Let’s hear it for Kai Pflug! The Shanghai-based German birder has taken it upon himself to clean up Cape Nanhui, Shanghai’s best-known birding area. On Sun. 11 Sept. 2016, Kai hauled out two bagfuls of trash from Nanhui’s Microforest 2 (30.926138, 121.970795), and I’m proud to say my wife Elaine Du helped Kai out on Microforest 1. Kai has long been cleaning the microforests, and his work has had a big effect on those precious migrant traps.
In his car, Kai keeps six pairs of tongs as well as a roll of plastic bags. Kai told me he uses tongs “to show others that it’s possible to clean up trash without getting your hands dirty!” He keeps six pairs so that others can join him in his quest to keep the microforests clean.
As if his work on the trash weren’t enough, Kai further burnished his eco-credentials Sunday morning at Microforest 2. There, about 30 photographers have set up camp to photograph Fairy Pitta, a species that has been present in the tiny wood since early September. Someone had speared mealworms onto a metal hook. The hook could rip the mouth of a hungry pitta. Kai spied the hook, marched into the setup, and tore it down. In his good Chinese, the product of 12 years living in this country, Kai explained to the surprised photographers, “This isn’t good! It can kill birds.”
Kai’s actions Sunday were the backdrop to an eventful birding day. Partnering yet again with veteran British birder Michael Grunwell, Elaine and I noted 75 species. We birded the well-known coastal sites at Nanhui as well as the sod farm south of Pudong Airport. We had our first migrant bunting of the season, endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting; Himalayan Swiftlet in the skies above the Magic Parking Lot (30.882784, 121.972782); and Pechora Pipit in the wet agricultural land north of Lúcháo (芦潮; 30.851111, 121.848528).
Other goodies were Lesser Coucal catching a frog, Asian Stubtail joining Fairy Pitta at the photography setup, and season’s first Yellow-browed Warbler, Siberian Thrush, and Blue-and-white Flycatcher. We had Green Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler, and a migrating flock of Red Turtle Dove near the Pechoras and Eurasian Wryneck in the recently planted trees on the inner base of the sea wall. The microforests yielded a second Fairy Pitta, 8 Black-naped Oriole, 7 Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, and a good count of 12 Siberian Blue Robin.
Our trip to the sod farm was cut short by rain. Before the shower we noted ca. 800 Oriental Pratincole. Obviously this grassy area is important to the species, which breeds in the Shanghai region and which with the development of Pudong has seen a dramatic shrinkage of its territory.
On Mon. 5 Sept. Elaine and I did our first urban birding of the season at Shanghai’s Century Park. Among the 24 species we noted were passage migrants Oriental Dollarbird, Asian Brown Flycatcher, and Grey-streaked Flycatcher.
Featured image: Kai Pflug picks up litter at Microforest 1, Cape Nanhui, 11 Sept. 2016. (Craig Brelsford)
The autumn migration season here in Shanghai has kicked off in style. Leading the parade of migrants is Fairy Pitta, seen in Microforest 2 at Cape Nanhui on Sat. 3 Sept. 2016 and still there as of Sunday afternoon. Another notable sighting on Saturday was Common Ringed Plover at the sod farm south of Pudong International Airport.
Partnering yet again with Shanghai-based British birder Michael Grunwell, Elaine Du and I were out Sat. 27 Aug. and again the following Saturday, 3 Sept. On both days we found Asian Dowitcher and endangered Great Knot. On 3 Sept. a group of 135 Great Knot and 3 Asian Dowitcher were part of a wader roost of ca. 400 individuals in the canal between microforests 1 and 2. The roost also contained a single endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank, 30 Red Knot, and 3 Curlew Sandpiper. On the mudflats nearby, we had a flyby of 3 endangered Far Eastern Curlew. On 27 Aug. a smaller roost at the same location had some of the species noted above as well as Grey-tailed Tattler. 27 Aug. also yielded a single Red-necked Phalarope.
Other highlights from 3 Sept.:
26 Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe at sod farm near Pudong Airport
ca. 200 near-threatened Black-tailed Godwit in that wader roost at Nanhui
230 Oriental Pratincole at Nanhui and sod farm
1 Lesser Coucal (juv.) in reed bed at Nanhui
8 paradise flycatchers, all likely Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, in microforests at Nanhui
8 Arctic-type Warbler on Lesser Yangshan and at Nanhui, plus records of Eastern Crowned Warbler and the tricky species pair Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler. The Eastern Crowned Warbler were silent, but the Arctic-types and Pale-Saks were calling.
516 Eastern Yellow Wagtail, most of this impressive number from Pudong Airport sod farm and the Nanhui sod farm on Ganlan Road (30.890865, 121.902011)
— On Sat. 27 Aug. we added to our trio special guest Mikkel Thorup, a mathematician from Denmark. This was not Mikkel’s first birding trip in China, but he is still fresh enough that he was picking off lifers left and right. Later, we were joined by the international high-school birding team of Komatsu Yasuhiko (Japan), Larry Chen (Canada), and Chi Shu (Shanghai).
— The decline of Lesser Yangshan as a birding spot is accelerating. Garbage Dump Coastal Plain has been lost to birding, with earth-moving machines all around and new buildings going up. Garbage Dump Gully is intact, but the increased activity on the coastal plain means that security, already tight now, may be even tighter in the future, and it may soon prove impossible to reach the gully. A migrant trap par excellence, Garbage Dump Gully is crucial to Shanghai birders. Over the years the gully has given birders Japanese Robin, Verditer Flycatcher, Varied Tit, White-bellied Green Pigeon, and scores of other good records. Garbage Dump Gully must be preserved; access to it must be sustained.
— On 27 Aug. we found a banded Black-tailed Godwit. As is my habit, I filled out and submitted the Leg Flag Report Form on the Web site of the Australasian Wader Studies Group. Our godwit, it turns out, received its bands on 19 June 2016 on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia (at 57.08, 156.64), 4000 km from Shanghai. UPDATE: On 9 Sept. 2016 a godwit with the E7 band was found by Chinese photographer kaca at virtually the same location as the 27 Aug. sighting.
— The task of ID-ing the Nordmann’s was clear-cut and was helped along by a Common Greenshank that appeared next to the Nordmann’s. The head of the Nordmann’s was proportionally larger than that of the Common, and it had a higher knee with shorter legs–an obviously stockier bird, a rugby player compared to a ballerina. The Nordmann’s stretched out its wing, revealing clean white plumage underneath. Common has a greyer underwing.
Featured image: Fairy Pitta, Nanhui Microforest 2, Sun. 4 Sept. 2016. Photo by Komatsu Yasuhiko using Nikon D7100 + Tamron 150-600 F/5.6, F/6, 1/100, ISO 640.
On Sat. 9 April and Sun. 10 April 2016, Elaine Du and I noted 103 species at three Shanghai-area birding hot spots. We had Oriental Plover and Black-faced Spoonbill on Hengsha, the latter present also at Nanhui, where we found in addition Brown Crake, Greater Sand Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Marsh Grassbird, Bluethroat, and Citrine Wagtail. Lesser Yangshan yielded out-of-range Rufous-faced Warbler and our season’s first flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher. Other season’s firsts were Eurasian Wryneck and Oriental Reed Warbler on Hengsha, Oriental Pratincole, Japanese Thrush, Tristram’s Bunting, and Meadow Bunting on Lesser Yangshan, and Broad-billed Sandpiper at Nanhui. Garganey and singing Brown-flanked Bush Warbler were on Hengsha and Temminck’s Stint and Grey-backed Thrush were noted at Nanhui. Red-throated Pipit were on Hengsha and Nanhui, as were Intermediate Egret, “Swintail” Snipe, Reed Parrotbill, and Chestnut-eared Bunting.
On Sat. 9 April Elaine and I birded Hengsha, the alluvial island at the mouth of the Yangtze. Our target was Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus, which we found after a short search. Oriental Plover breeds in deserts and steppes mainly in Mongolia, and in China in Hulunbeier, Inner Mongolia. For Elaine, Ori Pluv was a virtual lifer, as her only previous experience with the species was our quick, long-distance look at an individual near Hulun Lake last July.
On Sun. 10 April Elaine and I were joined by Shanghai-based British birder Michael Grunwell. We noted 90 species on Lesser Yangshan Island and at Nanhui.
The three of us found 30 singing Marsh Grassbird in the large reed bed at 30.866006, 121.939614, a point 2.8 km south of the lock at Nanhui and 4.1 km south of the Magic Parking Lot/Holiday Inn (30.882784, 121.972782). An unpaved road leads into the marsh. The grassbirds were noted only in that reed bed and not in other seemingly suitable reed beds elsewhere at Nanhui. The grassbirds were using only those parts of the reed bed far from the road. They were making their curving display flight.
Marsh Grassbird is also known as Japanese Swamp Warbler and Japanese Marsh Warbler. It is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN. The IUCN notes that Marsh Grassbird is “very sensitive to habitat structure and does not tolerate vegetation that is too short or too tall.” It is threatened mainly by the conversion of its wetland habitat to other uses.
Speaking of conversions, new construction is changing all three of the birding spots we visited last weekend. The transformation at Nanhui has been noted by me here and here. Lesser Yangshan Island is being converted from an island to an even bigger megaport, and Garbage Dump Coastal Plain (30.638860, 122.060089) is steadily growing unbirdable. A bright spot on Lesser Yangshan is the new wetland (30.611902, 122.114873) on reclaimed land between Lesser Yangshan and Dazhitou Island.
In the reclaimed area on Hengsha, a 100-hectare area at 31.299495, 121.893845 is being converted from savanna to forest. That is an area about two-thirds the size of Century Park in Pudong. This may be good news, as the tree plantation may attract forest species such as flycatchers and leaf warblers, families that on the formerly treeless reclaimed area at Hengsha have always been scarce.
The springtime birding season in Shanghai is really picking up steam. On the Web site of the Shanghai Wild Bird Society, shwbs.org, birders have recently reported Long-billed Dowitcher, Asian Dowitcher, and Ruff on Chongming and Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Black Redstart on Hengsha.
List 1 of 1 for Sat. 9 April 2016 (52 species)
Hengsha Island (Héngshā Dǎo [横沙岛]), a small alluvial island at mouth of Yangtze River in Shanghai, China. S gate to reclaimed area at 31.297333, 121.859434. Cloudy; low 12° C, high 22° C. Wind SE 6 km/h. PM2.5 AQI: 74 (moderate). Visibility 10 km. Sunrise 05:32, sunset 18:19. SAT 09 APR 2016 07:40-15:30. Craig Brelsford & Elaine Du.
Gadwall Anas strepera 117
Falcated Duck A. falcata 2
Eurasian Wigeon A. penelope 1
Northern Shoveler A. clypeata 3
Garganey A. querquedula 10
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 16
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 12
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 15
Black-faced Spoonbill P. minor 13
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris 6 booming
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 3
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 24
Great Egret A. alba 5
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia 12
Little Egret E. garzetta 40 Circus sp. 1
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus 1
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 24
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra 60
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 10
Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus 3
Pin-tailed/Swinhoe’s Snipe Gallinago stenura/megala 1
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus 3
Common Greenshank T. nebularia 2
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 2
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 6
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 4
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops 1
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla 1
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 2
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus 20
Eurasian/Oriental Skylark Alauda arvensis/gulgula 20
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 6
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica ca. 400
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 7 singing
Brown-flanked Bush Warbler H. fortipes 1 singing
Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis 5 singing
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 16
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 14
Reed Parrotbill Paradoxornis heudei 4
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 3
Red-billed Starling Spodiopsar sericeus 7
Chinese Blackbird Turdus mandarinus 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 2
Stejneger’s Stonechat Saxicola stejnegeri 1
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 10
Red-throated Pipit Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus 3
Buff-bellied Pipit A. rubescens japonicus 20
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata 3
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 4
Pallas’s Reed Bunting E. pallasi 5
Siberian Weasel Mustela sibirica 1
List 1 of 2 for Sun. 10 April 2016 (45 species)
Lesser Yangshan Island (Xiǎo Yángshān [小洋山]), island in Hangzhou Bay, Zhejiang, China. List includes birds noted at Garbage Dump Gully (30.641565, 122.062836), Temple Mount (30.639866, 122.048327), & a wetland area (30.611902, 122.114873) on reclaimed land between Lesser Yangshan & Dazhitou Island (Dà Zhǐtou Dǎo [大指头岛]). Sunny in morning, turning cloudy. Low 11° C, high 22° C. Wind E 6 km/h. Visibility 10 km. PM2.5 AQI: 159 (unhealthful). Sunrise 05:30, sunset 18:20. SUN 10 APR 2016 06:00-09:45. Craig Brelsford, Elaine Du, & Michael Grunwell.
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca 6
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1
Eastern Cattle Egret Bubulcus coromandus 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 10
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Eastern Buzzard Buteo japonicus 2
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 1
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus 6
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 3
Kentish Plover C. alexandrinus 6
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus 1
Wood Sandpiper T. glareola 1
Dunlin Calidris alpina 37
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldivarum 1
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis 2
Spotted Dove Spilopelia chinensis 5
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach 1
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica 1
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos 2
Japanese Tit Parus minor 5
Light-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis 17
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 30
Rufous-faced Warbler Abroscopus albogularis 1 singing
Japanese/Manchurian Bush Warbler Horornis diphone canturians/H. borealis borealis 16 singing
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus 5
Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus 5 singing
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 2
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata 2
Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus 8
White-cheeked Starling Spodiopsar cineraceus 14
Japanese Thrush Turdus cardis 1
Pale Thrush T. pallidus 8
Dusky Thrush T. eunomus 2
Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa latirostris 1
Red-flanked Bluetail Tarsiger cyanurus 4
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius philippensis 5
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 20
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni 8
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 3
Meadow Bunting Emberiza cioides 3
Tristram’s Bunting E. tristrami 2
Little Bunting E. pusilla 5
Yellow-throated Bunting E. elegans 1
Black-faced Bunting E. spodocephala 10