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

China Birds (Nick Sismey) 2010 List (UK, China, Hong Kong & ?) (1 Viewer)

19 November 10 (Continued)

Moving through the park to Swan Lake (Photo1) Pacific Swallows (Photo 2 – taken on 20Nov10) were hunting close to the waters surface while House Swifts mixing it with swiflets high overhead added to both my Life list and Singapore list

310.Pacific Swallow-----------Botanical Gardens-----------Singapore

Making my way back to the original fruiting tree a lone female Brown Throated Sunbird (Photo 3 – Male taken on 20Nov10) sat way up high in a palm tree providing another Lifer.

311.Brown Throated Sunbird---Botanical Gardens----------Singapore

With the light going I waited at the visitor centre for a former colleague to pick me up. While there my last Lifer of the day a Long Tailed Parakeet was watching the last rays of sun disappear from the top of the highest tree (Photo 4 – taken 20Nov10)

312.Long Tailed Parakeet------Botanical Gardens----------Singapore

From there it was a quick tour of the sights of Singapore, including the Formula 1 pits (Photo 5) and back to the hotel for a meal where Mike Hooper joined us later to discuss the weekend’s plans.


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20 November 10

It was an 0530 hours start this morning, meeting Mike at the Pulau Ubin ferry terminal in Changi Village at 0645.

As Mike had promised my first lifer was flying overhead before dawn, Red Breasted Parakeets silhouetted against the early morning sky. A small population of introduced Tanimbar Corellas were also making themselves known although they are not really tickable.

313.Red Breasted Parakeet------------Changi Village--------Singapore

As we left Changi Village for the ten minute boat ride to Pulau Ubin, the sun just started to break through the clouds (Photo1) it was going to be a warm day! Arriving at Pulau Ubin (Photo 2) our first three birds were a Grey Heron, a Swallow and a Peregrine Falcon, all adding to my Singapore list!

As we left the jetty Mike pointed out a wonderful White Bellied Sea Eagle (Photo 2 – taken later) flying out to sea, and minutes later we were watching my first Stork Billed Kingfisher. Pulau Ubin had provided its first Lifer of the day!

314.White Bellied Sea Eagle--------------Pulau Ubin------------Singapore
315.Stork Billed Kingfisher-------------Pulau Ubin-----------Singapore

A loud squawk took our attention away from the kingfisher and pinned it onto a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills (Photo 3), a bird family I so dearly wanted to see for the first time. I was not disappointed, what splendid birds. They looked far too big for the tops of most of the trees they were landing in, and yet these are small compared to some species of hornbill so Mike told me!

316.Oriental Pied Hornbill-------------Pulau Ubin------------Singapore

Within minutes we were back at the edge of the sea, to the East of the ferry where we spooked two Chestnut Winged Cuckoos and a Collared Kingfisher (Photo 5 – taken later), my fourth Lifer of the day, who dashed off to our right for some cover.

317.Chestnut Winged Cuckoo-----------Pulau Ubin------------Singapore
318.Collared Kingfisher --------------Pulau Ubin------------Singapore

More to follow……


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20 November 10 (Continued)

Nothing more there, so we thought, but then I spotted a Common Sandpiper (Photo1) sat on some exposed rocks in front of us. From a distance the view reminded me of a swimming hippo with the sandpiper representing its ear. You had to be there I guess!

Moving away from the waters edge we continued along some narrow paths with various trees and bushes close at hand. Just as we turned a corner a Pied Fantail flew out into the open and immediately returned to its cover. While we were trying for better views of the fantail a Black Baza flew into nearby tree, but like the fantail it had other ideas about us taking any photos and soon disappeared! Two very quick Lifers there then!

319.Pied Fantail-----------------Pulau Ubin------------------Singapore
320.Black Baza------------------Pulau Ubin------------------Singapore

Buoyed with those successes the skulking Dusky Warbler almost seemed common, but was still gladly added to the year list.

321.Dusky Warbler--------------Pulau Ubin---------------------Singapore

Mike (Photo 2) and I then moved towards some small freshwater lagoons (Photo 3) surrounded by coconut palms. The different types of birds were baffling me let alone the calls. Thank goodness Mike was an expert. There was one call that stood out from the rest, something that reminded me of a cross between a Nightingale and a Golden Oriole. Mike informed me that it was the sound of one of the largest bulbuls, the Straw Headed Bulbul, but that they were very difficult to find.

Meanwhile I had to make do with a different kind of bulbul, a more normal size bulbul, an Olive Winged Bulbul. That was very quickly followed by an Ashy Tailorbird and a Yellow Vented Bulbul (Photo 4). Three more Lifers!

322.Olive Winged Bulbul-----------Pulau Ubin-----------------Singapore
323.Ashy Tailorbird----------------Pulau Ubin------------------Singapore
324.Yellow Vented Bulbul----------Pulau Ubin------------------Singapore

I had decided to type the birds I was seeing into the notes section on my Blackberry to save time transferring my normal scribbled notes onto my computer when I got back to the hotel but I was struggling to keep up with such large fingers, such small keys and so many birds. Mike had a much faster approach, being an IT expert he had written a program for his mobile phone. All he had to do was choose the family name on his screen, tap it, which brought up the list of birds he wanted and with a second tap the latest bird was listed together with the time, clever!

While I was still miss typing bird names Mike pointed out a flock of munia in the tall grass, which, as well as Scaly Breasted Munia (common in southern China), held some Chestnut Munia. The latter may well have been another Lifer but I gave up on my BB from there on in and left it to Mike to keep the records for the day!

325.Chestnut Munia ---------------Pulau Ubin------------------Singapore

Earlier in the year I had spent an age in the Old Summer Palace in Beijing searching for Black Naped Orioles, but here they were flying round in flocks. Mike indicated they may well be split in the future so I have added his comments from an e-mail he sent me after the trip to remind myself to check, I might get an armchair tick at some point!

“BTW checked on the status of the Black-naped Oriole's getting split. The following was published a few months ago which would turn the SG Orioles into Sunda Golden Oriole, assuming you've had some in China they'll become Asian Golden Orioles and you'll have to go to the Philippines to get a Black-naped. If these happen then I've got all 3 :) "The genetic results in Jøsson et al. (2010d) support splitting Sunda Golden-Oriole, Oriolus maculatus, and Asian Golden-Oriole, Oriolus diffusus, from Black-naped Oriole, Oriolus chinensis."

Back to the real birding and two more year birds quickly followed; a beautiful Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker and an always elegant Brahminy Kite (Photo 5). Mike then checked out the munia again and gave me another Lifer spotting a pair of Javan Munia. While I was taking those in he was already onto a second Lifer for me in as many minutes a Dark Necked Tailorbird! He thought he could beat that, seconds later, by also finding a Yellow Rumped Flycatcher but I had to disappoint him as I had already notched up one of those in the Lau Shan Mountains near Nanjing 4 years previously. Well he wasn’t to know was he? 

326.Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker-------Pulau Ubin--------------Singapore
327.Brahminy Kite---------------------Pulau Ubin---------------Singapore
328.Javan Munia--------------------Pulau Ubin--------------Singapore
329.Dark Necked Tailorbird----------Pulau Ubin--------------Singapore

330.Yellow Rumped Flycatcher---------Pulau Ubin---------------Singapore

We then tried for the Straw Headed Bulbul heading to where we believed the wonderful sound was coming from at the edge of the forest but we were talking too much and the bird stopped. So we moved away, stopped talking and the bird started singing again. Much more cautiously we entered the forest and found the palm tree where we though the bird was, but nothing. Then suddenly three birds burst out from under the palm leaves, we had our quarry. A badly managed hi-five turned into a handshake of sorts!

331.Straw Headed Bulbul-----------Pulau Ubin-------------Singapore

More to follow……


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20 November 10 (Continued)

Despite the number of birds we had already seen we really hadn’t walked very far keeping close to the ferry terminal. That was soon to be rectified as we set off towards the Ketam Mountain Bike Park towards the west of the island.

High in a tree a Dollarbird (Photo1) caught our eye and minutes later a Japanese Sparrowhawk flew across our sight of vision after its latest prey

332.Dollarbird--------------------Pulau Ubin---------------------Singapore
333.Japanese Sparrowhawk------Pulau Ubin----------------------Singapore

As we passed through the mangrove two types of kingfishers noisily left the scene. A White Throated Kingfisher that I had seen earlier in the year in China, and a Black Capped Kingfisher that, after a quick check, I hadn’t seen since 2008, where does the time go?

334.Black Capped Kingfisher-----Pulau Ubin-----------------------Singapore

Then, evidently one of the most common sunbirds on the island, an Olive Backed Sunbird buzzed the canopy above us. No chance of a photo there then! And in a nearby tree a Yellow Browed Warbler caught our attention.

335.Olive Backed Sunbird--------Pulau Ubin----------------------Singapore
336.Yellow Browed Warbler------Pulau Ubin-----------------------Singapore

It would be a good 40 minutes before our next bird as the sun intensified and the humidity rose, an ample supply of water soon becoming a major player in our day. By now there were numerous people cycling past us on rather cheap looking bikes they had hired from the village. Walking seemed a much safer bet, particularly as many of the geared bikes looked like they had turned into fixed gears and the rusty chains looked like they wouldn’t last long.

The birds then picked up again with a Yellow Browed Warbler and a Tiger Shrike in the same clearing. Then possibly the best bird of the day if you were looking for colours, a Crimson Sunbird (Photo 2) lit up the endless greenery with its wonderful colours, my latest Lifer.

337.Crimson Sunbird------------Pulau Ubin----------------Singapore

Crossing one of the small tidal rivers we stopped (Photo 3) immediately over the bridge to find a female Copper Throated Sunbird (Photo 4). “Wait until you see the male!” exclaimed Mike. Then out of the bush the male came into full view, its iridescent colours dazzling us. “I can’t see the copper throat?” I commented, “It’s there I can assure you” replied Mike. I never did see it, but took his word for it. Another bird that fits the “wonderful” category, and another Lifer!

338.Copper Throated Sunbird-----Pulau Ubin------------------Singapore

More to follow……


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20 November 10 (Continued)

Across the road from the sunbird another lifer awaited me a Common Iora (Photo1) and just as we were photographing it a pair of Blue Tailed Bee Eaters (Photo 2) flew overhead and settled in a tree.

339.Common Iora-------------------Pulau Ubin------------Singapore
340.Blue Tailed Bee Eater--------------Pulau Ubin-----------------Singapore

We then passed a small hotel, that didn’t seem to be enjoying a roaring trade, although Mike did tell me some unsuspecting foreigners booked it when they wanted to visit the Singapore F1 GP. They had thought they had found a bargain considering all other hotel costs had tripled. I suspect they discovered more than they bargained for being in such a remote location!

While we were musing that thought we came across a small group of trees which seemed to be attracting a number of birds. As we approached several Zebra Doves burst from the ground. Up in the trees Ashy Minivets (Photo 3) were making themselves heard while a lone Little Bronze Cuckoo was deciding what to do with a caterpillar. Three Lifers in five minutes!

341.Zebra Dove-----------------------Pulau Ubin--------------------Singapore
342.Ashy Minivet----------------------Pulau Ubin--------------------Singapore
343.Little Bronze Cuckoo---------------Pulau Ubin--------------------Singapore

The scenery changed 20 minutes later as we came out into the open (Photo 5), their being nowhere to hide from the sun, although a lone Brown Shrike did find some cover! The next part of our adventure was out of the realms of Indiana Jones, well certainly for someone from Derby, England………………..

More to follow……


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20 November 10 (Continued)

With the sun beating down a Crested Honey Buzzard (Photo 1) circled overhead, oblivious of the oppressive heat

344.Crested Honey Buzzard-------------Pulau Ubin--------------Singapore

We slowly walked North West towards the Mountain Bike Park (MBP). As we reached an open shore line where the long grass had been cut to provide a path a fellow Brit said he had just seen a couple of Oystercatchers fly by. Mike doubted this as you don’t get Oystercatchers in that part of the world, thinking they were probably the pair of Red Wattled Lapwings that are known to frequent that part of the island. We failed to see them.

More ominously our friend also said he had seen a snake on the grass path but it had gone back into the longer grass. Mike quizzed him on its characteristics and came to the conclusion he had seen a Spitting Cobra. Oh good, I thought! As we neared the area I suddenly spotted the snake. Pulling on Mike’s shirt sleeve I directed his gaze towards the large black snake, which was no more than 10 feet away from us. “Yes a Spitting Cobra” Mike confirmed, with that the snake turned tail and slithered back into the long grass again. We (well I actually) hurried past that section!

We didn’t go far before turning round ourselves and passing the same spot again, the snake had not returned thank goodness. Our next move was to join the MBP. “I normally cut through there”, Mike announced as we passed an overgrown narrow path that connected our path to the MBP, “Well you’re not going to today” I exclaimed, “We are only walking through short grass on this trip!”

As Mike smiled we came across a Common Tailorbird in a small tree

345.Common Tailorbird---------------Pulau Ubin-----------------Singapore

Finally on the MBP, via the long way round, a Lesser Coucal flew up from the long grass and disappeared back into it a little further on. Rather it than me!

346.Lesser Coucal-------------------Pulau Ubin-----------------Singapore

As we started to climb we came to the rim of a former quarry, Ketam Quarry, where a lot of the stone had been used to build Singapore. It had been filled, like several quarrys on the island, with crystal clear ground water. We had to circumnavigate the quarry via the MB trail, which took us into a wood. “This is perfect habitat for King Cobra’s and tree snakes” Mike informed me after we were well into the trail. But don’t worry about the latter they are pretty harmless, it’s the vipers that attach themselves to the base of the small trees so they can attack their prey that worries me the most”. Worries me the most, I thought, everything worries me! I was watching every tree like a hawk as we meandered up the trail. Each time a mountain biker passed us I was taking extra car where to stand!

Luckily we did not see any more snakes. We did pass under a White Tailed Sea Eagle nest though, with two formidable eagles perching on the main boughs of the tree. Can eagles perch?

The MBP seemed to go on forever, and while the vegetation grew denser we could also see that the sky was starting to darken, with the occasional thunder clap. Then the thunder clap of all thunder claps rang out seemingly just above our heads. I had never been that close to lightning, my head ringing for several seconds afterwards. The clouds then grew darker and Mike produced two small umbrellas as we moved from the MB trail to a special service road used when they have MB competitions. The trees above us started to bend as the wind grew stronger, the storm almost upon us. Small branches and leaves started to rain down and then the rain itself started in earnest. With my camera stuffed down inside my sleeveless jacket the only thing that the umbrella were keeping dry was my head.

Luckily the most intense rain didn’t start until we managed to find some shelter (Photo 3), which we shared with some cyclists. After 30 minutes or so the rain subsided. As we were just about to leave Mike mentioned that snakes often congregate in these shelters, I went ashen. Looking up sure enough there were three snake skins up on the beams which their former owners had shed! We moved on….

By the time we had arrived at Pekan Quarry (Photo 5), we seemed to have been walking forever, my Singapore list was up to 65. There I picked up my first Great Egret of the year, while a Yellow Bittern and Yellow Bellied Prinia kept my Singapore list building.

347.Great Egret--------------------Pulau Ubin------------------Singapore

Twenty minutes later, at 1415 hours we finally returned to the small village near the jetty for some sustenance. My water had run out 30 minutes earlier so the first two cold drinks went down without touching the sides. Then the food came and the batteries started to recharge.

Even while clearing our plates Mike spotted some Great Crested Terns (Swift Terns he referred to them as), and a Whimbrel passing between the island and the mainland

348.Great Crested Tern-------------Pulau Ubin------------------Singapore

Refreshed we set off for the Chek Jawa Wetlands at the far East of the island. Passing the most photographed example of a typical Malayan House (Photo 5), which is evidently used in many adverts, Mike spotted a cuckoo high up in a tree. The scope was invaluable as we just couldn’t get close enough to the tree to see the bird close up without other foliage blocking the view and of course the sun was in the wrong position. It turned out to be my first post lunch Lifer, a Dark Hawk Cuckoo. That will do nicely….

349.Dark Hawk Cuckoo----------Pulau Ubin-----------------Singapore

More to follow……


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20 November 10 (Continued)

To break up our long walk to the Chek Jawa Wetlands we dived off the main drive to some newly dug fish ponds (Photo1) which produced our fifth kingfisher of the day, the Common version. Camouflaged against the background was also a Great Billed Heron (Photo 2), which would be my last Lifer until we reached the sea again…..

350.Great Billed Heron-------------Pulau Ubin------Singapore

After what seemed like eternity, we finally arrived at the East coast of the island. Initially we walked out onto a pier to the South where Mike told me about the sea snakes (!) and then we made our way through the mangrove swamps via the board walk and out onto the mudflats (Photo 3).

With the low tide a sand bar had appeared and with my scope at its highest magnification we picked out an Eastern Marsh Harrier taking in the evening sun. Closer to home several Malaysian Plovers, each a Lifer (!) were feeding amongst the Grey Plovers.

351.Eastern Marsh Harrier------------Pulau Ubin-------------Singapore
352.Malaysian Plover--------------Pulau Ubin-------------Singapore

As we worked our way through the birds, we could see a number of Lesser Sandplovers and on the far shore of the mud the distinctive upturned bill of a Terek Sandpiper gave its owner away. Bar Tailed Godwits and Eurasian Curlews completed the list of waders.

353.Lesser Sandplover---------------Pulau Ubin-------------Singapore
354.Terek Sandpiper-----------------Pulau Ubin-------------Singapore

With just over an hour until sunset we decided to return to the jetty, which was a good 3 to 4 kilometres away. We reckoned we had already walked over 20kms and every part of my body knew we had. Half a kilometre from our destination we had one final check of some small pools. Mike had been surprised all day that we had not seen any type of Woodpecker. This resolved itself when a bright coloured Common Flameback (Photo 4) flew into a tree across the other side of one of the pools. A nice way to finish off a day’s birding

I had never been so pleased to see a boat when it arrived, but I left the island (Photo 5) with some great memories thanks to Mike’s expert guidance.


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21 November 10

A good night sleep after the long walk Saturday prepared me for a quick visit to Singapore’s highest point on Sunday, Bukit Timah, which reaches a giddy height of 160m. I was flying to Guangzhou that afternoon so only had the morning for birding.

Mike’s taxi picked me up from my hotel at 0700 hours arriving at the foot of the hill (Photos 1 & 2) some 15 minutes later. The drive from the hotel had been interesting as the taxi driver was real character, cracking jokes that are not repeatable here!

The most common bird in the “Foothills” were Greater Racket Tailed Drongos (Photo 3) their calls filling the early morning air. The first one we saw was silhouetted against the dawn sky.

356.Greater Racket Tailed Drongo-----Bukit Timah--------Singapore

The reason Mike had chosen this location was that a fruiting fig tree had attracted over 20 species of bird earlier in the week. Climbing the very steep tarmac road Mike advised that the trees around us were primary rain forest, Singapore being one of only two cities in the world to contain such a forest. The trees were enormous and dead vertical, void of any foliage below their large canopy branches. No wonder several mammals and reptiles had perfected the art of gliding, it would be a long climb up and down these trees!

At the top of the ascent we couldn’t miss the fig tree (Photo 4) as it was already alive with birds.

I was so pleased to have Mike with me, with craning your neck it wasn’t easy to spot the birds let alone identify them, but Mike new them all. In 5 minutes I had four more Lifers, including the crazy looking Thick Billed Green Pigeon (Photo 5)

357.Cream Vented Bulbul---------Bukit Timah-------------Singapore
358.Thick Billed Green Pigeon-----Bukit Timah-------------Singapore
359.Cinereous Bulbul--------------Bukit Timah-------------Singapore
360.Streaked Bulbul---------------Bukit Timah-------------Singapore

More to follow….


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21 November 10 (Continued)

Over the next 45 minutes or so more and more birds would join the fig fest, the next three birds again all Lifers, being able to get some record shots of the Greater Green Leafbird (Photo1) and Asian Red Eyed Bulbul (Photo 2)

361.Greater Green Leafbird-------Bukit Timah--------Singapore
362.Asian Red Eyed Bulbul------------Bukit Timah-------Singapore
363.Lesser Green Leafbird------------Bukit Timah-------Singapore

A lone Arctic Warbler was rather less glamorous than its bigger cousins but was still a year and Singapore tick!

364.Arctic Warbler--------------------Bukit Timah--------Singapore

Giving my neck a rest from the continuous craning I spotted a small pigeon feeding around the base of the tree. “That will be your Common Emerald Dove (Photo 3) that we failed to see in Pulau Ubin yesterday” Mike advised. The light was so low it was a struggle to get any type of sharp record shot of my 8th Lifer of the morning.

365.Common Emerald Dove------Bukit Timah-------Singapore

We had decided we really need to be moving down the hill by 9am to not have to rush back to my hotel. During the last 15 minutes Mike spotted two more year birds a Blue and White Flycatcher and a gorgeous Asian Fairy Bluebird.

366.Blue and White Flycatcher-------Bukit Timah--------Singapore
367.Asian Fairy Bluebird--------------Bukit Timah--------Singapore

Taking the more arduous route down through the forest we saw little more, although there was a Greater Racket Tailed Drongo in a perfect position for a photo before some happy souls moved it on.

At the foot of the hill we made a quick visit to a small lake (Quarry?) in the Hindhede Nature Park but no knew birds showed their faces although we did hear several.

On the way back to the hotel I dropped Mike off at the Botanical Gardens (where he later e-mailed me to advise he had seen 7 more birds I hadn’t seen, all Lifers!) and thanked him profusely for an absolutely stunning time over the weekend.

Then it was off to the airport to catch my flight to Guangzhou, China…


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27 November 10

Having passed through Guangzhou and Haikou without time for any birding I arrived in Shanghai Thursday night but again was unable to fit any birding into my schedule until today, Saturday morning. I was due to meet up with one of our Reps Cai Chang and his wife Xu Rong at 8am as they had kindly offered to take me on my first visit to Chong Ming (China’s third biggest island) in the Yangtze estuary.

Before they arrived I made a quick visit to Zhongshan Park (Photo1), which gave good views of one of my favourite hotels the Renaissance Zhongshan Park (Photo 2) with one of the pluses being it has a Starbucks next to the lobby, and four others within 400 yards of the hotel!

The park was full of early morning Tai Chi experts making it difficult to find a quiet spot with music blearing out of numerous speakers. I did however find one secluded spot (Photo 3) where as expected an Orange Flanked Bush Robin (Photo 4) was keeping itself to itself.

368.Orange Flanked Bush Robin--------Zhongshan Park (Shanghai)--------China

More to follow.....


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27 November 10

At 8am Cai arrived in his new Jeep Compass and we set off through the early morning traffic under the Huang Pu river into Pudong and in less than an hour we were through another tunnel under one part of the Yangtze emerging onto a small island just in time to take the bridge (Photo1) to Chong Ming Island. It was very misty so you couldn’t see too far, although just enough to see the enormity of China’s longest river as it flowed into the China Sea.

Another 30 minutes, with Cai taking a short cut (he and his wife had been on a recce the previous weekend so new the best route), and we arrived at the Dongtan Wetland Park where a very impressive visitor centre (Photo 2) awaited us. The staff were all kitted out in the same kaki overalls giving the impression that this was a very good business for someone. The entry fee was 80 Yuan (£8).

The number of people there was remarkable, although by the noise most groups were making they were there for the walk rather than the nature. Many had hired bikes, even tandems so we were constantly bombarded by the sound of bells and shrieks of laughter as they struggled to come to terms with the concept of how to ride a tandem.

A Wryneck flew up from the gravel track we were walking along into a tree. Normally that would be a new year bird but having seen two already in the UK this year it could only go down as a China tick. The next bird was a year tick however, I almost got a photo of it but just as I focused a tandem came roaring past and everything scattered. It was a Dusky Thrush (Photo 3 – taken later without tandems!)

369.Dusky Thrush-----------Dongtan Wetland Park------------China

A little further along I could hear some parrotbills chattering in the reeds (Photo 4) to our right. On closer inspection I came across one of our target birds of the day Reed Parrotbills (Photo 5), my first China Lifer of the trip. I was already warming to Chong Ming Island……

370.Reed Parrotbill-------Dongtan Wetland Park---------China

More to follow……


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27 November 10 (Continued)

In a small wood Olive Backed Pipits (Photo1) flew up from the long grass into trees, their tails continuous wagging up and down.

371.Olive Backed Pipit------------Dongtan Wetland Park---------China

It was then onto an observation platform (Photo 2) which gave good views of the extensive reed beds and ducks dabbling in the various pools. With the number of people and the narrow balconies it was difficult to set up my scope, but I was able to pick out five species of duck to add to my China year list, Pintail, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon and Teal. They were all very nervous and on several occasions flew up in a panic (Photo 3) which had the crowd braying for more.

Moving through the park in an anti-clockwise direction we came across a bigger expanse of water which was literally crammed with ducks, many being Falcated Ducks. A lone Great Egret was then my latest China ’10 tick.

372.Falcated Duck------------Dongtan Wetland Park-------------China

Two further year ticks followed in quick succession, both buntings. A Yellow Throated Bunting (Photo 4) flew up into a tree near one of the many buildings scattered around the reserve while Rustic Buntings continually followed us as we made our way back to the Visitor Centre (Photo 5).

373.Yellow Throated Bunting----Dongtan Wetland Park----------China
374.Rustic Bunting---------------Dongtan Wetland Park----------China

The next part of the day would be some of the best birding, if not the best, of this whole trip……


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27 November 10 (Continued)

Leaving the Visitor Centre we walked through the car park to the gate and then turned left onto a long road where the sign posts indicated was the coast and the sea. Cai and Xu took the small bus while I walked what must have been a good 2 kilometres. When I arrived at the sea wall I was met by another enormous reed bed (Photo1) stretching out as far as the eye could see.

A Hen Harrier (Photo 2) was quartering the reeds but otherwise there was little to see.

Cai had been talking to a local birder earlier in the week who told him that if we wanted to see “Big Birds” we needed to walk some distance to the right along the sea wall. Cai told me the “some distance” was around 5km. With only a couple of hours of daylight left that seemed a tall order but we set off to see what we could achieve in the time.

After 20minutes or so a car came towards us with the passenger carrying a camera with rather a long lens that was protruding out of the window. Cai being the amenable and resourceful chap he is waved them down and started chatting away in Chinese. After a few minutes he had found out that there were some “Big Birds” feeding with some cattle about 3km from here, my heart raced. He also said that he believed the driver would take us to see them, it raced even further.

The car sped off to the point at which we had joined the sea wall dropped off its passenger and returned to pick us up, we all clambered in. Cars were not allowed in this area but the driver and his passenger, his Lao Ban (Boss), worked in the reserve, the car belonging to the Dongtan Wetland Park; I couldn’t believe my luck.

The road was dusty and bumpy, but boy were we glad of the ride, we clearly would not have made it if we had walked, the lift was our only hope. Just after a bend the driver stopped (Photo 3) intimating that this was where he had seen the “Big Birds”. We climbed out and in the distance through the mist I could make out a wonderful sight. A large sedge or siege (depending on your preference for the collective noun for a crane flock) of cranes was feeding on the salt water marsh. They were a long way away with the mist making it difficult to identify them even with the scope.

Suddenly something must have spooked then as they all took to the air and as luck would have it headed they headed straight for us. Amongst the grey birds was a single juvenile Siberian Crane, its large white wings, tipped with black, standing out against the early evening sky. As they slowly dropped onto the grass (Photo 4) in front of us I was able to make out Common and Hooded Cranes, the latter being a Lifer. I also thought I had spotted a Sandhill Crane but later convinced myself it was a juvenile Hooded. Photo 4 shows all three species landing amongst the Water Buffalo.

375.Siberian Crane----------Dongtan Wetland Park-------------China
376.Common Crane--------Dongtan Wetland Park-------------China
377.Hooded Crane--------Dongtan Wetland Park----------China

Unfortunately time was against us, the driver keen to get back to his boss. I could have stayed until the last rays of misty sun had ebbed away but ten minutes later we were on our way back. What a wonderful experience, they were certainly “Big Birds” in a big land, bird watching that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck!

As we sped along the sea wall a startled Greenshank flew alongside us for a short while.

We all caught the bus back to the car park this time. Our final stop was some crab ponds to the west of the Dongtan Wetland Park which were surrounded by yet more reed beds. I had never seen such an expanse of reed beds in my life, the Reed Parrotbill may well be endangered, but if development does not reach this part of Chong Ming Island they should be safe for now. I had heard that the plan was to increase the population of people on the island from 30k (or was it 300k?) to 3m. I do so hope it is done with some thought to this marvellous area of China.

As the sun dipped lower in the sky (Photo 5) we (well Cai actually) spotted our last bird of the day, a Black Faced Bunting.

378.Black Faced Bunting------Dongtan Wetland Park-----------China

Before we knew it we were on our way back to the metropolis that is Shanghai, after a wonderful day thanks to Cai and Xu. It was Xu’s first experience of birding and she took to it like a duck to water, pun intended! By 6pm I was tucking into a Starbucks Venti Cappuccino and a Blueberry Muffin while balancing my birding gear up two sets of lifts to my room on the 38th (of 58) floor.


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28 November 10

Again Cai picked me up at 8am Sunday, Xu deciding she needed a long lie in. This time we headed out of Shanghai (Photo1) to Nanhui towards the South Eastern tip of Pudong.

After 45 minutes or so we arrived at what seemed a deserted town, Nichengzhen, full of new buildings but lacking in people, very unusual!. The streets were deserted. As Cai said “It would be an ideal back drop for a film!” We nicknamed it the Ghost Town.

To the South East of the Ghost Town was a something else unusual, a large man made (Cai believes the biggest in China) lake, Lake Dishuihu, that was almost a perfect circle. Google Map shows Lake Dishuihu to the extreme South East of Shanghai, as a circular blob. We stopped (Photo 2) to check out any ducks but only the Great Crested Grebes added to my China year list. Many Little Grebes were also wintering there with a good number of Black Necked Grebes keeping to their own part of the lake!

Turning off what was one continuous bend we entered the Nanhui Zui Guanhai Park where we found ourselves amongst a vast reed bed, the long straight road we were on culminating at a sea wall (Photo 3), where we took a right turn to the South. In the reeds there were a number of Pallas’s Reed Buntings (Photo 4) which Cai called Reed Sparrows!

379.Pallas’s Reed Buntings-----------Nanhui---------------------China

Daurian Redstarts (Photo 5) were also in abundance, which are always much more confiding than their British cousins, particularly as they don’t spend so much time at the top of a tree!

More to follow…..


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28 November 10 (Continued)

After progressing a little way along the sea wall Cai turned down a dirt track just in time to see an Eastern Marsh Harrier (Photo1) hunting over the reeds.

With the backdrop of the Ghost Town we found thousands of water birds, near one of the main rivers running through the reed beds, made up of several species of duck, three species of grebe and coots. Tufted Duck and a Cormorant added to my China ’10 list. Behind us was a large Holiday Inn Express, which seemed strange in the middle of nowhere and stretching out into the distance a long, long bridge taking trucks to a terminal island. I thought it was the 30km plus bridge to Ningbo but Cai advised that was further South!

It was then time for lunch. Despite the Ghost Town being seemingly deserted Cai had found a very nice restaurant via the net.

That afternoon we joined the sea wall at the same place but turned North where we came across the true reserve (Photo 3) with a vast area of freshwater marshland. Along the road were numerous signs showing the types of birds that frequent this area at different times of year, all embossed with the World Wildlife Fund’s Panda logo. Out in the shallow pools there were hundreds of Dunlin with their familiar peeping calls, and equal numbers of Greenshank scattered around. On several occasions they all lifted into the air, can there be a better sight than a flock of shorebirds twisting and turning against the sun light? Little and Common Egrets, together with Grey Herons also frequented the deeper waters, while Kentish Plover patrolled the drier areas. Boardwalks dissected the marshland further into the reserve but these were closed at present. Certainly an area to visit again….

In the distance I could see what was a number of Black Night Heron’s in flight that were either being continually being disturbed or were in a feeding frenzy. Therefore Cai and I returned to the car and made our way over. Once there we could see what all the commotion was about, it was feeding time for the crabs and the herons were following the boat (Photo 4).

380.Black Crowned Night Heron------------Nan Hui------------China

As the afternoon was drawing to a close we continued to drive North along the seemingly endless sea wall, then turned inland near a good sized river until we found a bridge and then moved into the next reclamation area along the opposite bank of the river. Large ships were entering the river and with half of the river consisting of fresh green reed beds the ships looked like they were gliding through a green sea.

We were now in the Binhai area of Pudong, famous for its golf course further inland. This was the area of reclaimed land that I had first visited in September 2006. Then there had been vast reed beds and an uncountable number of small pools surrounded by virgin mud full of many species of waders. I will always remember it as it was the first time I had my camera with a long lens which became invaluable as many of the waders I couldn’t identify. In fact I put photos of 11 species on Birdforum and within 5 minutes two experts returned with all of the names. Ever since I have always carried a camera! There had also been 200+ Red Necked Phalaropes and my photo of an Isabelline Wheatear caused a stir as they should not normally be in this area.

Today however, gone were the reed beds, gone were the pools and in their place farmland and fresh roads, it was quite amazing the speed of progress. “Where do they get all of the soil from?” exclaimed Cai. At that moment a dumper truck let us know of its present its horn blasting as it approached and then thundered past full of earth. Further up we could see other trucks unloading tons of earth.

As we approached the northern extremities of this area I could just see over the sea wall from the Jeep an area of saltwater marsh with what looked like several large white birds on the shoreline. I asked Cai to “Tin” (Stop) and to my delight 17 Whooper Swans (Photo 5) were feeding. Behind us many Spot Billed ducks were coming into roost along with Grey Herons and egrets, together with a lone goose, type of which I was unable to identify.

As we headed home we passed one area of reclaimed land that was off limits, Cai indicating that it was the site where China was going to build its first large civil aircraft the C919.

An hour later, having thanked Cai for a great two days, I was in back Starbucks again…….


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01 December 10

Having arrived in Beijing late Tuesday night I had just finished updating my 2010 list on Birdforum when I happened to check the China thread, which reported Japanese Waxwings in the Botanical Gardens, a Lifer for me!

Wednesday morning I took my bird watching gear to the office. It’s amazing how everything can fit into your computer bag, except the tri-pod. Leaving slightly earlier than normal that afternoon I took the 40 minute taxi ride to the Botanical Gardens. I had also contacted Li Ming (Xiaoming on Birdforum) who studies at the University there to see if he was available. He was in a meeting but hoped to join me afterwards. He also confirmed where the birds had been seen, together with some Bohemian Waxwings

Once in the park I hurried to the area where there were some ornamental berry trees (Photo1) but there were no birds. After waiting some time I decided to visit a frozen lake where there were a number of birds in the trees. Just as I walked past the Education Centre building several Waxwings flew overhead towards where I had come from so turning 180 degrees I returned. Ten Japanese Waxwings were at the top of a tall tree, I took a few snaps but I had auto focussed on a branch in the foreground and before I could move the birds left! It was a quick sighting of a Lifer but still worthwhile.

381.Japanese Waxwing--------Beijing Botanical Garden---------China

On the way back to find another taxi I also picked up several Dark Throated Thrushes with both orange and black throats for my year list and a flock of Brambling for my China year list.

382.Dark Throated Thrush-------Beijing Botanical Garden------China

Unfortunately my mobile only had enough battery left for one of our secretaries to give the taxi driver directions before it died, therefore Li Ming was unable to get through to me before he entered the park…..


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04 December 10

From Beijing it was onto Chengdu Thursday night and then Friday night to Kunming.

At 6am Albert Jiang and I left the hotel for the four hour drive to Dali. We had been both there, and the Cangshan Mountains previously in June 2007 when we had driven from Lijiang, via Dali to Kunming. I am normally used to the early starts that come with birding but I just couldn’t stay awake despite the twisty expressway and thunderous lorries with water cooled breaks and virtually no lights making the journey treacherous. Throughout the mountains Albert had to be careful with the greasy water covering the roads from the lorries and taking avoiding actions as they changed lanes without any notice.

I missed dawn by about 20 minutes being woken from one of my slumbers by Albert dodging a large bolder in the middle of the road, hit that and the car’s sump would have been history! We dodged several more before I fell asleep again!

I finally awoke during a long descent into Dali where two lorries lay strewn across the carriageway, in separate incidents, their brakes finally giving up the ghost, both having gone headlong into the barriers and being severely damaged. Through Dali and we came out with a view of the blue ribbon lake that is Lake Ermie, with the glorious Cangshan Mountains to our right. It was a typical day in Yunnan with clear blue skies.

We continued on another 40k to the far end of the lake where it was reported this time of year there would be a good selection of birds. The driving here was unbelievable even for China, I lost count how many near misses there were between lorries and buses when we arrive at the village of Shangguancun (Photo1). We parked at a small restaurant and Albert took a well earned rest while I wondered the fields and shoreline.

Several Siberian Stonechats were clicking away in the fields

383.Siberian Stonechat-----------Shangguancun----------------China

My view of the lake was somewhat obscured by the shoreline trees (Photo 2), and no matter how far I walked the water was so high I couldn’t get to an area where there was a clear view of the lake. There were several species of common dabbling ducks and coots, together with noisy Ruddy Shelducks.

The trees were good for Brown Breasted Bulbuls (Photo 3) however and a Green Sandpiper (Photo 4) added to the China year list

384.Brown Breasted Bulbul-------Shangguancun----------------China

Albert joined me after his slumber and we returned to the restaurant for lunch, passing one of my favourite birds, a Hoopoe, on the way.

More to follow……


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04 December 10 (Continued)

We then made a quick venture to the end of the lake but again the water was too high for any wading birds so we set off for the Cangshan Mountains (Photo1). After 30 minutes or so dodging some dreadful traffic (it wasn’t like this in 2007!) where a one lane country road became a three way one way road at times, the buses were the worst, we arrived in Dali Old Town (Photo 2)

Once on the 30 minute chair lift we finished off the leftovers (prawns) from lunch which I would later regret!

The views (Photo 3) from the walkway across the lake were breathtaking but I was starting to get a dull headache which I put down to altitude sickness as I had had the same in previous areas of China. And I still felt tired!

Just then four Spotted Nutcrackers (Photo 4) flew overhead, one landing in a tree long enough for me to take some shots.

385.Spotted Nutcracker-------Cangshan Mountains, Dali-------China

We walked for some 30 minutes without seeing or even hearing a bird, until a party of White Collared Yuhinas worked their way up the steep valley sides through the thick bushes.

386. White Collared Yuhina----Cangshan Mountains, Dali-------China

I really wasn’t in the mood for birding and was considering, with the lack of birds whether to even stay in the lodge on the mountain. At first we decided to go back down and stay in a hotel nearby but then eventually decided it would be better to drive the 4 hours back to Kunming tonight rather than tomorrow when I had a plane to catch mid afternoon. It meant we could do some birding in Kunming.

As we returned to the chair lift a Chestnut Thrush (Photo 5) burst through a bush startling us both.

387.Chestnut Thrush-----------Cangshan Mountains, Dali-------China

Approaching the chair lift station I found a beautiful Chestnut Tailed Minla preening at the base of a bush.

388.Chestnut Tailed Minla------Cangshan Mountains, Dali-------China

By now I was feeling pretty ropey so was pleased to be going down the mountain, a Blue Whistling Thrush greeting us near a pond at the foot of the chair lift.

389.Blue Whistling Thrush------Cangshan Mountains, Dali-------China

Back in the car it felt good to be on the road again. Before I fell asleep yet again I told Albert to watch out for the boulders on the road in jest, when suddenly a dining room chair loomed up in front of us, Albert taking swift avoiding action!

It was a long, long drive back to Kunming and the hotel, once there I discovered it was food poisoning as well as over tiredness so it was early to bed with no alarm…….


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05 December 10

My final day in China started much better than the previous night ended, a good night sleep and a hearty breakfast cured all ills. The headache was still there but the drugs the previous night had quelled it.

The Dianchi Garden Resort Hotel and Spa as its name infers is right next to the large Dianchi Lake that Kunming nestles along. Within a few minutes of checking out we were watching Black Headed Gulls (Photo 1) of which there were literally thousands out on the lake being fed by the locals and those on holiday in the “Garden City”.

Walking into the less populated area of the park, which had yet to be developed, Elliot's Laughingthrush’s (Photo 2) were feeding on the pink blossom of some trees, enigmatic birds, the closeness of the branches and amount of blossom making it difficult to get a clear shot

390.Elliot's Laughingthrush----Dianchi Lake Park, Kunming------China

Vast areas of farmland had been developed since my last visit but some familiar areas still existed.

Next stop was another part of the lake (Photo 3) where even more gulls were being fed by the throng of people. This area was deserted the last time we visited but now with so many people owning cars we found it difficult to park. I could also see many duck on the far side of the lake so we made our way over there. Parking near a flyover the only way to get to the lake was to walk underneath the flyover where some resourceful soul had planted a crop. Picking our way between the new plants we arrived at the side of the lake (Photo 4) where a Chinese photographer was photographing the ducks. He spoke no English so I had to wait until Albert arrived to ask the normal question “Much about?” He advised that there were seven species of duck out there so I set about trying to spot them.

Gadwall and Pochard were first on the list quickly followed by Shoveler and Wigeon with a few Ferruginous Pochards diving with Tufted Ducks.

391.Ferruginous Pochard---------Dianchi Lake, Kunming---------China

To my surprise the seventh species were Red Crested Pochards, a first for China for me. Albert and I moved along the shoreline for a better view. While Albert went off to talk to the fisherman I continued to scan the large flock where I found an eight species, a Red Breasted Merganser (Photo 5). Later we caught up with our photographer friend again and he was surprised to hear about the merganser so I had to try and find it again to show him.

Time was ticking now as I had to catch my flights to Hong Kong, Amsterdam and Birmingham, so it was a quick change, a big thanks to Albert and time to leave China……


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11 December 10

The final birding foray of the year was to Rutland Water with Steve on a cold but beautiful day. The main purpose was to spot the American Wigeon that had been reported at the Lyndon Reserve.

The road down to the reserve had been closed for many days due to ice but a thaw had set in so we were able to park in the car park. Three ringers directed us to Teal hide where after scanning the reservoir (Photo1) for 20 mins or so we final locked onto the wigeon (Photo 2 – hand held digiscope) which was much more active than any of the other birds.

392.American Wigeon------------Rutland Water----------England

We then moved to the other side of the reservoir to the Fisherman’s car park (Photo 3) where we found the Long Tailed Duck

393.Long Tailed Duck-------------Rutland Water----------England

So another year over and a new one just around the corner! I am off until 10Jan11 so plenty of time for some birding and then I am back to China and Hong Kong on 15Jan11 so here’s to 2011 and Happy New Year to all



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