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Old Sunday 25th October 2009, 12:34   #1
Gretchen
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China observations

Hi,

Following up a particularly interesting discussion on the ID forum, Dong Bei and I thought it would be good to have a general thread - where anyone who had occasional (or more than occasional) China observations could add them. There is no limit on theme or geography, just birds in China.

If you don't have your own thread, we invite anyone who lives or travels in China to add their observations to this thread. Some of us don't have time to "work a patch" like we might like to, but if we contribute our occasional sightings and observations here, hopefully we can have some interesting dialogue and collect some interesting information.

We've already missed a good bit of migration, but it's not too late to tell what you've seen recently - please join in!
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Old Sunday 25th October 2009, 14:16   #2
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Too warm autumn!

Yesterday I had a nice chance to meet up with China Birds and Xiao Ming to look at birds in Beidaihe. Unfortunately the weather was poor - rather warm, and wind from the south, and I only had a few hours to be out.

However, the good part of being a beginner is that every bird is worth studying. There was a nice chance to see several Far Eastern Curlews, and I'm getting a little more confident about telling them from their cousins the Eurasian Curlews.

I guess it was an adequate day (in others' estimation?) for ducks - I think at least 8 kinds spotted, but for me still a lot to learn. Still, I'm getting more confident on grebes and mergansers (not ducks), am surer about spot-billed (yes, very basic), and could recognize the Northern Shoveler which Nick found; several others are becoming separable.

It was also very nice to see a Common Coot (my first) and a red-flanked bluetail (my first male) - a very handsome bird!

I guess you will be able to find more details about the whole day on ChinaBirds' year list.

Does fall seem to be long and warm where you are?

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Old Sunday 25th October 2009, 16:21   #3
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Its also been warm here in Sichuan - but now autumn has really started to kick in - we've now got a radiator turned on each night. It'll be interesting to see when winter properly hits us - by December it usually starts to get a quite cold in Chengdu - but never freezes.
Good Idea with the new thread

A question - you talk in the Sichuan thread about getting the Brazil E China book - did you send for it or can you buy it in China? We have that book - but there are other books we need - like the new guide to Chinese Mammals.
All the best
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Old Monday 26th October 2009, 00:10   #4
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Wow radiator already! Not like Sichuan used to be (we froze there in Jan - heat? what's heat?) Here we get supplied heat sometime in the next two weeks - this time could be cold inside if the weather outside were colder. Actually nice weather, but seems to be slowing down migration.

Actually I was asking someone if it has to do with the late Chinese calendar... I mean mid-autumn was so late, spring festival is late, so are all the traditional "most cold" etc. days. Is there something to that, that fall weather seems a bit late too?

I got the Brazil book from the States - thankfully I knew someone traveling and they carried it so I didn't have to pay the shipping. Oddly enough some pages were out of order - haven't contacted Amazon, but I've never seen that in a book before!
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Old Monday 26th October 2009, 05:01   #5
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Yes,warmer autumn than usual.I was a little surprised to see Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann's Greenshank were still in Rudong on 19 Oct.Then I saw 100+ Bluetail and 100+ Grey-backed Thrush in the woods beside the beach.
The next morning I saw flock and flock of passerines coming from the north and they dashed into the woods and reeds.
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Old Tuesday 27th October 2009, 01:04   #6
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Yes,warmer autumn than usual.I was a little surprised to see Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann's Greenshank were still in Rudong on 19 Oct.Then I saw 100+ Bluetail and 100+ Grey-backed Thrush in the woods beside the beach.
The next morning I saw flock and flock of passerines coming from the north and they dashed into the woods and reeds.
Hmm, warmer autumn for you too, and birds staying a bit later...

Seeing a flocks of bluetails and thrushes like that is great. I wonder if the lonely bluetail I saw the other day may have been a late departure.

Thanks for sharing mcaribou
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Old Tuesday 27th October 2009, 15:24   #7
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Interesting to hear of so many bluetails and Grey-backed Thrushes in Shanghai, while neither has appeared yet in HK - however Chinese Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush (which may just be local birds dropping down) and White's Thrush have been in for a few days.

Gretchen, there were pages missing from my copy of Brazil, but the publisher replaced it at no charge. I put a comment on the books thread and he got in touch with me.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Wednesday 28th October 2009, 03:23   #8
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usually there's a two-week gap between Beidaihe and Shanghai,and a two-week gap between Shanghai and HongKong(personal observation).
So I guess Mike could expect yr Bluetail and GBThrush near the end of Oct.
A cold front is coming.I'll visit Rudong on 31 Oct to see what are pushed down by the cold front.
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Old Saturday 31st October 2009, 14:34   #9
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Unsuccessful guess at weather and birds

I've been watching weather (esp. wind) more carefully recently trying to estimate the more likely times to see birds.

Well, last night was rainy and a new front (from the north) has been coming in for a day and a half, so I thought I should go out this morning and see if anything had been blown down and was looking for breakfast. It was cold (gone down probably 15 or more degrees Celsius in 36 hours) and no sign of the sun, and no sign of birds almost.

I waited until 7:30 a.m. thinking it would be too cold/dreary for them earlier, but I guess I should have gone earlier or later. Even the bulbul flock required hunting down - they were just starting to get active after 8:00 it seemed. The sparrows were hardly in evidence and the magpies subdued as well. Well, I can't blame them - very unpleasant to so suddenly have such cold weather.

Perhaps its getting late for the small migrants I might see in the trees and there are mostly just cranes to wait for - as the guys down the road in Beidaihe are doing?
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Old Sunday 1st November 2009, 13:27   #10
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Hi Gretchen

Keep at it! there are still plenty of birds coming through in November - I just looked back at my notebook from 1990 - I spent Nov 3-5 thre and had some of the most wonderful birding I've ever experienced - cranes, storks, Great Bustard, raptors, geese, Black Vulture, were the big visible migrants, but there were also plnty of geat passerines:
These included Siberian Accentor, Japanese and Bohemian Waxwings, Naumann's Thrush, lots of finches (including Hawfinch, Bullfinch, Siskin, rambling, Long-tailed Rosefinch, and Pallas' Rosefinch also goes through late) and buntings - Lapland, Pallas' Reed, Common Reed, Japanese Reed, Yellow-throated, Rustic, Little.

I've had plenty of days I expected to be great and were awful, especially with cold fronts. But you will be rewarded sooner rather than later!

Cheers
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Old Monday 2nd November 2009, 00:31   #11
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Thanks Mike, I know persistence is important. I'm just trying to get a better handle on the variables - with limited time, I'm trying to maximize my chances - though of course "chance" is still a big part I'm sure.

Thanks for your note on what you saw. I'm also using Rockfowl's thread from last year to get some ideas of what could still be around. The guys in Beidaihe also give some ideas (and I see they got pretty little on Sat. a.m. too - so at least it wasn't just me or my location). Anyway, you've mentioned lots of new birds it would be nice to see - not seen an accentor yet, nor rosefinch, nor a waxwing (in Asia).

I forgot to mention I did hear a bird on Sat. when I was in a mixed tree/grass kind of area. It had a very high, short, thin call (and irregular). I looked everywhere but didn't see any sign of the bird. (Yeah, mentioning waxwing made me remember this, but it wasn't quite like that.) I believe it wasn't bike brakes, but reminded me of that. Don't know if that brings to mind any possible candidates....

Tom, if you're around - what's weather and migration been like there?
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Old Wednesday 4th November 2009, 06:01   #12
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Hi Mike
Have u seen yr Bluetail and GBThrush recently?
On 31 Oct around Shanghai there were still many Bluetail but just a few GBT.We met Japanese Thrush in several places.
Much more Eurasian Skylark,and 5 or more Black-faced Spoonbill,Great Bittern etc.
I also saw my first White Wagtail lugens this autumn on 1 Nov,chased by a landlord leucopsis.

Meanwhile,in this warmer autumn,there were still some flycatchers.
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Old Wednesday 4th November 2009, 10:02   #13
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Hey guys - sorry to butt in but here's a good news story and a bit of inspiration for any China birder who confronts bird catchers and their nets.
I found some huge nets - last Friday - they were set up on a river bank for catching migratory Buzzards. They were over the other side of the river - I couldn't get to them - and since its usually so hard to get the authorities to do something - I felt very down knowing that this stuff was going on so close to where we live.
But after a chat with a local policeman - and the suggestion we travel to the forest dept - which has a wildlife protection team - in our neighbor town of Pixian - today we can report there are officials who care and act on this stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Within 15 minutes of getting to their office they had a car ready with a 3 person team to drive the 10km and then walk a couple of K's to the site of the nets. We got 3 huge nets - found the owners - luckily there were no birds caught - they gave warnings over prosecution if the net reappeared (I'm glad this was the way they handled this part- the people who put these nets up are quite poor) - and then burnt them on the spot!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm still dizzy - this is the country where you sometimes expect wait after wait after wait just to get the most simple legal matter solved - Pixian Wildlife Protection team - you guys are brilliant!!!!!
They talked of doing sweeps along other bigger rivers - and told us to get in contact if we found anything else.

If anybody here finds similar stuff in their neck of the woods - then its to get in touch with the forest department, and try and find their wildlife protection workers - and hope they're as active and enthusiastic as our local branch.
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Old Wednesday 4th November 2009, 23:37   #14
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Still no GBT or Bluetail in HK . . . even afterour first cold front of the year came through on Monday night, but HK did have 5 Yellow-browed Buntings together on Tuesday - never appeared in anything except singles before.

However this is our "rare goose week" - lesser White-front, Bean and White-front have all turned up in the last five years as a first on this date, so . . . hoping for a biggie.

Cheers
Mike

PS well done to the Pixian wildlife protection officers. In my old job in HK we would write letters of appreciation for wildlife protection staff doing a good job - and because no-one ever encourages government officials it was greatly appreciated and helped to build good relations between HKBWS and govt officials.
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Old Wednesday 4th November 2009, 23:58   #15
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If anybody here finds similar stuff in their neck of the woods - then its to get in touch with the forest department, and try and find their wildlife protection workers - and hope they're as active and enthusiastic as our local branch.
This is good news and a good reminder that I should find out who around here might be good to notify. I saw mist nets (and the guys) up in a less traveled part of lotus hills park (lianfeng shan) last spring and wasn't very sure if anything could be done about it. I know there is a forestry office (?) between here and Beidaihe - I don't know if they would be the most interested party or someone else...
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Old Thursday 5th November 2009, 02:04   #16
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Forestry Office is the place - if you go to environmental protection, which seems the logical choice for us, they just deal with stuff like road sweeping!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Take bird books with you - so you look like your some kind of expert - and be super polite (Meggie is brilliant on getting on their good-side).

Those nets can spoil a whole day - and make you think twice about wanting to go back!!!!!!

The other choice is hang a notice on the nets - warning that they've been discovered and prosecution will take place if not removed.

Of course there are more radical solutions!!!!!!
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Old Wednesday 11th November 2009, 12:06   #17
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Well, got out this past weekend, though quite briefly as it ended up. I started out on the sandflats in Beidaihe, but really thought I would blow away (well, actually my eyes were tearing so much I could barely see)- so went to the reservoir.

Little egrets still around in decent numbers. As a matter of fact at dusk they were sort of gathered together in the water, about 30 or so - not in a tight group, but all together. I was surprised that they stayed in the water (when I guess they weren't foraging), had thought they would roost in trees at night... Or was it still too early to go to the trees?

I'm getting better at identifying common goldeneye - good idea since they're common here

Saw a few green sands about - not sure how late they'll be staying. I'm beginning to recognize where they like to hang out too.

My two best birds were Winter Wren (my first wren in China!) and Elegant Buntings. I'm quite fond of wrens, though this one was giving me a good scolding I think. His "knee' dips with each call and his bouncing around a bit to call in different directions showed lots of animation - such small birds with such big characters!

The elegant buntings were definitely elegant (all males that I noted) - very handsome! I'm still very beginner at buntings, but that is an easy one Did expect to see more buntings that afternoon, but I got a late start and it got dark earlier than I expected. Anyway, nice to see what I did.
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Old Wednesday 11th November 2009, 13:41   #18
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They're terrific birds - and Wren's are great too - we don't get them in HK so I appreciate them now far more than when I lived in the UK.

By coincidence I added elegant Bunting to my HK list on Sunday too - ony fly-by, but a great one to add to the 3 Yellow-browed Buntings also on Po Toi, plus the two of the day before at Kam Tin. Either of these would look VERY good on my patch list . . .

This is an amazing year for buntings - records numbers of Black-headed and Yellow-browed (about 10 of each - in normal years both are just about annual), plus decent numbers of Yellow-breasted, Chestnut-eared and Chestnut. Long may it continue.

Cheers
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Old Wednesday 11th November 2009, 14:14   #19
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This is an amazing year for buntings ...
I don't know if it qualifies as "record", but I've been impressed with FXM's sightings of buntings in this area as seen here. (Sorry not sure how to show a single post!)

Mike, hope more of the bunting family make it to your patch! (Wonder, why they are getting more numerous there...)

Cheers!
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Old Wednesday 11th November 2009, 23:08   #20
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Hey guys, sorry to have stayed out of this for so long,

I have been incredibly busy lately and have only been out serious birding a few times in the last 3 weeks. I did get Greater Scaup the other day as a China life bird. Apparently its not too common around here either. The weather right now feels like January with wind chills near -10. All the Buntings are here. Bluetails passed through here about 2 weeks ago.

Part of my business has been the final process of getting a field guide for the area together. It's a picture guide to the common birds of Dalian and includes 185 species. Each species has 3 photos and a small written section describing identification, status in Dalian, and size. It's being done by Green Grants and NGO organization all over China. Translation is finished and now we are working on layout, printers, etc...

Have to run to work but will be back.

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Old Wednesday 11th November 2009, 23:30   #21
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Hi Gretchen

I wonder too - maybe the early cold spell pushed them through.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Thursday 12th November 2009, 00:39   #22
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Part of my business has been the final process of getting a field guide for the area together. It's a picture guide to the common birds of Dalian and includes 185 species. Each species has 3 photos and a small written section describing identification, status in Dalian, and size. It's being done by Green Grants and NGO organization all over China. Translation is finished and now we are working on layout, printers, etc...
Sounds like a significant project! You're saying it'll be bilingual? Who's publishing/printing? Would love to hear more about what kinds of cooperation there's been by local birders and organizations some time (when you have time). Great work!

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Old Thursday 12th November 2009, 02:16   #23
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Mike, have you had any Chinese(Swinhoe's) Egrets in Hong Kong yet? I know you posted earlier on another thread about them wintering by you? passing through? I have taken interest in them b/c they are one of the few birds in my area that are not seen in many other places regularly and b/c they are endangered. Where do they winter?

What about Black-faced Spoonbills? I saw on "Wild China" by BBC that they winter around Hong Kong. Have you seen any yet? They nest about an hour from my house but right now I think they would be frozen to death. The rest nest on islands between here and Korea.

Funny that earlier people were talking about how unusually warm of a fall was being experienced. The weather now is the coldest its ever been in November in the six years I've lived here. Wierd.

I'm going to Jilin on a hockey trip next weekend. Jilin is a city and a province in the north and should produce some good birding.(If i have time)

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Old Friday 13th November 2009, 00:53   #24
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We're also experiencing cold - but in a province you normally expect heat - Yunnan. Mind you that was at 3000m on a grassland, in the north, watching the Black-necked Cranes arrive at their wintering grounds - but at times it was a chilly experience.
We'll get home, to the Chengdu area, late tonight - but unlike our brethren in the north - no central heating in Sichuan - the great helmsman thought it unnecessary for the heating of homes south of the Yangtze. But we've kitted our apartment with a little extra insulation and oil filled electric radiators - rather than take on the local tradition of wearing 10 layers of clothing, hat and gloves, while watching TV in a cold winter's living room.
With the general lack of heating - living in winter Chengdu - where there are never minus temps - can sometimes feel colder than living up in the icy north!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old Friday 13th November 2009, 07:35   #25
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Hi Tom

BF Spoonbills are in - I saw over 100 on Sunday and we've have around 300-400 wintering in recent years.

Swinhoe's Egret winter around the S China Sea and south but do not go through HK in autumn.

Jilin in winter sounds VERY cold. I guess you may have an outside chance of Snowy Owl or Blakiston's fish which has been recorded, but I'm not sure where.

I'd also be really interested to hear if there are any auks on the sea around the Liaoning Peninsula in winter.

Cheers
Mike
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