Rites of Spring

For birders in Earth’s greatest city, finding Oriental Plover is one of the rites of spring. Last Sun. 26 March 2017 on Shanghai’s Hengsha Island, our three-man birding team tracked down 25 of these passage migrants. The encounter was the latest in a series of interesting experiences I have had with the East Asian specialty.

Along with Shanghai birders Michael Grunwell and Komatsu Yasuhiko, I drove on Saturday night 25 March to Changxing Island, crossing to Hengsha on the ferry. We set up for the night at my accustomed bed and breakfast, Héngshā Bànrìxián Mínsù (横沙半日闲民宿, +86 150-2164-5467, no English).

A male Oriental Plover in partial breeding stands at Sanjiagang, 29 March 2010. Every year from about the third week of March until the middle of April, Charadrius veredus passes through Shanghai en route to its breeding grounds in Mongolia. For Shanghai birders, seizing the opportunity to view this East Asian specialty is an annual rite of spring. Craig Brelsford.
A male Oriental Plover in partial breeding plumage stands at the old sod farm (31.205847, 121.777368) at Sanjiagang, Pudong, 29 March 2010. Every year from the third week of March until the middle of April, Charadrius veredus passes through Shanghai en route to its breeding grounds in Mongolia. For Shanghai birders, seizing the brief opportunity to view this East Asian specialty is an annual rite of spring. (Craig Brelsford)

At 05:40 the next morning we zipped through the gate (31.297333, 121.859434) to the vast reclaimed area of Hengsha Island. Formerly intertidal shoals at the mouth of the Yangtze River, the area, now walled in, offers some of the best birding in Shanghai.

Michael and Hiko had no experience with Oriental Plover. I have seen the species various times. One of the highlights of my early birding career occurred on 29 March 2010. On a cool, early-spring afternoon, I lay on my belly in the presence of 30 Oriental Plover at the old sod farm (31.205847, 121.777368) at Sanjiagang in Pudong. What an unforgettable experience that was.

Oriental Plover, 29 March 2010, Sanjiagang (Craig Brelsford).
Oriental Plover, 29 March 2010, sod farm, Sanjiagang. Lying on the cool grass in the presence of those serene long-distance travelers, I felt I had entered birding heaven.  (Craig Brelsford)

The sod farm has long since been destroyed, but memories of those times, as well as my observations of the species on its breeding grounds near Hulun Lake in Inner Mongolia, still live in me, and they told me where to look for the bird. One needs to find habitat reminiscent of the dry, stony steppe on which it breeds.

On Hengsha, such habitat is abundant, and we scoured all the likely spots, among them the place where my wife Elaine Du and I found 3 Oriental Plover last April 9.

Oriental Plover habitat at Hengsha (top) and Inner Mongolia (bottom). Top: Hiko. Bottom: Craig Brelsford
Oriental Plover habitat on Hengsha Island (top) and in Inner Mongolia (bottom). Note the similarities between the flat, grassy area on Hengsha Island and the steppe near Hulun Lake. A migrating Oriental Plover, especially one that may have flown virtually non-stop from Australia, sees the scene at top and thinks of home. Top: Komatsu Yasuhiko, 26 March 2017, 31.301475, 121.917442. Bottom: Craig Brelsford, 24 July 2015, 48.254637, 118.338622.

We were driving along the coastal road that skirts the southern edge of the reclaimed area. The morning was hazy, with air pollution giving me the sniffles, but even with the reduced visibility one could appreciate the power of the Yangtze looming behind.

Here, the longest river in Asia releases into the East China Sea the water collected along its course of 6,300 km (3,915 mi.). On clear days, one can see the famous skyline of Pudong, 38 km (24 mi.) away. At Hengsha Island, one stands on the eastern edge of Eurasia at the mouth of China’s greatest river in the shadow of Earth’s greatest city.

As we drove, the reed beds and marshy areas began to recede, and there opened up before us drier, grassier habitat, perfect for Oriental Plover. Stopping the car, I intoned, in a voice recalling Brigham Young, “This is the place.” (The coordinates are 31.301475, 121.917442.)

Michael Grunwell views Oriental Plover on Hengsha Island, 26 March 2017 (Komatsu Yasuhiko).
Michael Grunwell views Oriental Plover in steppe-like habitat, Hengsha, 26 March. (Komatsu Yasuhiko)

We broke out a forest of tripods and set upon them our spotting scopes. Michael, the seasoned veteran, saw the plovers first. Continuing our Wild West theme, Michael shouted, “Eureka!” His head was motionless, glued to the scope, but his arms were waving, and he was dancing a jig. The 49er had just struck gold.

Michael and Hiko moved in for a closer look. I stayed above, scanning the scene through my Swarovski ATX-95. Males and females were in partial breeding plumage. They were running fast across the turf, picking off invertebrates. Twice they flew, and I appreciated their powerful, erratic flight and long wings.

We found 16 Oriental Plover there. We found another 9 on the north shore of the reclaimed area, on the mudflats.

NOTES ON ORIENTAL PLOVER

Oriental Plover breeds mainly in Mongolia. The breeding range extends into China in Hulunbeier, the northernmost portion of Inner Mongolia. In Shanghai, Charadrius veredus is an uncommon springtime passage migrant.
Oriental Plover breeds mainly in Mongolia. The range extends into China in Hulunbeier, the northernmost prefecture of Inner Mongolia. In Shanghai and at various places along the Chinese coast, Charadrius veredus is an uncommon springtime passage migrant. Autumn records are scanty, and the migration route of Oriental Plover south through China is not entirely clear. Map by Wikipedia/Craig Brelsford.

Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus is listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN. A survey in 2010 came up with an estimated world population of 160,000, an encouraging number. The species is helped by the sparse human population both in the area where it breeds (mainly Mongolia) and where it winters (mainly Australia).

The species may be helped as well by its migration patterns. There is evidence that migrating Oriental Plover overfly much of Southeast Asia and possibly even China, areas where the hand of man is much heavier than in Mongolia and Australia.

In the entry for Oriental Plover in Handbook of the Birds of the World, T. Piersma mentions a “scarcity of records between China and the non-breeding grounds,” suggesting that migrating Oriental Plover make a “non-stop flight between these two zones.” Robson, in Birds of Southeast Asia, describes Oriental Plover as a “vagrant/rare passage migrant.”

Oriental Plover doze just meters away from the photographer at Sanjiagang, 29 March 2010. It is probable that these plovers had just completed a very long flight, possibly all the way from Australia, before landing here. Craig Brelsford.
Exhausted Oriental Plover doze just meters away from the photographer at Sanjiagang, 29 March 2010. These plovers had probably just completed a very long leg of the journey from Australia to Mongolia. (Craig Brelsford)

Piersma says Oriental Plover is “very abundant” on migration in the Yangtze River Valley. That is doubtful. Oriental Plover are certainly not abundant in Shanghai; indeed, in autumn they are virtually unrecorded here (as well as in much of eastern China). The city may nonetheless serve as a staging area for some portion of the species in spring.

My anecdotal evidence may lend credence to the idea that Oriental Plover fly mind-boggling distances between Australia and Mongolia. During my close encounter with the 30 Oriental Plover at Sanjiagang, the plovers were clearly exhausted. Some fell asleep right in front of me. How many kilometers had they just flown? Hundreds? Thousands?

The pure white head of breeding male Oriental Plover is diagnostic. Sanjiagang, 2 April 2010. Craig Brelsford.
This male Oriental Plover has nearly attained full breeding plumage. Note the diagnostic white head, still showing some of the darker non-breeding feathers. Charadrius veredus is the Ghost Rider of plovers. Sanjiagang, 2 April 2010. (Craig Brelsford)

Oriental Plover is most closely related to, and was once considered conspecific with, Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus. Breeding male Oriental Plover is readily distinguishable from Caspian by its purely white head. The thick black breast band on breeding Oriental male is also distinctive.

Non-breeding Greater Sand Plover and Lesser Sand Plover are smaller and more compact and have narrower breast bands than non-breeding Oriental Plover. In flight, Oriental Plover lacks the white wing bar seen on the sand plovers.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Birds of Hengsha Island, 26 March 2017. Clockwise from top L: Bar-tailed Godwit, showing (top R) band and ring combination indicative of processing on Chongming Island; Common Reed Bunting; and Eurasian Curlew. (Craig Brelsford)
Birds of Hengsha Island, 26 March 2017. Clockwise from top L: Bar-tailed Godwit, showing (top R) band and ring combination indicative of processing on Chongming Island; Common Reed Bunting; and Eurasian Curlew. (Craig Brelsford)

Michael, Hiko, and I noted 64 species on Sun. 26 March 2017. Besides the plovers, we had 10 Marsh Grassbird singing from deep cover, Common Reed Bunting feeding alone on the ground, and 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 of which had been banded on Chongming Island.

Also Garganey 59, Eurasian Teal 625, Eurasian Bittern 8 booming, Hen Harrier 1 male, Pied Harrier 1 female, Eurasian Curlew 2, Great Knot 2, Ruff 6, Sanderling 1, Dunlin 350, and Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler 3 singing.

At Nanhui, we had skittish Short-eared Owl and breeding Black-necked Grebe (Dishui Lake). We found no Hooded Crane, our well-known individual most likely having departed after its historic winter sojourn on the tip of the Shanghai Peninsula.

COLLECTING RECORDS ON WECHAT

Join Shanghai Birding for the very latest bird sightings in Shanghai.
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On 28 March 2017 on Chongming, Shanghai birder Fàn Jūn (范钧) found 7 Long-billed Dowitcher feeding together. The flock of 7 may be the largest ever recorded of the species in Shanghai.

Fàn Jūn reported the finding on the Shanghai Birding WeChat group, and I published the report and his photo on the Sightings page of shanghaibirding.com.

To become a member of Shanghai Birding, friend me on WeChat (ID: craigbrelsford). I’ll then add you to Shanghai’s best birding chat group.

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DAY LISTS
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 2 for Sunday 26 March 2017 (50 species)

Oriental Plover, 23 April 2010, Sanjiagang. (Craig Brelsford)
Oriental Plover, 23 April 2010. This photo was taken at a place once reliable for Charadrius veredus: the old sod farm at Sanjiagang, 6.5 km N of Pudong Airport (31.205847, 121.777368). The farm has been destroyed, but steppe-like habitat required by Oriental Plover remains on Hengsha Island. There, on 26 March 2017, a trio of foreign birdwatchers noted 25 Oriental Plover. (Craig Brelsford)

Birds noted on Hengsha Island (Héngshā Dǎo [横沙岛]), small alluvial island at mouth of Yangtze River in Shanghai, China. S gate to reclaimed area at 31.297333, 121.859434. Cloudy; low 7° C, high 17° C. Wind WNW 16 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 177 (unhealthful). Visibility 10 km. Sunrise 05:50, sunset 18:10. SUN 26 MAR 2017 05:40-10:40. Craig Brelsford, Michael Grunwell, & Komatsu Yasuhiko.

Gadwall Anas strepera 28
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 8
Garganey A. querquedula 59
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 625
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 20
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 8
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 40
Great Egret A. alba 10
Intermediate Egret A. intermedia 15
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 30
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 1
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 28
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 1
Pied Harrier C. melanoleucos 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 20
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 70
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 3
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 4
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 8
Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus 1
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 220
Little Ringed Plover C. dubius 1
Oriental Plover C. veredus 25
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 4
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris 2
Ruff C. pugnax 6
Sanderling C. alba 1
Dunlin C. alpina 350
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 6
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 65
Common Redshank T. totanus 6
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae/mongolicus 1
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 5
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 7
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 12
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 3
Marsh Grassbird Locustella pryeri 10
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 15
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 3
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 10
Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus 8
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 75
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 4
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 5
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala 1
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 40
Common Reed Bunting E. schoeniclus 1

List 2 of 2 for Sunday 26 March 2017 (22 species)

Japanese birder Komatsu Yasuhiko ('Hiko') stands with his beloved scope and tripod at Dishui Lake, 26 March 2017 (Craig Brelsford).
Shanghai-based Japanese birder Komatsu Yasuhiko with his beloved scope and tripod, Dishui Lake, 26 March 2017. (Craig Brelsford)

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. We covered the coastal road between Binhai (Bīnhǎi Zhèn [滨海镇]; 31.006250, 121.885558) and Luchao (Lúcháo Gǎng [芦潮港]; 30.851109, 121.848455). Among the points along this 30 km stretch are Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), a site providing access to the reed beds at the mouth of the Dazhi River (Dàzhì Hé [大治河]); Big Bend (31.000321, 121.938074); Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083); Microforest 1 (30.923889, 121.971635); Magic Parking Lot (30.884898, 121.968229); Magic GPS Point (30.880563, 121.964551); South Lock (30.860073, 121.909997); Eiffel Tower (30.850531, 121.878047); & the Marshy Agricultural Land (30.850707, 121.863662). List includes birds noted at Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). Cloudy; low 7° C, high 17° C. Wind WNW 16 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 177 (unhealthful). Visibility 10 km. Sunrise 05:50, sunset 18:10. SUN 26 MAR 2017 12:50-15:50. Craig Brelsford, Michael Grunwell, & Komatsu Yasuhiko.

Falcated Duck Anas falcata 30
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 50
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 28
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 13
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 3
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida 1
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 3
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus 1
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 19
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 10
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 1
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 2
Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 40
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 5
White Wagtail M. alba 12
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 1

WORKS CONSULTED

Brazil, Mark. Birds of East Asia. Princeton University Press. Oriental Plover, p. 164.

del Hoyo, Josep, et al., eds. The Handbook of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions. Vol. 3, “Hoatzin to Auks.” Species accounts for Oriental Plover and Caspian Plover (p. 438) by T. Piersma.

John MacKinnon wrote the most influential field guide ever published about China's birds.
In December 2016, John MacKinnon published his second guest post for shanghaibirding.com.

MacKinnon, John & Karen Phillipps. A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford University Press. Oriental Plover, p. 178. Authors mention Hulun Lake as breeding area for species. Curiously, Liaoning is also mentioned.

Message, Stephen & Don Taylor. Waders of Europe, Asia and North America. Oriental Plover, pp. 66 & 152.

Robson, Craig. Birds of Southeast Asia. Oriental Plover, p. 106. Consulted to get a better idea of the rarity of Oriental Plover in Southeast Asia.

Svensson, Lars & Killian Mullarney & Dan Zetterström. Collins Bird Guide, 2nd ed. HarperCollins, 1999-2009. Caspian Plover, p. 142.

Featured image: On 29 March 2010, Craig Brelsford found 30 exhausted Oriental Plover at the old sod farm at Sanjiagang (31.205847, 121.777368), 6.5 km (4 mi.) north of Pudong Airport in Shanghai. I got the image here, as well as all my plover images in this post, with my old Nikon D300 plus Nikkor 600mm f/4 lens.

Loons Near Pudong Airport

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.

Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata, Sanjiagang Water Park, March 2017. Photo by Kai Pflug.
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata, Sanjiagang Seaside Park (31.217928, 121.768172). Photo by Kai Pflug. On Sun. 19 March 2017, a day after Michael Grunwell and I viewed it, this loon was discovered dead at the water park. It may have been a victim of poisoning through the ingestion of oil that had collected on its feathers.

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.

The feet of loons are placed far back on their body. Their resulting ungainliness on land is obvious even on a resting loon, as here. Laotieshan, Liaoning, 18 Sept. 2013. Photo by Craig Brelsford.
The feet of loons are placed far back on the bulky body, making loons powerful divers and clumsy walkers. Note the dagger-like bill, elongated head, and thick neck, characteristic of all five species in the loon family Gaviidae. I found this Black-throated Loon on 18 Sept. 2013 at Laotieshan, Liaoning (38.730483, 121.134018).

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

Michael Grunwell viewing gulls on Huangpu River, 18 March 2017. Photo by Craig Brelsford.
Michael Grunwell views gulls Saturday at Binjiang Park (31.2356935, 121.4973863). Craig Brelsford.

On Sat. 18 March at Binjiang Park (31.2356935, 121.4973863), 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!

By its second winter, Slaty-backed Gull (C) shows a mantle darker than that of all other gulls in our region. Note the contrast in mantle color between Larus schistisagus and the adult Vega Gull L. vegae vegae/mongolicus surrounding it. Photo by Craig Brelsford using iPhone 6 and PhoneSkope adapter attached to my Swarovski ATX-95 spotting scope.
By its second winter, Slaty-backed Gull (C) shows a saddle a darker shade of grey than that of all other gulls in East Asia. Note here the contrast between the slate-grey of Larus schistisagus (top inset) and the lighter grey of the other gulls, all adult Vega Gull L. vegae vegae/mongolicus (bottom inset). UPDATE, 18 APR 2017: In a guest post for shanghaibirding.com about the Widespread Herring-type Gulls of East Asia, Nial Moores says the gull far L is Taimyr Gull L. (heuglini) taimyrensis. Photo by Craig Brelsford using iPhone 6 and PhoneSkope adapter attached to Swarovski ATX-95 spotting scope.

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.

Slaty-backed Gull, 2nd winter, Huangpu River, Shanghai 18 March 2017.
Slaty-backed Gull, Shanghai. Note the angular head, stout bill, and short, thick, bubblegum-pink legs. Craig Brelsford.
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Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 18 March 2017 (7 species)

Vega/Mongolian Gull Larus vegae vegae/mongolicus, Binjiang Park (31.240195, 121.490717), Shanghai, China, 18 March 2017. © 2017 by Craig Brelsford (www.craigbrelsford.com, www.shanghaibirding.com)
Mongolian Gull Larus vegae mongolicus, Binjiang Park (31.2356935, 121.4973863), 18 March. Tag says ‘AL 62.’ I am looking into the origin of the tag and will update this post when I get more information. This is yet another photo taken with my iPhone 6 + PhoneSkope + Swarovski ATX-95. UPDATE, 22 MAR 2017: Thank you to Nial Moores from Birds Korea for showing me this page about a wing-tagging program for gulls from 2004 in northeastern Mongolia. It is highly possible that the gull above is part of that program. UPDATE, 24 MAR 2017: Gull researcher Andreas Buchheim has written me saying that he himself ringed gull AL 62 on 27 May 2013 at Telmen Lake (48.8, 97.25) in NW Mongolia. Telmen Lake is 2,820 km (1,752 miles) from Shanghai’s Binjiang Park. Buchheim said that when he ringed AL 62, it was already an adult. This means that AL 62 hatched no later than spring 2010 and that the youngest it could be is nearly 7 years old. All large, white-headed gulls breeding in Mongolia, Buchheim said, are mongolicus. Regarding our mongolicus, Nial Moores from Birds Korea said, ‘This individual shows more obvious yellowish tones to the legs than most/any we see here in Korea (where they are invariably pinkish-legged). It is known that some Mongolians on the breeding grounds have yellowish tones to the legs–so perhaps this difference between birds in Shanghai and Korea is to do with hormonal condition pre-migration. It tends to be several degrees colder in Korea than in Shanghai on the same dates, of course.’

Birds noted at Binjiang Park (Bīnjiāng Gōngyuán [滨江公园], (31.2356935, 121.4973863), 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)

Shanghai Birder KaneXu (L), and Michael Grunwell share a laugh after discovering that they both own the same model of camera, the Nikon Coolpix P900S.
Shanghai birders KaneXu (L) and Michael Grunwell share a laugh after discovering that they own the same camera, the Nikon Coolpix P900S. The two were at Sanjiagang Seaside Park on 18 March. When it comes to compact cameras, Nikon and other manufacturers are feeling the heat from smartphones. They know that consumers are turning away from compact cameras because the cameras in smartphones are now so good. They are therefore loading up compact cameras such as the P900S with plenty of power and pricing them competitively. KaneXu and Michael are getting great stills as well as video with their new cameras. Photo by Craig Brelsford.

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.

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 was published on 12 Jan. 2017.

The photo above 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.
Cabot’s Tragopan, female, Emeifeng, 1 May 2015. 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. This photo and all other photos in this report by 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.

— 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. I took this photo on 3 May 2015 at Emeifeng.

— 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, 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, Pygmy Wren-babbler, Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler, Black-collared Starling, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Fork-tailed Sunbird, and Orange-bellied Leafbird

— 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. A dense hardwood forest covers the mountainside. Cabot’s Tragopan and White-necklaced Partridge thrive in these woods.

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.

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.

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 Brown Bush Warbler exclusively near Qingyun Temple in high-quality alpine scrub at elevations between 1500 m and 1700 m. We noted the bird only on the second half of the trip, with 6 found on 30 May 2015 and 5 on 31 May 2015. As my camera was in the shop in late May 2015, I got no photos of Brown Bush Warbler at Emeifeng. The photo here is of a Brown Bush Warbler at Mt. Wawu, Sichuan, taken by me on 10 July 2010.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List for Thurs. 28 May 2015 (57 species)

Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler, by Craig Brelsford.
Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler was noted by us on three of our eight days at Emeifeng, with 2 found on 28 May. Pomatorhinus swinhoei is endemic to southeast China. I got these photos on 15 Nov. 2014 in Wuyuan County, Jiangxi.

Birds noted around Emeifeng, mountain W Fujian, China. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). List includes observations from roads between Taining (泰宁; 26.896163, 117.181893), elev. ca. 400 m (1,300 ft.), Qingyun Temple (27.006583, 117.076389), & “Elliot’s Pheasant Site” (27.038276, 117.094207). Rainy & foggy in morning, clearing in mid-afternoon. 18°-26°C THU 28 MAY 2015 05:10-18:30. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 1
Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 6
Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera fokiensis 5
Elliot’s Pheasant Syrmaticus ellioti 1
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 5
Besra Accipiter virgatus 1
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 1
Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus 1
Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei 3
House Swift Apus nipalensis 30
Great Barbet Psilopogon virens 7
Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis 2
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris 6
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius sinensis 5
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha 7
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 5
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 4
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 25
Japanese Tit Parus minor 8
Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus rex 11
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 20
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 5
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 3
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 7
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus canipennis 19
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii 20
Pygmy Wren-babbler Pnoepyga pusilla 1
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 23
Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis 1
Sulphur-breasted Warbler P. ricketti 1
White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius 7
Chestnut-crowned Warbler S. castaniceps 12
Grey-headed Parrotbill Psittiparus gularis 33
Indochinese Yuhina Yuhina torqueola 70
Black-chinned Yuhina Y. nigrimenta 6
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 5
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 6
Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler P. swinhoei 2
Huet’s Fulvetta Alcippe hueti 20
Masked Laughingthrush Garrulax perspicillatus 2
Chinese Hwamei G. canorus 10
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush G. pectoralis 3
Buffy Laughingthrush G. berthemyi 16
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 3
Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus 2
Blue Whistling Thrush Myophonus caeruleus 1
Little Forktail Enicurus scouleri 2
White-crowned Forktail E. leschenaulti 4
Slaty-backed Forktail E. schistaceus 3
Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 8
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris 3
Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii 2
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 2
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 6
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 3

List for Fri. 29 May 2015 (63 species)

Crested Kingfisher, Qiliping, Hubei, 3 July 2011. Craig Brelsford.
A Crested Kingfisher emerges from the creek after an unsuccessful dive. I took this photo on 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.

Birds noted around Emeifeng, mountain W Fujian, China. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). List includes observations from roads between Taining (泰宁; 26.896163, 117.181893), elev. ca. 400 m (1,300 ft.), Qingyun Temple (27.006583, 117.076389), radio tower above Qingyun Temple (elev. ca. 1700 m), “Elliot’s Pheasant Site” (27.038276, 117.094207), & Shuibu Reservoir (Shuǐbù Shuǐkù [水埠水库]; 27.063469, 117.089115). Mostly cloudy, hot and humid. Fog at higher elevations, clearing in late afternoon. 18°-26°C. FRI 29 MAY 2015 05:20-17:40. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 19
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 3
Mountain Hawk-Eagle Nisaetus nipalensis 1
Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis 2
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 1
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides 2
House Swift Apus nipalensis 4
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Crested Kingfisher Megaceryle lugubris 3
Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis 5
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 2
Great Barbet Psilopogon virens 6 heard
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus 1
Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis 4
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris 5
Blyth’s Shrike-babbler Pteruthius aeralatus 2
White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca 3
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 1
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus 1
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius sinensis 4
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha 20
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 5
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 30
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 21
Japanese Tit Parus minor 15
Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus rex 2
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 21
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 28
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 10
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 1 heard
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus canipennis 14
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii 10
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 25
Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis 2
Sulphur-breasted Warbler P. ricketti 1
White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius 14
Chestnut-crowned Warbler S. castaniceps 7
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris 8
Indochinese Yuhina Yuhina torqueola 120
Black-chinned Yuhina Y. nigrimenta 16
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 12
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 7
Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler P. swinhoei 5
Huet’s Fulvetta Alcippe hueti 40
Masked Laughingthrush Garrulax perspicillatus 2
Chinese Hwamei G. canorus 10
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush G. pectoralis 5
Buffy Laughingthrush G. berthemyi 23
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 14
Red-billed Starling Sturnus sericeus 2
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 2
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 1
Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus 1
White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 4
Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 9
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris 1
Grey Bush Chat Saxicola ferreus 2
Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 16
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata 28
Scaly-breasted Munia L. punctulata 8
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 14

List for Sat. 30 May 2015 (54 species)

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.

Birds noted around Emeifeng, mountain W Fujian, China. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). List includes observations from roads between Taining (泰宁; 26.896163, 117.181893), elev. ca. 400 m (1,300 ft.), Qingyun Temple (27.006583, 117.076389), radio tower above Qingyun Temple (elev. ca. 1700 m), “Elliot’s Pheasant Site” (27.038276, 117.094207), & Shuibu Reservoir (Shuǐbù Shuǐkù [水埠水库]; 27.063469, 117.089115). Rainy and foggy. Cooler. 16°-24°C. SAT 30 MAY 2015 09:30-19:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 15
White-necklaced Partridge Arborophila gingica 2
Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 9
Cabot’s Tragopan Tragopan caboti 3
Elliot’s Pheasant Syrmaticus ellioti 6
Black Bittern Dupetor flavicollis 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 3
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 3
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus indicus 1
Chinese Sparrowhawk A. soloensis 4
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 3
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 1
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides 1
Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus 1
Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides whitelyi 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis 17
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 1
Great Barbet Psilopogon virens 4
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris 5
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius sinensis 6
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha 13
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 4
Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus rex 7
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 19
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 7
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 3
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 4
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus canipennis 25
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii 14
Pygmy Wren-babbler Pnoepyga pusilla 1 heard
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 40
Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis 4
White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius 12
Chestnut-crowned Warbler S. castaniceps 7
Brown Bush Warbler Locustella luteoventris 6
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris 1
Grey-headed Parrotbill Psittiparus gularis 5
Indochinese Yuhina Yuhina torqueola 45
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 5
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 12
Masked Laughingthrush Garrulax perspicillatus 3
Chinese Hwamei G. canorus 2
Buffy Laughingthrush G. berthemyi 3
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 6
White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 6
Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 2
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris 2
Grey Bush Chat Saxicola ferreus 3
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata 10
Scaly-breasted Munia L. punctulata 12
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 4

List for Sun. 31 May 2015 (48 species)

Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Hangzhou Botanical Garden, 21 June 2008. Craig Brelsford.
Chinese Bamboo Partridge is common at Emeifeng. We noted it on seven of our eight birding days there, with a count of 5 on 31 May 2015. I photographed this pair at Hangzhou Botanical Park on 21 June 2008.

Birds noted around Emeifeng, mountain W Fujian, China. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). List includes observations from roads between Taining (泰宁; 26.896163, 117.181893), elev. ca. 400 m (1,300 ft.), & Qingyun Temple (27.006583, 117.076389). SUN 31 MAY 2015 08:15-14:40. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

White-necklaced Partridge Arborophila gingica 2
Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 5
Cabot’s Tragopan Tragopan caboti 1 female
Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera fokiensis 1
Elliot’s Pheasant Syrmaticus ellioti 1
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 1
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
Besra Accipiter virgatus 1
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 2
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides 2
Lesser Cuckoo Cuculus poliocephalus 1
Great Barbet Psilopogon virens 3
Speckled Piculet Picumnus innominatus 1
Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis 1
Blyth’s Shrike-babbler Pteruthius aeralatus 4
White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca 2
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius sinensis 1
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha 4
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 2
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 9
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 8
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 7
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 2
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 1
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus canipennis 5
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii 13
Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis 5
White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius 8
Chestnut-crowned Warbler S. castaniceps 1
Brown Bush Warbler Locustella luteoventris 5
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris 1
Indochinese Yuhina Yuhina torqueola 30
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 18
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 5
Huet’s Fulvetta Alcippe hueti 10
Masked Laughingthrush Garrulax perspicillatus 3
Chinese Hwamei G. canorus 2
Buffy Laughingthrush G. berthemyi 10
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 4
Black-collared Starling Gracupica nigricollis 5
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 1
Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus 2
White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 6
Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 3
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris 4
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata 1
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 5

List of Place Names

Emeifeng (Éméifēng [峨嵋峰])

Emeifeng is in western Fujian (red), near the border with Jiangxi, 635 km (395 miles) SW of People's Square in Shanghai.
Emeifeng is in western Fujian (red), near the border with Jiangxi, 635 km (395 miles) SW of People’s Square in Shanghai. Map by TUBS (GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons. Modified by 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). Map by TUBS (GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons. Modified by 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.

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

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 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.
Cabot’s Tragopan, male, Emeifeng, 1 May 2015. 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. This photo and all other photos in this report by 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.

— 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.

— 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, 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, Pygmy Wren-babbler, Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler, Black-collared Starling, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, Fork-tailed Sunbird, and Orange-bellied Leafbird

— 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.

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. 30 April 2015.

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 of 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.

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, 1 May 2015. 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.

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, 1 May 2015. This is a jewel of a warbler, golden yellow with a boldly patterned head.

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 operate 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 of Emeifeng, 2 May 2015. Great Barbet (L) and adult Chinese Sparrowhawk.

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.

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.

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.

Day Lists
Lists are generated on eBird then adjusted to comport with my first reference, the IOC World Bird List.

List for Thurs. 30 April 2015 (49 species)

Buff-throated Warbler, Emeifeng, 30 April 2015.

Birds noted around Emeifeng, mountain W Fujian, China. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). List includes observations from roads between Taining (泰宁), elev. ca. 400 m (1,300 ft.), & Qingyun Temple. 27.006583, 117.076389 (Qingyun Temple), 26.896163, 117.181893 (Taining). 18°-29°C, morning fog burning off to reveal partly cloudy skies. THU 30 APR 2015 05:30-18:30. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

White-necklaced Partridge Arborophila gingica 8
Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 7
Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera fokiensis 1
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
Black Eagle Ictinaetus malaiensis 2
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus indicus 1
Chinese Sparrowhawk A. soloensis 9
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 1
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides 4
Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei 3
House Swift Apus nipalensis 5
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 1
Great Barbet Psilopogon virens 13
Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis 3
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris 2
White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca 2
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius sinensis 2
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha 12
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 3
Japanese Tit Parus minor 10
Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus rex 3
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 2
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 18
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 1
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 8
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus canipennis 30
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii 17
Pygmy Wren-babbler Pnoepyga pusilla 1 heard
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 38
Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis 2
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 3
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 1
White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius 8
Indochinese Yuhina Yuhina torqueola 36
Black-chinned Yuhina Y. nigrimenta 4
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 18
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 2
Huet’s Fulvetta Alcippe hueti 24
Red-billed Leiothrix Leiothrix lutea 2
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 1
Small Niltava Niltava macgrigoriae 2 (pair)
White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 5
Spotted Forktail E. maculatus 3
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 2
Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 2
Grey Bush Chat Saxicola ferreus 2 (pair)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 4
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 2

List for Fri. 1 May 2015 (37 species)

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 of 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.

Birds noted around Emeifeng, mountain W Fujian, China. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). List includes observations from roads between Taining (泰宁), elev. ca. 400 m (1,300 ft.), & Qingyun Temple. 27.006583, 117.076389 (Qingyun Temple), 26.896163, 117.181893 (Taining). Rain and fog off and on all day. Almost no wind. 18°-24°C. FRI 01 MAY 2015 09:20-15:30. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

White-necklaced Partridge Arborophila gingica 1
Cabot’s Tragopan Tragopan caboti 2
Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera fokiensis 9
Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis 1
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides 4
Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei 1
Great Barbet Psilopogon virens 8
Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis 1
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris 6
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha 3
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 4
Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus rex 3
Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea seorsa 3
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 4
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus canipennis 7
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii 13
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 16
Pygmy Wren-babbler Pnoepyga pusilla 1
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 11
Sulphur-breasted Warbler Phylloscopus ricketti 1
Chestnut-crowned Warbler Seicercus castaniceps 3
White-spectacled Warbler S. affinis intermedius 1
Indochinese Yuhina Yuhina torqueola 16
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 2
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 3
Huet’s Fulvetta Alcippe hueti 17
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush Garrulax pectoralis 12
Spotted Elachura Elachura formosa 1
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 5
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 1
Blue Whistling Thrush Myophonus caeruleus 2
White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 4
Spotted Forktail E. maculatus 5
Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 3
Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii 2 (pair)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 4

Mammals

Maritime Striped Squirrel, Emeifeng.
Maritime Striped Squirrel, Emeifeng, 1 May 2015.

Maritime Striped Squirrel Tamiops maritimus 1 at elev. 1350 m

List for Sat. 2 May 2015 (46 species). Birds noted around Emeifeng, mountain W Fujian, China. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). List includes observations from roads between Taining (泰宁; 26.896163, 117.181893), elev. ca. 400 m (1,300 ft.), & Qingyun Temple (27.006583, 117.076389), as well as “Elliot’s Pheasant Site” (27.038276, 117.094207), Shuibu Reservoir (Shuǐbù Shuǐkù [水埠水库]; 27.062074, 117.088922), & area around border of Fujian & Jiangxi, where X762 (Fujian) meets S214 (Jiangxi) (27.097394, 117.046614). Rainy, foggy, and windy throughout day, clearing in late afternoon. 17°-25°C. SAT 02 MAY 2015 09:10-19:05. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 9
Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 14
Cabot’s Tragopan Tragopan caboti 1 male
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 5
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 2
Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis 4
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 35
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides 1
House Swift Apus nipalensis 2
Great Barbet Psilopogon virens 2
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris 3
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 3
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius sinensis 2
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha 4
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 35
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 7
Japanese Tit Parus minor 6
Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus rex 6
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 8
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 1
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 7
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus canipennis 15
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii 6
Pygmy Wren-babbler Pnoepyga pusilla 1 heard
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 11
Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis 2
Sulphur-breasted Warbler P. ricketti 8
Chestnut-crowned Warbler Seicercus castaniceps 2
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris 10
Indochinese Yuhina Yuhina torqueola 24
Black-chinned Yuhina Y. nigrimenta 15
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 4
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 3
Dusky Fulvetta Alcippe brunnea 1
Huet’s Fulvetta A. hueti 5
Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus 1
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush G. pectoralis 9
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 9
White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 3
Slaty-backed Forktail E. schistaceus 2
Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 8
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris 2
Blue Rock Thrush M. solitarius philippensis 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 1
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 2
White Wagtail M. alba leucopsis 6

List for Sun. 3 May 2015 (59 species)

Birds of Emeifeng, 3 May 2015. Clockwise from L: Collared Finchbill, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Brown Shrike, and Indochinese Yuhina.
Birds of Emeifeng, 3 May 2015. Clockwise from L: Collared Finchbill, Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush, Brown Shrike, and Indochinese Yuhina.

Birds noted around Emeifeng, mountain W Fujian, China. Elev.: 1528 m (5,013 ft.) at Qingyun Temple (Qìngyún Sì [庆云寺]). List includes observations from roads between Taining (泰宁; 26.896163, 117.181893), elev. ca. 400 m (1,300 ft.), Qingyun Temple (27.006583, 117.076389), radio tower above Qingyun Temple (elev. ca. 1700 m), “Elliot’s Pheasant Site” (27.038276, 117.094207), & Shuibu Reservoir (Shuǐbù Shuǐkù [水埠水库]; 27.062074, 117.088922). Partly cloudy, warm. 19°-29°C. SUN 03 MAY 2015 05:30-17:15. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 23
White-necklaced Partridge Arborophila gingica 4
Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 10
Cabot’s Tragopan Tragopan caboti 2
Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera fokiensis 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 6
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 1
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 5
Black Eagle Ictinaetus malaiensis 2
Chinese Sparrowhawk Accipiter soloensis 4
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 13
Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides 2
Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei 3 heard
Great Barbet Psilopogon virens 12 heard
Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis 2 heard
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris 7
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 5
Blyth’s Shrike-babbler Pteruthius aeralatus 4
White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca 2
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha 11
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 5
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 20
Japanese Tit Parus minor 3
Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus rex 8
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 7
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 2
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 8
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus canipennis 8
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii 1
Pygmy Wren-babbler Pnoepyga pusilla 1 heard
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 21
Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis 6
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 1
Hartert’s Leaf Warbler P. goodsoni fokiensis 1
Sulphur-breasted Warbler P. ricketti 5
White-spectacled Warbler Seicercus affinis intermedius 13
Chestnut-crowned Warbler S. castaniceps 16
Grey-headed Parrotbill Psittiparus gularis 2
Indochinese Yuhina Yuhina torqueola 21
Black-chinned Yuhina Y. nigrimenta 15
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 2
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 5
Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler P. swinhoei 1
Dusky Fulvetta Alcippe brunnea 1 heard
Huet’s Fulvetta A. hueti 14
Buffy Laughingthrush Garrulax berthemyi 2
Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus 1
White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 4
Spotted Forktail E. maculatus 1
Plumbeous Water Redstart Phoenicurus fuliginosus 3
Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush Monticola rufiventris 2
Blue Rock Thrush M. solitarius philippensis 1
Grey Bush Chat Saxicola ferreus 2
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 1
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 4
Fork-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga christinae 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 30
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 4
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis 3

List of Place Names

Emeifeng (Éméifēng [峨嵋峰])

Emeifeng is in western Fujian (red), near the border with Jiangxi, 635 km (395 miles) SW of People's Square in Shanghai.
Emeifeng is in western Fujian (red), near the border with Jiangxi, 635 km (395 miles) SW of People’s Square in Shanghai. Map by TUBS (GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons. Modified by 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). Map by TUBS (GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons. Modified by 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.

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