View Full Version : A Few Days in Yangzhou

Tuesday 14th September 2010, 10:01
I did my annual trip to give a series of lectures at a government senior managers' training college in Yangzhou from 6-10 September. Yangzhou is a small city by Chinese standards (with a population of a measly 4m in the city and the suburbs). It's situated on the north bank of the Yangtze River, some 300km north-west of Shanghai. As the week is very pressured in terms of the timetable the only birding opportunities are from 06h00-07h15 each day as breakfast is at 07h30 and by the time the day's work is over it's dark. Fortunately the college is next door to the Slender Western Lake which is, in effect, a local park with a large lake. It's open to all but with an entrance fee. However, between 05h30 and 07h30 the gate from the college into the lake area is open and we can use it for free. It's popular with locals doing various forms of stress-busting Chinese activities such as Tai Chi, singing, playing musical instruments and shouting (at no-one in particular). All very atmospheric. There's a reasonably good birding area at the north end of the park where there is a marshy area with reed beds and general "wet" areas.

I flew Finnair from Paris (CDG) to Shanghai on 4th September changing flights at Helsinki. Unfortunately my flight from CDG was cancelled (technical problem with the aircraft) but fortunately they put me on the next flight and I made it to the Shanghai flight with about 5 minutes to spare. This ensured my Finland list stood resolutely at one species (Kestrel) seen at the same airport a couple of years ago. I arrived at Shanghai's Pudong Airport soon after 07h00 on Sunday 5th where I was met by Chinese colleagues and driven up to Yangzhou. We stopped for fuel before leaving the airport area and I clocked the first bird of the trip - a small flock of Tree Sparrows that replace House Sparrows in eastern China. A few Little Egrets (plus a Magpie) were seen en route in the many wet areas either side of the motorway but little else (including a marsh tern) that was identifiable at speed.

Arriving at the college was the usual rush into lunch for a discussion of the week ahead before I was able to get an hour's rest before venturing into the grounds of the college for a first real look for birds. The most common species in the area is Chinese Bulbul with small, noisy, chattering flocks everywhere. An odd-looking Blackbird skulking around the base of a bush was, I suppose, possibly Eastern Blackbird (T. mandarinus). It looked heavier and "clumsier" than merula - anyone out there know what the latest assessment is? Mark Brazil is not that clear in his recent "Birds of East Asia", which, incidentally is excellent for this part of the world. A white wagtail showed all the necessary to be Amur Wagtail (M.a. leucopsis) and an Eastern Great Tit looked like a ghostly version of our usual Great Tit here in Europe. More Tree Sparrows and a noisy flock of Mallard on a small pond rounded off the not particularly exciting afternoon.

The following morning, soon after 06h00, was much better with a walk to the wet areas of the Lake. Very humid though with binoculars misting over at both ends! This turned up regulars that I'd seen here in previous years such as Spotted Dove, Azure-winged Magpie, Black-crowned Night Heron, Little Grebe, Moorhen and Black Drongo and a flock of 11 Little Egrets passed west. I also had two firsts for me in China - Kingfisher and Oriental Reed Warbler.

I visited the same area on both the 8th and 10th September (again between 06h00 and 07h15) and added Chinese Pond Heron, Greater Coucal (another first), Chinese Grosbeak and Crested Myna to the list on 8th. The Coucal was interesting in that it seems to be a little north of its range (according to the map in Mark Brazil's book).I saw it on both the 8th and 10th in exactly the same spot. The 10th also produced Hoopoe and, for me, the bird of the week, and another first, a Long-tailed Shrike (which was being bombarded by a small party of Black Drongos).

The return trip was uneventful with a large number of Little Egrets seen when taxiing out to take off at Pudong (plus a Crested Myna). Another dash across the airport at Helsinki ensured no advance on one for my Finland list.

Sadly, I never have the time to stay in China any longer than the week. Maybe one day.


Saturday 18th September 2010, 09:30
Along the Yangtse River and wetlands around,maybe u could find Reed Parrotbill living in reedbeds.