Brown-cheeked Rail at Yangkou

On Sun. 15 Nov. 2015, Elaine and I found Brown-cheeked Rail and Black-winged Kite at Yangkou and at Chongming saw 23 Hooded Crane and Chinese Grey Shrike. We added Scaly-breasted Munia to our fall-winter list.

I found the rail in the reed beds near Haiyin Temple. On 8 May 2010, I found a Brown-cheeked Rail at the same site. Today I was hoping to see Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, a bird known to overwinter in Yancheng up the coast. After 30 minutes, a Brown-cheeked appeared at the edge of the reeds, right under a small flock of Reed Parrotbill.

Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus, Yangkou, 15 Nov. 2015. Formerly considered conspecific with Water Rail R. aquaticus, Brown-cheeked Rail is a poorly understood species.
Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus, Yangkou, 15 Nov. 2015. Formerly considered conspecific with Water Rail R. aquaticus, Brown-cheeked Rail is a poorly understood species.

Much is not known about the movements and distribution of Brown-cheeked Rail. The spot at Yangkou may be worth checking regularly for this species.

At Yangkou the great rush of passage migrants has slowed, and the area is settling into its winter phase. The forest at Haiyin Temple is quiet, and the trees are shedding leaves.

List 1 of 2 for Sun. 15 Nov. 2015 (43 species)

Yangkou (Yángkǒu [洋口]), fishing town in Rudong County (Rúdōng Xiàn [如东县]), Jiangsu, China (32.537730, 121.017746). Among areas visited: Haiyin Temple (Hǎiyìn Sì [海印寺], 32.558756, 121.044740), unpaved road N of Haiyin Temple (32.570807, 121.015638), reed beds near Haiyin Temple (32.557387, 121.037381), & microforest near Haiyin Temple (32.558400, 121.038250). Thick morning haze giving way to mostly sunny skies; high 14°C. Wind ENE 3 km/h. Sunrise 06:24, sunset 16:57. SUN 15 NOV 2015 08:15-11:30.

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 8
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 65
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 1
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 2
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 5
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 2
Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus 1
Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus 1
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra ca. 100
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 3
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 8
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 3
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 4
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 17
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 8
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 20
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus ca. 50
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 20
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 8
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 5
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 25
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 7
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 3
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 10
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 7
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 4
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 14
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 50
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 4
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 22
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 1
Little Bunting E. pusilla 6
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 4
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 6
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 7

Juvenile Scaly-breasted Munia browsing seed heads on Chongming Island, Shanghai, 15 Nov. 2015.
Juvenile Scaly-breasted Munia browsing seed heads on Chongming Island, Shanghai, 15 Nov. 2015.

List 2 of 2 for Sun. 15 Nov. 2015 (24 species)

Around Chongming Dongtan National Bird Sanctuary and Nature Reserve (Chóngmíng Dōngtān Niǎolèi Guójiājí Zìrán Bǎohùqū [崇明东滩鸟类国家级自然保护区]), Chongming Island, Shanghai, China (31.510109, 121.961955). Thick morning haze giving way to mostly sunny skies; high 14°C. Wind ENE 3 km/h. Sunrise 06:24, sunset 16:57. SUN 15 NOV 2015 16:00-17:05.

Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha ca. 500
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 6
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 3
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 13
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2
Great Egret A. alba 17
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 22
Hooded Crane Grus monacha 23
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 1
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 6
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 6
Chinese Grey Shrike L. sphenocercus sphenocercus 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 10
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 5
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 100
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 2
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 3
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 3
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 1

Featured image: Brown-cheeked Rail Rallus indicus, Yangkou, Rudong, Jiangsu, 15 Nov. 2015.

70 Species at Yangshan & Nanhui

On Sat. 7 Nov. 2015 our birding Dream Team noted 70 species. Nanhui once again outshone Lesser Yangshan, yielding 12 Black-faced Spoonbill and Dalmatian Pelican. Japanese Thrush were particularly abundant, with a count of 37. A juvenile Rook, uncommon in Shanghai, flew by briefly, and we noted 3 Reed Parrotbill.

At Nanhui we noted 37 Japanese Thrush, a high for me at that location. I paid particular attention to the females, shown here, as they are even more shy than the males.
At Nanhui we noted 37 Japanese Thrush, a high for me at that location. I paid particular attention to the females, shown here, as they are even more shy than the males.

The unseasonably warm day began on Lesser Yangshan. We saw two sizable flocks of Brambling, noted Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Black Kite, and found singing Meadow Bunting, territorial even in November.

At the Magic Parking Lot in Nanhui, we waited with the photographers for a smart male Siberian Rubythroat before driving down to the empty, blue-roofed building. The scrubby fields near the building produced 7 Japanese Quail as well as Peregrine Falcon, Hen Harrier, Eastern Marsh Harrier, the Rook, and several of the Japanese Thrush. In the nearby microforests, Japanese Thrush and Eyebrowed Thrush were massing in big flocks, underscoring the importance of those woodsy oases amid the reeds and rice fields that cover most of the area.

Exhausted from the heat, we sat down in Microforest 1 to rest. This was a good decision, as the quiet sitting allowed shyer birds to appear from the reeds just behind the trees. Among these were Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler and the Reed Parrotbills. A Brambling loitered on the forest floor, grooming itself. A Siskin, too hungry to care about us, picked at a seed head just meters away. Red-flanked Bluetail and Daurian Redstart foraged right at our feet.

At the Magic GPS Point, a Pale Thrush flew into a window at the garishly large, completely empty building next to the Holiday Inn. I picked up the unconscious bird, an adult male. The thrush had flown hundreds of kilometers to get to Nanhui, but it was exquisite, a beautiful specimen, flawless and clean. I stroked the incredibly soft, smooth feathers, marveling at their beauty. We snapped pictures of the outer tail feathers showing the white tip, important for ID’ing Pale Thrushes in flight. We set it down in a flower bed next to the rotten carcass of a Black-capped Kingfisher that doubtlessly had met its end by flying into the same huge windows. We feared the thrush was dead, but to our surprise, when we came back a while later, the thrush had disappeared. Few Chinese pick up dead birds, and I’ve never seen cats in the area, so it is highly possible that the thrush survived the collision and went on its way.

Holding this Pale Thrush, feeling its body heat, admiring its pristine plumage, flawless despite the long flight from northeast Asia–what a moving experience. We thought we had lost this adult male, but when we returned later and saw no bird, we were filled with hope.
Holding this Pale Thrush, feeling its body heat, admiring its pristine plumage, flawless despite the long flight from northeast Asia–what a moving experience. We thought we had lost this adult male, but when we returned later and saw no bird, we were filled with hope.

The Rook, a scarce winter visitor in the Shanghai region, required some analysis; it was a good thing I got photos. Looking at the photos on my MacBook, I had the following thought process: (1) Bill, forehead much unlike Large-billed. (2) Is our bird therefore Carrion Crow or juvenile Rook? (3) Mark Brazil (Birds of East Asia) has Rook as a winter visitor to Shanghai region but has Carrion Crow no further S than Hebei. Elaine and I also have experience with Rook in this region; we noted 2 Rook on Lesser Yangshan on 20 Sept. 2014. We have never noted Carrion Crow in the region. (4) My photos clearly show a crow with a straight culmen, not decurved like that of Carrion–a straight culmen being a classic feature of Rook.

This bird has a culmen less decurved than that of Carrion Crow, leading me to believe that it is a juvenile Rook.
This bird has a culmen less decurved than that of Carrion Crow, leading me to believe that it is a juvenile Rook.

The all-black crows are uncommon in Shanghai. Whenever birders see an all-black crow in this area, we should take it seriously and try hard for an ID. Many birders find crows boring, but Rook in Shanghai is one of the most interesting records we had that day.

The Dream Team consists of veteran birder Michael Grunwell, husband-and-wife team Stephan Popp and Xueping Popp, Elaine, and me. With Michael’s knowledge and Xueping and Elaine’s diligence, and with Stephan and me taking care of the record shots, the Dream Team almost always nails the ID.

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 7 Nov. 2015 (29 species)

Lesser Yangshan Island (Xiǎo Yángshān [小洋山]), island in Hangzhou Bay, Zhejiang, China. List includes birds noted at Garbage Dump Gully (30.641565, 122.062836), Garbage Dump Coastal Plain (30.638860, 122.060089), Xiǎoyánglíng Cove (30.642243, 122.066940), & Temple Mount (30.639945, 122.048277). Partly cloudy turning mostly cloudy, with little wind. Visibility ca. 20 km. Unseasonably warm. High 26°C. SAT 07 NOV 2015 07:05-09:10.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 3
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 3
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 2
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 20
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 2
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 2
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 4
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 2
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 8
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 10
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 1
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 6
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 65
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 20
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 2 (1 singing)
Little Bunting E. pusilla 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 1

Eyebrowed Thrush breeds from central Siberia to Kamchatka and winters from south China to Indonesia. These graceful birds have already come a long way, and they still have far to go.
Eyebrowed Thrush breeds from central Siberia to Kamchatka and winters from south China to Indonesia. These graceful birds have already come a long way, and they still have far to go.

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 7 Nov. 2015 (63 species)

Around Pudong Nanhui Dongtan Wetland (Pǔdōng Nánhuì Dōngtān Shīdì [浦东南汇东滩湿地]), Shanghai, China (30.920507, 121.973159); list includes birds found at Magic Parking Lot (30.882784, 121.972782), Magic GPS Point (30.880540, 121.964572), & the empty blue-roofed building & nearby microforests (30.961368, 121.952136). Partly cloudy turning mostly cloudy, with little wind. Unseasonably warm. Visibility ca. 20 km. High 26°C. SAT 07 NOV 2015 09:40-16:10.

Taiga/Tundra Bean Goose Anser fabalis/A. serrirostris 18
Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 15
Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica 7
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 6
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 2
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 12
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 15
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 30
Great Egret A. alba 4
Little Egret Egretta garzetta ca. 50
Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus 1
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 2
Hen Harrier C. cyaneus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 1
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 30
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 7
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis 10
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 15
Dunlin Calidris alpina 30
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 10
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 6
Rook Corvus frugilegus pastinator 1
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus ca. 50
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis 15
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 30
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 2
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 3
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 3
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 40
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 3
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 20
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 10
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 37
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 22
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 16
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 14
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 20
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 200
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 8
White Wagtail M. alba 8
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 1
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni 10
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 3
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 1
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 3
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 6
Chestnut-eared Bunting E. fucata 2
Little Bunting E. pusilla 10
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 6
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 7
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 8

Featured image: Stephan Popp using Craig’s spotting scope, Elaine Du in background. Nanhui, Shanghai, China, 7 November 2015