A Reliable Spot for Brown-cheeked Rail

On our first birding trip of 2016, Elaine and I noted 85 species at Yancheng, Dongtai, and Yangkou. We reunited with the Dream Team, which includes Senior Birder Michael Grunwell, husband-wife team Stephan Popp and Xueping Popp, my wife Elaine Du, and me. We added evidence that the point 32.557278 121.037111 is a reliable site for Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus, and at Dongtai we found a sub-adult Mute Swan. At Yancheng, we found 9 Red-crowned Crane, 10 Hooded Crane, 250 Common Crane, 2 Oriental Stork, 1250 Common Merganser, and 8 Reed Parrotbill. Among our big finds at Dongtai were 11 Red-breasted Merganser, 14 Greater Scaup, 80 Saunders’s Gull, and 610 Grey Plover. We recorded Pied Avocet, Black-winged Kite, and Smew at Dongtai and Yancheng, and we found Green Sandpiper at Yancheng and Yangkou.

Mute Swan is a well-known ornamental bird, found in parks throughout Western Europe and North America. Wild Mute Swan are less commonly seen, and in the Shanghai region, Cygnus olor is a very scarce winter visitor. This sub-adult has a dull pink bill, unlike the deep orange-red bill of an adult. Dongtai, 10 Jan.
Mute Swan is a well-known ornamental bird, found in parks throughout Western Europe and North America. Wild Mute Swan are less commonly seen, and in the Shanghai region, Cygnus olor is a very scarce winter visitor. This sub-adult has a dull pink bill, unlike the deep orange-red bill of an adult. Dongtai, 10 Jan.

In May 2010, I found Brown-cheeked Rail at the point in Yangkou noted above. I forgot about the sighting and did not search again until last 15 Nov., when I found Brown-cheeked Rail after a 30-minute wait. On Sunday, I made my second of two tries at the site and was successful again.

Using the evidence I have presented here, you may believe, as I do, that the site is reliable for Rallus indicus. If you need the bird, then go with a few more birders if possible, stand in the area shown on the Google Map linked to above, spread out, and pay attention to the edge of the reeds. On Sunday, in contrast to 15 Nov., the rail never showed clearly; only Elaine’s sharp eye confirmed the presence of the scurrying rail. I got a look that first time, and about 30 minutes later, the bird showed again, and everyone got a quick view. The bird was calling softly from time to time and called loudly, but only briefly, when I first played back Water Rail R. aquaticus. (I played back R. aquaticus because the recordings I have of R. indicus are poor.) If you have qualms about playback, then you may still be able to see the bird, but be prepared to wait. If you are lucky, Reed Parrotbill will show; during our wait, we had Pallas’s Reed Bunting, Rustic Bunting, a Common Snipe that was hiding in plain sight, and an unusual winter view of Chinese Pond Heron.

Unusual winter sighting of Chinese Pond Heron, Yangkou, 10 Jan. 2016. © 2016 by Stephan Popp & Xueping Popp.
Unusual winter sighting of Chinese Pond Heron, Yangkou, 10 Jan. 2016. © 2016 by Stephan Popp & Xueping Popp.

With last weekend’s work at Yancheng, Elaine and I completed a survey (which began last year) of the Jiangsu coast from just north of Yancheng down to the Yangtze River. Along that 300 km stretch of coast, the best place to bird is Dongtai, followed by Yangkou and Yancheng. Besides those three areas, there is little left. There may be pockets that I have overlooked, but I doubt they are substantial; I doubt there is some secret location holding 10,000 waders.

The coastal area of Dongtai city is under no environmental protection that I know of, and in fact is slated to be transformed for aquaculture. At Yancheng, the Red-crowned Crane we saw were shuttling back and forth between fields, with busy farmers, noisy farming machines, and farmhouses never far away. At Yangkou, the smell of chemicals grows ever stronger, just as birdable areas behind the coastal wall grow ever smaller and the invasive Smooth Cordgrass on the mudflats grows ever more extensive.

We had little time for photography, but this cooperative Rustic Bunting offered me an opportunity too good to pass up. It is easy to distinguish a faded winter Rustic (as here) from the smarter breeding Rustic; it is harder to age and sex them.
We had little time for photography, but this cooperative Rustic Bunting offered me an opportunity too good to pass up. It is easy to distinguish a faded winter Rustic (as here) from the smarter breeding Rustic; it is harder to age and sex them.

Jiangsu packs 80 million people into an area less than a quarter the size of Sweden or California. If Sweden were as densely populated as Jiangsu, then its population would be about the same (320 million) as that of the United States. The GPP (Gross Provincial Product) of Jiangsu is one-third the GDP of India. A dense population of people with a culture that cares little for conservation and operates an economic powerhouse: That is Jiangsu. No wonder the Jiangsu coast is being chopped to pieces!

We spent a restful Saturday night at Greentree Inn (Gélín Háotài Jiǔdiàn [格林豪泰酒店], 160 yuan/night for clean, modern room with fast Internet and breakfast, +86 (0) 515-85820999; 32.749262, 120.850125). What a difference a good room makes!

Thanks to Michael for teaching us birding, to Stephan for his excellent driving, to Xueping for her quick mind, and to my dear Elaine for her constant positive attitude.

Elaine Du cheerfully hauls the spotting scope back to the car. The youngest member of the team, Elaine has an obvious enthusiasm for birding, is becoming handy with the telescope, and keeps accurate records.
Elaine Du cheerfully hauls the spotting scope back to the car. The youngest member of the team, Elaine has an obvious enthusiasm for birding, is becoming handy with the telescope, and keeps accurate records.

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 9 Jan. 2016 (65 species). Yancheng (Yánchéng [盐城]), a prefecture-level city in NE Jiangsu, China. Important points visited: area S of Crane Paradise (Hè Lèyuán [鹤乐园]; 33.600960, 120.507412), and points between Crane Paradise and the bend in the road on Dafeng Seawall (Dàfēng Hǎidī [大丰海堤]; 33.514056, 120.530951). Thick morning haze then mostly sunny skies; low -1°C, high 8°C. Visibility 0-10 km. Wind S/SSW 6 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 182 (Yancheng). Sunrise 07:04, sunset 17:10. SAT 09 JAN 2016 08:00-15:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, Stephan Popp, & Xueping Popp.

Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris 400
Greater White-fronted Goose A. albifrons 10
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 4
Gadwall Anas strepera 50
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 100
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 100
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 20
Northern Pintail A. acuta 20
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 70
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 300
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 2
Smew Mergellus albellus 16
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 1250
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 18
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 50
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 20
Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana 2
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 90
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 1
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 60
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 30
Great Egret A. alba 1
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 3
Little Egret E. garzetta 50
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 15
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus 2
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 4
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 5
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 150
Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis 9
Common Crane G. grus 250
Hooded Crane G. monacha 10
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 2
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 320
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 2
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 3
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 2
Green Sandpiper T. ochropus 1
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus heuglini 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 7
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 3
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 6
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 8
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 10
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 30
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 10
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 25
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 8
Goldcrest Regulus regulus 2
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 120
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 8
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 3
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 10
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 80
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla 20
Rustic Bunting E. rustica 20
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 3
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 50

Smew, Yancheng, 9 Jan. 2016.
Smew, Yancheng, 9 Jan. 2016.

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 9 Jan. 2016 (21 species). Great Dongtai Surf ‘n’ Turf Birding Trail, a 40-km loop on coast of Dongtai (Dōngtái [东台]), a county-level city in Jiangsu, China. Important points on Trail are N entrance to new sea-wall road on Dongtai Levee Road (Dōngtái Hǎidī [东台海堤], 32.868218, 120.912340), T-junction on Dongtai Levee Road (32.855576, 120.896557), viewing area on W side of lagoons (32.850988, 120.958103), S entrance to new sea-wall road on Dongtai Levee Road (32.759765, 120.928722), SE corner of sea wall (32.759499, 120.962893), & NE corner of sea wall (32.872444, 120.951522). Thick morning haze then mostly sunny skies; low -1°C, high 8°C. Visibility 0-10 km. Wind S/SSW 6 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 182 (Yancheng). Sunrise 07:04, sunset 17:10. SAT 09 JAN 2016 16:20-17:40. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, Stephan Popp, & Xueping Popp.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor 1
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 200
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 8
Northern Pintail A. acuta 2
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 150
Smew Mergellus albellus 1
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 6
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 20
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 20
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 20
Great Egret A. alba 50
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 50
Little Egret E. garzetta 20
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 50
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 200
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 10
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 30
Saunders’s Gull C. saundersi 80
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 15
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 10

Green Sandpiper, Yangkou, 10 Jan. 2016.
Green Sandpiper, Yangkou, 10 Jan. 2016.

List 1 of 2 for Sun. 10 Jan. 2016 (33 species). Great Dongtai Surf ‘n’ Turf Birding Trail, a 40-km loop on coast of Dongtai (Dōngtái [东台]), a county-level city in Jiangsu, China. Important points on Trail are N entrance to new sea-wall road on Dongtai Levee Road (Dōngtái Hǎidī [东台海堤], 32.868218, 120.912340), T-junction on Dongtai Levee Road (32.855576, 120.896557), viewing area on W side of lagoons (32.850988, 120.958103), S entrance to new sea-wall road on Dongtai Levee Road (32.759765, 120.928722), SE corner of sea wall (32.759499, 120.962893), & NE corner of sea wall (32.872444, 120.951522). Thick morning haze giving way to mostly cloudy skies; high 9°C. Visibility 10 km. Wind E 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 174 (Nantong). Sunrise 06:59, sunset 17:09. SUN 10 JAN 2016 07:30-11:10. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, Stephan Popp, & Xueping Popp.

Mute Swan Cygnus olor 1
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 368
Falcated Duck Anas falcata 16
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 110
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 305
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 11
Northern Pintail A. acuta 17
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 200
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 15
Greater Scaup A. marila 14
Smew Mergellus albellus 3
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 26
Red-breasted Merganser M. serrator 5
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 72
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 13
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 27
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 10
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 217
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 2
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 200
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 610
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 11
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 57
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 3
Dunlin Calidris alpina 40
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 16
Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus heuglini 2
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 3
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 1 leucopsis

Greater Scaup, Dongtai, 10 Jan. 2016.
Greater Scaup, Dongtai, 10 Jan. 2016.

List 2 of 2 for Sun. 10 Jan. 2016 (26 species). Yangkou (Yángkǒu [洋口]), fishing town in Rudong County (Rúdōng Xiàn [如东县]), Jiangsu, China (32.537730, 121.017746). Among areas visited: Haiyin Temple (Hǎiyìn Sì [海印寺], 32.558756, 121.044740) and reed beds near Haiyin Temple (32.557387, 121.037381). Thick morning haze giving way to mostly cloudy skies; high 9°C. Visibility 10 km. Wind E 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 174 (Nantong). Sunrise 06:59, sunset 17:09. SUN 10 JAN 2016 12:00-14:15. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, Stephan Popp, & Xueping Popp.

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 2
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 15
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 4
Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 10
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 21
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 35
Green Sandpiper T. ochropus 1
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 20
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 2
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 5
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 3
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 10
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 10
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 10
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 5
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 2 leucopsis
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 6
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 50
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla 10
Rustic Bunting E. rustica 3
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 2
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 3

Featured image: L-R: Stephan Popp, Michael Grunwell, & Elaine Du view 1250 Common Merganser near Crane Paradise, Yancheng, Jiangsu, China, 9 January 2016.

Lesser Shortwing and the Joy of Low-light Photography

On my recent trip to Longheng, Guangxi, I rediscovered the joy of low-light photography.

Michael Grunwell, my wife Elaine Du, and I were at a blind. Well past sunset, long after the other photographers had left, we were still there. First the thrushes retired, then the White-tailed Robin.

Suddenly, Lesser Shortwing popped out.

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

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

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

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

This image of a Fairy Pitta got me hooked on low-light bird photography. I was using the old Nikon D300 and my current 600 mm F/4 lens. With that camera, I was afraid to go above ISO 250! But the pitta was a perfect model, standing motionless for seconds at a time. Dongzhai, Henan, 5 June 2010. F/8, 0.80, ISO 250.
This image of a Fairy Pitta got me hooked on low-light bird photography. I was using the old Nikon D300 and my current 600 mm F/4 lens. With that camera, I was afraid to go above ISO 250! But the pitta was a perfect model, standing motionless for seconds at a time. Dongzhai, Henan, 5 June 2010. F/8, 0.80, ISO 250.

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

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

This beautiful male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher was photographed on 2 May 2014 at a temporary photo blind that I set up near Yangkou, Jiangsu. This photo was taken at 15:42, and light was more plentiful. I added my 1.4x teleconverter to my 600 mm lens, set the aperture to F/11, the speed to 1/80, and the ISO to 1600. As always, I used my shutter-release cable.
This beautiful male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher was photographed on 2 May 2014 at a temporary photo blind that I set up near Yangkou, Jiangsu. This photo was taken at 15:42, and light was more plentiful. I added my 1.4x teleconverter to my 600 mm lens, set the aperture to F/11, the speed to 1/80, and the ISO to 1600. As always, I used my shutter-release cable.

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

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

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

Featured image: Lesser Shortwing Brachypteryx leucophris just after its bath at photo blind in Longheng, Guangxi, China, 20 Dec. 2015. F/4, 1/8, ISO 10000.

White-bellied Green Pigeon! (or, How We Slogged Our Way through the Shanghai Smog and Picked Up a Lifer)

Fresh from our trip to Guangxi, Elaine and I on Saturday noted 57 species at Lesser Yangshan and Nanhui. The highlight was White-bellied Green Pigeon at Nanhui. Nanhui also produced 3 Greater Scaup, an impressive 440 Tufted Duck and 470 Kentish Plover, and a single Reed Parrotbill. On Lesser Yangshan, Brown-eared Bulbul was noted once again, and I flushed 2 Eurasian Woodcock.

After the smoggiest, most pollution-filled beginning to a birding day I had ever seen, our respectable showing was a surprise to Elaine and our partners Stephan Popp and Xueping Popp. Starting in Puxi at 06:15, we crawled through thick haze, with visibility sometimes reduced to less than 50 meters. Many birders would have reasonably turned back, but we pressed on, cheerfully repeating the two mantras of birding: (1) you never know and (2) wait. Finally, driving across Donghai Bridge, after more than two hours in Stephan and Xueping’s Passat, we saw a hint of blue sky over Lesser Yangshan Island. Free at last!

In the animal world, the survivors are the athletes and the geniuses. This Richard's Pipit is in top condition. It has caught a katydid, and nicely dividing its attention between prey and predator, the bird assesses the danger, bashes its large prey once more, and safely makes off with the stunned insect.
In the animal world, the survivors are the athletes and the geniuses. This Richard’s Pipit is in top condition. It has caught a katydid, and nicely dividing its attention between prey and predator, the bird assesses the danger, bashes its large prey once more, and safely makes off with the stunned insect.

At that point, just breathing deeply was a bonus; we could have seen not a single bird and felt the trip to the island worthwhile. As it was, however, we generated interesting records such as the bulbul, the woodcocks, and Yellow-bellied Tit, all found in Garbage Dump Gully. Rustic Bunting was on the coastal plain, and among the common winter visitors were 14 Daurian Redstart, 2 Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, and 3 Pale Thrush.

Looking back toward the mainland, we noticed that more and more of Donghai Bridge was becoming visible. We decided to chance it and return to Nanhui. Visibility had improved here, too, and at Dishui Lake, our first stop, we gazed hundreds of meters across the water. Using the spotting scopes, Elaine and Xueping picked through the birds. The search for Horned Grebe was fruitless, but 5 Black-necked Grebe were there, and 330 Falcated Duck, 15 Eurasian Wigeon, and 80 Great Crested Grebe were present in more or less their earlier proportions. In the first big pond north of the Magic Parking Lot, we found the large flock of Kentish Plover–surprising, but not unprecedented, as we had counted a mega-flock of 800 on 28 Nov.

Sleeping White-bellied Green Pigeon, Nanhui. After Stephan Popp and I got this image, we backed away slowly, so as not to disturb the tired migrant.
Sleeping White-bellied Green Pigeon, Nanhui. After Stephan Popp and I got this image, we backed away slowly, so as not to disturb the tired migrant.

We found the White-bellied Green Pigeon at Microforest 4. In the Shanghai region, I had last noted Treron sieboldii on 24 Nov. 2012 on Lesser Yangshan. The beautiful pigeon was a lifer for everyone but me and set off a series of high-fives, made even more meaningful by the inauspicious beginning of our day. White-bellied Green Pigeon became the 259th species Elaine and I have noted in the Shanghai region since 11 Sept.

Development seems to be accelerating at Nanhui. Near the empty blue-roofed building, backhoes are moving great quantities of earth, and Microforest 8 has been destroyed. The line of reeds at the inner base of the sea wall has been mowed down.

Eastern Buzzard, Nanhui. Note the compact build, black carpal patches on underwings, black tips to primaries, and head that is paler than upperparts. Buteo japonicus is a common winter visitor to Shanghai.
Eastern Buzzard, Nanhui. Note the compact build, black carpal patches on underwings, black tips to primaries, and head that is paler than upperparts. Buteo japonicus is a common winter visitor to Shanghai.

List 1 of 2 for SAT 26 DEC 2015 (23 species). Lesser Yangshan Island (Xiǎo Yángshān [小洋山]), island in Hangzhou Bay, Zhejiang, China. List includes birds noted at Garbage Dump Gully (30.641565, 122.062836), Garbage Dump Coastal Plain (30.638860, 122.060089), & Temple Mount (30.639866, 122.048327). Extremely smoggy in morning, clearing by midday. Visibility 0-10 km. Sunrise 06:46, sunset 16:53. Temp. 6°-12°C. 08:00-10:40. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Stephan Popp, & Xueping Popp.

Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 2
Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola 2
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 3
Yellow-bellied Tit Pardaliparus venustulus 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 8
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 30
Brown-eared Bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis amaurotis 1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 2
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 1
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 3
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 14
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 8
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 5
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 12
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 4
Rustic Bunting E. rustica 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 6
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 1

List 2 of 2 for SAT 26 DEC 2015 (45 species). Around Pudong Nanhui Dongtan Wetland (Pǔdōng Nánhuì Dōngtān Shīdì [浦东南汇东滩湿地]), Shanghai, China (30.920507, 121.973159); list includes birds found at Magic Parking Lot (30.882784, 121.972782), Magic GPS Point (30.880540, 121.964572), the empty blue-roofed building & nearby microforests (30.961368, 121.952136), and Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). Extremely smoggy in morning, clearing by midday. Visibility 0-10 km. Sunrise 06:46, sunset 16:53. Temp. 6°-12°C. 11:30-16:20. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Stephan Popp, & Xueping Popp.

Falcated Duck Anas falcata 330
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 15
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 8
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 20
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 60
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 440
Greater Scaup A. marila 3
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 20
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 80
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 5
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 10
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 3
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 30
Great Egret A. alba 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 120
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 22
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 250
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 470
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 2
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 12
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 4
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 3
White-bellied Green Pigeon Treron sieboldii 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 8
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 5
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 15
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 1
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 3
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 20
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 1
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 3
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 150
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 12 (8 leucopsis, 4 ocluaris)
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 15
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala 1
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 5

Featured image: White-bellied Green Pigeon Treron sieboldii, Nanhui, Shanghai, 26 Dec. 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elaine Du, Most Valuable Birder of the Nonggang 2015 Birding Expedition.
Elaine Du, Most Valuable Birder of the Nonggang 2015 Birding Expedition.

Simple List of Species of Bird Noted Around Longheng and Nonggang National Nature Reserve, Guangxi, China, 16-21 Dec. 2015 (76 species) Note: For the systematic list of all 76 species recorded on this trip, including Chinese name, Latin name, and times recorded, see the text-only version of this report on craigbrelsford.com.

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

The Trip

Wed. 16 Dec. 2015
Nanning

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

We counted 17 Crested Bunting on the road between Chongzuo and Longheng.
We counted 17 Crested Bunting on the road between Chongzuo and Longheng.

Thurs. 17 Dec. 2015
Longheng

Bird of the day: White-winged Magpie

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

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

That night, I sent the following message to my friends:

NONGGANG PRE-CHRISTMAS BIRDING JAMBOREE! White-winged Magpie highlighted a big Day 1! Also 17 Crested Bunting on drive in. At a Baihualing-inspired photo blind today, a completely habituated Buff-breasted Babbler hopped into the sitting area and pecked at my hand, as though demanding payment. “But I already paid my fee to Mr. Lu!” I protested to the little fella. Elaine and I flew down to Nanning last night with Michael Grunwell and drove to Longheng this morning. We have traded the skyscrapers of Shanghai for the limestone skyscrapers of Longheng and for a bonus got a sky full of fresh air. Tomorrow going for … well, I won’t tell you its name, but its initials are Nonggang Babbler! Merry Christmas!

List 1 of 1 for THU 17 DEC 2015 (44 species)

Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum tickelli was one of several south-China specialties we enjoyed in Longheng.
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum tickelli was one of several south-China specialties we enjoyed in Longheng.

Birds noted in & around Longheng (Lónghēng [陇亨], 22.480859, 106.978739), a village in Chongzuo (Chóngzuǒ [崇左]) in SW Guangxi, China. List includes observations made along road between Chongzuo & Longheng. Overcast & cool, 11°-14°C. 08:00-17:40. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis 2
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 5
White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca 1
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythroryncha 1
White-winged Magpie U. whiteheadi 3
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 7
Japanese Tit Parus minor conmixtus 5
Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus 20
Sooty-headed Bulbul P. aurigaster 10
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 15
Yellow-bellied Warbler Abroscopus superciliaris 2
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 8
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 1
Rufescent Prinia Prinia rufescens 3
Plain Prinia P. inornata 2
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius 3
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 6
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 8
Pin-striped Tit-Babbler Macronus gularis 8
David’s Fulvetta Alcippe davidi 20
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum tickelli 6
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 2
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 1
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 1
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 4
Small Niltava Niltava macgrigoriae 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 2
Snowy-browed Flycatcher Ficedula hyperythra 1
White-tailed Robin Myiomela leucura 1
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 4
Plain Flowerpecker Dicaeum minullum 1
Fork-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga christinae 8
Black-throated Sunbird A. saturata 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 100
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata 10
Scaly-breasted Munia L. punctulata 8
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 10
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 2
Crested Bunting Emberiza lathami 17
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 1

The pale-blue iris and white crescent behind the ear are among the features distinguishing Stachyris nonggangensis from Sooty Babbler S. herberti, which occurs in Laos and Vietnam and is the species to which Nonggang Babbler is most often compared.
The pale-blue iris and white crescent behind the ear are among the features distinguishing Stachyris nonggangensis from Sooty Babbler S. herberti, which occurs in Laos and Vietnam and is the species to which Nonggang Babbler is most often compared.

Fri. 18 Dec. 2015
Longheng

Bird of the day: Nonggang Babbler

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

List 1 of 1 for FRI 18 DEC 2015 (27 species)

Hides are great equalizers. Under normal conditions, birders would struggle to tick Streaked Wren-Babbler. At Mr. Lu's hide, this fellow lingered for minutes at a time, and even scolded us!
Hides are great equalizers. Under normal conditions, birders would struggle to tick Streaked Wren-Babbler. At Mr. Lu’s hide, this fellow lingered for minutes at a time, and even scolded us!

Birds noted in & around Longheng (Lónghēng [陇亨], 22.480859, 106.978739), a village in Chongzuo (Chóngzuǒ [崇左]) in SW Guangxi, China. List includes observations made in “the backcountry,” a forested valley near Longheng (22.477248, 106.977809). Overcast turning sunny. 12°-18°C. 08:20-18:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis 2
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 1
Black-crested Bulbul Pycnonotus flaviventris 1
Red-whiskered Bulbul P. jocosus 15
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 10
Yellow-bellied Warbler Abroscopus superciliaris 6
Slaty-bellied Tesia Tesia olivea 1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 1
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 8
Rufescent Prinia Prinia rufescens 8
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius 3
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 5
Nonggang Babbler Stachyris nonggangensis 10
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 6
Pin-striped Tit-Babbler Macronus gularis 3
David’s Fulvetta Alcippe davidi 20
Streaked Wren-Babbler Napothera brevicaudata 1
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum tickelli 3
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 2
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 2
Fujian Niltava Niltava davidi 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 4
White-tailed Robin Myiomela leucura 5
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 3
Grey Bush Chat S. ferreus 2
Fork-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga christinae 6

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

Sat. 19 Dec. 2015
Longheng

Bird of the day: Collared Scops Owl

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

List 1 of 1 for SAT 19 DEC 2015 (42 species)

Noisy, gregarious, and flamboyantly colored, Long-tailed Broadbill provide unforgettable moments to the birder.
Noisy, gregarious, and flamboyantly colored, Long-tailed Broadbill provide unforgettable moments to the birder.

Birds noted in & around Longheng (Lónghēng [陇亨], 22.480859, 106.978739), a village in Chongzuo (Chóngzuǒ [崇左]) in SW Guangxi, China. List includes observations made in “the backcountry,” a forested valley near Longheng (22.477248, 106.977809); at creek near Nonggang village (Nònggǎng Cūn [弄岗村], 22.502536, 106.981244); & around Nongang National Nature Reserve (Nònggǎng Guójiājí Zìrán Bǎohùqū [弄岗国家级自然保护区], 22.467173, 106.953076). Overcast turning sunny. 12°-18°C. 08:15-18:15. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis 1
Collared Scops Owl Otus lettia 2
Red-headed Trogon Harpactes erythrocephalus 4
Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis 1
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Broadbill Psarisomus dalhousiae 12
Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis virgatus 20
White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca 6
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus hopwoodi 1
White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis 7
Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis 1
Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea 3
Japanese Tit Parus minor conmixtus 4
Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus 30
Puff-throated Bulbul Alophoixus pallidus 6
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 36
Yellow-bellied Warbler Abroscopus superciliaris 10
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 1
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 3
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 1
Bianchi’s Warbler Seicercus valentini 3
Rufescent Prinia Prinia rufescens 5
Plain Prinia P. inornata 5
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius 10
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 30
Grey-throated Babbler Stachyris nigriceps 2
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 15
Pin-striped Tit-Babbler Macronus gularis 20
David’s Fulvetta Alcippe davidi 40
Streaked Wren-Babbler Napothera brevicaudata 1
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum tickelli 3
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Black-breasted Thrush T. dissimilis 1
Japanese Thrush T. cardis 1
Fujian Niltava Niltava davidi 1
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 12
White-tailed Robin Myiomela leucura 2
Grey Bush Chat Saxicola ferreus 2
Fork-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga christinae 15
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 8
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 3

Sun. 20 Dec. 2015
Longheng

Bird of the day: Lesser Shortwing

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

List 1 of 1 for SUN 20 DEC 2015 (36 species)

Sitting patiently in Mr. Huang's hide paid off with this serviceable shot of White-winged Magpie.
Sitting patiently in Mr. Huang’s hide paid off with this serviceable shot of White-winged Magpie.

Birds noted in & around Longheng (Lónghēng [陇亨], 22.480859, 106.978739), a village in Chongzuo (Chóngzuǒ [崇左]) in SW Guangxi, China. List includes observations made at creek near Nonggang village (Nònggǎng Cūn [弄岗村], 22.502536, 106.981244) & around Nongang National Nature Reserve (Nònggǎng Guójiājí Zìrán Bǎohùqū [弄岗国家级自然保护区], 22.467173, 106.953076). Overcast turning sunny. 12°-18°C. 07:50-18:20. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca 7
White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis 4
White-winged Magpie Urocissa whiteheadi 3
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 1
Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis 2
Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea 4
Japanese Tit Parus minor conmixtus 5
Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus 20
Puff-throated Bulbul Alophoixus pallidus 4
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 4
Yellow-bellied Warbler Abroscopus superciliaris 8
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 8
Pale-footed Bush Warbler Urosphena pallidipes 3
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 3
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 1
Bianchi’s Warbler Seicercus valentini 1
Rufescent Prinia Prinia rufescens 8
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius 15
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 30
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 5
Pin-striped Tit-Babbler Macronus gularis 20
David’s Fulvetta Alcippe davidi 25
Buff-breasted Babbler Pellorneum tickelli 3
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 6
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Black-breasted Thrush T. dissimilis 2
Japanese Thrush T. cardis 1
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 2
Fujian Niltava Niltava davidi 1
Small Niltava N. macgrigoriae 2
Lesser Shortwing Brachypteryx leucophris 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 10
White-tailed Robin Myiomela leucura 2
Grey Bush Chat Saxicola ferreus 1
Fork-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga christinae 6
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 3

Mon. 21 Dec. 2015
Longheng-Nanning-Shanghai

Bird of the day: White-browed Piculet

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

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

List 1 of 1 for MON 21 DEC 2015 (30 species)

Turdus is an easy genus to love. Turdus is powerful, with representatives on all the habitable continents and even Oceania; consistent, with the same basic size and rounded shape common to all species; and beautiful, as in the case of south China's Black-breasted Thrush T. dissimilis.
Turdus is an easy genus to love. Turdus is powerful, with representatives on all the habitable continents and even Oceania; consistent, with the same basic size and rounded shape common to all species; and beautiful, as in the case of south China’s Black-breasted Thrush T. dissimilis.

Birds noted in & around Longheng (Lónghēng [陇亨], 22.480859, 106.978739), a village in Chongzuo (Chóngzuǒ [崇左]) in SW Guangxi, China. List includes observations made along road between Chongzuo & Longheng. Overcast turning sunny. 12°-18°C. 08:40-14:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus 1
Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis 1
White-browed Piculet Sasia ochracea 3
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
White-winged Magpie Urocissa whiteheadi 2
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 2
Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor conmixtus 1
Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus 30
Light-vented Bulbul P. sinensis 8
Sooty-headed Bulbul P. aurigaster 10
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 2
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 15
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 3
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 8
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius 6
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 7
Chestnut-capped Babbler Timalia pileata 4
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 2
Black-breasted Thrush Turdus dissimilis 1
Chinese Blackbird T. mandarinus 1
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 2
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 2
Grey Bush Chat S. ferreus 4
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 25
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 12
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
Crested Bunting Emberiza lathami 3

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

Accipitriformes: Accipitridae

Crested Goshawk
凤头鹰 (fèngtóu yīng)
Accipiter trivirgatus

1 on 2015-12-21

Cuculiformes: Cuculidae

Greater Coucal
褐翅鸦鹃 (hèchì yājuān)
Centropus sinensis

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

Strigiformes: Strigidae

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

2 on 2015-12-19

Trogoniformes: Trogonidae

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

4 on 2015-12-19

Coraciiformes: Alcedinidae

Common Kingfisher
普通翠鸟 (pǔtōng cuìniǎo)
Alcedo atthis

1 on 2015-12-17

Piciformes: Picidae

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

3 on 2015-12-21

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

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

Falconiformes: Falconidae

Common Kestrel
红隼 (hóng sǔn)
Falco tinnunculus

1 on 2015-12-17

Peregrine Falcon
游隼 (yóusǔn)
Falco peregrinus

1 on 2015-12-19

Passeriformes: Eurylaimidae

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

12 on 2015-12-19

Passeriformes: Tephrodornithidae

Large Woodshrike
钩嘴林䴗 (gōuzuǐ línjú)
Tephrodornis virgatus

20 on 2015-12-19

Passeriformes: Laniidae

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

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

Passeriformes: Vireonidae

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

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

Passeriformes: Dicruridae

Ashy Drongo
灰卷尾 (huī juǎnwěi)
Dicrurus leucophaeus hopwoodi

1 on 2015-12-19

Passeriformes: Rhipiduridae

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

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

Passeriformes: Corvidae

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

1 on 2015-12-17

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

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

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

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

Passeriformes: Stenostiridae

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

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

Passeriformes: Paridae

Sultan Tit
冕雀 (miǎn què)
Melanochlora sultanea

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

Japanese Tit
远东山雀 (yuǎndōng shānquè)
Parus minor

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

Passeriformes: Pycnonotidae

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

1 on 2015-12-18

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

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

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

8 on 2015-12-21

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

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

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

4 on 2015-12-20

Black Bulbul
黑短脚鹎 (hēi duǎnjiǎobēi)
Hypsipetes leucocephalus

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

Passeriformes: Hirundinidae

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

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

Passeriformes: Cettiidae

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

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

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

8 on 2015-12-20

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

1 on 2015-12-18

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

3 on 2015-12-20

Passeriformes: Phylloscopidae

Dusky Warbler
褐柳莺 (hè liǔyīng)
Phylloscopus fuscatus

1 on 2015-12-19

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

1 on 2015-12-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passeriformes: Cisticolidae

Rufescent Prinia
暗冕鹪莺 (ànmiǎn jiāoyīng)
Prinia rufescens

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

Plain Prinia
褐头鹪莺 (hètóu jiāoyīng)
Prinia inornata

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

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

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

Passeriformes: Timaliidae

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

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

Nonggang Babbler
弄岗穗鹛 (nònggǎng suìméi)
Stachyris nonggangensis

10 on 2015-12-18

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

2 on 2015-12-19

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

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

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

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

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

4 on 2015-12-21

Passeriformes: Pellorneidae

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passeriformes: Zosteropidae

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

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

Passeriformes: Sturnidae

Crested Myna
八哥 (bāgē)
Acridotheres cristatellus

1 on 2015-12-17

Passeriformes: Turdidae

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

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

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

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

Japanese Thrush
乌灰鸫 (wūhuī dōng)
Turdus cardis

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

Chinese Blackbird
乌鸫 (wū dōng)
Turdus mandarinus

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

Passeriformes: Muscicapidae

Oriental Magpie-Robin
鹊鸲 (quèqú)
Copsychus saularis

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

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

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

Small Niltava
小仙鹟 (xiǎo xiānwēng)
Niltava macgrigoriae

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

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

1 on 2015-12-20

Siberian Rubythroat
红喉歌鸲 (hónghóu gēqú)
Calliope calliope

1 on 2015-12-19

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

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

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

1 on 2015-12-17

Daurian Redstart
北红尾鸲 (běi hóngwěiqú)
Phoenicurus auroreus

1 on 2015-12-21

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

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

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

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

Grey Bush Chat
灰林鵖 (huī línjí)
Saxicola ferreus

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

Passeriformes: Dicaeidae

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

1 on 2015-12-17

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

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

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

1 on 2015-12-17

Passeriformes: Passeridae

Eurasian Tree Sparrow
树麻雀 (shù máquè)
Passer montanus

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

Passeriformes: Estrildidae

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

10 on 2015-12-17

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

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

Passeriformes: Motacillidae

Grey Wagtail
灰鹡鸰 (huī jílíng)
Motacilla cinerea

1 on 2015-12-17

White Wagtail
白鹡鸰 (bái jílíng)
Motacilla alba

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

Olive-backed Pipit
树鹨 (shù liù)
Anthus hodgsoni

2 on 2015-12-17

Passeriformes: Emberizidae

Crested Bunting
凤头鹀 (fèngtóu wū)
Emberiza lathami

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

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

1 on 2015-12-17

Selected Bibliography

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

Brelsford, Craig. A Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China. (Work in progress; notes and drafts in Craig’s laptop. Please help us create this field guide by making a donation.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equipment

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

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