by Mark Havenhand
With unclear travel restrictions from Covid, I looked for a birding location suitable for a few days and close enough to my Shanghai home to be able to get back easily if the situation got worse. It did not and I enjoyed six full days of glorious weather and birding centred on Taining and Emeifeng (27.006583, 117.076389), Fujian. My visit took place 13-19 Feb. 2021. I am pleased to provide this update to Craig Brelsford’s 2015 reports from Emeifeng.
Logistics: Easy access with the express train from Shanghai to Nanchang West and then on to Taining from the same station. Total elapsed time: about 7 hours. I was questioned thoroughly by plainclothes officials on arrival at Taining Station, the only displeasure of the whole trip. I chose Huada Hotel (Huádà Jiǔdiàn [华大酒店], +86 598-7817777), about RMB260/night, adequate breakfast. Positive is central location and some familiarity with foreigners (though no English spoken), negative is smoking throughout. The hotel were flexible enough to accept me with papers “not quite” in order. Guide, recommended by Craig, was Dèng Zhōngpíng (邓忠平; +86 138 6059 6327). Mr. Deng has no English beyond “Let’s go” but knows the habits of foreign birders, is familiar with several likely locations, and is a good spotter himself. He is cheerful, positive and friendly—slight negative however is that he is a discreet smoker and does need a siesta or to get back to Taining by say 3 p.m. Taining is a pleasant town with a winding river, an old town, and a relatively peaceful vibe. I saw no foreigners, birdwatchers, or hunters during my stay.
Emeifeng in February was reaching approx. 22°C (72°F) in the valleys, 10°C (50°F) at the summit. Above 1100 m (3,610 ft.) was essentially still winter, with little bird, insect or plant life. Below 500 m (1,640 ft.) was spring, with all three showing plentiful life.
We visited Emeifeng on four occasions, each time recording different species, including Silver Pheasant at the summit lake. White-necklaced Partridge could be heard but not seen at the summit. I did not see any Cabot’s Tragopan, the only disappointment. Sultan Tit, Orange-bellied Leafbird, and Red-billed Blue Magpie were plentiful.
The road above Shuibu Reservoir was highly productive, especially the large reed patch accessed via the old wooden bridge—Silver Pheasant (10!), Chinese Bamboo Partridge heard but not seen, and China endemic Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler. This road extends into Jiangxi. The summit is a new wind park, with a new road along the ridge in the direction of Emeifeng. With engineers still working and many locals coming to view the turbines, this area was not birdable. Eventually the construction will be over, and this extended ridge road might be promising if access is still possible. At a slightly lower elevation on the Fujian side (road to Tongrong Cun) were Black Eagle, Silver Pheasant and in the village fields many Mandarin Duck. Greater Spotted Eagle soared high above the wind park.
The birds were most active from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and completely inactive from noon to 3 p.m. During the inactive time we drove through excellent habitat on the Jiangxi side down the hill approx. 1 km then turned right onto a narrow downhill road to Wushan village—and saw nothing except a White-capped Redstart in the village stream.
With six days I decided to check out Junzi Peak, around an hour south of Taining. The habitat is fantastic untouched forest. The roadhead is at about 550 m (1,810 ft.), with Silver Pheasant, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, and Slaty Woodpecker. From the highest road point there is a good path leading to the right through thick rushes approx. 3 km eventually stopping at a wooden hut in good condition, elev. approx. 750 m (2,460 ft.). Slightly downhill past a small modern temple or shrine is another path with Huet’s Fulvetta and Rufous-faced Warbler leading to a small path for the sure-footed. I took this up to 800 m (2,630 ft.); traces of litter suggest it went further. This region seems to offer enormous potential for hardy birders, and the traffic is one-twentieth that of Emeifeng.
Finally I also visited Zhaixia Da Xiagu (Zhaixia Gorge), approx. 15 km from Taining, despite Mr Deng warning it is a tourist place. It is. The main scheme is a circular walk approx. 7 km through a narrow rock gorge, with a climb in the middle. The elevation is about 360 m (1,180 ft.), with water, mature forest and cliff faces. We saw Red-headed Trogon, Black Kite, Rufous Woodpecker, Sultan Tit, etc. Downside for sure are the crowds and the echoing effect of the gorge—I would say this place is only for those wanting a break from birding. The intrepid might study Google Maps and find an early morning entrance on the right. There are some side treks possible as indicated, although signs warn against following them.
So all in all a perfect small adventure.
LIST OF SPECIES
Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata
Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera
Elliot’s Pheasant Syrmaticus ellioti
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga
Black Eagle Ictinaetus malaiensis
Crested Serpent Eagle Spilornis cheela
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus
Red-headed Trogon Harpactes erythrocephalus
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
Crested Kingfisher Megaceryle lugubris
Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis
Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Bull-headed Shrike Lanius bucephalus
Long-tailed Shrike L. schach
Grey-chinned Minivet Pericrocotus solaris
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis
Lanceolated Warbler Locustella lanceolata
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler Erythrogenys swinhoei
White-bellied Erpornis Erpornis zantholeuca
Red-billed Blue Magpie Urocissa erythroryncha
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos
Grey-headed Parrotbill Psittiparus gularis
Black-chinned Yuhina Yuhina nigrimenta
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus
Rufous-capped Babbler Cyanoderma ruficeps
Chinese Hwamei Garrulax canorus
Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush G. monileger
Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush Pterorhinus pectoralis
Yellow-browed Tit Sylviparus modestus
Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea
Japanese Tit Parus minor
Yellow-cheeked Tit Machlolophus spilonotus
Huet’s Fulvetta Alcippe hueti
Black-collared Starling Gracupica nigricollis
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus
Collared Finchbill Spizixos semitorques
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanonotus
Mountain Bulbul Ixos mcclellandii
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis
Red-whiskered Bulbul P. jocosus
Black-throated Bushtit Aegithalos concinnus
Little Forktail Enicurus scouleri
Slaty-backed Forktail E. schistaceus
White-crowned Forktail E. leschenaulti
Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis
White-capped Redstart Phoenicurus leucocephalus
Plumbeous Water Redstart P. fuliginosus
Daurian Redstart P. auroreus
Brown Dipper Cinclus pallasii
Fire-breasted Flowerpecker Dicaeum ignipectus
Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail M. alba
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
Red-throated Pipit A. cervinus
Upland Pipit A. sylvanus
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala
Little Bunting E. chrysophrys
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans
Chestnut-eared Bunting E. fucata
Study our coverage of Emeifeng and other great birding locations in southeast China:
Birding Emeifeng, Fujian in Early May: We studied four Phylloscopus warblers that breed in southern China: Buff-throated Warbler Phylloscopus subaffinis, Sulphur-breasted Warbler P. ricketti, Hartert’s Leaf Warbler P. goodsoni fokiensis, and White-spectacled Warbler P. intermedius.
Birding Emeifeng, Fujian in Late May: On our return to Emeifeng, we noted new species Elliot’s Pheasant, Blue-throated Bee-eater, Crested Kingfisher, and, breeding in the lush, pristine mountaintop habitat near the temple, Brown Bush Warbler.
— Home to Shanghai (Plus a Jaunt to Fujian)
— Trip Planner: Fuzhou National Forest Park
— Nonggang Babbler: From ‘New to Science’ to ‘Automatic Tick’
— Birding China’s Hainan Island
— Zhejiang’s Tianmu Mountains: A Must See Site for Shanghai Birders
Featured image: Birds of Emeifeng, Fujian. Clockwise from L: Red-headed Trogon Harpactes erythrocephalus yamakanensis, Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler Erythrogenys swinhoei, Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea seorsa, Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera fokiensis, and Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata. All by Craig Brelsford, except Red-headed Trogon, by Kai Pflug.