Emeifeng 2015, Part 2

This post is about birding Emeifeng in the spring of 2015. The mountain in western Fujian, not to be confused with the more famous Emeishan in Sichuan, ranks high on Shanghai birders’ must-see lists. It is a reliable site for Cabot’s Tragopan, Elliot’s Pheasant, and White-necklaced Partridge, and its vast forests provide habitat for other key southeastern Chinese species. A bit too far to drive, a bit too close to fly, Emeifeng is the perfect expedition for the high-speed train.

This post covers 28 to 31 May 2015, the second of my two four-day trips to the mountain. A post on the first trip, which took place 30 April to 3 May 2015, was published on 12 Jan. 2017.

The photo above, by Elaine Du, shows Craig Brelsford searching for Brown Bush Warbler in the pristine alpine scrub on Emeifeng, elev. 1650 m (5,410 ft.).

HIGHLIGHTS

Cabot's Tragopan, Emeifeng, 1 May 2015.
Female Cabot’s Tragopan, Emeifeng. A mountain in western Fujian, Emeifeng (27.006583, 117.076389) is a reliable spot for Cabot’s Tragopan, Elliot’s Pheasant, and White-necklaced Partridge. For eight days in spring 2015, Elaine Du and I birded the thickly forested mountain, noting dozens of key southeastern Chinese species. (Craig Brelsford)

— Noting the five key game birds: Elliot’s Pheasant, Cabot’s Tragopan, Koklass Pheasant, Silver Pheasant, and White-necklaced Partridge, as well as the beautiful Chinese Bamboo Partridge

— Closely studying three Phylloscopus warblers that breed in southern China: Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis, Sulphur-breasted Warbler P. ricketti, and Hartert’s Leaf Warbler P. goodsoni fokiensis, as well as having close encounters with White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius

Major breeding Phylloscopidae warblers of Emeifeng. Craig Brelsford.
Emeifeng is a good place to study Buff-throated Warbler (top L), Hartert’s Leaf Warbler (top R), Sulphur-breasted Warbler (bottom L), and White-spectacled Warbler (bottom R). All four species breed on the mountain. (Craig Brelsford)

— At Shuibu Reservoir, finding Blue-throated Bee-eater, a species unexpected around Emeifeng

— Finding 4 of China’s 5 species of forktail: Little Forktail Enicurus scouleri, Slaty-backed Forktail E. schistaceus, White-crowned Forktail E. leschenaulti sinensis, and Spotted Forktail E. maculatus bacatus

— Hearing the many calls and songs of the accomplished vocalist Buffy Laughingthrush

— Hearing Spotted Elachura singing along a rushing stream

Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus rex, 3 May 2015.
Yellow-cheeked Tit, one of dozens of south China species we noted at Emeifeng. Machlolophus spilonotus rex was noted by us on seven of our eight birding days there. (Craig Brelsford)

— Noting 103 species, 81 on the first trip, 86 on the second. Among the birds we found were key southern Chinese species such as Black Bittern, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Great Barbet, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Sultan Tit, Brown Bush Warbler, Small Niltava, Verditer Flycatcher, Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, White-bellied Erpornis, and Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler

— Enjoying the clean air and unspoiled beauty of Emeifeng

Emeifeng mountain road, 2 May 2015. Craig Brelsford.
Michael Grunwell stands on the Emeifeng mountain road, 2 May 2015. The elevation here is 1350 m (4,430 ft.). A dense hardwood forest covers the mountainside. Cabot’s Tragopan and White-necklaced Partridge thrive in these woods. (Craig Brelsford)

Wed. 27 May 2015
Taining

During our first trip to Emeifeng, Michael Grunwell, my wife Elaine Du, and I agreed to bird the mountain about a month later to see the changes four weeks would bring. Today, that second trip began. As in April, Elaine and I took the high-speed train from Shanghai to Nanchang and at Nanchang boarded the train to Taining. We once again checked in to Huada Hotel (Huádà Jiǔdiàn [华大酒店], +86 598-7817777).

With my camera in the repair shop, I was denied the opportunity to take photographs. I focused harder on good old-fashioned birding and made many sound recordings. The bird photos in this post come from other trips.

Thurs. 28 May 2015

Birds of Emeifeng, 28 May 2015. Red-billed Blue Magpie (L), and Verditer Flycatcher.
Birds of Emeifeng, 28 May 2015. L: Red-billed Blue Magpie, Emeifeng, 2 May 2015. R: Verditer Flycatcher, Laifengshan National Forest Park, Tengchong, Yunnan, 21 Feb. 2010. (Craig Brelsford)

On our return to Emeifeng, Elaine and I noted 57 species. Bird of the day was Elliot’s Pheasant. Other noteworthy birds were 5 Silver Pheasant and 16 Buffy Laughingthrush. Little Forktail became our fourth species of forktail seen at Emeifeng, and Yellow-cheeked Tit put on an amazing vocal display.

Elliot’s Pheasant was a life bird for Elaine and me. We found a male near the road to Qingyun Temple just above kilometer marker 8 at an elevation of 1100 m. The bird allowed us several seconds to view it before it slipped away. 4 of the 5 Silver Pheasant we noted were in a flock (3 males, 1 female) on a hillside just above km 6 at an elev. of 940 m.

As was the case four weeks ago, we noted White-spectacled Warbler only above elev. 1400 m. The song of this species, coming from various directions, was one of the most common bird sounds today around Qingyun Temple. Hartert’s Leaf Warbler was not seen, but our other two “southern” leaf warblers from our earlier trip, Buff-throated Warbler and Sulphur-breasted Warbler, were represented by 1 individual each. Buff-throated Warbler was found along the boardwalk to Qingyun Temple and is presumably one of the same pair that I met at that spot on 30 April. The Sulphur-breasted Warbler that I found four weeks ago responded to playback with song; today’s Sulphur-breasted Warbler responded with a brief call.

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Elephant Valley, Yunnan, 1 Jan. 2012.
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, a classic forest bird. We noted the species on four of our eight days at Emeifeng. I got this image at Elephant Valley, Yunnan, on 1 Jan. 2012. (Craig Brelsford)

Fog shrouded the Qingyun Temple area most of the day. When it finally cleared, around 15:00, birds became active, as though it were dawn. 8 Buffy Laughingthrush were the main component of a foraging party that included 3 Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush. They moved through the forest next to the boardwalk. The loud, jazzy sound of Buffy Laughingthrush caused a carpenter working in the area to start singing along. Another powerful singer in that wood was Yellow-cheeked Tit. A beautiful male performed three distinct songs for us, stopping only to devour a caterpillar:

Yellow-cheeked Tit, Emeifeng, 28 May 2015 (00:18; 1.5 MB)

Yellow-cheeked Tit, Emeifeng, 28 May 2015 (00:05; 1 MB)

Besides the 8 Buffy Laughingthrush near the temple, we found a flock of 6 quickly crossing the road, 1 amid a flock of 25 Grey-headed Parrotbill, and 1 heard calling from some distant spot in the forest. A pair of Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler were foraging together and calling antiphonally. We found them near the villages in the lower country at an elevation of about 750 m.

Besides Elliot’s Pheasant and Little Forktail, Elaine and I today added Lesser Cuckoo, Masked Laughingthrush, Brown Dipper, and Fire-breasted Flowerpecker to our Emeifeng list.

For our driver we once again hired Dèng Zhōngpíng (邓忠平, +86 138-6059-6327; no English, non-smoker).

Fri. 29 May 2015

Elaine and I noted 63 species. The highlight of the day was finding Blue-throated Bee-eater and Oriental Dollarbird on a utility wire above Shuibu Reservoir. Blue-throated Bee-eater was new to our Emeifeng list and a lifer for Elaine. Other new birds were Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Common Kingfisher, Crested Kingfisher, Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Black-naped Oriole, Black Drongo, Red-billed Starling, and White-rumped Munia.

Sat. 30 May 2015

A monotypic species, Brown Bush Warbler <em>Locustella luteoventris</em> ranges from India across southern China to Fujian and Zhejiang. At Emeifeng we found Brown Bush Warbler exclusively near Qingyun Temple in high-quality alpine scrub at elevations between 1500 m and 1600 m. We noted the bird only on the second half of the trip, on 30 and 31 May 2015. As my camera was in the shop, I got no photos of the Emeifeng Brown Bush Warblers. The photo here is of a Brown Bush Warbler at Mt. Wawu, Sichuan, taken by me on 10 July 2010.
A monotypic species, Brown Bush Warbler Locustella luteoventris ranges from India across southern China to Fujian and Zhejiang. At Emeifeng we found the species exclusively near Qingyun Temple in high-quality alpine scrub at elevations between 1500 m and 1700 m (4,920 ft. to 5,580 ft.). We noted the bird only on the second half of the trip, with 6 found on 30 May 2015 and 5 the next day. As my camera was in the shop in late May 2015, I got no photos of Brown Bush Warbler at Emeifeng. I shot the photos here at Mt. Wawu, Sichuan, 10 July 2010. (Craig Brelsford)

Michael Grunwell joined Elaine and me. We noted 54 species. Elliot’s Pheasant were seen in poor light, Cabot’s Tragopan appeared at an elevation of about 1400 m, Blue-throated Bee-eater were present by Shuibu Reservoir, and Brown Bush Warbler were staking out territories at the top of the Emeifeng altitudinal layer-cake.

The Elliot’s were near Shuibu Reservoir at an elevation of about 750 m. As darkness was falling, Michael, walking ahead of us along the road, inadvertently flushed a sub-adult male. Elaine and I arrived in time to see 5 females (or perhaps fledglings) exploding into flight from positions just a few meters from us. The tragopans were seen earlier but also in low light, this caused by fog.

Blue-throated Bee-eater, Qiliping, Hebei, 4 July 2011. Craig Brelsford.
Blue-throated Bee-eater was a surprising find in the forests around Shuibu Reservoir. I photographed this adult at Qiliping, Hubei (31.506333, 114.663000) on 4 July 2011. (Craig Brelsford)

The Blue-throated Bee-eater are a mystery; the species apparently has not bred in the area in recent memory. The habitat around Shuibu Reservoir seems favorable. There are plenty of vertical surfaces of soft earth in which to construct cavity nests, and the artificial lake is at a remote location, near the Fujian-Jiangxi border.

We noted all our Brown Bush Warbler at altitudes of 1500 m to 1700 m (between Qingyun Temple and the radio tower). At Emeifeng, the dense alpine scrub that Locustella luteoventris favors occurs only at those altitudes. Confident in their nearly impenetrable tangle of vegetation, the extreme skulkers allowed us to peek in from distances of less than 2 m. I recorded the soft, monotonous song of this species, like a sewing machine running or an automobile idling.

Brown Bush Warbler, sewing-machine song, Emeifeng, elev. ca. 1600 m, 30 May 2015 (00:06; 266 KB)

Brown Bush Warbler, sewing-machine song, Emeifeng, elev. ca. 1600 m, 30 May 2015 (00:24; 999 KB)

The three of us wanted to explore more of the high country on the peak directly opposite the radio tower, but clouds again engulfed the ridgeline, and rain started to fall.

A search for Spotted Elachura between kilometer markers 12 and 13 got us wet feet but no bird. Hartert’s Leaf Warbler and Sulphur-breasted Warbler also were not noted, a surprise given that we had heard these species singing and defending territories a month earlier.

Besides Brown Bush Warbler, Elaine and I today added Black Bittern and Asian Barred Owlet to our Emeifeng list.

Sun. 31 May 2015

Elaine Du in alpine scrub, Emeifeng, 31 May 2015.
Elaine Du in rich alpine scrub, Emeifeng, 31 May 2015. (Craig Brelsford)

Elaine and I noted 48 species. From the lodge area atop Emeifeng we walked to the little tower on the slope opposite the radio tower. The little tower sits amid pristine alpine scrub and is reachable only by foot. We walked to an elevation of about 1650 m. We were searching for Russet Bush Warbler and failed to find it. We found species similar to those in the scrub between the radio tower and Qingyun Temple, among them Brown Bush Warbler and Buff-throated Warbler.

Earlier, on the dirt road behind the locked gate in the lodge area, Mr. Deng came running back to me, signaling for me to come. We tiptoed a few steps, and there she was, the queen of the high forest, a female Cabot’s Tragopan. She was standing on the edge of the forest track. The tragopan did not flee but foraged calmly in front of us for two magic minutes before creeping silently into the forest.

The magic feeling continued in the alpine scrub. We saw no evidence of logging; the scrub is there not because an older forest was cut, but because Mother Nature intended it that way. The place exudes health and balance. Grass grows lushly, and one can look at almost any spot on the ground and find many types of colorful insects. Butterflies flit from flower to flower. When the clouds parted, we enjoyed the commanding view of the forest below. Flybys of Great Barbet and Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush enlivened the scene. White-necklaced Partridge, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, and Lesser Cuckoo called from hidden locations below. Buff-throated Warbler were busy patrolling their territories, standing sentinel atop the shrubs. Brown Bush Warbler were not calling spontaneously, and their presence might not have been detected but for their vigorous response to playback.

Rich alpine scrub, elev. 1600 m, Emeifeng, Fujian, 31 May 2015.
Another look at the rich alpine scrub atop Emeifeng on 31 May 2015. The grass there is lush, the turf thick, the smell of the earth fragrant. Insects abound. No goats graze, and there is no evidence of logging. The place exudes health and balance. (Craig Brelsford)

The day was nearly windless, and few tourists were visiting the top. The golden silence was broken only by birds, among them a drumming Speckled Piculet. The songs of Blyth’s Shrike-babbler and White-spectacled Warbler carried far. In the contest of laughingthrush songs, Chinese Hwamei took the prize for power, and Buffy Laughingthrush won for melody. Here is a selection of what we heard:

White-spectacled Warbler, Emeifeng, 31 May 2015 (00:03; 913 KB)

Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, Emeifeng, 31 May 2015 (00:10; 1.2 MB)

Speckled Piculet, Emeifeng, 31 May 2015 (01:10; 3.6 MB)

Driving back down the hill, we found a male Silver Pheasant at ca. 1300 m and a female Elliot’s Pheasant at ca. 1200 m.

In addition to Speckled Piculet, Black-collared Starling was new to our Emeifeng list.

PHOTOS

Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler, by Craig Brelsford.
Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler was noted by us on three of our eight days at Emeifeng. Pomatorhinus swinhoei is endemic to southeast China. I got these photos 15 Nov. 2014 in Wuyuan County, Jiangxi. (Craig Brelsford)
Crested Kingfisher, Qiliping, Hubei, 3 July 2011. Craig Brelsford.
A Crested Kingfisher emerges from a creek after an unsuccessful dive. I took this photo 3 July 2011 at Qiliping, Hubei (31.506333, 114.663000). On 29 May 2015 at Shuibu Reservoir below Emeifeng, Elaine and I noted 3 Crested Kingfisher. (Craig Brelsford)
Asian Barred Owlet, Xishuangbanna Botanical Garden, Yunnan, China, 20 Jan. 2012. Photo by Craig Brelsford.
On 30 May 2015 we noted a single Asian Barred Owlet in farmland below Emeifeng. The 30 species of pygmy owl, genus Glaucidium, occur on all the inhabited continents except Australia. Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides ranges from the Himalaya to Southeast Asia and south China. I photographed this individual at Xishuangbanna Botanical Garden (21.932582, 101.248453), Yunnan on 20 Jan. 2012. (Craig Brelsford)
Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Hangzhou Botanical Garden, 21 June 2008. Craig Brelsford.
We found Chinese Bamboo Partridge on seven of our eight birding days at Emeifeng. I photographed this pair at Hangzhou Botanical Park on 21 June 2008. (Craig Brelsford)

SYSTEMATIC LIST

Birds Noted Around Emeifeng, Fujian, China, 30 April 2015 to 3 May 2015 and 28-31 May 2015 (103 species)

Anseriformes: Anatidae

Mandarin Duck
鸳鸯 (yuānyāng)
Aix galericulata

9 on 2015-05-02
23 on 2015-05-03
1 on 2015-05-28
15 on 2015-05-30

Galliformes: Phasianidae

White-necklaced Partridge
白眉山鹧鸪 (báiméi shānzhègū)
Arborophila gingica

8 heard on 2015-04-30
1 heard on 2015-05-01
4 on 2015-05-03
2 heard on 2015-05-30
2 heard on 2015-05-31

Chinese Bamboo Partridge
灰胸竹鸡 (huīxiōng zhújī)
Bambusicola thoracicus

7 on 2015-04-30
14 on 2015-05-02
10 heard on 2015-05-03
6 on 2015-05-28
19 on 2015-05-29
9 on 2015-05-30
5 on 2015-05-31

Cabot’s Tragopan
黄腹角雉 (huángfù jiǎozhì)
Tragopan caboti

2 (male & female) on 2015-05-01
1 male on 2015-05-02
2 on 2015-05-03
3 (1 male, 2 females) on 2015-05-30
1 female on 2015-05-31

Silver Pheasant
白鹇 (bái xián)
Lophura nycthemera fokiensis

1 on 2015-04-30
9 on 2015-05-01
1 on 2015-05-03
5 on 2015-05-28
1 on 2015-05-31

Elliot’s Pheasant
白颈长尾雉 (báijǐng chángwěizhì)
Syrmaticus ellioti

1 male on 2015-05-28
6 on 2015-05-30
1 female on 2015-05-31

Pelecaniformes: Ardeidae

Black Bittern
黑鳽 (hēiyán)
Dupetor flavicollis

1 on 2015-05-30

Chinese Pond Heron
池鹭 (chílù)
Ardeola bacchus

1 on 2015-04-30
2 on 2015-05-02
5 on 2015-05-03
3 on 2015-05-29
3 on 2015-05-30
1 on 2015-05-31

Eastern Cattle Egret
牛背鹭 (niúbèi lù)
Bulbulcus coromandus

5 on 2015-05-02
1 on 2015-05-03
5 on 2015-05-28
1 on 2015-05-31

Little Egret
白鹭 (báilù)
Egretta garzetta

6 on 2015-05-03
3 on 2015-05-30

Accipitriformes: Accipitridae

Mountain Hawk-Eagle
鹰雕 (yīngdiāo)
Nisaetus nipalensis

1 on 2015-05-29

Black Eagle
林雕 (líndiāo)
Ictinaetus malaiensis

2 on 2015-04-30
2 on 2015-05-03

Crested Goshawk
凤头鹰 (fèngtóu yīng)
Accipiter trivirgatus indicus

1 on 2015-04-30
1 on 2015-05-30

Chinese Sparrowhawk
赤腹鹰 (chìfù yīng)
Accipiter soloensis

9 on 2015-04-30
1 on 2015-05-01
4 on 2015-05-02
4 on 2015-05-03
2 on 2015-05-29
4 on 2015-05-30

Besra
松雀鹰 (sōngquèyīng)
Accipiter virgatus

1 on 2015-05-28
1 on 2015-05-31

Columbiformes: Columbidae

Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove)
原鸽 (yuángē)
Columba livia

1 on 2015-05-29
1 on 2015-05-30
1 on 2015-05-31

Oriental Turtle Dove
山斑鸠 (shān bānjiū)
Streptopelia orientalis

35 on 2015-05-02
13 on 2015-05-03
1 on 2015-05-28
3 on 2015-05-30

Spotted Dove
珠颈斑鸠 (zhūjǐng bānjiū)
Spilopelia chinensis

1 on 2015-04-30
1 on 2015-05-29
1 on 2015-05-30
2 on 2015-05-31

Cuculiformes: Cuculidae

Large Hawk-Cuckoo
鹰鹃 (yīngjuān)
Hierococcyx sparverioides

4 heard on 2015-04-30
4 heard on 2015-05-01
1 heard on 2015-05-02
2 heard on 2015-05-03
2 heard on 2015-05-29
1 heard on 2015-05-30
2 heard on 2015-05-31

Lesser Cuckoo
小杜鹃 (xiǎo dùjuān)
Cuculus poliocephalus

1 heard on 2015-05-28
1 heard on 2015-05-30
1 heard on 2015-05-31

Strigiformes: Strigidae

Collared Owlet
领鸺鹠 (lǐng xiūliú)
Glaucidium brodiei

3 on 2015-04-30
1 on 2015-05-01
3 heard on 2015-05-03
3 heard on 2015-05-28

Asian Barred Owlet
斑头鸺鹠 (bāntóu xiūliú)
Glaucidium cuculoides

1 on 2015-05-30

Apodiformes: Apodidae

House Swift
小白腰雨燕 (xiǎo báiyāoyǔyàn)
Apus nipalensis

5 on 2015-04-30
2 on 2015-05-02
30 (flock) on 2015-05-28
4 on 2015-05-29

Coraciiformes: Coraciidae

Oriental Dollarbird
三宝鸟 (sānbǎo niǎo)
Eurystomus orientalis

1 on 2015-04-30
2 on 2015-05-29
1 on 2015-05-30

Coraciiformes: Alcedinidae

Common Kingfisher
普通翠鸟 (pǔtōng cuìniǎo)
Alcedo atthis

1 on 2015-05-29
1 on 2015-05-30

Crested Kingfisher
冠鱼狗 (guān yúgǒu)
Megaceryle lugubris

3 on 2015-05-29

Coraciiformes: Meropidae

Blue-throated Bee-eater
蓝喉蜂虎 (lánhóu fēnghǔ)
Merops viridis

5 on 2015-05-29
17 on 2015-05-30

Piciformes: Megalaimidae

Great Barbet
大拟啄木鸟 (dà nǐzhuómùniǎo)
Psilopogon virens

13 on 2015-04-30
8 heard on 2015-05-01
2 on 2015-05-02
12 heard on 2015-05-03
7 on 2015-05-28
6 heard on 2015-05-29
4 heard on 2015-05-30
3 on 2015-05-31

Piciformes: Picidae

Speckled Piculet
斑姬啄木鸟 (bānjī zhuómùniǎo)
Picumnus innominatus

1 on 2015-05-31

Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
星头啄木鸟 (xīngtóuzhuómùniǎo)
Dendrocopos canicapillus

1 on 2015-05-29

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

3 heard on 2015-04-30
1 heard on 2015-05-01
2 heard on 2015-05-03
2 on 2015-05-28
4 on 2015-05-29
1 heard on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Campephagidae

Grey-chinned Minivet
灰喉山椒鸟 (huīhóu shānjiāoniǎo)
Pericrocotus solaris

2 on 2015-04-30
6 on 2015-05-01
3 on 2015-05-02
7 on 2015-05-03
6 on 2015-05-28
5 on 2015-05-29
5 on 2015-05-30

Passeriformes: Laniidae

Brown Shrike
红尾伯劳 (hóngwěi bóláo)
Lanius cristatus

3 on 2015-05-02
5 on 2015-05-03

Passeriformes: Vireonidae

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

2 on 2015-04-30
2 on 2015-05-03
3 on 2015-05-29
2 heard on 2015-05-31

Blyth’s Shrike-babbler
红翅䴗鹛 (hóngchì júméi)
Pteruthius aeralatus

4 on 2015-05-03
2 (pair) on 2015-05-29
4 on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Oriolidae

Black-naped Oriole
黑枕黄鹂 (hēizhěn huánglí)
Oriolus chinensis

1 on 2015-05-29

Passeriformes: Dicruridae

Black Drongo
黑卷尾 (hēi juǎnwěi)
Dicrurus macrocercus

1 on 2015-05-29

Passeriformes: Corvidae

Eurasian Jay
松鸦 (sōngyā)
Garrulus glandarius sinensis

2 on 2015-04-30
2 on 2015-05-02
5 on 2015-05-28
4 on 2015-05-29
6 on 2015-05-30

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

12 on 2015-04-30
3 on 2015-05-01
4 on 2015-05-02
11 on 2015-05-03
7 on 2015-05-28
20 on 2015-05-29
13 on 2015-05-30
4 on 2015-05-31

Grey Treepie
灰树鹊 (huī shùquè)
Dendrocitta formosae

3 heard on 2015-04-30
2 heard on 2015-05-01
5 on 2015-05-03
5 on 2015-05-28
5 on 2015-05-29
2 on 2015-05-30
2 heard on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Paridae

Sultan Tit
冕雀 (miǎn què)
Melanochlora sultanea seorsa

3 on 2015-05-01

Japanese Tit
远东山雀 (yuǎndōng shānquè)
Parus minor

10 on 2015-04-30
4 heard on 2015-05-01
6 on 2015-05-02
3 on 2015-05-03
8 on 2015-05-28
15 on 2015-05-29
4 on 2015-05-30

Yellow-cheeked Tit
黄颊山雀 (huángjiá shānquè)
Machlolophus spilonotus rex

3 on 2015-04-30
3 on 2015-05-01
6 on 2015-05-02
8 on 2015-05-03
11 on 2015-05-28
2 (pair) on 2015-05-29
7 on 2015-05-30

Passeriformes: Pycnonotidae

Collared Finchbill
领雀嘴鹎 (lǐng quèzuǐbēi)
Spizixos semitorques

18 on 2015-04-30
8 on 2015-05-02
7 on 2015-05-03
5 on 2015-05-28
28 on 2015-05-29
7 on 2015-05-30
7 on 2015-05-31

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

1 on 2015-04-30
1 on 2015-05-02
2 on 2015-05-03
3 on 2015-05-28
10 on 2015-05-29
3 on 2015-05-30
2 on 2015-05-31

Mountain Bulbul
绿翅短脚鹎 (lǜchì duǎnjiǎobēi)
Ixos mcclellandii

17 on 2015-04-30
13 on 2015-05-01
6 on 2015-05-02
1 on 2015-05-03
20 on 2015-05-28
10 on 2015-05-29
14 on 2015-05-30
13 on 2015-05-31

Chestnut Bulbul
栗背短脚鹎 (lìbèi duǎnjiǎobēi)
Hemixos castanonotus canipennis

30 on 2015-04-30
7 on 2015-05-01
15 on 2015-05-02
8 on 2015-05-03
19 on 2015-05-28
14 on 2015-05-29
25 on 2015-05-30
5 on 2015-05-31

Black Bulbul
黑短脚鹎 (hēi duǎnjiǎobēi)
Hypsipetes leucocephalus

8 on 2015-04-30
4 on 2015-05-01
7 on 2015-05-02
8 on 2015-05-03
7 on 2015-05-28
1 heard on 2015-05-29
4 on 2015-05-30
1 on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Hirundinidae

Barn Swallow
家燕 (jiā yàn)
Hirundo rustica

35 on 2015-05-02
20 on 2015-05-03
4 on 2015-05-28
30 on 2015-05-29
9 on 2015-05-31

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

16 on 2015-05-01
7 on 2015-05-02
25 on 2015-05-28
21 on 2015-05-29

Passeriformes: Pnoepygidae

Pygmy Wren-babbler
小鳞胸鹪鹛 (xiǎo línxiōngjiāoméi)
Pnoepyga pusilla

1 heard on 2015-04-30
1 on 2015-05-01
1 heard on 2015-05-02
1 heard on 2015-05-03
1 heard on 2015-05-28
1 heard on 2015-05-30

Passeriformes: Cettiidae

Rufous-faced Warbler
棕脸鹟莺 (zōngliǎn wēngyīng)
Abroscopus albogularis

38 on 2015-04-30
11 on 2015-05-01
11 on 2015-05-02
21 on 2015-05-03
23 on 2015-05-28
25 on 2015-05-29
40 on 2015-05-30
18 heard on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Aegithalidae

Black-throated Bushtit
红头长尾山雀 (hóngtóu chángwěishānquè)
Aegithalos concinnus

2 on 2015-04-30
20 (flock) on 2015-05-28
21 on 2015-05-29
19 on 2015-05-30
8 on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Phylloscopidae

Buff-throated Warbler
棕腹柳莺 (zōngfù liǔyīng)
Phylloscopus subaffinis

2 on 2015-04-30
2 on 2015-05-02
6 on 2015-05-03
1 on 2015-05-28
2 on 2015-05-29
4 on 2015-05-30
5 on 2015-05-31

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

1 on 2015-05-03

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

3 on 2015-04-30

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

1 on 2015-04-30

Hartert’s Leaf Warbler
华南冠纹柳莺 (huánán guānwénliǔyīng)
Phylloscopus goodsoni fokiensis

1 on 2015-05-03

Sulphur-breasted Warbler
黑眉柳莺 (hēiméi liǔyīng)
Phylloscopus ricketti

1 on 2015-05-01
8 on 2015-05-02
5 on 2015-05-03
1 on 2015-05-28
1 on 2015-05-29

White-spectacled Warbler
白眶鹟莺 (báikuàng wēngyīng)
Seicercus affinis intermedius

8 on 2015-04-30
1 heard on 2015-05-01
13 on 2015-05-03
7 on 2015-05-28
14 heard on 2015-05-29
12 on 2015-05-30
8 on 2015-05-31

Chestnut-crowned Warbler
栗头鹟莺 (lìtóu wēngyīng)
Seicercus castaniceps

3 on 2015-05-01
2 on 2015-05-02
16 on 2015-05-03
12 on 2015-05-28
7 on 2015-05-29
7 on 2015-05-30
1 on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Locustellidae

Brown Bush Warbler
棕褐短翅莺 (zōnghè duǎnchìyīng)
Locustella luteoventris

6 on 2015-05-30
5 on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Cisticolidae

Yellow-bellied Prinia
黄腹鹪莺 (huángfù jiāoyīng)
Prinia flaviventris

10 on 2015-05-02
8 on 2015-05-29
1 heard on 2015-05-30
1 heard on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Timaliidae

Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler
华南斑胸钩嘴鹛 (huánán bānxiōng gōuzuǐméi)
Pomatorhinus swinhoei

1 on 2015-05-03
2 on 2015-05-28
5 on 2015-05-29

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

2 on 2015-04-30
3 heard on 2015-05-01
3 heard on 2015-05-02
5 on 2015-05-03
6 on 2015-05-28
7 heard on 2015-05-29
12 on 2015-05-30
5 heard on 2015-05-31

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

18 heard on 2015-04-30
2 heard on 2015-05-01
4 heard on 2015-05-02
2 on 2015-05-03
5 on 2015-05-28
12 heard on 2015-05-29
5 heard on 2015-05-30

Passeriformes: Pellorneidae

Dusky Fulvetta
褐顶雀鹛 (hèdǐng quèméi)
Alcippe brunnea

1 on 2015-05-02
1 heard on 2015-05-03

Huet’s Fulvetta
黑眉雀鹛 (hēiméi quèméi)
Alcippe hueti

24 on 2015-04-30
17 on 2015-05-01
5 on 2015-05-02
14 on 2015-05-03
20 (3 flocks) on 2015-05-28
40 on 2015-05-29
10 (flock) on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Leiothrichidae

Chinese Hwamei
画眉 (huàméi)
Garrulax canorus

1 on 2015-05-02
10 on 2015-05-28
10 on 2015-05-29
2 on 2015-05-30
2 heard on 2015-05-31

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush
黑领噪鹛 (hēilǐngzàoméi)
Garrulax pectoralis

12 on 2015-05-01
9 on 2015-05-02
3 on 2015-05-28
5 on 2015-05-29

Buffy Laughingthrush
棕噪鹛 (zōng zàoméi)
Garrulax berthemyi

2 heard on 2015-05-03
16 on 2015-05-28
23 on 2015-05-29
3 heard on 2015-05-30
10 heard on 2015-05-31

Masked Laughingthrush
黑脸噪鹛 (hēiliǎn zàoméi)
Garrulax perspicillatus

2 on 2015-05-28
2 on 2015-05-29
3 on 2015-05-30
3 on 2015-05-31

Red-billed Leiothrix
红嘴相思鸟 (hóngzuǐ xiāngsīniǎo)
Leiothrix lutea

2 on 2015-04-30

Passeriformes: Sylviidae

Grey-headed Parrotbill
灰头鸦雀 (huītóu yāquè)
Psittiparus gularis

2 on 2015-05-03
33 (flock of 8 & flock of 25) on 2015-05-28
5 on 2015-05-30

Passeriformes: Zosteropidae

Indochinese Yuhina
栗耳凤鹛 (lì’ěrfèngméi)
Yuhina torqueola

36 on 2015-04-30
16 on 2015-05-01
24 on 2015-05-02
21 on 2015-05-03
70 on 2015-05-28
120 on 2015-05-29
45 on 2015-05-30
30 on 2015-05-31

Black-chinned Yuhina
黑额凤鹛, hēi’é fèngméi
Yuhina nigrimenta

4 on 2015-04-30
15 on 2015-05-02
15 on 2015-05-03
6 on 2015-05-28
16 on 2015-05-29

Passeriformes: Elachuridae

Spotted Elachura
丽星鹩鹛 (lìxīng liáoméi)
Elachura formosa

1 heard on 2015-05-01

Passeriformes: Sturnidae

Crested Myna
八哥 (bāgē)
Acridotheres cristatellus

4 on 2015-04-30
5 on 2015-05-01
9 on 2015-05-02
4 on 2015-05-03
3 on 2015-05-28
14 on 2015-05-29
6 on 2015-05-30
4 on 2015-05-31

Red-billed Starling
丝光椋鸟 (sīguāng liángniǎo)
Spodiopsar sericeus

2 on 2015-05-29

Black-collared Starling
黑领椋鸟 (hēilǐng liángniǎo)
Gracupica nigricollis

5 on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Turdidae

Chinese Blackbird
乌鸫 (wū dōng)
Turdus mandarinus

1 heard on 2015-05-01
1 on 2015-05-03
2 on 2015-05-29
1 on 2015-05-31

Passeriformes: Muscicapidae

Oriental Magpie-Robin
鹊鸲 (quèqú)
Copsychus saularis

1 on 2015-04-30
1 on 2015-05-29

Small Niltava
小仙鹟 (xiǎo xiānwēng)
Niltava macgrigoriae

2 (pair) on 2015-04-30

Verditer Flycatcher
铜蓝鹟 (tónglán wēng)
Eumyias thalassinus

1 on 2015-05-03
2 on 2015-05-28
1 on 2015-05-29
2 on 2015-05-31

Mugimaki Flycatcher
鸲姬鹟 (qú jīwēng)
Ficedula mugimaki

2 on 2015-04-30

Little Forktail
小燕尾 (xiǎo yànwěi)
Enicurus scouleri

2 on 2015-05-28

Slaty-backed Forktail
灰背燕尾 (huībèi yànwěi)
Enicurus schistaceus

2 on 2015-05-02
3 on 2015-05-28

White-crowned Forktail
白冠燕尾 (báiguān yànwěi)
Enicurus leschenaulti

5 on 2015-04-30
4 on 2015-05-01
3 on 2015-05-02
4 on 2015-05-03
4 on 2015-05-28
4 on 2015-05-29
6 on 2015-05-30
6 on 2015-05-31

Spotted Forktail
斑背燕尾 (bānbèi yànwěi)
Enicurus maculatus

3 on 2015-04-30
5 on 2015-05-01
1 seen by Michael Grunwell on 2015-05-03

Blue Whistling Thrush
紫啸鸫 (zǐxiàodōng)
Myophonus caeruleus

2 on 2015-05-01
1 on 2015-05-28

Plumbeous Water Redstart
红尾水鸲 (hóngwěi shuǐqú)
Phoenicurus fuliginosus

2 on 2015-04-30
3 on 2015-05-01
8 on 2015-05-02
3 on 2015-05-03
8 on 2015-05-28
9 on 2015-05-29
2 on 2015-05-30
3 on 2015-05-31

Blue Rock Thrush (“Red-bellied Rock Thrush”)
蓝矶鸫 (lán jīdōng)
Monticola solitarius philippensis

1 on 2015-05-02
1 on 2015-05-03

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush
栗腹矶鸫 (lìfù jīdōng)
Monticola rufiventris

2 on 2015-05-02
2 on 2015-05-03
3 on 2015-05-28
1 on 2015-05-29
2 (pair) on 2015-05-30
4 on 2015-05-31

Grey Bush Chat
灰林鵖 (huī línjí)
Saxicola ferreus

2 (pair) on 2015-04-30
2 on 2015-05-03
2 (pair) on 2015-05-29
3 (pair & fledgling) on 2015-05-30

Passeriformes: Cinclidae

Brown Dipper
褐河乌 (hè héwū)
Cinclus pallasii

2 on 2015-05-28
2 on 2015-05-29

Passeriformes: Chloropseidae

Orange-bellied Leafbird
橙腹叶鹎 (chéngfù yèbēi)
Chloropsis hardwickii

2 (pair) on 2015-05-01

Passeriformes: Dicaeidae

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
红胸啄花鸟 (hóngxiōng zhuóhuāniǎo)
Dicaeum ignipectus

1 on 2015-05-28

Passeriformes: Nectariniidae

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

2 on 2015-05-03

Passeriformes: Passeridae

Eurasian Tree Sparrow
树麻雀 (shù máquè)
Passer montanus

30 on 2015-04-30
1 on 2015-05-02
ca. 30 on 2015-05-03
2 on 2015-05-28
16 on 2015-05-29

Passeriformes: Estrildidae

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

28 (flock of 20 & flock of 8) on 2015-05-29
10 on 2015-05-30
1 on 2015-05-31

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

4 on 2015-05-03
6 on 2015-05-28
8 on 2015-05-29
12 on 2015-05-30

Passeriformes: Motacillidae

Grey Wagtail
灰鹡鸰 (huī jílíng)
Motacilla cinerea

2 on 2015-05-02

White Wagtail
白鹡鸰 (bái jílíng)
Motacilla alba leucopsis

2 on 2015-04-30
4 on 2015-05-01
6 on 2015-05-02
3 on 2015-05-03
3 on 2015-05-28
14 on 2015-05-29
4 on 2015-05-30
5 on 2015-05-31

LIST OF PLACE NAMES

Emeifeng (Éméifēng [峨嵋峰])

Emeifeng is in western Fujian. (Wikimedia/Craig Brelsford)
Emeifeng is in western Fujian (red), near the border with Jiangxi, 635 km (395 miles) SW of People’s Square in Shanghai. (Wikimedia/Craig Brelsford)

Mountain W Fujian. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). Higher slopes reach elevations of 1700 m. 27.006583, 117.076389. Also Emei Feng.

Fujian (Fújiàn Shěng [福建省])

Fujian (red) is a province in southeast China.
Fujian (red) is a province in southeast China (yellow). (Wikimedia/Craig Brelsford)

Coastal province SE China. Pop.: 37.7 million. Area: 121,400 sq. km (46,900 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): 20% larger than Jiangsu (but with less than half as many inhabitants). Same size as North Korea & Pennsylvania; slightly smaller than Greece.

Jiangxi (Jiāngxī Shěng [江西省]): province SE China W of Fujian.

Nanchang (Nánchāng [南昌]): capital of Jiangxi.

Sanming Prefecture (Sānmíng Shì [三明市]): sub-provincial administrative area W Fujian. Officially, Sanming “City” (市).

Shancheng Zhen (Shānchéng Zhèn [衫城镇]): urbanized area & seat of Taining County. Commonly referred to as “Taining.”

Taining County (Tàiníng Xiàn [泰宁县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Sanming Prefecture.

Zhejiang (Zhèjiāng Shěng [浙江省]): province E China N of Fujian & S of Shanghai.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brazil, Mark. Birds of East Asia. Princeton University Press. Along with Birds of Southeast Asia, my first reference at Emeifeng.

John MacKinnon wrote the most influential field guide ever published about China's birds.
John MacKinnon recently published a post on the owls of Inner Mongolia.

MacKinnon, John & Karen Phillipps. A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford University Press.

Robson, Craig. Birds of Southeast Asia. Princeton University Press. Co-first reference at Emeifeng.

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

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Per Alström sent me a recording of Hartert’s Leaf Warbler. Michael Grunwell’s recommendation of Emeifeng enticed us to go; his knowledge of the area was indispensable.

Click here for the first post in our two-post series about birding Emeifeng.

Emeifeng 2015, Part 1

This post is about birding Emeifeng in the spring of 2015. The mountain in western Fujian, not to be confused with the more famous Emeishan in Sichuan, ranks high on Shanghai birders’ must-see lists. It is a reliable site for Cabot’s Tragopan, Elliot’s Pheasant, and White-necklaced Partridge, and its vast forests provide habitat for other key southeastern Chinese species. A bit too far to drive, a bit too close to fly, Emeifeng is the perfect expedition for the high-speed train.

This post covers 30 April to 3 May 2015, the first of my two four-day trips to the mountain. A post on the second trip, which took place 28 to 31 May 2015, will be published two weeks from today, on Thurs. 26 Jan. 2017.

The photo above shows Elaine Du searching for Brown Bush Warbler in the pristine alpine scrub on Emeifeng, elev. 1650 m (5,410 ft.).

HIGHLIGHTS

Cabot's Tragopan, 1 May 2015.
Male Cabot’s Tragopan, Emeifeng. A mountain in western Fujian, Emeifeng (27.006583, 117.076389) is a reliable spot for Cabot’s Tragopan, Elliot’s Pheasant, and White-necklaced Partridge. For eight days in spring 2015, Elaine Du and I birded the thickly forested mountain, noting dozens of key southeastern Chinese species. (Craig Brelsford)

— Noting the five key game birds: Elliot’s Pheasant, Cabot’s Tragopan, Koklass Pheasant, Silver Pheasant, and White-necklaced Partridge, as well as the beautiful Chinese Bamboo Partridge

— Closely studying three Phylloscopus warblers that breed in southern China: Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis, Sulphur-breasted Warbler P. ricketti, and Hartert’s Leaf Warbler P. goodsoni fokiensis, as well as having close encounters with White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius

Major breeding Phylloscopidae warblers of Emeifeng. Craig Brelsford.
Emeifeng is a good place to study warblers. Clockwise from top L: Buff-throated Warbler, Hartert’s Leaf Warbler, White-spectacled Warbler, and Sulphur-breasted Warbler. All four breed on the mountain. (Craig Brelsford)

— At Shuibu Reservoir, finding Blue-throated Bee-eater, a species unexpected around Emeifeng

— Finding 4 of China’s 5 species of forktail: Little Forktail Enicurus scouleri, Slaty-backed Forktail E. schistaceus, White-crowned Forktail E. leschenaulti sinensis, and Spotted Forktail E. maculatus bacatus

— Hearing the many calls and songs of the accomplished vocalist Buffy Laughingthrush

— Hearing Spotted Elachura singing along a rushing stream

Collared Owlet, 30 April 2015.
Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei, one of dozens of south China species at Emeifeng. (Craig Brelsford)

— Noting 103 species, 81 on the first trip, 86 on the second. Among the birds we found were key southern Chinese species such as Black Bittern, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Great Barbet, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Sultan Tit, Brown Bush Warbler, Small Niltava, Verditer Flycatcher, Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, White-bellied Erpornis, and Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler

— Enjoying the clean air and unspoiled beauty of Emeifeng

Emeifeng is full of high-quality mountain habitat. This is alpine scrub, elev. 1500 m. Here, Buff-throated Warbler and Brown Bush Warbler thrive.
High-quality alpine scrub on the slopes above Qingyun Temple (27.010034, 117.077515). The elevation here is 1600 m (5,250 ft.). Buff-throated Warbler and Brown Bush Warbler breed here. (Craig Brelsford)

Simple List of the Species of Bird Noted Around Emeifeng, Fujian, China, 30 April 2015 to 3 May 2015 and 28-31 May 2015 (103 species)

Mandarin Duck
White-necklaced Partridge
Chinese Bamboo Partridge
Cabot’s Tragopan
Silver Pheasant
Elliot’s Pheasant
Black Bittern
Chinese Pond Heron
Eastern Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Mountain Hawk-Eagle
Black Eagle
Crested Goshawk
Chinese Sparrowhawk
Besra
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove)
Oriental Turtle Dove
Spotted Dove
Large Hawk-Cuckoo
Lesser Cuckoo
Collared Owlet
Asian Barred Owlet
House Swift
Oriental Dollarbird
Common Kingfisher
Crested Kingfisher
Blue-throated Bee-eater
Great Barbet
Speckled Piculet
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker
Bay Woodpecker
Grey-chinned Minivet
Brown Shrike
White-bellied Erpornis
Blyth’s Shrike-babbler
Black-naped Oriole
Black Drongo
Eurasian Jay
Red-billed Blue Magpie
Grey Treepie
Sultan Tit
Japanese Tit
Yellow-cheeked Tit
Collared Finchbill
Light-vented Bulbul
Mountain Bulbul
Chestnut Bulbul
Black Bulbul
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
Pygmy Wren-babbler
Rufous-faced Warbler
Black-throated Bushtit
Buff-throated Warbler
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler
Two-barred Warbler
Hartert’s Leaf Warbler
Sulphur-breasted Warbler
White-spectacled Warbler
Chestnut-crowned Warbler
Brown Bush Warbler
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler
Rufous-capped Babbler
Dusky Fulvetta
Huet’s Fulvetta
Chinese Hwamei
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush
Buffy Laughingthrush
Masked Laughingthrush
Red-billed Leiothrix
Grey-headed Parrotbill
Indochinese Yuhina
Black-chinned Yuhina
Spotted Elachura
Crested Myna
Red-billed Starling
Black-collared Starling
Chinese Blackbird
Oriental Magpie-Robin
Small Niltava
Verditer Flycatcher
Mugimaki Flycatcher
Little Forktail
Slaty-backed Forktail
White-crowned Forktail
Spotted Forktail
Blue Whistling Thrush
Plumbeous Water Redstart
Blue Rock Thrush
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush
Grey Bush Chat
Brown Dipper
Orange-bellied Leafbird
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker
Fork-tailed Sunbird
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
White-rumped Munia
Scaly-breasted Munia
Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail

Wed. 29 April 2015
Taining

Elaine and I took the high-speed train from Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai to Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi. There, we transferred to the train to Taining. We checked in to the perfectly adequate Huada Hotel (Huádà Jiǔdiàn [华大酒店], +86 598-7817777).

Thurs. 30 April 2015

Startled by our car, a Silver Pheasant scoots from the roadside back into the safety of the forest. Emeifeng, 30 April 2015. Craig Brelsford.
Startled by our car, a Silver Pheasant scoots from the roadside back into the safety of the forest. Lophura nycthemera is a mainly tropical Southeast Asian and south China species. The race at Emeifeng, fokiensis, is the northernmost subspecies, ranging into Zhejiang. (Craig Brelsford)

What a first day at Emeifeng! Elaine and I noted 49 species. We heard White-necklaced Partridge, saw Silver Pheasant, photographed Buff-throated Warbler and Collared Owlet, and missed Cabot’s Tragopan and Elliot’s Pheasant. We got close views and good sound-recordings of White-spectacled Warbler, and we found a pair of Small Niltava.

Elaine and I drove up the mountain this morning with our easygoing driver, Dèng Zhōngpíng (邓忠平, +86 138-6059-6327; no English, non-smoker). The 30 km trip from Taining to Emeifeng started at Huada Hotel. In the lower country we found Chinese Sparrowhawk and Oriental Dollarbird. We saw the single male Silver Pheasant at 1150 m. Just below the end of the road at 1450 m, a bird wave included 2 stunning Yellow-cheeked Tit, the Small Niltava, and the Collared Owlet.

At the top we met Steven An, who was leading a bird tour that included Tony Sawbridge. After those birders left, we had the lodge area to ourselves. Large Hawk-Cuckoo were uttering their mad cry of “Brain fever!” 2 Black Eagle were soaring elegantly above. A Crested Goshawk appeared briefly.

Birds of Emeifeng, 30 April 2015: Clockwise from top L: Small Niltava, female (L) and male; Grey Bush Chat; Black-chinned Yuhina; and Crested Goshawk. Craig Brelsford.
Birds noted at Emeifeng, 30 April 2015. Clockwise from top L: Small Niltava Niltava macgrigoriae signata, female (L) and male; Grey Bush Chat Saxicola ferreus haringtoni, male; Black-chinned Yuhina Yuhina nigrimenta; and Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus indicus. (Craig Brelsford)

The morning fog burned off, revealing a brilliant blue sky. As the forenoon wore on, the birds retired. Elaine and I walked down a wide trail, seeing no one, reveling in the solitude, peacefulness, and unspoiled beauty of Emeifeng. We found 2 Mugimaki Flycatcher and the White-spectacled Warbler. A comparison of our recordings with those of Frank Lambert helped us ID our White-spectacled Warbler.

In the late afternoon, we found Buff-throated Warbler in a big tree near the boardwalk leading to the temple. 2 Grey Bush Chat were also using the tree.

White-necklaced Partridge were heard at various places throughout the day.

Fri. 1 May 2015

Sultan Tit, Emeifeng, 2 May 2016.
Sultan Tit, Emeifeng. The largest tit and among the most spectacular, Melanochlora sultanea has a mainly Himalayan and Southeast Asian distribution. The race at Emeifeng, seorsa, is an isolated group, occurring in Fujian and Guangxi. (Craig Brelsford)

Rain and fog kept species count low (37), but the species we found were good ones, with Cabot’s Tragopan leading the list. We heard Spotted Elachura. Elaine was much impressed by Sultan Tit, and she had a close encounter with Koklass Pheasant. 9 Silver Pheasant tiptoed through the bamboo forest.

A Sulphur-breasted Warbler helped us find the Koklass. Driving slowly up the mountain road at a point about 1250 m above sea level, we heard birdsong unfamiliar to us. I walked downhill toward the sound, and Elaine walked straight to the edge of the road. There she found the Koklass, a male. She called me back, but I arrived too late. During our vigil for its reappearance, I heard its raspy call.

Sulphur-breasted Warbler, 1 May 2015.
Sulphur-breasted Warbler. This is a jewel of a leaf warbler, golden yellow with a boldly patterned head. (Craig Brelsford)

The Sulphur-breasted Warbler was waiting for me. This is a jewel of a Phylloscopus, golden yellow below with a boldly patterned head (golden supercilium and coronal stripe, black lateral crown stripes). Its high-pitched song is sweet music:

Sulphur-breasted Warbler, song, 1 May 2015 (00:18; 1.5 MB)

We stopped at a creek containing Pygmy Wren-babbler. Relishing the chance to see this common but little-seen bird, I crawled into the vegetation near the source of the sound. Responding to playback, the wren-babbler came closer and closer until, like magic, it popped its head out from behind a rock just a meter from me. I watched this streamside specialist for several seconds.

At the same creek we played the song of Spotted Elachura. I played it so many times that I came to know the thin, high notes thoroughly–so much so that, long after I had turned the recording off and heard the song, I checked my speaker to make sure it was off. Fearing that my wishful thinking had caused a hallucination, I decided to wait before claiming a “tick.” The song stopped, but several minutes later, I heard it again, stronger. This time Elaine heard it also. I climbed up the steep creek bed, but I never heard the song again, and I have yet to see Spotted Elachura. But we know what we heard.

We found a female Cabot’s at 1320 m, below the temple, and a male at 1260 m.

Sat. 2 May 2015

Birds of Emeifeng, 2 May 2016. Great Barbet (L) and male Chinese Sparrowhawk. Craig Brelsford.
Birds noted at Emeifeng, 2 May 2015. Great Barbet (L) and adult Chinese Sparrowhawk. (Craig Brelsford)

Michael Grunwell joined Elaine and me. We noted 45 species. As we drove down the X762 near the Fujian-Jiangxi border, Elaine spotted a Cabot’s Tragopan. At dusk, at the well-known spot for Elliot’s Pheasant (27.038276, 117.094207), we heard Dusky Fulvetta:

Dusky Fulvetta, short song, below Emeifeng, elev. ca. 730 m, 2 May 2015 (00:03; 897 KB)

Rain, sometimes heavy, hampered us throughout the day but let up by late afternoon. Among the new species for our trip were Mandarin Duck, Brown Shrike, Yellow-bellied Prinia, Chinese Hwamei, Slaty-backed Forktail, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, and Grey Wagtail.

We had the pleasure of leading Michael to two lifers today: Sulphur-breasted Warbler and Buff-throated Warbler.

The Mandarin Duck were seen at a small lake near the Elliot’s Pheasant site. The site is a row of fallow rice paddies at elev. ca. 730 m.

Sun. 3 May 2015

Hartert's Leaf Warbler, 3 May 2015.
Hartert’s Leaf Warbler, 3 May 2015. (Craig Brelsford)

Michael Grunwell once again joined Elaine and me. Under brilliant blue skies, we noted 59 species. Hartert’s Leaf Warbler was a life bird for everyone and the third “southern” leaf warbler we found at Emeifeng, the others being Buff-throated Warbler and Sulphur-breasted Warbler. While driving we flushed 2 Cabot’s Tragopan and a White-necklaced Partridge; in the confusion Michael managed to spot the partridge. I found yet another Silver Pheasant. We heard 2 Buffy Laughingthrush. We struck out on Elliot’s Pheasant but while searching for it found Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler. Among the other additions to our trip list were 4 Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, 2 Grey-headed Parrotbill, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, Verditer Flycatcher, and Fork-tailed Sunbird.

The Hartert’s Leaf Warbler was found on the road to the radio tower at an elevation of 1560 m. It flicked its wings one at a time, a territorial display. It sang powerfully in response to playback (00:24; 1.8 MB):

One of our goals for Emeifeng was to positively ID, photograph, and sound-record Phylloscopus and Seicercus warblers, a task easiest to perform in spring when these birds are singing. We missed Kloss’s Leaf Warbler, but with our work on Hartert’s Leaf, Buff-throated, and Sulphur-breasted, as well as our coverage of White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius, we were more successful than I expected.

White-spectacled Warbler, 3 May 2015.
White-spectacled Warbler, 3 May 2015. (Craig Brelsford)

Mr. Deng drove us to the radio tower. This is the highest point (ca. 1700 m) for miles around, and the habitat is alpine scrub, much unlike the forest stretching like a carpet below. Buff-throated Warbler greeted us at the top. We found an aggressive White-spectacled Warbler at 1620 m.

Visibility was excellent all day, and in the late afternoon the world was bathed in a golden hue. We left Emeifeng for Nanchang having accomplished most of our goals and with a feeling of satisfaction.

PHOTOS

Buff-throated Warbler, Emeifeng, 30 April 2015. (Craig Brelsford)
Birds of Emeifeng, 1 May 2015. Clockwise from top L: Collared Owlet showing true and false face; Chestnut Bulbul; and Cabot's Tragopan running across the road. Craig Brelsford.
Birds noted at Emeifeng, 1 May 2015. Clockwise from top L: Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei brodiei showing true and false face; Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus canipennis in thick forest at 1270 masl; and Cabot’s Tragopan Tragopan caboti running across the Emeifeng mountain road. (Craig Brelsford)
Maritime Striped Squirrel, Emeifeng.
Maritime Striped Squirrel Tamiops maritimus. (Craig Brelsford)
Birds of Emeifeng, 3 May 2015. Clockwise from L: Collared Finchbill, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Brown Shrike, and Indochinese Yuhina.
Birds noted at Emeifeng, 3 May 2015. Clockwise from L: Collared Finchbill, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Brown Shrike, and Indochinese Yuhina. (Craig Brelsford)

PLACE NAMES

Emeifeng (Éméifēng [峨嵋峰])

Emeifeng is in western Fujian. (Wikimedia/Craig Brelsford)
Emeifeng is in western Fujian (red), near the border with Jiangxi, 635 km (395 miles) SW of People’s Square in Shanghai. (Wikimedia/Craig Brelsford)

Mountain W Fujian. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). Higher slopes reach elevations of 1700 m. 27.006583, 117.076389. Also Emei Feng.

Fujian (Fújiàn Shěng [福建省])

Fujian (red) is a province in southeast China.
Fujian (red) is a province in southeast China (yellow). (Wikimedia/Craig Brelsford)

Coastal province SE China. Pop.: 37.7 million. Area: 121,400 sq. km (46,900 sq. mi.). Area (comparative): 20% larger than Jiangsu (but with less than half as many inhabitants). Same size as North Korea & Pennsylvania; slightly smaller than Greece.

Jiangxi (Jiāngxī Shěng [江西省]): province SE China W of Fujian.

Nanchang (Nánchāng [南昌]): capital of Jiangxi.

Sanming Prefecture (Sānmíng Shì [三明市]): sub-provincial administrative area W Fujian. Officially, Sanming “City” (市).

Shancheng Zhen (Shānchéng Zhèn [衫城镇]): urbanized area & seat of Taining County. Commonly referred to as “Taining.”

Taining County (Tàiníng Xiàn [泰宁县]): sub-prefectural administrative area Sanming Prefecture.

Zhejiang (Zhèjiāng Shěng [浙江省]): province E China N of Fujian & S of Shanghai.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Brazil, Mark. Birds of East Asia. Princeton University Press. Along with Birds of Southeast Asia, my first reference at Emeifeng.

John MacKinnon wrote the most influential field guide ever published about China's birds.
John MacKinnon recently published a post on the owls of Inner Mongolia.

MacKinnon, John & Karen Phillipps. A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford University Press.

Robson, Craig. Birds of Southeast Asia. Princeton University Press. Co-first reference at Emeifeng.

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

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Per Alström sent me a recording of Hartert’s Leaf Warbler. Michael Grunwell’s recommendation of Emeifeng enticed us to go; his knowledge of the area was indispensable.

Click here for the second post in our two-post series about birding Emeifeng.

The Crane and the Owl: 2015 Year in Review

For Elaine and me, 2015 was the Year of the Crane and the Owl. This post is the story of our amazing year.

2015 was a year that saw us note 640 species of bird in Asia and North America. It was a year that saw us find 450 species in China, 305 species in the Shanghai region, and 227 species within the boundaries of Earth’s largest city.

It was a year in which, on 21 Jan., Elaine and I got married in the house in Heilongjiang in which she was born.

Days after our wedding, at my parents’ house in Florida in the United States, a pair of Sandhill Crane walked through my parents’ back yard. Throughout our weeks in Florida, they came again and again; the cranes are part of a non-migratory flock that is both fully wild and completely at home in suburban central Florida. No one disturbs them.

Florida Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis pratensis, DeBary, Florida, 31 Jan. 2015. These cranes are fully wild yet completely accustomed to life in suburbia. No one disturbs them.
Florida Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis pratensis, DeBary, Florida, 31 Jan. 2015. These cranes are fully wild yet completely accustomed to life in suburbia. No one disturbs them.

Elaine was astonished. To her, the cranes came to symbolize all that is good about birding in America.

In August, Elaine and I returned to her home in Heilongjiang. A pair of Eurasian Eagle-Owl came to her village night after night. They hooted from the rooftops of the farm buildings that Elaine’s father built. We saw the owls by day, at the nearby quarry where they had nested.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo at the quarry near Elaine's house in Dawucun, Heilongjiang. Night after night, the hoot of these owls was heard in Elaine's village.
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo at the quarry near Elaine’s house in Dawucun, Heilongjiang. Night after night, the hoot of these owls was heard in Elaine’s village.

I was astonished. To me, the eagle-owls came to symbolize all that is good about birding in Asia.

In the year in which we were married, Elaine and I visited each other’s hometowns for the first time. At my home, cranes; at Elaine’s, eagle-owls. Forevermore, 2015 will be remembered for the powerful birds that visited our homes. In the Brelsford house, 2015 will go down as the Year of the Crane and the Owl.

Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus, one of many species of bird using my parents' back yard in suburban central Florida, USA.
Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus, one of many species of bird using my parents’ back yard in suburban central Florida, USA.

WHERE DID WE GO IN 2015?

In China, Elaine and I stayed in the east, taking two major trips to Heilongjiang and neighboring Hulunbeier (Inner Mongolia), two trips to Emeifeng in Fujian, and an eventful five-day trip to Guangxi. We also spent a week in Beijing and Hebei. We birded with Jan-Erik Nilsén, Brian Ivon Jones, and Michael Grunwell, fine birders all.

Michael Grunwell at Nanhui, Shanghai, 31 Oct. 2015. A birder as enthusiastic as he is knowledgeable, Michael was our major birding partner in 2015. We went thousands of kilometers together, traveling by air, train, car, and foot to birding locations in five provinces. A teacher by profession, Michael freely distributes his bird knowledge, built up over four decades. Michael introduced us to Emeifeng and proposed the Nonggang Babbler trip. We, in turn, had the pleasure of showing Michael various sites in the Shanghai region after Michael and his family moved to Shanghai from Nanchang in August 2015.
Michael Grunwell at Nanhui, Shanghai, 31 Oct. 2015. A birder as enthusiastic as he is knowledgeable, Michael was our major birding partner in 2015. We went thousands of kilometers together, traveling by air, train, car, and foot to birding locations in five provinces. A teacher by profession, Michael freely distributes his bird knowledge, built up over four decades. Michael introduced us to Emeifeng and proposed the Nonggang Babbler trip. We, in turn, had the pleasure of showing Michael various sites in the Shanghai region after Michael and his family moved to Shanghai from Nanchang in August 2015.

In America, I am fortunate to be based in central Florida, one of the finest birding areas in one of the best states in the USA for birding. In Florida, the birding is so good, I take my binoculars even on a quick trip to the grocery store. My parents’ back yard alone attracted dozens of species, and we added more at local parks as well as major reserves such as Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Elaine and I also took a 15-day birding honeymoon to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where we birded with noted American birder Chris Feeney.

Sunset, 10 March 2015, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Elaine and I hear a loud, sickening crunch. I wade into the pond and get these powerful images of an American Alligator devouring a Blue Crab.
Sunset, 10 March 2015, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. Elaine and I hear a loud, sickening crunch. I wade into the pond and get these powerful images of an American Alligator devouring a Blue Crab.

2015 IN SHANGHAI

The bulk of our year was spent around Shanghai. Our 227 “city” species were noted while compiling two major reports, one covering the spring migration and the other covering the autumn and winter. Trips further afield to places in Jiangsu and Zhejiang brought our Shanghai regional list to 305 species. Accompanying us on many of those trips was Michael Grunwell as well as German birder Kai Pflug and the husband-and-wife team of Stephan Popp and Xueping Popp.

Brown-eared Bulbul, Lesser Yangshan Island, 2 Jan. 2015. A few months after this photo was taken, Elaine and I noted this species in Yangkou, and in December 2015 we once again were noting the species on Lesser Yangshan. In Seoul, which I had the pleasure of visiting in May 2015, Hypsipetes amaurotis amaurotis is the 'default' bulbul, common and noisy, like Light-vented Bulbul in many Chinese cities. In Shanghai, Brown-eared Bulbul is a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor.
Brown-eared Bulbul, Lesser Yangshan Island, 2 Jan. 2015. A few months after this photo was taken, Elaine and I noted this species in Yangkou, and in December 2015 we once again were noting the species on Lesser Yangshan. In Seoul, which I had the pleasure of visiting in May 2015, Hypsipetes amaurotis amaurotis is the ‘default’ bulbul, common and noisy, like Light-vented Bulbul in many Chinese cities. In Shanghai, Brown-eared Bulbul is a scarce passage migrant and winter visitor.

Our springtime expedition in the Shanghai region saw us note 243 species. The autumn-winter report contained 259 species by 31 Dec. Here is what we discovered in 2015 around Shanghai:

— Amid the unremitting transformation of the Jiangsu and Shanghai coast, we found several shorebird species on the brink, among them the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, the endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank, and the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill. Other threatened waders noted by us were Grey-tailed Tattler, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Far Eastern Curlew, and Great Knot. Other at-risk coastal species were Oriental Stork, Chinese Egret, Saunders’s Gull, and Reed Parrotbill, as well as the elegant passage migrant Japanese Paradise Flycatcher

Long-billed Dowitcher, Rudong County (S of Yangkou), Jiangsu, 24 April 2015.
Long-billed Dowitcher, Rudong County (S of Yangkou), Jiangsu, 24 April 2015.

— The most notable extralimitals were Long-billed Dowitcher south of Yangkou, Black Redstart on Hengsha Island, and Dalmatian Pelican at Dongtai and Nanhui. Other interesting finds were Himalayan Swiftlet and Brown-eared Bulbul at Yangkou, Chestnut-cheeked Starling on Lesser Yangshan Island, and at Nanhui Common Goldeneye, Horned Grebe, Black Bittern, White-bellied Green Pigeon, Japanese Scops Owl, Grey-headed Canary-flycatcher, Middendorf’s Grasshopper Warbler, Black-collared Starling, and Common Rosefinch

Himalayan Swiftlet, Yangkou, 13 Sept. 2015.
Himalayan Swiftlet, Yangkou, 13 Sept. 2015.

— We noted 14 Emberiza species, among them three threatened species (Yellow-breasted Bunting, Yellow Bunting, and Japanese Reed Bunting), the beautiful Crested Bunting, East Asian favorites Meadow Bunting, Tristram’s Bunting, Chestnut-eared Bunting, Chestnut Bunting, Yellow-browed Bunting, and Yellow-throated Bunting, and Little Bunting, Rustic Bunting, Black-faced Bunting, and Pallas’s Reed Bunting

Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanmincun (near Yangkou), Rudong County, Jiangsu, 12 April 2015. I reported this banded godwit to the Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG). A week later, AWSG told me that the godwit had been banded on 23 June 2009 (nearly 6 years prior!) in Victoria, Australia.
Bar-tailed Godwit, Sanmincun (near Yangkou), Rudong County, Jiangsu, 12 April 2015. I reported this banded godwit to the Australasian Wader Studies Group (AWSG). A week later, AWSG told me that the godwit had been banded on 23 June 2009 (nearly 6 years prior!) in Victoria, Australia.

— We noted dozens of East Asian migrants, breeders, and residents, among them Grey-headed Lapwing, Pacific Golden Plover, Oriental Pratincole, Black-tailed Gull, Lesser Cuckoo, Northern Boobook, Oriental Dollarbird, Speckled Piculet, Swinhoe’s Minivet, Bull-headed Shrike, Chinese Grey Shrike, Yellow-bellied Tit, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Thick-billed Warbler, Grey-backed Thrush, Japanese Thrush, Brown-headed Thrush, Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Siberian Blue Robin, Rufous-tailed Robin, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Narcissus Flycatcher, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Forest Wagtail, and Red-throated Pipit

Thick-billed Warbler, Yangkou, 16 May 2015.
Thick-billed Warbler, Yangkou, 16 May 2015.

— During two trips to the Tianmu Mountains 250 km SW of Shanghai in Zhejiang, we watched a Crested Bunting sing, found a pair of Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, were encouraged by the many Buffy Laughingthrush, saw Crested Serpent Eagle and Black Eagle, came face-to-face with Koklass Pheasant, and noted more Russet Sparrow than Eurasian Tree Sparrow. We appreciated the strong Indo-Malayan character of the avifauna, as evidenced by classic southern Chinese species such as Grey-chinned Minivet, Grey Treepie, Indochinese Yuhina, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Rufous-capped Babbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, Little Forktail, and White-crowned Forktail

— At Yangkou, we found a reliable site for the elusive Brown-cheeked Rail

Collared Owlet, Emeifeng, 30 April 2015.
Collared Owlet, Emeifeng, 30 April 2015.

THE TRIPS TO EMEIFENG

In spring 2015, Elaine and I made two trips to Emeifeng in the mountains of northwest Fujian. We noted 103 species. Highlights:

— Finding the five key game birds: Elliot’s Pheasant, Cabot’s Tragopan, Koklass Pheasant, Silver Pheasant, and White-necklaced Partridge, as well as the beautiful Chinese Bamboo Partridge

Cabot's Tragopan, Emeifeng, 1 May 2015.
Cabot’s Tragopan, Emeifeng, 1 May 2015.

— At Shuibu Reservoir, finding Blue-throated Bee-eater, a species unexpected around Emeifeng

— Closely studying three Phylloscopus warblers that breed in southern China: Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis, Sulphur-breasted Warbler P. ricketti, and Hartert’s Leaf Warbler P. goodsoni fokiensis, as well as having close encounters with White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius

Buff-throated Warbler, Emeifeng, 30 April 2015.
Buff-throated Warbler, Emeifeng, 30 April 2015.

— Finding 4 of China’s 5 species of forktail: Little Forktail Enicurus scouleri, Slaty-backed Forktail E. schistaceus, White-crowned Forktail E. leschenaulti sinensis, and Spotted Forktail E. maculatus bacatus

— Hearing the many calls and songs of the accomplished vocalist Buffy Laughingthrush

— Hearing Spotted Elachura singing along a rushing stream and seeing Pygmy Wren-Babbler along that same stream

Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Emeifeng, 1 May 2015.
Sulphur-breasted Warbler, Emeifeng, 1 May 2015.

— Noting other key south-China species, among them Black Bittern, Mountain Hawk-Eagle, Black Eagle, Crested Goshawk, Besra, Collared Owlet, Asian Barred Owlet, Great Barbet, Speckled Piculet, Bay Woodpecker, Grey-chinned Minivet, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Sultan Tit, Rufous-faced Warbler, Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Brown Bush Warbler, Small Niltava, Verditer Flycatcher, Blyth’s Shrike-babbler, White-bellied Erpornis, Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler, Black-collared Starling, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Fork-tailed Sunbird, and Orange-bellied Leafbird

MAJOR DISCOVERIES IN HULUNBEIER & HEILONGJIANG

Our explorations in Heilongjiang and Hulunbeier were inspired by the words of John MacKinnon:

Instead of going to the familiar places in China to clock up new additions to life lists, why not get to some remote areas where you have a good chance of finding something new?

– John MacKinnon, A Field Guide to the Birds of China, p. 16

In Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, Elaine and I noted 228 species. We visited the region twice: once in January, a short trip with Brian Ivon Jones; and a longer trip in July with Jan-Erik Nilsén and later Brian. There were also two brief stops in Hohhot in south-central Inner Mongolia.

Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus, the first of many good birds I discovered near Elaine's home village. 20 Jan. 2015.
Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus, the first of many good birds I discovered near Elaine’s home village. 20 Jan. 2015.

The January trip to Hulunbeier, the U.K.-sized prefecture in northeast Inner Mongolia, was our introduction to the region. Elaine, Brian, and I experienced cold such as I had never felt before. The lowest temperature we had was -36°C (-33°F). Among our highlights were Northern Hawk-Owl, White-backed Woodpecker, Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Great Tit, and Arctic Redpoll.

Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Wuerqihan, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, 15 Jan. 2015.
Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Wuerqihan, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, 15 Jan. 2015.

Elaine and I then traveled to Dawucun, her home village in southeastern Heilongjiang. There, on 21 January 2015, Elaine and I were married. (We worked in some birding that day, noting Common Kestrel behind her house.) I was pleasantly surprised by the good birding around Dawucun. Never walking more than 2 km from Elaine’s house, we noted Rough-legged Buzzard, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Siberian Accentor, and Eurasian Bullfinch.

Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii near Manzhouli, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, 20 July 2015.
Blyth’s Pipit Anthus godlewskii near Manzhouli, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, 20 July 2015.

In the summer, Elaine and I returned to the region with Jan-Erik. The three of us spent 11-24 July exploring Hulunbeier. We drove our rented Honda CR-V 2533 km, covering the main habitats of Hulunbeier, among them the northern-temperate and taiga forests of the Greater Khingan Range and the arid grasslands around Hulun Lake.

Baikal Bush Warbler, 12 July 2015. Near Genhe, we were driving 60 km/h and in the middle of a conversation. Suddenly Jan-Erik said, 'I just heard Siberian Bush Warbler!' (IOC: Baikal Bush Warbler). I hit the brakes and parked. Within a few seconds, we had our bird. Jan-Erik has sharp ears!
Baikal Bush Warbler, 12 July 2015. Near Genhe, we were driving 60 km/h and in the middle of a conversation. Suddenly Jan-Erik said, ‘I just heard Siberian Bush Warbler!’ (IOC: Baikal Bush Warbler). I hit the brakes and parked. Within a few seconds, we had our bird. Jan-Erik has sharp ears!

Among the 170 species we noted were breeding Scaly-sided Merganser at Yikesama Forest and Swan Goose at the excellent Modamuji wetland. Other highlights: Great Grey Owl and Gray’s Grasshopper Warbler at Wuerqihan; Demoiselle Crane, Oriental Plover, and Isabellline Shrike around Hulun Lake; breeding Arctic Warbler near Genhe and at Yikesama; Baikal Bush Warbler near Genhe and at Hanma Reserve; House Sparrow and Blyth’s Pipit at various locations; Hazel Grouse at various locations and Black Grouse at Hanma; nesting Common House Martin in Galaya; flocks of hundreds of Pacific Swift and Common Swift in the towns; banded Red-necked Stint near Modamuji; 5000 Sand Martin and Bearded Reedling at Modamuji; and Pallas’s Reed Bunting ssp. lydiae and Common Starling at Wulannuo’er.

Common Swift, Hulun Lake, Inner Mongolia, 21 July 2015.
Common Swift, Hulun Lake, Inner Mongolia, 21 July 2015.

Next came two weeks (26 July-8 Aug.) in eastern Heilongjiang with Brian Ivon Jones. The trip began and ended in Jiamusi and took us on a loop through areas along the border with Russia, principally along the Ussuri and Amur rivers. This part of the trip was somewhat of a disappointment, mainly because seas of maize have eaten up hundreds of square kilometers of habitat. Still, we managed to find Oriental Stork in unexpected places such as Tongjiang; at Qixing River we found breeding Red-necked Grebe and noted Red-crowned Crane, White-naped Crane, and Reed Parrotbill (ssp. polivanovi, “Northern Parrotbill”); and at Qindeli Farms we saw Black Woodpecker and Mountain Hare.

Eurasian Woodcock, Honghe Nature Reserve, Heilongjiang, 30 July 2015. Nikon D3S, 600 mm, F/4, 1/80, ISO 10000.
Eurasian Woodcock, Honghe Nature Reserve, Heilongjiang, 30 July 2015. Nikon D3S, 600 mm, F/4, 1/80, ISO 10000.

Elaine and I spent 9 Aug. to 8 Sept. at Dawucun. The month at Elaine’s parents’ house was a high point in my birding career and one of the most satisfying moments in my many years in China. The birding was excellent, even in late summer, and even better was combining birding with family. Elaine and I would bird in the morning and afternoon and in the evening have dinner with her parents, sisters, and nieces.

Elaine Du (L) birding with her nieces Lisa Li (C) and Jennifer Jiang, Dawucun, Heilongjiang, 13 Aug. 2015.
Elaine Du (L) birding with her nieces Lisa Li (C) and Jennifer Jiang, Dawucun, Heilongjiang, 13 Aug. 2015.

Elaine and I rediscovered the quiet hills 1.5 km south of her village, and we made a major discovery: Xidaquan National Forest, 9400 hectares of old-growth secondary woodland just 21 km from Dawucun. Xidaquan had never been properly birded before, and the park managers welcomed our research, giving us free admission in return for a list of the species we noted.

Lush vegetation at forest edge, with thickly forested low mountains typical of region in background. Xidaquan National Forest, Boli, Heilongjiang, 2 Sept. 2015.
Lush vegetation at forest edge, with thickly forested low mountains typical of region in background. Xidaquan National Forest, Boli, Heilongjiang, 2 Sept. 2015.

We made 12 visits to Xidaquan and submitted to the managers a list of 91 species noted around the park and Dawucun. Among the highlights were discovering the Eurasian Eagle-Owl while birding with Elaine’s young nieces at the quarry near Dawucun. We found Eurasian Eagle-Owl at two other locations, one of them in Xidaquan, where we also noted Ural Owl and Long-eared Owl. Eastern Crowned Warbler were singing loudly and defending territory deep into August, and Radde’s Warbler were behaving likewise into September.

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis, Xidaquan, 17 Aug. 2015.
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis, Xidaquan, 17 Aug. 2015.

We regularly noted classic northeast China taxa such as Coal Tit ssp. ater, Eurasian Nuthatch ssp. amurensis, Eurasian Jay ssp. brandtii, Willow Tit ssp. baicalensis, and Marsh Tit ssp. brevirostris. At Xidaquan we saw Mandarin Duck, Asian Stubtail, Thick-billed Warbler, Eurasian Treecreeper, Siberian Thrush, Pale Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, and Long-tailed Rosefinch; in the hills behind Dawucun we had breeding White-throated Rock Thrush, Asian Brown Flycatcher, and Yellow-rumped Flycatcher as well as Northern Goshawk, Chinese Grey Shrike, Grey-backed Thrush, Blue-and-white Flycatcher, and Eurasian Red Squirrel; and in Elaine’s parents’ back garden we had Daurian Starling as well as the regular nighttime visits by the eagle-owls.

Elaine Du and Craig Brelsford, Xidaquan, 25 Aug. 2015.
Elaine Du and Craig Brelsford, Xidaquan, 25 Aug. 2015.

The hills behind Elaine’s house became like a second home to us. A message I sent on 4 Sept. to the Shanghai Birding WeChat group sums up my mood:

“WISH-YOU-WERE-HERE MOMENT: If crisp fall weather could be bottled up and sold, then today would be the day to harvest it. Brilliant blue sky, cool qiufeng (秋风, ‘autumn breeze’), temp. about 17°C. Speaking of harvests, Elaine and her father are nearby picking Honey Mushroom Armillaria mellea. Elaine just radioed me; she and baba found a mother lode and expect to collect about 8 kg of the tasty fungus. I just now was writing almost literally in the shadow of a White-backed Woodpecker, the largest pied woodpecker and a very inquisitive creature, curious even about the weak playback coming from my iPhone speaker. Before settling down, I startled a Hazel Grouse and heard the laughter of Black Woodpecker. A Pale Thrush gave itself away with its tzzt contact call, then viewed me from a high branch before darting off. … Thank you for waiting me out while I drink my fill of these northern forests. It’s been one of my sweetest China experiences, doing great birding by day and being welcomed by Elaine’s warmhearted family at night. Birding and family! Life doesn’t get much better than this.”

Radde's Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi, a species commonly noted by Elaine and me at Xidaquan. They were singing and defending territory into September. This photo is from 24 Aug. 2015.
Radde’s Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi, a species commonly noted by Elaine and me at Xidaquan. They were singing and defending territory into September. This photo is from 24 Aug. 2015.

BEIJING & HEBEI IN OCTOBER

Jan-Erik was an excellent tour guide at Nanpu, a coastal site in Hebei and the major wintering site for Relict Gull. Our Swedish friend also introduced us to Miyun, where we noted Greater Spotted Eagle and Long-billed Plover.

We found this wintering Japanese Thrush in Longheng on 20 Dec. 2015.
We found this wintering Japanese Thrush in Longheng on 20 Dec. 2015.

LONGHENG, GUANGXI, HOME OF NONGGANG BABBLER

From 16-21 Dec., Michael, Elaine, and I were in Longheng, Guangxi. We noted 76 species, chief among them Nonggang Babbler. We had White-winged Magpie, savored close nighttime views of Collared Scops Owl, enjoyed views of the elusive Lesser Shortwing, and delighted in 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.

Bird Species Noted in 2015 by Craig Brelsford and Elaine Du

In 2015, the husband-and-wife team of Craig Brelsford and Elaine Du noted 305 species in the Shanghai region, 450 species in China, and 640 species worldwide.

Shanghai region: 305 (227 in Shanghai Shi)
China: 450
Asia: 451 (includes China list plus Varied Tit, noted by Craig in Seoul)
World: 640 (includes Asia list plus all American species not on Asia list)

Featured image: In 2015, my wife Elaine Du discovered Sandhill Crane (L) at my home in Florida; her new husband, Craig, discovered Eurasian Eagle-Owl (R) at Elaine’s home in Heilongjiang. 2015 was our Year of the Crane and the Owl.