Black-throated Loon and Red-throated Loon have been found at a little-birded recreational area in Pudong, and Slaty-backed Gull has appeared on the Huangpu River across from the Bund. All three species are rare in Earth’s Greatest City, with Black-throated Loon the scarcest. All three were brought to light by Shanghai birders using social media.
The loons had been sighted numerous times before my partner Michael Grunwell and I arrived on Sat. 18 March 2017 at Sanjiagang Seaside Park (31.217928, 121.768172). The dilapidated recreation area is on the coast of the East China Sea, near the mouth of the Yangtze River, 9 km north of Pudong Airport. Chinese birders discovered the loons, and birder Larry Chen, his partners Komatsu Yasuhiko and Archie Jiang, and bird photographer Kai Pflug followed up, reporting back to our chat group, Shanghai Birding.
On Sun. 19 March, the Red-throated Loon was discovered dead at the park by local birder Suōyǔ Hè (蓑羽鹤). It is not clear what killed the bird, but it may have slowly poisoned itself by ingesting oil that had collected on its feathers. Larry said that during his encounters with the individual “The loon was constantly attempting to preen itself” and that he clearly saw oil on one of its flanks. Can you detect anything amiss in the video below?
Red-throated Loon breeds at latitudes above 50 degrees in Eurasia and North America. Wintering Gavia stellata is more common in Shanghai than Black-throated Loon, being recorded annually here. Michael, my wife Elaine Du, and I found Red-throated Loon at Cape Nanhui in January 2016.
Black-throated Loon is also known as Black-throated Diver and Arctic Loon. Gavia arctica breeds across northern Eurasia and into Alaska. It is an uncommon winter visitor all along the coast of China and is very rarely noted in Shanghai, with the last previous record in 2012. Before the encounter Saturday, I had seen Black-throated Loon only once, on 18 Sept. 2013 at Laotieshan (38.730483, 121.134018) in the northeastern province of Liaoning.
Here is video of Black-throated Loon at Sanjiagang Seaside Park.
GULLING WITH BIRDERS IN MY POCKET
On Sat. 18 March at Binjiang Park (31.240195,121.490717), with the Pudong skyline looming behind, Michael Grunwell and I scanned the gulls on the Huangpu River.
“I think we’ve found Slaty-backed!” Michael cried.
With my iPhone I took photos of the gull through my scope and uploaded the photos to Shanghai Birding, the chat group I manage on the instant-messaging application WeChat. Within minutes the experts in my pocket started weighing in. Shenzhen birder Jonathan Martinez and Larry Chen, both strong gullers, confirmed Michael’s ID. Michael and I had a life bird!
Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus breeds on islands and cliffs on the coast of the Russian Far East (particularly the Kamchatka Peninsula) as well as Hokkaido. Wintering Slaty-backed are common in Japan, less common in northern coastal China, and rare in Shanghai.
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Birds noted at Binjiang Park (Bīnjiāng Gōngyuán [滨江公园]; 31.235662, 121.497396), small urban park on Huangpu River in Pudong New Area (Pǔdōng Xīn Qū [浦东新区]), Shanghai, China. Overcast; low 10° C, high 13° C. Visibility 10 km. Wind NE 11 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 91 (moderate). Sunrise 06:00, sunset 18:04. SAT 18 MAR 2017 11:00-12:45. Craig Brelsford & Michael Grunwell.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 20
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 50
Mongolian Gull Larus vegae mongolicus 1 w. tags & band
Vega/Mongolian Gull L. vegae vegae/mongolicus 149
Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus heuglini 3
Slaty-backed Gull L. schistisagus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 15
List 2 of 2 for Sat. 18 March 2017 (22 species)
Birds noted at Sanjiagang Seaside Park (Sānjiǎgǎng Hǎibīn Lèyuán [三甲港海滨乐园]; 31.217928, 121.768172), Pudong New Area (Pǔdōng Xīn Qū [浦东新区]), Shanghai, China. Overcast; low 10° C, high 13° C. Visibility 10 km. Wind NE 11 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 91 (moderate). Sunrise 06:00, sunset 18:04. SAT 18 MAR 2017 14:15-16:45. Craig Brelsford & Michael Grunwell.
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 40
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata 1
Black-throated Loon G. arctica 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 50
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 5
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 3
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 75
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 60
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 7
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 3
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 25
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 15
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 2 (1 singing)
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 40
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 50
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 20
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla 5
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 7
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 7
Featured image: Black-throated Loon Gavia arctica, Laotieshan, Liaoning, China, 18 Sept. 2013. Photo by Craig Brelsford using Nikon D3S and Nikkor 600mm F/4 lens. 1/800, F/14, ISO 1600. I was just 7.1 m from the loon, lying on my belly on the rocky shore.
Distinguishing non-breeding Nordmann’s Greenshank from Common Greenshank is a tricky task, but one that reaps rewards. With practice you too can feel the rush that comes when you realize that the greenshank you are viewing is not one of the most common shorebirds in Eurasia, but one of the rarest. On Sat. 17 Sept. 2016 at Nanhui, our team experienced that thrill, picking out a Nordmann’s in a roost holding a few hundred shorebirds.
We noted the following:
— Tibiae of Nordmann’s Greenshank are noticeably shorter than those of Common Greenshank.
The picture above makes it clear. The biggest reason Nordmann’s is known as the stockier bird, the rugby player compared to the ballerina that is Common Greenshank, is tibia and leg length.
— Nordmann’s has a thicker neck that it often holds closer to its body and has a pronounced ventral angle (protruding belly), giving Nordmann’s a more hunched appearance than Common.
As with many of the characters of these species, the hunched stance of Nordmann’s is not always obvious, especially when the bird is active. Likewise, even a Common sometimes can appear stout. But as one’s observation time grows, the classic features of both species will emerge.
— Nordmann’s has a thicker, more obviously bi-colored bill than Common.
Because the Nordmann’s at our Nanhui roost did not fly, we missed the following key characteristics:
— The toes of Nordmann’s project just beyond the tail-tip; the toes of Common project farther.
This difference can be subtle, and a good camera is sometimes needed to appreciate it. But it is consistent.
— Nordmann’s has a cleaner tail and underwing than Common.
Even if your Nordmann’s is roosting, you can sometimes note the white underwing. Wait for the bird to stretch out its wing.
— The calls of Nordmann’s Greenshank and Common Greenshank are markedly different. The well-known “chew-chew-chew” call of Common is never made by Nordmann’s.
— In breeding plumage the species are more readily distinguishable. Nordmann’s Greenshank is also known as Spotted Greenshank for good reason. The heavily spotted underparts of breeding Nordmann’s are diagnostic. Unfortunately for birders in Shanghai, however, Nordmann’s in full breeding plumage is rarely seen.
Nordmann’s Greenshank Tringa guttifer is an endangered species. Only 500 to 1,000 of these birds are thought to remain. Development along the East Asian coast is the main reason for its decline. Nordmann’s breeds in Russia, passes through China, and winters in Southeast Asia. It is present in the Shanghai area for several months each year.
OTHER GOOD STUFF
The Nordmann’s took top billing on a day that saw veteran British birder Michael Grunwell, my wife Elaine Du, and me note 71 species at Nanhui, Lesser Yangshan, and the sod farm south of Pudong Airport (31.112586, 121.824742). We were joined at the roost and Nanhui microforests by the crack high-school birding team of Larry Chen, Komatsu Yasuhiko, Chi Shu, and Andy Lee.
Our Non-Nordmann highlights:
We noted 2500 at Nanhui, by far the highest number of White-winged Tern that I have seen. They made quite a spectacle, fluttering like snowflakes over the reed beds.
Three at the roost. Michael and I discussed whether Aleutian Tern, similar to Common Tern in winter plumage, passes through Shanghai and has been overlooked. Check for the red legs of Common; if the legs appear black, then keep investigating; you may have an Aleutian.
Ruddy Shelduck is uncommon in Shanghai; I have recorded flocks at Chongming but had never seen the species at Nanhui. We saw a single Ruddy in the marshy agricultural land north of Lúcháo (芦潮; 30.851111, 121.848528).
Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Knot, Red Knot, Grey-tailed Tattler
The godwits, knots, and tattlers were in the dry roost with the Nordmann’s. Every one of these species is at least near-threatened; Great Knot is endangered.
After the excitement with the Nordmann’s at the roost, the seven of us covered the microforests. Our teamwork paid off with a view of Black-winged Cuckooshrike, an uncommon passage migrant in Shanghai.
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher
Yet another near-threatened species, Terpsiphone atrocaudata is common on migration in Shanghai. We noted 10 on Saturday. Care must be taken to separate this species from Amur Paradise Flycatcher T. incei, which passes through Shanghai in smaller numbers. Male and female Japanese have a more extensive dark hood, extending almost to the belly, whereas that of Amur extends only to the upper breast. Consult your field guide for more differences.
On Lesser Yangshan we found Oriental Dollarbird. Our final stop was the sod farm south of Pudong International Airport, where we found 4 Pacific Golden Plover and 200 Oriental Pratincole.
Birds noted around Pudong Nanhui Dongtan Wetland (Pǔdōng Nánhuì Dōngtān Shīdì [浦东南汇东滩湿地]; 30.920507, 121.973159), Pudong, Shanghai, China. Includes birds found along Shijitang Road between 31.000204, 121.938145 & 30.851114, 121.848527. Cloudy with drizzle, turning partly sunny. Low 22° C, high 27° C. Visibility 10 km. Wind NE 26 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 42 (good). Sunrise 05:40, sunset 17:56. Note: On Thurs. 15 Sept. 2016, Typhoon Meranti struck Fujian & Zhejiang & dumped much rain on Shanghai. SAT 17 SEP 2016 06:20-08:35, 11:55-16:35. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea 1
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 8
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 20
Great Egret A. alba 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 150
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 40
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 3
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 3
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 10
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus 50
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 50
Little Ringed Plover C. dubius 10
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa melanuroides 40
Bar-tailed Godwit L. lapponica 5
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris 15
Red Knot C. canutus 20
Broad-billed Sandpiper C. falcinellus 20
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper C. acuminata 40
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 40
Dunlin C. alpina 20
Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago stenura/megala 5
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus 3
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 5
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes 2
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 3
Nordmann’s Greenshank T. guttifer 1
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 30
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 18
Common Redshank T. totanus 1
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum 30
Little Tern Sternula albifrons 20
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica 30
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus ca. 2500
Whiskered Tern C. hybrida 30
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Red Turtle Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica 2
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 5 Cuculus sp. 4
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 3
Black-winged Cuckooshrike Coracina melaschistos 1
Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus 1
Brown Shrike L. cristatus 12
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 15
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 3
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata 10
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 200
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 10
Arctic/Kamchatka Leaf/Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealis/examinandus/xanthodryas 3
Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler P. tenellipes/borealoides 3
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 5
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 3
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 6
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 4
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 15
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 8
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher M. dauurica 5
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 25
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis tschutschensis 10
Grey Wagtail M. cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba leucopsis 3
List 2 of 3 for Sat. 17 Sept. 2016 (13 species). Birds noted on Lesser Yangshan Island (Xiǎo Yángshān [小洋山]), island in Hangzhou Bay, Zhejiang, China. List includes birds noted at Temple Mount (30.639866, 122.048327). Cloudy with drizzle, turning partly sunny. Low 22° C, high 27° C. Visibility 10 km. Wind NE 26 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 42 (good). Sunrise 05:40, sunset 17:56. Note: On Thurs. 15 Sept. 2016, Typhoon Meranti struck Fujian & Zhejiang & dumped much rain on Shanghai. SAT 17 SEP 2016 09:10-11:05. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 3
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 1
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 8
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 3
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 5
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 8
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 2
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2 Anthus sp. 2
List 3 of 3 for Sat. 17 Sept. 2016 (18 species). Birds noted at sod farm south of Pudong International Airport (31.112586, 121.824742), Pudong, Shanghai, China. Cloudy with drizzle, turning partly sunny. Low 22° C, high 27° C. Visibility 10 km. Wind NE 26 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 42 (good). Sunrise 05:40, sunset 17:56. Note: On Thurs. 15 Sept. 2016, Typhoon Meranti struck Fujian & Zhejiang & dumped much rain on Shanghai. SAT 17 SEP 2016 17:10-18:10. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 15
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 150
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 20
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 4
Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus 2
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius ca. 150
Temminck’s Stint Calidris temminckii 8
Long-toed Stint C. subminuta 6
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 30
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3
Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe G. stenura/megala 6
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 8
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis 12
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 20
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum ca. 200
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis tschutschensis 60
Featured image: Nordmann’s Greenshank stands among wader roost at Nanhui, 17 Sept. 2016. Using the principles described in this post, our team was able to ID this Nordmann’s. Photo by Komatsu Yasuhiko (“Hiko”) using his Kowa TSN 883 Prominar spotting scope and Kowa TSN IP6 adapter and Craig Brelsford’s iPhone 6.
The autumn migration season here in Shanghai has kicked off in style. Leading the parade of migrants is Fairy Pitta, seen in Microforest 2 at Nanhui on Sat. 3 Sept. 2016 and still there as of Sunday afternoon. Another notable sighting on Saturday was Common Ringed Plover at the sod farm south of Pudong International Airport.
Partnering yet again with Shanghai-based British birder Michael Grunwell, Elaine Du and I were out Sat. 27 Aug. and again the following Saturday, 3 Sept. On both days we found Asian Dowitcher and endangered Great Knot. On 3 Sept. a group of 135 Great Knot and 3 Asian Dowitcher were part of a wader roost of ca. 400 individuals in the canal between microforests 1 and 2. The roost also contained a single endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank, 30 Red Knot, and 3 Curlew Sandpiper. On the mudflats nearby, we had a flyby of 3 endangered Far Eastern Curlew. On 27 Aug. a smaller roost at the same location had some of the species noted above as well as Grey-tailed Tattler. 27 Aug. also yielded a single Red-necked Phalarope.
Other highlights from 3 Sept.:
26 Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe at sod farm near Pudong Airport
ca. 200 near-threatened Black-tailed Godwit in that wader roost at Nanhui
230 Oriental Pratincole at Nanhui and sod farm
1 Lesser Coucal (juv.) in reed bed at Nanhui
8 paradise flycatchers, all likely Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, in microforests at Nanhui
8 Arctic-type Warbler on Lesser Yangshan and at Nanhui, plus records of Eastern Crowned Warbler and the tricky species pair Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler. The Eastern Crowned Warbler were silent, but the Arctic-types and Pale-Saks were calling.
516 Eastern Yellow Wagtail, most of this impressive number from Pudong Airport sod farm and the Nanhui sod farm on Ganlan Road (30.890865, 121.902011)
— On Sat. 27 Aug. we added to our trio special guest Mikkel Thorup, a mathematician from Denmark. This was not Mikkel’s first birding trip in China, but he is still fresh enough that he was picking off lifers left and right. Later, we were joined by the international high-school birding team of Komatsu Yasuhiko (Japan), Larry Chen (Canada), and Chi Shu (Shanghai).
— The decline of Lesser Yangshan as a birding spot is accelerating. Garbage Dump Coastal Plain has been lost to birding, with earth-moving machines all around and new buildings going up. Garbage Dump Gully is intact, but the increased activity on the coastal plain means that security, already tight now, may be even tighter in the future, and it may soon prove impossible to reach the gully. A migrant trap par excellence, Garbage Dump Gully is crucial to Shanghai birders. Over the years the gully has given birders Japanese Robin, Verditer Flycatcher, Varied Tit, White-bellied Green Pigeon, and scores of other good records. Garbage Dump Gully must be preserved; access to it must be sustained.
— On 27 Aug. we found a banded Black-tailed Godwit. As is my habit, I filled out and submitted the Leg Flag Report Form on the Web site of the Australasian Wader Studies Group. Our godwit, it turns out, received its bands on 19 June 2016 on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia (at 57.08, 156.64), 4000 km from Shanghai. UPDATE: On 9 Sept. 2016 a godwit with the E7 band was found by Chinese photographer kaca at virtually the same location as the 27 Aug. sighting.
— The task of ID-ing the Nordmann’s was clear-cut and was helped along by a Common Greenshank that appeared next to the Nordmann’s. The head of the Nordmann’s was proportionally larger than that of the Common, and it had a higher knee with shorter legs–an obviously stockier bird, a rugby player compared to a ballerina. The Nordmann’s stretched out its wing, revealing clean white plumage underneath. Common has a greyer underwing.
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus ca. 200
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 2
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 20
Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus 2
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 1
Common Ringed Plover C. hiaticula tundrae 1
Little Ringed Plover C. dubius 80
Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago stenura/megala 26
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres 3
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum 140
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 1
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 20
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis tschutschensis ca. 300
White Wagtail M. alba leucopsis 1
Featured image: Fairy Pitta, Nanhui Microforest 2, Sun. 4 Sept. 2016. Photo by Komatsu Yasuhiko using Nikon D7100 + Tamron 150-600 F/5.6, F/6, 1/100, ISO 640. Yasuhiko, or “Hiko,” is a contributor to shanghaibirding.com. A native of Japan, Hiko is a sophomore at Shanghai High School International Division.