98 Species at Top Shanghai Sites

On 28-29 Nov., Elaine and I noted 98 species at three of the Shanghai region’s top sites: Lesser Yangshan Island, Nanhui, and Hengsha Island. On Hengsha Main Pond we noted 3200 Falcated Duck. We noted Water/Brown-cheeked Rail at Nanhui and at Hengsha, and among the hundreds of ducks at Dishui Lake were 10 Greater Scaup as well as 15 Black-necked Grebe. A beautiful jack Merlin was grounded by rain on Hengsha, and another on Nanhui scared up a cloud of rather late Barn Swallow. Verditer Flycatcher resorted to the reeds in the treeless reclaimed area on Hengsha, and on Lesser Yangshan we saw a juvenile Lesser Coucal. That tiny island was characteristically thrushy, with Red-throated Thrush and Naumman’s Thrush appearing alongside Dusky Thrush, Pale Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Chinese Blackbird, the latter not commonly seen on Lesser Yangshan.

Red-throated Thrush, Lesser Yangshan, 28 Nov. 2015. This first-winter male came from Siberia. Other Siberian-breeding thrushes present on Lesser Yangshan were Dusky Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Naumman's Thrush.
Red-throated Thrush, Lesser Yangshan, 28 Nov. 2015. This first-winter male came from Siberia. Other Siberian-breeding thrushes present on Lesser Yangshan were Dusky Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Naumman’s Thrush.

The 9000 birds on Hengsha Main Pond were overwhelmingly of just three species: Falcated Duck, Gadwall, and Eurasian Coot, with sprinklings of Mandarin Duck, Common Shelduck, Common Pochard, and Black-necked Grebe. I had never seen so many birds in a single place in Shanghai Shi. The reclaimed area on which the pond sits is under no environmental protection; the area is slated to be turned into a giant container port.

Hengsha Main Pond is in the northwest quadrant of the reclaimed area, hard by the fenced border with Hengsha Island proper. We viewed the pond from the perimeter road, the other side of which contains farms and trees. While scanning and counting, we noted Hair-crested Drongo and Dusky Warbler. Earlier, in the reclaimed area we once again noted Chinese Grey Shrike and a single Water Pipit. We hadn’t seen Intermediate Egret in a while. Robin-like Red-flanked Bluetail were absent from the treeless reclaimed area, but chat-like Daurian Redstart turned into reed-bed specialists; we noted 18.

Amid steady rain on Hengsha, this Merlin watched and waited.
Amid steady rain on Hengsha, this Merlin watched and waited.

On Saturday Elaine and I were joined by veteran English birder Michael Grunwell. Lesser Yangshan was its typical late-November self, serving up its usual fare of Daurian Redstart, less common delicacies such as Yellow-bellied Tit, and a main course of buntings, this time Meadow Bunting, Little Bunting, Yellow-throated Bunting, and Black-faced Bunting.

The diversity of ducks on Dishui Lake was a welcome surprise. Common Shelduck appeared here as well, and we sifted through the Tufted Duck to find the Greater Scaup. The Mandarin Duck were seen on a pond inside the sea wall and attracted some photographers, who paid little attention to the nearby flock of 800 Kentish Plover.

Mandarin Duck, Nanhui.
Mandarin Duck, Nanhui.

At Nanhui as well as at Hengsha, we selected places likely to hold Water Rail or Brown-cheeked Rail. There, we played back recordings of Rallus aquaticus. On both occasions, we got a loud call from someplace deep within the reeds, but no appearance. While waiting at Nanhui, we noted a flock of Reed Parrotbill.

We spent Saturday night at Héngshā Bànrìxián Mínsù (横沙半日闲民宿; +86 135-0185-1814 and +86 150-2164-5467). For 120 yuan we got a simple double room with bathroom down the hall. Meals are usually available there, but we arrived too late. We had freeze-dried meals with us; they once again proved to be a big asset, allowing us to eat a full meal after a long day birding.

By positioning ourselves on Hengsha the night before we birded, we saved ourselves our typical early wake-up in the city and a dash to Changxing Island for the first ferry.

The author at the Hengsha Main Pond viewpoint. The coordinates of this point are 31.331804, 121.883224. Look for a bend in the road, a gap in the fence, and a broken causeway below. Photo by Elaine Du.
The author at the Hengsha Main Pond viewpoint. The coordinates of this point are 31.331804, 121.883224. Look for a bend in the road, a gap in the fence, and a broken causeway below. Photo by Elaine Du.

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 28 Nov. 2015 (32 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). Partly cloudy. Winds SSE 6 km/h. Visibility 10 km. Sunrise 06:28, sunset 16:49. High 14°C. SAT 28 NOV 2015 07:10-10:20.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 2
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 2
Lesser Coucal Centropus bengalensis 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 5
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 1
Yellow-bellied Tit Pardaliparus venustulus 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 3
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 40
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 3
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 6
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 5
Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus 20
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 2
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 3
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 6
Red-throated Thrush T. ruficollis 2
Naumann’s Thrush T. naumanni 3
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 7
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 8
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 20
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 100
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 10
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 15
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 1
Little Bunting E. pusilla 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 15
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 3

Reed Parrotbill in characteristic pose and reedy habitat, Nanhui, 28 Nov. 2015. The species is still common wherever large beds of reeds are spared from the backhoe and bulldozer. There are a few such good spots at Nanhui.
Reed Parrotbill in characteristic pose and reedy habitat, Nanhui, 28 Nov. 2015. The species is still common wherever large beds of reeds are spared from the backhoe and bulldozer. There are a few such good spots at Nanhui.

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 28 Nov. 2015 (53 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), and Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). Partly cloudy. Winds SSE 6 km/h. Visibility 10 km. Sunrise 06:28, sunset 16:49. High 14°C. SAT 28 NOV 2015 10:50-16:00.

Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 7
Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 6
Falcated Duck Anas falcata 350
Gadwall A. strepera 5
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 20
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 14
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 50
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 60
Greater Scaup A. marila 10
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 30
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 20
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 15
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 41
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 40
Great Egret A. alba 9
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 30
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 3
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 3
Brown-cheeked/Water Rail Rallus indicus/R. aquaticus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra ca. 100
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 8
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 800 (flock)
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 2
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 4
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Merlin Falco columbarius 1
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 3
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 15
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 5
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 100 (flock)
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 2
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 4
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 1
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 2
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 30
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 4
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 15
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 2
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 1
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 12
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 17 (7 tschutschensis, 7 taivana)
White Wagtail M. alba 15
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 24
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 1
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 5

Intermediate Egret, Hengsha, 29 Nov. 2015. Egretta intermedia is noticeably larger than Eastern Cattle Egret and in winter has a dark-tipped orange bill. The head is more rounded than in Great Egret. Note the gape line on this specimen: It ends below the eye, whereas in Great Egret the gape line extends behind the eye.
Intermediate Egret, Hengsha, 29 Nov. 2015. Egretta intermedia is noticeably larger than Eastern Cattle Egret and in winter has a dark-tipped orange bill. The head is more rounded than in Great Egret. Note the gape line on this specimen: It ends below the eye, whereas in Great Egret the gape line extends behind the eye.

List 1 of 1 for Sun. 29 Nov. 2015 (66 species)

Hengsha Island (Héngshā Dǎo [横沙岛]), a small alluvial island at mouth of Yangtze River in Shanghai, China. S gate to birding area at 31.297333, 121.859434. Excellent view of large pond at 31.331804, 121.883224. Cloudy with light rain. Winds SW 3 km/h. Visibility 10 km. Sunrise 06:34, sunset 16:51. High 13°C. SUN 29 NOV 2015 07:00-16:00.

Greylag Goose Anser anser 1
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 20
Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 40
Falcated Duck Anas falcata ca. 3200
Gadwall A. strepera ca. 2625
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 5
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 45
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 20
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 14
Common Pochard Aythya ferina 200
Tufted Duck A. fuligula 4
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 220
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus ca. 50
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 2
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 5
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 5
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 4
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 70
Great Egret A. alba 60
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 2
Little Egret E. garzetta 65
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 3
Black Kite Milvus migrans lineatus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Brown-cheeked/Water Rail Rallus indicus/R. aquaticus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 30
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra ca. 3000
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 13
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 5
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 6
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 3
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 4
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae or L. v. mongolicus 4
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 20
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Merlin F. columbarius 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 25
Chinese Grey Shrike L. sphenocercus sphenocercus 1
Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus 1
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus ca. 50
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis 8
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 5
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 3
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 6
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 20
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 5
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 30
Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus 3
White-cheeked Starling S. cineraceus 12
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 1
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 1
Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 18
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 15
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 20
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 5
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni 4
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 3
Water Pipit A. spinoletta blakistoni 1
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 5
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 2
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 65

Featured image: While Craig Brelsford consults Collins Bird Guide, Michael Grunwell uses Craig’s Swarovski ATX-95 spotting scope to view Greater Scaup. Dishui Lake, Shanghai, 28 Nov. 2015. Photo by Elaine Du.

72 Species on Hengsha

Highlights from our 72-species day at Hengsha, Sun. 25 Oct. 2015: a lone Black-faced Spoonbill associating with 2 Eurasian Spoonbill, Chinese Grey Shrike, Red-throated Thrush, 2 Common Starling among White-cheeked Starling, and Bull-headed Shrike dining on grasshopper. Ducks: Eastern Spot-billed Duck 270, Eurasian Teal 55, Northern Shoveler 3. Also Eurasian Coot 280, Common Snipe 28, Ruddy Turnstone 1, Chinese Penduline Tit 75, Richard’s Pipit 25.

Birds Not of a Feather Sticking Together I: Black-faced Spoonbill with Eurasian Spoonbill.
Birds Not of a Feather Sticking Together I: Black-faced Spoonbill with Eurasian Spoonbill.

Elaine and I recorded only 1 bunting all day: a single Chestnut-eared Bunting. Hengsha was bunting central last autumn, and almost exactly a year ago Elaine and I had seven Emberiza species in a single morning on Temple Mount on Lesser Yangshan.

Birds Not of a Feather Sticking Together II: Common Starling with White-cheeked Starling.
Birds Not of a Feather Sticking Together II: Common Starling with White-cheeked Starling.

In the past year, Elaine and I have seen Common Starling with White-cheeked Starling on three occasions in three widely separated locations. On 8 Nov. 2014 at Sì Hé Cūn (四合村) near Lake Poyang in Jiangxi, we found 80 Common Starling among 160 White-cheeked Starling; on 23 July 2015 at Wūlánnuò’ěr (乌兰诺尔) near Hulun Lake in Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, we found 1 Common Starling among 15 White-cheeked Starling; and now this latest sighting. Common Starling is well-known to birders in Europe and North America (where it is an introduced species), and it is common in parts of western China, but in eastern China it is supposedly only a vagrant.

Beautiful 'Red-bellied Rock Thrush' Monticola solitarius philippensis, ssp. of Blue Rock Thrush. The species is locally common at coastal sites around Shanghai. It prefers rocky areas but can make do with concrete breakers set up along the shore. Here a female is perching atop an outhouse.
Beautiful ‘Red-bellied Rock Thrush’ Monticola solitarius philippensis, ssp. of Blue Rock Thrush. The species is locally common at coastal sites around Shanghai. It prefers rocky areas but can make do with concrete breakers set up along the shore. Here a female is perching atop an outhouse.
Elaine and I spent our final hour on Hengsha snipe watching. High-speed photography of flying snipe not only is pleasurable but also can be an aid to identification, as the camera captures details that the eye can miss. This is Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. Nikon D3S, 600 mm + 1.4x TC, F8, 1/5000, ISO 12800 (that is correct: twelve thousand eight hundred!). Camera mounted on Manfrotto MVH502AH video head and Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 carbon fiber tripod.
Elaine and I spent our final hour on Hengsha snipe watching. High-speed photography of flying snipe not only is pleasurable but also can be an aid to identification, as the camera captures details that the eye can miss. This is Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. Nikon D3S, 600 mm + 1.4x TC, F8, 1/5000, ISO 12800 (that is correct: twelve thousand eight hundred!). Camera mounted on Manfrotto MVH502AH video head and Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 carbon fiber tripod.

Hengsha is complicated to get to, and the reclaimed land where birders go lacks trees and thus forest birds. If it had even the microforests of Nanhui, then our total of 72 species might have been 80 to 90, and if in addition even a small part of the giant project were run as a nature reserve, then the list might have topped 100! Still, a day at Hengsha may be the single most interesting birding day available in Shanghai. The place has a remote, even wild feel, and the air is fresh.

Hengsha Island (Héngshā Dǎo [横沙岛]), a small alluvial island at mouth of Yangtze River in Shanghai, China. S gate to birding area at 31.297333, 121.859434. 07:10-17:10.

Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope 3
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 40
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha ca. 270
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 3
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 55
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 30
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 7
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 2
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 1
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 2
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 2
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 3
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 11
Purple Heron A. purpurea 1
Great Egret A. alba 13
Intermediate Egret A. intermedia 8
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 14
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 2
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 2
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 20
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra ca. 280
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 9
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 2
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 20
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 3
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 2
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 7
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 2
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres 1
Sanderling Calidris alba 1
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 1
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii 2
Long-toed Stint C. subminuta 4
Dunlin C. alpina 2
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 25
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 2
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 5
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 4
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 1
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 15
Chinese Grey Shrike L. sphenocercus sphenocercus 1
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus ca. 75
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis ca. 50
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 15
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 20
Asian House Martin Delichon dasypus 15
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 2
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 6
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 5
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 3
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 8
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 6
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris 2
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 2
Red-throated Thrush T. ruficollis 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 12
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 8 (4 taivana, 4 tschutschensis)
Grey Wagtail M. cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 10 leucopsis
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 25
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 1
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 12
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 1
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 1

Featured image: Elaine Du viewing birds on Hengsha Island. In the top-left corner of the image, the three white dots are 1 Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor associating with 2 Eurasian Spoonbill P. leucorodia.