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|Saturday 21st April 2012, 09:42||#104|
groovin' on the 35th floor...
4 days in Yangkou
Monday 16th April
A lie-in until 0500 saw Zhang Lin and me leave the hotel at 0530 for a short drive down the road to an al fresco breakfast of omelette and dumplings with warm soya milk to wash it all down with. Seems I was unusual enough to be sitting there at that time of day to draw a few stares but all was good fun.
A leisurely affair as there was a distinct lack of light due to the considerable amount of fog hanging around...things didn't look great for long distance wader watching. We moved off and opted to try a new seawall site but it quickly became obvious we'd not be venturing on to the mud in the “pea-souper” that surrounded us and would've left us directionless had we tried. Still, compensation came in the form of several Eurasian Oystercatcher (soon to be split? Where Mr Klim when you need him?!) in pools on the landward side and a small flock of waders on the just-visible mud below us on the seaward (one assumed...) side...given we could see no more than 30 birds we did well to pick out 1 Leg-flagged Dunlin and (I think) 2 leg-flagged Bar-tailed Godwits (could've been just the one, I'm not sure). Two Far-eastern Curlew drifted in and out of the gloom as well...
Deciding that high tide would be pointless without better vision we headed off to the magic woods and walked them slowly. Tristram's Buntings; a ghostly Hoopoe, several Chinese Penduline Tits and a Spotted Redshank plus a few Black-winged Stilts were there to greet us...the redshank and stilts in a channel not in the trees although in the circumstances you could've forgiven them an error! Crossing the channel produced a small cotton field alive with Pallas's Buntings, Red-throated Pipits and a couple of smart Buff-bellied Pipits for good measure. A lone Bluethroat, some Plain Prinia, White Wagtails, Yellow-browed Warblers and Tree Sparrows were also in evidence.
Drama in the fishponds which we were now adjacent to as a rowing boat pulled in centre stage and let off a sulphurous chemical treatment into the water...
Our slow, careful walk managed to fill the morning and we decided to take a circuitous route back to lunch via some grassy fields a little further inland...prompted by the hope of Little Curlew (or is it Whimbrel) or Oriental Plover being waiting for us unable to travel on while the murk remained...no luck there but we did stumble over a battle royal in progress...sufficient to interest our driver...a roadside had what seemed to be a Great-spotted Woodpecker's nest hole half way up the main trunk and it was being thoroughly investigated by a pair of White-cheeked Starlings. The woodies didn't seem to like this and the male was staunchly defending the hole while his female made more occasional sorties into the fight...no sign or sound of nestlings so was it an attempted eviction prior to the woodies laying or were there eggs that represented a free meal at stake? Dunno but it was good fun watching the 4 protagonists go at each other! Exhausted by all the action we eventually left them to it and went for din-dins!
The weather remained dull and the fog wasn't going anywhere so our afternoon consisted of more of the same as we retraced our passerine perambulations of the morning. Black-faced Buntings, Manchurian Bush Warbler, and Oriental Turtle Dove astride the nest; Chinese Grosbeak, were all familiar friends by now but the day improved as we were joined by a lone Ashy Minivet, a Wryneck, Little Bunting, male Red-flanked Bluetail and, finally a Grey-headed Lapwing (again, this wader firmly on the ground not among the branches...in case you were worrying...
...and so the day came to a close...no spooners today, barely any waders but a slow morning picked up and there was enough new stuff about in the afternoon to bring hope of a grande finale tomorrow...
We ate in the hotel and were joined by Tong; his Singapore-based Danish photographer client and his wife and a photographer friend of Zhang Lin's from Shanghai who'd driven up that morning and would journey back next day...fitting in some photography between work commitments...
...and so to bed...alarm set for 0500 again...
|Saturday 21st April 2012, 11:55||#110|
groovin' on the 35th floor...
4 days in Yangkou
Tuesday 17th April
0500 and off we go again...shower, dress, stumble down corridor to lift, reception, check-out - smile at lady who has her bed behind the desk (!) and out into the bracing morning air for al fresco breakfast part the second...same menu as yesterday but with added deep fried bread stick / twirly thing...yum
Now what? With high tide set for c.1030 we went towards the woods again with a brief stop for stunning philippensis Blue Rock Thrush at the “water gate” or lock as us westerners know them. Some ladies engaged in some sort of religious blessing ceremony were flinging some powdery stuff about on the concrete walls...we left 'em to it!
We basically made the same circuit as in previous days and connected with a Wryneck; some locals en route to work; a lovely tranquil lane with only one rubbish bag to despoil it until a green truck belching evil black smog trundled by moving some old pumping engine between fish ponds.
The windmills that are an unavoidable sight and sound (how un-nerving is that whooshing noise overhead as you stand beneath them...?!) were in full production and the day was obviously a lot clearer for their having ample fuel supplies today
A Kingfisher on the nets; Spotted Redshank and Black-winged Stilts “as you were” in yesterday's locations; a Little Egret with pinkish lores and we moved into the fish ponds proper for a scan of the currently favoured pools...
...and so started the “morning of the big three”...
3 Caspian Terns, some Heuglin's Gulls dotted amongst the Black-headed Gulls, mostly in non-breeding, er, finery and some brick-red, long-legged waders...but wait! One has an all-black, straight bill with a funny bump at the end?
Oh yes! One had been reported on Saturday but we'd searched to no avail...now it or another was back and feeding serenely with a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits for direct comparison...how useful is that? Asian Dowitcher!! Get in!!!! A reasonable amount of time was spent edging as close as we could to get shots of the two species together...seems you can always have more, bigger, better equipment but you can see the necessary in those I got in some sort of focus at least!
Time was pressing and we jumped into the van and headed past the Temple along the seawall to the shellfish harvesters blockhouse and boat/tractor ramp. Visibility was positively sparkling and there were birds a-plenty...wellies on we descended the seawall to trek across the mud, edging towards the sun and tide to get the best light and to walk along with the flocks as they leap-frogged each other as the incoming waters forced them off their immediate positions.
Straight away we closed on a flock with an interesting pale wader roosting and giving as little away as possible but...interesting...patience paid off and it lifted it's bill to preen and changed position enough for Zhang Lin to confirm his first thoughts...Nordmann's Greenshank! Target wader number two for this trip held out as had the dowitcher until my final morning but finally gave itself up for grilling...not for too long as both the flock and ourselves found the incoming waters lapping over our feet...
Off we all moved...Nordmann's, Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers and shellfish pickers...the odd Great Knot interspersed too. Eurasian Oystercatcher in small numbers. Eurasian Curlew likewise. Then...my turn to shine...”what's that”? Sez I. Hmm...yes...a Spooner!! Number 1 target of the trip showed again...Zhang Lin quickly found another 4 birds to add to my one...1 Asian Dowitcher, 1 Nordmann's Greenshank and 5 Spoon-billed Sandpiper all in the space of a short morning's birding...if that doesn't put a silly grin on your mush then birding ain't for you!!
Before we could close and try for pictures a Peregrine came muscling through the skies and put the flocks to flight...clouds of waders whirling around in clean blue skies gradually settled and we moved along again to see what we could see...Great Knot...tens of birds that did give themselves up to close scrutiny and photo-ops...sweet!
While I'm absorbed blasting off pics of these beauties, Zhang Lin notes that we have both sandplovers with us today and furthermore that group there contain both with a couple of Kentish Plover and 2 Terek Sandpipers thrown in for fun!
Next we relocate our Nordmann's and start grilling the flock it's with...the game is spot the leg flags...and we do pretty well...4-5 yellow-flagged Barwits, and a Red-necked Stint also sporting tell-tale leg adornments! (ZL later emails me the details:
Dunlin upper left White Flag,lower left Blue/Green Flag
White Blue is from Taiwan.White Green is from south island,New Zealand.Since Dunlin doesn't go to NZ,it's probably from Taiwan.
Upper right Orange flag over White flag
it's from Korea(discontinued)
The others are from Australia,New Zealand and Chongming.
Eventually the receding waters begin to spread the flocks out at a greater distance than we feel the need to walk...mission is well and truly accomplished...Spoon-billed sandpiper seen well on 3 of 4 days; Asian Dowitcher and Nordmann's Greenshank teased us but eventually gave excellent views; the bonus of many other waders in best breeding attire and the sheer numbers of them and the final morning's excellent lighting conditions all combine to create a powerful memory...cheers ZL!
A last lunch and a quick swing around the area nets us (ho-ho..”nets us”...sorry) a few more additions to the list...an Eye-browed Thrush and photogenic Grey-headed Lapwing and a male Red-billed Starling atop the temple roof...
Slowly we began our trip south back to Shanghai...only for a phone call to advise us that an Oriental Plover has just dropped in by the Temple where we'd been not long before...we continued south sure in the knowledge that if we turned around the bird would disappear and if we kept going it wouldn't...sometimes you have to know when to let go and this was one such time...the focus now was on watching the rally that passes for driving in modern China...Yangkou is a centre for people to come and learn to drive...lord knows what they teach 'em...
All too soon and I'm being dropped outside my apartment and waving ZL and the driver off into the evening...ZL was heading back up next day and I've been texting with him today to tell him of the little haul of goodies Dev, Jocko and I had today (Saturday 21st...coming soon...)...the reply? “We have much more”...I had 6 lifers down here I Shanghai today so I can't begin to imagine what sort of stuff they've got up the coast!!
|Sunday 22nd April 2012, 02:12||#117|
groovin' on the 35th floor...
4 days in Yangkou
Species list for Yangkou 14-17 April 2012 with lifers marked in red.
Manchurian Bush Warbler may also qualify for that status but the notes I need to double check are in storage in Finland!
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Oriental Turtle Dove
Pacific Golden Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Lesser Sand Plover
Greater Sand Plover
Common Black-headed Gull
Black-crowned Night Heron
Blue Rock Thrush
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Chinese Penduline Tit
Manchurian Bush Warbler
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
Eastern Crowned Warbler
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Eastern Yellow Wagtail
Japanese Reed Bunting
|Sunday 22nd April 2012, 06:00||#118|
groovin' on the 35th floor...
Saturday 21st April 2012: Yangshan and Nanhui
0330 and the alarm woke me. 0330? Who's idea was that then? Shower, dress and out the door by 0355 (surprising our doorman having a crafty ciggy) and a short walk to Dapuqiao Metro station where I stand on the street waiting for Dev and our taxi driver to arrive. Which they duly do and hello's exchanged we head south of the river to rendezvous with Jocko for a few hours birding on the Yangshan island of Xiaoyangshan followed by a return visit to Nanhui reedbeds and Holiday Inn Express car park...
Xiaoyangshan Island is one of a group of islands reached by a 30km bridge but...Zhang Lin's website explains it all far better than me so head there for more details...http://www.shanghaibirdingtour.com/hotspot/Yangshan.htm
We arrive as dawn light arrives. There is a fog/mist/cloud cover above and we park on a gravel track to the east of the road with some seemingly abandoned building set in a small wooded valley...it looks promising and the promise is immediately revealed as the first bird Jocko calls is a male Blue and White Flycatcher...so begins the run of cracking lifers this day will bring! Lots of tsee-oo-weets from the many Yellow-browed Warblers punctuate the air. Slowly we explore and a Red-flanked Bluetail gives itself up briefly; a Kingfisher zooms in, perches above a small man-made pool and then off again in a flash of Azure...
Buntings tic constantly: Black-faced Bunting and Tristram's Bunting in the main but the morning will also add 1 Chestnut Bunting and 2 Yellow-browed Bunting to our score. A lone Great Tit brings a more familiar note to proceedings although this is the pale, washed-out Great Tit not that I'm used to back home in the west. A few Eastern-crowned Warblers and Pallas's Warblers present themselves for inspection and the second lifer of the morning pops up to give brief but stunning views by the very obviously still in use outdoor “facilities”...try not to think what the buckets looked like eh?! The second lifer? An Asian Stubtail...supercilium bigger than the bird itself, no doubt compensating for the lack of tail...As we move up the “valley” a larger shape flushes several times and we piece together a Brown Hawk Owl! A few Pale Thrushes are about too.
Feeling we are starting to see the same birds (hello Mr Blue and White Flycatcher) we head back towards the car so we can move to the western “hills” overlooking the massive port area. As we do Dev points out a flycatcher...I see a bright, clean, yellow rump; greenish overall hue and a “Nike symbol” shaped white wing patch. We fail to get reference pictures or much clearer views but it looks interesting. We scour the surrounding area but fail to relocate the bird. The green colouration and yellow rump suggest Elisae/Green-backed/Chinese Flycatcher (Ficedula elisae) but I don't like the white wing pattern. Ryukyu Flycatcher has a better shaped white wing area but would be a great prize here, The more common Yellow-rumped Flycatcher is surely most likely but the overall greenish hue doesn't sit well with Jocko or me. It goes onto the “wish we'd had more luck nailing that one” pile...
Across the road we scramble up the low rocky hill pushing Black-faced Buntings and a pair of Siberian Stonechat ahead of us. Once we've scaled the heights we have views of a modern container port to our right and a damp, scrubby valley overlooked by an old but lived in temple and a weather station to our left. We begin working the ground and quickly bump into 3 Chinese Pond Herons that quickly decide they don't like the look of us and flap off. Olive-backed Pipit and Red-throated Pipit are flitting about as we work our way to the head of the valley.
Another flash of orange and yellow grabs our attention and after several minutes of cat and mouse, Jocko locates a smart male Narcissus Flycatcher perched up across from us. Nice...another new bird, the second flycatcher of the day. A pale-legged warbler teases us but won't call or respond to either Pale-legged Leaf Warbler or Sakhalin Leaf Warbler played for it's benefit. Yellow-browed Warbler are also much in evidence over here and a Greenish Warbler is new for the morning. Eastern-crowned Warbler also show again.
Moving back to our initial site east of the road we retrace our steps up the valley there and it's apparent that new birds have arrived in the short time we have been away. Male Blue and White Flycatcher poses for us. The Chestnut Buntingand Yellow-browed Buntings are seen at this time. Asian Brown Flycatchers are new. Barn Swallows are much in evidence overhead. Chinese Bulbuls are, of course, present around the buildings as are the inhabitants, just waking up. Manchurian Bush Warbler calls loudly and clambers through the scrub. Higher up Jocko points out the call of Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler but this one fails to come down and present himself. A Grey Wagtail drops down, flits forward and then scoots off back into the skies.
Jocko and I are further up the path when a medium-sized black thrush whizzes down past us...hmm..it has a white belly...it perches up with it's back to us and that's enough to identify my lifer male Japanese Thrush (a bird Jocko had been watching the previous Saturday up in Yangkou whilst I was scoping spooners...) The bird dropped a bit further down the path for Dev to get views and allow him and I to rattle off a few shots before it disappeared.
Time to relocate ourselves too so we headed north back over the bridge to the waiting marshes of Nanhui. First stop was the sunken, sheltered car park adjacent to the bizarrely (to me anyway...although with me birder's hat on...perfectly..!) located Holiday Inn. As we swing in to the deserted lot the first 3 birds we see are thrushes...1 Eye-browed Thrushis good...2 Brown-headed Thrush is very good...lifer number 5 of the morning is watched and captured in pixels before we park and begin searching this small oasis of trees and bushes on an otherwise featureless seawall and sea of marshy reeds and grasses.
It becomes clear quite a bit of stuff is moving about and the next nice surprise is an Ashy Minivet that poses for us in the trees. While we enjoy that there are Yellow-browed Warblers zipping about and Asian Brown Flycatchers are sat low down in trees. Then a large shape flies in and it takes a few seconds for us to eliminate birds of prey in favour of Grey Nightjar. It settles briefly before flapping off on further circuits of the small car park. It's arrival has woken up an irate Long-tailed Shrike who doesn't fancy sharing the air space with the nightjar and scolds it. Another brief landing and then it's away over the hedge.
The thrushes re-appear on the scene and let me get better pictures than I was able to from the car earlier (wrong side see...) A small flock of birds overhead call giving themselves away as Japanese White-eyes...confirmed by Jocko who had much better views than I but I was feeling quite pleased with myself for doing them on call and moved to the car for celebratory choccy biscuits. Dev meantime called us over to an interesting warbler...interesting indeed...bright yellow underneath, greenish mantle, yellow face with neat black line through the eye and a stripy black and yellowish head...ooh...very interesting indeed...”Sulphur-breasted Leaf Warbler” exclaimed Jocko putting a name to this stunner moments before my brain connected the dots in the same conclusion...well, he does have a lot more China experience than me! Lifer number six and a cracker at that!
Time for another attempt at celebratory biscuits, uninterrupted this time and then the decision is to head north along the seawall to some isolated bushes and then to drive one of the “reedbed roads” to see what waders may be hanging out in one of the reserves more open areas. The trees added a few things such as Blue and White Flycatcher; female Daurian Redstart; Plain Prinia in the reeds at the base of the landward side of the wall; Eastern-crowned Warbler; many Barn Swallow and good numbers of Red-rumped Swallow overhead and, sadly, squashed on the road. Pale Thrush and male Grey-backed Thrush put in elusive appearances.
A quick scan over the seaward side of the wall at a small jetty found a small wader flock: 3 Terek Sandpipers, both sandplovers, Sanderling and one each of Grey Plover and Kentish Plover. Waders gave us the impetus to move back to the car and begin driving along one of several roads through the reedbeds. Within 100m a channel to our right, just past a block of accommodation – who or what they are and do remains a mystery to me, we find another male Blue and White Flycatcher exposed at the base of a small shrub on the bank and then several Black-winged Stilts interspersed with Marsh and Wood Sandpipers.
We move along slowly and a Kingfisher ignobly perched on the concrete road allows me a shot through the car windscreen to add to my growing collection of, frankly, crap pictures of the bird! Two Common Snipe pose on the other side of the car and we hear Reed Parrotbill calling along with one of the big acros – Oriental Reed Warbler is a good guess. Turning the car to retrace our route in preparation for our return to the city and more waders are stood at close quarters so we snap way at Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Red-necked and Long-toed Stint, and a lone Whimbrel. The day has two more nice surprises in store however as Jocko spots what looks like a Yellow Wagtail but as we get closer and he gets a proper look declares to be a Citrine Wagtail. More pictures ensue!
We stop once again by the huts and while Jocko works his navigator I look to my right and get lucky...right by the hut and above the noisy domesticated geese are a pair of Reed Parrotbills who pose for Dev and my cameras before melting away.
That seems a suitable point to depart back to “civilisation” so off we trundle. Eventually after a mysterious road hold-up (when we get to it the police are just reversing along the road ahead of us to an exit ramp where it becomes clear they will swing the car around and join us speeding north. Don't ask or question it just accept it!!)
Eventually Jocko drops Dev and me in quick succession – Dev close to his place and me a convenient Metro and the day is done. Cheers guys!!!
Photos to follow soon...
|Sunday 22nd April 2012, 06:20||#119|
groovin' on the 35th floor...
Saturday 21st April 2012: Yangshan and Nanhui
Photos of the locations first as I've realised I've been rubbish at including them so have begun carrying my little Canon Powershot to rectify that!
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