Thursday, 24 May 2018

South-east China - 27th April (Day 6)

Today was our only scheduled attempt for Chinese Crested Tern on Shanyutan Island to the north or Changle. Chinese Crested Tern is thought to have a total population of fewer than 100 birds. For many years it was only known from a few specimens collected prior to 1937, and a small number of, mainly unconfirmed, records from China, Thailand and Indonesia. However, in the Summer of 2000 eight adults and four chicks were found within a Greater Crested Tern colony on Matsu Island, Taiwan, and subsequently the species has been found breeding in very small numbers on Jiushan Island and Wuzhishan Island, Zhejiang province, China. Since its rediscovery this is a species I have wanted to see and so today there was much to play for.

We were up a little earlier than accustomed and driving through the streets of Changle to meet our boatman at 06:00. We than headed through Changle and parked before walking through the shrimp pools and arable land towards the island that I had last birded on 17th November 2016. During the walk to the boat we recorded Yellow-bellied Prinia, Eastern Yellow Wagtail of the subspecies tavania, Wood Sandpiper, seven Long-toed Stint, Oriental Reed-warbler, 17 Chinese Egret, 40 Black-faced Spoonbill, Chinese Pond Heron and Spotted Redshank. The ‘boat trip’ lasted around two minutes as the boat man took us across a narrow reed lined channel of no more than ten metres - a bit of an anticlimax after donning brand new life-jackets and supposedly paying $100. We arrived on the island a couple of hours before high tide and spent our time sifting through the large wader roost and scanning to sea. Species present included Swinhoe’s (White-faced) Plover, Kentish Plover, Greater Sandplover, Lesser Sandplover, Curlew Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint and large numbers of Dunlin and Sanderling. Oher species included Greater Crested Tern, Whiskered Tern, Common Tern, Caspian Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Band-tailed Gull, Arctic Herring (Mongolian) Gull and Osprey. As the tide began to fall once again the waders began to spread out over the mudflats and Tang-Jun indicated that this was the best time for the Chinese Crested Tern, we wandered closer to the falling water, a Little Curlew flew by and landed on the mud giving us great views. As the tide was just about at its lowest extent Greater Crested Tern began to drop onto the distant mud, first a pair and then two by two the numbers built to 34 and then suddenly a pair of paler birds dropped in and there they were, a pair of stunning Chinese Crested Tern. Noticeably paler above than the Greater Crested Tern and with a distinctive orange-yellow bill with a broad black tip. We walked closer across the mud getting fairly good views without wanting to press the birds. It had taken us five hours to see the birds but it was well worth it. Fantastic birds.

We headed back to the bus birding on the way,  and then headed back to our hotel to wash off the mud from Shanyutan Island and loaded the bus. After lunch we headed to Fuzhou Forest Park, 1.40 hours from Changle and on the northern edge of Fuzhou. After taking golf buggies into the park we birded a steep trail for three hours at the end of the day, the main target being Collared Partridge. It was fairly slow going but we recorded Grey-sided Scimitar-babbler, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Grey Treepie, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Grey-headed (Huet’s) Fulvetta, Chestnut Bulbul and Black Bulbul. Descending in the near dark close to the main road we heard Collared Partridge and Grey Nightjar.

Chinese Egret, Little Egret and Black-faced Spoonbill - Near to Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Chinese Egret, Little Egret and Black-faced Spoonbill - Near to Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Chinese Egret, Little Egret and Black-faced Spoonbill - Near to Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Little Egret and Black-faced Spoonbill - Near to Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Chinese Egret - Near to Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Osprey - Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Little Curlew - Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Little Curlew - Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Little Curlew - Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Chinese Crested Tern - Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Chinese Crested Tern (left two birds) with Greater Crested Tern and Little Tern - Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Chinese Crested Tern - Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Chinese Egret - Near to Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Long-toed Stint - Near to Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Yellow-bellied Prinia - Near to Shanyutan Island, Changle, Fuzhou

Black-throated Tit - Fuzhou Forest Park

Collared Finchbill - Fuzhou Forest Park

Red-billed Blue Magpie - Fuzhou Forest Park

Collared Partridge calling at dusk - Fuzhou Forest Park

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

16th-18th May - Martin Down and Pennington Marsh

The last couple of weeks have been manic at work with some very early starts for breeding bird surveys, late nights reviewing documents and getting the company ready for the new and extremely tedious General Data Protection Regulations which come into force later in May. However, I have managed to get out a little to protect my sanity.

On the morning of 16th May I visited Marin Down on the north Hampshire and Wiltshire border to complete my Nightingale survey as organised by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, alas, there were no Nightingale. Martin Down has experienced a catastrophic fall in population from 24 singing males in 1980 to none now, there cannot have been a change in the extent of scrub, this is a National Nature Reserve and there has probably been an increase rather than a reduction in scrub cover. So surely this local and the national decline is linked to changes in the wintering grounds or something happening along the migration routes rather than localised habitat loss/change in the UK. Still, there were lots of Corn Bunting (at least 15 birds recorded) and the first Turtle Dove that I have seen in the UK for many years with at least six 'purring' birds. Here, also were an amazing density of Skylark and it was difficult to estimate the number of birds but my best guess was 30 birds in all. It was a little windy for butterflies and the only species I recorded was a single Green Hairstreak, my first of the year.

Corn Bunting - Martin Down, Hampshire

Corn Bunting - Martin Down, Hampshire


Turtle-dove - Martin Down, Hampshire

The gentle purring of Turtle-dove is a classic summer sound which is fast disappearing from the UK countryside - Martin Down, Hampshire

Green Hairstreak - Martin Down, Hampshire

Invertebrate surveys with Adam Wright on 17th May near to Fishbourne, Chichester area produced a few first spring records for me although we recorded nothing of great excitement. White-legged Damselfly, Beautiful Demoiselle, Banded Demoiselle and Hairy Hawker were nice species to see as always.

The hoverfly Platycheirus rosarum - Fishbourne, Chichester

The hoverfly Helophilus pendulus - Fishbourne, Chichester

The hoverfly Cheilosia albitarsus - Fishbourne, Chichester

The snipefly Rhagio scolopacea - Fishbourne, Chichester

On 18th May I had a short wander around Pennington Marsh, it was fairly quiet with the highlights being two male Ruff almost in summer plumage, 25 Dunlin, two Peregrine over the site, three Whimbrel, 15 Great-crested Grebe (this seemed to be a large number for a May visit) and two very late Wigeon. Numbers of migrant birds seem to be very low and I only recorded three Whitethroat and four Reed Warbler of the breeding species. Singles of Cuckoo and a Lesser Whitethroat seemed to be birds holding territory on site.

Reed Warbler - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Song of Reed Warbler (the bird photographed above) - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire


Long song sequence of Reed Bunting, a lazy mid-summer sound of wetland habitats, reeds can be heard rustling in this recording - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire


Single song sequence of Reed Bunting - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire


Lesser Whitethroat - Pennington marsh, Hampshire


The typical song of Lesser Whitethroat with a rattle followed by harsh warbling notes - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire


Sequence of Lesser Whitethroat song with a rattle to begin with followed by warbling notes - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Sequence of Lesser Whitethroat song starting with the rattle then a sequence of warbling notes and ending in a rattle - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

There were high numbers of Great-crested Grebe for a May visit - Pennington Marsh, Hampshire

Thursday, 26 April 2018

South-east China - 26th April (Day 5)

The morning began at the superb reedbeds at Nanhui to the south-east of Shanghai where breakfast of the usual sweet bread, banana, Snickers and sweet coffee overlooking the reeds quickly produced singing, but distant, Marsh Grassbird, Bluethroat of the red spotted form and Reed Parrotbill before we really started birding properly. A Grey-tailed Tattler roosting on a breakwater on the adjacent coastline was a new wader for the trip and we enjoyed great views of Terek Sandpiper and Greater Sandplover. After breakfast we walked the short trail through the centre of the reedbed seeing, in addition, Ochre-rumped Bunting, Oriental Reed-warbler, Bittern, two fly over Pechora Pipit and Black-browed Reed-warbler. We then headed back to the hotel and birded the hotel car park which is a well-known migrant location - rather oddly named the 'Magic Carpark'. Here we recorded a stunning male Narcissus Flycatcher, Sakkalin Leaf-warbler (identified based on its response to playback of song and short burst of song given), Ashy Minivet, Little Bunting and Yellow-browed Warbler.


Reed Parrotbill - Nanhui Reedbeds, Pudong District, Shanghai

Male Ochre-rumped Bunting - Nanhui Reedbeds, Pudong District, Shanghai

Oriental Reed-warbler - Nanhui Reedbeds, Pudong District, Shanghai

Breeding plumaged male Greater Sandplover of subspecies leschenaultii - Nanhui Reedbeds, 
Pudong District, Shanghai

Non-breeding plumaged Greater Sandplover of subspecies leschenaultii - Nanhui Reedbeds, 
Pudong District, Shanghai

White Wagtail of subspecies leucopsis - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Narcissus Flycatcher, 1st summer male - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Long-tailed Shrike with large lizard - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai


The rather undistiguished rattle of Marsh Grassbird - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai


Oriental Reed-warbler with Eurasian Bittern and Coot in background - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai


Singing Yellow-browed Warbler - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai


After checking out of our hotel and loading the vehicles we headed  a few kilometres northwards along the coast to bird the small patches of mature scrub, known locally as micro-forests. Soon after the hotel we stopped at a large pool within the reeds where seven Falcated Duck were a great bonus. The micro-forests are very small patches of scrub scattered along the north to south orientated coast and surrounded by arable land, they thus attract migrants. In the four hours or so we birded these patches we recorded Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Zappey's Flycatcher, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf-warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler, Siberian Blue Robin, Red-flanked Bluetail, Little Bunting, Chestnut-eared Bunting, Black-faced Bunting, Richard's Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit, Pechora Pipit, Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Grey-backed Thrush, Plain Thrush, Dusky Thrush and Japanese Thrush. It was fantastic birding and it was difficult to tear ourselves away but it was time to head to the airport for our 16:30 flight to Fuzhou. At check in it became apparent that my ticket had been booked in the wrong name with my middle name being incorrect. This caused a great deal of hassle and I was informed that I was not going to be able to board. Fortunately, Tang-Jun managed to call the airline and get a new ticket issued and so we rushed through security and through the airport and boarded the plane within a few minutes of arriving at our gate. The flight was 1.40 hours long and we were out of the airport at Fuzhou by 18:30 and arrived at our hotel in Changle by 19:30.

Little Bunting - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

 Grey-backed Thrush - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Blue-and-white Flycatcher - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Blue-and-white Flycatcher - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Blue-and-white Flycatcher - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Zappey's Flycatcher, until recently considered conspecific with Blue-and-white Flycatcher but note the blue (versus black) throat in the current species - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Zappey's Flycatcher - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Zappey's Flycatcher - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Female Zappey's or Blue-and-white Flycatcher, based on current knowledge the females of these two species are not distinguishable - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Grey-backed Thrush - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Yellow-browed Bunting - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Ashy Minivet - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Grey-streaked Flycatcher - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai

Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf-warbler - Nanhui Micro-forests, Pudong District, Shanghai