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Old Sunday 29th March 2015, 11:23   #1
Owen Krout
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Panjin Birding by the Old Fat Man

Just to make it clear, I am not an expert birder, just a newly retired engineer who needed something to keep the brain cells active and to motivate me to get out and get physical exercise within the limits of my arthritis.

Through circumstance and complication, we have established ourselves in Panjin where most of my wife’s family is now located. At first, being retired and lacking the kind of activities that would be readily available in America to occupy me, it was proving difficult. Then one day around this Chinese New Year, while playing with an old DSLR, I saw my first Hoopoe and without thinking swung the camera up and snapped a picture. Then I discovered that I liked the challenge of finding different birds and managing to get a good enough picture to aid in verifying identification.

My personality and training is such that I can’t be happy with just snapping pictures though, I had to plow into the challenge of learning what I can about birds, wildlife in general and the environment in at least my part of China. As it turns out, Panjin should be a location for a good diversity, but is not well reported on, which just makes me more enthusiastic about being able to do something that could actually be useful. At first I was not very successful, but as I learn more about the area and as the weather improves, things are steadily improving.

I have just today enrolled in Cornell’s on-line course in identifying water birds since although somewhat familiar with the Passerines in America at least, I know almost nothing about the non-Passerines. Also, I have Brazil’s “Birds of East Asia” already ordered and on the way. I have also inquired about Cornell’s 2016 workshop in making and organizing video records or birds. In the meantime, I welcome an help or corrections from other members.
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Old Sunday 29th March 2015, 12:08   #2
Owen Krout
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Gedalou Reservoir Panjin, Dawa, Liaoning 2015-MAR-27

I finally found a really good site for birding in my area. Our son-in-law called on Friday to tell us he was going to pick us up to take me the lake east of Panjin, Dawa, Liaoning (Gedalou Reservoir) because someone had told him that was where to go to see birds.

Turned out really well as it was indeed a good location. It is indeed a large lake, approximately 3 km x 5 km and the Dawa government has just this year started several large parks themed around "Beautiful Dawa". There is a large brand new park area at the entrance to the lake access with a large raised wooden viewing platform, I assume for cranes in season. The lake itself is rather mercifully undeveloped so far with just a lane and a half wide dirt track around the rim bounded with a nicely done 1 -1.5 meter high old stone wall between the lake and the track. The village clustered at the edge of the lake has a half dozen or so little eating establishments on the edge of the lake and there are a small number of families with small ponds raising crabs and fish. Overall good right now due to not being crowded and being relatively undeveloped.

We fought the gale force winds and smoke from burning off agricultural fields so bad you couldn't see the other side of the lake and walked about 750 meters or so down one side before we started losing the light and the son had to leave to pick up out daughter. The gulls were mostly around the eating joints at the entrance and the ducks Scoters and Pochards went out of sight on the lake. I only counted what we actually saw but I am sure there were many times that many on the lake. Most were just resting with many asleep unbothered by the whitecaps on the lake.

Even the wife got excited enough to immediately announce we were coming back soon and this time she was bringing the binoculars that she had refused to carry and left behind.

(200) Paser montanus - Eurasian Tree Sparrow

(3) Pica pica - Common Magpie

(30) Larus argentaus - Herring Gull

(12) Chroicoephalus ridibundus - Black-headed Gull

(100) Aythya ferina - Common Pochard

(300) Melanitta americania - Black Scoter
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Old Sunday 29th March 2015, 12:22   #3
Terry Townshend
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Hi Owen,
Well done on setting up a new thread - Panjin is poorly reported on, so it will be very interesting to hear about what you see! The lake you visited sounds like an excellent patch.
Black Scoters are very rare in China, so I suspect what you saw (in your first and second photos) is the Common Coot. They are like black ducks with a white bill and frontal shield. I imagine that many will be passing through right now and some will stay to breed.
Good luck!
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Old Sunday 29th March 2015, 13:59   #4
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Looks like this'll be another thread I silently follow :) although I don't comment, I'll be checking regularly for updates. Looking forward to reading about your findings in Panjin.
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Old Monday 30th March 2015, 00:17   #5
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Owen. Congrats on the new thread. I'll also be checking every update and looking forward to your reports!
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Old Monday 30th March 2015, 01:49   #6
Owen Krout
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Originally Posted by Terry Townshend View Post
Hi Owen,
Well done on setting up a new thread - Panjin is poorly reported on, so it will be very interesting to hear about what you see! The lake you visited sounds like an excellent patch.
Black Scoters are very rare in China, so I suspect what you saw (in your first and second photos) is the Common Coot. They are like black ducks with a white bill and frontal shield. I imagine that many will be passing through right now and some will stay to breed.
Good luck!
Terry
I just found the Oriental Bird Club's image's site this morning and it will be a big help! http://orientalbirdimages.org/ Looking there, I think you are correct, Terry. If I had seen one out of the water and especially if I had been able to make out the feet I would have figured it out. More of a chicken like body ;-)

One thing I need is a good checklist for NE China so I can narrow my choices better. The list I looked at had the Black Scoter listed but not the Common Coot. Does anybody have a source for a good list?

When I first looked out over the lake, being from America and not being really familiar with water birds, I immediately identified the Pochards as being Canvasbacks. At least I figured that one out.

Everyone keep letting me know if you have a different opinion. Our own version of peer review. I chose the BirdForum largely because conversations are kept on a friendly and supportive level.

Welcome to the group Gushawk. Feel free to speak up here.
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Old Monday 30th March 2015, 15:56   #7
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Great to see this thread up and running Owen.

Cheers
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Old Thursday 2nd April 2015, 07:06   #8
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April 1 2015

Hasn't been a great week for birding here. I had an ankle flare up on Saturday and keep me from venturing very far for a few days and then rain Tuesday and rain and snow today.

I did make it out for most of the afternoon yesterday, ending up sitting in a gazebo at a park and letting the birds come to me until the light got too poor. Not a lot to report though.

I started out by checking out a lakeside area that is still overgrown with reeds and tall marsh grass with only a narrow footpath for access. In the US it would have been loaded with birds, particularly Red-wing Blackbirds. At the point where the trail entered there was an official of some sort in uniform and with the red and blue lights flashing on his vehicle, but since he was sound asleep in the front seat, I figured he was just hiding out in a good place to sneak a nap on the clock, so I just ignored him and proceeded in. Sadly, it was strikingly quiet. There were not only no birds, but no sign of any wildlife at all on my side of the lake. I had noted another vehicle matching the one I passed on the opposite side of the lake and when they noticed me, they used the loudspeakers to order me away, "Ni shi zoula!" was clear enough even to my broken Chinese. I pretended not to hear for a little while (He's on the other side of the lake - what's he going to do?", then decided it was a waste anyway and walked back out. The fellow on my side was snoring by this point so I just went quietly by and let him sleep.

Count for the first hour - zero. Not even a sparrow.

I then moved across the street to a park right behind the police station and finding it very quiet and my knees complaining, I decided that often the best thing to do is nothing and sat down in a gazebo and waited to see what turned up. Patience paid off and about eight Tarsiger cyanurus - Orange-flanked Bluetail came out of hiding. The amount of variation just in that species is surprising. The males were keeping to the north side of the sidewalk and the females to the south. The males are just starting to get their more colorful plumage but apparently not good enough yet to impress the ladies. A flock of 32 Rock Pigeon - Columba livia circled without stop over the village to the north of the park for about two hours and were still circling at almost dark when I left. Just as I got ready to leave a single Grey Heron flapped up from the south, well above the highrises and made three turns over the water, then decided better of it and went back south.

April, 01, 2015

(1) Falco tinnunculus - Common Kestrel

(10) Passer montanus - Eurasian Tree Sparrow

(8) Tarsiger cyanurus - Orange-flanked Bluetail

(6) Pycnonotus sinensis - Chinese Bulbul

(1) Parus minor - Japanese Tit

(32) Columba livia - Rock Dove (Common domestic pigeon) [Better air traffic control needed!]

(2) Emberiza pusilla - Little Bunting

(1) Ardea cinera - Grey Heron
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Old Thursday 2nd April 2015, 15:24   #9
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8 Bluetails sounds like a minor fall - never seen that many together.

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Old Thursday 2nd April 2015, 15:31   #10
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Nice! I saw my first orange-flanked bluetails yesterday too. Nice to see your pics of them. And snow today as well... ah well.

PS. I only got good looks at 2 (1 m, 1 f), but there were several others of the same general type which I didn't manage to resolve in my rather brief opportunity.

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Old Friday 3rd April 2015, 03:39   #11
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8 Bluetails sounds like a minor fall - never seen that many together.

Cheers
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Not a fail. They were Bluetails. Understand, they were not bunched up together like Tits, they were spread out over maybe 50 meters but all up on the sidewalk. Probably just arrived and staking out their territory. For Bluetails, that is a flock. Boys on the right, girls on the left. I managed useable images of five different individuals. There were more females but they were more shy and were staying buried in the brush where I could make them out but couldn't get a decent picture.

The one in flight is not great, but clearly shows the blue tail and blue shoulders.
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Old Friday 3rd April 2015, 05:21   #12
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Hi Owen,

In case you haven't heard, the term "fall" in birding refers to when a group of migrating birds all suddenly land in one area (because of weather usually) and are easy to see. Great to see!
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Old Friday 3rd April 2015, 10:27   #13
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Well, that makes a "fail" then! I misread it anyway, but even if I hadn't, I wouldn't have understood. I'm entirely new to the birding community and ignorant of the lingo. Up until now it has been nothing more than me with a bird guide book and my own curiosity. Oh well, we live and we learn.
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Old Friday 3rd April 2015, 12:27   #14
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No worries Owen - we're all on here to share and learn, and the
bottom line is that a group of 8 Bluetails is a pretty special sighting.
They certainly beat the solitary Little Bunting that was my return for five hours' birding this morning!

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Old Friday 3rd April 2015, 12:41   #15
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You'll learn all the terms soon enough :) I only started properly birding about a year ago and a new phrase appears every now and then but I'd say I know most of them. That's the fun of birding, learning new things! Nice to see the Orange-flanked Bluetail. We don't get them here, occasionally a Red-flanked Bluetail might appear on our shores and cause a stir.
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Old Friday 3rd April 2015, 16:57   #16
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I think I tripped up on the common names, melding them together. Different sources have it as Red-flanked Bluetail; Orange-flanked Bush Robin; Northern Red-flanked Bush Robin. I was sure I had found it somewhere under the name I used, but now can't find it, so probably just mixed them up. At least here they are orange not red. I got the scientific name correct though! Tarsiger cyanurus.

Still toughing out the wait for my Birds of East Asia. Had another new one to me today that I was sure would be easy to figure out but for the life of me I am not finding. I am sure is perfectly obvious to those of you familiar with birds of NE China.

Also had two showing bright blue and white but which were moving very fast and tangled up together in close combat. Only a quick glimpse as they zoomed out of the village, overhead and across the pond into trees. Hopefully a better look next time. Fast enough and the right size and general shape that they may have been swallows, maybe Barn Swallows?
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Old Friday 3rd April 2015, 19:04   #17
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Smile

Well done Owen with your 'first' report. It is well written and interesting to read.

Your photos are fabulous, and the thing is you will never get the same birds on the same day no matter where you go. You will learn the species with lots of practice, and outings to areas that specfic birds are.

Like you, I have worked all of my life in an engineering job, and like you enjoy birding as a hobby in my spare time. There is no comparison at all. Working hard means to me you play hard too!

I have to say that birding is a type of hobby anyone of any age can enjoy. Love to see a Bluetail and a Cardinal from your neck of the woods anytime.
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Old Friday 3rd April 2015, 22:22   #18
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Owen,

White Wagtail (sub-species leucopsis). Always one of the first migrants and a sure sign that Spring is eventually coming one day.....

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Old Saturday 4th April 2015, 00:59   #19
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Ah, thanks Tom. Then you understand, something about being an American, the engineering training and mind-set and the German ancestry that once I decide to do something I have to do it "right". I know I was considered a constant pest at the aerospace university as I was constantly proposing ways to do things better and the Chinese way is to not make any "disruptive" changes.

As for signs of Spring finally making itself known, yesterday was a good day for that. I encountered a nice big black beetle also, but the auto-focus chose the curb not the beetle.
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Old Monday 6th April 2015, 02:21   #20
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Amen to all things said about the Bluetail. The no.of males is simply awesome. In Shanghai, the females are the majority. So, i will be high even if i see a single male :-)
Good luck Owen. The spring is just getting started.
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Old Monday 6th April 2015, 06:13   #21
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The smoke from all the agricultural burning has kept me close to home the last few days. About 200 meters visibility much of the time, with even much less for clear enough to make an ID or photo. Everything just looks grey. Even at less than 50 meters you had difficulty making out the Azure-winged Magpie's blue. We had planned to make a trip back to Gedalou Reservoir at Dawa to look for water birds but conditions caused cancellation. Cold and windy today. Hopeful for tomorrow though. The ice is finally gone on the ponds and lakes so may go back to have another try at one of the river estuaries.

I did make two short trips to the nearby city parks.

2015-APR-04

(6) Tarsiger cyanurus - Orange-flanked Bush Robin (Red-flanked Bluetail) All males apparently trying to stake out territory but still grouped up close together. I believe the females were hiding out in the nearby brush.

(4) Periparus venustulus - Yellow-bellied Tit Hadn't seen them for awhile.

(8) Emberiza chrysophrys - Yellow-browed Bunting Another one that had stayed out of sight lately.

(15) Passer montanus - Eurasian Tree Sparrow Doing their usual squabbling talking.


APR-05 Same location

(9) Cyanopica cyana - Azure-winged Magpie

(1) Upupa epops - Hoopoe

(8) Tarsiger cyanurus - Red-flanked Bluetail (Orange-flanked Bush Robin) Two were females this time. They have started to spread out as they settle who's territory is what.

(2) Emberiza rustica - Rustic Bunting These little fellows only show up rarely and never seems to be at the same place twice.

(20) Passer montanus - Eurasian Tree Sparrow I had two males in their typical mid-air fight so focused on each other that they almost ran right into me at high speed!


At least I did get some good pictures showing more promise of spring arriving here.
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Old Wednesday 8th April 2015, 13:32   #22
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Your name for the Blue-tail is probably more accurate, apparently a lot of animals were named before the "invention" of the colour orange, hence why we over here have Red Squirrel, Red Fox, Red Kite, and the sort of colloquial name Robin red-breast. So it probably should be Orange-flanked Bluetail :)
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Old Wednesday 8th April 2015, 15:19   #23
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2015-APR-07
We scrubbed the trip to try for waterfowl again due to it being cold and windy again so I decided to try the wooded areas along the irrigation ditch with the hope that the trees would shield the wind. They did and it turned into one of the better days, although it did not start that way.

Hoping to spot the Grosbeak again, I chose to walk north along the irrigation ditch bank. Within the last couple of days the previously dry ditch had been flooded, which seemed promising. However, at first it seemed like a washout as up to about 4km into the walk and considering just giving it up I had only logged a few Tree Sparrows and Azure-winged Magpie.

Score at this point, 4km and 2 hours into the search:
(30) Passer monotonous - Eurasian Tree Sparrow
(10) Azure-winged Magpie

Even the Japanese Tits that usually were there to scold me were a no show. Just as I was ready to give up, I spotted a Tree Creeper and while trying to photo it, a little still unidentified who proceeded to do its hummingbird imitation as it hovered and worked its way around some tree limbs while reaching out to peck at the bark. Grabbing little insects I could not see, I am sure. I got one photo of it setting in the crotch of a branch, showing the face and figured the prominent white eye ring would make it easy, but I am still not finding it. Several photos of it hovering around a branch. Another photo perched where the eye is covered by a branch.

Thats better, add two more:
(1) Certhia familiarus - Eurasian Treecreeper
(1) Unidentified hummingbird imitator (See pictures of my unidentified finds at: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A85oqs3q4o4eF

Those boosted my enthusiasm so I decided to push on further than I had in the past. Good decision as just about 100 meters further on I had what to me was the find of the day. A flash of bright yellow caught my attention as a Grey Wagtail landed on the other bank of the ditch. He took a drink and as I started snapping away (picture attached) I was puzzled by what he was doing. He was bobbing and strutting in what looked to be an obvious display, but who was he displaying too? There were not any others around. Only when I got home and viewed the photos on cropped and on my desktop display did I realize what was up. He was seeing his own reflection in the water! A pretty boy, but apparently not the sharpest tool in the shed. Add one more:
(1) Motacilla cineria - Grey Wagtail

I decided to keep going and about a km further, I hit a patch of park with a good mix of open woods, dense brush and open grass right next to the irrigation ditch for water. Within about a 50 meter wide circle I made all the rest of my observations. The problem suddenly changed from searching to find any birds at all to literally standing in one place and rapidly snapping photos in all directions! Apparently somebody had called a meeting and I had missed the memo!

(6) Motacilla alba - White Wagtail
(6) Eophona migratory - Yellow-billed Grosbeak
(1) Emberiza elegant - Elegant Bunting
(2) Pycnonotus sinuses - Light-vented Bulbul
(1) Bombycilla japonica - Japanese Waxwing (Maybe the same single stray I had seen elsewhere, now hanging out with the Grosbeak, his Bohemian friends no where in sight.
(2) Turdus eunomus - Dusky thrush (Hiding deep in pines)
(1) Unidentified - The big black bib looks like the White Wagtail, but a lot less black showing. Maybe a younger bird? An alba of the alba? See full size at: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A85oqs3q4o4eF

At his point, 6km and 3 hours in I gave up and took a taxi home. All in all a good outing. Actually, I think that I enjoy the challenge of ferreting out all these land bound birds hiding in the brush one at a time over trying to identify and count large quantities of water birds out in the open. Turns out there is some use for the hunting skills I learned 50+ years ago!

Any help with ID always appreciated https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A85oqs3q4o4eF
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Old Wednesday 8th April 2015, 23:46   #24
Dong Bei
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Location: Dalian, China
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Owen, your hummingbird imitator is a Pallas's Leaf Warbler, often the first leaf warbler of Spring. They often hover as you described. You also have a picture of a Goldcrest in your icloud photo stream! It's the most right hand photo half way down beside the two White Wagtail pictures. The Wagtail looks leucopsis to me. Good stuff!
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Old Thursday 9th April 2015, 05:18   #25
Owen Krout
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Thanks Tom. I was correct in identifying it as a White Wagtail then. Now that I know what to search for I can find at least one picture on Flicker that is almost a perfect match and with a lot of discussion in a group where they settle on Motacilla alba leucopsis. Avibase sites Clements 2012 and lists it as a separate species of Motacilla leucopsis - Amur Wagtail. As you can see here: http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/species.j...5998C2AD9E0DB6 it is a debated topic with quite a number of alternative arraignments suggested. Interestingly enough, the printed checklist that I keep is from Avibase-Bird Checklists of the World customized for Liaoning, but it doesn't include their own Amur Wagtail. In short, I am not the only person not sure where to put this. Executive decision: Amur Wagtail it is.

The Goldcrest was an accidental find as I was trying (unsuccessfully) to catch the Treecreeper. I have found buntings that I did not notice visually sometimes as I will often snap a photo of a flock of sparrows and review it later to see if anybody else was tagging along unnoticed.

I would not have gotten the Pallas's Leaf Warbler as it never sat still long enough to get a good look. Now that I look it up, a definite match.

We are off to look for water birds in a few moments - wish me luck!
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