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Old Wednesday 8th November 2017, 13:41   #476
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Snowy Owl would be well worth chasing Owen!

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Old Wednesday 8th November 2017, 20:10   #477
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I agree! A Snowy in Liaoning is certainly note worthy. I had a place in Dalian chosen for one to appear some random November but it never arrived.
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Old Thursday 9th November 2017, 00:40   #478
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thirudevaram View Post
Hi Owen,

To spice up your birding life, there are some photos going around the Wechat groups. It's a Female Snowy Owl at the Liaohe Estuary close to your place. Red-crowned Cranes are also present.
Hmmm... I'll have to consider another trip. i know where there is a captive breeding program near there for RCC, but have yet to record a tic for a wild sighting. The Liaohu Estuary would be the more general vicinity of the Yingkou Wetlands Park, which I tried a week ago and found rather empty. I have an idea that it might be on the other side of the river and a little upstream from where I was at. An area that I considered trying that day. This is the only social media that I do at all, so thanks for relaying the reports Dev.
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Old Thursday 9th November 2017, 01:04   #479
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A nice outing yesterday, but cut short when I was recalled by my wife who couldn't find her keys to get back in the apartment. Of course she found them in one of pockets inside a pocket just as I arrived back home.

The main attraction was the two flocks of 20+ each Azure-winged Magpie. They are always abundant here, but that is the largest grouping I have seen yet. They were initially close enough together to have a few individuals exchanging back and forth. One group decided I was an interesting distraction and started following along noisily alerting any and all to my presence.

A general presence of Coal Tit, Japanese Tit and Yellow-bellied Tit was scattered all through the park that I was in.

The habit of scanning the Sparrow flocks with the bins turned up a few isolated Brambling foraging with them. Somewhat unusual in that they normally appear in large flocks.

Hoopoe seem to be recovering well from the population drop precipitated by the harsh winter last season. This year is the opposite so far with it staying more like early October.

I got a mild scolding last night when I mistakenly forgot the rule on the Gallery forum was three uploads in one day and since it rolled over midnight, I thought it reset the counter for me. Actually three in 24 hours and for an international forum it doesn't even make sense for me to think that it would matter that it was midnight for me. Does anybody really know what time it is?

Panjin, Dawa County, Liaoning, CN, Liaoning, CN
Nov 8, 2017 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 kilometer(s)
10 species

Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops) 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) 2
Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus) 40 Two large flocks of 20+ separated by aprox. 0.5 kilometers
Coal Tit (Periparus ater) 5
Yellow-bellied Tit (Periparus venustulus) 10
Japanese Tit (Parus minor) 10
Light-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis) 5
Pallas's Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus proregulus) 1
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) 4
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) 30

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40373556
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Old Thursday 9th November 2017, 11:56   #480
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Rainy today so no chance of a trip back to the Liaohu estuary. My wife has tomorrow all planned out already, so maybe Saturday. It is not expensive as I can catch the #30 bus about a kilometer from home and it runs all the way for 5RMB, it is about 50 kilometers though, so the round trip with the birding chews up most of a day.

Made a quick outing for the dog's walk just before it started raining to the same area as yesterday and the abundance of interesting sightings yesterday changed to just two Tree Sparrows and one Hoopoe.
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Old Friday 10th November 2017, 04:49   #481
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Here is the location of the Snowy Owl and also a photo of the snowy owl which is been shared in the wechat.
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Old Friday 10th November 2017, 04:52   #482
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Dang! If I had any leave left I'd twitch that for my China list!
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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 01:32   #483
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Originally Posted by thirudevaram View Post
Here is the location of the Snowy Owl and also a photo of the snowy owl which is been shared in the wechat.
All the rest of the family are gone right now, but I will check with my daughter when she gets home from work late tonight. I think I have the general area and it is one that I have wanted to check out anyway. Are you able to get GPS coordinates on that, Dev? I think that it actually the Shuangtaizi river estuary which also is the same general area. Locals often call both rivers the Liaohe.

I was somewhat dubious about this one, but that picture makes it solid. The background fits with the area I am thinking of too.
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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 09:59   #484
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Snowy Owl update

I spent half a day today chasing a supposed lead, but it appears that the 'Snowy Owl' was a white Dove with some black markings. Well, they were trying to be helpful at least.

With Dev's help, I was able this afternoon to pinpoint the precise location where the sighting was reported and then actually lucky enough to locate the original sighting posting on eBird. (独行虾 Bird.soong) The posting was actually for November 5th so the trail may be a little cold by now. Having the location I was able to use connections and find a resident of the nearby village. Using all that and with the hope that the stable warm weather has kept the Snowy Owl in the area, my wife has helped with working on a trip over there either tomorrow or Monday. It is about 30 kilometers from home, which most people here consider a big trip. One of the cultural shock items to me still since at one point back in Kansas I was driving 100 kilometers one way to work everyday.
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Old Saturday 11th November 2017, 15:46   #485
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Best wishes for what would be an epic twitch Owen!

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Old Sunday 12th November 2017, 14:32   #486
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Snowy Owl quest

It seems that the area where the Snowy Owl was sighted, on the west side of the Shuangtaizi River estuary, is a restricted area right now. The explanation given was that fires in the reeds make it unsafe. Our neighbor who has the government connections says it will take another three days to get a permit, but that she thinks she can get a guide and transportation with it. At the least it will give me a chance to scout out an area that has looked good on the maps all along. She seems to have renewed interest in establishing an attraction for birders and nature lovers in general to boost the tourism in the area, so I'll see what might be promising.
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Old Tuesday 14th November 2017, 09:24   #487
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There was a heavy wall of smoke in the west late yesterday afternoon and today my wife had one of the people from the small village by where the SO was spotted send her a WeChat video of the fire from yesterday afternoon. Huge amounts of reeds had been harvested and stored in huge stacks, which were all burning. They said they didn't know the cause but they were distressed about losing an important revenue source. It was indeed impressively large! I know that owls and other birds of prey will commonly hunt along fire lines in the tall grass prairie in Kansas. Where the owl may be by now is hard to say. I notice that there is a red dot for an out of range vagrant/accidental in that specific spot in MacKinnon & Phillipps, so it may be a common rest stop for migrating SO.
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Old Thursday 23rd November 2017, 13:14   #488
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Finally turned colder this week with temps struggling to get just above freezing for a few hours each day. Today started out sunny at least, so I made a trip out to what has been in the past a reliably birdy area. Three kilometers only produced 9 Japanese Tit, 2 Common Magpie, about 40 Tree Sparrow, 5 Chinese Bulbul, and 3 Grey-Headed Woodpecker who were having a territorial dispute with a single Great-Spotted Woodpecker.

I have now twice seen a large flock of approximately 40 black birds. From apparent size, color, appearance in flight and general body shape, I would say Starlings, but too far away to be able to make a positive ID. I haven't heard the noisy vocalizations that would normally go with a flock of Common Starling, but that was the initial impression that I got.
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Old Thursday 23rd November 2017, 13:27   #489
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Other for Nov-23

A couple of other nature observations from the November 23rd outing.

The irrigation canal I was following has had the water supply from the Shuangtaizi River cut off and is now only about 40 cm deep in most areas and has started to ice up. Several groups of men were out netting the carp caught in rapidly disappearing water. At one open hole I noticed a number of larger carp gulping air, indicating that the water was also rapidly de-oxygenating. I normally grumble about the over harvesting of wildlife but figured in this case that they wouldn't last long anyway and pointed them out to a nearby pair.

Just as I was calling it a day as the sky was rapidly clouding over and the temperature was falling, I came across a European Red Squirrel who had just found a small pear that someone had discarded.
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Old Saturday 25th November 2017, 05:28   #490
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Cracking shots of the squirrel Owen - love those ear tufts!

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Old Monday 27th November 2017, 05:28   #491
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Love the squirrel shots as well Owen! How about White-cheeked Starlings for the mystery Starling-like birds you mentioned a few posts above? A single Common Starling here or there would be exceptional and a flock would be off the charts. White-cheeked Starling will flock at this time of year.

Too bad about the Snowy Owl puzzle. I would suspect there is a hot spot in Liaoning somewhere on certain years and the Panjin area wetlands would make a lot of sense. There is a place near Vancouver (Boundary Bay) here that can get as many as 30 over wintering in some years. The habitat is shared by Short and Long-eared Owls in the winter as well and is coastal grassland with lots of driftwood laying around. Some of the reclaimed areas along the sea in Liaoning seem perfect with huge areas of flat grassland with piles of rocks/old concrete which could serve as perches. I'm sure they erupt some years along the northeast China coast somewhere. In Dalian there is just such an environment full of Little Owls. I was always hoping for a Snowy to show up in that area but it didn't happen in 12 years. The pictures of the wetlands in Panjin certainly look good for erupting Snowies. The dot in the McKinnon guide is probably from such a year. If possible, I would certainly check out that area several times each winter. They do return to known sites when they head south in eruption years.

Do you know of a place where Short-eared Owl winter in your area? I would also check such a place. In Dalian, most of my interaction with Short-eared Owls were migrating south at Laotieshan. The banders often caught them in their nets there in September and October (along with Oriental Scops) and some were also reported seen heading south over the sea during the day.

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Old Tuesday 28th November 2017, 03:48   #492
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Hi Tom, good to hear from you. I've subscribed to your journal of experiences with wildlife in B.C.

The Snowy Owl just typifies what it can be like to try and accomplish anything here. The government has at least some interest in making the wetlands that technically are supposed to be a wildlife preserve under international agreement more attractive especially to international tourism but at the same time the locals are resistant to government meddling. Right now I still have a 'travel police' official that contacted me and that contacts us every few days to reassure me they are still working on cooperation with the local birding clubs. I've tried contact with the birding clubs in the past and basically got the cold shoulder. The police representative says they have admitted that they 'have found' the Snowy Owl, but she can't get them to reveal where. On the other hand it is the police who declared the area as closed to foreigners.

I don't know of any wintering areas for owls, but our compound is a nesting area for Little Owl!

My comment was just that the black birds were very much like Common Starlings, so yes, White-Cheeked Starlings would be a likely possibility. I didn't note any white markings even in the bins, but wasn't close enough even then to be sure what they were. In favor of the WCS, I didn't note any of the noisy chatter that is normal with CS.

Winter is very mild so far this year, which is more like normal for here, but still just not very many wintering birds to be found.

Started the annual ritual of playing Shengdan Laoren (Old Man Christmas - Santa Claus) Sunday night with a surprise visit to an upscale shopping mall for free pictures with Santa. That will keep me occupied for the next month as I surprise visit different places where crowds can be found.

Any interesting happening here. I was summoned to report to the local Community Police office. Bring your passport and ask for Sgt. Wang Wei was all I was told. When I got there he notified me that all the "foreign people" had "volunteered" for the "Foreigners Club". Thank you very much, sign here. Even he didn't seem to be too clear as to just what that was, so I assumed that it was some new decree from Beijing. Probably seen as a way to be able to disseminate any new policies to the foreigners. Seems a bit silly for here since he even admitted that there were only eleven people living here on foreign passports and only three of us were not native speakers of Chinese. Just wondered if anybody else had heard of any such thing.
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Old Wednesday 29th November 2017, 16:51   #493
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Hi Owen, I can sympathize with how things can go sometimes. It's a balancing act to get governments and local birders/naturalists together on the same page at the best of times in any city in any country. The frustrating bit is that it is usually the local people on the ground who know what is really going on. I've spoken with many keen Chinese conservationists who share the same frustrations. The older people who tend to have the older ways of thinking have the power to make decisions while the people who are qualified to make the best decisions often don't have that power. Change takes time.


On the brighter side, Old Man Christmas is looking good! Maybe he'll bring you a Snowy yet! An authentic beard as well!
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Old Thursday 30th November 2017, 07:11   #494
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Very true, Tom. Still in the on again, off again status here. I was just yesterday told to come into the government office on December 3rd for a meeting with an official and to bring the iPad to show my bird photos. All of this over the last year has been at their initiative with the local government wanting input from a Western perspective. I am happy to help if I can but what I really would like to see is local leadership and initiative. I have met a few locals who have already taken positive action and who deserve to be recognized and encouraged.

My wife got pictures of one young lady who tried to be stealthy about checking the beard and immediately after this picture bounded away back to her 'sisters' loudly announcing in Chinese "His beard is real!"
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Old Saturday 9th December 2017, 12:22   #495
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The weather being a bit warmer at just above freezing, I took an hour and a half to do some birding. Mostly nothing, but did find six Hoopoe which is an unusually large number even in the summer. Additionally found four Japanese Waxwing which were unusually animated today, chasing each other about. The more interesting was a little Merlin who took shelter from a Kestrel that was objecting to sharing the hunting. I don't usually see a Merlin this late in the season, so that was noteworthy.

Additionally I did have a meeting with a small group of locals who are interested in educating people to the importance of wildlife and the environment. One retired biology professor, a couple of teachers and a government official, so a good group of well educated people. I suggested reaching out to garner interest using WeChat social media and expressed a willingness to help if I can. I did stress that it would be important to have local people at the front of the effort. Hopefully something comes of it. I was glad to see people from the generation that are actually running things showing interest.

The professor, who studied overseas, has very good English and has just recently bought a camera and taken up birding as part of his retirement activities. He had been able to find out from locals that there have been a couple of Snowy Owls wintering near the mouth of the Shuangtaizi River for several years now. He knew where they had been last month but said that since the fires in the reeds no one had seen them.

Panjin, Dawa County, Liaoning, CN, Liaoning, CN
Dec 9, 2017 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 kilometer(s)
5 species

Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops) 6
Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) 1
Merlin (Falco columbarius) 1
Japanese Waxwing (Bombycilla japonica) 4
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) 5

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40983269
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Old Tuesday 12th December 2017, 23:42   #496
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Sounds like some great and encouraging connections Owen. Excellent news!

If those Snowies have moved further south after the fires and are now sitting right in my old patch I'm not going to be a happy camper!

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Old Saturday 23rd December 2017, 13:17   #497
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Nothing of particular importance to report, except for being awoken around 03:00 AM and surprised to hear our Little Owl calling persistently. Hadn't expected to hear from him until at least early Spring.
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