The coastal areas east of Dishui Lake are what local birders mean when they say “Cape Nanhui.” The site in southeast Pudong, 85 km from People’s Square, is the richest birding area in mainland Shanghai. The map below shows some of the better spots.
Smack on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, Cape Nanhui is the southeastern-most point in Pudong New Area and the city-province of Shanghai. The area provides a taste of the coastal migration on the eastern edge of Eurasia. In summer, birders also can find local breeding birds and in winter an array of winter visitors. The area is worth birding 12 months of the year.
Unremitting development has eaten up many of the reed beds, and land reclamation threatens to take even more of the mudflats. For the moment, though, good habitat remains. Among the endangered species finding refuge at Cape Nanhui are Black-faced Spoonbill and Oriental Stork. Other endangered migrants such as Nordmann’s Greenshank, Great Knot, Far Eastern Curlew, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and Yellow-breasted Bunting pass through Nanhui each year. Despite the flattening and splitting of the reed beds, Nanhui resident Reed Parrotbill is holding on.
A major attraction is the eight microforests along the 9.5 km stretch between the Magic Parking Lot (30.884992, 121.968317) and the empty blue-roofed building (30.957694, 121.951278). During migration season, astonishing numbers of birds rely on this woodland archipelago amid the sea of reeds.
Passerines are the main visitors to these migrant traps. In a single microforest in April and May or September and October, it is possible to view East Asian specialties such as Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, White’s Thrush, Siberian Thrush, Grey-backed Thrush, Japanese Thrush, Rufous-tailed Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Siberian Blue Robin, Yellow-throated Bunting, and Tristram’s Bunting. Notable non-passerines are Eurasian Woodcock, Oriental Scops Owl, and Grey Nightjar.
Of the many families represented in the microforests, Muscicapidae stands out. Among the species commonly appearing are Narcissus Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Dark-sided Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Taiga Flycatcher, and White-throated Rock Thrush. Daurian Redstart and Red-flanked Bluetail arrive every September and October and spend the winter.
The Magic Parking Lot and Magic GPS Point (30.880563, 121.964551) function just like the microforests. During migration season, the Magic Parking Lot attracts throngs of photographers, most of whom are friendly and willing to share information about the birds currently in the area.
PONDS & MUDDY AREAS
The ponds and muddy areas at Cape Nanhui offer a wide selection of birds, usually in small numbers. Oriental Pratincole breed in the area and at certain times of the year mass in the hundreds. During migration season, a birder’s Nanhui wader list may include Black-tailed Godwit, Red Knot, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, and Long-toed Stint. Among the more numerous ducks are Eastern Spot-billed Duck and Eurasian Teal. Less numerous ducks include Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Mallard. Smew are sometimes noted. Great Egret, Intermediate Egret, and Purple Heron have all been counted there, and Little Egret is among the most numerous birds at Nanhui. Western Osprey fish in the ponds.
SCRUB & FIELDS
The scrub and fields of Nanhui offer a unique set of birds. At large, open areas such as the one around the empty blue-roofed building, one can see Japanese Quail, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, migrating Eurasian Wryneck and Oriental Dollarbird, Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Skylark, Stejneger’s Stonechat, Richard’s Pipit, Buff-bellied Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, Chestnut-eared Bunting, plus three subspecies of White Wagtail (leucopsis, lugens, ocularis) and all three subspecies of Eastern Yellow Wagtail (macronyx [rare], tschutschensis, taivana).
Take one of several roads leading into the reed beds. My favorite road is marked on the map above (the coordinates are 30.912908, 121.972735). There you can find booming Eurasian Bittern, Yellow Bittern, breeding Oriental Reed Warbler and the Common Cuckoo that parasitize their nests, Chinese Penduline Tit, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Reed Parrotbill, large flocks of Vinous-throated Parrotbill, and if you are very lucky migrating Middendorf’s Grasshopper Warbler and Japanese Reed Bunting. Marsh Grassbird, Manchurian Bush Warbler, and Brown-flanked Bush Warbler sing in spring, and Pallas’s Reed Bunting spend the winter.
This circular pond is worth checking in winter. Falcated Duck gather here in their hundreds, Tufted Duck and Greater Scaup flock together, and among the many Little Grebe one can make out a few Black-necked Grebe. Swan Goose and Horned Grebe have been recorded here. Check the lawn for Dusky Thrush.
Because bird photographers as well as birders use the area, Nanhui has the distinction, rare in China, of being well-covered. During migration season, unusual sightings are regularly reported. A sample of uncommon or out-of-range birds found at Nanhui includes Greater Scaup, Dalmatian Pelican, Black Bittern, Chinese Egret, Swinhoe’s Rail, Siberian Crane, Hooded Crane, Oriental Plover, Jack Snipe, Long-billed Dowitcher, Asian Dowitcher, Himalayan Swiftlet, Japanese Scops Owl, Ruddy Kingfisher, Rufous-faced Warbler, Alström’s Warbler, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Red-throated Thrush, Verditer Flycatcher, and Japanese Robin.
For even more rare sightings over the years, check our Sightings page.
It’s possible to drive or take public transport to Nanhui.
Driving: In Pudong, take the S2 south to the exit called Liǎnggǎng Dàdào (两港大道). Set your navigation software to the Magic GPS Point and begin birding there.
Metro: Take Line 16 to the terminus at Dishui Lake (Dīshuǐ Hú [滴水湖]). Some birders take a taxi to the microforests near the empty blue-roofed building and from there walk 9.5 km to the bus stop at the Holiday Inn near the Magic Parking Lot. From there, they take the bus back to Dishui Lake. It’s also possible to take the bus from the terminus to the Holiday Inn, but note that because the only bus stop in the area is at the Holiday Inn, a birder choosing this option would have to double back to the point of origin. Some birders take the taxi from the terminus and get the driver’s phone number, calling him back when they are ready to go. Still others take the taxi to the birding sites and walk all the way back to the terminus.
According to eBird, Cape Nanhui is one of the most important birding hotspots in China. Click here to view the eBird page for Pudong Nanhui Dongtan Wetland.
Featured image: Microforests 3-8, with scrubby area near empty blue-roofed building.