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Old Thursday 9th April 2015, 11:46   #26
MKinHK
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Great possibilities for waterbirds in your part of the world, Owen. I look forward to hearing what you pick up.

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Old Thursday 9th April 2015, 16:31   #27
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2015-APR-09

Since we will have not electricity or water tomorrow, I am going to get a posting out on today's viewing of water birds. It got cut short, but it was still a great outing!

We delayed until afternoon hoping it would warm up a little and it did make it to about 10 C by that time. Pretty stiff wind though and dark grey skies. We went back to Gedalou Reservoir in Panjin, Dawa, Liaoning. A little background I learned today, according to the local who drove us out there from Dawa city. The lake was a project of the Japanese during their occupation of Manchuria in the 1930’s and ’40’s. He said his grandfather had been slave labor on the project and had died working there. It must be spring fed as despite the very dry winter we just had the water level stays at normal basin level. There are a number of hot springs in the area. At about 13:30 we got started and decided on walking north this time. At first we thought we had struck out as nothing was visible on the lake. The visibility was really poor though so we pressed on.

I had stopped for some buntings in the brush that proved to be Yellow-browed Buntings when the wife spotted some waders in a recently partially drained lower basin used for raising crab and/or fish. It had created a nice little mud flat. I was looking for a route to access the area when I turned to look back along the way we had come and a large, healthy looking, bright cinnamon colored Siberian Weasel calmly walked out of the brush about 50 meters away and stopped to give us a curious look. Totally surprised, I just stood there staring back and then excitedly turned to tell the wife, “Look, look, look!” Very eloquent, I know. He continued to look us over and then it occurred to me that I had a camera hanging from a neck strap. Of course the somewhat dodgy auto-focus on my old Rebel XT chose that moment to balk. Instead of focusing in on the large weasel who was totally in the clear, it decided to hunt back and forth. As I fumbled to switch off the AF he decided this was getting boring and with that he went over the stone wall and down to the lake. I rushed over to the wall but never saw him again. He probably has a hidden hole there somewhere where he dens up.

I had moved away from the wall and crossed to the other side of the road and taken about five steps towards the wife when there was another surprise. A Pallas’s Sandgrouse broke cover from about a meter away and zoomed through the trees expertly dodging and weaving. No chance to get a picture no matter what camera I might have had, but I immediately called out, Grouse! I grew up where we had Ruffed Grouse that would do the same thing, but with a loud boom from the first wing flap. Four more during our time there, all breaking close up and none seen until they flew gave me good enough visual to feel confident of identification later at home. Not that hard, only one Grouse listed on the checklist for Liaoning anyway and it matched well. Apparently the mild winter this year has led to an irruption from Inner Mongolia.

There proved to be two species of waders working the mud once we got down there. Waders are a totally new thing for me, so I haven’t made any ID that I am happy with yet. Higher quality Photos at: https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#A8532ODWnsuFK Most are the larger with long dark bill and grey almost olive head neck and backs with a faint white stripe over the eye. Yellow long legs. They look strikingly different when they fly as much more white and black show. IMG 0411 and 0427 show both the larger and smaller species together for good size comparison. ID help appreciated as I will make no progress tomorrow with the power off.

Back up at the main lake I could just make out that there was at least one group of some water birds floating well out in the lake and just barely at the edge of visibility. Two Great Crested Grebe eventually drifted our way and I was able to get some ID photos at long range. Several small groups of ducks were seen to fly over at too great a distance to determine anything more than that they were generic ducks. As we left there was one Common Coot fishing in one of the small pools by itself.

Totals for today:

(5) Syrrhaptes paradoxus - Pallas’s Sandgrouse
(30) Larus argentatus - Herring Gull
(15) Chroicocephalus ridbundis - Black-headed Gull
(2) Podiceps cristatus - Great Crested Grebe
(20) Emberiza chrysophrys - Yellow-browed Bunting
(4) Apus apps - Common Swift
(10) Emberiza pusilla - Little Bunting
(1) Fulica art - Common Coot
(40) unidentified larger waders
(10) unidentified smaller waders

(1) Mustela sibirica - Siberian Weasel
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Old Thursday 9th April 2015, 17:44   #28
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Your shorebirds are black-tailed godwit (big) and common redshank (small).
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Old Friday 10th April 2015, 00:47   #29
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Thanks Jeff! I had considered the Common Redshank but just wasn't confident about it. How little do I know about shore-birds? I had never even heard of a Godwit! Live and learn. That is a lot of what makes this a fun hobby to me.

About 15 minutes to power off. Got to go.
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Old Friday 10th April 2015, 01:44   #30
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Good news as it turns out. No water, but the power stayed on.

Close review leads me to think I had both the rarer, near-threatened, Black-tailed Godwit and the more common Bar-tailed Godwit. They were in two groups keeping about 25 meters apart. I dug out two images both showing Godwits in the same landing posture with flared tail. One attached image shows the rarer Black-tailed (image 0447) and another shows a Godwit but with a definite bar-tail (image 0375) Am I over analyzing?
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Old Friday 10th April 2015, 03:01   #31
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Owen, the flight shot above is a Common Redshank. I looked carefully in your first picture a couple posts ago for Bar-tailed but didn't see any and don't see any for sure in your last post either. Bar-tailed a far more common on the east side of the Liaoning Peninsula so seeing Black-tailed is a good record to document.
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Old Friday 10th April 2015, 12:42   #32
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Interesting. I didn't realize that black-tailed were rarer there.

Gotta admit that I didn't look at every bird though. I just assumed all the birds in the shots were the same.
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Old Friday 10th April 2015, 17:36   #33
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Jeff, Avibase has the Black-tail Godwwit listed as "near threatened" for Liaoning Province and the Pallas's Sandgrouse varies from nothing to occasional irruptions. Spotting any kind of wild mammal like the Siberian Weasel is a rarity in most places in the inhabited parts of China, so it was a very good outing.

That being said, I spent most of the summer of 2000 in a small village up east of Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, where my wife's mother and oldest brother were living. I noticed they were meticulous about closing and barring the gate to the walled compound area before dark every evening and turning the German Shepherds lose inside the compound. I asked about why since there didn't seem to be any crime problems. The brother, who is my age, very matter of fact said it was because of the tigers. I just laughed and told him he wasn't scaring the American by making up stories. Turns out there really were tigers. A few months later the government reimbursed one of the locals for losing a cow to a Siberian tiger kill.
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Old Saturday 11th April 2015, 00:56   #34
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I'm shocked there are any tigers left in China.
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Old Monday 13th April 2015, 07:20   #35
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There was a problem Tiger in Heilongjiang province again earlier this year that killed a few goats.
China gets a lot of comments about the demise of the Tiger but a very similar story for Americans is the wolf. Almost identical in terms of what has and is happening.
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Old Tuesday 14th April 2015, 15:01   #36
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Oh, we have done more than our share. The buffalo (American Bison to those of you from Europe) ranged from Alaska through the Great Plains and into Mexico. Estimates are there were as many as 60,000,000 buffalo. By the end of the 19th century they had been reduced to less than 1,000, primarily in Canada. They have recovered somewhat, probably something over 500,000 now, but are primarily kept as cattle. The Passenger Pigeon is thought to have been the most abundant bird species and possibly most abundant warm blooded animal species in the world and they were hunted into extinction as was the Heath Hen. Wolves were practically eliminated in the USA in the 20th century. During some research I was doing on I stumbled across a notice in a 1914 newspaper in Olathe, Kansas that the bounty on wolves had been extended for another year. Wolves have only recently have been re-introduced in some areas, but are still relatively rare.
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Old Thursday 16th April 2015, 08:29   #37
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2015-apr-14

The weather has warmed up considerably here finally, so I had been out spotting as much as I could and hence getting behind on my logging and reporting. Raining off and on today though, so I am sorting through my notes and photos.

One conclusion I have come to is that Bluetail may not be as rare as most seem to think, they are just elusive. I am finding that in my area the Bluetail rival the Sparrows in numbers. They just don’t show themselves in big groups out in the open. By taking my time at the right places and watching carefully for the quick movements back in the brush, I am seeing them regularly. I doubted myself at first but I have managed to get photo verification of that. Good thing digital “film” is free as they hide well enough that I probably throw out 90% of the attempts on them.

2015-APR-14

I decided to return to the park just south of us around where a main irrigation/drainage canal was widened into a narrow lake. I guess I need to come up with better clever names for these areas since, being an engineer, to me it is PJ-F & PJ-G. “F” (the south side of the lake) is good habitat with plenty of cover and a relatively large area that is not heavily visited by people. It appears that they started to develop a park and just never finished it up which makes it better habitat. “G” (the north side) is even less developed with only a narrow dirt trail which is normally blocked off by a crossarm gate. On to the north for about a kilometer are several small lakes and undeveloped reed marsh. The area would be ideal for water birds except for the one village on the edge from which predation from people on any nests as the area must be heavy as the area was almost devoid of any birds at all. A few Bluetail is about all there was. Despite numerous signs posted that my wife interpreted as being NO FISHING there were about a dozen groups of people fishing in the various ponds. Surprisingly the authorities showed up and started running the fishers off. They questioned what we were doing and not knowing what to make of it told us we had better leave also. Roughly, what I got from the wife’s conversation with them was, “Your doing what???” “WHY??” The wife just laughed and told them all Americans are a little crazy, which they seemed to accept.

In the canal/lake I spotted about 20 gulls with aprox. half of them being Black-headed Gulls but the other half being similar enough that I would like to run a tentative ID past the group. All white except for having a black hood except for a few that were either young or still coming out of winter plumage as there was some faint black markings of a hood but all lacked the black on the wing tips. Exhibited a distinct yellow bill and more difficult to determine but I believe yellow feet. They did show a distinct black wedge on the underside of the wing. What I dug up that seemed to fit was the Saunders’s Gull (Larus saundersa) but is rarer so thought I had better get that verified by more experience. Note: it seems to match well with the following: ibc.lynxeds.com/node/107639 and ibc.lynxeds.com/node/163065

There was one female diving duck that I accidentally stirred up while trying to find a “different bird” the wife had pointed out. Too startled to get a good ID of any kind but was basically brown and built with feet well back on the body and ran across the water to gain speed to fly like a diving duck does.

In addition to the above:

(20) Tarsiger cynosure - Red-flanked Bluetail
(30) Passer monotonous - Eurasian Tree Sparrow
(10) Emberiza rustica - Rustic Bunting
(3) Pica pica - Eurasian Magpie
(5) Hirundo rustic - Barn Swallow
(2) Phylloscopus proregulus - Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
(10) Chrolooephalus ridibundus - Black-headed Gull
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Old Thursday 16th April 2015, 11:50   #38
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Owen, good to read your report. Saunders's are typically channel gulls that cruise mudflat areas looking for small crabs. I have never seen them over a fresh water pond but that doesn't mean they can't be. Your gull description sounds like a tern to me but I'm not sure which kind and most terns typically show up later than now as well. You live right on a main flyway during migration times. Bluetail will be very very common for early to mid-April but you will be very pressed to see one at other time of the year. Books and web sites sometime struggle with how to give status descriptions of such migrants because of their huge fluctuation from year to year and what time they show up and leave again. There are simply not enough people recording this information for most authorities to be "in the know". This is particularly true in our part of the country.

Maybe your startled duck was a Little Grebe?

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Old Thursday 16th April 2015, 13:30   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dong Bei View Post
Owen, good to read your report. Saunders's are typically channel gulls that cruise mudflat areas looking for small crabs. ...

Maybe your startled duck was a Little Grebe?

Tom
Hi, Tom. I've been using your reports and photos to aid me in getting more familiar with what is in our part of the world.

As the crow flies, I am only about 25 km from Liaodong Bay and less than that from the tidal effected area of the Shuangtai River and hence mudflats. The canal runs straight west into the Shunagtai, mostly in the form of narrow lakes, so I suppose could have had some strays work their way up that far. Maybe a tern? I don't really know about that. Having spent most of my life totally landlocked, flying - It's a gull. Walking probing the mud - It's a Plover. Too big for that - It's a Heron. I had no idea until a few months ago there was so much variety. I'll afford Cornell's ID seminar on shore birds next month.

As for the duck, I don't think it was a Little Grebe. It was closer to Mallard size. That one was just an off hand mention since I didn't get a good enough look, but you inspired me to look harder and I think it may have been a female Common Pochard. Makes sense given the large flocks that went through here earlier.

Speaking of Herons, I was out yesterday in what the local TV was reporting as force 6 wind and did observe a "Heron" struggling with great determination to make progress into the wind. I managed on mediocre photo (the lighting was atrocious) which I have attached. It definitively did have the long neck folded back to give it that hunchback look or at least I was sure visually. The heavily cropped photos are not as clear on that. I need that longer lens even more than the up to date camera body.
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Old Thursday 16th April 2015, 13:44   #40
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2015-APR-15

Whoops! Mistyped on my last post. That should have been force 8 wind.

Speaking of which. I made a short excursion out to the local park for about a 1 hour 1km hike with the dog. Everything including the Magpies were staying low and inside the windbreak of the trees and brush. Everything was probably under-reported as most were just hiding in the brush. The advantage is that I get the park pretty much to myself as after all, as I am constantly told in China, the wind makes you sick.

(4) Cynopica cyana - Azure-winged Magpie
(6) Tarsiger cyanurus - Red-flanked Bluetail
(2) Phylloscopus proregulus - Pallas's Leaf Warbler
(1) as yet uncertain Heron? The only thing foolish enough to actually be flying at altitude.

Did get some nice Bluetail shots that I am attaching.
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Old Thursday 16th April 2015, 14:40   #41
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Black-crowned Night Heron. Nice one!
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Old Friday 17th April 2015, 01:50   #42
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Thanks, Tom.

I made a complaint about my order with Brazil's Birds of East Asia not having arrived. The first time I had used Book Depository since Amazon bought them. In fact it wasn't until check-out that I actually realized it. When they were owned by the Crown I used them often as their orders always arrived within two weeks and never had a hang-up in customs and never had to pay an import duty. Apparently they haven't farmed out customer service to somewhere with minimal English language skills like most American companies have as I didn't have any problems with them not grasping the problem and "James" handled it all efficiently and politely. They are reshipping the order, which will of course arrive about the time I leave but at least it will be here when I need it again.
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Old Saturday 18th April 2015, 11:23   #43
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2015-APR-16

At my wife’s insistence, we tried out a new location. Donghu Lake Park (or Garden as the Chinese insist on labeling such) just to the east of Dawa City. Technically still Panjin as Dawa is one of the satellite cities.

I had been there before about two years ago and was not impressed. However, Dawa is in the middle of a “Beautiful Dawa” drive and they are in the final process of finishing up a greatly cleaned up and expanded park area roughly doubling the park area not counting the lake to about 60 hectare (148 acres). Actually a very nice area with plenty of habitat for birds.

As it turns out, there was ulterior motive at play. After three hours of wandering around and having a good day bird watching, the wife says “This is really nice isn’t it?” Then mentions that if we had one of the apartments alongside the park, I could just walk over and spend my day here as well as being closer to Gedalou Reservoir and several other birding areas. Being distracted with trying to get a good shot of the Brambling, I mumbled something about, “Yea, that would be great.” That’s when I was informed that was good as she and our daughter had decided that since two of the wife’s sisters live in Dawa and our daughter works in Dawa, by the time I come back from the US we will have changed apartments to there. Apparently, they have already been apartment hunting and are promising a larger apartment of over 100 sq meters. Walked right into that one. About 12-15 km south of where I have been and still in Panjin, Dawa County.

It really was the best birding area I have found yet for Passerines at least.
All the following numbers are without doubt under counts given the sheer size of the area and that I haven’t had the time to scope out the best viewing yet.

Donghu Lake Park 3hrs 4km

(75) Periparus venustulus - Yellow-bellied Tit The southern half of the park was overrun with them. This is just an attempt at an estimate in about a one hectare area.

(1) Dendrocopus major - Great Spotted Woodpecker

(14) Cyanopica cyanus - Azure-winged Magpie A boisterous group not happy with the little dog being there.

(4)Tarsiger cynanurus - Red-flanked Bluetail Undoubtably could have found more if we had stayed put and really worked that area

(50) Emberiza pusilla - Little Bunting A guess at a large flock working their way through the park foraging

(150) Passer monotonous - Eurasian Tree Sparrow

(40) Passer rutlians - Russet Sparrow

(3) Fringilla montifringa - Brambling Not a big number but starting to show up

(4) Turdus noumanni - Naumann’s Thrush The Brambling led me to this pair, male & female

(8) Phyllosopus venustulus - Pallas’s Leaf Warbler The wife gets credit for spotting these and the first lone Brambling

(4) Pycnonotus sinners - Light-vented Bulbul Seen at a distance but verified by song
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Old Saturday 18th April 2015, 13:00   #44
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I was reading the April edition of Living Bird (Cornell Ornithological Laboratory) and saw that during the Great Backyard Bird Count this year they have one report from Germany of a single flock of Brambling estimated at 1,000,000. Apparently they consider the reporter experienced enough to believe the count. I then remembered seeing the counts at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge on 2015-MAR-11 w/3477 acres of wetlands flooded. It is just north of where I stay in Kansas City along the Missouri river. They had, among others:
Snow Goose - 643,822
Mallard - 3,665
Ring-necked Duck - 5,695

Now I can’t help but wonder how they arrived at those numbers. Birds don’t just sit still while you get an accurate count. I know from my past training and experience in industry that people can with practice become fairly good at estimation of quantities and actually usually tend to under estimate large numbers. However I would normally expect people to automatically and often unconsciously round off such large estimates. Personally, I figure any number I list under 50 is probably an actual or very close count. Up to about 100 is probably a good close estimate. Anything over 100 is either a compilation of smaller counts in several areas or as close of a guess as I can come to. Anything over 1000 would probably just be a WAG.
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Old Monday 20th April 2015, 01:52   #45
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I filed this one away with the unidentified and forgot about it until now. While at Donghu Park I caught this single bird which I at first thought was a Brambling until it finally came out of hiding in the brush and I made out that prominent white cap. Size of a small Thrush, I would say.

Still waiting on my field guide so would appreciate any help.
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Old Monday 20th April 2015, 02:18   #46
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Hi Owen,

It's a Daurian Redstart.
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Old Tuesday 21st April 2015, 13:20   #47
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2015-APR-20

My wife, ChunXia made the first spot of the day just outside our 14th floor window. She spotted (2) Eurasian Sparrowhawk working out apartment complex and apparently deciding it suited them as they finally landed on the roof of our building directly over us. She was excited about that and decided that it was a good day to go back to Gedalou Reservoir at Dawa. Yeh! I was wanting to go back anyway.

They apparently drew a lot of water from the reservoir when they filled the irrigation ditches as it was down about a meter since last time. Unfortunately that doesn't help the shore birds and waders as the Japanese lined it with cut stone at least that deep when they built it. Had a good day spotting though. This was the first time that there was enough visibility to see even half way across the lake and we were able to see the far shore clearly. There was little wind this time and the biggest hazard was dodging the cars, trucks and motorcycles that all apparently thought they were in a road rally. In typical Chinese fashion there was no slowing down for pedestrians. If you have to walk you are not important enough to worry about and if you are too stupid to get out of the way, it is your own fault if you get hit. We only covered about ¼ of way around the lake before our ride showed up and I was reluctantly dragged away by my wife.

The big swarm of Gulls was gone from the restaurant area but through the hike we still saw our share. Only (8) Herring Gull this time, but (60) Black-headed Gull were evident. Two separate flocks of B-hG over the small ponds, especially the drained ones and one flock floating on the lake. About equally divided into 20 individuals each.

Just as we started out we found a flock of (10) Yellow-bellied Tit that made themselves easier to count by coming out to scold the dog. Mixed in with them were (2) Little Bunting. BTW, eBird flagged my report of 75 Yellow-bellied Tit on the 17th as not likely for my location and date but I sent them photos and they then accepted the report. A little bit further on was (1) Azure-winged Magpie. First time I have seen one without some mates around.

Fish were jumping along the shore of the lake, which delighted the wife. She stopped to talk with some commercial fishermen who were mending nets and I overheard that I was Russian that day. She varies my nationality according to political situation amongst other reasons that I don’t always grasp. If I ask about it she usually just shushes me and changes the subject. I am Canadian anytime the US and China are in a spat about anything and American again when she wants the status connected with that. I think the reason this time was just that Russian was not interesting and they would just leave me alone.

On the lake, floating in individual pairs, I counted (12) Great Crested Grebe.

Both scattered in individuals and pairs and in one larger group, I counted (50) Eurasian Coot.

Nearby was a group of (27) Common Pochard.

Across the road one of the fish ponds that they were in the process of draining was a big draw for the waders. In that one pond were (20) Common Redshank on the south side and (10) Black-tailed Godwit probing the mud on the north end. Then just as we started to walk away, (11) Black-winged Stilt flew into the west end of the pond! Black-headed Gull were landing and working the shallow waters like waders in the middle of them all along with (6) Mew Gull.

As I mentioned, our daughter and her husband showed up to pick us up, but I spotted an interesting looking pair out on the lake and took off in the wrong direction with my wife threatening to leave me there. Good call on my part as it turned out to be (2) Little Grebe. Then just 20 meters short of making it back to the car, I was again distracted by another pair of ducks swimming together. Just as I was being pried away, I spotted another isolated pair. At that point the wife was getting really insistent, so I had to leave. I got good photos despite being rushed, but I can’t seem to ID either of them so I will include with this. With the two unidentified I had seven new species for the day!

(2) Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nidus
(8) Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
(60) Black-headed Gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
(6) Mew Gull - Larus canus
(10) Yellow-bellied Tit - Periparus venustutlus
(2) Little Bunting - Emberiza pusilla
(4) Daurian Redstart - Phoenicuous auroreus
(1) Azure-winged Magpie - Cynopica cyanus
(12) Great Crested Grebe - Podiceps cristatus
(50) Eurasian Coot - Fullca atra
(27) Common Pochard - Aythya ierina
(20) Common Redshank - Tringa totanus
(10) Black-tailed Godwit - Limosa limosa
(11) Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
(2) Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
and my two as yet unidentified pair attached.
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Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~ Lao Tzu

Last edited by Owen Krout : Wednesday 22nd April 2015 at 01:49. Reason: Added Redstart
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Old Wednesday 22nd April 2015, 05:19   #48
Gretchen
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Hi Owen, very nice sightings. I think your Grebes, in the first picture, might be Slavonian (or Horned as we say in US), and the others look like Swan Goose! But maybe not... were they really big? I'm only matching the color pattern with pictures in my book. Let's see what others say.
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Old Wednesday 22nd April 2015, 05:31   #49
McMadd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gretchen View Post
Hi Owen, very nice sightings. I think your Grebes, in the first picture, might be Slavonian (or Horned as we say in US), and the others look like Swan Goose! But maybe not... were they really big? I'm only matching the color pattern with pictures in my book. Let's see what others say.
Grebes are Little Grebe
and Swan Geese

McM (formerly of this parish)
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Old Wednesday 22nd April 2015, 06:46   #50
Gretchen
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Originally Posted by McMadd View Post
Grebes are Little Grebe
and Swan Geese

McM (formerly of this parish)
Still are of the parish - virtually! Glad you still join in.

Wasn't very sure about the grebes - thought they looked too slim and long, and there was too much red on the sides for littles, but it is an odd angle.
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