06:40-07:10. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 3
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 8
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 5
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 1
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 2
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens 8

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 5 Nov. 2016 (85 species)

Yellow-throated Bunting, Nanhui, 5 Nov. 2016.
Yellow-throated Bunting, Nanhui, 5 Nov. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)

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. List includes birds found at Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). We covered the entire coastal road from Luchao (Lúcháo Gǎng [芦潮港]; 30.851109, 121.848455) to Binhai (Bīnhǎi Zhèn [滨海镇]; 31.006250, 121.885558). Among the points along this 30 km stretch of coast are the Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), Big Bend (31.000321, 121.938074), Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083), Microforest 1 (30.923889, 121.971635), the Magic Parking Lot (30.884898, 121.968229), the Magic GPS Point (30.880563, 121.964551), South Lock (30.860073, 121.909997), the Eiffel Tower (30.850531, 121.878047), & the Marshy Agricultural Land (30.850707, 121.863662). Sunny & hazy/smoggy. Low 12° C, high 22° C. Humidity 88%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind SSE 6 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 176 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:14, sunset 17:01. SAT 05 NOV 2016 07:30-17:30. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus 1 juv.
Falcated Duck Anas falcata 76
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 12
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 45
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 1
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 7
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 16
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 35
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 20
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 1
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 40
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 70
Great Egret A. alba 5
Intermediate Egret A. intermedia 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 50
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 7
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 28
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 45
Eurasian/Black-faced Spoonbill P. leucorodia/minor 30
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 2
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 1
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus 1
rail sp. 2
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 30
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 37
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 20
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus 8
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 330
Little Ringed Plover C. dubius 1
Broad-billed Sandpiper Calidris falcinellus 3
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 8
Sanderling C. alba 5
Dunlin C. alpina 330
Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus 1
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 33
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 40
Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi 3
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 2
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 7
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 6
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2
Amur Falcon Falco amurensis 3
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 26
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 8
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 20
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus ca. 100
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 25
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 4
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 6
Arctic/Kamchatka Leaf/Japanese Leaf Warbler P. borealis/examinandus/xanthodryas 1
Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps 2
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 10
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 12
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 45
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 3
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 6
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Japanese Thrush T. cardis 7
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 8
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 9
Rufous-tailed Robin Larvivora sibilans 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 22
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 4
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 30
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 50
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 17
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 4
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens 16
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 6
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 2
Chestnut-eared Bunting E. fucata 15
Little Bunting E. pusilla 3
Rustic Bunting E. rustica 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 10
Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola 4
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 12
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 6

List 1 of 1 for Tues. 8 Nov. 2016 (75 species)

Greater White-fronted Goose, Nanhui, 8 Nov. 2016. Rare Shanghai record.
Greater White-fronted Goose, Nanhui, 8 Nov. 2016. Rare Shanghai record. Digiscoped images by Elaine Du using Swarovski ATX-95 scope and iPhone 6.

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. List includes birds found at Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). We covered the entire coastal road from Luchao (Lúcháo Gǎng [芦潮港]; 30.851109, 121.848455) to Binhai (Bīnhǎi Zhèn [滨海镇]; 31.006250, 121.885558). Among the points along this 30 km stretch of coast are the Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), Big Bend (31.000321, 121.938074), Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083), Microforest 1 (30.923889, 121.971635), the Magic Parking Lot (30.884898, 121.968229), the Magic GPS Point (30.880563, 121.964551), South Lock (30.860073, 121.909997), the Eiffel Tower (30.850531, 121.878047), & the Marshy Agricultural Land (30.850707, 121.863662). Early rain, turning cloudy. Windy  throughout day. Low 12° C, high 17° C. Humidity 69%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind N 30-40 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 68 (moderate). Sunrise 06:16, sunset 16:59. TUE 08 NOV 2016 06:40-17:50. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Mike May.

Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons 15
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 1 juv.
Falcated Duck Anas falcata 80
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 84
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 8
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha ca. 500
Northern Pintail A. acuta 20
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 12
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 2
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 80
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 45
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 20
Great Cormorant Eurasian Phalacrocorax carbo 60
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 40
Great Egret A. alba 5
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 200
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 1
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 4
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 12
Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor 1
Eurasian/Black-faced Spoonbill P. leucorodia/minor 60 distant, bills tucked in
Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis 1
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 20
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 10
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 13
Dunlin Calidris alpina 20
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 4
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 70
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 30
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 8
Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris 8
Mew Gull Larus canus 1
Vega Gull Vega Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 3
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia 2
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 4
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 12
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 8
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 10
Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus 2
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 2
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 8
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 2
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 1
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 20
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 6
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 6
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 2
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 30
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 4
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 5
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Japanese Thrush T. cardis 3
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 12
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 8
Naumann’s Thrush T. naumanni 1
Rufous-tailed Robin Larvivora sibilans 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 9
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 13
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 50
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis taivana 1
White Wagtail M. alba 12
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 100
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 2
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 6
Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola 2
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 3

List 1 of 1 for Wed. 9 Nov. 2016 (69 species)

A rather harried flock of Pied Avocet fly over the defunct wetland at Nanhui, 9 Nov. 2016. The avocets were often interrupting their feeding and resting to make a circular flight before settling back down at more or less the same location.
A rather harried flock of Pied Avocet fly over the defunct wetland at Nanhui, 9 Nov. 2016. The avocets were often interrupting their feeding to make a circular flight before settling back down at more or less the same location. (Craig Brelsford)

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. List includes birds found at Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). We covered the entire coastal road from Luchao (Lúcháo Gǎng [芦潮港]; 30.851109, 121.848455) to Binhai (Bīnhǎi Zhèn [滨海镇]; 31.006250, 121.885558). Among the points along this 30 km stretch of coast are the Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), Big Bend (31.000321, 121.938074), Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083), Microforest 1 (30.923889, 121.971635), the Magic Parking Lot (30.884898, 121.968229), the Magic GPS Point (30.880563, 121.964551), South Lock (30.860073, 121.909997), the Eiffel Tower (30.850531, 121.878047), & the Marshy Agricultural Land (30.850707, 121.863662). Cloudy & breezy. Low 11° C, high 13° C. Humidity 69%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind NNW 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 55 (moderate). Sunrise 06:17, sunset 16:58. WED 09 NOV 2016 06:30-17:20. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Erica Locke.

Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 11
Gadwall Anas strepera 12
Falcated Duck A. falcata 300
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 290
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 40
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha ca. 500
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 30
Northern Pintail A. acuta 120
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 140
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 15
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 250
Greater Scaup A. marila 4
Smew Mergellus albellus 2
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 50
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 12
Great Cormorant Eurasian Phalacrocorax carbo 200
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 60
Great Egret A. alba 20
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 260
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 12
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 14
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 8
Eurasian/Black-faced Spoonbill P. leucorodia/minor 48 distant, bills tucked in
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 7
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 30
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 35
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 20
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 40
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 1
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris 2
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 3
Dunlin C. alpina 60
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 250
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 80
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 25
Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi 12
Black-headed Gull C. ridibundus 300
Vega Gull Vega Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 6
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia 2
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 2
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 12
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 9
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 13
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 6
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 20
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 5
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 4
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 3
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 15
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 6
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 4
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 12
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 8
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 16
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 18
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 100
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 24
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 18
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 1
Chestnut-eared Bunting E. fucata 2
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 9
Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola 3
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 2

Featured image: Reed Parrotbill, a Chinese near-endemic, a species under threat, a bird of personality and beauty, and a symbol of Shanghai and the Chinese coast. Far left: Yangkou, Rudong, Jiangsu, 8 May 2010. Middle, top: Yangkou, 10 October 2010. Middle, bottom and far right: Nanhui, 18 May 2016. All by Craig Brelsford.

Qinghai 2016 Week 7

This is the second of three posts about the second month of my Qinghai 2016 birding trip. This post covers Week 7, spent mainly at Hala Lake. The featured image above shows some of the highlights. Clockwise from top left: glacier and mountain at Hala Lake, Tibetan Sandgrouse, Tibetan Gazelle at sunset, and sea mollusk 50 million years old.

A post on Weeks 5-6 was published Thurs. 27 Oct. The third installment, on Week 8, will appear on Thurs. 24 Nov.

For more on the first month of the trip, please see these posts:

Qinghai 2016 Week 1-2 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 3 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 4 Highlights
Tibetan Lynx, Kanda Mountain, Qinghai
A Batch o’ Qinghai Goodies

The Qinghai 2016 birding trip began on 26 June 2016 and was originally scheduled to last a month. My wife Elaine Du and I extended the trip another month, from 24 July to 21 Aug. 2016. In Month 2 we drove 2260 km (1,400 miles) in Xining, Haibei, Haixi, and Hainan prefectures and noted 136 bird species. We discovered at previously unknown locations Tibetan Snowcock, Przevalski’s Partridge, Tibetan Sandgrouse, and Gansu Leaf Warbler. I became one of the few foreign birders to visit Hala Lake, where we found Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, and Lake Xiligou, where we found Mongolian Goitered Gazelle. At the Przevalski’s Site in the Dulan Mountains, we spied a trio of Tibetan Wolf.

A WEEK AROUND HALA LAKE

Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala Lake, Qinghai, 10 Aug. 2016.
Our bird of the week for Week 7: Tibetan Sandgrouse. Elaine Du and I found 53 at Hala Lake on 10 Aug.

This post covers the seventh week of our eight-week birding trip to Qinghai, from Sat. 6 Aug. through Sat. 13 Aug. 2016. Elaine and I spent that time around Hala Lake, the wild, remote, high-altitude inland sea in north-central Qinghai. With the desolate environment as our backdrop, and despite daily rain, we noted 53 bird species. Highlights:

— Discovering flocks of Tibetan Sandgrouse in perfect semi-desert habitat near Hala Lake

— Finding 7 Tibetan Snowcock in a gorge east of the lake

— On the shore of Hala Lake, attaining several interesting Qinghai records, among them Little Stint, Ruddy Turnstone, Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover, Common Greenshank, and Whimbrel

— Making various less-surprising records around Hala, among them Black Stork, breeding Lesser Sand Plover (our most numerous bird), Ruddy Shelduck, Common Shelduck, Common Merganser, Bar-headed Goose, and Pied Avocet

— Watching a Tibetan Fox dig up and devour a Plateau Pika, and surmising that the area, if explored thoroughly, would yield Snow Leopard, Tibetan Wolf, Tibetan Lynx, and other powerful mammals

— Witnessing landscapes unlike any I have seen in nine years in China, with the vast, silent steppe giving way to the azure inland sea, and snow-clad peaks and glaciated mountainsides brooding in the background

— While lamenting the damage overgrazing is doing even to an area as pristine as Hala Lake, befriending Tibetan and Mongolian herdsmen, sharing stories with them, and learning about their tough, interesting lives

— Despite being alone and having only a 2WD vehicle (Kia Sportage), despite having to make approximately two dozen tricky creek crossings, and despite a ban on foreigners at parts of Hala Lake (see editor’s note below), getting into and out of the area without incident

Editor’s note: Part of the area around Hala Lake is off-limits to foreigners, a fact of which Elaine and I were unaware during our visit. Foreigners are banned from Delingha County, an administrative area that includes much of the area south and west of Hala Lake as well as the entire lake itself. Foreigners are allowed in Tianjun County, which covers the area north and east of the lake, up to the shoreline.

Foreigners caught in Delingha County can expect harassment and even detention, as was the case with German bicyclist Andreas Bruder, whom Elaine and I met at Hala. After we separated, Andreas was arrested, detained, questioned, and transported back to Hedong-Hexi, the urban part of Delingha. A memory card of his was confiscated. Birders, with their binoculars, scopes, and cameras, presumably would endure even closer scrutiny than Andreas.

As long as this harsh policy remains in place, I advise foreigners to approach Hala Lake from the east, as Elaine and I did, and remain in the areas in Tianjun County. Drive a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle, as the route through Tianjun County is longer and remoter and involves more creek crossings than the road from Hedong-Hexi.

THE ROAD TO HALA

Craig Brelsford, Selfie in Shadow Against Ochre Hillside, near Suli, 6 Aug. 2016.
Craig Brelsford, Silhouette Against Ocher Hillside, Suli-Yanglong road, 6 Aug. 2016.

Our explorations of the Hala Lake area began on Sat. 6 Aug. Elaine and I were sitting in a restaurant in Yanglong Xiang (38.816483, 98.415873), a town in Haibei Prefecture. The laoban said, “Yes, your car can make it to Hala Lake.” We were on our way.

We got gas at the only station in Yanglong, on the west side of town. Right next to the station (38.814444, 98.411556) is the turnoff from the S204 to the Suli-Yanglong road. Driving our rented Kia Sportage, we took that road over the South Tuole Mountains, which separate the Heihe River Valley from the Shule River Valley. We noted Tibetan Fox and Tibetan Gazelle, and the next morning, Sun. 7 Aug., we found a flock of 35 Blue Sheep.

Our Kia Sportage at the gas station in remote Suli. Mr. Zhou is far left talking to the attendant, whose head is visible next to the car.
Our Kia Sportage at the gas station in remote Suli. Mr. Zhou is far left, talking to the attendant.

We drove to Suli (38.702633, 98.026018), a remote, dusty Tibetan town that evoked the American Wild West. At the only gas station in the valley, we met the “sheriff,” Mr. Zhou, a muscular, square-jawed Tibetan man who is the local law-enforcement officer and who knows the name of everyone in Suli. After I gave him views through our spotting scope, Sheriff Zhou invited us to his home to view his fossil collection. In his driveway, Elaine and I gazed at fossilized sea mollusks at least 50 million years old.

We walked into Mr. Zhou’s home, on a wall of which hung a portrait of Xi Jinping, and in a corner of which sat his mother, 85 and in good health. She barely acknowledged us, being immersed in prayer. Her giant prayer top, longer than a broom, spun constantly, and she never stopped shuffling her beads.

70 million yrs. ago, the Indian Subcontinent began crashing into Asia, a process that continues to this day and that is the force creating the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya. 50 million years ago, the sea between the Indian Subcontinent and the rest of Asia finally closed. Therefore, the fossilized sea mollusks shown here cannot be younger than 50 million years of age.
Mr. Zhou’s fossil collection. Seventy million years ago, the Indian Subcontinent began crashing into Asia, a process that continues to this day and that is the force creating the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalaya. Fifty million years ago, the sea between the Indian Subcontinent and the rest of Asia finally closed. Therefore, the fossilized sea mollusks shown here cannot be younger than 50 million years of age.

After the exciting mammalian views in the mountains and the interesting encounter with Mr. Zhou, disappointment followed in the valley. Once again, nearly every square meter was fenced off and given over to grazing. In a magnificent stretch of high-altitude steppe that not long ago held thousands of ungulates, we managed to view only 10 Tibetan Wild Ass and 38 Tibetan Gazelle–and thousands of domestic sheep.

We drove slowly into the night on the Suli-Yangkang road, still being constructed. We left this road at 37.929055, 98.385921, a point 39.6 km north of Yangkang Xiang (37.675509, 98.635267). We drove west, toward the lake.

Rain began to fall, giving us a rare encounter with Chinese Zokor, probably flooded out of its burrow. We also saw Mongolian Five-toed Jerboa. We stopped at 37.971139, 98.085444.

STUCK IN THE BACK COUNTRY

Craig Brelsford tightens the spare on Kia Sportage, near Hala Lake, Qinghai. 8 Aug. 2016.
Craig Brelsford tightens the spare on Kia Sportage, near Hala Lake, Qinghai. 8 Aug. 2016.

On Mon. 8 Aug. I awoke to find a flat tire on our rented Kia Sportage. A tiny nail had caused a slow leak. We were 30 km away from a paved road, 40 km from the lake. As I was putting on the spare, a Tibetan Snowcock called from the ridge above.

We drove the 70 km back to Yangkang Xiang, the nearest place with tire-repair shops. Our tire was repaired by a Hui man who told me point-blank that he had originally tried to overcharge me because I am foreign. (The attempt to rip me off did not surprise me; the candor did.) We threw the newly repaired tire in the trunk and drove back into the wilderness. Elaine videoed me driving across the creek.

We camped at 37.980045, 98.047005, just 3.5 km (and five creek crossings) from the spot from the night before. We had gone essentially nowhere in 24 hours, but we had long since factored mishaps and difficulties into the price we were willing to pay to see Hala Lake.

Elaine viewing the planets at twilight, near Hala Lake, 8 Aug. 2016.
Elaine viewing the planets at twilight, 8 Aug. 2016.

In the clean air the light from a slim crescent moon was casting shadows, and for the first time I could make out the bands of Saturn. I viewed Saturn through my Swarovski ATX-95 30-70x scope.

FINALLY, WE REACH HALA

Tibetan Snowcock, road to Hala Lake, Tianjun County, Qinghai. 9 Aug. 2016.
Tibetan Snowcock above our camp at 37.980045, 98.047005. The hills lining the stream gave us two views of this high-country game bird in two days. The area east of Hala Lake must be a prime location for this species.

The next morning, Tues. 9 Aug., I awoke at dawn and heard the calls of Tibetan Snowcock on the ridge above. I scoped a group of seven. Carrying my camera, I climbed 300 m to the ridge, elev. 4400 m. I found the snowcocks, three adults and four juveniles. I saw Brandt’s Mountain Finch, Tibetan Snowfinch, and Blanford’s Snowfinch. All were feeding young. I noted a single Plain Mountain Finch.

From the summit the valley spread out like a map before me, and I saw that the road made not just a sixth but also a seventh and eighth crossing of the creek before leaving the valley for the steppe. Those five crossings the day before had made me nervous.

Panorama near Hala Lake. 9 Aug. 2016.
Panorama near Hala Lake. 9 Aug. 2016. The coordinates here are 37.973072, 98.050575 and the elev. is 4340 m. These arid heights are the home of Tibetan Snowcock.

I returned to camp and met two Tibetan herdsmen. One could just barely speak Chinese, and he told us that it is possible to circumvent the sixth and seventh crossings. Yet another Tibetan arrived, Rén Qīng Cái Ràng (仁青才让). Rén Qīng was younger than the other two and spoke good Chinese. Rén Qīng watched us as we drove along the bluff above crossings 6 and 7 and descended safely to the road. The eighth crossing was a piece of cake. (Our 2WD Kia Sportage was a fine mini-SUV, but in the Hala Lake back country I would have felt safer in a larger 4WD. It would also be better to have at least one other vehicle in the group to serve as a rescue car.)

Ren Qing directs Craig (in the Sportage) down a steep path. Near Hala Lake, Qinghai, 9 Aug. 2016.
Rén Qīng directs Craig (driving the Sportage) down a steep path near creek crossings 6 and 7. Photo by Elaine Du.

On the steppe Elaine and I witnessed scenes unlike any we have encountered in China. The valley spread out endlessly before us, with the snow-capped South Shule Mountains in the background. All was stillness and silence. There are scenes nearly as thrilling on the G214 in Guoluo and Yushu prefectures, but one views those landscapes from a busy highway, not from an unpaved road in the middle of nowhere. We met just one person on the steppe, a Tibetan herdsman on horseback who asked us to take him to Yangkang Xiang.

Steppe, sea, and sky: Hala Lake, 9 Aug. 2016.
Steppe, sea, and sky: Hala Lake, 9 Aug. 2016. Photo by Elaine Du.

After driving about 30 km we saw a turquoise glow on the horizon: Hala Lake. The second-largest lake in Qinghai, the inland sea covers an area of 607 sq. km (234 sq mi.). Here at the eastern end of the lake one gets one’s closest views of the father of the waters, the mighty Gangze Wujie, elev. 5808 m (19,055 ft.). That awe-inspiring peak and its siblings north of the lake are complemented by other peaks on all sides, a dramatic reminder that the water here at 4077 masl has no outlet. The azure sea with snowy peaks behind is a deeply impressive sight. Except for the wind, all is silent; except for a few Tibetan herders’ tents in the distance, not a soul is around. The only signs of man are the road and the hundreds of sheep and yaks dotting the slopes.

Almost as soon as we arrived, the wind picked up, and rain started to fall. (Rain, it turned out, would bedevil us every day at Hala.) We noted species common on the high steppe, among them Tibetan Gazelle, Lesser Sand Plover, Horned Lark, and Rufous-necked Snowfinch. We turned the Sportage into our bedroom and spent the night on a bluff above the lake.

TIBETAN SANDGROUSE!

Juvenile Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala Lake, 10 Aug. 2016.
Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala Lake, 10 Aug. This juvenile is one of 53 sandgrouse we found that day. The presence of juveniles was encouraging, for it confirmed that we had found a breeding site. Juvenile Tibetan Sandgrouse show only a trace of orange on the throat and lack the pin tail.

The next day, Wed. 10 Aug., the rain was less but the wind even fiercer, blowing gale-force across the lake. We drove off the elevated unpaved road toward the lake, parking well away from the soft sand fringing the inland sea. We walked a few hundred meters to the shingly shoreline, there finding 2 Ruddy Turnstone. Elaine made this video of the turbulent lake.

Hume’s Short-toed Lark were calling, and there were juveniles around. Interestingly, we were finding Hume’s Short-toed only on the shore and about 300 m inland. The larks act like stints, running frantically along the shore, picking up insects. We saw 3 Pallas’s Gull, 6 Bar-headed Goose, and 1 each of Little Ringed Plover, Common Redshank, and Brown-headed Gull.

Shingly shore of Hala Lake, 10 Aug. 2016.
Shingly shore of Hala Lake, 10 Aug. 2016. Photo by Elaine Du.

We could stand the gale no longer; we walked back to the Sportage, on the way noting Rufous-necked Snowfinch. Back on the road, driving west across the steppe, we noted a Ruddy Shelduck foraging on the track, a Saker Falcon, 7 Eurasian Hoopoe, and 2 Isabelline Wheatear.

We made half a dozen more non-dangerous stream crossings in the Sportage before arriving at Menggu Bao, the most developed place on Hala Lake. Here, yurts await tourists who have braved the three and a half hour ride north from Hedong-Hexi–or in our case, the even longer easterly route from Yangkang Xiang. Treasuring our self-sufficiency, we bypassed the outpost and continued west. (This was a good move, as we almost surely would have been reported the moment we set foot in the lobby.)

Tibetan Sandgrouse, Hala Lake, 10 Aug. 2016.
This Tibetan Sandgrouse is an adult female and is identifiable as such by the fine barring on the mantle, coverts, and tertials.

Driving slowly on a muddy, non-elevated dirt track, Elaine and I found a flock of 21 Tibetan Sandgrouse, a life bird for us both. We were at 38.205017, 97.520042. The extremely flat terrain, just a few meters higher than the lake, must be good habitat for sandgrouse, as we found another 32 in flocks, trios, and pairs. Juveniles were among the sandgrouse we counted; surely the species breeds in the area.

Using my iPhone 6, Elaine got video of the sandgrouse through our spotting scope.

We drove ever west, the nearly perfectly flat terrain broken only by the slightest of depressions, in which were puddles, ponds, and occasionally running water. We found a slight rise of dry, sandy soil and there pitched our tent. The point is 38.209028, 97.477056 and would be our home for the next three nights.

Prime Tibetan Sandgrouse habitat near Hala Lake.
Near Hala Lake (in background), we found this prime Tibetan Sandgrouse habitat (38.205017, 97.520042). Gravelly semi-desert near a lake at high altitude: This is the environment in which Tibetan Sandgrouse thrives.

In wetter ages our camp surely was lake bed; though we were 500 m away from the shore, our elevation could not be more than 5 m higher. A few hundred meters west of our camp is the largest stream in this southwestern sector of Hala Lake. The stream is the deepest drivers must cross on the remote mountain road linking Hala Lake and Subei, Gansu, 320 km from our camp.

RAIN …

Elaine and Craig waiting out the rain in the tent.
Elaine and Craig waiting out the rain in the tent.

On Thurs. 11 Aug. rain fell all day. We used the time to rest in our tent. Even after nearly seven weeks in Qinghai, we still were not fully accustomed to the high altitude. Long drives, long walks, and intensive birding tax one much more at 4000 masl than at lower elevations. At Hala Lake, a day spent resting is an investment in good health.

The camp became our little world. Because we had set our tent on higher, sandier soil, and because I dug a little ditch on the periphery, the floor stayed dry. To block the wind blowing off the lake, I parked our Sportage close to the north side of the tent. We ate freeze-dried beef stew from Mountain House, the same brand I used while hiking the Grand Canyon in the 1980s. In the morning, when it was only drizzling, I took a bath using creek water we collected in empty Nongfu Spring bottles. Earlier in the trip, Elaine and I invested 20 yuan in a shovel, and with it I had dug a latrine. Elaine and I were clean, dry, and well-fed in our neat little camp in the wilderness.

Elaine Du washes up at our latrine, 11 Aug. 2016. Elaine and I keep a clean camp and stay civilized in the wild. A key component of staying civilized is a simple latrine, into which all our wastewater goes. The way Elaine and I see it, litter, unburied feces, and a sloppy camp are the marks of a barbarian.
Elaine Du washes up at our camp (38.209028, 97.477056), 11 Aug. Elaine and I keep a clean camp and stay civilized in the wild. A key component of staying civilized is a simple latrine, into which all our wastewater goes. Litter, unburied feces, a sloppy camp–these are the marks of a barbarian.

During a break in the rain, I emerged and set my Swarovski scope atop my Manfrotto tripod and head. My 360-degree scan of the vast plain and lake took a full hour. From a distance of about 2000 m, I watched a Tibetan Fox dig up and devour a pika. I counted 8 Eurasian Hoopoe, one of which flew into our camp; watched a flying Common Raven analyze our camp; and admired the snow-clad peaks north of the lake.

LITTLE STINT AT HALA LAKE

Little Sint, Hala Lake, Qinghai, 12 Aug. 2016.
Little Sint, Hala Lake, 12 Aug. Even in these poor photos, the mantle and scapular V’s are visible, as are the pale forehead and split supercilium.

On Fri. 12 Aug., the rain let up, and Elaine and I added eight new species to our Qinghai 2016 list. We birded the southwest corner of Hala Lake, including the big stream that empties into the inland sea. Among the new additions were good Qinghai records such as Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ferruginous Duck, Whimbrel, and Temminck’s Stint as well as Mallard, Grey Plover, and Common Greenshank. We once again recorded Ruddy Turnstone, we added to our Hala list Common Merganser, Common Shelduck, and Black Stork, and we had appreciable numbers of Ruddy Shelduck (85), Bar-headed Goose (80), and Lesser Sand Plover (230). We noted 29 species in all.

The brown on the Little Stint was so impressive that my first thought was not Red-necked Stint–I have never seen so dark a Red-necked Stint–but Broad-billed Sandpiper. The bird however was showing typical stint characteristics such as high pecking rate, constant, quick movements, and small size. I moved in closer, noting the bill, which was blunt-tipped, not downward-kinked, as in Broad-billed Sandpiper. The bill called my attention in another way: It was longer than the bill of a typical Red-necked Stint. I noted prominent white stripes on the brown mantle, a pale forehead, and very dark brown stripes on the crown. The flight feathers lacked grey coloring. Everything added up to juvenile Little Stint.

The 3 Curlew Sandpiper were in the delta of the big southwest stream and were easily ID’d. Two were juveniles with peach wash across the breast, and one was an adult molting into winter plumage.

Whimbrel, Hala Lake, Qinghai, 12 Aug. 2016.
Whimbrel, Hala Lake, 12 Aug.

The 2 Whimbrel were on the lakeshore, the Grey Plover and Common Greenshank in the delta. The 2 Mallard were males in eclipse plumage and were in the delta. Temminck’s Stint and Ferruginous Duck were in the delta and on the lakeshore. Ferruginous Duck showed very dark plumage, white undertail, and peaked head with no hint of tuft.

We met Andreas Bruder, a bicyclist from Dresden, Germany who had started his journey in Dunhuang, Gansu. He had cycled to Subei, ridden in a pickup truck to a point near the gate of Lanchiwang Nature Reserve, somehow slipped in, and continued on into the Hala Lake basin. (Later, near Menggu Bao, Andreas would be arrested for being in Delingha County.)

The grey sky finally blued up, but in the afternoon rain fell once again, this time in a squall. Elaine and I ran to the Kia Sportage, which I parked in an east-west orientation. So hard was the wind off the lake that I could open the south-facing windows, and nary a drop of rain fell in.

On Sat. 13 Aug., rain once again fell most of the day. We birded the lake, adding Pied Avocet to our Hala list. We decided we could not stand another night in the rain at high altitude. As darkness fell, we drove east, toward Menggu Bao, again noting Tibetan Sandgrouse at 38.205028, 97.520028.

We drove the Delingha road south in the dark and began our exodus from Delingha County.

Coming Thurs. 24 Nov.: beautiful Wulan County, site of the final week of our Qinghai 2016 trip!

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List. All observations by Craig Brelsford and Elaine Du.

List 1 of 1 for Sat. 6 Aug. 2016 (17 species)

King of the high-country falcons: Saker Falcon <em>Falco cherrug</em>, 6 Aug. 2016.
King of the high-country falcons: Saker Falcon Falco cherrug, 6 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted between Jiabo Hot Spring (38.790355, 98.665485), Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture & Suli (38.702633, 98.026018), Tianjun County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 07:00-21:00.

Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 4 (3400-3840 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 1 (3790 m)
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2 (3620-3780 m)
Saker Falcon F. cherrug 2 (pair) at 3400 m
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 15 (3450-3980 m)
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 15 (3410-3780 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 65 (3450-4090 m)
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 18 (3380-3980 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 3 (3400-3480 m)
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens 1 (3790 m)
Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus 1 (3660 m)
Water Pipit A. spinoletta blakistoni 1 at Jiabo Hot Spring (3660 m)
Brandt’s Mountain Finch Leucosticte brandti 1 (4280 m)
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 76 (3790-4100 m)
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 58 (3790-4100 m)
Streaked Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilloides 6 in scrub on Tuole River (3390 m)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 4 (2 ad., 2 juv.) breeding in scrub on Tuole River (3390 m)

Mammals

Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 7 (4150 m)
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata 6 (4200 m)
Tibetan Fox Vulpes ferrilata 2 (3530 m)

List 1 of 1 for Sun. 7 Aug. 2016 (20 species)

A sheep's skull wards off evil under a bridge near Suli, 7 Aug. 2016.
A sheep’s skull wards off evil under a bridge near Suli, 7 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted between Suli (38.702633, 98.026018) & 37.971139, 98.085444 (a point on road to Hala Lake), Tianjun County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 07:00-21:00.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 8 (3840 m)
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 1 (3670 m)
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 17 (3770-4190 m)
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 3 (3840 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 1 (3710 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 11 (3850-4050 m)
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 3 (3770 m)
Saker Falcon F. cherrug 7 (3960-4190 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 11 (3670-4190 m)
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 17 (3710-3840 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 60 (3670-4050 m)
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 1 (3960 m)
Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 3 (1 juv.) at 4050 m
Black Redstart P. ochruros 14 (3710-4000 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 5 (3690-3970 m)
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides 1 (4050 m)
Brown Accentor P. fulvescens 5 (3960-3970 m)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 1 (3840 m)
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 80 (3670-4050 m)
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 100 (3670-4050 m)

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae ca. 300 (4050 m)
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 40 (3890-4190 m)
Mongolian Five-toed Jerboa Allactaga sibirica 1 (3970 m)
Chinese Zokor Eospalax fontanierii 1 (4020 m) likely flushed from burrow by rain
Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur 35 (4120 m)
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata 38 (3700-4190 m)
Tibetan Wild Ass Equus kiang 10 (4070 m)
Tibetan Fox Vulpes ferrilata 5 (3970-4070 m)

List 1 of 1 for Mon. 8 Aug. 2016 (12 species)

Craig Brelsford studies the planets through his spotting scope at camp on 8 Aug. 2016.
Craig Brelsford studies the planets through his spotting scope at camp on 8 Aug. 2016. Photo by Elaine Du.

Birds noted around 37.971139, 98.085444 (a point on road to Hala Lake), Tianjun County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. 08:00-11:00.

Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus 1 (4020 m)
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 5 (4020 m)
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 9 (3940 m)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1 (4020 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 2 (4020 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 1 (3700 m)
Northern Raven Corvus corax 2 (4020 m)
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 2 (4020 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 10 (4020 m)
Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 1 (3830 m)
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 20 (4020 m)
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 100 (4020 m)

List 1 of 1 for Tues. 9 Aug. 2016 (12 species)

Brandt's Mountain Finch feeding young, near Hala Lake, Qinghai. 9 Aug. 2016.
Brandt’s Mountain Finch feeding young near Hala Lake. 9 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted between 37.980045, 98.047005 (a point on road to Hala Lake), Tianjun County & 38.185468, 97.663717 (a point overlooking Hala Lake), Delingha County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai.

Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus 7 (3 ad., 4 young) at 4300 m
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 2 (4110-4230 m)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 4 (4110 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 (4230 m)
Northern Raven Corvus corax 1 (4110 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 15 (4160 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 5 (4110 m)
Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola 2 (4150 m)
Brandt’s Mountain Finch L. brandti 20 (4150-4400 m)
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi 2 (4200 m)
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 2 (4230 m)
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 11 (4110-4250 m)

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 20 (4050 m)
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 7 (3890-4190 m)
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata 40 (4077 m)

List 1 of 1 for Wed. 10 Aug. 2016 (17 species)

Elaine and Craig took this selfie while birding the shore of Hala Lake on 10 Aug. 2016.
Elaine and Craig took this selfie while birding the shore of Hala Lake on 10 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted on S shore of Hala Lake (38.267875, 97.575430), Delingha County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 6 (4077 m)
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 9 (4077-4130 m)
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 31 (4077 m)
Little Ringed Plover C. dubius 1 (4077 m)
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres 2 (4077 m)
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 1 (4077 m)
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 1 (4077 m)
Pallas’s Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus 1 (4130 m)
Tibetan Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes tibetanus 53 (4100 m); most found around 38.205028, 97.520028
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 7 (4077-4100 m)
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug 1 (4110 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 11 (4077-4130 m)
Hume’s Short-toed Lark Calandrella acutirostris 13 (4077 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 1 (4077 m)
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 2 (4100 m)
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 3 (4077 m)
Blanford’s Snowfinch P. blanfordi 1 (4077 m)

Mammals

Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata 40 (4090-4130 m)

List 1 of 1 for Thurs. 11 Aug. 2016 (10 species)

Operating around camp on a rainy day. 11 Aug. 2016, Hala Lake.
Operating around camp on a rainy day. 11 Aug. 2016, Hala Lake.

Birds noted around 38.209028, 97.477056, a point near SW shore of Hala Lake, Delingha County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 4077 m.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 3
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 13
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 10
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 4
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 1
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 8
Northern Raven Corvus corax 1
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 6
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 3
Blanford’s Snowfinch P. blanfordi 1

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 12
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 3
Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata 6
Tibetan Fox Vulpes ferrilata 2

List 1 of 1 for Fri. 12 Aug. 2016 (29 species). Birds noted around 38.209028, 97.477056, a point near SW shore of Hala Lake, Delingha County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 4077 m.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 80
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 85
Common Shelduck T. tadorna 9
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 6
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca 7
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 7
Black Stork Ciconia nigra 1 flyby
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 1
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola squatarola 1
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 230
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 20
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 2
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres 1
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea 3
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii 3
Little Stint C. minuta 2 (1 juv., 1 ad.)
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 1
Common Redshank T. totanus 28
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 7
Pallas’s Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus 12
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 5
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 12
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug 1
Northern Raven Corvus corax 1
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 14
Hume’s Short-toed Lark Calandrella acutirostris 18
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 3
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 6

List 1 of 1 for Sat. 13 Aug. 2016 (21 species). Birds noted around 38.209028, 97.477056, a point near SW shore of Hala Lake, Delingha County, Haixi Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 4077 m.

Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 130
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 55
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 7
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 1
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 12 (flock)
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus atrifrons 280
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 55
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres 1
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea 1 juv.
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii 6
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 18
Brown-headed Gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus 31
Pallas’s Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus 4
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 7 (1 chick)
Tibetan Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes tibetanus 9 at 38.205028, 97.520028
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 9
Saker Falcon Falco cherrug 3
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 6
Hume’s Short-toed Lark Calandrella acutirostris 17
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 2
Blanford’s Snowfinch P. blanfordi 2

Mammals

Mongolian Five-toed Jerboa Allactaga sibirica 2 on Delingha-Hala road (3930-4480 m)

Places Mentioned in This Post

Note: Many places in Qinghai have Tibetan or Mongolian names. For simplicity I have written place names only in English, simplified Chinese, and Pinyin.

Delingha County (Délìnghā Shì [德令哈市]) sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture. Prefectural seat of Haixi Prefecture. Officially, Delingha “City” (市).

Dunhuang (Dūnhuáng Shì [敦煌市]): sub-prefectural administrative area W Gansu.

Gangze Wujie (Gǎngzé Wújié [岗则吾结]): peak South Shule Mountains. At 5808 masl (19,050 ft.) highest peak in South Shule Mountains & Qilian Mountains. On some maps called Tuanjie Feng (Tuánjié Fēng [团结峰]). 38.503719, 97.718419.

Gansu (Gānsù Shěng [甘肃省]): province NW China bordering Qinghai to N & E.

Guoluo Prefecture (Guǒluò Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [果洛藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area SE Qinghai.

Haibei Prefecture (Hǎiběi Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海北藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai.

Hainan Prefecture (Hǎinán Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [海南藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area E Qinghai.

Haixi Prefecture (Hǎixī Měnggǔzú Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海西蒙古族藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area occupying all of NW & NC Qinghai & a portion of SW Qinghai. Area: 325,785 sq. km (125,786 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): slightly larger than New Mexico. Largest prefecture in Qinghai.

Hala Lake (Hālā Hú [哈拉湖]): inland sea N Qinghai in Haixi Prefecture. Second-largest lake in Qinghai. Area: 607 sq. km (234 sq. mi.). Elevation: 4077 m (13,373 ft.). 38.267875, 97.575430.

Hedong (Hédōng [河东]): administrative area Delingha County. Seat of Haixi Prefecture & Delingha County. Along with Hexi forms urbanized area of Delingha County, & the two areas are most commonly referred to as “Delingha.”

Heihe River (Hēi Hé [黑河]): river NW China rising on N side of Qilian Mountains in Gansu & flowing through Haibei Prefecture in Qinghai before returning to Gansu.

Hexi (Héxī [河西]): see Hedong.

Lake Xiligou (Xīlǐgōu Hú [希里沟湖]): lake Haixi Prefecture. 36.838594, 98.462896.

Menggu Bao (Měnggǔ Bāo [蒙古包]): “Menggu bao” means yurt, or circular tent in the style of the Mongolians. Here, the name refers to the area for tourists at the northernmost point on Delingha-Hala road on S shore of Hala Lake.

Qilian County (Qílián Xiàn [祁连县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haibei Prefecture.

Qilian Mountains (Qílián Shān [祁连山]): range N China forming part of border between Qinghai & Gansu.

Map of Qinghai showing the eight prefectural-level divisions. With just 5.6 million inhabitants in an area larger than Texas, Qinghai is a vast, sparsely populated province. Map courtesy Wikipedia.
Map of Qinghai showing the eight prefectural-level divisions. Map courtesy Wikipedia.

Qinghai (Qīnghǎi Shěng [青海省]): province NW China. Area: 720,000 sq. km (278,000 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): three times larger than United Kingdom; slightly larger than Texas. Pop.: 5.6 million.

Qinghai Lake (Qīnghǎi Hú [青海湖]): largest lake in Qinghai. 36.877808, 100.228673.

Shule River (Shūlè Hé [疏勒河]): river NW China rising in Haibei Prefecture.

South Shule Mountains (Shūlè Nánshān [疏勒南山]): sub-range Qilian Mountains N of Hala Lake.

South Tuole Mountains (Tuōlè Nánshān [拖勒南山]): sub-range Qilian Mountains N Qinghai & W Gansu.

Subei County (Sùběi Měnggǔzú Zìzhì Xiàn [肃北蒙古族自治县]): sub-prefectural administrative area W Gansu, bordering Qinghai.

Suli (Sūlǐ Xiāng [苏里乡]): village on Shule River in Tianjun County. 38.702633, 98.026018.

Tianjun County (Tiānjùn Xiàn [天峻县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haixi Prefecture.

Tibetan Plateau (Qīng Zàng Gāoyuán [青藏高原]): vast elevated plateau C Asia encompassing much of Qinghai. Highest & largest plateau on Earth.

Tuole River ([拖勒河]): tributary of Heihe River.

Xining Prefecture (Xīníng Shì [西宁市]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai. Capital of Qinghai. Officially, Xining “City” (市).

Yangkang Xiang (Yángkāng Xiāng [阳康乡]): village E of Hala Lake in Tianjun County. 37.675509, 98.635267.

Yanglong Xiang (Yānglóng Xiāng [央隆乡]): village W Qilian County, on S204. 38.816483, 98.415873.

Yushu Prefecture (Yùshù Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu [玉树藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area S Qinghai.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Nanhui

Editor’s note: The photos above record the moment when I first beheld Spoon-billed Sandpiper. The date was 23 Aug. 2011; the place was Yangkou, a major stopover point for Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Jiangsu; and the bird was this adult, still with a considerable amount of its rufous breeding plumage. Since then I have had numerous encounters with the critically endangered species. The most recent was Thurs. 3 Nov. 2016, when I achieved one of my most sustained views (nearly 30 minutes) and first view in Shanghai of one of the rarest vertebrates on the planet. In this post, I describe the Nanhui meeting with Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and I decorate the post with photos I have taken of the species over the years. — Craig Brelsford

On Thurs. 3 Nov. 2016 Elaine Du and I found Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Nanhui, the coastal birding site in Pudong. A single SBS was associating with a flock of 2600 waders in mud near the entrance to the defunct nature reserve. The SBS site is 4.3 km north of the Holiday Inn, and its coordinates are 30.921616, 121.969776.

On 3 Oct. 2014 at Yangkou, I achieved rare flight shots of Spoon-billed Sandpiper.
On 3 Oct. 2014 at Yangkou, I achieved rare flight shots of Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

I have been viewing Spoon-billed Sandpiper a few times each year since 2011. Since 2013, Elaine has been with me. We know what to look for, and at this time of year when we see a large flock of small waders, the possibility of finding Spoon-billed Sandpiper is always on our mind.

Seated, as is my wont, on the access road, my Swarovski ATX-95 spotting scope atop my tripod in front of me, I was scanning the flock of 2600 waders, looking for anomalies. The great majority (1920) of the birds were Dunlin, with Kentish Plover (620) the other major component.

On 6 Oct. 2014, this Spoon-billed Sandpiper was a lonely fellow in a dry roost containing hundreds of waders.
On 6 Oct. 2014 at Yangkou, this Spoon-billed Sandpiper was a lonely fellow in a dry roost containing hundreds of waders.

I saw a bird that was one of a kind. It was not associating with Kentish Plover or Dunlin. Unlike the plovers and Dunlin, which were resting and preening, the bird I was viewing was feeding. It was moving quickly and covering much ground.

The constant movement, like a wind-up toy, reminded me of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper I have viewed at Yangkou and Dongtai. The speed at which the bird ran fit the pattern, as did the average length of sprint. The bird would occasionally take a short flight. When it flew, the bird showed the white sides to its uppertail coverts.

Another look at the winter-plumage SBS of 6 Oct. 2014.
Another look at the winter-plumage Spoon-billed Sandpiper of 6 Oct. 2014.

The foregoing did not prove Spoon-billed Sandpiper–other species such as Red-necked Stint share some of those characters. What I needed was a close view. Unfortunately, the galaxy of shorebirds was spread out between me and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and the SBS was obviously shying away. Finally the bird moved to within 150 meters of the road. Even through the heat haze, the scope brought home the trademark spatulate bill.

On 14 Sept. 2014, on the mudflats at Yangkou Elaine and I found this Spoon-billed Sandpiper. It is an adult, with traces of the rufous breeding plumage still visible on the face and throat.
On 14 Sept. 2014, on the mudflats at Yangkou, Elaine and I found this Spoon-billed Sandpiper. It is an adult, with traces of the rufous breeding plumage still visible on the face and throat.

It is only somewhat surprising that Spoon-billed Sandpiper should be at Nanhui in early November. First, Spoon-billed Sandpiper quit the stopover sites in Jiangsu around the end of October and early November. The Nanhui bird may have been one of them, and it may have stopped off in Shanghai for a quick refueling break as it heads south.

Second, as more and more of the Chinese coast is gobbled up by development, places such as the wetland at Nanhui, abandoned and gravely threatened as it is, take on greater and greater importance to migrating shorebirds. With so few places left for them, migrating waders pool in whatever hospitable area they can find. Small wonder, then, that in recent weeks the abandoned reserve has yielded Endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank and ultra-rarities such as Pomarine Jaeger and that the site is depended on by about 2 percent of the world’s Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill.

I found a Spoon-billed Sandpiper on 19 Sept. 2012 at Yangkou. Here is a look at the spatulate bill.
I found a Spoon-billed Sandpiper on 19 Sept. 2012 at Yangkou. Here is a look at its spatulate bill.

IUCN lists Spoon-billed Sandpiper as Critically Endangered. Only 500 to 800 of these birds are thought to exist. Excessive development along the Chinese coast is one of the main causes of its decline. Last month, in Will the Spoon Survive?, I discussed coastal development and the future of Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

If you care about Spoon-billed Sandpiper and would like to help, then the RSPB would like to hear from you.

71 SPECIES AT SHANGHAI SITES

On Wed. 2 Nov., Thurs. 3 Nov., and Fri. 4 Nov. 2016, Elaine and I noted 73 species at Zhongshan Park (31.221888, 121.420066) in inner-city Shanghai, the sod farm (31.112586, 121.824742) near Pudong Airport, and Nanhui. On Thursday we had Endangered Great Knot in the defunct nature reserve at Nanhui along with Ruff, Saunders’s Gull, Common Pochard, and Greater Scaup. 55 of our 59 Black-faced Spoonbill were in the abandoned reserve.

Nanhui also gave us season’s first Chinese Penduline Tit, Chestnut-eared Bunting, and Pallas’s Reed Bunting. We spotted a beautiful adult male Bull-headed Shrike, and Eurasian Wryneck was near Microforest 1. On Thursday we had the pleasure of working the wetland and microforests with local birder kaca, recent discoverer of Shanghai’s first Crow-billed Drongo.

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON ‘SAVE NANHUI’

On Thurs. 3 Nov. I found these 4 Black-faced Spoonbill flying over Microforest 4. I found another 55 in the abandoned nature reserve.
On Thurs. 3 Nov. I found these 4 Black-faced Spoonbill flying over Microforest 4. I found another 55 in the abandoned nature reserve.

Earlier this week I published Save the Nanhui Wetland Reserve! On Thursday at the defunct reserve, I saw yet again more than 50 Black-faced Spoonbill–by some measures, 2 percent of the world population of that endangered species. And I got to thinking again.

In many countries, once it was established that 2 percent of the world population of an endangered bird was relying on a site, then it would be game over, proclaim the site a nature reserve–no matter how valuable the land was. The rhetorical question would be, “To what better use could the land possibly be put?”

The local people would forgo the cash that would have been generated by the development of the land. They would say, “We can’t develop every last square meter, after all.” They would cradle Black-faced Spoonbill to their bosom.

At the site, further discoveries would be made. Nordmann’s Greenshank and Spoon-billed Sandpiper, two critically endangered species, also use the site. Great Knot, yet another endangered species, was there Thursday. Rarities like Pomarine Jaeger sometimes appear.

Those species would find refuge in Earth’s largest city. They would have a permanent base in mainland Pudong. They would be the pride of Nanhui.

The easily accessible site would become internationally known, like Mai Po in Hong Kong and Sungei Buloh in Singapore. Tourists would make trips to Shanghai–and on their visa application, under “purpose of visit,” write, “birdwatching.” Elementary schools would take field trips there. The kids would love it!

The current reality is this. When I first started going to Nanhui back in 2008, Black-faced Spoonbill almost always were hundreds of meters away. They would occasionally appear in the canal at the base of the sea wall. If you so much as stopped your car, they would stop feeding. If you opened your door, they would fly a long way away.

Now, in the defunct nature reserve, many of them are feeding right next to the access road. When you stop your car, they keep feeding. When you open your door, they fly 30 m back and start feeding again.

Have spoonbills lost their fear of man? Or, amid the shrinking of the local habitat, are they so desperate for a feed that they have lost their instinct to flee?

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 1 for Wed. 2 Nov. 2016 (15 species). Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán [中山公园]; 31.221888, 121.420066), urban green space in Changning District, Shanghai. Partly cloudy. Low 9° C, high 16° C. Visibility 10 km. Wind NNE 11 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 61 (moderate). Sunrise 06:11, sunset 17:03. WED 02 NOV 2016 12:15-13:45. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 9
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 60
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 1
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus 20
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 1
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 4
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 6
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 3
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 40
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 7
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 12

List 1 of 2 for Thurs. 3 Nov. 2016 (7 species). Birds noted at sod farm south of Pudong International Airport (31.112586, 121.824742), Pudong, Shanghai, China. Sunny and clear. Low 10° C, high 16° C. Humidity 46%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind ENE 6 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 155 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:12, sunset 17:03. THU 03 NOV 2016 09:20-09:50. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 3
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 5
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 3
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 8
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus 2
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 4

List 2 of 2 for Thurs. 3 Nov. 2016 (64 species)

Eyebrowed Thrush feeding in Microforest 4, Nanhui, 3 Nov. 2016.
Eyebrowed Thrush feeding in Microforest 4, Nanhui, 3 Nov. 2016.

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. Sunny and clear. Low 10° C, high 16° C. Humidity 46%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind ENE 6 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 155 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:12, sunset 17:03. THU 03 NOV 2016 10:15-16:15. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

Gadwall Anas strepera 3
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 140
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 2
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 7
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 1
Greater Scaup A. marila 1
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 47
Great Cormorant Eurasian Phalacrocorax carbo 40
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 55
Great Egret A. alba 12
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 60
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 6
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 8
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 59
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 15
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 40
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 30
Lesser/Greater Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus/leschenaultii 50
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 620
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris 4
Ruff C. pugnax 2
Dunlin C. alpina 1930
Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus 1
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 60
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 40
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 31
Common Redshank T. totanus 5
Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi 1
Black-headed Gull C. ridibundus 25
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 4
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 16
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 1
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla 1
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 1
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 14
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 4
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 40
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 10
Goldcrest Regulus regulus 1
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 4
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 6
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 4
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 12
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 4
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 3
Japanese Thrush T. cardis 2
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 4
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 6
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 14
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 14
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 50
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 12
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 1
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 2
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 26
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 7
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 19
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 1

List 1 of 1 for Fri. 4 Nov. 2016 (16 species)

On Friday at Zhongshan Park Shanghai Birding member Wāng Jīnlóng (汪金龙) achieved this image of a White's Thrush drinking from a cavity in a tree. I was standing beside Mr. Wang when he got the shot. More than a century old, Zhongshan Park contains many trees 30 m tall and higher. It's a kind of old-growth forest in the middle of Earth's largest city.
On Friday at Zhongshan Park Shanghai Birding member Wāng Jīnlóng (汪金龙) achieved this image of a White’s Thrush drinking from a cavity high in a tree. I was standing beside Mr. Wang when he got the shot. More than a century old, Zhongshan Park contains many trees 25 m tall and higher. It’s a small-scale old-growth forest in the middle of Earth’s largest city.

Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán [中山公园]; 31.221888, 121.420066), urban green space in Changning District, Shanghai. Sunny. Low 10° C, high 21° C. Humidity 51% Visibility 10 km. Wind S 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 132 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:13, sunset 17:02. WED 02 NOV 2016 14:00-16:00. Craig Brelsford.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 7
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 60
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 2
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 1
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus 20
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 1
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 2
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 5
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 40
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 3

Save the Nanhui Wetland Reserve!

Editor’s note: The photo leading off this post shows an abandoned sign introducing Ruddy Turnstone that has been turned into a wall of a shack in the abandoned nature reserve at Nanhui. On 29 Oct. 2016 in the marshy land just behind the sign were 54 Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, an Endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank, a Near Threatened Red Knot, 2 Vulnerable Saunders’s Gull, and a score of other species. In the essay below, I argue that the defunct nature reserve at Nanhui should be brought back to life and converted into a world-class wetland, like Sungei Buloh in Singapore. — Craig Brelsford

I like to extol the city in which I have spent the past nine years. I like to tell people about the green side of Shanghai, the city at the mouth of Asia’s greatest river and on Earth’s greatest migratory flyway. How exciting it is to bird in Earth’s largest city.

I see in Shanghai an opportunity to show the rest of China how to cherish its natural heritage. The people of Shanghai can teach China and the world to view nature as an asset. They can do this by creating an easily accessible wetland reserve at Nanhui.

Shanghai already is an environmental leader, in a way. My wife Elaine Du and I have toured the 330 km (205 mi.) stretch of coast from Nanhui to Yancheng in Jiangsu. Remaining mudflats and wetlands are very few–and some of the best are not those found in the less-populated areas but those found in the megalopolis of Shanghai. Eastern Chongming Island enjoys considerable protection, and there is Jiuduansha (31.166667, 121.925000), intertidal wetland shoals in the sea near Pudong Airport.

Birds of the defunct nature reserve at Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016. Panel 1: Nordmann's Greenshank. 2: Black-faced Spoonbill. 3a-3d: Saunders's Gull. 4: Ruff. Photos by Craig Brelsford and Elaine Du.
Birds of the defunct wetland reserve at Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016. Panel 1: Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer. 2: Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor. 3a-3d: Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi. 4: Ruff Calidris pugnax. Photos in panels 1, 3d, and 4 by Elaine Du. Others by Craig Brelsford.

The problem with Jiuduansha especially and to a lesser extent Chongming Dongtan is that they are not easily accessible. The next step for Shanghai is a nature reserve easily accessed by the people, along the lines of the Mai Po Marshes in Hong Kong and Sungei Buloh in Singapore.

It is amazing to me that such a reserve was not in the master plans for Pudong when the New Area was conceived. Pudong is big–it covers 1210 sq. km (467 sq. mi.), nearly twice the size of Singapore. Within this New Area you have the world-class urban architecture and business districts around Lujiazui, you now have world-class family entertainment at the Shanghai Disney Resort–and you have world-class wildlife, the natural inheritance of the city, waiting on the coast, ready to be preserved, experienced, and loved. There is moreover the example of other Asian megacities such as the aforementioned two that found room for wildlife–and that wear their urban reserves as a badge of civic pride.

INCONGRUOUS: Sign from transformed wetland reserve still stands, despite drainage and planting of hundreds of trees in area where Black-winged Stilt once foraged.
In Nanhui’s defunct wetland reserve, the south side of the access road has already been transformed, as this scene shows. Where Black-winged Stilt once foraged, a tree plantation now stands. The area was dredged and drained earlier this year. Barring a miracle, a similar fate awaits the north side. For more on the earlier stage of the destruction of Nanhui, see my 27 March 2016 post, Amid the Din of the Diggers. (Archive photo: Craig Brelsford)

Mai Po and Sungei Buloh are easily reachable by bus. In Shanghai, the Metro already reaches Lingang New City, and a cheap, fast taxi ride gets you from Dishui Lake Station to Nanhui’s abandoned wetland reserve 8 km away (at 30.920507, 121.973159). The infrastructure for an accessible “people’s nature reserve” is in place, and the birds are there at Nanhui, crying out for real, lasting protection.

Sungei Buloh is a particularly good example for Pudong, as Sungei Buloh is about the same size (1.3 sq. km) as the defunct nature reserve at Nanhui (1.2 sq. km). Like Nanhui’s defunct reserve, Sungei Buloh was not originally considered a likely place for a nature reserve. Sungei Buloh was willed into being by the actions of local nature lovers who understood the value of the site. Likewise, a change of heart and an act of will can bring the abandoned reserve at Nanhui back from the brink.

Black-faced Spoonbill, defunct wetland, Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016. Photo by Craig Brelsford.
Black-faced Spoonbill, defunct nature reserve, Nanhui, Sat. 29 Oct. 2016. Every year from September to March this endangered species is highly reliant on the abandoned reserve. A recent study estimated the number of Black-faced Spoonbill in the world to be about 2700. Last Saturday we counted 54 at the defunct reserve–2 percent of the world’s population. On Saturday most of the spoonbills were at their accustomed roost (30.922647, 121.966632). If developers have their way, then the roost and the entire wetland site will be transformed, the spoonbills and other species will be pushed out, and future nature lovers in Shanghai will effectively be denied the chance to appreciate this East Asian endemic. (Craig Brelsford)

The sight of Nanhui’s defunct reserve, which apparently just missed being dredged and drained this year, and which could well be torn up next year, saddens me–not just because of the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill that so obviously rely on the place, and not only for the endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank that has been living there–but also for the grandchildren of the people currently making the decisions, who may have these treasures denied them, and who may fail to appreciate the natural heritage of this great city.

The development plans for Pudong in general and Nanhui and Lingang New City in particular need to have a major component dedicated to conservation. Jiuduansha is simply not enough for Pudong. Those mud banks, barely above sea level, are a place for researchers, not the public. To meet the standard set by other coastal megacities, Pudong needs an easily accessible nature reserve on its mainland. That defunct nature reserve is just the place.

Black-faced Spoonbill and Eurasian Spoonbill, defunct nature reserve, Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016.
Black-faced Spoonbill and Eurasian Spoonbill, defunct nature reserve, Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016. Photo shows 19 of the 54 Black-faced Spoonbill we counted that day as well as 5 Eurasian Spoonbill. The latter species ranges across Eurasia. The former is one of the rarest birds in Asia–and Shanghai is one of its few remaining strongholds. (Craig Brelsford)

I think some local people realize the dire situation at Nanhui, and I understand that local birders had much to do with the one-year stay of execution granted the abandoned nature reserve. Those birders deserve everyone’s thanks.

I think I speak for many foreigners when I say to my Shanghai conservationist friends: If you need our support, then we will give it to you. Ideas, a pat on the back, anything–we’re here. 加油!

Swinhoe’s Rail in Shanghai

The rarities just keep on coming here in Shanghai. The latest is Swinhoe’s Rail, seen at the Magic Parking Lot in Nanhui on Sat. 29 Oct. 2016 by a trio of Shanghai bird photographers. The photo above was taken by one of the three, Chén Qí (陈骐).

This amazing find comes on the heels of Shanghai’s first record of Crow-billed Drongo on 11 Oct. and Pomarine Skua on 19 Oct. What a birding month October 2016 was in Earth’s largest city!

Swinhoe's Rail Coturnicops exquisitus, Magic Parking Lot, Nanhui, Shanghai, Sat. 29 Oct. 2016. One of the rarest birds in China. Photographed by Shanghai photographer Chén Qí (陈骐; net name 上海爷胡子). © 2016 by Chén Qí. Used with permission.
Swinhoe’s Rail Coturnicops exquisitus, Magic Parking Lot (30.884898, 121.968229), Nanhui, Sat. 29 Oct. 2016. Photographed by Shanghai photographer Chén Qí (陈骐; net name 上海爷胡子). © 2016 by Chén Qí.

I got the news about the rail from Chén Qí’s wife, Wāng Yàjīng (汪亚菁). Near dark, as I was returning home after my own eventful day at Nanhui, Wāng Yàjīng called me to report that she had just seen a strange bird. The bird, Yàjīng said, popped its head out of the bushes at the well-known photographers’ setup at the edge of the lot. It showed half its body and disappeared. The episode lasted a few seconds, Yàjīng said.

One look at the photo Yàjīng sent me, and there was no doubt: Swinhoe’s Rail.

The smallest rail in the world, Swinhoe’s Rail is also one of the least-known. The IUCN lists it as Vulnerable.

On Sun. 30 Oct. 2016, photographers maintaining a long vigil saw the rail again.

ANOTHER UNUSUAL SIGHTING: BLACK-NAPED MONARCH

Black-naped Monarch, Wusong-Paotaiwan Park, Shanghai. Photo by Kai Pflug.
Black-naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea. Photo by Kai Pflug.

The next day, Sun. 30 Oct. 2016, Kai Pflug found Black-naped Monarch at Wusong-Paotaiwan Wetland Park in Shanghai. Kai was acting on information from Chinese bird photographers who had discovered the bird earlier. The monarch is almost certainly wild. It is a first-winter bird, not the more beautiful adult male that presumably would be of greater interest to collectors, and in Kai’s photos one sees none of the damage common to birds kept in a cage.

Black-naped Monarch has been noted in Shanghai before, most recently on 2 Nov. 2014 by Stephan Popp and Xueping Popp. In China, H. a. styani usually ventures no further north than Guangdong. H. a. oberholseri is resident in Taiwan.

For more records of unusual birds in the Shanghai area, see our Sightings page.

88 SPECIES FOR US

Siberian Rubythroat, Magic Parking Lot, Nanhui. 29 Oct. 2016. Craig Brelsford.
On Saturday this Siberian Rubythroat mesmerized photographers at the Magic Parking Lot for hours. (Craig Brelsford)

You know your birding area is rich when Nordmann’s Greenshank fails to capture the headline. On Sat. 29 Oct. 2016, the day the Swinhoe’s Rail electrified Shanghai birders, my partners Michael Grunwell, Elaine Du, and I spotted the Endangered Nordmann’s in the defunct nature reserve (30.920500, 121.973167) at Nanhui, near the skua site at 30.923915, 121.954738. We speculate that Saturday’s adult-winter Nordmann’s is the same individual we saw in the area on 15 Oct. and 20 Oct. and possibly as far back as 17 Sept. and 3 Sept.

Other highlights Saturday were 54 Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill found exclusively in the defunct nature reserve, further underscoring the critical importance of that highly threatened parcel of land. Joining Nordmann’s in the high-tide roost were 2 Ruff, a Near Threatened Red Knot, and 2 of our day’s 4 Saunders’s Gull, a Vulnerable species uncommon in Shanghai.

Long-eared Owl, Magic GPS Point, Saturday. Sharp-eyed Chén Qí spotted the owl and called us over. (Craig Brelsford)
Long-eared Owl, Magic GPS Point, Saturday. Sharp-eyed Chén Qí spotted the owl and called us over. (Craig Brelsford)

We had Japanese Grosbeak in Microforest 8 and Long-eared Owl at the Magic GPS Point (30.880563, 121.964551). Among our season’s firsts were 2 Tundra Bean Goose, Black-necked Grebe, 5 Goldcrest, Manchurian/Japanese Bush Warbler, 3 Brown-flanked Bush Warbler, and 2 Dusky Thrush. Buntings finally are arriving in numbers, with Yellow-throated Bunting (16) and Chestnut Bunting (3) debuting on our Autumn 2016 list. We had a lucky 88 species in all.

Daurian Redstart, Microforest 1, Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)
Daurian Redstart, Microforest 1 (30.923889, 121.971635), Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)

Throughout the day, the effectiveness of the Nanhui microforests was on display at Microforest 1 (30.923889, 121.971635). The tiny wood, which we visited off and on, was hopping with hungry migrants, grounded on a breezy day. Brambling, Daurian Redstart, and Yellow-bellied Tit were the tamest, but as the day wore on even shy species such as Japanese Thrush, Grey-backed Thrush, and Black-winged Cuckooshrike were coming out into the open. Photographers were present, but no one was using mealworms; the forest birds were attracted solely to the habitat offered by a stand of trees no bigger than a tennis court.

Two East Asian species of Turdus thrush in Microforest 1. 1a-1c: Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis, male. 2, 3a, 4a: Japanese Thrush, female. 3b, 4b: Grey-backed Thrush T. hortulorum. Male T. cardis distinguished from Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus by smaller size and white belly covered with black arrowheads. Japanese and Grey-backed females are harder to separate (3a, 3b), in part because both are shy and rarely come into the open. In Japanese, the arrowheads run farther down the flanks (4a) than in Grey-backed (4b). 4a: Nanhui, 7 Nov. 2015. 4b: Yangkou, Jiangsu, 4 Oct. 2013. All others Microforest 1, Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016. All by Craig Brelsford.

Other microforests held Eurasian Woodcock, Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Robin, Taiga Flycatcher, and White’s Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Pale Thrush. Dark-sided Flycatcher and Siberian Rubythroat were at the Magic Parking Lot (30.884898, 121.968229), Asian Stubtail at the Magic GPS Point.

We netted season’s first Buff-bellied Pipit during a 35-minute stop at the sod farm near Pudong Airport (31.112586, 121.824742). Red-throated Pipit were present in smaller numbers (3) than six days earlier.

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 29 Oct. 2016 (9 species)

Comparison of Shanghai-area pipits in winter plumage. 1, 3a, 4b: Buff-bellied Pipit. 2: Water Pipit. 3b: Red-throated Pipit. 4a: Olive-backed Pipit. (Craig Brelsford)
Comparison of non-breeding Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus with other Shanghai-area pipits. Buff-bellied is mainly greyish-brown above with a poorly streaked mantle, pale lores, and yellowish-pink legs (Panel 1). Water Pipit A. spinoletta blakistoni has brownish-black legs and a smudge on its lores (2). Buff-bellied Pipit (3a) shows much less streaking on mantle and crown than Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus (3b). Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni hodgsoni/yunnanensis (4a) shows two spots on the ear coverts: a whitish spot in the upper rear corner and a black spot below it. Olive-backed Pipit has a supercilium buffish before the eye and white behind it. Buff-bellied Pipit (4b) has unspotted ear coverts and a supercilium buffish or whitish throughout. 1, 3a: sod farm near Pudong Airport (31.112586, 121.824742), Shanghai, 29 Oct. 2016. 2a: Near Wucheng Zhen (吴城镇; 29.180555, 116.010175), Poyang Lake area, Jiangxi, 8 Nov. 2014. 3b: Nanhui, Shanghai, 24 Jan. 2016. 4a: Yangkou, Jiangsu, 3 May 2014. 4b: Hengsha Island, Shanghai, 29 Nov. 2015. All by Craig Brelsford.

Birds noted at sod farm south of Pudong International Airport (31.112586, 121.824742), Pudong, Shanghai, China. Mostly cloudy, breezy. Low 13° C, high 18° C. Humidity 75%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind N 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 85 (moderate). Sunrise 06:08, sunset 17:06. SAT 29 OCT 2016 06:55-07:30. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 3
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 15
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 12
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 1
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 3
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 20

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 29 Oct. 2016 (83 species)

Brambling, Nanhui, Shanghai, 29 Oct. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)
Brambling, Nanhui, 29 Oct. 2016. We found these birds in Microforest 1 (30.923889, 121.971635). Famished after the long flight south, the bramblings were very tame, allowing me to get these close-ups. Male Fringilla montifringilla (R) shows marked variation between breeding and non-breeding plumage; the female (L) shows less. All plumages show a white rump (L). Breeding male has an all-black bill, but in winter the bill is yellow with a black tip, like the female. The glossy blue-black head of breeding male becomes rusty-fringed in winter. Brambling breed across Eurasia and are present throughout the winter in Shanghai. (Craig Brelsford)

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. List includes birds found at Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). Mostly cloudy, breezy. Low 13° C, high 18° C. Humidity 75%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind N 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 85 (moderate). Sunrise 06:08, sunset 17:06. SAT 29 OCT 2016 07:55-17:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris 2
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope 32
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 6
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 300
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 31
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 200
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 15
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 40
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 20
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 20
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 1
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 60
Great Egret A. alba 3
Intermediate Egret A. intermedia 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 150
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 8
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 54
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 2
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 30
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 1
Pacific Golden Plover P. fulva 1
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus 50
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 700
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 3
Red Knot Calidris canutus 1
Ruff C. pugnax 2
Broad-billed Sandpiper C. falcinellus 2
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 1
Dunlin C. alpina 200
Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola 1
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus 1
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 70
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 30
Nordmann’s Greenshank T. guttifer 1
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 10
Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi 4
Vega Gull Vega Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus heuglini 1
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica 1
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia 3
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 10
Long-eared Owl Asio otus 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 2
Black-winged Cuckooshrike Coracina melaschistos 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 10
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata 1
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 20
Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus 6
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 20
Goldcrest Regulus regulus 5
Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps 1
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 1
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler H. fortipes 3
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 2
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 3
Arctic/Kamchatka Leaf/Japanese Leaf Warbler P. borealis/examinandus/xanthodryas 4
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 2
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 6
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 5
Japanese Thrush T. cardis 8
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 2
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 5
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 2
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica 1
Rufous-tailed Robin Larvivora sibilans 6
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 12
Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 18
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 18
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 100
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 6
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 1
Japanese Grosbeak Eophona personata 1
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 5
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 16
Chestnut Bunting E. rutila 3
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 3

WORKS CONSULTED

Alström, Per, Krister Mild & Bill Zetterström. Pipits and Wagtails. Princeton University Press, 2003. This landmark book, co-authored by Shanghai Birding member Per Alström, is my first reference on all things Motacillidae. Of particular use was p. 56, “Water Pipit and Allies (in fresh winter plumage).”

Join Shanghai Birding for the very latest bird sightings in Shanghai.
Join Shanghai Birding for the very latest bird sightings in Shanghai.

Brelsford, Craig, moderator. Shanghai Birding, a WeChat chat group. Rough drafts for parts of this post were written by Craig on Shanghai Birding. News about the rail was first circulated on Shanghai Birding. To join Shanghai Birding, fill out the form on our Sightings page.

Brazil, Mark. Birds of East Asia. Princeton University Press, 2009. Thrushes and pipits.

Svensson, Lars & Killian Mullarney & Dan Zetterström. Collins Bird Guide, 2nd ed. HarperCollins, 1999-2009. Outstanding illustrations of pipits by Mullarney.

Qinghai 2016 Weeks 5-6

Starting today, I present to you the highlights of the second month of my Qinghai 2016 birding trip. I have broken up the material into three posts. This post, about Weeks 5-6, appears today; a post covering Week 7 will be published on Thurs. 10 Nov.; and a post on Week 8 on Thurs. 24 Nov.

Weeks 5-6 were spent mainly in Qilian County, in the far north of Qinghai. The featured image above shows some of the highlights. Clockwise from top left: poplar forest in Qilian County, Mountain Weasel, neon lights of Xining, and Eurasian Eagle-Owl.

For more on the first month of the trip, please see these posts:

Qinghai 2016 Week 1-2 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 3 Highlights
Qinghai 2016 Week 4 Highlights
Tibetan Lynx, Kanda Mountain, Qinghai
A Batch o’ Qinghai Goodies

The Qinghai 2016 birding trip began on 26 June 2016 and was originally scheduled to last a month. My wife Elaine Du and I extended the trip another month, from 24 July to 21 Aug. 2016. In Month 2 we drove 2260 km (1,400 miles) in Xining, Haibei, Haixi, and Hainan prefectures and noted 136 bird species. We discovered at previously unknown locations Tibetan Snowcock, Przevalski’s Partridge, Tibetan Sandgrouse, and Gansu Leaf Warbler. I became one of the few foreign birders to visit Hala Lake, where we found Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, and Lake Xiligou, where we found Mongolian Goitered Gazelle. At the Przevalski’s Site in the Dulan Mountains, we spied a trio of Tibetan Wolf.

A BREAK IN XINING

Skyline along Nanchuan River in Xining. After weeks birding at high elevation, Elaine and I spent 24-29 July relaxing in the capital of Qinghai.
Skyline along Nanchuan River in Xining. After weeks birding at high elevation, Elaine and I spent 24-29 July relaxing in the capital of Qinghai.

The activities of weeks 5 and 6 consisted of a five-day break in Xining followed by explorations in Haibei Prefecture. We went to Haibei to scout new birding areas in the Qilian Mountains, a place little-birded by foreigners. Our most important discovery was the poplar forests along the Heihe and Babao rivers, where we encountered woodland species such as Gansu Leaf Warbler and Chinese Thrush. Conifer forests near Qilian Xiancheng yielded Black Woodpecker, and the scrub and pastureland south of Qilian Xiancheng gave us Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Siberian Roe Deer, and Mountain Weasel. We found Güldenstädt’s Redstart at a handful of locations. We failed to find Przevalski’s Redstart.

After a first month with Michael Grunwell and Jan-Erik Nilsén that saw us drive 5800 km (3,600 miles), Elaine and I were ready for a rest. We spent the nights of 24-29 July 2016 in Chengxi (downtown Xining) at Jingjiang Hotel (Jǐngjiāng Jiǔdiàn [景江酒店], +86 (0) 971-4323333, 800 yuan, 36.632578, 101.780914). We birded little in Xining but found impressive numbers of Common Swift at Dongguan Mosque (36.615301, 101.797987). Air pollution was negligible, belying Xining’s reputation as one of the cities with the dirtiest air in China. The five-day break at “low-altitude” Xining, elev. 2280 m, came at the perfect time and completely reinvigorated us.

ENTERING THE QILIAN MOUNTAINS

Driving in the pitch dark near the Yong'an River, Elaine and I heard the grating calls of a family of Eurasian Eagle-Owl. We found the owls at <a href="https://www.google.com/maps/place/37%C2%B038%2748.2%22N+101%C2%B019%2747.5%22E/@37.6467162,101.327652,17z/data=%213m1%214b1%214m5%213m4%211s0x0:0x0%218m2%213d37.646712%214d101.329846" target="_blank">37.679298, 101.273231</a>. This is the juvenile; note the lack of ear tufts. By some measures the largest owl in the world, <em>Bubo bubo</em> ranges across Eurasia, from Spain to Sakhalin.
Driving in the pitch dark near the Yong’an River, Elaine and I heard the grating calls of a family of Eurasian Eagle-Owl. This is the juvenile; note the lack of ear tufts. By some measures the largest owl in the world, Bubo bubo ranges across Eurasia, from Spain to Sakhalin. We found the owls at 37.676941, 101.270580.

Our first three days back out, 30 July-1 Aug. 2016, saw us cover the area between the capital of Qinghai and Qilian Xiancheng, 300 km to the north. The G227, the main Xining-Qilian highway, offers much good high-altitude scenery and good scrub but in tourist season is packed with cars. The S302 and S204 are less busy.

This leg brought us the family of Eurasian Eagle-Owl, found in pitch darkness on a dirt road along the Yong’an River, followed the next day (31 July) by views of Siberian Roe Deer and near-threatened Mountain Weasel. We found the eagle-owls, two adults and a juvenile, on a cliff at 3220 m (37.676941, 101.270580). They were calling to each other, a hoarse “yipe”:

Eurasian Eagle-Owl, cliff near Yong’an River, 30 July 2016 (00:57; 3.1 MB)

The Mountain Weasel was found in pasture off the S302 at 37.906618, 100.381936. We noticed a raucous group of White-rumped Snowfinch, Rufous-necked Snowfinch, Ground Tit, and Horned Lark. The cause of their excitement was the weasel, which was raiding the pika burrows. For an hour we watched the weasel pop into and out of the holes, searching for prey.

The spectacle of this Mountain Weasel terrifying the poor birds was comical, but we respectfully noted the speed and agility of the carnivore.
The spectacle of this Mountain Weasel terrifying the poor birds was comical, but we respectfully noted the speed and agility of the carnivore.

We were joined by Majiu (马九), a 16-year-old Tibetan high schooler, and his uncle, a herdsman. Majiu, who is 1.8 m tall, was wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey and said to me in English, “Basketball is my life.” He is the star of his team at Qilian Ethnic High School in Qilian Xiancheng.

After dark, in Majiu’s uncle’s tent, Majiu’s uncle’s wife served us Tibetan milk tea and bread. We showed them Saturn through our scope.

The sun sets over our camp at Majiu's uncle's pasture in Qilian County, 31 July 2016.
The sun sets over our camp at Majiu’s uncle’s pasture in Qilian County, 31 July 2016.

Notes

— The Siberian Roe Deer was seen in broad daylight in scrub along the S302 at 37.682194, 101.061444. This was my best look ever at Siberian Roe Deer and first in summer pelage. We noted its yellow-brown coat and stocky build.

Good scrub habitat along S302 in Qilian County, 31 July 2016. Elev.: 3360 m. Near this point (37.682194, 101.061444) we found Siberian Roe Deer as well as Güldenstädt's Redstart and Streaked Rosefinch.
Good scrub habitat along S302 in Qilian County, 31 July 2016. Near this point (37.682194, 101.061444), elev. 3360 m, we found Siberian Roe Deer as well as Güldenstädt’s Redstart and Streaked Rosefinch.

— Qilian Xiancheng, a tourist center occupying a stunning location on the Qinghai-Gansu border, teems with tourists and has many restaurants and stores. There we recorded Spotted Dove, a species that in Haibei Prefecture is near the western edge of its range. An interesting spot is 38.117957, 100.190286, a conifer forest 12 km south of Qilian Xiancheng on the S204. There we noted Black Woodpecker, Rufous-vented Tit, and Willow Tit (ssp. affinis). Many other conifer forests cling to the slopes around Qilian Xiancheng. This one was the easiest to access.

POPLAR FOREST ON THE HEIHE RIVER

The tall poplars in the Heihe River riparian forest create a park-like ambience and contrast greatly with the semi-desert looming behind. Some of the trees in this forest are more than 300 years old.
The tall poplars in the Heihe River riparian forest create a park-like atmosphere and contrast greatly with the semi-desert looming behind. Some of the trees in this forest are more than 300 years old.

The highlight of our time in Haibei was finding forests of Small-leaf Poplar Populus simonii along the Heihe River and Babao River near Qilian Xiancheng. The best forest is across the Heihe River from Dipanzi Village at 38.212130, 100.160214. Among the trees, some of which are 300 years old, we found singing Gansu Leaf Warbler. This is probably a previously unknown breeding site of this little-known species.

Small-leaf Poplar Populus simonii is the basis of the riparian forests along the Heihe and Babao rivers in Qilian County. Here is a typical leaf, with the wrinkly trunk of a very old poplar in the background.
Small-leaf Poplar Populus simonii is the predominant tree in the forests along the Heihe and Babao rivers in Qilian County. Here is a typical leaf, with the wrinkly trunk of a very old poplar in the background.

The Gansu Leaf Warbler at the Dipanzi forest were singing in the same fashion as on 27 June, when Elaine, Michael Grunwell, and I found the species in coniferous habitat in Huzhu County (36.973133, 102.441300). The song consists of quickly delivered opening “tzit” fragments, usually followed by a sharp trill:

Gansu Leaf Warbler, poplar forest on Heihe River, 3 Aug. 2016 (01:35; 4.6 MB)

Gansu Leaf Warbler was the most numerous but not the only leaf warbler in the poplar forest. We had in addition Buff-barred Warbler, Yellow-streaked Warbler, and a single Alpine Leaf Warbler sneaking in from the adjacent semi-desert to forage around the spring.

Chinese Thrush
We found Chinese Thrush in the poplar forest along the Heihe River. A Chinese near-endemic, Turdus mupinensis ranges across much of central China. It is closely related to Song Thrush T. philomelos but is more heavily spotted and has more prominent wing bars than its westerly counterpart.

The forest also gave us five trip firsts: Northern Goshawk, Eurasian Wryneck, Eurasian Treecreeper, Chinese Thrush, and, flying high above and caught by the sharp eye of Elaine, Black Stork.

We arrived at the poplar forest on the afternoon of 2 Aug. We had to wait until the morning of 3 Aug. to catch the dawn chorus. Gansu Leaf Warbler led the way. Common Cuckoo called at dawn and into the morning, and Chinese Nuthatch returned to our trip list. Hodgson’s Redstart and White-throated Redstart were feeding juveniles.

Eurasian Treecreeper, one of several woodland species found in the poplar forests along the Heihe and Babao rivers.
Eurasian Treecreeper, one of several woodland species found in the poplar forests along the Heihe and Babao rivers.

We estimate a total of 3 Northern Goshawk in that forest, one of them a juvenile and probably the offspring of the other two. Being woodland birds, the goshawks were a constant presence in the small forest, and their regular flybys startled the other birds. In the recording below, the resident Azure-winged Magpie scream as the goshawk approaches.

Northern Goshawk with Azure-winged Magpie, poplar forest, 2 Aug. 2016 (00:23; 1.7 MB)

Juvenile Northern Goshawk, riparian forest, 3 Aug. Identifiable as juvenile by coarse streaking on underparts. (Adult has barred underparts.)
Juvenile Northern Goshawk, riparian forest, 3 Aug. Identifiable as juvenile by coarse streaking on underparts. (Adult has barred underparts.)

Another similar poplar forest is along the Babao River 7 km from Qilian Xiancheng at 38.211356, 100.190371. Here too were Gansu Leaf Warbler. Unlike the quiet Dipanzi forest, accessible only by unpaved roads, the busy S204 runs through the Babao River forest.

EXPLORING THE HEIHE RIVER VALLEY

Jiabo Hot Spring, Qinghai.
Jiabo Hot Spring (38.790355, 98.665485), on the S204 in Qilian County.

The next 48 hours, from the afternoon of 4 Aug. to the afternoon of 6 Aug., Elaine and I spent exploring the Heihe River Valley along the 200-km stretch of the S204 from Qilian Xiancheng (38.176712, 100.247371) to Yanglong Xiang (38.816483, 98.415873). Our goal here once again was to discover little-birded areas. We indeed found such areas, places few foreigners ever see, but in them were few birds of great importance. To our trip list we added Water Pipit nesting at Jiabo Hot Spring (38.790355, 98.665485).

Water Pipit at Jiabo Hot Spring, with Robin Accentor in background.
Water Pipit at Jiabo Hot Spring, with Robin Accentor in background.

In the upper Heihe River Valley the scenery, not the birds, was the star. Stretches of the valley are every bit as stunning as the better-known areas along the G214 between Gonghe and Yushu. The landscape we were admiring in the Heihe Valley was particularly reminiscent of the landscape along the X731, which runs through the upper Yellow River Valley in Maduo County. In both places one sees a powerful stream near its birthplace coursing through a broad valley, with the mountains that are the father of those waters looming behind. (There are more snowy peaks at this northerly location.)

Conifer forest along Heihe River.
Conifer forest along Heihe River, elev. 2820 m. This forest is at 38.231934, 99.991251, 27.5 km from Qilian Xiancheng, and is accessible from the S204. Hard to reach and little disturbed, rich conifer forests grace the slopes around Qilian Xiancheng.

As we drove west along the Heihe River, we came to appreciate the rareness of the riverside poplar woodlands that we had left behind. We found just one or two more. As we rose, the gorge grew steeper, and conifer woodlands predominated.

Coming in the next installment, Thurs. 10 Nov. 2016: our week at Hala Lake!

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List. All observations by Craig Brelsford and Elaine Du.

List 1 of 1 for Wed. 27 July 2016 (2 species)

Dongguan Mosque in Xining supports a community of Common Swift.
Dongguan Mosque in Xining supports a community of Common Swift.

Birds noted around Dongguan Mosque (36.615301, 101.797987), Chengdong District, Xining, Qinghai. Elevation 2230 m. 11:30-12:00.

Common Swift Apus apus ca. 100 around mosque
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 2 in tree on Dongguan Avenue

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 30 July 2016 (5 species). Birds noted along G227 from Chengxi District, Xining to Qingshizui (37.474644, 101.397441), Menyuan County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. 17:20-19:20.

Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 1 (3160 m)
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus 4 singing (3770 m)
Red-fronted Rosefinch Carpodacus puniceus 1 (3770 m)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 2 (3770 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10 (3160 m)

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 30 July 2016 (19 species)

Rosy Pipit
Rosy Pipit, Banjie Gou, 30 July.

Birds noted along S302 & other back roads from G227-S302 junction (37.646712, 101.329846) to Banjie Gou (37.681962, 101.240959), Menyuan County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. Unless otherwise noted, all elevations 3250 m. 19:20-23:10.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 3 (2 ads., 1 juv.) at cliff at 3220 m near Yong’an River (37.676941, 101.270580)
Little Owl Athene noctua 2
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
falcon sp. 1
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 17
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 12
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 12
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 32
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 1
Black Redstart P. ochruros 9
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus 3
Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti 2 juvs.
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30
Rock Sparrow Petronia petronia 5
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 8
Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus 11
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 6

Mammals

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 1
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 1

List 1 of 2 for Sun. 31 July 2016 (27 species)

Oriental Skylark near Banjie Gou, Qinghai, 5 Aug. 2016.
Oriental Skylark near Banjie Gou, 31 July 2016.

Birds noted between Banjie Gou (37.681962, 101.240959), Menyuan County, & Mole Zhen (37.716626, 100.579661), Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. 07:10-16:20.

Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 3 (3180-3600 m)
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 2 (3220 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 16 (3180 m)
Cuculus sp. 3 (3220-3490 m)
Little Owl Athene noctua 2 (3180 m)
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 50 (3180 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 (3220 m)
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1 (3180 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 15 (3220-3310 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 11 (3180-3530 m)
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 20 (3180 m)
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 100 (3180 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 55 (3220-3490 m)
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 1 (3520 m)
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 1 (3600 m)
Güldenstädt’s Redstart P. erythrogastrus 7 (3310-3520 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 26 (3220-3770 m)
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus 18 (3180-3490 m)
Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina 2 (3180 m)
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides 1 (3180 m)
Brown Accentor P. fulvescens 2 (3180 m)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 1 (3220 m)
Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus 8 (3180-3490 m)
Streaked Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilloides 3 (3520 m)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 11 (3180-3520 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 25 (3180 m)
Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi 2 (3490 m)

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 150 (3180-3600 m)
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 2 (3180 m)
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 30 (3600 m)
Siberian Roe Deer Capreolus pygargus 1 (3520 m)

List 2 of 2 for Sun. 31 July 2016 (11 species)

White-rumped Snowfinch stands atop a cow patty at sunset, elev. 3720 m, 31 July 2016. The snowfinch was preoccupied with a Moutain Weasel, allowing me to crawl to within 6 m of the bird. Nikon D3S, 600 mm F/4, F/10, 1/2500, ISO 4000, hand-held.
White-rumped Snowfinch stands atop a cow patty at sunset, 31 July 2016. The snowfinch was preoccupied with a Mountain Weasel, allowing me to crawl to within 6 m of the bird. Nikon D3S, 600 mm F/4, F/10, 1/2500, ISO 4000, hand-held.

Birds noted along a 32-km stretch of S205 between Mole Zhen (37.716626, 100.579661) & 37.911510, 100.377859, Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. 16:50-11:20.

Black Kite Milvus migrans 2 (3700-3710 m)
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 1 (3700 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 4 (3640 m)
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 1 (3700 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 16 (3630 m)
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 5 (3700 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 24 (3640 m)
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 6 (3600 m)
Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola 1 (3700 m)
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 60 (3630-3690 m)
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 26 (3690 m)

Mammals

Mountain Weasel, Haibei Prefecture, 31 July 2016.
Mountain Weasel, Haibei Prefecture, 31 July 2016. Mustela altaica is found in central and east Asia. It is listed as Near Threatened in part because of the changes to its main habitat, mountain meadows, through over-grazing.

Mountain Weasel Mustela altaica 1 (3720 m)

List 1 of 1 for Mon. 1 Aug. 2016 (24 species)

Willow Tit Poecile montanus affinis, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai, 1 Aug. 2016.
Willow Tit Poecile montanus affinis, 1 Aug. 2016. P. m. affinis differs only slightly from Sichuan Tit P. weigoldicus, the form found in south Qinghai (Yushu and Nangqian counties). Both taxa have cinnamon underparts and never show a crest. I photographed this tit in the conifer forest 12 km south of Qilian Xiancheng (38.117957, 100.190286).

Birds noted along 52-km stretch of S204 between 37.911510, 100.377859 & Qilian Xiancheng (38.176712, 100.247371), Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. 09:00-17:00.

Black Kite Milvus migrans 3 (3140 m)
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 10 (2800 m)
Hill Pigeon C. rupestris 2 (3140 m)
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 3 (2840 m)
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 1 (2800 m)
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1 (3140 m)
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 2 (2800 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 2 (2800 m)
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 5 (2840 m)
Rufous-vented Tit Periparus rubidiventris 4 (3140 m)
Willow Tit Poecile montanus affinis 1 (3140 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 10 (3250-3530 m)
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides 2 (3140 m)
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 6 (3140-3250 m)
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 4 (3140 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 2 (3140-3470 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20 (2800 m)
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 30 (3140-3530 m)
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 2 (3470 m)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 3 (3020 m)
Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus 4 (3250 m)
Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola 1 (3530 m)
Pink-rumped Rosefinch Carpodacus waltoni 1 (3140 m)
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 2 (2800 m)

List 1 of 2 for Tues. 2 Aug. 2016 (12 species)

Valley S of Qilian Xiancheng at 38.083892, 100.175667. Elev. 3370 m.
Valley S of Qilian Xiancheng at 38.083892, 100.175667. Elev. 3370 m.

Birds noted along 16-km stretch of S204 between 38.083856, 100.177060 & Qilian Xiancheng (38.176712, 100.247371), Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. 07:10-15:10.

Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 1 (2730 m)
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 3 (2850 m)
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 4 (2950 m)
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 3 (3500 m)
Buff-barred Warbler P. pulcher 2 (3500 m)
Blue-fronted Redstart Phoenicurus frontalis 8 (3500 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 1 (3430 m)
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 1 singing (2950 m)
Pink-rumped Rosefinch C. waltoni 3 (3500 m)
Chinese White-browed Rosefinch C. dubius 1 (3160 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20 (2730 m)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 4 (2860-3150 m)
Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus 3 (3500 m)

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 10 (3370-3500 m)
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 2 (3450 m)

List 2 of 2 for Tues. 2 Aug. 2016 (23 species)

In the Heihe River poplar forest, a spring keeps the earth green, attracts birds from the surrounding semi-desert, and sustains a lush woodland habitat in arid northern Qinghai.
In the Heihe River poplar forest, a spring keeps the earth green, attracts birds from the surrounding semi-desert, and sustains a lush woodland habitat in arid northern Qinghai. Water from the nearby river also regularly spills into the forest.

Birds noted in riparian Small-leaf Poplar forest along Heihe River upstream from confluence of Heihe River & Babao River (38.212130, 100.160214), Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 2650 m. 15:00-23:00.

Black Stork Ciconia nigra 5 flying high overhead
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis 1
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 4 calling
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 1
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 9 (2 juvs.)
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 20
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 38
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 20
Willow Tit Poecile montanus affinis 9
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 1
Buff-barred Warbler Phylloscopus pulcher 1
Gansu Leaf Warbler P. kansuensis 6 singing
Plain Laughingthrush Garrulax davidi 1
Hodgson’s Redstart Phoenicurus hodgsoni 15 (3 juvs.)
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 1
Black Redstart P. ochruros 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 6
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 5
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 1

List 1 of 1 for Wed. 3 Aug. 2016 (25 species)

Eurasian Wryneck licks up ants at edge of riparian forest along Heihe River, 3 Aug. 2016.
Eurasian Wryneck licks up ants at edge of riparian forest along Heihe River, 3 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted in riparian Small-leaf Poplar forest along Heihe River upstream from confluence of Heihe River & Babao River (38.212130, 100.160214), Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 2650 m. 07:00-15:00.

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis 2
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 7 calling
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 1
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 4
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla 1
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 4 (1 ad., 3 juvs.)
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 10
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 13
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 25
Willow Tit Poecile montanus affinis 6
Chinese Nuthatch Sitta villosa 4
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 4
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 1
Yellow-streaked Warbler P. armandii 3
Buff-barred Warbler P. pulcher 2
Gansu Leaf Warbler P. kansuensis 8 singing
Plain Laughingthrush Garrulax davidi 2
Chinese Thrush Turdus mupinensis 1
Hodgson’s Redstart Phoenicurus hodgsoni 6
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 7
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 6
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 3
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 15
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 1

List 1 of 2 for Thurs. 4 Aug. 2016 (24 species)

Gansu Leaf Warbler, Heihe River poplar forest, 4 Aug. 2016.
Gansu Leaf Warbler, Heihe River poplar forest, 4 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted in riparian Small-leaf Poplar forest along Heihe River upstream from confluence of Heihe River & Babao River (38.212130, 100.160214), Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. All elevations 2650 m. 07:00-15:00.

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis 2
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 7
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 2
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 2
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 1
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 12
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 10
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 50
Willow Tit Poecile montanus affinis 6
Chinese Nuthatch Sitta villosa 2
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 4
Alpine Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus occisinensis 1
Yellow-streaked Warbler P. armandii 2
Buff-barred Warbler P. pulcher 4
Gansu Leaf Warbler P. kansuensis 8 singing
Greenish Warbler P. trochiloides 2
Plain Laughingthrush Garrulax davidi 1
Chinese Thrush Turdus mupinensis 1
Hodgson’s Redstart Phoenicurus hodgsoni 7
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 7
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 4
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 4
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 12
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 1

List 2 of 2 for Thurs. 4 Aug. 2016 (23 species)

Heihe River Valley near village of Dipanzi.
Heihe River Valley near village of Dipanzi (38.083889, 100.175667), elev. 2650 m. Poplar forests line river on either side. As one travels upstream, the valley grows narrower, the poplar forests disappear, and conifer forests predominate.

Birds noted along 82-km stretch of S204 between Qilian Xiancheng (38.176712, 100.247371) & Yeniu Gou (38.457395, 99.542667), Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. 13:00-21:00.

Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis 7 (3160 m)
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1 (2750 m)
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 4 (2880-2940 m)
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 1 (3000 m)
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 3 calling (3000 m)
Salim Ali’s Swift Apus salimalii 3 (3100 m)
Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus 1 (3050 m)
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 5 (3000 m)
Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax 17 (2940-3120 m)
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus 15 (1 juv.) at 3100 m
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 2 (3020 m)
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris 2 (3040 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 1 (3020 m)
Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides 11 (2880 m)
White-capped Redstart Phoenicurus leucocephalus 1 (3170 m)
Hodgson’s Redstart P. hodgsoni 1 (2880 m)
White-throated Redstart P. schisticeps 2 (3160 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 2 (3340 m)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 12 (2890 m)
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos fronto 1 (3260 m)
Godlewski’s Bunting Emberiza godlewskii 2 (3000 m)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 7 (3100 m)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20 (3100 m)

Mammals

Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 5 (3280-3340 m)
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 20 (3200-3340 m)

List 1 of 1 for Fri. 5 Aug. 2016 (18 species)

Panorama of area around Jiabo Hot Spring, 5 Aug. 2016.
Panorama of area around Jiabo Hot Spring, 5 Aug. 2016.

Birds noted along 95-km stretch of S204 between Yeniu Gou (38.457395, 99.542667) & Jiabo Hot Spring (38.790355, 98.665485), Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture, Qinghai. 13:00-21:00.

Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 1 (3860 m)
Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus 2 (3480 m)
Upland Buzzard Buteo hemilasius 9 (3430-3860 m)
Little Owl Athene noctua 1 (3540 m)
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 8 (3480-3860 m)
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 3 (3640 m)
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris 2 (3590-3860 m)
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 5 (3430-3480 m)
Sand/Pale Martin Riparia riparia/diluta 4 (3770 m)
Ground Tit Pseudopodoces humilis 30 (3430-3660 m)
Güldenstädt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus 2 (3860 m)
Black Redstart P. ochruros 11 (3570-3860 m)
Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides 2 (3790-3860 m)
White-rumped Snowfinch Onychostruthus taczanowskii 60 (3430-3860 m)
Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis 25 (3430-3860 m)
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta blakistoni 1 nesting at Jiabo Hot Spring (3790 m)
Twite Carduelis flavirostris 2 (3790 m)
Pine Bunting Emberiza leucocephalos fronto 5 (3590 m)

Mammals

Plateau Pika Ochotona curzoniae 50 (3430-3950 m)
Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus 1 (3760 m)
Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana 100 (3430-4130 m)

Places Mentioned in This Post

Note: Many places in Qinghai have Tibetan or Mongolian names. For simplicity I have written place names only in English, simplified Chinese, and Pinyin.

Babao River (Bābǎo Hé [八宝河]): tributary of Heihe River. Confluence at Qinghai-Gansu border in Qilian County.

Babao Zhen (Bābǎo Zhèn [八宝镇]): see Qilian Xiancheng.

Banjie Gou (Bànjié Gōu [半截沟]): village Menyuan County, Haibei Prefecture. 37.681962, 101.240959.

Chengxi District (Chéngxī Qū [城西区]): district Xining Prefecture. Along with other nearby urbanized districts, commonly referred to as Xining.

Dipanzi Village (Dìpánzi Cūn [地盘子村]): settlement Qilian County, Haibei Prefecture. Forest of Small-leaf Poplar across Heihe River at 38.212130, 100.160214.

Dongguan Mosque (Xīníng Shì Dōngguān Qīngzhēn Dàsì [西宁市东关清真大寺]): largest mosque in Qinghai. Built 1380. 36.615301, 101.797987.

Haibei Prefecture (Hǎiběi Zàngzú Zìzhì Zhōu [海北藏族自治州]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai. Area: 39,354 sq. km (15,195 sq. mi.). Full name: Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

Heihe River (Hēi Hé [黑河]): river NW China rising on N side of Qilian Mountains in Gansu, flowing through Haibei Prefecture in Qinghai, & returning to Gansu, where it runs through Hexi Corridor before drying up in Gobi Desert in W Inner Mongolia. Length: 630 km (391 mi.). Lower reaches known as Ruo Shui (Ruò Shuǐ [弱水]).

Huangshui River (Huángshuǐ Hé [湟水河]): largest tributary of Yellow River. Runs through Xining.

Jiabo Hot Spring (Jiǎbō Wēnquán [甲波温泉]): thermal spring Qilian County on S204. Elev. 3790 m (12,430 ft.). 38.790355, 98.665485.

Menyuan County (Ményuán Huízú Zìzhìxiàn [门源回族自治县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haibei Prefecture.

Mole Zhen (Mòlè Zhèn [默勒镇]): town Qilian County. 37.716626, 100.579661.

Nanchuan River (Nánchuān Hé [南川河]): tributary of Huangshui River, which it meets in Xining.

Qilian County (Qílián Xiàn [祁连县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Haibei Prefecture. Area: 15,610 sq. km (6,027 sq. mi.).

Qilian Mountains (Qílián Shān [祁连山]): range N China forming part of border between Qinghai & Gansu.

Qilian Xiancheng (Qílián Xiànchéng [祁连县城]): informal & more commonly used name for Babao Zhen, administrative center of Qilian County in Haibei Prefecture. 38.176712, 100.247371.

Map of Qinghai with the eight prefectural-level divisions in white. Last week, our team covered the 800 km from Yushu/Jiegu to Xining (both marked in black). Map courtesy Wikipedia.
Map of Qinghai with the eight prefectural-level divisions in white. Map courtesy Wikipedia.

Qinghai (Qīnghǎi Shěng [青海省]): province NW China. Area: 720,000 sq. km (278,000 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): three times larger than United Kingdom; slightly larger than Texas. Pop.: 5.6 million.

Tibetan Plateau (Qīng Zàng Gāoyuán [青藏高原]): vast elevated plateau C Asia encompassing much of Qinghai. Highest & largest plateau on Earth.

Xining Prefecture (Xīníng Shì [西宁市]): sub-provincial administrative area NE Qinghai. Capital of Qinghai & most populous city on Tibetan Plateau. Officially a “(prefectural-level) city” (市).

Yeniu Gou (Yěniú Gōu [野牛沟]): village Qilian County. 38.457395, 99.542667.

Yong’an River (Yǒng’ān Hé [永安河]): river Haibei Prefecture.