John MacKinnon in Shanghai

On Sat. 8 April 2017 I birded Cape Nanhui with John MacKinnon. John is co-author of A Field Guide to the Birds of China, the most influential book ever written about China’s birds. On John’s first visit to the tip of the Shanghai Peninsula, we noted 84 species. John and I were joined by veteran birders Michael Grunwell and Russell Boyman and the outstanding high-school birder Larry Chen.

We gave John the Grand Nanhui Tour, starting at Luchao to the south and ending 30 km north at Binhai. Heading back to the city, we made a brief stop at the sod farm just south of Pudong Airport, where we found a single Oriental Plover.

Oriental Plover at sod farm S of Pudong Airport, 8 Apirl 2017 (Craig Brelsford).
Russell Boyman (L) examines Oriental Plover 8 April 2017 at the sod farm south of Pudong Airport (31.112586, 121.824742). Conditions at the sod farm were decidedly not favorable to a plover. The jets were noisy, the farmers were busy, and there was a whiff of pesticide in the air. Why would the plover choose such a subpar area? Because the sod farm roughly approximates the steppe habitat required by the East Asian specialty. Oriental Plover are long-distance athletes, marathon runners between Australia and Mongolia, and incredibly tough. Despite the poor habitat, our bird likely will survive its brief visit to Shanghai and muscle its way up to the breeding grounds. For more on Oriental Plover in Shanghai, see my post Rites of Spring. (Craig Brelsford)

Nanhui yielded 23 Marsh Grassbird performing the song flight at three locations, and we saw 10 Endangered Great Knot and 1 Near Threatened Curlew Sandpiper. We had a pair of Rufous-faced Warbler and a Common Starling.

Also: Garganey 57, Greater Scaup 1 (Dishui Lake), Little Curlew 31 (flock), Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 11 (first of season), Red-necked Stint 1 (first of season), Wood Sandpiper 1 (first of season), Peregrine Falcon 1, Dusky Warbler 1 at Magic Parking Lot (possibly wintered there), and Reed Parrotbill 18.

Birds of Cape Nanhui, 8 April 2017. Top: Rufous-faced Warbler. Bottom L: European Starling with White-cheeked Starling. Middle R: Curlew Sandpiper assuming breeding plumage. Bottom R: Male Red-flanked Bluetail. (Craig Brelsford)
Birds of Cape Nanhui, 8 April 2017. Top: Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis is common in much of south China and a vagrant to Shanghai. Bottom L: A vagrant to Shanghai, Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris is often seen associating with White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus. Middle R: Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea assuming breeding plumage. Bottom R: Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus. In Shanghai stunning adult males such as this one are less often seen than the less-colorful females. Red-flanked Bluetail breeds from Japan west to Finland. (Craig Brelsford)

GETTING TO KNOW JOHN MACKINNON

John MacKinnon wrote the most influential field guide ever published about China's birds.
John MacKinnon co-authored the most influential field guide ever published about China’s birds.

Our partner, John MacKinnon, co-authored A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Published in 2000, the book has sold more than 50,000 copies and remains the only bird guide in English covering all China. John also wrote the first and second guest posts in the history of shanghaibirding.com.

John is witty and a fine storyteller. He had us roaring with tales drawn from his six decades as a researcher in Asia. The funniest story was about the doctor back home in Britain. Every time John straggled in, the doc would call in his students, so that they could study the strange new tropical disease John had contracted.

“I never cared about my health, because I never expected to live this long!” John said.

John also talked about his masterpiece, A Field Guide to the Birds of China.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Field Guide. Had it merely been a window for Westerners to the birds of the world’s most populous country, then John’s work would have been important enough. The Field Guide, however, in translated form has introduced tens of thousands of Chinese to the birds of their own country. John’s Chinese name, Mǎjìngnéng (马敬能), is known by every birder in China.

John faced obstacles unknown to field-guide writers in North America and Western Europe, where birding has been practiced for 200 years. His sources were often thin, he said.

“For range maps, I had nearly nothing from Russia,” John said. “A Chinese book had ranges stopping at the Chinese border. Another book had no paintings, only descriptions.”

To critics who unfairly compare John’s Field Guide to field guides covering more developed parts of the world, John had this to say:

“You’ve got to finish something. We finished the book. We could have waited and said, ‘Oh, another species has been split, we must revise,’ but at a certain point you have to say, ‘We must go with what we’ve got.’”

To this day, no Westerner has repeated John’s feat. Others talked; John acted. One can imagine the feeling of accomplishment in John’s heart.

John is a handy photographer and got off some good shots, three of which are displayed in the Day List at the bottom of this post. Here are some photos I took of the pioneer birder and naturalist.

John MacKinnon (R) and Michael Grunwell examine one of John's photos at Cape Nanhui, 8 April 2017 (Craig Brelsford).
John MacKinnon (R) and Michael Grunwell examine one of John’s photos at Cape Nanhui, 8 April 2017. (Craig Brelsford)
L-R: Michael Grunwell, John MacKinnon, Russell Boyman, Larry Chen. Nanhui, 8 April 2017. Craig Brelsford.
The team at Nanhui. L-R: Michael Grunwell, John MacKinnon, Russell Boyman, Larry Chen. (Craig Brelsford)
Everyone wanted a turn with the distinguished man. Top: MacKinnon with Larry Chen (L) and Russell Boyman. Bottom: Michael Grunwell poses and gets an autograph for his copy of the Field Guide. (Craig Brelsford)
Everyone wanted a turn with the distinguished author. Top panels: John MacKinnon with Larry Chen (L) and Russell Boyman. Bottom: Michael Grunwell poses and gets an autograph. (Craig Brelsford)

MARSH GRASSBIRD ON THE BRINK

Marsh Grassbird were singing in the large reed beds at Nanhui. They were most conspicuous at the reed bed south of the Holiday Inn (30.870711, 121.942976). The species, listed as Near Threatened by IUCN, was also noted in the pristine reed bed (30.931790, 121.949169) associated with the defunct wetland reserve.

Marsh Grassbird at Cape Nanhui, 8 April 2017. Craig Brelsford.
Locustella pryeri sinensis at the large reed bed (30.870711, 121.942976), Cape Nanhui, Shanghai, 8 April 2017. Marsh Grassbird is among the least-known members of Locustella. The populations at Cape Nanhui went unmentioned by Kennerley and Pearson in their landmark book Reed and Bush Warblers (Christopher Helm 2010). Kennerley and Pearson were aware of the breeding population on Shanghai’s Chongming Island but even there could not say for certain whether the grassbirds were residents or summer visitors. Part of the reason for the lack of knowledge is the extreme shyness of the bird. Outside breeding season, when it undertakes song flights, Marsh Grassbird remains hidden deep within the Phragmites reed beds that are its preferred habitat. The other reason is the extremely fast rate at which its reed-bed home is being destroyed. At Cape Nanhui and other places in China, this Near Threatened species could disappear before researchers get a chance to study it. (Craig Brelsford)

The reed beds at Cape Nanhui may be the last stronghold of Locustella pryeri sinensis on the Shanghai Peninsula. The species is highly dependent on large reed beds. In areas where only strips of reeds remain, the song of Marsh Grassbird is never heard. Its partner species, Reed Parrotbill, a candidate for official bird of the city-province of Shanghai, is only slightly less dependent on large reed beds.

One of the areas where last year my partners and I noted Marsh Grassbird performing its song flight has been flattened. No song of Marsh Grassbird was heard there Saturday. A few Reed Parrotbill were calling in one of the strips of reeds left standing.

Much needs to be learned about Marsh Grassbird in Earth’s largest city. Birders, look for the fluttering song flight, and listen for this song:

Marsh Grassbird, 10 April 2016, large reed bed at 30.870711, 121.942976, Cape Nanhui, Shanghai (00:11; 1.2 MB)

Marsh Grassbird still sing in the Yellow Sector. Satellite map © Google and customized by Craig Brelsford.
Marsh Grassbird still sings in the Yellow Sector, the largest reed bed at Cape Nanhui, located south of the Holiday Inn at 30.870711, 121.942976. Preservation of this and other reed beds would ensure the survival of Marsh Grassbird and Reed Parrotbill in mainland Shanghai. Satellite map © Google; customized by Craig Brelsford.

The plight of Marsh Grassbird brings to mind the series of posts I wrote last year on the precarious environmental situation at Cape Nanhui.

Comparing Richard’s and Blyth’s Pipit (along with description of pipits is news of my interview with Pudong TV as well as satellite maps of Cape 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 the bird of Shanghai will send a message about the importance of the Cape Nanhui reed beds)
Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Nanhui (proof of yet another endangered species using the defunct wetland reserve at Nanhui)

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

List 1 of 1 for Saturday 8 April 2017 (84 species)

Photos by John MacKinnon, 8 April 2017. Clockwise from top L: Red-flanked Bluetail, Rufous-faced Warbler, Little Curlew.
Birds of Cape Nanhui, 8 April 2017. Clockwise from top L: Red-flanked Bluetail, Rufous-faced Warbler, Little Curlew. (John MacKinnon)

Birds noted around Pudong Nanhui Dongtan Wetland (Pǔdōng Nánhuì Dōngtān Shīdì [浦东南汇东滩湿地]; 30.920507, 121.973159), Pudong, Shanghai, China. We covered the coastal road between Binhai (Bīnhǎi Zhèn [滨海镇]; 31.006250, 121.885558) and Luchao (Lúcháo Gǎng [芦潮港]; 30.851109, 121.848455). Among the points along this 30 km stretch are Iron Track (31.003613, 121.907883), a site providing access to the reed beds at the mouth of the Dazhi River (Dàzhì Hé [大治河]); Big Bend (31.000321, 121.938074); Microforest 4 (30.953225, 121.959083); Microforest 1 (30.923889, 121.971635); Magic Parking Lot (30.884898, 121.968229); Magic GPS Point (30.880563, 121.964551); South Lock (30.860073, 121.909997); Eiffel Tower (30.850531, 121.878047); & the Marshy Agricultural Land (30.850707, 121.863662). List includes birds noted at Dishui Lake (30.908702, 121.945124). Cloudy, hazy; low 13° C, high 18° C. Wind E 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 147 (unhealthful). Visibility 5 km. Sunrise 05:34, sunset 18:18. SAT 08 APR 2017 07:00-16:55. Russell Boyman, Craig Brelsford, Larry Chen, Michael Grunwell, & John MacKinnon.

Falcated Duck Anas falcata 25
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 2
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 35
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 4
Garganey A. querquedula 57
Eurasian Teal A. crecca 2
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 25
Greater Scaup A. marila 1
Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica 3
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 3
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 8
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 20
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 31
Great Egret A. alba 3
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 1
Little Egret E. garzetta 95
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 9
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 40
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 20
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 13
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 27
Little Ringed Plover C. dubius 7
Oriental Plover C. veredus 1 at sod farm S of Pudong Airport (31.112586, 121.824742)
Little Curlew Numenius minutus 31
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris 10
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper C. acuminata 11
Curlew Sandpiper C. ferruginea 1
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 1
Dunlin C. alpina 30
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 8
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 3
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 1
Spotted Redshank T. erythropus 4
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 20
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 1
Common Redshank T. totanus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 25
Little Tern Sternula albifrons 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 13
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 2
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 20 singing
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 200
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 35
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 13
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 2 (pair)
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 4 singing
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 1
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 1
Marsh Grassbird Locustella pryeri sinensis 23
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 6
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 8
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 18
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 100
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1
Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus 42
White-cheeked Starling S. cineraceus 17
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 18
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 2
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 11
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 55
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 1
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 75
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata 3
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 8
White Wagtail M. alba 28
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 1
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni 8
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 7
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 1
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 23
Little Bunting E. pusilla 16
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 13
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 8

Featured image: John MacKinnon (R), co-author of A Field Guide to the Birds of China, with Craig Brelsford, executive editor of shanghaibirding.com. Photo by Larry Chen.

Where the World’s Greatest Flyway Meets the World’s Greatest City

Finally, it is ready: Elaine’s and my report on the doings of this past spring in Shanghai. We’re calling it “Shanghai-area Springtime Birding, 2016.”

The report is the latest in a growing list of resources available on shanghaibirding.com. Everything we do here is geared toward showing you what birding is like at the point on the Earth where the world’s greatest migratory flyway meets the world’s greatest city.

The report covers 7 March to 24 May 2016. Elaine and I birded 38 of those 79 days and noted 240 species. We partnered with members of our network of subscribers and contributors to shanghaibirding.com. Special thanks to Michael Grunwell and Jan-Erik Nilsén as well as to Xueping Popp, Stephan Popp, Kai Pflug, and Ian Davies.

Why should you read “Shanghai-area Springtime Birding, 2016”? Read it to plan your own explorations and to get an idea of what birds you can expect to see in this city in March, April, and May. You’ll find no more complete a report on that subject, anywhere.

From the intro:

“We deepened our knowledge of the birds of the East Asian–Australasian Flyway and increased our understanding of the pressures these birds face in the Shanghai region. One of the most densely populated areas in the world and an economic dynamo, the Shanghai tri-province area encompasses Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang, is the size of the U.S. state of Kansas, and has a population of 160 million–half that of the United States.”

From the highlights:

“ — We continued to monitor species under threat by the uncontrolled coastal development afflicting the region, among them the endangered Black-faced Spoonbill, Great Knot, and Yellow-breasted Bunting; near-threatened Eurasian Oystercatcher, Asian Dowitcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew, Grey-tailed Tattler, Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, Marsh Grassbird, and Reed Parrotbill; and vulnerable Chinese Egret, Saunders’s Gull, and Yellow Bunting. We led a group one of whose members found the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

“ — We recorded the first Blue Whistling Thrush in Shanghai since 1987. Other interesting finds were Horned Grebe on Chongming, Oriental Plover on Hengsha Island, Ruddy Kingfisher at Yangkou, Red-throated Thrush at Century Park, singing Sakhalin Leaf Warbler at Zhongshan Park, Grey-crowned Warbler, Two-barred Warbler, Pechora Pipit, and Citrine Wagtail at Nanhui, White-shouldered Starling on Lesser Yangshan, Rufous-faced Warbler at Nanhui and on Lesser Yangshan, and Bluethroat at Nanhui and on Chongming.”

Featured image: Screenshot of our newly published report, “Shanghai-area Springtime Birding, 2016,” now available in the Reports section of shanghaibirding.com.

Oriental Plover Highlight 103-Species Weekend

On Sat. 9 April and Sun. 10 April 2016, Elaine Du and I noted 103 species at three Shanghai-area birding hot spots. We had Oriental Plover and Black-faced Spoonbill on Hengsha, the latter present also at Nanhui, where we found in addition Brown Crake, Greater Sand Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Marsh Grassbird, Bluethroat, and Citrine Wagtail. Lesser Yangshan yielded out-of-range Rufous-faced Warbler and our season’s first flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher. Other season’s firsts were Eurasian Wryneck and Oriental Reed Warbler on Hengsha, Oriental Pratincole, Japanese Thrush, Tristram’s Bunting, and Meadow Bunting on Lesser Yangshan, and Broad-billed Sandpiper at Nanhui. Garganey and singing Brown-flanked Bush Warbler were on Hengsha and Temminck’s Stint and Grey-backed Thrush were noted at Nanhui. Red-throated Pipit were on Hengsha and Nanhui, as were Intermediate Egret, “SwintailSnipe, Reed Parrotbill, and Chestnut-eared Bunting.

Citrine Wagtail, Nanhui, 10 April 2016. Perhaps the most beautiful of wagtails, Motacilla citreola is a scarce passage migrant in Shanghai.
Citrine Wagtail, Nanhui, 10 April 2016. Perhaps the most beautiful of wagtails, Motacilla citreola is a scarce passage migrant in Shanghai.

On Sat. 9 April Elaine and I birded Hengsha, the alluvial island at the mouth of the Yangtze. Our target was Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus, which we found after a short search. Oriental Plover breeds in deserts and steppes mainly in Mongolia, and in China in Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia. For Elaine, Ori Pluv was a virtual lifer, as her only previous experience with the species was our quick, long-distance look at an individual near Hulun Lake last July.

It is spring and Meadow Bunting are staking out territories on Lesser Yangshan. This aggressive little fellow had attracted the attention of a female, which kept to the undergrowth while he roared. Common on Lesser Yangshan, Emberiza cioides is almost never recorded on the nearby coast.
It is spring and Meadow Bunting are staking out territories on Lesser Yangshan. This aggressive little fellow had attracted the attention of a female, which kept to the undergrowth while he roared. Common on Lesser Yangshan, Emberiza cioides is almost never recorded on the nearby coast.

On Sun. 10 April Elaine and I were joined by Shanghai-based British birder Michael Grunwell. We noted 90 species on Lesser Yangshan Island and at Nanhui.

The three of us found 30 singing Marsh Grassbird in the large reed bed at 30.866006, 121.939614, a point 2.8 km south of the lock at Nanhui and 4.1 km south of the Magic Parking Lot/Holiday Inn (30.882784, 121.972782). An unpaved road leads into the marsh. The grassbirds were noted only in that reed bed and not in other seemingly suitable reed beds elsewhere at Nanhui. The grassbirds were using only those parts of the reed bed far from the road. They were making their curving display flight.

Marsh Grassbird performing song flight at Nanhui, Shanghai, 10 April 2016.
Marsh Grassbird performing song flight at Nanhui, Shanghai, 10 April 2016.

Marsh Grassbird is also known as Japanese Swamp Warbler and Japanese Marsh Warbler. It is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. The IUCN notes that Marsh Grassbird is “very sensitive to habitat structure and does not tolerate vegetation that is too short or too tall.” It is threatened mainly by the conversion of its wetland habitat to other uses.

Speaking of conversions, new construction is changing all three of the birding spots we visited last weekend. The transformation at Nanhui has been noted by me here and here. Lesser Yangshan Island is being converted from an island to an even bigger megaport, and Garbage Dump Coastal Plain (30.638860, 122.060089) is steadily growing unbirdable. A bright spot on Lesser Yangshan is the new wetland (30.611902, 122.114873) on reclaimed land between Lesser Yangshan and Dazhitou Island.

Will this 100-hectare plantation of trees add a new dimension to birding on Hengsha?
Will this 100-hectare plantation of trees add a new dimension to birding on Hengsha?

In the reclaimed area on Hengsha, a 100-hectare area at 31.299495, 121.893845 is being converted from savanna to forest. That is an area about two-thirds the size of Century Park in Pudong. This may be good news, as the tree plantation may attract forest species such as flycatchers and leaf warblers, families that on the formerly treeless reclaimed area at Hengsha have always been scarce.

The springtime birding season in Shanghai is really picking up steam. On the Web site of the Shanghai Wild Bird Society, shwbs.org, birders have recently reported Long-billed Dowitcher, Asian Dowitcher, and Ruff on Chongming and Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Black Redstart on Hengsha.

List 1 of 1 for Sat. 9 April 2016 (52 species)

Intermediate Egret with prey, Hengsha, 9 April 2016.
Intermediate Egret with prey, Hengsha, 9 April 2016.

Hengsha Island (Héngshā Dǎo [横沙岛]), a small alluvial island at mouth of Yangtze River in Shanghai, China. S gate to reclaimed area at 31.297333, 121.859434. Cloudy; low 12° C, high 22° C. Wind SE 6 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 74 (moderate). Visibility 10 km. Sunrise 05:32, sunset 18:19. SAT 09 APR 2016 07:40-15:30. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.

Gadwall Anas strepera 117
Falcated Duck A. falcata 2
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 1
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 3
Garganey A. querquedula 10
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 16
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 12
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 15
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 13
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 6 booming
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 3
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 24
Great Egret A. alba 5
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 12
Little Egret E. garzetta 40
Circus sp. 1
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 24
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 60
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 10
Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus 3
Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago stenura/megala 1
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 3
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 2
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 2
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 6
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 4
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 20
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 20
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 6
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 400
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 7 singing
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler H. fortipes 1 singing
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 5 singing
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 16
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 14
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 4
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 3
Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus 7
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 2
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
Red-throated Pipit Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus 3
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 20
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 3
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 4
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 5

Mammals

Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica 1

List 1 of 2 for Sun. 10 April 2016 (45 species)

Green Sandpiper in gully below Guanyin Temple, Lesser Yangshan Island, 10 April 2016.
Green Sandpiper in gully below Guanyin Temple, Lesser Yangshan Island, 10 April 2016.

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), Temple Mount (30.639866, 122.048327), & a wetland area (30.611902, 122.114873) on reclaimed land between Lesser Yangshan & Dazhitou Island (Dà Zhǐtou Dǎo [大指头岛]). Sunny in morning, turning cloudy. Low 11° C, high 22° C. Wind E 6 km/h. Visibility 10 km. PM2.5 AQI: 159 (unhealthful). Sunrise 05:30, sunset 18:20. SUN 10 APR 2016 06:00-09:45. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Eurasian Teal Anas crecca 6
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 10
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 2
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 1
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 6
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 3
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 6
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 1
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 1
Dunlin Calidris alpina 37
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 2
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 5
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 1
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 5
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 17
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 30
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 1 singing
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 16 singing
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 5
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 5 singing
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 2
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 2
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 8
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 14
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 8
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 2
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 4
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 5
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 8
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 3
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 3
Tristram’s Bunting E. tristrami 2
Little Bunting E. pusilla 5
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 10

List 2 of 2 for Sun. 10 April 2016 (72 species)

Around sunset, this Brown Crake emerged onto the grassy base of the sea wall to forage. I had never noted Brown Crake in Shanghai. Nanhui, 10 April 2016.
Around sunset, this Brown Crake emerged onto the grassy base of the sea wall to forage. I had never noted Brown Crake in Shanghai. Nanhui, 10 April 2016.

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 along Shijitang Road from 31.000204, 121.938145 S to 30.851114, 121.848527. Sunny in morning, turning cloudy. Low 11° C, high 22° C. Wind E 6 km/h. Visibility 10 km. PM2.5 AQI: 159 (unhealthful). Sunrise 05:30, sunset 18:20. SUN 10 APR 2016 10:20-18:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.

Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 3
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 5
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 16
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 4
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 10
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 28
Purple Heron A. purpurea 2
Great Egret A. alba 1
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 2
Little Egret E. garzetta 30
Brown Crake Amaurornis akool 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 6
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 45
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 15
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 35
Greater Sand Plover C. leschenaultii leschenaultii 14
Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago stenura/megala 1
Common Snipe G. gallinago 8
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 3
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 8
Common Redshank T. totanus 1
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 13
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 10
Green Sandpiper T. ochropus 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis 31
Temminck’s Stint C. temminckii 1
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper C. acuminata 1
Dunlin C. alpina 3
Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 1
Pacific Swift Apus pacificus 15
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 6
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 1
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 3
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 4 singing
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark A. arvensis/gulgula 15 singing
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 26
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 200
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 3
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 4 singing
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 2
Marsh Grassbird Locustella pryeri 30 singing
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 5
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 5
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 80
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 18
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 3
Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus 10
White-cheeked Starling S. cineraceus 24
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 2
Japanese Thrush T. cardis 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 12
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 24
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 2
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 100
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 2 tschutschensis
Citrine Wagtail M. citreola 3
Grey Wagtail M. cinerea 2
White Wagtail M. alba 15 (1 lugens, 1 ocularis)
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus 3
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 11
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 3
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 2
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 25
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 10

Craig Brelsford in Garbage Dump Gully, Lesser Yangshan Island, 10 April 2016. Photo by Elaine Du.
Craig Brelsford in Garbage Dump Gully, Lesser Yangshan Island, 10 April 2016. Photo by Elaine Du.

Featured image: Oriental Plover, Hengsha Island, Shanghai, 9 April 2016.

Koklass Pheasant Highlight Tianmu Trip

On Sunday 22 Nov., Elaine and I completed a rainy three-day trip to the Tianmu Mountains, 270 km SW of People’s Square. The highlight was 4 Koklass Pheasant on Saturday. We found the pheasants on a long walk down the mountain road at West Tianmu Mountain Nature Reserve. Other finds were of the common southern China variety but were no less delightful: Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Collared Owlet, Grey-chinned Minivet, Grey Treepie, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Rufous-faced Warbler, Rufous-capped Babbler, Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler, White-crowned Forktail, and Little Forktail. Among the wintering/passage birds were Dusky Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, and Mugimaki Flycatcher.

The author at the Koklass clearing at West Tianmu Nature Reserve, elev. 1020 m, Sat. 21 Nov. 2015.
The author at the Koklass clearing at West Tianmu Nature Reserve, elev. 1020 m, Sat. 21 Nov. 2015.

After so many weeks watching migrating birds along the coast, Elaine and I noted the more settled character of the bird life in the big, southern-temperate, montane forest at Tianmu. Seeing the many south China residents, several of whose ranges extend not much farther north than Tianmu, was like meeting old friends.

On Saturday we took the bus to the parking lot at Lóngfèngjiān, the famous Japanese Cedar forest. We declined to pay 140 yuan per person to enter the forest. Instead, we walked the road back toward our hotel. The first Koklass took off from cover and flew down slope. A few bends and twists of the road below, we again heard the beating of pheasants’ wings. Finally, at a spectacular clearing about 3 km below Lóngfèngjiān, I got a view of a female Koklass startled into flight. I rushed to the edge of the slope, just in time to see her partner, a stunning green-headed male. I now was convinced that in this high-quality habitat, large and well-protected, pheasants must be numerous. Examining the rim of the slope, I got further confirmation of that idea by the rows of pheasant scat that I found. Koklass Pheasants must stand there often, using the disused parking beam as a perch.

Koklass Pheasant droppings here suggest a substantial presence of these unusual gamebirds.
Koklass Pheasant droppings here suggest a substantial presence of these unusual gamebirds.

The view the pheasants take in there is superb, especially on a cloudy day, with clouds partly filling the valley below. During a rare moment when the fog lifted, we took in the impressive view. The exercise, fresh air, and good birds put us in a fine mood. I was without my camera, not willing to carry it through the mist, and I reveled in my mobility. When I heard a Koklass calling from bamboo, I jumped in to take a look. I couldn’t find the pheasant, but no matter: The sound of a singing Collared Owlet quickly refocused my attention.

The forest around Lóngfèngjiān is mixed broadleaf-conifer with short, wispy bamboo a component of the moderately thick undergrowth. The broadleaf trees are bare now, and the scene is reminiscent of colder, more northern climes. Farther down, more trees retain their leaves, the undergrowth is in places impenetrable, and bamboo grows in thick stands.

Elaine and I have now had a pair of Tianmu trips–one this past May and now this one six months later. The mirror-image trips have given us a view of Tianmu at the two opposite ends of the year. We now better understand the southern Chinese flora and avifauna right at our doorstep, and we appreciate more than ever the transitional, north-south character of the Shanghai region.

Elaine Du takes in the view at the Koklass clearing, West Tianmu, Sat. 21 Nov. 2015. Elev. 1020 m. Note the bare vegetation, the presence of bamboo, and the extensiveness of the southern-temperate forest. West Tianmu offers high-quality habitat at the place where north and south China meet.
Elaine Du takes in the view at the Koklass clearing, West Tianmu, Sat. 21 Nov. 2015. Elev. 1020 m. Note the bare vegetation, the presence of bamboo, and the extensiveness of the southern-temperate forest. West Tianmu offers high-quality habitat at the place where north and south China meet.

List 1 of 3: Birds noted around West Tianmu Mountain Nature Reserve (Xī Tiānmùshān Zìrán Bǎohùqū [西天目山自然保护区]), Zhejiang, China. List includes observations from hotel at Hǎisēn Nóngzhuāng (海森农庄, 30.337622, 119.455874, elev. 425 m) to a point on the road called Jiǔzhū Xiàn (九朱线, 30.308047, 119.483266, elev. 200 m). Rainy and foggy; high 12°C. Visibility 0 km. Wind NNE 6 km/h. Sunrise 06:29, sunset 17:01. FRI 20 NOV 2015 13:00-15:35.

Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 3
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus 2
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythroryncha 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 7
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 15
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 10
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 2
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 30
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 1
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 4
Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus 2
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 70
Indochinese Yuhina Yuhina torqueola 2
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 10
White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 5
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 50
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 4
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 5

List 2 of 3: Birds noted around West Tianmu Mountain Nature Reserve (Xī Tiānmùshān Zìrán Bǎohùqū [西天目山自然保护区]), Zhejiang, China. List includes observations made on walk & drive between hotel at Hǎisēn Nóngzhuāng (海森农庄, 30.337622, 119.455874, elev. 425 m) to Lóngfèngjiān (龙凤尖, 30.344148, 119.440201, elev. 1120 m). The distance by road between the two points is 12.7 km. Lóngfèngjiān serves as the parking area for the Japanese Cedar forest below Xiānrén Dǐng (仙人顶; 1506 m), the highest point on West Tianmu Mountain. Cloudy with periods of rain; high 15°C. Visibility 0-5 km. Wind NNE 11 km/h. Sunrise 06:29, sunset 16:54. SAT 21 NOV 2015 09:40-17:00.

Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 4
Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha 4
prob. gamebird sp. 2
Collared Owlet Glaucidium brodiei 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius sinensis 5
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythroryncha 5
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 6
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 10
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 6
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 2
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 30
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 2
Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus ruficollis 6
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyridopsis ruficeps 4
Huet’s Fulvetta Alcippe hueti 3
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 60
Grey-headed Parrotbill Psittiparus gularis 50
Dusky Thrush Turdus eunomus 4
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 5
Little Forktail Enicurus scouleri 1
White-crowned Forktail E. leschenaulti 3
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Plumbeous Water Redstart P. fuliginosus 2
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 2
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 3
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 5

Densely vegetated area near entrance to West Tianmu Nature Reserve. Elev. here 330 m. This was our main birding site on Day 3.
Densely vegetated area near entrance to West Tianmu Nature Reserve. Elev. here 330 m. This was our main birding site on Day 3.

List 3 of 3: Birds noted around West Tianmu Mountain Nature Reserve (Xī Tiānmùshān Zìrán Bǎohùqū [西天目山自然保护区]), Zhejiang, China. List includes observations from the broad area of mixed habitats around the entrance gate (30.314472, 119.442713, elev. 330 m). Rainy and foggy; high 16°C. Visibility 0 km. Wind NNE 6 km/h. Sunrise 06:31, sunset 17:00. SUN 22 NOV 2015 10:30-12:10.

Chinese Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola thoracicus 4
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major 1
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris 2
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythroryncha 1
Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae 9
Japanese Tit Parus minor 6
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques 3
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus 30
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 2
Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus 2
Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus 2
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 2
White-crowned Forktail Enicurus leschenaulti 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata 20
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 5
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 18
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 2
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 2
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 1
Tristram’s Bunting E. tristrami 3
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 8

Featured photo: Female Koklass Pheasant, Tangjiahe Nature Reserve, Sichuan, China, 20 May 2013. Pucrasia macrolopha ranges from the Himalaya to E and N China.