Eurasian Eagle-Owl is the biggest owl in the world. A pair lives in a quarry about a km south of Elaine Du's home village. We couldn't believe our good luck when we found them! Nikon D3S, 600 mm, F/5, 1/250, ISO 2000.

Inner Mongolia & Heilongjiang, 2015: Part 4

Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, 2015: Part 4
By Craig Brelsford and Elaine Du
Latest update: 2018-12-15
© 2015-2018 by Craig Brelsford

“Inner Mongolia & Heilongjiang, 2015” contains an introduction and five parts. This is Part 4.

Introduction: Birding the Amur River Basin in China’s Great Northeast
Part 1: Introduction to Hulunbeier & First Trip to Elaine’s Hometown
Part 2: Hulunbeier, July 2015
Part 3: Eastern Heilongjiang
Part 4: Second Trip to Elaine’s Hometown
Part 5: Facts & Figures

Part 4: Second Trip to Elaine’s Hometown

Elaine's parents' back garden, Dawucun, Heilongjiang, 30 Aug. 2015. The quarry where Eurasian Eagle-Owl roost is 1600 m away. White-throated Rock Thrush and Eastern Crowned Warbler breed in the forested hills, and Daurian Redstart and Daurian Starling visit the garden.
Elaine’s parents’ back garden, Dawucun, Heilongjiang, 30 Aug. 2015. The quarry where Eurasian Eagle-Owl roost is 1600 m away. White-throated Rock Thrush and Eastern Crowned Warbler breed in the forested hills, and Daurian Redstart and Daurian Starling visit the garden. (Craig Brelsford)

Sun. 9 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Elaine and I drove our rented VW Bora 165 km from Jiamusi to Elaine’s parents’ home in Dawucun. I collapsed on the bed and slept 15 hours.

Mon. 10 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

I accompanied Elaine as she renewed old acquaintances and spent time with her parents, two sisters, and their children.

Tues. 11 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Elaine and I went birding with Elaine’s 14-year-old niece, Jennifer. We noted 10 species before rain forced us to hurry back. Elaine and I found our first Chinese Grey Shrike of this summer’s trip. One of the shrikes was not afraid of us and allowed us to view it from a position directly under the utility wire on which it was perching. Jennifer had never been so close to a wild bird. Red-rumped Swallow and Barn Swallow were seen in about equal numbers in the village; in the corn fields, as the sun was going down, we saw a large flock that was entirely Barn. We were happy to see several species using the corn fields, among them a snipe and a pair of Black-faced Bunting. Daurian Redstart and Grey-capped Greenfinch are regular visitors to Elaine’s parents’ vegetable garden behind their house.

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

Gallinago sp. 2
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 6
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 1
Chinese Grey Shrike L. sphenocercus sphenocercus 2
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 118
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 18
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 2
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 3
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala 2

Wed. 12 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Today, our four-person team found a pair of Eurasian Eagle-Owl. We had gone birding with Elaine’s nieces, Jennifer Jiang, 14, and Lisa Li, 9. Walking into a quarry on a mountainside, I found the owls on the cliff. What an exciting introduction to birding for the girls!

Earlier in the day, just before lunch at Elaine’s parents’ house, Elaine called me into the back garden. She pointed into the tall birch: Daurian Starling. A lifer for both of us. We noted 12 species in all today.

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 3
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 2 (pair)
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 2
Chinese Grey Shrike L. sphenocercus sphenocercus 1
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 2
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 58
Daurian Starling Agropsar sturninus 4 (flock) at Elaine’s parents’ house
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1 at Elaine’s parents’ house
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 13
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 1
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 3
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 2

Thurs. 13 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Today at the quarry we found the pair of Eurasian Eagle-Owl. The owls were perching together at the edge of the forest at the top of the quarry. We viewed them awhile, walked up the valley for some forest birding, then returned. On the second visit, only one of the owls was on the perch. I climbed up to a point about 30 m from the owl. It assumed a defensive posture but quickly returned to its dozing and grooming. While the owl was in defensive posture, I got exciting photographs.

The photo of the owl was the best I’ve taken on our Amur Basin 2015 trip. Making the photo even more meaningful is that I got it near my wife’s home in the same year in which she and I got married. Birding usually means being far away from one’s family; how good it is to see great birds and be near one’s family.

Earlier, Grey-streaked Flycatcher briefly visited my parents-in-law’s vegetable garden. Daurian Redstart may have raised a brood nearby; a male, female, and juvenile visit the vegetable garden regularly. We noted 13 species today.

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 6
hawk or owl sp. 1
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 2 (pair)
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 8
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 90
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 1
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 2
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 3 (1 male, 1 female, 1 juv.)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 9

Fri. 14 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Elaine, her nieces Jennifer Jiang and Lisa Li, and I took a long walk through the mountains S of Dawucun and Boli. The highlight was observing a juvenile Northern Goshawk for four minutes. We found adult and juvenile Pale Thrush around the ridgeline. 1 of our 2 Eastern Crowned Warbler was singing. The girls and I enjoyed close-up views of White-backed Woodpecker.

Our team drove our rented VW Bora from Dawucun through Boli and onto the dirt road past the crematorium. We drove through the quarry area and parked in front of the farm deep in the woods. We walked a trail wide enough for automobiles, passing graves en route. The road follows a stream and degrades progressively as one walks up the valley. In a quiet area along the road, which was now a footpath, a bird wave was passing through. The most conspicuous bird was the unseen but loudly singing Eastern Crowned Warbler. The obligatory Willow Tit and Japanese Tit were present, as was Chestnut-flanked White-eye. Yellow-throated Bunting were pulled out of the thick vegetation by playback, to which they responded with alacrity. No adult males were present, only juveniles and females.

The footpath led to some final grave sites, and was no more. We retraced our steps to the place where the track was drivable again. We crossed the stream and hiked up a side valley. I led the team cross-country toward a ridgeline. I played a Willow Tit recording and attracted the attention of the goshawk. It flew into the forest and perched nearby. Peering through the tangle of leaves and branches with my binoculars, I was able to get an arresting view of the stocky Accipiter. Elaine and Jennifer took turns with Elaine’s binoculars. This bird had the vertical streaking on the upper breast characteristic of a juvenile. The white eyebrow was obvious. The deep chest grabbed our attention; I said to Elaine, “This is the linebacker of Accipters,” an American football reference that Elaine didn’t get. I explained to her that if the Accipters were football players, then Northern Goshawk would play the position requiring both bulk and speed, for it is a giant among the hawks.

Without a trail to guide us, we carefully followed the ridgeline a few hundred meters, draping leafy twigs over the branches to mark our way. We reached a kind of peak, and there we found a faint footpath. This footpath led across the ridgeline, elev. about 500 m. Here, the forest is open; undergrowth is very thin. Grass is abundant in some of the more open areas. The forest is entirely secondary. The predominant tree is oak, with Chinese Red Birch Betula albosinensis having a strong presence, and conifers appearing here and there. Mushrooms and butterflies are plentiful, and Jennifer made a pet of a snail. The ridgeline is drier and breezier than the darker, wetter valleys below; here, one could sit for minutes at a time without a single mosquito arriving.

Birds on the ridge were few. We found a pair of juvenile Pale Thrush, and later, I happened upon a pair of adults. They quickly flew off and were not responsive to playback. We took the presence of juveniles as evidence that Pale Thrush breeds in the area. While eating lunch, we played a Pale Thrush recording with woodpecker sounds in the background. This caught the attention of a male White-backed Woodpecker, which perched on the tree right above us.

The ridge is quiet and little visited. Although Elaine said mushroom pickers occasionally visit the mountains, I saw little evidence of human activity. There was some litter along the trail, but the few discarded plastic bottles we saw looked as though they’d been lying there at least a year. The trail probably hadn’t seen a visitor in weeks.

Though the forest is open, the trees are tall, the canopy is solid, and it’s hard to see out. At one point, one can peer at Boli and Dawucun in the distance. We enjoyed the good view and made our way back down to the car.

At night, as Elaine and I were about to go to sleep, we heard hooting in the distance. I walked out, and, under a cloudless sky and with the Milky Way visible and shooting stars streaming in, a Eurasian Eagle-Owl landed on the roof of one of my father-in-law’s sheds. It hooted a few times and flew off. Its partner was calling nearby. These must be the same eagle-owls that we have been finding at the quarry.

We noted 14 species today, 12 on the mountain.

Weather: Nearly cloudless in morning, a bit cloudier in afternoon. Brilliant blue sky. Very little wind, even on the ridge. 27°C.

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis schvedowi 1 juv.
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 2
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos 2 (1 male, 1 female)
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 3 heard
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 6
Japanese Tit Parus minor 3
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 50
Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus 2 (1 singing)
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 1
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 3
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 5 (3 ad., 2 juv.)
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 2 (1 juv.) in Elaine’s parents’ garden
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 6 (flock) in Elaine’s parents’ garden
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 6

Sat. 15 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Elaine and I walked 8.5 km through the nearby mountains. We noted 17 species. Grey-backed Thrush was a new record for Elaine’s Hometown List, as were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Asian Brown Flycatcher, and Grey Wagtail. Eastern Crowned Warbler were singing once again, and Northern Goshawk made another, briefer appearance. We found a single Eurasian Red Squirrel.

Grey-backed Thrush was a hard-won record. Walking up a lushly vegetated side valley, I saw the thrush pop out and fly toward the trees. I had just enough time to view the lack of white tips to the outer tail feathers, indicative of Pale Thrush. The Grey-backed rested on a branch just long enough for me to focus on its streaked upper breast and orange flanks.

The ultra-shy Grey-backed Thrush was a good example of forest birding in late summer in this part of the world. Few birds are singing. Most are biding their time, waiting for the big journey south. Rather than shrink from the challenges of August birding, Elaine and I embraced them. Our motto is, “The birds are still here; we just have to work harder to find them!”

It was interesting to stand quietly and just make out the “tzee” contact call of Pale Thrush, turn our binoculars toward the source of the sound, and finally see our bird high in the canopy. Eight weeks ago, at the height of breeding season, locating singing Pale Thrush would have required much less effort, but possibly been less rewarding.

Eurasian Red Squirrel was my first view of that species since I left the Netherlands in 2007. Our individual had the untufted ears characteristic of the species in summer. The squirrel had an acorn in its mouth and was moving up and down a shaggily barked Chinese Red Birch.

Weather: Sunny and breezy. 27°C.

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis schvedowi 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major 1
woodpecker sp. 2
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 6
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 15
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 16
Japanese Tit Parus minor 7
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 50
Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus 7 singing
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 4
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 3
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica 4 (2 ad., 2 juv.)
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 6
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 4

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 1

Sun. 16 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Elaine and I continued our survey of the forest S of her home. Our 10-km walk netted us 23 species, 3 of which (Black Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, and White-throated Rock Thrush) were new to Elaine’s Hometown List. Long-tailed Tit, so common around Dawucun during our winter trip, had eluded us on the summer trip, until today. In the cool morning with a nip of autumn in the air, Eastern Crowned Warbler were singing and defending territory as though it were spring (04:15; 11 MB):

Our day began at 05:00 at the quarry, where we checked on the local pair of Eurasian Eagle-Owl. Near the farm past the quarry, we got caught in our first bird wave of the morning. Unlike the other bird waves we have been witnessing around here, the main component of this wave was not Willow Tit or Chestnut-flanked White-eye but Long-tailed Tit. The vigorous singing of Eastern Crowned Warbler led Elaine and me into a discussion of why birds would invest their energy in defending territories that they’ll soon be abandoning.

We walked up the side valley to the ridge and the faint trail. We stopped at our favorite spot, a broad, grassy area at an elevation of about 520 m. During our 30-minute rest on the windy ridge, we saw exactly one bird, but it was a good one: Black Woodpecker. Following its nose, a Eurasian Red Squirrel darted straight at us as we ate our bananas and bread. It thought better of it, and scurried away.

We continued S along the ridgeline, then dropped into the next valley. Here the air was still, the mosquitoes were buzzing, and birds were again abundant. A female White-throated Rock Thrush was scolding me with unusual strength. I soon saw why: a fledgling was on the ground, calling weakly. So young was it that it could take only short flights. The fledgling we saw has only a few weeks to gain enough strength to make the migration to south China and Southeast Asia. We found our Yellow-rumped Flycatcher just a short ways down that very birdy trail.

We doubled back to the ridgeline and continued S. We stopped in the middle of the small range, at an elevation of about 540 m. There, we had an unusual sight: a single silver birch, the only silver birch we’ve seen anywhere around here, its white bark gleaming incongruously among the sea of oaks.

Weather: Cool and overcast, with a nip of autumn in the air. 17°-26°C.

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 3
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 2 (pair)
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos 2
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 3
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 3
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 4
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 13
Japanese Tit Parus minor 3
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 38
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 7
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 8
Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus 8 (6 singing)
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 10
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 2 heard
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica 4
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1 juv.
White-throated Rock Thrush Monticola gularis 4 (pair w. fledgling, 1 female)
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 8
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 2
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 2
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 2 juv.

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 2

Mon. 17 Aug. 2015
Xidaquan National Forest

Elaine and I visited Xidaquan National Forest, an impressive reserve just 21 km from Dawucun. Among our 36 species were Marsh Tit (new to Elaine’s Hometown List) and Asian Stubtail and Blue-and-white Flycatcher (new to our NE China list). We found Radde’s Warbler with food in its bill, and in a deep part of the forest I found Siberian Thrush.

I heard the Marsh Tit among a party of Japanese Tit and Willow Tit bathing in a ditch. Among the familiar sounds being made by Japanese and Willow was a nasal call slightly different from what I’ve become used to from Willow. Studying the tits through my binoculars, I saw a tighter, neater black bib, a daintier head, and no wing panel on the tertials. Yes! I was filled with pleasure, for we had reached a level of knowledge that made separating Marsh from Willow easy and fun.

We found Radde’s on the long road leading deep into the park. It was not singing but the food in its bill suggested it had young somewhere. The Asian Stubtail was nearby. Pallas’s Leaf Warbler and Yellow-browed Warber were silent. A month ago in Hulunbeier, we regularly noted Pallas’s and Radde’s singing. Eastern Crowned Warbler were singing.

Earlier, at a reservoir named Jiulong Shuiku just outside Boli, we noted birds of prey (Eastern Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Eurasian Hobby) and water birds such as Mandarin Duck.

We added Blue-and-white Flycatcher on the road leading from Jiulong Shuiku to Xidaquan. Most of that road is birdable, especially the parts closest to the park. The entire area offers very high-quality woodland birding. It should be hopping with activity come spring.

After dark, the hoot of Eurasian Eagle-Owl resounded through the little village of Dawucun.

Xidaquan lies at the northern rim of the Laoye Mountains (Lǎoye Lǐng [老爷岭]), a northern offshot of the Changbai Mountains (Chángbái Shān [长白山]). The highest peak in the park is at elevation 1008 m. The park covers 9200 hectares. Admission cost us 20 yuan per person, and there were no restrictions on where we could go. Paved roads and easily drivable dirt tracks allowed us to drive deep into the park in our passenger car, a VW Bora.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 8
Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 4
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 4 (1 ad. w. 3 juv.)
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 5
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2 (1 ad. w. 1 juv.)
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 3
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 1 heard after dark at Dawucun
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 3 at Jiulong Shuiku
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 3
Eurasian Hobby F. subbuteo 1
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 4
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 13
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 11
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 10
Japanese Tit Parus minor 13
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 35
Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps 1
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 52
Radde’s Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi 3 (1 w. food)
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 1
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 6
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 5 (4 singing)
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 16
Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica 1
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 50
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 4
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 1
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 1
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 4

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 1
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 15
Grey Red-backed Vole Myodes rufocanus 2

Tues. 18 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Elaine and I hiked up to the ridge, mainly for exercise. Rain forced us off the mountain.

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos 1
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 5
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 15
Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus 2 singing
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 21
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 4
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 2
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 9
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 9

Wed. 19 Aug. 2015
Xidaquan National Forest

Long-eared Owl Asio otus otus after the rain, Xidaquan, 19 Aug. 2015. Nikon D3S, F/9, 1/125, ISO 4000.
Long-eared Owl Asio otus otus after the rain, Xidaquan, 19 Aug. 2015. Nikon D3S, F/9, 1/125, ISO 4000. (Craig Brelsford)

Elaine and I noted 40 species in and around Xidaquan National Forest. Highlight was finding a soaking wet Long-eared Owl that was indifferent to us and groomed itself as we looked on below. Of the leaf warblers, only Eastern Crowned Warbler is still singing. Radde’s Warbler approaches upon hearing playback but does not sing. To gauge the abundance of Eurasian Nuthatch in the forest, we made five random stops and played back a recording of Sitta europaea amurensis. Four times, nuthatches arrived, the fastest response being 5 seconds.

Xidaquan and environs are really impressive–the best forest birding we’ve found on this entire trip. I was entirely ignorant of this place until recently. Elaine had mentioned it, but I did no research. We’re just 25 km from Elaine’s home, so I’m sure I’ll be visiting this place again and again.

The forest here is northern-temperate, mixed broadleaf-coniferous. In the primary forest, some conifers reach a height of at least 30 m. Some secondary forest has large trees. I don’t know the conifer species but it certainly isn’t the larch we were seeing in the Greater Khingan Range in July. Among the broadleaf trees, in some places silver birch predominates. In others, other birches predominate.

The habitat is similar to what we were seeing in Mudanfeng in late July. That is to be expected, because we are not far from Mudanfeng, and both Mudanfeng and Xidaquan lie in those minor ranges associated with the Changbai Mountains, whose northern reaches extend into Heilongjiang.

It is superb forest habitat, virtually unknown. We asked the women at the gate today about the type of visitors they get here. The women said visitors are few, birders nil, foreigners virtually nil, out-of-town Chinese few, local people some. With 9200 ha. here (35 sq. mi.), this is a very good place to study NE China forest birds.

Before a powerful thunderstorm swept through, forcing us into the car for two hours, I had a China first for me: Coal Tit ssp. ater (nominate ssp. lacking crest, same as in Western Europe).

Another impressive sight was ca. 2000 swallows (Red-rumped Swallow ca. 1200, Barn Swallow ca. 800) on wires in the village in the park.

We looked for White-winged Crossbill, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, all of which will be lifers for me. We still haven’t found those birds.

Weather: Cool and humid. Thunderstorms at midday.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 2
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 7
Long-eared Owl Asio otus otus 1
owl sp. 1
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 2
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus 1
White-backed Woodpecker D. leucotos 1
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Eurasian Hobby F. subbuteo 1
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 1
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 1
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 16
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 1
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 5
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 3
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 3
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 23
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 5
Japanese Tit Parus minor 19
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 875 (incl. ca. 800 at village in Xidaquan)
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica ca. 1226 (incl. ca. 1200 at village in Xidaquan)
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 57
Radde’s Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi 7
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 2
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 1
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 2 singing
Thick-billed Warbler Iduna aedon 1
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 55
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 20
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 1
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 5
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 2
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus 1
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 3
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 5 (incl. 1 ad. w. fledgling)
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 9
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 4

Mammals

Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 4
hare sp. 1

Fri. 21 Aug. 2015
Xidaquan National Forest

Elaine and I noted 33 species. Forecasts called for thunderstorms and showers throughout the day, and those forecasts proved true; we birded anyway, because we knew that in wet weather we would be more likely to see an owl. Our hunch proved correct with Ural Owl. We finally noted Eurasian Treecreeper at Xidaquan, and we were surprised to hear a singing Dusky Warbler. Ashy Minivet had a notable presence in a large bird wave, led as usual by Long-tailed Tit and Chestnut-flanked White-eye. Another smaller wave in a grove of pines looked like something out of Europe, with the treecreeper being joined by Coal Tit and Black Woodpecker. An Asian Badger crossed the road far away from us; I was able to note its long body and short legs.

When we arrived at the forest park around 06:00, rain was falling so hard that even the ca. 2000 Red-rumped Swallow and Barn Swallow were absent from the wires above the village. (They reappeared later.) A Japanese Sparrowhawk was on a utility wire, waiting out the storm.

The Ural Owl flew across the road near Silver Birch Grove (Báihuà Lín [白桦林]). We had just enough time to ID the owl before it disappeared into the forest.

The rain came and went throughout the day. We car-birded all day and rested in the VW Bora during the harder showers.

During a break in the rain, as Elaine and I were standing by the lake in the middle of the village, some park staffers talked with us. In return for free admission to the park from now on, Elaine and I are going to give the managers Elaine’s Hometown List (which of course includes nearby Xidaquan). With no birders having visited the park, even the managers aren’t sure what birds exist there. Here’s the list:

西大圈国家森林公园及其附近的鸟种
List of Birds Noted at Xidaquan National Forest and Environs
www.craigbrelsford.com, info@craigbrelsford.com
大山雀 (Craig Brelsford) 及杜连荣 (Elaine Du) 观测于:

2015-01-19
2015-01-20
2015-01-21
2015-01-22
2015-01-23
2015-08-11
2015-08-12
2015-08-13
2015-08-14
2015-08-15
2015-08-16
2015-08-17
2015-08-18
2015-08-19
2015-08-21
2015-08-23
2015-08-24
2015-08-25
2015-08-26
2015-08-27
2015-08-28
2015-08-29
2015-08-30
2015-08-31
2015-09-01
2015-09-02
2015-09-03
2015-09-04
2015-09-05
2015-09-06
2015-09-07
2015-09-08

91种/species

鸳鸯 yuānyāng Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata
斑嘴鸭 bānzuǐyā Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha
花尾榛鸡 huāwěi zhēnjī Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia
雉鸡 zhìjī Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
小䴙䴘 xiǎo pìtī Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
绿鹭 lǜ lù Striated Heron Butorides striata
日本松雀鹰 rìběn sōngquèyīng Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis
雀鹰 quèyīng Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
苍鹰 cāngyīng Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
白尾鹞 báiwěi yào Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
黑鸢 hēi yuān Black Kite Milvus migrans
毛腿鵟 máotuǐ kuáng Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus
普通鵟 pǔtōng kuáng Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus
白腰杓鹬 báiyāo sháoyù Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
林鹬 lín yù Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
矶鹬 jī yù Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
黑水鸡 hēi shuǐjī Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
原鸽 yuángē Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia
岩鸽 yángē Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris
山斑鸠 shān bānjiū Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis
?杜鹃 ? dùjuān ? Cuckoo Cuculus ?
雕鸮 diāoxiāo Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo
长尾林鸮 chángwěi línxiāo Ural Owl Strix uralensis
长耳鸮 cháng’ěr xiāo Long-eared Owl Asio otus otus
三宝鸟 sānbǎo niǎo Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis
普通翠鸟 pǔtōng cuìniǎo Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
小斑啄木鸟 xiǎo bānzhuómùniǎo Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor
星头啄木鸟 xīngtóuzhuómùniǎo Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus
白背啄木鸟 báibèi zhuómùniǎo White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos
大斑啄木鸟 dà bānzhuómùniǎo Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
三趾啄木鸟 sānzhǐ zhuómùniǎo Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus
黑啄木鸟 hēizhuómùniǎo Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
灰头啄木鸟 huītóu zhuómùniǎo Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus
红隼 hóng sǔn Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
燕隼 yàn sǔn Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo
灰山椒鸟 huī shānjiāoniǎo Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus
红尾伯劳 hóngwěi bóláo Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
楔尾伯劳 xiēwěi bóláo Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus sphenocercus
松鸦 sōngyā Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii
灰喜鹊 huī xǐquè Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus
星鸦 xīng yā Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes
小嘴乌鸦 xiǎozuǐ wūyā Carrion Crow Corvus corone
煤山雀 méi shānquè Coal Tit Periparus ater ater
沼泽山雀 zhǎozé shānquè Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris
褐头山雀 hètóu shānquè Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis
远东山雀 yuǎndōng shānquè Japanese Tit Parus minor
家燕 jiā yàn Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
金腰燕 jīnyāo yàn Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
鳞头树莺 líntóu shùyīng Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps
北长尾山雀 běi chángwěishānquè Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus
褐柳莺 hè liǔyīng Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus
巨嘴柳莺 jùzuǐ liǔyīng Radde’s Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi
黄腰柳莺 huángyāoliǔyīng Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
黄眉柳莺 huángméi liǔyīng Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus
极北柳莺 jíběi liǔyīng Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis
双斑绿柳莺 huāngbān lǜliǔyīng Two-barred Warbler Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus
冕柳莺 miǎn liǔyīng Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus
东方大苇莺 dōngfāng dàwěiyīng Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis
黑眉苇莺 hēiméi wěiyīng Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps
厚嘴苇莺 hòuzuǐ wěiyīng Thick-billed Warbler Iduna aedon
红胁绣眼鸟 hóngxié xiùyǎnniǎo Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus
戴菊 dàijú Goldcrest Regulus regulus
普通䴓 pǔtōng shī Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis
旋木雀 xuánmùquè Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris
白眉地鸫 báiméi dìdōng Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica
白腹姬鹟 báifù jīwēng Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana
灰斑鹟 huībān wēng Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta
北灰鹟 běihuī wēng Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris
红喉歌鸲 hónghóu gēqú Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope
白眉姬鹟 báiméi jīwēng Yellow-rumped Flycatcher Ficedula zanthopygia
北红尾鸲 běi hóngwěiqú Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus
白喉矶鸫 báihóu jīdōng White-throated Rock Thrush Monticola gularis
东亚石䳭 dōngyà shíjí Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri
灰背鸫 huībèi dōng Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum
白腹鸫 báifù dōng Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus
树麻雀 shù máquè Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
棕眉山岩鹨 zōngméi yánliù Siberian Accentor Prunella montanella
灰鹡鸰 huī jílíng Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
白鹡鸰 bái jílíng White Wagtail Motacilla alba
树鹨 shù liù Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
红腹灰雀 hóngfù huīquè Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula cineracea
普通朱雀 pǔtōng zhūquè Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
长尾朱雀 chángwěi zhūquè Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus
北朱雀 běi zhūquè Pallas’s Rosefinch Carpodacus roseus
金翅雀 jīnchìquè Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica
白腰朱顶雀 báiyāo zhūdǐngquè Common Redpoll Acanthis flammea
黄雀 huángquè Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus
三道眉草鹀 sāndàoméi cǎowū Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides
白眉鹀 báiméi wū Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami
黄喉鹀 huánghóu wū Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans
灰头鹀 huītóu wū Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala

Here’s the weather report and list from Fri. 21 Aug. 2015.

Weather: Thunderstorms early, showers off and on throughout day. Visibility often poor. Cool. 16°-23°C.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Hengmei Gardens (Héngméi Huāyuán [恒煤花园], 45.722073, 130.553654) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis 3
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 2
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 7
Ural Owl Strix uralensis 1
owl sp. 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2 at Jiulong Shuiku
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor 4
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 2
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 11
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 2
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 10
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 4
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 8
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 25
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 7
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 825 (incl. ca. 800 at village in Xidaquan)
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica ca. 1210 (incl. ca. 1200 at village in Xidaquan)
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 100
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 2 (pair, 1 singing)
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 3
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 2
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 1
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 1 singing
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 52
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 8
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris 4 (incl. 1 juv.)
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 6
Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus 3
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 4

Mammals

Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 3
Asian Badger Meles leucurus 1

Sun. 23 Aug. 2015
Hengmei Gardens

After three days of almost non-stop rain, Elaine and I drove to Hengmei Gardens for a walk. We deepened our appreciation of the differences between Willow Tit and Marsh Tit by closely studying a mixed flock of Willow, Japanese Tit, and Eurasian Nuthatch. The tits before us clearly were Willow. They appeared “stronger” than Marsh, being bigger headed and more bull-necked. They showed a noticeable pale wing panel on the secondaries and tertials, and their nasal call was deeper and more resonant than the nasal call of Marsh. (The deeper sound may be the result of the bigger head and neck.) A Thick-billed Warbler paid the tit party a visit.

Hengmei Gardens (Héngméi Huāyuán [恒煤花园], 45.722073, 130.553654), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. 17:05-17:40.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 1
Japanese Tit Parus minor 7
Thick-billed Warbler Iduna aedon 1

Mon. 24 Aug. 2015
Xidaquan National Forest

Elaine and I noted 43 species in and around Xidaquan. The forest park continued to prove its worth as a storehouse for NE China birds. Among the species newly seen at Xidaquan today were Hazel Grouse and Arctic Warbler. Owls once again had an impressive showing, with Eurasian Eagle-Owl being noted at two places and Long-eared Owl perching in the open on the Z003 road.

Though the leaves on the trees are thick and green, the nights are growing longer, the days cooler; summer is steadily giving way to autumn. Today, we watched migratory birds disengage from their breeding territories. Dusky Warbler, Radde’s Warbler, and Asian Stubtail were still most likely on their breeding grounds, but Dusky and Radde’s were singing only intermittently, and Asian Stubtail was not singing at all. Though not singing, these species were nonetheless vocal, each offering its “click” call. After being surprised by the strong song of Eastern Crowned Warbler deep into August, we noted a silent Eastern Crowned today. Pallas’s Leaf Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler have been silent throughout August here in the Boli-Dawucun-Xidaquan area. The Arctic Warbler we saw today was silent.

The pair of Eurasian Eagle-Owl were heard outside the window of my parents-in-law’s home at 01:30. Another single was noted at a quarry inside Xidaquan at about 12:30. The single was perching on the ground, and, wet from the rain, was initially mistaken by me for a tree stump.

Earlier, while Elaine rested in the car, I followed a bird wave down the road. Xidaquan is little visited, especially on a Monday, and I had the entire forest to myself. As I was watching some leaf warblers, a smart male Hazel Grouse crept onto the road just 25 m away. I’ve seen this species many times these past several weeks, but always from a car; what a joy it was to appreciate this fellow for two full minutes, just he and I, standing alone in that quiet northern forest.

Weather: Cool and wet. Short shower at midday, then clearing. 12°-23°C.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 1
Striated Heron Butorides striata 1
Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis 1
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 3
Hill Pigeon Columba rupestris 1 at Jiulong Shuiku
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 12
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 3 (pair at Dawucun, single at Xidaquan)
Long-eared Owl Asio otus otus 1
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos 1
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 15
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 13
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 7
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 14
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 8
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 42
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 4
Japanese Tit Parus minor 14
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 430
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica ca. 330
Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps 1
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 23
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 2 (pair, 1 singing)
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi 5
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 4
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 4
Arctic Warbler P. borealis 1
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 1
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 62
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 13
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 2
Asian Brown Flycatcher M. latirostris 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 3
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 1
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 1 juv.
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 2
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 1
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 4
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 1

Mammals

Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 3

Tues. 25 Aug. 2015
Xidaquan National Forest

Today Elaine and I made our fifth visit in nine days to this excellent forest park. With summer clearly winding down, Elaine and I noted 33 species. We added Black Kite and kept pace for an hour with a large mixed flock, in which Chestnut-flanked White-eye, usually such a major presence, was absent. After surprising us with by singing its powerful song deep into August, today Eastern Crowned Warbler was unheard and unrecorded. Dusky Warbler was singing on what probably was its breeding territory and, within the bird wave I shadowed, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler were singing intermittently.

Earlier, Elaine and I climbed up the recreation trail. We enjoyed wide views of the forested mountains. We watched Oriental Dollarbird soar over the mountains. The view was impressive and reminded me that Xidaquan National Forest contains a sizable remnant of the vast northern temperate forest that once covered most of this region.

Weather: Cool and dry. 12°-23°C.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 3
Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 1
Black Kite Milvus migrans 1
raptor sp. 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 5
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 1
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor 2
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1
woodpecker sp. 1
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 17
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 17
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 2
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 53
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 14
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 28
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 7
Japanese Tit Parus minor 15
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 190
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica ca. 260
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 50
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 2 (pair, 1 singing)
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi 6
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 5 (2 singing)
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 5 (2 singing)
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 3
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea 5
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 1
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 8 near Jiulong Shuiku
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 2
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 2
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 1

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 2
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 9
Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica 1

Wed. 26 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

At 03:30 I heard the hooting of Eurasian Eagle-Owl.

Today is Ghost Festival or Guǐ Jié (鬼节). Following the old tradition, we shàngfén (上坟); we visited the grave of Elaine’s father’s father, whose ashes are buried on the hill near the quarry. Other villagers were on the hillside paying their respects to their ancestors. Elaine’s father burned paper “money,” which according to tradition ensures that Grandfather has enough money to spend in heaven, and he left a few slices of watermelon and a baozi, again to ensure that Grandfather has enough to eat in the afterworld. Other villagers set off firecrackers. Willow Tit were flitting about, and we saw Eurasian Jay.

Later, Father, Elaine’s big sister, Jennifer, Elaine, and I went to collect mushrooms in the hills south of the village. Birds were almost none. Chestnut-flanked White-eye were seen in the trees above.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 1 (heard at 03:30)
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 3
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 3
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 2

Thurs. 27 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Amid what some of the locals are calling the rainiest weather they have seen in years, Elaine and I rested at her parents’ home. During a break in the rain, I pulled out my Swarovski ATX-95 and from the back porch scanned the quarry, more than 1600 m away. I found a single Eurasian Eagle-Owl. Elaine and Elaine’s niece Jennifer were able to make out the owl.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 1 (single spotted at quarry from Dawucun)
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1

Fri. 28 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Rain grounded us once again all day. A Common Kestrel was perching on the tall tree in my parents-in-law’s back garden. A juvenile Grey Wagtail crept into a little shed my father-in-law uses to store cornstalks. I looked for the Eurasian Eagle-Owls with the spotting scope but couldn’t find them.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1

Sat. 29 Aug. 2015
Xidaquan National Forest

We noted 48 species at Xidaquan and around Dawucun. We got a good look at a juvenile Northern Goshawk, and Eurasian Eagle-Owl once again enchanted us. Chestnut-flanked White-eye is no longer a major component of bird waves, but Radde’s Warbler remains on its breeding territories. Many other summer visitors to this region are still here, among them Oriental Dollarbird, Ashy Minivet, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, and Asian Brown Flycatcher. At Dawucun, we found juvenile Barn Swallow on the nest.

Elaine and I took Elaine’s 14-year-old niece, Jennifer Jiang, to Xidaquan. This was Elaine’s and my sixth trip to the forest park in 13 days. Driving on the Z003 leading to the main gate, we startled Hazel Grouse. A Siberian Weasel had a chunk of fur missing from the base of its tail and appeared weak.

We found Dusky Warbler near the lake in its accustomed scrubby place. Near the Millennium Tree (Qiānnián Gǔshù [千年古树]), we heard Hazel Grouse at the same place where I saw a male earlier this week. I searched for Asian Stubtail but didn’t find it. We drove the dirt road 5 km to Silver Birch Grove and saw little. Rain fell, hard.

Back at Dawucun, Elaine and I found Chinese Grey Shrike. This shrike is almost certainly the same individual we have been noting regularly on the same set of utility wires outside the village. The shrike is completely at home there and takes no notice of the noisy tractors passing under it.

At Elaine’s parents’ house at 21:30, we heard three Eurasian Eagle-Owl, two calling from the village and another faintly heard outside the village. One of the eagle-owls perched atop a utility pole on my parents-in-law’s street. Father, Elaine, and I admired the silhouette of the imposing, dog-sized owl. Although these owls visit Dawucun nearly every night, we never tire of watching them.

Weather: Rain off and on throughout day. Sun never penetrated clouds. 14°-19°C.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 3
Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 13 at Jiulong Shuiku
Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 3
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1 at Jiulong Shuiku
Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis 1
Northern Goshawk A. gentilis 1 juv. at Jiulong Shuiku
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 7
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 2 at Jiulong Shuiku
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1 at Dawucun
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 9
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 3 at Dawucun
Oriental Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis 1
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 2 at at Jiulong Shuiku
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos 1
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 3
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 2
Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus sphenocercus 1 at Dawucun
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 9
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 22
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 15 in Dawucun
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 2
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 2
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 2
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 9
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 4
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 90
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica ca. 120
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 20
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 1
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi 2
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 3
Eastern Crowned Warbler P. coronatus 3
Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps 1 at Jiulong Shuiku
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 2
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 1 in Dawucun
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher M. latirostris 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 4
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 12 near Jiulong Shuiku
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 22 (flock) at Dawucun
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 1
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 1
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 2 at Dawucun

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 1
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 7
Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica 1

Sun. 30 Aug. 2015
Dawucun

Today Elaine and I rested at her parents’ house. I heard Eurasian Curlew. I walked onto the back porch, looked up, and saw a flock circling high above.

I pulled out my amazing Swarovski ATX-95 and found the pair of Eurasian Eagle-Owl. The owls were roosting at “Eagle-Owl Quarry,” 1600 m away. At 20:25 I heard a single eagle-owl hooting.

Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 8
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 3
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 2
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 2

Mon. 31 Aug. 2015
Xidaquan National Forest

Elaine and I noted 49 species during our seventh trip to Xidaquan. Highlight was finding Asian Stubtail in a bird wave. Amid the frenzy, the stubtail, as if wanting to restore order, stood on a branch higher than I am tall and emitted its insect-like call at the top of its lungs. The bird showed well, allowing us to view its dark eye-stripe and nub of a tail.

Among our other highlights were our first Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Cuculus cuckoo at Xidaquan. The sparrowhawk was a splendid male that fascinated us with his unsuccessful attempts to catch Barn Swallow over the lake in the village. A 1st-yr. male Siberian Thrush was silently eating berries. Another member of the stubtail wave was a light-green, single-barred Two-barred Warbler that even offered us snatches of song. A Pallas’s Leaf Warbler was heard singing in another mixed flock that included Eurasian Treecreeper.

Radde’s Warbler, until recently found singly or in pairs, was found today in an unusual mixed flock that included 8 Radde’s and 4 Japanese Tit. The sighting occurred in the afternoon at ideal Radde’s habitat: lush roadside undergrowth, the area of undergrowth being broader because of a bend in the road. Elaine and I theorized that at least some of the local breeding Radde’s have left their territories, but not the area, and are massing in places where the feeding is good. In the morning along the Z003, we noted another group of Radde’s in a single area.

Earlier, at Jiulong Shuiku, on our 14th scan of the cliff quarried out of the mountain, Elaine’s and my hunch was finally proved right: a Eurasian Eagle-Owl is using the cliff-face as a roost! The quarry at Jiulong Shuiku became the third where we have seen Eurasian Eagle-Owl in the Boli area. The owl was found at 06:30 and was still there when we returned in the afternoon.

Weather: Sun and cloud, with some light rain. 14°-19°C.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 4 at Jiulong Shuiku
Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 25 at Jiulong Shuiku
Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 3
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 3 at Jiulong Shuiku
Japanese Sparrowhawk Accipiter gularis 1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk A. nisus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 7
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia 3 at Jiulong Shuiku
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 1
Hill Pigeon C. rupestris 5 at Jiulong Shuiku
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 7
Cuculus sp. 1 juv.
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 1 at Jiulong Shuiku
owl sp. 3 each mid-sized
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1 at Jiulong Shuiku
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos 1
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1 at Jiulong Shuiku
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 10
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus 1 juv. at Dawucun
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 32
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 4
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 2
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 22
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 1
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 11
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 11
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 90
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 2
Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps 2
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 45
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 2
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi 18
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 2 (1 singing)
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 3
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 1
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 8
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 1
Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica 1 1st-yr. male
Grey-streaked Flycatcher Muscicapa griseisticta 2
Asian Brown Flycatcher M. latirostris 3
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1 at Dawucun
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 15 near Jiulong Shuiku
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 2
White Wagtail M. alba leucopsis 6
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 1
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 4

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 3
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 10

Tues. 1 Sept. 2015 Xidaquan
Wed. 2 Sept. 2015 Xidaquan

Like a stern father, Xidaquan Forest grants rewards, but only if you put in the work. Our list for Xidaquan-Boli grows, slowly, steadily. On Tues. 1 Sept., we reached the psychologically important threshold of 88 with Siberian Rubythroat. With Wednesday’s Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, Elaine and I have now noted 89 species in her hometown in 2015. Other highlights from this bird-rich area of SE Heilongjiang: Arctic Warbler amid mixed flock that included still-territorial Radde’s Warbler, the most conspicuous leaf warbler now (43 noted Tuesday and Wednesday); also Thick-billed Warbler and residents such as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Nutcracker, and Long-tailed Rosefinch. Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker is the only Picoides found outside the Americas and is a scarce resident of NE China. We found it chiseling silently into dead softwood. Discovering the woodpecker was a complete stroke of luck. I stopped the VW Bora at a random spot on the forest road, looked into the forest, and saw the woodpecker chiseling. The forest here is still green and leafy, but some trees are showing a hint of fall color.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

List for Tues. 1 Sept. 2015 (40 species)
Weather: Foggy in morning, then clearing. Afternoon shower, then clear again. 16°-25°C

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 2
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 3 at Jiulong Shuiku
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 2
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 2
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 12
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 1 at Dawucun
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor 3
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1 at Jiulong Shuiku
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 4
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 4
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 11
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 3
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 63
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 4
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 16
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 4
Japanese Tit Parus minor 30
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 820
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica ca. 440
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 15
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 6
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi 26
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 2
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 3
Arctic Warbler P. borealis 1
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 1 at Jiulong Shuiku
Thick-billed Warbler Iduna aedon 1
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 22
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 9
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 1
Siberian Rubythroat Calliope calliope 2 (pair)
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 4
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 7 (3 leucopsis, 4 unassigned juv.)
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 2
Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus 4
Tristram’s Bunting Emberiza tristrami 6
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 2
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 30

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 2
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 12

List for Wed. 2 Sept. 2015 (31 species)
Weather: Partly cloudy and sunny. Late-afternoon shower. 16°-25°C

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 2
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 4
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 34
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 10
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 1 at Dawucun
Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus 1
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 4
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 11
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 8
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 3
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 60 at Jiulong Shuiku
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 9
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 9
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 9
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 80
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica ca. 70
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 15
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 5
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi 17 (5 singing)
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 2 (1 singing)
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 5
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 9
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10 near Jiulong Shuiku
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba leucopsis 1
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 16
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 2

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 2
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 8

Thurs. 3 Sept. 2015
Dawucun

Elaine and I went to the hills behind her home to collect Honey Mushroom Armillaria mellea. We walked together to the ridge, where we startled Hazel Grouse. Elaine and I split up, keeping in contact through walkie-talkie. While Elaine collected about 5 kg of the delicious fungus, I found only our second NE China record of Blue-and-white Flycatcher. I heard what sounded like a woodpecker drumming slowly. I walked toward the sound and found Eurasian Red Squirrel. The squirrel’s grunts sounded uncannily like the collision of a woodpecker’s bill and wood. Near the forest reservoir I found Eastern Crowned Warbler. The bird responded silently but with much interest to playback. The recording I used was made by me on 16 Aug. just a few km from the point where I was standing. On that date, not even three weeks ago, the Eastern Crowned Warbler’s response to playback was aggressive, and it sang loudly. What a contrast to the subdued response today.

At 20:30, the skies were nearly perfectly clear, and from the back porch Elaine, Father, and I viewed the Milky Way. Eurasian Eagle-Owl was near, making its strong, deliberate, “Hoo!”

Weather: Glorious late-summer day. Mainly clear skies. Breezy. Cool. 10°-22°C

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 1
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 1
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 5
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 12
Japanese Tit Parus minor 2
Eastern Crowned Warbler Phylloscopus coronatus 1
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 9
Blue-and-white Flycatcher Cyanoptila cyanomelana 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 1
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 7
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 1

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 1
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 2

Fri. 4 Sept. 2015
Dawucun

Today, sitting alone in the hills behind Dawucun, I posted the following message to our WeChat group Shanghai Birding:

“WISH-YOU-WERE-HERE MOMENT: If crisp fall weather could be bottled up and sold, then today would be the day to harvest it. Brilliant blue sky, cool qiufeng (秋风, ‘autumn breeze’), temp. about 17°C. Speaking of harvests, Elaine and her father are nearby picking Honey Mushroom Armillaria mellea. Elaine just radioed me; she and baba found a mother lode and expect to collect about 8 kg of the tasty fungus. I just now was writing almost literally in the shadow of a White-backed Woodpecker, the largest pied woodpecker and a very inquisitive creature, curious even about the weak playback coming from my iPhone speaker. Before settling down, I startled a Hazel Grouse and heard the laughter of Black Woodpecker. A Pale Thrush gave itself away with its tzzt contact call, then viewed me from a high branch before darting off. I miss Shanghai and look forward to birding with you all again after I’m back next week. Thank you for waiting me out while I drank my fill of these northern forests. It’s been one of my sweetest China experiences, doing great birding by day and being welcomed by Elaine’s warmhearted family at night. Birding and family! Life doesn’t get much better than this.”

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 1
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 15
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos 1
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 1
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 7
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 9
Japanese Tit Parus minor 1
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus 1
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 3
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 9
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1

Mammals

Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 1

Sat. 5 Sept. 2015
Xidaquan

Integrating family and birding, Elaine and I went to Xidaquan with Elaine’s father, her older sister Lian Ying, Lian Ying’s daughter Lisa, and Elaine’s niece Jennifer. The main point was not birding but to walk the recreational trail. The highlight was seeing Hazel Grouse slowly cross the road just outside the main gate. Everyone in the car saw the bird. Another special moment: a Eurasian Red Squirrel slowly crossing the road, again in full view of all of us. I taught the kids how to pick up discarded bottles and toss them in the garbage can. The cool temperatures and brilliant sunshine put everyone in a good mood.

At 20:30 back at Dawucun we heard Eurasian Eagle-Owl. The owl was perching on one of the trees at the S end of my parents-in-law’s property. Through the binoculars I saw the silhouette of the big, powerful owl. I made this recording (01:16; 3.8 MB):

Weather: Sunny and dry. Cool. 9°-22°C.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 2
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 2
Eurasian Eagle-Owl Bubo bubo 1
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 17
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 6
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 5
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 1
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 1
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 2

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 1
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 2

Sun. 6 Sept. 2015 Xidaquan
Mon. 7 Sept. 2015 Dawucun
Tues. 8 Sept. 2015 Xidaquan

Elaine and I wrapped up our Summer 2015 NE China Birding Trip with our 11th and 12th trips to Xidaquan and a walk in the hills behind Dawucun. With new additions Goldcrest and Eurasian Siskin at Xidaquan and Grey-headed Woodpecker at Dawucun, Elaine’s Hometown List stands at 91 species.

Elaine and I noted 40 species on Sun. 6 Sept at Xidaquan. We had 8 Hazel Grouse, and we once again found Asian Stubtail. No fewer than four species of leaf warbler were singing: Radde’s Warbler, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, and Two-barred Warbler. With 19 individuals noted, Radde’s maintained its high numbers. Eurasian Sparrowhawk was again viewed trying without success to take down swallows (this time predominantly Red-rumped Swallow). At Jiulong Shuiku we filmed Eastern Buzzard devouring a Siberian Chipmunk.

Getting the Goldcrest involved a good piece of birding from the ever-more experienced Elaine. Even though Goldcrest is an easy bird to ID, the first mixed flock was in trees up to 30 m high, and I missed the bird. Elaine, however, spied a single Goldcrest and excitedly reported the news. Elaine’s good eye put Goldcrest on my mind, and sure enough I found 2 individuals an hour later in another mixed flock.

On Mon. 7 Sept., we added Striped Field Mouse to our mammal list. The next day we found Korean Field Mouse at Elaine’s parents’ home.

On Tues. 8 Sept., we made our 12th trip in 23 days to Xidaquan. Yellow-browed Warbler were passing through in a big way, with 32 noted.

On 7 Sept. we made two recordings of Grey-headed Woodpecker in the hills behind Dawucun:

brief, high-pitched call (00:03; 893 KB)

excited whistle followed by monotonous call (01:27; 4.3 MB)

List for Sun. 6 Sept. 2015 (40 species)
Weather: Brilliantly sunny, dry, & cool, with high visibility. Classic fall weather. 8°-21°C.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612). 05:10-15:30.

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 3
Eastern Spot-billed Duck Anas zonorhyncha 2
Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 8
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 5
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 1
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 13
Hill Pigeon C. rupestris 5
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 12
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor 2
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 12
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 4
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 3
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 82
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 10
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 17
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 4
Japanese Tit Parus minor 9
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 10
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 96
Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps 1
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 45
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 3
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi 19 (4 singing)
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 14 (5 singing)
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 19 (6 singing)
Two-barred Warbler P. plumbeitarsus 2 singing
Chestnut-flanked White-eye Zosterops erythropleurus 3
Goldcrest Regulus regulus 3
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 13
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
White Wagtail M. alba 8
Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus 3
Eurasian Siskin Spinus spinus 5
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 4
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 19

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 1
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 2

List for Mon. 7 Sept. 2015 (15 species)

Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612), village in Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev.: 250 m in village, up to 550 m on ridge S of village.

Hazel Grouse Tetrastes bonasia 1
Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) Columba livia 10
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor 3
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos 1
Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 2
Willow Tit Poecile montanus baicalensis 8
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 14
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica 24
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 15
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea amurensis 18
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 2
Grey-capped Greenfinch Chloris sinica 3
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 3

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 1
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 4
Striped Field Mouse Apodemus agrarius 1

List for Tues. 8 Sept. 2015 (32 species)
Weather: Sunny early, turning cloudy. 15°-22°C.

Xidaquan National Forest (Xīdàquān Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán [西大圈国家森林公园], 45.727751, 130.317316), Boli County (Bólì Xiàn [勃利县]), Qitaihe Prefecture (Qītáihé Shì [七台河市]), Heilongjiang, China. Elev. range at Xidaquan: ca. 400-1008 m. List includes birds noted along road Z003 leading to Xidaquan as well as records from Jiulong Shuiku (Jiǔlóng Shuǐkù [九龙水库], 45.706874, 130.517068) & Dawucun (Dàwǔcūn [大五村], 45.732679, 130.589612).

Mandarin Duck Aix galericulata 1
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis 2
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 4
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 2
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dryobates minor 2
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos 2
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius 2
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus 8
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius brandtii 13
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus 8
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 6
Coal Tit Periparus ater ater 1
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris brevirostris 14
Willow Tit P. montanus baicalensis 6
Japanese Tit Parus minor 9
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 402
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica ca. 200
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 20
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus 4
Radde’s Warbler P. schwarzi 11 (3 singing)
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus 1
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 32 (12 singing)
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea 10
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus 2
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus 1
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 8
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 15
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 7
Long-tailed Rosefinch Carpodacus sibiricus 2
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans 12
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 8

Mammals

Eurasian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris 2
Siberian Chipmunk Eutamias sibiricus 7
Korean Field Mouse Apodemus peninsulae 1 in Dawucun

Featured image: Eurasian Eagle-Owl is the biggest owl in the world. A pair lives in a quarry near Elaine Du’s home village of Dawucun, Boli, Heilongjiang. 13 Aug. 2015, Nikon D3S, 600 mm, F/5, 1/250, ISO 2000.

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