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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

China Birds (Nick Sismey) 2007 List (1 Viewer)

30 June 2007 (continued)

Just got to add two photo’s taken by Albert of myself in the main room and one of the bedrooms we slept in that night, what a great place!

1 July 2007

A new month and what a start, a Mountain Scops Owl, a lifer, calling just outside my bedroom window at 0530, with other birds returning the call. I just had to get up to try and see it and after about ten minutes of trying the bird flew down from the pine tree.

333.Mountain Scops Owl---------Cangshan Mtn, Dali------------China

Once dawn had truly broken we set off along the path again searching for pheasants but were disappointed, but not for long as in the same bush were two more lifers a Rusty Capped Fulvetta and a Golden Breasted Fulvetta, what a start to the day! If that wasn’t enough the call of a Mrs Gould's Sunbird revealed the multi-coloured male, surely the most beautiful bird on the mountain, with a female.

334.Rusty Capped Fulvetta-----Cangshan Mtn, Dali---------------China
335.Golden Breasted Fulvetta-----Cangshan Mtn, Dali--------------China

336.Mrs Gould's Sunbird----------Cangshan Mtn, Dali---------------China

Walking along the deep ravine, with a mountain stream crashing against the rocks, thousands of feet below, numerous Fork Tailed Swifts screamed past us, with us almost taking avoiding action at times!

337.Fork Tailed Swift----------Cangshan Mtn, Dali------------------China

Below the path another lifer, Stripe Throated Yuhina’s (3rd photo) were feeding while overhead Asian House Martins (4th photo) were collecting moss to line nests in overhanging rocks. It was surreal as the pack horses were being used to carry sand and rock to maintain the pathway (5th photo)

338.Stripe Throated Yuhina----Cangshan Mtn, Dali-------------China
339.Asian House Martin----------Cangshan Mtn, Dali--------------China


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1 July 2007 (continued)

Later that morning just before we had to return down the chair lift, Albert caught some well deserved rest while I investigated a new part of the trail. Down a steep slope two young Chinese Babax were playing in a tree while deeper in the forest a male and female Rufous Bellied Niltava, my last lifer of the day, kept my attention

340.Chinese Babax-----------Cangshan Mtn, Dali----------------------China
341.Rufous Bellied Niltava---Cangshan Mtn, Dali-----------------China

Finally descending the mountain at lunch time to catch my flight to Beijing from Kunming, some 300 KM’s from Dali, I must say this was one of the best birding weekends I have had in China with 13 lifers, wonderful views and great company. Thanks to MkinHK for suggesting I visit the Cangshan Mountains, for all of the BirdForum members helping me identify some of the less easy birds from bad photo’s and of course Albert for driving me from Lijiang to Kunming via Dali!

11 July 2007

A single Hooded Crow found preening in a tree in a hotel's grounds in East Kilbride, Scotland.

342.Hooded Crow------------East Kilbride-----------------Scotland

01 August 2007

A quick trip to Eyebrook Reservoir sprung a Yellow Wagtail

343.Yellow Wagtail--------------Eyebrook Reservoir------------England


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1 September 2007

Following a lean month of birding, my mate Daz and I made a trip to Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire and as well as ride on the Yorkshire Bell boat out Bridlington on an RSPB Skua and Shearwater cruise. It was a glorious Saturday, on the first day of September.

The cliffs at Bempton where empty apart from Gannet’s, the only Guillemot we could find being someway off the coast out at sea. Both were new birds for the year though.

344.Gannet-------------------Bempton Cliffs---------------------England
345. Guillemot-----------------Bempton Cliffs--------------------England

The boat left at 12pm so the first challenge was to find a car parking slot on the harbour, which was heaving with holidaymakers. We were the last on the boat so had little choice but to take the covered centre section as the uncovered bow and stern were fully occupied. Actually it was much better as we didn’t fancy four hours of baking sun and having to fight with other tightly packed birders. We had free range to move to either side of the boat when ever a new bird was spotted, it felt like we had our own private cabin!

As we left Bridlington harbour the first new birds of the year were a couple of Purple Sandpipers feeding along the harbour wall.

346.Purple Sandpiper----------Bridlington------------------------England

Thirty minutes into the trip the first Skua was spotted, a dark phase Arctic Skua chasing a Common Tern. Minutes later a Shag flew up from in front of the boat.

347.Arctic Skua---------------Bridlington------------------------England

Ten minutes later and the first sighting of the bird I had come for, a Sooty Shearwater. I had been on the same cruise last year without a sighting, so it was great to see one of these incredible birds soaring over the waves, particularly as it was a lifer!

349.Sooty Shearwater------Bridlington-----------------------England

At one point Sooties surrounded the boat, four birds mixing it with the Herring and Great Black Backed Gulls. Then a lone Manx Shearwater flew across the horizon, some distance from the boat, followed minutes later by a Great Skua chasing a young gull.

350.Manx Shearwater---------Bridlington------------------------England
351.Great Skua---------------Bridlington------------------------England

The trip was supposed to take three hours but due to the tide we were kept out of the harbour for 45 minutes longer where we were able to watch Sandwich Terns flying along the shore line.

352.Sandwich Tern------------Bridlington------------------------England

Following the boat trip we checked out Flamborough Head with no new sightings and then watched the sun set over Hornsea Mere where we watched several thousand Little Gulls coming into roost.

If you have never been on a cruise I recommend it, it is a great day out seeing birds in their natural habitat, I will certainly be back next year, but must visit Bempton earlier in the year to ensure I get a Puffin!

Next weekend I travel to China for two weeks and hope to fit some birding in near Shanghai and Beijing the following weekend.


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12 September 2007

Having spent a few days in Guangzhou, China I flew down to Haikou on Hainan Island where I was able to do some quick birding after my business meeting on Wednesday, around my usual haunt, the rivers, fish ponds and farm land across the road from the Sheraton Hotel situated on the beach (photo1). I had actually seen the attached Spotted Doves before breakfast “getting it on!” on the roof of the hotel! (photo2).

The walk didn’t exactly start too well, as I tripped over a buried cable in some mud throwing both myself, and my camera into the mud. Charlie Lin who was accompanying me didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! After cleaning things up we were just in time to see a large snake rushing across the short grass in front of us, keen to make the river before we got near it, we had no intention of getting near it!

A Pied and Common Kingfisher shared the first fish-pond (photo3), while there were many Hoopoes (photo4) and Pacific Golden Plovers (photo5)feeding on the short grasslands, kept in shape by the many tethered cows. The plovers were new for my year list otherwise a relatively quiet and “muddy” afternoon.

353.Pacific Golden Plover-----------------Haikou----------------------China


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15 September 2007

After a quick visit to Xian on Thursday, flying in from Haikou that morning, and then flying onto Shanghai that afternoon I found myself back at Binhai, near Shanghai’s Pudong Airport on Saturday morning. My first visit had been in September 2006, five days earlier in the year, which had been excellent so I was hoping for the best.

My first impression was that the reclaimed land, that was just mud behind the concrete sea wall in 2006, was now grown over, with only isolated pools. There had also been many fish ponds constructed, destroying the original pristine habitat. However, such is the vastness of the area (you really do have to see it to believe it) there were still areas of good habitat. (photo1)

Edward Li and I came across another group of birders initially (two Americans and three locals) so joined them along the sea wall.

A Purple Heron (photo2) was hiding in the new vegetation near the sea wall, with Whimbrel walking along the sea wall (photo3). Then came my first new birds of the year, a Yellow Bittern, which flew up and then down back into the vegetation in an instant, followed by a flock of White Winged Terns. Amongst the terns were also Gull Billed and Whiskered (photo4)

354.Yellow Bittern-----------Binhai (Nr Shanghai)---------------------China
355.White Winged Tern------Binhai (Nr Shanghai)---------------------China

Later in the morning the only other new-year bird was a Red Necked Stint (photo5)

356.Red Necked Stint--------Binhai (Nr Shanghai)---------------------China


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16 September 2007

After flying to Beijing the previous evening, Fred Li (photo1), Yan Shen and I joined up with our old bird friends Mr Li and Ge Ge (Miss) together with a couple of new birders to visit Feng Hou Tai Yi Zhe Park and Guan Ting Reservoir to the north west of Beijing.

Held up by nearly an hour on the motorway at The Great Wall of China, near Badaling, due to the traffic, we finally arrived at the small lake at Feng Hou Tai Yi Zhe Park. How Mr Li knew where to go beat me, once off the motorway we were on single lane roads boarding fields of maize, with no signposts; it felt more like southern France than China!

At the lake, which was surrounded by reed beds, while there were no new birds for the year, I was pleased to see my first Woodcock in China (photo2). Later, just before we left a Black Capped Kingfisher caught my attention therefore I left the group to take a photo. Not only did the bird fly off before I could photo it, when I got back to the group they advised that they had been watching a Ruddy Breasted Crake for around five minutes, it would have been a lifer for me so I was gutted! It never did show again!

Licking my wounds we then drove onto Guan Ting Reservoir, the roads looking even more like southern France! To get to the reservoir we needed to drive down a bumpy dusty road, which brought us to a vast area of grassland with isolated areas taken up by Chinese riding horses. After another 15 minutes we arrived at the edge of the reservoir, the sun was by now beating down and it was a glorious sunny day.

The most populous bird by far were Amur Falcon’s, I counted at least 20 at one point, my first new bird of the year!

357.Amur Falcon------Guan Ting Reservoir (Nr Beijing)---------------China

Scanning the area’s of bare mud and reed beds there were many other birds of prey quartering the horizon, with Upland Buzzard’s and Hen Harrier’s both being new for the year, the second new for China.

358.Upland Buzzard----Guan Ting Reservoir (Nr Beijing)---------------China
359.Hen Harrier--------Guan Ting Reservoir (Nr Beijing)---------------China

As we were scanning the reservoir we spotted several miss nets being used to catch birds. Initially we were going to destroy them but the owners were close by, so we just called the police, whether anything was going to happen we didn’t know but at least we felt we had done our bit. Ge Ge did release a Little Bunting (photo3), the only bird we found captured.

We then spent time driving down the many rough tracks around the reservoir, dodging all the horses, until we arrived next to a large field of maize where a lifer soared overhead, a wonderful Pied Harrier, what a graceful bird.

360.Pied Harrier------Guan Ting Reservoir (Nr Beijing)------------China

Seconds later Mr Li spotted a second lifer for me a Chinese Grey Shrike (photo4) on top of one of the maize plants. I had almost forgotten about the Crake by now, almost!

361.Chinese Grey Shrike-----Guan Ting Reservoir (Nr Beijing)-----China

Leaving the reservoir a Hobby settled on the grass amongst a flock of Lapwing.

On the way back to Beijing we stopped near a small village, where there was a deep sided pool which was literally surrounded by a large number of Collared Doves, a first for me in China, I had never seen so many in one place. The suddenly three birds blasted out of the tall grasses surrounding the pool, they were lifers, Daurian Partridge.

362. Daurian Partridge----Near Guan Ting Reservoir (Nr Beijing)---China


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20 September 2007

After working in Beijing and Tianjin, I flew into Hong Kong on Thursday 20 September ready for my flight home on Friday. Later that afternoon there was enough time to do some quick birding with Birdforum member MkinHK, in Long Valley thanks to Jason Zhang, who provided the transport.

Long Valley, to the North East of Hong Kong is (as described in “The Birds of Kong Kong and South China” book) as a spongy mix of lowland cultivation, abandoned land and fishponds. Some of the area is managed to improve bird life.

Sitting atop one of the many bamboo poles was a Siberian Stonechat, which Mike advised was now an official split so became my first lifer of the day!

363.Siberian Stonechat----------Long Valley---------------Hong Kong

As we moved towards the reed beds two Warblers appeared, a Black Browed Reed Warbler, a new year bird, followed by a much more impressive, but brief rear view, of a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, which was a lifer, and the bird that completed my “bird a year target”, the 365th bird of the year!

364.Black Browed Reed Warbler--------Long Valley---------------Hong Kong
365.Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler----Long Valley------------Hong Kong

Making our way to the rather smelly river along the edge of Long Valley, as Mike had seen a Collared Crow while I had been on the mobile, sure enough, along with many Little Egret and a few Large Billed Crow’s there were two Collared Crows, another year bird.

366.Collared Crow---------------------Long Valley--------------Hong Kong

Then re-tracking our steps back to the car, as the evening drew in, the bird life increased, with one lifer after another lining up in front of us. First an Oriental Reed Warbler flew across the path. Then, making up for the disappointment a week earlier, a Ruddy Breasted Crake flew up for a brief moment above the reeds as it decided to move to a new feeding area. Hi “High-Fived” with Mike so hard that my hand was still ringing 30 minutes later! As we reached the car a Purple Backed Starling flew overhead on the way to what may have been its roost!

367. Oriental Reed Warbler---------Long Valley----------------Hong Kong
368. Ruddy Breasted Crake---------Long Valley----------------Hong Kong
369. Purple Backed Starling---------Long Valley---------------Hong Kong

It was a great evening, and I am indebted to Mike for showing me around and providing his expertise, as well as Jason for providing the transport.

21 September 2007

My final chance for a quick bit of birding presented itself on Friday morning, before I caught my flight home, at Kowloon Park where I was lucky enough to meet up with some members of the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society who meet regularly there on a Friday. It is always better when there are more pairs of eyes around, especially when they know the area. They were birding behind the Kowloon Mosque and reported seeing a Black Winged Cuckoo Shrike high up in one of the large trees. Sure enough, minutes later the Shrike returned, my 270th bird of the year. Minutes later two Red Billed Leiothrix (Peking Robin) were spotted in the undergrowth near the steps.

370.Black Winged Cuckoo Shrike---------Kowloon Park----------Hong Kong
371. Red Billed Leiothrix-----------------Kowloon Park----------Hong Kong

As the group broke up someone advised me that this a particularly good area for Chestnut Tailed Starling. Having never seen one I decided to set up camp and wait. Within 20 minutes a couple of Red Billed Starlings showed up followed moments later by a Chestnut Tailed Starling (photo1), a lovely bird, especially as it was a lifer!

372.Chestnut Tailed Starling---------Kowloon Park--------Hong Kong

I then visited the Chinese Garden within Kowloon Park where a beautiful Black Naped Oriole made a brief appearance while I was photographing a White Throated Kingfisher (photo2), which I was surprised to see so deep inside a city.

373.Black Naped Oriole----------------Kowloon Park--------Hong Kong

My next visit to China is targetted to be the last two weekends in November where we are aiming for Cranes and Ibisbill near Beijing and also hoping to return to Dongting Lake!


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23 September 2007

Back in the UK it was an early rise on Sunday morning, as I was still on China time. I took advantage of the time to write up my birding antics in China for Birdforum, and then checked the local birding websites where it was reported that there was a Long Tailed Skua at Shelford, near Nottingham. Needing 11 more birds for my 2007 UK200 and the fact that bird would be a lifer it just had to be “Twitched”.

Therefore after lunch, when the family were busy with other things, I made a quick dash over to Shelford, where the farmer had kindly provided parking at the edge of a stubble field. There I joined two other birders, (there were probably 20 cars there) making our way along the hedge to where the bird had been spotted (photo1).

Well before we got to where all of the other birders were you could see the Skua behind them in the field. I spent around 30 minutes in all watching the distant bird, trying to take at least some photo’s that could confirm I had seen it, the “best” shown below!

I was back in the house by 1430, well satisfied with my 190th UK bird of the year and my 730th lifer!

374.Long Tailed Skua----------------Shelford-----------------England


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7 October 2007

Thanks to Birdguides made a dusk raid (pun intended!) on Netherfield Lagoons near Nottingham and picked up my first UK Dusky Warbler, bringing my UK total to 191 for the year, nine to go for my target of 200.

Made up for my car making funny noises so cancelling a trip to Rutland Water and the coast, and my lap top refusing to start!
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27 October 2007

When I awoke at 0800 hours on Saturday morning I didn’t even know I had a birding weekend ahead of me. Within ten minutes of being awake it was agreed with my wife (Sue) that it would be better for me to visit my mother, rather than her visit us on this occasion, and so I soon realised that a trip to the North Norfolk coast was suddenly on the cards! I still needed nine birds to reach my annual goal of 200 birds in the UK, so here was my chance to get closer to that goal.

By noon I was walking along the path to the beach at Titchwell, my mother happily enjoying the restaurant with her Daily Mail at hand!

My 192nd UK bird of 2007 was found feeding in the fresh marsh alongside several Dunlin, two Little Stints busying themselves on the muddy shore of two small islands.

375. Little Stint------------------Titchwell------------------------England

From here it was onto the beach, the mild Autumn weather making it feel very un-Titchwell like for October. The sea was so far out that you had to walk down to the rock pools to get a good view of the birds out to sea. While there had been Long Tailed Duck, Velvet Scoter and Black Throated Diver earlier in the day (which would all have been new for 2007, the diver would have actually been a lifer!) the only new bird for 2007 out on the water at this time was a Red Necked Grebe, 193rd for the UK!

376. Red Necked Grebe ----------Titchwell-------------------------England

My mother was clearly in a good mood, her only son having taken her out for the day, so much so that she bought me Phoebe Snetsinger’s book “Birding on Borrowed Time” from the Titchwell book store. Excellent read, well so far anyway!

Next stop was Wells-next-the-sea for fish and chips on the quayside, oh and to try and spot one of the two Great White Egrets seen in the area. Once at the quayside it was easier to spot the birders first, they were situated about 500 metres along the sea wall. Arriving there it wasn’t long before both birds were spotted a long way away across the marshland, their long snake like necks giving them away 194 for the UK. Unfortunately I dipped on the Rough Legged Buzzard, I may have seen it but it was just too far away for it to be a positive ID when it came over some sand dunes and disappeared into a creek.

Last stop, after the fish and chips, was Holkham fresh marshes to view the Pink Footed Geese coming into roost and more importantly, for my UK year list, try and tick off the Ross’s Goose, which would be a lifer. Many of the people I met on the way to the hide had seen the bird, although they all said it had flown east 30 minutes earlier! Once in the hide others, who had also seen it, took great pleasure in advising the same!

The spectacle over the next hour was unbelievable as skein after skein flew in from all directions. Long, long orderly lines of thousands of geese broke into a chaotic whirl of flapping wings and webbed footed wind brakes, as the birds dropped into the marshes in front of us. Just as you thought the marshes couldn’t take any more birds, thousands more crested Holkham Hall’s tree line. We also watched a number of Marsh Harriers and over 60 Little Egret’s flying across the horizon in small flocks on the way to roost.

Then, with a group of around 2,000 more geese, in dropped the Ross’s Goose, its brilliant white plumage unmistakable amongst the other geese. A great finish to the day, my 732nd lifer and 195th UK bird of the year.

377.Ross’s Goose --------------Holkham----------------------England

Thanks to the Daily Mail crossword my mother was still awake (just) when I arrived back at the car!
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28 October 2007

A mid morning (I love it when the clocks go back!) visit to Rutland Water and Eyebrook Reservoir sprung a very late Artic Tern, which gave me my 196th UK bird of the year, just four to go!

378.Arctic Tern ---------------Rutland Water---------------------England

Next birding, unless a rare birds up locally, will be during my November trip to China. Over the weekend of 24-25 November I will be in Beijing and so the plan is to look for Cranes at Guan Ting Reservoir (which I visited in September) and Ibisbill at another location. Then during the weekend of 1-2 December I will be going to Bo Yang Lake, around 200km from Wuhan, where the target birds are Siberian, White-Naped and Common Crane; can’t wait!
24 November 2007

With the thermometer barely above zero degrees Yan Shen (Rolls-Royce's Senior Rep in Beijing), Mr Li, a very good birding friend and I left the Sheraton Great Wall Hotel in Beijing at 8am to pick up Mr Liu, another birder who has just completed his “Black Grouse” degree in Sweden; our destination the reservoirs to the north of Beijing (Photo1). This was in fact a repeat trip to the one we took back in September, but this time specifically to see Cranes. This would be the first time I had seen them in China, if we were successful.

The first stop, again, after passing by The Great Wall at Baderling, was Feng Hou Tai Yi Zhe Park, the fields of Maize around the park now all harvested and the lake frozen solid. Within minutes of arriving, having fully kitted out for temperatures now below freezing, a lifer sat in a leafless bush, its feathers ruffled up against the cold, a splendid Rustic Bunting (Photo2)

379.Rustic Bunting------Feng Hou Tai Yi Zhe Park---------------China

Then amongst the large flock of Tree Sparrows in the reeds appeared three Pine Buntings, another lifer; a great start to the day and a real tonic against the cold.

380.Pine Bunting------ Feng Hou Tai Yi Zhe Park----------------China

A female Hen Harrier was quartering the reeds, and three types of Woodpeckers busied themselves in the tree plantation next to the lake, a Great Spotted, Grey Capped Pygmy and Grey Headed Woodpecker (Photo 3). Moving along the edge of the lake three White Browed Chinese Warblers (Photo 4) were working their way along the tree line, with a Siberian Accentor (Photo 5) perched on top of one of trees the Warblers were passing through; the first time I had seen both birds since 2005

381.White Browed Chinese Warblers--Feng Hou Tai Yi Zhe Park------China
382.Siberian Accentor --------------Feng Hou Tai Yi Zhe Park------China

From here we stopped off at a river, which feeds the Guan Ting Reservoir, walking across the bare earthed maize fields. On the river there was a flock of more than 100 Ruddy Shelduck, several Goodanders, while sitting in the field was a Peregrine watching us closely. Then Mr Li heard, and after a few seconds we all saw a flock of four Common Crane flying through the mist in the direction of the reservoir, cranes in China at last!


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24 November 2007 (Continued)...

At Guan Ting Reservoir I was amazed at the number of Common Cranes (Photos1-3) covering the marshlands. I had previously only ever seen four birds in flight in Norfolk, Stubb Mill earlier this year. We estimated there had to be at least 500 birds of the ones we could see, the mist, I am sure, hiding many more. Scanning one large flock Mr Li suddenly gesture us over to him, he had spotted two White Naped Cranes, my third lifer of the day, the usual “High 5” followed!

383.White Naped Crane-------Guan Ting Reservoir-------------China

No sooner had the euphoria died down when Mr Liu called out, “White Tailed Eagle” (Photo 4). A juvenile was sitting out on the ice, joined minutes later by a second juvenile. I didn’t know which way to turn, two lifers just seconds apart!

384.White Tailed Eagle-------Guan Ting Reservoir ------------China

There were hundreds of birds out in the middle of the reservoir, but most were very difficult to identify in the mist, although we were able to pick out Bean Goose and Whooper Swan quite easily. We then moved to another area where two lifers were spotted at the same time, an impressive Saker Falcon giving chase to a large flock of Lapland Buntings.

385.Lapland Bunting-----------Guan Ting Reservoir--------------China
386.Saker Falcon-------------Guan Ting Reservoir --------------China

Just as we were looking to move on we made one last trek across another area of the reservoir, which turned out to be a real bonus as two Great Bustards, a bird I had always wanted to see, lifted into the air. What a way to finish off my second visit to Guan Tang, with another lifer in the bag!

387.Great Bustard-----------Guan Ting Reservoir---------------China

On the way back to Beijing, as the light was dropping, we called in at yet another reservoir, Sha He, in the Chang Ping District of north Beijing, where Mr Li and Mr Liu were amazed that the large flock of Daurian Jackdaws (Photo5) that greeted our arrival, was a lifer for me.

388.Daurian Jackdaw--------Sha He Reservoir-----------------China

All in all by the time we arrived back at the hotel, after visiting a Japanese restaurant, the 42 birds we had seen today (shown below) included 8 new birds for my life list (740), 10 for my year list (388) and 13 for my China list
(425). Thanks must go to Mr Li and Mr Liu for their expertise and Yan for again looking after us. Tomorrow we hunt for the Ibisbill to the south of Beijing, fingers crossed we are successful!

Azure Winged Magpie, Bean Goose, Black Headed Gull, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chinese Grey Shrike, Collard Dove, Common Crane, Daurian Jackdaw, Goldeneye, Goosander, Great Bustard, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Green Sandpiper, Grey Capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Grey Headed Woodpecker, Hen Harrier, Japanese Quail, Kestrel, Lapland Bunting, Little Bunting, Little Grebe, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Tit, Peregrine, Pine Bunting, Ruddy Shelduck, Rustic Bunting, Saker Falcon, Siberian Accentor, Skylark, Sparrowhawk, Spot Billed Duck, Spotted Dove, Teal, Tree Sparrow, White Browed Chinese Warbler, White Naped Crane, White Tailed Eagle, Whooper Swan.


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25 November 2007

It was a slightly earlier start on Sunday morning, with Fred Li (another Rolls-Royce Rep) joining Yan Shen and I for the trip to the Shidu canyon south of Beijing. First though we had to find where Mr Wu (known as CCCP!?), who currently works for the World Wildlife Fund here in Beijing, lived. After around 45 minutes of u-turns and wrong turns we finally found him. He was one of the first birders I ever met in China on only my second birding trip back in 2004, where we went to exactly the same place as we were going today. He also introduced me to Swarovski optics, which I have been hooked on ever since!

The weather was still cold, and the mist (smog) was awful. This was not the only thing that was awful, I couldn’t believe how different the Shidu canyon was from the one I visited two and a half years ago. Civilisation had well and truly found Shidu with Chinese hotel complexes built up on farmland, large bridges replacing the low concrete bridges, and damned lakes destroying the original fast, free flowing, mountain river. Habitat had just disappeared under concrete and ornamental lake. Also the shear number of Tree Sparrows and Magpies, in large flocks, seemed to indicate that what habitat was left was only for the most hardy of birds that enjoyed the company of human habitation, it really didn’t feel right somehow. I didn’t give much hope to seeing Ibisbill, our target bird!

The first year bird to give us a bit of cheer was the largest Chinese kingfisher, the Crested Kingfisher, a pair noisily fishing from a outcrop on the canyon wall.

389.Crested Kingfisher------------------Shidu------------------------China

Arriving at the area know for Ibisbill, we covered every piece of ground open to us, it was only around 400 metres in length, but no sign of them so we walked a bit further along the canyon spotting three Black Storks (Photos1&2) feeding in the shallows. Later in the day, 11 circled overhead on the weak thermals.

390.Black Stork----------------------Shidu--------------------------China

Male and female Plumbeous Water Redstarts were in abundance, tails bobbing as they hopped between rocks. It wasn’t until I returned to the hotel and checked my year list that I found I hadn’t recorded them this year though I remember seeing them in Lijiang! A Brown Dipper (Photo 3) was the only other significant bird in the area where the Ibisbill should have been, my fourth year bird of the day.

391.Plumbeous Water Redstart-------Shidu--------------------------China
392.Brown Dipper-------------------Shidu--------------------------China

Just before a late lunch another area of the river that was reasonably fast flowing provided the final two year birds of the day, a Long Billed Plover and one of my favourite Chinese birds a White Capped Water Redstart (Photo 4).

393.Long Billed Plover----------------Shidu--------------------------China
394.White Capped Water Redstart---Shidu--------------------------China

Further exploring, after lunch, produced no sightings of the Ibisbill, so we left in the knowledge that we really needed to find somewhere else in 2008 to try and see this unusual bird, which will be the next time I will have a chance of birding in the Beijing area! Thanks again to Yan for organising the trip, to Fred for helping with the navigation and Mr Wu for his expertise!

The list of the day’s birds is shown below

Azure Winged Magpie, Black Stork, Brown Dipper, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Crested Kingfisher, Goosander, Great Tit, Green Sandpiper, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Large Billed Crow, Little Grebe,Long Billed Plover, Magpie, Plumbeous Water Redstart, Red Billed Blue Magpie, Sparrowhawk, Tree Sparrow, Water Pipit, White Browed Chinese Warbler, White Capped Water Redstart.

Next weekend we move to the lakes at Boyang, near Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, the Siberian Crane stronghold in China, can’t wait!


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1 December 2007

Last evening Lool (a well known lady birder from Guangzhou), Joseph Yang (another Rolls-Royce rep), our taxi driver Mr Ming and I drove the 350km from Wuhan to Yongxiu in Jiangxi Province, the first time Joseph and I had visited Jiangxi. The hotel (Photo1) we found, which was named after the town, was at best not on the Star register and undergoing major renovations, but it was clean “ish”, and more importantly warm. With sound of freight trains thundering across the countryside I hit the sack, looking forward to our birding day today.

After a “Chinese” breakfast we set off through the thronging streets of Yongxiu, it was supposed to be a small town, but it was still huge compared to Western standards, although it reminded me more of Kathmandu than anywhere in China. As we approached the birding sanctuary at Wu Cheng, starlings seemed to be the bird of the day, with Red Billed (Photo 2), Black Collared (Photo 3) and White Cheeked Starlings (Photo 4 – bird on right) perched all along the wires in vast fields of burnt stubble, which also held a large flock of rooks, my first sighting in China. A Chestnut Eared Bunting (Photo 5) was the only other bird of note before we arrived at the reserve.


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1 December 2007 (continued)

Once in the reserve, which is entered by negotiating a large levee, Greater White Fronted Geese and Redshanks were the main birds, with the odd Hen Harrier quartering the reeds. After a long drive, along a gravel track, the road climbed onto a large island where we drove to the bird observatory. There, on the edge of the lake, with some White Naped Cranes, were three Siberian Cranes (Photo 1), the bird I had come all this way to see. While observing these wonderful life birds, 10 more flew over us. These, as well as flocks of Whooper Swans noisily making their way to fields to feed were all viewed from the purpose built concrete observatory.

395.Siberian Crane-----------------Bo Yang-------------------China

These would in fact be the only new birds I would add to my year list all day, but there were still some great sights, including a large flock of Spoonbill (Photo 2) and the Black Crested Myna feeding on the Water Buffalo (Photo 2). Joseph, Lool (Photo 4) and I then headed along the shore of the lake in a vain search of other cranes, but we did see three Oriental Storks (Photo 5) fly low over us on the way to roost.

2 December 2007

With only the morning to play with, before the drive back to Wuhan we made an earlier start. Back at the observatory there we counted 65 Siberian Cranes, and later at another lake across the road 45 Oriental Storks. It is truly a wonderful place, I would recommend the birding to anyone, but don’t expect any plush hotels!

After returning to Wuhan, we all went our separate ways, Lool back to Guangzhou, Joseph Nanjing and I to Chengdu, my final China / Hong Kong bird trip of 2007, what a great year, thanks to all who have supported me throughout the year. 2008 starts with Sanya on Haikou Island, but for now here is the list of the 62 birds seen this weekend.

Avocet, Azure Winged Magpie, Bar Tailed Godwit, Bean Goose, Black Collared Starling, Black Headed Gull, Black Tailed Gull, Blackbird, Buzzard, Cattle Egret, Chestnut Eared Bunting, Chinese Bulbul, Common Crane, Crested Myna, Daurian Redstart, Dusky Thrush, Great Crested Grebe, Great Tit, Great White Egret, Great White Fronted Goose, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Grey Capped Greenfinch, Grey Headed Bunting, Grey Heron, Hen Harrier, Kestrel, Kingfisher, Lapwing, Little Bunting, Little Grebe, Long Tailed Shrike, Magpie Robin, Olive Backed Pipit, Oriental Stork, Oriental Turtle Dove, Peregrine, Pheasant, Pied Kingfisher, Pintail, Plain Prinia, Red Billed Starling, Redshank, Rook, Scaly Munia, Siberian Crane, Skylark, Snipe, Spoonbill, Spot Billed Duck, Spotted Dove, Spotted Redshank, Stonechat, Swan Goose, Tree Sparrow, White Cheeked Starling, White Fronted Kingfisher, White Naped Crane, White Wagtail, Whooper Swan, Yellow Billed Grosbeak, Zitting Cisticola


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5 December 2007

A quick visit to Williamthorpe Nature Reserve for a very accommodating Long Tail Duck, my 197th UK bird of the year

396.Long Tailed Duck-------------Williamthorpe NR-------------England


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9 December 2007

Although Birdguides didn't indicate that the Slavonian Grebe recorded yesterday was still around I took a stab at making the 30 mile drive to Blithfield Reservoir this afternoon, my first visit to the Staffordshire Reservoir.

It was a typical wet and windy November day as I drove across the Causeway, not sure where the bird had been seen on what is a large reservoir. Luckily I spotted a couple of birders with scopes the far side of the Causeway in a small car park. Stopping there, after around ten minutes, one of the other birders, who is a regular at Blithfield, spotted the bird as it moved out of a near by bay, having, like all other birds, being scared by a low flying helicopter. As well as recording my 198th UK bird of the year I found out a lot about the reservoir from the two birders, promising myself a trip back in the new year.

397.Slavonian Grebe-------------Blithfield Reservoir------------England
30 December 2007

Having had several unsuccessful outings over the holiday period I decided I had to be a bit more scientific (and maybe become a real twitcher by going a bit further afield for a bird than I would normally) if I was going to hit 200 birds in the UK with just 2 days to go.

Thanks to Birdforum members I worked out my best chance of seeing one of my UK bogey birds, Brambling, was to visit the feeding station at the Visitors Centre at Cannock Chase, as it seemed that there were plenty there. I then decided if I was successful there I would go onto Draycote Water for the Lesser Scaup.

To my delight, as soon as I arrived at the feeding station, there were several Brambling mixed in with Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Great, Blue and Coal Tit's, my 199th UK bird, although I had already seen them in China in January.

This set me up to travel down to Draycote Water, a new venue for me. Luckily there were several other birders there who told me where I needed to be. After around a twenty minute walk along the damn to the Toft end of the Reservoir I found my 200th UK bird of the year, the Lesser Scaup!

398.Lesser Scaup-------------Draycote Waterr-------------------England

While I was still celebrating a couple of Scottish birders walked passed, with binoculars, scopes and camera's, who just happened to find Draycote Water while here in England. Naturally I asked if they had seen the bird, whereupon they said they hadn't, that they weren't even aware the bird was there. They then just continued to walk along the path, leaving me speechless. Why exactly would you have all the gear and not even be bothered to look at the bird I had in scope!? Funny people us birders some time!

It had been a 170 mile round trip for the two birds, something I wouldn't normally do, but when needs must eh!

Next year starts in two days time, with Attenborough Nature Reserve, Carsington Reservoir and Ogston Reservoir being the targets on 1 January 2008, followed by Rutland Water and Eyebrook on the 3rd followed by Norfolk on the 4th, hoping to hit 100 birds again in the first week. Then on 14th January it is off to China's version of Hawaii, Sanya on Hainan Island and other Chinese destinations based on where I need to be workwise for the two weeks I am there. In August we have a family hols driving from New York to Toronto so hopefully my bird a day target will be on again for the third year running.

What a great hobby

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