Habitat and Donghai Bridge behind Temple Mount, Lesser Yangshan Island.

Lesser Yangshan Island

Part of Zhejiang but much relied upon by Shanghai, Lesser Yangshan Island is home to Shanghai’s deep-water port. Known in Chinese as Xiǎo Yángshān (小洋山), the island lies 25 km off the coast of Cape Nanhui and is accessible by car over the Donghai Bridge.

A PLACE FOR PASSERINES

Migrating passerines are the major attraction. Buntings are particularly well-represented, with 11 Emberiza species on my Lesser Yangshan list: the endangered Yellow Bunting and Yellow-breasted Bunting, Lesser Yangshan breeder Meadow Bunting, plus passage migrants and winter visitors Tristram’s Bunting, Chestnut Bunting, Chestnut-eared Bunting, Yellow-browed Bunting, Yellow-throated Bunting, Little Bunting, Rustic Bunting, and Black-faced Bunting. As many as seven of those species have been present in a single day.

Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides breeds on the island. This species defends territories even in winter, filling the coves and gullies with its lively song.
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides breeds on the island. This species defends territories even in winter, filling the coves and gullies with its lively song. (Craig Brelsford)

Thrushes are almost as well-represented, with uncommon species such as Japanese Thrush, Brown-headed Thrush, Naumann’s Thrush, and Chinese Thrush regularly seen along with White’s Thrush, Siberian Thrush, Dusky Thrush, Pale Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Grey-backed Thrush.

Muscicapids also are numerous during migration season; Asian Brown Flycatcher, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, and Dark-sided Flycatcher sometimes appear on the same tree. Siberian Blue Robin and Siberian Rubythroat are commonly noted, and at certain times of year, Daurian Redstart seem to own the island. Brown-flanked Bush Warbler and Japanese Bush Warbler sing on Lesser Yangshan. Pallas’s Leaf Warbler can be found throughout the winter, often accompanied by Goldcrest. Arctic Warbler and Eastern Crowned Warbler are passage migrants.

A group of Varied Tit spent several months on Lesser Yangshan in 2012 and 2013.
A group of Varied Tit spent several months on Lesser Yangshan in 2012 and 2013. (Craig Brelsford)

OTHER BIRDS & RARITIES

Raptors are not numerous but are usually available. Common Kestrel breeds on the island, and other falcons such as Peregrine Falcon are often seen. Crested Honey Buzzard makes an occasional appearance. Cuculus cuckoos are a guaranteed tick in May and September, Grey Nightjar are regularly noted, and owls such as Northern Boobook use the island. Ducks, shorebirds, and herons are relatively few, but Chinese Egret seem to be a regular presence there.

Crested Honey Buzzard appears occasionally in the skies above Lesser Yangshan Island.
Crested Honey Buzzard occasionally appears on Lesser Yangshan Island. (Craig Brelsford)

Every year sees an unusual record: Chestnut-cheeked Starling in 2015, Brown-eared Bulbul and Northern Wheatear in 2014, Varied Tit in 2012-13, and Japanese Robin and White-bellied Green Pigeon in 2012. Verditer Flycatcher and Rufous-faced Warbler sometimes show up, and Japanese Grosbeak is rarely noted.

This Northern Wheatear made a brief, sensational appearance on Lesser Yangshan on 21 Sept. 2014.
This Northern Wheatear made a brief, sensational appearance on Lesser Yangshan on 21 Sept. 2014. (Craig Brelsford)

DIRECTIONS & TIPS

Birders can usually cover Lesser Yangshan in three to four hours.

Directions: Private transport is essential at Lesser Yangshan. In Pudong, take the S2 south to Donghai Bridge. Cross the bridge (you’ll still be on the S2) and on Lesser Yangshan take the Xi’ao Nanlu/Terminal 2 exit (the exit right before the tunnel). Drive to the point on the map labeled “Suggested Parking Area” and begin birding.

Do not park at the gate to Garbage Dump Coastal Plain. It’s apparently against the rules for outsiders even to be at Garbage Dump Coastal Plain, Garbage Dump Gully, and Xiǎoyánglíng Cove, and the security guards will approach you, and may even bar you from entering, if you park at the gate. However, the guards have never harassed me when I have simply walked in. It’s simpler to park at the Suggested Parking Area at the foot of the trail leading to Temple Mount. A police station is nearby, so your car should be safe. After you have birded Temple Mount, walk to the point labeled “Temple Mount Trail N Terminus.” From there it’s a few minutes’ walk to Garbage Dump Coastal Plain. Look for Blue Rock Thrush en route.

Every spring and autumn, one or two Verditer Flycatcher are recorded on Lesser Yangshan.
Every spring and autumn, one or two Verditer Flycatcher are recorded on Lesser Yangshan. (Craig Brelsford)

The air is fresh on Lesser Yangshan, especially when the wind is coming from the east. Though close to the mainland and Shanghai, the weather here can be quite different; forecasts for the nearby Shengsi Islands are more pertinent to Lesser Yangshan than those for Shanghai. Lesser Yangshan can be windy and several degrees colder than urban Shanghai, so dress accordingly.

GREATER YANGSHAN ISLAND & SIJIAO ISLAND

Greater Yangshan Island (Dà Yángshān [大洋山]) is just across the strait from Lesser Yangshan, and Sijiao Island (Sìjiāoshān [泗礁山]) is a 90-minute ferry ride away. Both islands are larger than Lesser Yangshan and have more natural habitats, but are harder to reach. I have made a single visit to Greater Yangshan and Sijiao each, and while impressed with the scenery and the local culture I found no birds on those islands that I had not seen on Lesser Yangshan. More research is needed, and I will welcome others’ observations.

Rock, sea, and hills covered with primary scrub, Sijao Island, 12 Nov. 2015. This scene is from the valley below the main entrance to Liujingtan Scenic Area on the far eastern tip of the island.
Rock, sea, and hills covered with primary scrub, Sijao Island, 12 Nov. 2015. This scene is from the valley below the main entrance to Liujingtan Scenic Area on the far eastern tip of the island. (Craig Brelsford)

eBIRD

Click here to view the eBird hotspot page for Xiao Yangshan Island.

Featured image: Habitat and Donghai Bridge behind Temple Mount, Lesser Yangshan Island. (Craig Brelsford)

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