Brown-cheeked Rail at Yangkou

On Sun. 15 Nov. 2015, Elaine and I found Brown-cheeked Rail and Black-winged Kite at Yangkou and at Chongming saw 23 Hooded Crane and Chinese Grey Shrike. We added Scaly-breasted Munia to our fall-winter list.

I found the rail in the reed beds near Haiyin Temple. On 8 May 2010, I found a Brown-cheeked Rail at the same site. Today I was hoping to see Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, a bird known to overwinter in Yancheng up the coast. After 30 minutes, a Brown-cheeked appeared at the edge of the reeds, right under a small flock of Reed Parrotbill.

Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus, Yangkou, 15 Nov. 2015. Formerly considered conspecific with Water Rail R. aquaticus, Brown-cheeked Rail is a poorly understood species.
Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus, Yangkou, 15 Nov. 2015. Formerly considered conspecific with Water Rail R. aquaticus, Brown-cheeked Rail is a poorly understood species.

Much is not known about the movements and distribution of Brown-cheeked Rail. The spot at Yangkou may be worth checking regularly for this species.

At Yangkou the great rush of passage migrants has slowed, and the area is settling into its winter phase. The forest at Haiyin Temple is quiet, and the trees are shedding leaves.

List 1 of 2 for Sun. 15 Nov. 2015 (43 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), unpaved road N of Haiyin Temple (32.570807, 121.015638), reed beds near Haiyin Temple (32.557387, 121.037381), & microforest near Haiyin Temple (32.558400, 121.038250). Thick morning haze giving way to mostly sunny skies; high 14°C. Wind ENE 3 km/h. Sunrise 06:24, sunset 16:57. SUN 15 NOV 2015 08:15-11:30.

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 8
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 65
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 1
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 2
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 5
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 2
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus 1
Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra ca. 100
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 3
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 8
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 3
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 4
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 17
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 8
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 20
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus ca. 50
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 20
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 8
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 5
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 25
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 7
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 3
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 10
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 7
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 4
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 14
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 50
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 4
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 22
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 1
Little Bunting E. pusilla 6
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 4
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 6
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 7

Juvenile Scaly-breasted Munia browsing seed heads on Chongming Island, Shanghai, 15 Nov. 2015.
Juvenile Scaly-breasted Munia browsing seed heads on Chongming Island, Shanghai, 15 Nov. 2015.

List 2 of 2 for Sun. 15 Nov. 2015 (24 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 Island, Shanghai, China (31.510109, 121.961955). Thick morning haze giving way to mostly sunny skies; high 14°C. Wind ENE 3 km/h. Sunrise 06:24, sunset 16:57. SUN 15 NOV 2015 16:00-17:05.

Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha ca. 500
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 6
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 3
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 13
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2
Great Egret A. alba 17
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 22
Hooded Crane Grus monacha 23
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 1
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 6
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 6
Chinese Grey Shrike L. sphenocercus sphenocercus 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 10
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 5
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 100
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 2
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 3
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 3
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 1

Featured image: Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus, Yangkou, Rudong, Jiangsu, 15 Nov. 2015.

80 Dalmatian Pelican at Dongtai

At Dongtai on Sat. 14 Nov. 2015, the Dream Team noted 80 Dalmatian PelicanBlack-faced Spoonbill once again were present at this great, unprotected wetland. Among the species appearing in considerable numbers were Common Pochard (300), Eurasian Oystercatcher (150), Pied Avocet (300), Grey Plover (2000), Kentish Plover (300), Eurasian Curlew (1200), Dunlin (800), and Saunders’s Gull (250). We noted Falcated Duck and Tufted Duck.

Michael Grunwell and husband-and-wife team Stephan and Xueping Popp left Shanghai at 03:30 and arrived at Yancheng at 06:30. Elaine and I met them on the Surf ‘n’ Turf Trail at Dongtai. Approaching from the south, we got a call from an excited Michael, who said, “Get up here! There’s a flock of 80 Dalmatian Pelican right in front of us!” Elaine and I arrived in time. In one eyeful I was seeing more pelicans than I had seen in my previous eight years in China.

We noted once again that the SE corner of the sea wall is the last place in the area to be covered with the incoming tide. We were there as the tide moved in (it never reached the wall here), and noted the impressive shorebird numbers listed above.

The light was fading by 16:30. Elaine and I bade farewell to the trio and returned to our hotel. Michael, Stephan, and Xueping returned to Shanghai.

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). Foggy & hazy in morning, turning clearer & sunny in afternoon. Wind WNW 11 km/h. High 16°C. Sunrise 06:23, sunset 16:57. SAT 14 NOV 2015 10:05-16:30.

Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 1
Falcated Duck Anas falcata 25
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 13
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 154
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 15
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 30
Common Pochard Aythya ferina ca. 300
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 20
Common Merganser Mergus merganser 3
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 13
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 25
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 2
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 17
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 75
Great Egret A. alba 12
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 6
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus 80
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 31
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 3
Black Kite Milvus migrans lineatus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 20
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 150
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 300
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola ca. 2000
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus ca. 300
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 2
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata ca. 1200
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 20
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 15
Dunlin Calidris alpina ca. 800
Saunders’s Gull Chroicocephalus saundersi ca. 250
Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris 2
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus heuglini 2
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia 15
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 4
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 15
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 20
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus ca. 50
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 10
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 30
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 1
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 4
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 5
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 4
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 3
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 60
Pallas’s Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi 1

Featured image: Dalmatian Pelican at Dongtai, Jiangsu, China, 14 Nov. 2015. Listed as Vulnerable by IUCN, Pelecanus crispus breeds from Serbia to Mongolia, with Mongolian breeders wintering along the China coast. Populations in the western parts of its range are stable and even increasing, but the populations in Mongolia and China are in dire trouble.

Sijiao Island

Recently, there seems to have been an influx of Japanese migrants in Shanghai. The Dream Team noted 37 Japanese Thrush on 7 Nov., and Japanese Robin and Yellow Bunting have been reported in the Shanghai area. Elaine and I decided to try to determine whether the islands farther out than Lesser Yangshan are part of the Japan-China migration route. The thesis that Elaine and I were trying to prove is as follows: “Inasmuch as Sijiao Island is larger, more thickly vegetated, better protected, and farther out to sea than Lesser Yangshan, the selection there of migratory birds, especially those from Japan, is richer than at Lesser Yangshan.” Thesis 2: “As Sijiao Island is the northernmost of a line of islands oriented roughly on a N-S axis, many birds having crossed the East China Sea from Kyushu will use that line of islands as stepping stones to mainland Asia at Ningbo, Zhejiang.” After visiting Sijiao Island 11-13 Nov. 2015, Elaine and I have found little to support those theses. Sijiao Island is densely populated, with only the steep hillsides and mountaintops unused by humans. We found only one gully that compares to Garbage Dump Gully and Temple Mount on Lesser Yangshan.

Sijiao Island is small and crowded. The easily accessible areas at the mouths of the gullies are taken up by towns and farms, and the hillsides are too steep and thickly vegetated to bird. After a long search, I finally found a gully containing a small garbage dump and crude terraced gardens above. Paths to the gardens provided access to the secondary forest. In this cramped area I found about 30 species, among them weakly singing Brown-flanked Bush Warbler.
Sijiao Island is small and crowded. The easily accessible areas at the mouths of the gullies are taken up by towns and farms, and the hillsides are too steep and thickly vegetated to bird. After a long search, I finally found a gully containing a small garbage dump and crude terraced gardens above. Paths to the gardens provided access to the secondary forest. In this cramped area I found about 30 species, among them weakly singing Brown-flanked Bush Warbler.

This post contains a description of our three days on Sijiao plus visits to Lesser Yangshan and Nanhui at the beginning and end of the trip.

On Wed. 11 Nov., after the alarm woke us at 04:00, Elaine and I drove our rented Skoda from our apartment near Zhongshan Park in Puxi to Garbage Dump Gully on Lesser Yangshan. The gully was busy. Yellow-bellied Tit is not often seen on Lesser Yangshan, and we saw a female Japanese Thrush. Among the 10 Red-flanked Bluetail were 2 adult males. Chinese Sparrowhawk was distinguishable by the lack of bands on the wing linings.

We had to wait for the 11:30 ferry to Sijiao Island. During the crossing, which Elaine and I spent on the deck, we saw not a single bird. At Sijiao we drove off the ferry and started looking for habitat. I was looking for flat, wet areas near the mouth of a gully, but I soon saw that every bit of that sort of land has been put to use by the local people. Next, we searched for gullies higher up the steep, thickly vegetated mountainsides. We found one gully, now being used as a garbage dump, with gardens higher up. This gully produced about as good a mix of species as I have come to expect at Temple Mount and Garbage Dump Gully. We found Yellow-breasted Bunting, 2 Chestnut Bunting, and 2 Tristram’s Bunting, and we had long, close views of Brown-flanked Bush Warbler. A pair of Black Kite soared overhead, and a Rook passed over. Nearby, on the road just below the overlook at Dabeishan Scenic Area, we found Taiga Flycatcher. Daurian Redstart were numerous, and the sound of Light-vented Bulbul was constantly descending on us from the steep hillsides above.

Another look at the crude gardens and secondary forest near Dabeishan Scenic Area on Sijiao Island. Note entrance to WWII-era tunnel.
Another look at the crude gardens and secondary forest near Dabeishan Scenic Area on Sijiao Island. Note entrance to WWII-era tunnel.

List 1 of 2 for Wed. 11 Nov. 2015 (27 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), & area near ferry terminal on E end of island (30.59939, 122.13448). Partly to mostly cloudy. Visibility ca. 15 km. High 19°C. WED 11 NOV 2015 06:45-07:30.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 8
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Dunlin Calidris alpina 8
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 1
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 2
Yellow-bellied Tit Pardaliparus venustulus 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 3
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 10
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 1
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 2
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 3
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 10
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 5
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 7 (4 leucopsis, 3 lugens)
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 1
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 1
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 22
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 8
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 2
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 2

List 2 of 2 for Wed. 11 Nov. 2015 (26 species)

Sijiao Island (Sìjiāoshān [泗礁山]), one of the Shengsi Islands (Shèngsì Lièdǎo [嵊泗列岛]), group of islands in Zhoushan Archipelago (Zhōushān Qúndǎo [舟山群岛]), Zhejiang, China (30.730897, 122.475384). List includes birds found at various points on Sijiao Island as well as at an unnamed garbage dump & light agricultural area (30.708679, 122.482823) in Dabeishan Scenic Area (Dàbēishān Jǐngqū [大悲山景区]). Partly to mostly cloudy. Visibility ca. 15 km. High 19°C. WED 11 NOV 2015 13:25-17:05.

Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 8
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 5
Accipiter sp. 2
Black Kite Milvus migrans lineatus 2 (pair)
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 9
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 5
Rook Corvus frugilegus 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 30
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis ca. 200
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 4
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 4
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 6
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 8
Turdus sp. 2
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 1
Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 37
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 125
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 38
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 2
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 4
Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola 1
Chestnut Bunting E. rutila 2
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 3

At the eastern end of Sijiao Island around Liujingtan Scenic Area one can view original scrub habitat. Farms and settlements are few, and the loudest sound is that of the surf hitting the rocks. We found three species of thrush here as well as Japanese Sparrowhawk.
At the eastern end of Sijiao Island around Liujingtan Scenic Area one can view original scrub habitat. Farms and settlements are few, and the loudest sound is that of the surf hitting the rocks. We found three species of thrush here as well as Japanese Sparrowhawk.

Thurs. 12 Nov. 2015
Sijiao Island

Elaine and I noted 40 species on Sijiao Island. We marveled at the original scrub forest on the eastern end of the island, and I returned to the unnamed garbage dump. Although we found no evidence of major migrations from Japan, the birding was nonetheless solid.

My day started at the unnamed garbage dump near Dabeishan. In two and a half hours, I noted 27 species. I had a first-of-season Rustic Bunting and heard Brown-flanked Bush Warbler singing weakly. The pair of Black Kite patrolled the sky above, and a Peregine Falcon zipped in, trying to catch one of the dozens of Light-vented Bulbul. I got a good look at Dusky Thrush, and I saw 5 Hawfinch.

I explored the hillsides around the gully, finding more good habitat. In the gully I walked into an old military tunnel and found dozens of centipedes as long as my hand.

The most unusual sighting of the day was this Hair-crested Drongo. What was this southeast China resident doing 40 km off the coast?
The most unusual sighting of the day was this Hair-crested Drongo. What was this southeast China resident doing 40 km off the coast?

I returned to our hotel to pick up Elaine. We drove toward Liujingtan Scenic Area on the eastern edge of the island. Along the way, we noted Hair-crested Drongo and a singing male Meadow Bunting. At Liujingtan, we declined to pay 100 yuan for the right to drive a mere 700 m beyond the gate. From the parking lot Elaine and I scanned the valley below. I followed a trail heading into the valley and soon found myself in uncut scrub–the primeval “forest” of Sijiao! The scenery was outstanding. Pinkish-brown rocks stand firm against the crashing sea. I moved down to a spot near the water, where the parking lot and civilization above were unseen. The great emptiness of the sea yawned before me. It was an odd sight, but the whistles of the ubiquitous Daurian Redstart pulled me back. Eyebrowed Thrush, Japanese Thrush, and Pale Thrush were taking berries from the many fruiting trees, and from a sturdy branch a Japanese Sparrowhawk was doing its own form of bird-watching.

Would I recommend a visit to Sijiao Island? If you are willing to spend about 600 yuan to get your car to Sijiao and back to Lesser Yangshan, and if you would like to spend an hour or two in line and another 80 minutes one way on the ferry to get here, then, yes, you should go–but if Elaine’s and my two days here are any indication, then you will find many of the same birds that can be found on Lesser Yangshan and at Nanhui. You will find better scenery, especially around Liujingtan, a larger area to bird than is the case on Lesser Yangshan, and more peace and quiet. The Wu dialect of the people here, so similar to Shanghaihua, reminds us that this island is close to Shanghai, but because it’s 40 km off the coast, requires hours to reach, and offers rocky coasts with crashing waves, Sijiao feels like a different world. It may not be worth a special trip, but birders here on a family visit will very much find it worth their while to bird the areas I have researched.

Sijiao Island (Sìjiāoshān [泗礁山]), one of the Shengsi Islands (Shèngsì Lièdǎo [嵊泗列岛]), group of islands in Zhoushan Archipelago (Zhōushān Qúndǎo [舟山群岛]), Zhejiang, China (30.730897, 122.475384). List includes birds found at various points on E end of Sijiao Island as well as at an unnamed garbage dump & light agricultural area (30.708679, 122.482823) in Dabeishan Scenic Area (Dàbēishān Jǐngqū [大悲山景区]). Other major birding area today is valley below entrance to Liujingtan Scenic Area (Liùjǐngtán Jǐngqū [六井潭景区]). (Head of trail entering valley at 30.720637, 122.523268.) Mostly cloudy & hazy with light shower in afternoon. Winds N to NNW. Visibility poor (ca. 5 km). High 18°C. THU 12 NOV 2015 06:45-09:15, 11:30-16:10.

Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 12
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis 2
Accipiter sp. 1
Black Kite Milvus migrans lineatus 2 (pair)
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 10
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 3
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 4
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 1
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 1
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 8
Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 4
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis ca. 300
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 6 (3 singing weakly)
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 2
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 6
Zosterops sp. 24
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 1
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 2
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 11
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 2
Naumann’s/Dusky Thrush T. naumanni/T. eunomus 5
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 19 (3 ad. male)
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 57
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 1
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 50
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 4 leucopsis
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 5
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 54
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes 5
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 25
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 1 male singing
Tristram’s Bunting E. tristrami 5
Rustic Bunting E. rustica 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 52
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 4

Fri. 13 Nov. 2015
Lesser Yangshan & Nanhui

At Nanhui, Elaine and I found a late Japanese Paradise Flycatcher and 7 Black-faced Spoonbill. Buff-bellied Pipit were numerous. We noted 2 Peregrine Falcon on Lesser Yangshan.

The day began on Sijiao Island. We awoke at our small hotel and drove through the rain to the ferry terminal. The crossing was uneventful. Once on Lesser Yangshan, we drove straight to the parking area at Temple Mount and began birding. At Garbage Dump Gully we noted a female Mugimaki FlycatcherFicedula mugimaki always being the last of its genus to depart the Shanghai area. 3 of the 6 Red-flanked Bluetail were adult males. Impressive flocks of Brambling contained a total of 175 individuals. One of the Bull-headed Shrike was an adult.

At Nanhui we squinted into the backlit mudflats and found hundreds of duck, the most numerous by far being Eastern Spot-billed Duck. I managed to pick out several Mallard and a Northern Pintail before the cloud of birds moved even further out. We visited all 8 of the microforests and found Taiga Flycatcher, Goldcrest, and the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. We birded till dark then drove to Dongtai, Jiangsu.

List 1 of 2 for Fri. 13 Nov. 2015 (28 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). Mostly cloudy. Winds WNW 25 km/h. High 17°C. FRI 13 NOV 2015 11:25-14:10.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 3
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 2
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 2
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 5
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 3
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 35
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 1
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 2
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 3
Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 5
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 3
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 6 (3 ad. males)
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 23
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 1
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 4
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 3
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 175
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 2
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 13
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 2

Eurasian Sparrowhawk on Lesser Yangshan.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk on Lesser Yangshan.

List 2 of 2 for Fri. 13 Nov. 2015 (35 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). Mostly cloudy. Winds WNW 25 km/h. High 17°C. FRI 13 NOV 2015 14:45-17:10.

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos ca. 50
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha ca. 1000
Northern Pintail A. acuta 1
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 5
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 11
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 9
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 7
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 60
Great Egret Ardea alba 13
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 175
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 5
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 5
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata 1
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis ca. 50
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 3
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 2
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 20
Goldcrest Regulus regulus 1
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 10
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 5
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 3
Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 10
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 3
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 7 tschutschensis
White Wagtail M. alba 25
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 3
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 35
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 2
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 3
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 4
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 1

Featured image: Rock, sea, and hills covered with original Sijiao scrub, Liujingtan Scenic Area, Sijiao Island, Zhoushan, Zhejiang, China, 12 Nov. 2015.

70 Species at Yangshan & Nanhui

On Sat. 7 Nov. 2015 our birding Dream Team noted 70 species. Nanhui once again outshone Lesser Yangshan, yielding 12 Black-faced Spoonbill and Dalmatian Pelican. Japanese Thrush were particularly abundant, with a count of 37. A juvenile Rook, uncommon in Shanghai, flew by briefly, and we noted 3 Reed Parrotbill.

At Nanhui we noted 37 Japanese Thrush, a high for me at that location. I paid particular attention to the females, shown here, as they are even more shy than the males.
At Nanhui we noted 37 Japanese Thrush, a high for me at that location. I paid particular attention to the females, shown here, as they are even more shy than the males.

The unseasonably warm day began on Lesser Yangshan. We saw two sizable flocks of Brambling, noted Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Black Kite, and found singing Meadow Bunting, territorial even in November.

At the Magic Parking Lot in Nanhui, we waited with the photographers for a smart male Siberian Rubythroat before driving down to the empty, blue-roofed building. The scrubby fields near the building produced 7 Japanese Quail as well as Peregrine Falcon, Hen Harrier, Eastern Marsh Harrier, the Rook, and several of the Japanese Thrush. In the nearby microforests, Japanese Thrush and Eyebrowed Thrush were massing in big flocks, underscoring the importance of those woodsy oases amid the reeds and rice fields that cover most of the area.

Exhausted from the heat, we sat down in Microforest 1 to rest. This was a good decision, as the quiet sitting allowed shyer birds to appear from the reeds just behind the trees. Among these were Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler and the Reed Parrotbills. A Brambling loitered on the forest floor, grooming itself. A Siskin, too hungry to care about us, picked at a seed head just meters away. Red-flanked Bluetail and Daurian Redstart foraged right at our feet.

At the Magic GPS Point, a Pale Thrush flew into a window at the garishly large, completely empty building next to the Holiday Inn. I picked up the unconscious bird, an adult male. The thrush had flown hundreds of kilometers to get to Nanhui, but it was exquisite, a beautiful specimen, flawless and clean. I stroked the incredibly soft, smooth feathers, marveling at their beauty. We snapped pictures of the outer tail feathers showing the white tip, important for ID’ing Pale Thrushes in flight. We set it down in a flower bed next to the rotten carcass of a Black-capped Kingfisher that doubtlessly had met its end by flying into the same huge windows. We feared the thrush was dead, but to our surprise, when we came back a while later, the thrush had disappeared. Few Chinese pick up dead birds, and I’ve never seen cats in the area, so it is highly possible that the thrush survived the collision and went on its way.

Holding this Pale Thrush, feeling its body heat, admiring its pristine plumage, flawless despite the long flight from northeast Asia–what a moving experience. We thought we had lost this adult male, but when we returned later and saw no bird, we were filled with hope.
Holding this Pale Thrush, feeling its body heat, admiring its pristine plumage, flawless despite the long flight from northeast Asia–what a moving experience. We thought we had lost this adult male, but when we returned later and saw no bird, we were filled with hope.

The Rook, a scarce winter visitor in the Shanghai region, required some analysis; it was a good thing I got photos. Looking at the photos on my MacBook, I had the following thought process: (1) Bill, forehead much unlike Large-billed. (2) Is our bird therefore Carrion Crow or juvenile Rook? (3) Mark Brazil (Birds of East Asia) has Rook as a winter visitor to Shanghai region but has Carrion Crow no further S than Hebei. Elaine and I also have experience with Rook in this region; we noted 2 Rook on Lesser Yangshan on 20 Sept. 2014. We have never noted Carrion Crow in the region. (4) My photos clearly show a crow with a straight culmen, not decurved like that of Carrion–a straight culmen being a classic feature of Rook.

This bird has a culmen less decurved than that of Carrion Crow, leading me to believe that it is a juvenile Rook.
This bird has a culmen less decurved than that of Carrion Crow, leading me to believe that it is a juvenile Rook.

The all-black crows are uncommon in Shanghai. Whenever birders see an all-black crow in this area, we should take it seriously and try hard for an ID. Many birders find crows boring, but Rook in Shanghai is one of the most interesting records we had that day.

The Dream Team consists of veteran birder Michael Grunwell, husband-and-wife team Stephan Popp and Xueping Popp, Elaine, and me. With Michael’s knowledge and Xueping and Elaine’s diligence, and with Stephan and me taking care of the record shots, the Dream Team almost always nails the ID.

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 7 Nov. 2015 (29 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), Xiǎoyánglíng Cove (30.642243, 122.066940), & Temple Mount (30.639945, 122.048277). Partly cloudy turning mostly cloudy, with little wind. Visibility ca. 20 km. Unseasonably warm. High 26°C. SAT 07 NOV 2015 07:05-09:10.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 3
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 3
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 2
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 20
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 2
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 2
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 4
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 2
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 8
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 10
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 1
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 6
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 65
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 20
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 2 (1 singing)
Little Bunting E. pusilla 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 1

Eyebrowed Thrush breeds from central Siberia to Kamchatka and winters from south China to Indonesia. These graceful birds have already come a long way, and they still have far to go.
Eyebrowed Thrush breeds from central Siberia to Kamchatka and winters from south China to Indonesia. These graceful birds have already come a long way, and they still have far to go.

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 7 Nov. 2015 (63 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). Partly cloudy turning mostly cloudy, with little wind. Unseasonably warm. Visibility ca. 20 km. High 26°C. SAT 07 NOV 2015 09:40-16:10.

Taiga/Tundra Bean Goose Anser fabalis/A. serrirostris 18
Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 15
Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica 7
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 6
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 2
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 12
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 15
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 30
Great Egret A. alba 4
Little Egret Egretta garzetta ca. 50
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus 1
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 2
Hen Harrier C. cyaneus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 1
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 30
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 7
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis 10
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 15
Dunlin Calidris alpina 30
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 10
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 6
Rook Corvus frugilegus pastinator 1
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus ca. 50
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis 15
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 30
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 2
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 3
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 3
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 40
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 3
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 20
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 10
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 37
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 22
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 16
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 14
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 20
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 200
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 8
White Wagtail M. alba 8
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 1
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni 10
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 3
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 1
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 3
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 6
Chestnut-eared Bunting E. fucata 2
Little Bunting E. pusilla 10
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 6
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 7
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 8

Featured image: Stephan Popp using Craig’s spotting scope, Elaine Du in background. Nanhui, Shanghai, China, 7 November 2015