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.