A Rare Look at salangensis Ashy Drongo

Editor’s note: Each spring and autumn, Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus migrates through Shanghai. Race leucogenis breeds close to the Shanghai region and is the subspecies most commonly seen in Shanghai. The recent appearance at Nanhui of ssp. salangensis (pictured above) raises the question of exactly how numerous that central Chinese subspecies is on the Shanghai coast.

How dark was that migrating Ashy Drongo you just saw? You may want to pay attention, because the dark-grey central Chinese ssp. salangensis has been spotted at Nanhui, the coastal birding site in Shanghai. In this post, I lay out the identification criteria for salangensis and the paler, more common ssp. leucogenis. My theory is that salangensis appears at some higher rate in Shanghai than has historically been recorded, which until recently has been not at all. An opportunity to fine-tune our understanding awaits us!

SEPARATING THE SUBSPECIES

Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus. All photos by Craig Brelsford except 3a (by Kai Pflug ).
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus. 1, 2b: D. l. leucogenis, Laoshan (32.071265, 118.560699), 4 July 2009. Laoshan, a site in Nanjing, Jiangsu 290 km inland from Shanghai, is a breeding area for D. l. leucogenis. 2a, 4: D. l. salangensis, Nanhui, Shanghai, 15 Oct. 2016. 3a: likely D. l. salangensis, Nanhui, September 2016. 3b: D. l. leucogenis, Dongzhai National Nature Reserve, Henan, 1 June 2010. All photos by Craig Brelsford except 3a (by Kai Pflug).

Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus comprises 15 races, of which two are known in the Shanghai region: D. l. leucogenis and D. l. salangensis. D. l. leucogenis, the pale eastern race, is the more common migrant. D. l. salangensis is the darker race and is a vagrant to Shanghai.

A classic leucogenis (panels 1, 2b, 3b) is easy to distinguish from salangensis (2a, 4). A typical leucogenis is pale grey and shows a large white oval patch around the eye. D. l. salangensis is much darker, and its facial patch is reduced and less well defined. Both have a red iris.

Ashy Drongo not only has many races but also shows color variation within each race. The photos here were taken 1 June 2010 at Dongzhai, Henan. The drongo in Panel 1 is a classic pale leucogenis, and the drongo in panels 2 and 3 shows a slaty tone to the upperparts and underparts--though it too is most likely leucogenis.
Ashy Drongo not only has many races but also can show considerable color variation within each race. The drongos shown here were photographed within a few hundred meters of each other on 1 June 2010 at Dongzhai. The drongo in Panel 1 is a classic pale leucogenis. The drongo in panels 2 and 3 is a very different-looking bird, with a noticeable greyish-blue tone.

Intermediate forms (3a) are trickier. They may be purebreds showing random color variation or hybrids. The breeding ranges of leucogenis and salangensis partly overlap, with salangensis breeding in south-central China (mainly or exclusively south of the Yangtze River) and leucogenis breeding over a broad swath of eastern and central China from Sichuan east to Shandong and as far south as Guangdong.

Many thanks to Shanghai Birding member Jonathan Martinez. Martinez lives in Shenzhen and is an expert on the birds of southeast China. He was the first to point out that the photos of Ashy Drongo being posted on the Shanghai Birding WeChat group were of salangensis. He also was instrumental in our identification of the melanistic form of Long-tailed Shrike, discussed below. Thanks also to Paul Holt, who offered his opinion on the breeding range of leucogenis, and to Kai Pflug, for yet another useful photo.

103 SPECIES ON 15-16 OCT. 2016

Long-tailed Shrike dusky morph, Hengsha, 16 Oct. 2016.
Dusky Long-tailed Shrike, Hengsha, 16 Oct. 2016. Note that Dusky is not a subspecies but a color morph within Lanius schach schach, the same taxon found in Shanghai. The melanistic morph, however, is rare in Shanghai. Shanghai Birding member Jonathan Martinez reports that the form is ‘common’ in Guangdong, where the French birder resides. Martinez writes, ‘I’ve seen them in Jiangxi, Fujian, and coastal Guangxi. A bird turning up in Shanghai could be evidence of short-distance movements.’

Partnering with visiting U.S. birder Bryce Harrison, Elaine Du and I noted 103 species over the weekend of Sat. 15 Oct. and Sun. 16 Oct. 2016. We covered the three main birding areas in Shanghai: Nanhui, eastern Chongming Island, and the reclaimed areas of Hengsha Island.

At Nanhui on Saturday we found Nordmann’s Greenshank, 24 Black-faced Spoonbill, 4 Mandarin Duck, and the Ashy Drongo. On Sunday on Hengsha we found a dark-morph Long-tailed Shrike, rare in Shanghai.

Black-faced Spoonbill (L) and Eurasian Spoonbill, Nanhui, 15 Oct. 2016. In the Shanghai region, the two species often are found together.
Black-faced Spoonbill (L) and Eurasian Spoonbill, Nanhui, 15 Oct. 2016. In the Shanghai region, the two species often are found together. Though not under quite as much pressure as Nordmann’s Greenshank and Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Platalea minor is nonetheless listed by the IUCN as endangered. Throughout the winter, Black-faced Spoonbill are consistently seen at Nanhui.

Nanhui also gave us Japanese Quail, Purple Heron, 6 Eurasian Spoonbill, 6 Black-tailed Godwit, and a Eurasian Woodcock at the Magic GPS Point (30.880563, 121.964551). We must have stumbled blindly past the well-camouflaged woodcock half a dozen times before finally flushing it. Also 4 Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, 2 Asian Stubtail, 2 first-of-season Red-flanked Bluetail, 2 Japanese Thrush, and 3 Eyebrowed Thrush.

Hengsha yielded Striated Heron, Pied Harrier, Eastern Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Merlin, 9 Black-browed Reed Warbler, and our season’s first taivana Eastern Yellow Wagtail.

Japanese Quail with ever-present backhoes in the background. Nanhui, 15 Oct. 2016.
Japanese Quail with ever-present backhoes in background. Nanhui, 15 Oct. 2016.

We found Eurasian Wryneck at Nanhui and on Hengsha and Bull-headed Shrike and Yellow-bellied Tit at Nanhui and on Chongming.

Nordmann’s Greenshank was roosting at nearly the same spot (30.920549, 121.963247) as a month ago. The endangered bird was among many Common Greenshank, allowing us to appreciate the former’s more obviously bi-colored bill, shorter legs, and more hunched appearance. The bird clearly stood out from among its Common cousins. For more on Nordmann’s ID, please see our Sept. 18 post, Your Handy-Dandy Nordmann’s Greenshank ID Primer.

The Black-faced Spoonbill were just a few hundred meters from the Nordmann’s in the defunct nature reserve. Poignantly, the spoonbills were roosting near the decrepit old sign introducing Platalea minor to the world.

UPDATES TO RECENT POSTS

This post has made waves among lovers of leaf warblers.This post has made waves among lovers of leaf warblers.
This post is making waves among leaf-warbler lovers.

My post of 26 Sept. 2016, “Pale-legged Leaf Warbler & the Shanghai Big 5,” has attracted the attention of Philip Round, one of the world’s foremost experts on Asian leaf warblers. I have written an addendum with an excerpt from an illuminating e-mail sent to me by Dr. Round. In it, he talks about the difficulties, some insurmountable, some not, in distinguishing Pale-legged Leaf Warbler from Sakhalin Leaf Warbler. In the republished post, scroll down to the section headed “UPDATE: 19 OCT. 2016.”

These photos are of a confirmed Amur female.
Amur female, Laoshan.

I have added two photos to the post of 10 Oct. 2016, “ID Workshop: Paradise Flycatchers.” The photos show a female Amur Paradise Flycatcher on its breeding grounds in Nanjing, Jiangsu. You now have another opportunity to study the photos of a confirmed Amur female. Compare that Amur with the migrating paradise flycatchers you find in the Shanghai area for an airtight ID. Scroll down to “UPDATE: 18 OCT. 2016.”

Day Lists
My first reference is IOC World Bird List.

List 1 of 1 for Fri. 14 Oct. 2016 (1 species). A line of trees at 31.216753, 121.408195. Point is near Zhongshan Park (31.221888, 121.420066) in Changning District, Shanghai, China. 12:35. Craig Brelsford.

Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 8 (flock)

List 1 of 1 for Sat. 15 Oct. 2016 (75 species)

Bull-headed Shrike, Nanhui, 15 Oct. 2016.
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus bucephalus, Nanhui. Outside the breeding season, the pale base to the lower mandible (inset) is present on both sexes of the nominate subspecies. This is an adult female. Note the lack of a black facial mask and the striking rusty-orange coloration. The nominate race breeds in northeast China, the Russian Far East and adjacent islands, Korea, and Japan and is a passage migrant in Shanghai. A little-known western subspecies, sicarius, breeds in Gansu and lacks the pale base to the lower mandible.

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. Partly cloudy. Low 19° C, high 23° C. Humidity 73%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind E 23 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 59 (moderate). Sunrise 05:58, sunset 17:21. SAT 15 OCT 2016 05:30-17:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Bryce Harrison.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 4
Garganey Spatula querquedula 5
Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope 8
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca 60
Japanese Quail Coturnix japonica 1
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 3
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 80
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 50
Purple Heron A. purpurea 1
Great Egret A. alba 15
Intermediate Egret A. intermedia 9
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 330
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 32
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 6
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 24
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 30
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 2
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 21
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 15
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 6
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis 10
Dunlin C. alpina 20
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 2
Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 16
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 80
Nordmann’s Greenshank T. guttifer 1
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 1
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum 6
Gull-billed Tern Gelochelidon nilotica 6
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 7
Spotted Dove S. chinensis 10
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla 2
Falco sp. 1
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 4
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 22
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 3
Ashy Drongo Dicrurus leucophaeus salangensis 1
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone atrocaudata 4
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 200
Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus 3
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 16
Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps 2
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 2
Arctic/Kamchatka Leaf/Japanese Leaf Warbler P. borealis/examinandus/xanthodryas 6
Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler P. tenellipes/borealoides 5
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 6
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 5
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 25
Dark-sided Flycatcher Muscicapa sibirica 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher M. dauurica 26
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana 10
Rufous-tailed Robin Larvivora sibilans 4
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 2
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 1
Taiga Flycatcher F. albicilla 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 5
White’s Thrush Zoothera aurea 12
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 2
Japanese Thrush T. cardis 2
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 3
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 10
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 3
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 7
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni 2
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 2
Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 1

List 1 of 2 for Sun. 16 Oct. 2016 (50 species)

Pied Harrier, Hengsha, 16 Oct. 2016.
Pied Harrier, Hengsha, 16 Oct. 2016. This is an adult female.

Birds noted on Hengsha Island (Héngshā Dǎo [横沙岛]), small alluvial island at mouth of Yangtze River in Shanghai, China. S gate to reclaimed area at 31.297333, 121.859434. Hazy, warm, humid. Low 19° C, high 27° C. Humidity 88%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind NNW 11 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 179 (unhealthful). Sunrise 05:58, sunset 17:20. SUN 16 OCT 2016 05:45-10:15. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Bryce Harrison.

Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 11
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 20
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 8
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 2
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 30
Purple Heron A. purpurea 1
Great Egret A. alba 6
Intermediate Egret A. intermedia 3
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 100
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 6
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
Striated Heron Butorides striata 1
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 75
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus 1
Hen Harrier C. cyaneus 1
Pied Harrier C. melanoleucos 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 20
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 20
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 2
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 180
Dunlin Calidris alpina 20
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 4
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 6
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 3
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 2
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 3
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Merlin F. columbarius 1
Falco sp. 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 13 (including 1 dusky morph)
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 10
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 50
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 2
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 12
Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps 9
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 7
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 16
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 3
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 6
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 3
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 6 (4 taivana, 2 tschutschensis)
White Wagtail M. alba 10
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 12
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni 1
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 1
Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 2

List 2 of 2 for Sun. 16 Oct. 2016 (47 species)

Eurasian Hobby eating on the wing, Chongming Island, 16 Oct. 2016.
Juvenile Eurasian Hobby dining on the wing, Chongming Island, 16 Oct. 2016.

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 District, Chongming Island, Shanghai, China (31.510109, 121.961955). Hazy, warm, humid. Low 19° C, high 27° C. Humidity 88%. Visibility: 10 km. Wind NNW 11 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 179 (unhealthful). Sunrise 05:58, sunset 17:20. SUN 16 OCT 2016 11:45-16:25. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Bryce Harrison.

Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope 30
Eastern Spot-billed Duck A. zonorhyncha 6
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 50
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 15
Great Egret A. alba 10
Intermediate Egret A. intermedia 4
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 50
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 12
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 5
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 2
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 5
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 60
Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus 2
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 2
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 1
Far Eastern Curlew N. madagascariensis 8
Eurasian Curlew N. arquata 2
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 2
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 2
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 10
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 4
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 25
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 7
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum 50
Vega Gull Larus vegae vegae/L. v. mongolicus 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis 8
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo 1
Peregrine Falcon F. peregrinus 1
Falco sp. 1
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus 1
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 16
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 1
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 18
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 50
Yellow-bellied Tit Periparus venustulus 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 20
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 30
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 7
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 50
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 8 tschutschensis
White Wagtail M. alba 5
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 12
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni 2
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus 4

List 1 of 1 for Mon. 17 Oct. 2016 (2 species)

This line of trees wedged between two housing complexes holds many wild birds. On 17 Oct. 2016, I found Oriental Magpie-Robin and Japanese Tit, and on 14 Oct. I found a flock of Japanese White-eye.
This line of trees (31.216753, 121.408195) is wedged between two housing complexes near my apartment in Changning District, Shanghai. Deep in the bowels of Earth’s largest city, this spot is as urban as urban can be. The trees, however, are tall and provide a large surface area for wild birds. On 17 Oct. 2016, I found Oriental Magpie-Robin and Japanese Tit there, and on 14 Oct. I found a fast-moving flock of Japanese White-eye. Chinese Blackbird breed in the area, and Siberian Weasel have been noted in the vicinity.

A line of trees at 31.216753, 121.408195. Point is near Zhongshan Park (31.221888, 121.420066) in Changning District, Shanghai, China. Mostly clear. Low 18° C, high 23° C. Humidity 80%. Visibility 10 km. Wind NE 11 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 107 (unhealthful). Sunrise 05:59, sunset 17:19. MON 17 OCT 2016 08:35, 12:35. Craig Brelsford.

Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 1

WORKS CONSULTED

Join Shanghai Birding for the very latest bird sightings in Shanghai.
You too can join Shanghai Birding.

Brelsford, Craig, moderator. Shanghai Birding, a WeChat chat group. Quotations from Jonathan Martinez and Paul Holt taken from this chat group. To join Shanghai Birding, fill out the form on our Sightings page.

Brazil, Mark. Birds of East Asia. Princeton University Press. Entry on Ashy Drongo, p. 300. Brazil’s opus grows weaker as the distance from Japan (his base) of the birds he is covering grows longer. Brazil offers no information on D. l. salangensis on the east coast of China.

del Hoyo, Josep, et al., eds. The Handbook of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions. Vol. 14, “Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows.” Entry for Ashy Drongo (p. 220) written by G.J. Rocamora and D. Yeatman-Berthelot. The authors have “N Gansu” as the northwestern limit of the breeding range of D. l. leucogenis. Is that likely? See also Paul Holt’s misgivings in MacKinnon, John & Karen Phillipps, below.

del Hoyo, Josep, et al., eds. The Handbook of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions. Vol. 13, “Penduline-tits to Shrikes.” Entry for Bull-headed Shrike (pp. 775-6) written by Masaoki Takagi. Long-tailed Shrike (p. 781) by Anton Krištín.

Ferguson-Lees, James & David A. Christie. Raptors of the World. Princeton Field Guides. Entries on Pied Harrier, Hen Harrier, and Eastern Marsh Harrier.

MacKinnon, John & Karen Phillipps. A Field Guide to the Birds of China. Oxford University Press. Entry on Ashy Drongo, pp. 281-2. MacKinnon has breeding range of D. l. leucogenis stretching to Heilongjiang. Paul Holt (Shanghai Birding WeChat group) disagrees, saying the northeastern limit is more likely Shandong. Holt writes: “I think that the weakest aspect of John MacKinnon’s ground-breaking field guide are the ranges, and again I don’t think HBW’s accurate on that front either. I’d discount Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, and Hebei from the breeding range of leucogenis Ashy Drongo and don’t believe that it can breed further north than Shandong (where it might not even occur) and southernmost Shanxi.”

Robson, Craig. Birds of Southeast Asia. Princeton University Press. Ashy Drongo, p. 176.

 

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.

Amazing Spring Records for Shanghai

The past 10 days have seen a parade of migrants passing through Shanghai. Grey-crowned Warbler and Blue Whistling Thrush shocked birders at Nanhui. The birding site in southeast Pudong also yielded Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Pacific Golden Plover, Red Knot, Grey-tailed Tattler, Amur Paradise Flycatcher, singing Arctic Warbler, calling Two-barred Warbler, Radde’s Warbler, White-throated Rock Thrush, and still more Pechora Pipit. Tiger Shrike and Black Bulbul have been noted at Nanhui and on Lesser Yangshan, with the latter location yielding Peregrine Falcon and Rufous-tailed Robin singing from deep cover. Other interesting records were Red Turtle Dove, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Hair-crested Drongo, Ashy Drongo, day counts as high as 21 of Black Drongo, a trio of Siberians (Siberian Thrush, Siberian Blue Robin, Siberian Rubythroat), plus Chestnut Bunting and endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting. Zhongshan Park yielded our season’s first singing Black-naped Oriole. My friend Kai Pflug was one of a group of birders who found Fujian Niltava at Nanhui, a first for Shanghai.

A White-throated Rock Thrush yawns at Nanhui, 17 May 2016. A pair of males set up shop in Microforest 1 and stayed all day.
A White-throated Rock Thrush yawns at Nanhui, 17 May 2016. A pair of males set up shop in Microforest 1 and stayed all day.

At this time of year, considering the richness of the Shanghai coast and the lack of birder coverage over the years, I go out not hoping, but expecting to get interesting records. Recently, I have rarely been disappointed.

GREY-CROWNED WARBLER, RARE IN SHANGHAI

Though I missed Kai’s niltava, the German birder brought me good luck in another way. On a spectacular Tues. morning 17 May at Nanhui, exploring the lush microforests, he and I found Grey-crowned Warbler Seicercus tephrocephalus.

Grey-crowned Warbler, Nanhui, 17 May 2016.
Grey-crowned Warbler, Nanhui, 17 May 2016.

The bird was singing, an amazing incongruity, the bright, sharp south-Chinese Seicercus sound here in a tiny wood on the muddy Chinese coast. The golden warbler alighted on a branch for several seconds. I got photos and a sound recording. Grey-crowned Warbler is rarely seen this far east and is not covered in Mark Brazil’s Birds of East Asia. However the very good Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol. 11, which I can’t recommend enough to lovers of leaf warblers and golden spectacled warblers, has the info we need.

A monotypic species, S. tephrocephalus is said by HBW 11 to breed closest to us in Hubei. It is very simliar in plumage and song to Martens’s Warbler S. omeiensis but unlike Martens’s has eye-ring broken at rear. S. tephrocephalus is common to abundant in its normal range of south China and Southeast Asia, but it has rarely if ever been recorded in Shanghai. The lack of records is owing not only to its scarcity but also to its difficulty in identification, particularly for birders unfamiliar with HBW 11.

One of the pages dedicated to Seicercus warblers. Taken from a well-known PDF created by Shanghai Birding member Per Alström for a presentation he made to the Beijing Birdwatching Society in 2012. This report is now downloadable through shanghaibirding.com. See nearby text for link.
One of the pages dedicated to Seicercus warblers. Taken from a well-known PDF created by Shanghai Birding member Per Alström for a presentation he made to the Beijing Birdwatching Society in 2012. The PDF is now downloadable through shanghaibirding.com.

Much of the wealth of info on Seicercus warblers in HBW 11 is the fruit of the research of Swedish ornithologist Per Alström, who wrote nearly all the Seicercus entries. Guangdong-based French birder Jonathan Martinez has also researched S. tephrocephalus and helped me with the ID of the Grey-crowned Warbler. Both are members of the Shanghai Birding WeChat group and are readers of shanghaibirding.com. Thanks to both of you for your contributions.

Here are the sound-recordings I made of Grey-crowned Warbler. The recordings and photos are of the same individual.

Grey-crowned Warbler 1/2, Nanhui, Shanghai, 17 May 2016 (00:11; 1.2 MB)

Grey-crowned Warbler 2/2, Nanhui, Shanghai, 17 May 2016 (00:23; 1.7 MB)

After viewing the photos and listening to the recordings, Per wrote the following to the Shanghai Birding chat group:

“Hi Craig. … I agree with your id of Grey-crowned Warbler, mainly based on the song recording (songs and calls are by far the best ways to id Seicercus warblers). The photos look a bit off (e.g., eye-ring broken in front, which isn’t normally the case in any Seicercus, seemingly poorly marked lateral crown-stripes, no clear grey on crown [though that could be a photo effect], and dark-tipped lower mandible [only in Grey-cheeked W]). Simple id tips, paintings and a few photos can be found on my research web page. In a PDF on leaf warblers from a talk for Beijing Birdwatching Society, there are also sound recordings of … Seicercus warblers on the same page.” (That very useful PDF is now available for download through shanghaibirding.com [13 MB]: Phylloscopidae-Beijing-Birdwatching-Society-nov-2012 English)

To sum up:

My research indicates, and Per Alström concurs: Grey-crowned Warbler (Seicercus tephrocephalus)

Grey-crowned has eye-ring broken at rear; my photos show eye-ring broken at rear. The songs I recorded most closely match the song of S. tephrocephalus.

Next-closest possibility: Martens’s Warbler (S. omeiensis)

Very similar to Grey-crowned Warbler but doesn’t have eye-ring broken at rear.

Also: Alström’s Warbler (S. soror); my recording has trills; distinctive song of Alström’s lacks trills. Bianchi’s Warbler (S. valentini) does not trill. White-spectacled Warbler (S. affinis intermedius) has eye-ring broken above eye, not behind.

BLUE WHISTLING THRUSH, ANOTHER RARITY IN SHANGHAI

Blue Whistling Thrush, Nanhui, 15 May 2016.
Blue Whistling Thrush, Nanhui, 15 May 2016.

A coastal record of Blue Whistling Thrush is rare; the species had not been recorded in Shanghai since 1987. The places closest to Shanghai where I’ve seen the species are Tianmu Mountains in Zhejiang and in Nanjing Zhongshan Botanical Garden. When on Sun. 15 May we first saw the glossy blue-black bird, my partners Jan-Erik Nilsén and Elaine Du and I were flummoxed. We lingered around microforests 3-8 at Nanhui, waiting to get another look. We finally got a second look and realized it was whistler.

Birders tend to think of Blue Whistling Thrush as the ultimate resident, a fixture along fast-flowing mountain streams. The bird is however at least partly migratory, as our record and observations of other birders prove. In a text message to the Shanghai Birding WeChat group, Jonathan Martinez wrote: “BWT are migrants; I used to have them annually in northern Hunan at a site not suitable for breeding.”

CUCKOOS ARE CALLING IN SHANGHAI!

Comparison of Indian Cuckoo and Common Cuckoo. Bottom-left cuckoo is Common; note yellow iris and compare to dark iris of Indian in bottom-right panel. Top two panels also Indian. All photos taken 17 May 2016 at Nanhui.
Comparison of Indian Cuckoo and Common Cuckoo. Bottom-left cuckoo is Common; note yellow iris and compare to dark iris of Indian in bottom-right panel. Top two panels also Indian. All photos taken 17 May 2016 at Nanhui.

One of the many reasons I love spring is that during this time cuckoos call and are easier to identify. On Tues. 17 May at Nanhui Kai Pflug and I had two calling cuckoos: Common and Indian. I got photos of both. Can you see differences in the appearance of Common and Indian? One is eye color. See four-panel photo for comparison. The other is the thickness of the barring on the underparts. Indian also is smaller than Common, but the size difference is harder to see.

Here is one of the best-known bird calls in the world, that of Common Cuckoo, recorded by me at Nanhui on 17 May (00:31; 2 MB):

OTHER NOTES

— More Nanhui notes from Tues. 17 May: 0 ducks, 0 raptors, and Dishui Lake contained a grand total of 3 birds, all Great Crested Grebe. Also, on a weekday, even though weather superb, tourists were few; Kai Pflug and I enjoyed blessed peace and quiet. It was as quiet as a rainy Saturday or Sunday. We were lovin’ that!

— On Tues. 17 May Kai and I found bird netting at “Dowitcher Pond” (30.877779, 121.955465) in Nanhui. Area is fenced in and netting was tied to posts in deep water, so removing it will be a challenge.

— Here is a recording I made of Arctic Warbler at Nanhui.

Arctic Warbler, “half-hearted” song, Nanhui, 17 May 2016 (00:38; 2.3 MB)

— Here is the sound of Rufous-tailed Robin singing on Lesser Yangshan. The robins were singing unseen on the thickly vegetated hillside above the tunnel entrance at Xiǎoyánglíng Cove (30.642243, 122.066940).

Rufous-tailed Robin singing from thick cover, Lesser Yangshan Island, 14 May 2016 (00:08; 1.1 MB):

— Thanks to our birding partners Michael Grunwell, Jan-Erik Nilsén, and Kai Pflug.

List 1 of 1 for Wed. 11 May 2016 (10 species). Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán [中山公园]; 31.221888, 121.420066), urban green space in Shanghai, China. Sunny. Low 11° C, high 24° C. Visibility 10 km. Wind SSE 18 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 175 (unhealthful). Sunrise 05:00, sunset 18:41. WED 11 MAY 2016 17:50-18:55. Craig Brelsford.

Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 6
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 25
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 20
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris 1
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia 1
Mugimaki Flycatcher F. mugimaki 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 5

List 1 of 1 for Thurs. 12 May 2016 (9 species). Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán [中山公园]; 31.221888, 121.420066), urban green space in Shanghai, China. Cloudy. Low 16° C, high 24° C. Visibility 3 km. Wind SSE 15 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 165 (unhealthful). Sunrise 04:59, sunset 18:42. THU 12 MAY 2016 17:50-18:55. Craig Brelsford.

Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 15
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 8
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 25
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 4
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 22
Eyebrowed Thrush T. obscurus 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 2

List 1 of 1 for Fri. 13 May 2016 (12 species). Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán [中山公园]; 31.221888, 121.420066), urban green space in Shanghai, China. Cloudy. Low 17° C, high 20° C. Visibility 5 km. Wind ENE 23 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 165 (unhealthful). Sunrise 04:59, sunset 18:42. FRI 13 MAY 2016 05:40-06:35. Craig Brelsford & Jan-Erik Nilsén.

Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 16
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 7
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 1 singing
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 25
Arctic/Kamchatka Leaf/Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealis/examinandus/xanthodryas 1
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 15
Turdus sp. 1 making tseep call high in trees
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 3

List 1 of 2 for Sat. 14 May 2016 (47 species). Birds noted on 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). Cloudy. Low 19° C, high 24° C. Wind SSE 18 km/h. Visibility 10 km. PM2.5 AQI: 107 (unhealthful). Sunrise 04:58, sunset 18:43. SAT 14 MAY 2016 05:20-09:30. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Jan-Erik Nilsén.

Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 1
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 6
Great Egret Ardea alba 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 2
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 2
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 1
Cuculus sp. 1
Northern Boobook Ninox japonica 1
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 2
Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus 1
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 3
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 2
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 4
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 20
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 4
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 50
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 15 singing
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler Horornis fortipes 1
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 4
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 2
Arctic Warbler P. borealis 1 calling
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 2
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 10
Black-browed Reed Warbler A. bistrigiceps 1
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 1
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 12
Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus 2
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 1
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 2
Asian Brown Flycatcher M. latirostris 6
Rufous-tailed Robin Larvivora sibilans 2 singing
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia 1
Mugimaki Flycatcher F. mugimaki 1
Taiga Flycatcher F. albicilla 1
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 6
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 1
Richard’s Pipit Anthus richardi 2
Olive-backed Pipit A. hodgsoni 8
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 6
Tristram’s Bunting E. tristrami 4
Yellow-breasted Bunting E. aureola 1
Chestnut Bunting E. rutila 2

List 2 of 2 for Sat. 14 May 2016 (68 species)

Black-winged Cuckooshrike making use of microforest, Nanhui, 14 May 2016.
Black-winged Cuckooshrike making use of microforest, Nanhui, 14 May 2016.

Birds noted 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 between 31.000204, 121.938145 & 30.851114, 121.848527, in particular South Lock (30.857798, 121.914106) & South Lawn (midpoint of grassy area at 30.849840, 121.897953). Cloudy. Low 19° C, high 24° C. Wind SSE 18 km/h. Visibility 10 km. PM2.5 AQI: 107 (unhealthful). Sunrise 04:58, sunset 18:43. SAT 14 MAY 2016 10:30-19:00. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, Michael Grunwell, & Jan-Erik Nilsén.

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 3
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 7
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 18
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 4
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 1
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 1
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 1
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 5
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 4
Lesser Sand Plover C. mongolus 2
Greater Sand Plover C. leschenaultii 1
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago 1
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 6
Common Redshank T. totanus 2
Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis 5
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 4
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 3
Grey-tailed Tattler T. brevipes 20
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus 3
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 6
Red Knot Calidris canutus 1
Red-necked Stint C. ruficollis 10
Long-toed Stint C. subminuta 3
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper C. acuminata 20
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida 2
Red Turtle Dove Streptopelia tranquebarica 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 4
Cuculus sp. 3
Black-winged Cuckooshrike Coracina melaschistos 1
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 6
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 4
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 1
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus 1
Ashy Drongo D. leucophaeus 1
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 8
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 20
Sand Martin Riparia riparia ca. 150
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 200
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 4
Arctic Warbler P. borealis 4
Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler P. tenellipes/borealoides 2
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 2
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis ca. 100
Black-browed Reed Warbler A. bistrigiceps 4
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 10
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 2
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 20
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 4
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 26
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 2
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 3
Asian Brown Flycatcher M. latirostris 3
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope 1
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
White-throated Rock Thrush Monticola gularis 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 50
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutschensis 4 tschutschensis
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 3
White Wagtail M. alba 4 leucopsis
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 1
Pechora Pipit A. gustavi 1
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 2
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala 3

List 1 of 1 for Sun. 15 May 2016 (57 species)

Red Knot, Nanhui, 15 May 2016.
Red Knot, Nanhui, 15 May 2016.

Birds noted 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 between 31.000204, 121.938145 & 30.851114, 121.848527, in particular South Lock (30.857798, 121.914106) & South Lawn (midpoint of grassy area at 30.849840, 121.897953). Sunny, turning cloudy. Low 11° C, high 24° C. Visibility 10 km. PM2.5 AQI: 76 (moderate). Sunrise 04:57, sunset 18:44. SUN 15 MAY 2016 08:00-14:10. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Jan-Erik Nilsén.

Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 1
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 3
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 2
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 4
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 2
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 2
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea 1
Great Egret A. alba 2
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 2
Little Egret E. garzetta 22
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Accipiter sp. 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva 4
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes 13
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 2
Red Knot Calidris canutus 2
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis 5
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper C. acuminata 1
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum 3
Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris 1
Pacific Swift Apus pacificus 2
Black-winged Cuckooshrike Coracina melaschistos 1
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 3
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 8
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus 16
Ashy Drongo D. leucophaeus 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 10
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 30
Sand Martin Riparia riparia ca. 150
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 150
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 2
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 2 singing
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 1
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 2
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 1
Arctic Warbler P. borealis 1 singing
Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler P. tenellipes/borealoides 1
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis ca. 150
Black-browed Reed Warbler A. bistrigiceps 10
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 10
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 10
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 20
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 8
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 9
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 18
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 2
Asian Brown Flycatcher M. latirostris 2
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope 1
Blue Whistling Thrush Myophonus caeruleus 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 50
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 3 leucopsis
Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola 1
Chestnut Bunting E. rutila 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 1

List 1 of 1 for Tues. 17 May 2016 (74 species)

Black-browed Reed Warbler, Nanhui, 17 May 2016.
Black-browed Reed Warbler, Nanhui, 17 May 2016.

Birds noted 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 between 31.000204, 121.938145 & 30.851114, 121.848527, in particular South Lock (30.857798, 121.914106) & South Lawn (midpoint of grassy area at 30.849840, 121.897953). Cloudy. Low 13° C, high 24° C. Wind SSE 6 km/h. Visibility 10 km. PM2.5 AQI: 109 (unhealthful). Sunrise 04:56, sunset 18:45. TUE 17 MAY 2016 05:05-17:35. Craig Brelsford & Kai Pflug.

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 4
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 3
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 3
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 20
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus 16
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 6
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 4
Great Egret A. alba 1
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 8
Little Egret E. garzetta 29
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 1
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 4
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 6
Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus 4
Gallinago sp. 1
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 1
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 15
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 3
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis 4
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 2
Red Turtle Dove S. tranquebarica 1
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 8
Indian Cuckoo Cuculus micropterus 1 calling
Common Cuckoo C. canorus 7 calling
Cuculus sp. 2
Black-winged Cuckooshrike Coracina melaschistos 1
Swinhoe’s Minivet Pericrocotus cantonensis 4
Tiger Shrike Lanius tigrinus 1
Brown Shrike L. cristatus 4
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach 6
Black-naped Oriole Oriolus chinensis 3
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus 21
Hair-crested Drongo D. hottentottus 3
Amur Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone incei 1
Oriental Skylark Alauda gulgula 15
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 40
Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus 1
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 200
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 1
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 2 singing
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 1
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 9
Arctic Warbler P. borealis 3 singing
Arctic/Kamchatka Leaf/Japanese Leaf Warbler P. borealis/examinandus/xanthodryas 3
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 1
Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler P. tenellipes/borealoides 3
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 1
Grey-crowned Warbler Seicercus tephrocephalus 1 singing
Seicercus sp. 1
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis ca. 75
Black-browed Reed Warbler A. bistrigiceps 7
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 3
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 1
Vinous-throated Parrotbill Sinosuthora webbiana 15
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 3
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus 2
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 15
Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus 4
White-cheeked Starling S. cineraceus 5
Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica 1
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 6
Dark-sided Flycatcher M. sibirica 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher M. latirostris 9
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana 1
Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane 1
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope 2
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
White-throated Rock Thrush Monticola gularis 2
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus ca. 50
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 2
White Wagtail M. alba 2 leucopsis
Pechora Pipit Anthus gustavi 4
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 4
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 5
Chestnut Bunting E. rutila 2

Mammals

Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica 1

Reed Parrotbill, Nanhui, 17 May 2016. This species gets my vote for Bird of the City of Shanghai. It's charismatic and beautiful, and as a reed-bed specialist, Reed Parrotbill underlines the need to preserve what remains of the reeds in Shanghai and elsewhere along the China coast.
Reed Parrotbill, Nanhui, 17 May 2016. This species gets my vote for Bird of the City of Shanghai. It’s charismatic and beautiful, and as a reed-bed specialist, Reed Parrotbill underlines the need to preserve what remains of the reeds in Shanghai and elsewhere along the China coast.

Featured image: Here’s a handy rule for bird photographers: When you have light conditions as good as those we had Tues. morning 17 May 2016, then shoot anything, even a sparrow. It’ll look good. Luckily I had this more interesting Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus. I was at Nanhui in Shanghai. Nikon D3S, 600 mm, F6.3, 1/5000, ISO 6400.

Sakhalin & Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Singing Together

Today, 5 May 2016, I got my first-ever record of Sakhalin Leaf Warbler. The bird was singing on the tiny island at the little central pond (31.224111, 121.414194) at Zhongshan Park, Shanghai. Singing nearby was Pale-legged Leaf Warbler. These lookalike species were two of the seven species of passage migrant I noted, the others being Ashy Minivet, Yellow-browed Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, at least one Turdus sp. that was not Chinese Blackbird, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Narcissus Flycatcher, and Mugimaki Flycatcher.

I saw a Pale-legged or Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, pulled out my iPhone, and played back a recording of Pale-legged. I got no response. I played Sakhalin for a while, got no response, then stopped. I knew not to walk away, but wait. As Shanghai is outside the breeding range of both species, their urge to sing may not be strong, but it is May and the testosterone is flowing. A response may come after a lag.

Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes/borealoides, Yangkou, Jiangsu, 1 May 2014. As is usually the case, because the bird in this photo was not singing, I was unable to identify it beyond the level of Pale-legged/Sakhalin. On 5 May 2016, I had the good luck of finding not one, but both members of the Pale/Sak species pair singing, and thus identifiable to species level. I was able to make the double ID of these poorly known East Asian species in a busy park in the middle of Shanghai. Photo taken from archives of craigbrelsford.com.
Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes/borealoides, Yangkou, Jiangsu, 1 May 2014. As is usually the case, because the bird in this photo was not singing, I was unable to identify it beyond the level of Pale-legged/Sakhalin. On 5 May 2016, I had the good luck of finding not one, but both members of the Pale/Sak species pair singing, and thus identifiable to species level. I was able to make the double ID of these poorly known East Asian species in a busy park in the middle of Shanghai. Photo taken from archives of craigbrelsford.com.

I was standing at the edge of the little pond, admiring Narcissus Flycatcher. My brain was barely registering the normal background noise being made by Japanese Tit, Light-vented Bulbul, Chinese Blackbird, Chinese Grosbeak, caged Chinese Hwamei, and old folks practicing qigong. Suddenly from the din came an anomalous sound. I trained my attention to the high-pitched whistle. Sakhalin! My playback had apparently been heard and had attracted a Sakhalin to the tree on the island closest to me on the “mainland.” I glimpsed the bird but saw nothing in its plumage or bare parts to tell it from Pale-legged. In the field, the only reliable element separating the two species is song. Sakhalin makes a three-note whistle, very different from the cricket-like trill of Pale-legged. The three-note whistle is exactly what I was hearing.

After a few minutes, the singing stopped, and then, as if on cue, the trill of Pale-legged surged out from the foliage. I again played back Pale-legged recordings and this time got an immediate and very strong response. Making the “tink” call, a Pale-legged flew to my side of the pond and lingered in trees near me. The tink is apparently similar to that of Sakhalin and therefore not a reliable separator. But soon the tink was followed by another trill, and I knew I was looking at Pale-legged.

What luck! There I was, in the middle of Earth’s largest city, hearing the songs of two East Asian leaf warblers, one of them (Sakhalin) little-known. Does urban birding get any better than this?

My trusty Olympus DM-650 sound recorder, the device I used to record Sakhalin Leaf Warbler and Pale-legged Leaf Warbler. In May, the height of migration season, my sound recorder is like the American Express card: 'Don't Leave Home Without It!'
My trusty Olympus DM-650 sound recorder, the device I used to record Sakhalin Leaf Warbler and Pale-legged Leaf Warbler. In May, the height of migration season, my sound recorder is like the American Express card: ‘Don’t Leave Home Without It!’

I sound-recorded both species. In all, one can hear the din from a busy inner-city park. In the first of the two song fragments of Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, among the species heard in the background is Ashy Minivet.

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Song Fragments 1/2 (00:51; 2.8 MB)

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler, Song Fragments 2/2 (00:36; 2.2 MB)

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Trill (00:03; 922 KB)

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Tink (00:15; 1.4 MB)

Thanks to Jan-Erik Nilsén, Jonathan Martinez, and Jason Loghry for their help in today’s project.

List 1 of 1 for Thurs. 5 May 2016 (17 species). Birds noted at Zhongshan Park (Zhōngshān Gōngyuán [中山公园]; 31.221888, 121.420066), urban green space in Shanghai, China. Cloudy; low 19° C, high 24° C. Visibility 3 km. Wind SSE 18 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 132 (unhealthful). Sunrise 05:05, sunset 18:37. THU 05 MAY 2016 06:10-08:15. Craig Brelsford.

Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 8
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 4
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 8
Japanese Tit Parus minor 5 (2 begging fledglings)
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 25
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 7 (1 singing)
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler P. tenellipes 1 singing
Sakhalin Leaf Warbler P. borealoides 1 singing
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 2
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 17 (4 fledglings)
Turdus sp. 4 making tseep call high in trees
Oriental Magpie-Robin Copsychus saularis 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris 2
Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina 1
Mugimaki Flycatcher F. mugimaki 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 30
Chinese Grosbeak Eophona migratoria 5

Featured image: Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes/borealoides, Yangkou, Rudong, Jiangsu, China, 1 May 2014. Some authors note subtle differences in plumage and structure, but the features overlap, making non-singing Pale-legged and Sakhalin virtually indistinguishable in the field. The species pair is distinguishable from other leaf warblers by their very pale, pink legs. The species pump the tail steadily and often cling to tree trunks, somewhat like a nuthatch. Pale-legged breeds in the Russian Far East and northeast China; Sakhalin breeds on Sakhalin Island and in Japan. Photo by Craig Brelsford and taken from archives of craigbrelsford.com.