Kamchatka Leaf Warbler in Shanghai

Seen at Pudong’s Cape Nanhui on Sun. 4 June 2017: Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus. Veteran British birder Michael Grunwell and I found our 4 Kamchatkas in Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083), the largest of the tree plantations on the landward side of the sea wall. The species is an all-time first for the Shanghai eBird list.

Just after sunrise, Michael and I, as is our wont, were doing “drive-by birding”–creeping along the edge of the road, listening out for birds. Suddenly, I heard an unfamiliar sound.

My gut said, “Hard, loud–Taiga Flycatcher?”

Taiga was not even close, of course. Note, however, what my gut was not saying: “Arctic Warbler,” a bird whose call I know well. This call was decidedly not an Arctic’s, though it soon dawned on us that we were hearing some type of leaf warbler.

To see why my gut did not say Arctic, compare my recordings of the tight “tzit” call of Arctic Warbler with the looser call of Kamchatka Leaf Warbler:

Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis, Yangkou-Rudong, Jiangsu (32.560095, 121.041956), 16 May 2015 (00:09; 1.9 MB)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler P. examinandus, Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083), Cape Nanhui, 4 June 2017 (00:25; 4.9 MB)

Michael and I skidded to a stop and poked our heads into the green tangle of locust trees. The call was being followed by a song. Only upon hearing the song did I think of Arctic Warbler. But here too, the song, though similar, was distinctive–wavier than the straight trill of Arctic. Look at the spectrograms below.

Spectrogram of Craig Brelsford's recording of Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus.

The spectrogram above is of my recording 4 June 2017 of Kamchatka Leaf Warbler. Note the pattern: downward sweeps followed by an upward sweep. No one would liken that song to an insect’s. Below, the spectrogram of my 2015 recording of the song of Arctic Warbler. Note the straight, cricket-like trill.

Spectrogram of Craig Brelsford's recording of Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis.

Here are the recordings whose spectrograms are shown above:

Arctic Warbler, Yikesama National Forest, Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia (52.150833, 121.465639), 16 July 2015 (01:00; 3.2 MB)

Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, Microforest 4, 4 June 2017 (00:48; 9.3 MB)

After hearing several song-call cycles, Michael, my more experienced partner and the man who has taught me more than anyone about birding, first said the words “Kamchatka Leaf Warbler.”

Michael has birded the Indonesian islands of Flores and Komodo, where Kamchatka Leaf Warbler winters. Michael said that, last winter, walking through the forests there, he heard dozens of times the call of P. examinandus.

“I know that call,” Michael said.

I whipped out my Olympus DM-650 voice recorder and recorded the calling and singing warbler. Meanwhile, we caught our first glimpse of the individual. It was clearly an “Arctic-type” leaf warbler.

What is an “Arctic-type” leaf warbler? An Arctic-type leaf warbler is a member of one of four closely related taxa divided among three species: Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus xanthodryas, Kamchatka Leaf Warbler P. examinandus, and Arctic Warbler P. borealis borealis and P. b. kennicotti.

Per's map of Arctic-type warblers.
Leaf-warbler expert and Shanghai Birding member Per Alström is the person most responsible for our current understanding of Arctic-type leaf warblers. Alström’s PDF, from which this page is taken, is a handy introduction to leaf warblers in China and is downloadable through shanghaibirding.com.

Arctic Warbler is by far the most widespread breeder in the complex. P. b. borealis breeds across northern Eurasia, from Scandinavia to northeast China and the Russian Far East. P. b. kennicotti breeds in western Alaska.

As their names suggest, Japanese Leaf Warbler breeds mainly in Japan (Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu), Kamchatka Leaf Warbler mainly in the southern Kamchatka Peninsula (as well as on Hokkaido and Sakhalin and in the Kuril Islands).

In 2010 Shanghai Birding member Per Alström et al. proposed the current way of viewing the Arctic-type warblers. Previously, the taxon examinandus was putative, not even reaching the subspecies level; Alström and his team showed that examinandus, with its distinctive song and call, merits recognition not as a subspecies of Arctic Warbler but as a species in its own right.

Of the three Arctic-type species, Japanese Leaf Warbler most stands out, being on average yellower than the two others. Arctic and Kamchatka look much more alike.

There are, however, some slight differences. Kamchatka is said to have a “marginally longer bill, tarsi and tail” than Arctic (del Hoyo & Collar). Sure enough, the Kamchatka I photographed is long-billed. Take a look below.

Arctic Warbler (top) and Kamchatka Leaf Warbler. Both by Craig Brelsford.
Arctic Warbler (top) and Kamchatka Leaf Warbler. Both birds show the classic features of Arctic-type warblers, among them a long supercilium that does not reach bill base, a dark smudge on the lower mandible, and mottled ear coverts. Kamchatka is said to be slightly greener on average than Arctic, a description that these photos do not contradict. The bill of Kamchatka is also marginally longer than Arctic’s, and in these profile shots one notes the longer bill of the Kamchatka and the stouter bill of the Arctic. I would not suggest basing an Arctic-Kamchatka ID on plumage and bare parts. Plumage and bare parts can, however, enhance the quality of a song- or call-based ID. Top: South Lock (30.860073, 121.909997), Cape Nanhui, 13 May 2017. Bottom: Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083), 4 June 2017. (Craig Brelsford)

Michael and I heard our loudest song and calls during that first, early morning encounter. However, we heard Kamchatka calling throughout the day.

Our new Shanghai record, combined with late-May and early-June records from nearby Zhejiang, suggests that in this region, once the wave of Arctics passes through around 15 May, Kamchatka Leaf Warbler may be the Arctic-type to look out for.

Bibliography

Alström P., T. Saitoh, D. Williams, I. Nishiumi, Y. Shigeta, K. Ueda, M. Irestedt, M. Björklund & U. Olsson. 2011. The Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis — three anciently separated cryptic species revealed. Ibis 153:395-410.

Brelsford, C. 2017. eBird Checklist: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S37369822. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Ithaca, New York, USA. Available: http://www.ebird.org. (Accessed: June 6, 2017).

Join Shanghai Birding for the very latest bird sightings in Shanghai.
Join Shanghai Birding for the very latest bird sightings in Shanghai.

Brelsford, Craig, moderator. Shanghai Birding, a WeChat group. Discussions with various birders, chief among them Hangzhou birder Cheng Qian, who had information about sightings of P. examinandus in Zhejiang. Beijing-based Swedish birder Jan-Erik Nilsén also provided timely advice. To join Shanghai Birding, fill out the form on the shanghaibirding.com Sightings page. Please state that you wish to join Shanghai Birding. You may also friend Craig Brelsford (WeChat ID: craigbrelsford). In your friend request, please make it clear that you wish to join Shanghai Birding.

del Hoyo, J. & Collar, N. (2017). Kamchatka Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus examinandus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/1343935 on 6 June 2017).

Jackett, N. 25 Feb. 2016. First Kamchatka Leaf Warbler recorded for Australian Mainland. eBird Australia: http://ebird.org/content/australia/news/first-recorded-kamchatka-leaf-warbler-for-australian-mainland/. eBird, Ithaca, New York, USA. Available: http://www.ebird.org. (Accessed: June 6, 2017).

Featured image: Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus. On 4 June 2017 at Cape Nanhui, birders Michael Grunwell and Craig Brelsford found the individual pictured here and three others. Photos by Craig Brelsford.

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 warblers. Clockwise from top L: Buff-throated Warbler, Hartert’s Leaf Warbler, White-spectacled Warbler, and Sulphur-breasted Warbler. All four breed on the mountain.

— 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 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

Comparing Richard’s and Blyth’s Pipit

Editor’s note: With more and more birders operating in Shanghai, more and more vagrant birds are bound to be discovered. One possibility is Blyth’s Pipit (photo above, L), a species similar to our familiar Richard’s Pipit (R). In this post, I will teach you how to separate the two.

2016 has been an outstanding birding year in Earth’s largest city. Paddyfield Warbler/Manchurian Reed Warbler, seen at Cape Nanhui on 18 Dec., was the latest in a parade of rare visitors seen in Shanghai in 2016. Our Sightings page has documented the discoveries.

The reason for the surge in good records, I am convinced, is more birders with better skills communicating more effectively. I am proud to say that shanghaibirding.com and the Shanghai Birding WeChat group have played a role.

In the Shanghai area, one species that has not yet been reported is Blyth’s Pipit. Anthus godlewskii breeds mainly in Mongolia, occurs on passage in central China, and winters mainly in India, so any records here would be of extralimitals. It is just the sort of vagrant that a bigger and better birding community could discover here in Shanghai.

Comparison of Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi "sinensis" (1) and Blyth's Pipit A. godlewskii (4). The putative taxon sinensis occurs in SE China S of the Yangtze and is the smallest population group within Richard's Pipit. Structurally it is similar to Blyth's Pipit. Note however the blackish centers to the median coverts (2, 3). In Richard's (2), the blackish centers are (a) diamond-shaped and (b) a bit fuzzy at the edges. In Blyth's (3), the blackish centers are squarish and more clearly defined. For years, Shanghai birders have been looking out for extralimital Blyth's Pipit. They are extremely rare or non-existent in the area. 1, 2: Nanhui, Shanghai, China, 15 Dec. 2016. 3, 4: Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, China, 22 July 2015. Craig Brelsford.
Comparison of adult-type Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardisinensis‘ (1) and adult Blyth’s Pipit A. godlewskii (4). The population group A. r. ‘sinensis’ occurs in southeast China south of the Yangtze River. Structurally, ‘sinensis‘ is the smallest group in Richard’s, with proportions recalling Blyth’s. Note however the blackish centers to the median coverts (2, 3). In adult-type Richard’s (2), the centers are triangular and tinged rufous at the edges. In adult Blyth’s (3), the centers are squarish, less rufous-tinged, and more clear-cut. 1, 2: Nanhui, 15 Dec. 2016. 3, 4: Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia, 22 July 2015. Craig Brelsford.

The key to getting a Blyth’s in Shanghai is paying attention to the many Richard’s Pipit that we see in the area. Anthus richardi is more or less a passage migrant in the Shanghai area and is recorded here regularly in spring and autumn. Some are present in winter; Elaine Du and I had a “sinensis” last week, the ID’ing of which led to this post.

More views of Blyth's Pipit performing flight song. Alström writes that in flight, Blyth's Pipit 'often recalls one of the smaller pipits rather than Richard's' (237). 22 July 2015, Hulunbeier. Craig Brelsford.
More views of Blyth’s Pipit performing flight song, Inner Mongolia, July 2015. In Pipits and Wagtails, Shanghai Birding member Per Alström et al. write that in flight, Blyth’s Pipit ‘often recalls one of the smaller pipits rather than Richard’s’ (237). Note however that Anthus richardi ‘sinensis,’ a population group within Richard’s Pipit often found in Shanghai, is structurally similar to Blyth’s. Craig Brelsford.

Richard’s “sinensis” is very similar to Blyth’s, being best told by song, which is rarely heard in the Shanghai area. According to Per Alström et al., whose book Pipits and Wagtails is the authority on Palearctic and Nearctic pipits, the song of Blyth’s is “very characteristic and completely different from [that] of Richard’s” (242). During a trip in July 2015 to the Inner Mongolian prefecture of Hulunbeier, one of the few places in China where Blyth’s breeds, I recorded the song.

Blyth’s Pipit, flight song, recorded 22 July 2015 at a point (48.767866, 116.834183) near Hulun Lake, Inner Mongolia (2.1 MB; 00:32)

The calls of the two species also differ, but less markedly. The flight call of Richard’s is a common bird sound in Shanghai during migration season. The call of Blyth’s is similar enough to “cause problems even for some veteran observers” (Alström et al. 244). For Shanghai birders, even those unfamiliar with Blyth’s, a “Richard’s” with a strange flight call is worth your attention. Listen for what Alström et al. describe as a call “less harsh, softer and more nasal” than Richard’s (244). For reference, review the flight call of Richard’s:

Richard’s Pipit, flight call, Dishui Lake, Shanghai, 5 Feb. 2016 (00:01; 852 KB)

Regarding plumage, the most reliable differentiator of Richard’s and Blyth’s is the pattern of the median coverts. In Blyth’s, a typical adult-type median covert will show well-defined, squarish black centers. In Richard’s, the adult-type median coverts are less clear-cut, rufous-tinged, and triangular. Note that the fresher the plumage, the more reliable this differentiator is.

Another less reliable criterion is structure. Shanghai birders will agree that the first impression a non-“sinensis” Richard’s usually gives is “large pipit.” Other pipits, such as Buff-bellied Pipit, Red-throated Pipit, and Olive-backed Pipit, give a “small pipit” impression.

Richard's Pipit, Yangkou, Jiangsu, 5 Sept. 2014. Alström et al. urge birders to use care in ID'ing Blyth's and Richard's. Here, the median coverts of this Richard's appear squarish, like Blyth's (bottom R, inset). But note the date of the photo: 5 Sept., a time of year when most Richard's show worn plumage. The authors write: 'In worn plumage the shape of the dark centres to the secondary coverts is generally less obviously different, and the pale tips can be much the same colour in both species' (237). The ID of this Richard's was derived from its call, a more constant feature, and not from the appearance of its worn median coverts. Craig Brelsford.
Richard’s Pipit, Yangkou, Jiangsu, 5 Sept. 2014. Alström et al. urge care in ID’ing Blyth’s and Richard’s. Here, the median coverts of this Richard’s appear squarish, like Blyth’s (bottom R, inset). But note the date of the photo: 5 Sept., a time of year when most Richard’s show worn plumage. ‘In worn plumage,’ the authors write, ‘the shape of the dark centres to the secondary coverts is generally less obviously different, and the pale tips can be much the same colour in both species’ (237). The ID of this Richard’s was derived from its call, a more constant characteristic, and not from the appearance of its median coverts, a more variable characteristic. Craig Brelsford.

Alström et al. say, and I having seen Blyth’s can concur, that a birder viewing Blyth’s will get a “small pipit” impression: “The smaller size, lighter build and shorter tail,” the authors write, “are often most apparent in flight, when [Blyth’s] often recalls one of the smaller pipits rather than Richard’s.” Note also that the smaller size and shorter bill, tail, and hind claw of Blyth’s give that species a “better proportioned” look than the larger and heavier Richard’s (237).

The directions above should be seen as guidelines; individual Richard’s and Blyth’s may defy easy categorization, “sinensis” Richard’s even more so. Alström et al. caution against jumping the gun with your ID: “It is crucial to realise that in both species (especially Richard’s) appearance can vary considerably in one and the same individual depending on mood, weather, etc.,” they write. “Also, some Richard’s are structurally very like Blyth’s; this is especially true of southern Chinese Richard’s (‘sinensis’)” (237).

A record of Blyth’s Pipit in Shanghai would shoot to the top of the “Year’s Best” list. The stakes are high, so look diligently, and use caution. Good luck!

PADDYFIELD WARBLER/MANCHURIAN REED WARBLER

This Acrocephalus warbler was found at the Magic Parking Lot at Nanhui on 18 Dec. 2016. Photo by Komatsu Yasuhiko.
This acrocephalid warbler, most likely Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola or Manchurian Reed Warbler A. tangorum, was found at the Magic Parking Lot at Nanhui on 18 Dec. 2016 by Andy Lee, Komatsu Yasuhiko, Larry Chen, and Archie Jiang. Photos by Komatsu Yasuhiko.

On 18 Dec. 2016, a quartet of teenage birders found an acrocephalid in the Magic Parking Lot at Cape Nanhui. The photos by Komatsu Yasuhiko provoked discussion on the WeChat group Shanghai Birding. The consensus is that the bird is either Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola or Manchurian Reed Warbler A. tangorum.

In the images above, note the supercilium, which extends behind the eye; dark eye-line; bright white chin and throat; peach breast band and flanks; bill with black upper mandible and pink lower mandible; and peaked head. Those criteria most closely indicate Manchurian Reed Warbler and Paddyfield Warbler.

Paddyfield Warbler winters mainly in India and would be extralimital here; Manchurian Reed Warbler breeds in northeastern China, is listed as Vulnerable and is therefore scarce, and probably passes through Shanghai.

Congratulations to Andy Lee, Komatsu Yasuhiko, Larry Chen, and Archie Jiang for this great Shanghai record.

INTERVIEW WITH PUDONG TV

On Thurs. 15 Dec. at Cape Nanhui my wife Elaine Du and I did an interview with Pudong TV in Chinese. The segment will last five minutes and be aired later this month. (UPDATE, 24 DEC 2016: Segment available here.) In the interview I lamented the losses at Nanhui and spoke glowingly of the possibilities.

Meanwhile, John MacKinnon, co-author of the most famous bird guide in the history of China and author of a recent post for shanghaibirding.com, has expressed interest in the establishment of an easily accessible, world-class wetland reserve at Cape Nanhui.

MacKinnon asked me for the reasoning behind a wetland reserve at Cape Nanhui. I wrote the following:

THE CASE FOR AN EASILY ACCESSIBLE, WORLD-CLASS WETLAND RESERVE AT CAPE NANHUI, PUDONG, SHANGHAI

I created four images to bolster the case for a wetland reserve at Cape Nanhui. Here is the first. Satellite map © Google and customized by Craig Brelsford.
I created four images to bolster the case for a wetland reserve at Cape Nanhui. Here is the first. Satellite image © 2016 Google. Customized by Craig Brelsford.

(1) Cape Nanhui is of extraordinary environmental importance. The tip of the Shanghai Peninsula between the Yangtze River and Hangzhou Bay, Cape Nanhui is a stepping stone for birds migrating across those bodies of water. Cape Nanhui also holds large reed beds, habitat critical to Reed Parrotbill, Marsh Grassbird, and other species at risk.

The largest component of the city-province of Shanghai is the Shanghai Peninsula, a projection of land between the Yangtze River and Hangzhou Bay. Cape Nanhui is the tip of the peninsula, is a critically important stop for migrating birds, and is completely unprotected. A nature reserve at Cape Nanhui would form a third stepping stone for birds crossing the mouth of the Yangtze, joining the reserves at Chongming Dongtan and Jiuduansha.

The Red Sector encompasses the defunct wetland reserve at Cape Nanhui. Despite being completely unmanaged and unprotected, the site still attracts many important migratory birds, among them Black-faced Spoonbill. Satellite map © Google and customized by Craig Brelsford.
The Red Sector encompasses the defunct wetland reserve at Cape Nanhui. Despite being completely unmanaged and unprotected, the site still attracts many important migratory birds, among them Black-faced Spoonbill. Satellite image © 2016 Google. Customized by Craig Brelsford.

The 2 Red-crowned Crane seen on Sat. 10 Dec. 2016 were the latest in a parade of endangered birds that I and other birders have noted at the Cape over the years. Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper uses Cape Nanhui, as does Endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank. Around 2 percent of the world’s Endangered Black-faced Spoonbill are dependent on Cape Nanhui for several months each year. Large reed beds remain at Cape Nanhui and are the final strongholds on the Shanghai Peninsula of Near Threatened Marsh Grassbird and Near Threatened Reed Parrotbill. The latter species, a candidate for Shanghai Provincial Bird, will virtually disappear from mainland Shanghai if the reed beds at Nanhui are destroyed.

(2) Shanghai is clearly under-performing on the conservationist front. More must be done, and a good place to begin is Cape Nanhui.

Marsh Grassbird still sing in the Yellow Sector. Satellite map © Google and customized by Craig Brelsford.
Marsh Grassbird still sing in the Yellow Sector. Satellite image © 2016 Google. Customized by Craig Brelsford.

Nature reserves have been established only on the extreme fringes of the city-province (which is a third the size of Wales). There are no reserves in mainland Pudong, a giant coastal district nearly twice the size of Singapore. Nowhere in this megalopolis can residents without a car enjoy the natural side of Shanghai, a city with an extraordinarily rich natural heritage. There is no known plan to conserve any of the dozens of square kilometers of reclaimed land on Hengsha.

(3) Because it is in the back yard of Shanghai, a city-province of more than 25 million people, a well-run, easily accessible wetland reserve at Cape Nanhui could be the match to light the fire of conservation across all China.

Hundreds of thousands of middle-class children could visit the reserve with their parents using nothing more than the Metro and a quick taxi ride and be sleeping in their own bed that night, dreaming about the wild birds they had seen that day. For millions of parents and their kids, the weekend could be “Saturday, Disney; Sunday, Cape Nanhui Wetland.” A day at a Cape Nanhui Wetland would be an early introduction to the glories of natural Shanghai and would foster an appreciation of the natural world.

Fourth of four images showing the possible ways of preserving Cape Nanhui. Satellite map © Google and customized by Craig Brelsford.
Continued land reclamation could spell trouble at Nanhui. Satellite image © 2016 Google. Customized by Craig Brelsford.

If Shanghai can be a world economic center and have world-class airports and a world-class skyline and world-class entertainment such as Disney, then it can and must have an easily accessible, world-class reserve protecting its priceless coastline, reed beds, and migratory birds.

A world-class, easily accessible, wetland nature reserve at Cape Nanhui would become a mecca for birders and achieve world renown, as has been the case with similar reserves such as Mai Po at Hong Kong and Sungei Buloh in Singapore.

INDEX TO POSTS ON SAVING NANHUI

Messengers (recent records of endangered cranes in Shanghai show the need to protect more land in the city-province)
The Case for Conserving Nanhui (foreigners can’t do all the work; local Chinese need to step up, too)
Save the Nanhui Wetland Reserve! (cri de coeur plus call to action)
Remnants (preparation for probable demise of Cape Nanhui)
Reed Parrotbill, Symbol of Shanghai (naming Reed Parrotbill Provincial Bird of Shanghai will send a message about the importance of the reed beds such as those at Cape Nanhui)
Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Nanhui (proof of yet another endangered species using the defunct wetland reserve at Nanhui)

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

List 1 of 1 for Thurs. 15 Dec. 2016 (53 species)

Lumbering flight of Eurasian Bittern. Nanhui, Pudong, Shanghai, 15 Dec. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)
Lumbering flight of Eurasian Bittern. Nanhui, Pudong, Shanghai, 15 Dec. 2016. (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 from Binhai (Bīnhǎi Zhèn [滨海镇]; 31.006250, 121.885558) to 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). Sunny, breezy. Low 2° C, high 7° C. Humidity 66%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind NW 18 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 160 (unhealthful). Sunrise 06:46, sunset 16:54. SAT 03 DEC 2016 08:20-17:00. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

Tundra Bean Goose Anser serrirostris 20
Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii 19
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 550
Falcated Duck Anas falcata 400
Mallard A. platyrhynchos 80
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 250
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 300
Northern Pintail A. acuta 120
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 40
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 10
Greater Scaup A. marila 3
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 40
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis 7
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 80
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 60
Great Egret A. alba 8
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 50
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 7
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 72
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 50
Hooded Crane Grus monacha 1
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 8
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 30
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Dunlin Calidris alpina 70
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 22
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 1
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 21
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 8
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 10
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 20
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 7
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 10
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 50
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 2
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 50
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 6
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 1
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 15
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 7
Little Bunting E. pusilla 1
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 1

WORKS CONSULTED

Alström, Per, Krister Mild & Bill Zetterström. Pipits and Wagtails. Princeton University Press, 2003. This landmark book, co-authored by Shanghai Birding member Per Alström, is my first reference on all things Motacillidae.

Join Shanghai Birding for the very latest bird sightings in Shanghai.
For the latest bird sightings in Shanghai, join Shanghai Birding!

Brazil, Mark. Birds of East Asia. Princeton University Press, 2009. Serviceable descriptions of Blyth’s Pipit and Richard’s Pipit. Illustration of “sinensis.” Good coverage of Paddyfield Warbler, Manchurian Reed Warbler.

Brelsford, Craig, moderator. Shanghai Birding, a WeChat chat group. Pipits and reed warblers discussed in detail. To join Shanghai Birding, fill out the form on our Sightings page.

Kennerley, Peter & David Pearson. Reed and Bush Warblers. Christopher Helm, 2010. The world standard on Acrocephalidae, Cettiidae, and Locustellidae.

Svensson, Lars & Killian Mullarney & Dan Zetterström. Collins Bird Guide, 2nd ed. HarperCollins, 1999-2009. Outstanding illustrations of Richard’s Pipit and Blyth’s Pipit by Mullarney.