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

Panjin Birding by the Old Fat Man (1 Viewer)

Owen Krout

Well-known member
United States
Just to make it clear, I am not an expert birder, just a newly retired engineer who needed something to keep the brain cells active and to motivate me to get out and get physical exercise within the limits of my arthritis.

Through circumstance and complication, we have established ourselves in Panjin where most of my wife’s family is now located. At first, being retired and lacking the kind of activities that would be readily available in America to occupy me, it was proving difficult. Then one day around this Chinese New Year, while playing with an old DSLR, I saw my first Hoopoe and without thinking swung the camera up and snapped a picture. Then I discovered that I liked the challenge of finding different birds and managing to get a good enough picture to aid in verifying identification.

My personality and training is such that I can’t be happy with just snapping pictures though, I had to plow into the challenge of learning what I can about birds, wildlife in general and the environment in at least my part of China. As it turns out, Panjin should be a location for a good diversity, but is not well reported on, which just makes me more enthusiastic about being able to do something that could actually be useful. At first I was not very successful, but as I learn more about the area and as the weather improves, things are steadily improving.

I have just today enrolled in Cornell’s on-line course in identifying water birds since although somewhat familiar with the Passerines in America at least, I know almost nothing about the non-Passerines. Also, I have Brazil’s “Birds of East Asia” already ordered and on the way. I have also inquired about Cornell’s 2016 workshop in making and organizing video records or birds. In the meantime, I welcome an help or corrections from other members.
Gedalou Reservoir Panjin, Dawa, Liaoning 2015-MAR-27

I finally found a really good site for birding in my area. Our son-in-law called on Friday to tell us he was going to pick us up to take me the lake east of Panjin, Dawa, Liaoning (Gedalou Reservoir) because someone had told him that was where to go to see birds.

Turned out really well as it was indeed a good location. It is indeed a large lake, approximately 3 km x 5 km and the Dawa government has just this year started several large parks themed around "Beautiful Dawa". There is a large brand new park area at the entrance to the lake access with a large raised wooden viewing platform, I assume for cranes in season. The lake itself is rather mercifully undeveloped so far with just a lane and a half wide dirt track around the rim bounded with a nicely done 1 -1.5 meter high old stone wall between the lake and the track. The village clustered at the edge of the lake has a half dozen or so little eating establishments on the edge of the lake and there are a small number of families with small ponds raising crabs and fish. Overall good right now due to not being crowded and being relatively undeveloped.

We fought the gale force winds and smoke from burning off agricultural fields so bad you couldn't see the other side of the lake and walked about 750 meters or so down one side before we started losing the light and the son had to leave to pick up out daughter. The gulls were mostly around the eating joints at the entrance and the ducks Scoters and Pochards went out of sight on the lake. I only counted what we actually saw but I am sure there were many times that many on the lake. Most were just resting with many asleep unbothered by the whitecaps on the lake.

Even the wife got excited enough to immediately announce we were coming back soon and this time she was bringing the binoculars that she had refused to carry and left behind.

(200) Paser montanus - Eurasian Tree Sparrow

(3) Pica pica - Common Magpie

(30) Larus argentaus - Herring Gull

(12) Chroicoephalus ridibundus - Black-headed Gull

(100) Aythya ferina - Common Pochard

(300) Melanitta americania - Black Scoter


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Hi Owen,
Well done on setting up a new thread - Panjin is poorly reported on, so it will be very interesting to hear about what you see! The lake you visited sounds like an excellent patch.
Black Scoters are very rare in China, so I suspect what you saw (in your first and second photos) is the Common Coot. They are like black ducks with a white bill and frontal shield. I imagine that many will be passing through right now and some will stay to breed.
Good luck!
Looks like this'll be another thread I silently follow :) although I don't comment, I'll be checking regularly for updates. Looking forward to reading about your findings in Panjin.
Hi Owen,
Well done on setting up a new thread - Panjin is poorly reported on, so it will be very interesting to hear about what you see! The lake you visited sounds like an excellent patch.
Black Scoters are very rare in China, so I suspect what you saw (in your first and second photos) is the Common Coot. They are like black ducks with a white bill and frontal shield. I imagine that many will be passing through right now and some will stay to breed.
Good luck!

I just found the Oriental Bird Club's image's site this morning and it will be a big help! http://orientalbirdimages.org/ Looking there, I think you are correct, Terry. If I had seen one out of the water and especially if I had been able to make out the feet I would have figured it out. More of a chicken like body ;-)

One thing I need is a good checklist for NE China so I can narrow my choices better. The list I looked at had the Black Scoter listed but not the Common Coot. Does anybody have a source for a good list?

When I first looked out over the lake, being from America and not being really familiar with water birds, I immediately identified the Pochards as being Canvasbacks. At least I figured that one out.

Everyone keep letting me know if you have a different opinion. Our own version of peer review. I chose the BirdForum largely because conversations are kept on a friendly and supportive level.

Welcome to the group Gushawk. Feel free to speak up here.
April 1 2015

Hasn't been a great week for birding here. I had an ankle flare up on Saturday and keep me from venturing very far for a few days and then rain Tuesday and rain and snow today.

I did make it out for most of the afternoon yesterday, ending up sitting in a gazebo at a park and letting the birds come to me until the light got too poor. Not a lot to report though.

I started out by checking out a lakeside area that is still overgrown with reeds and tall marsh grass with only a narrow footpath for access. In the US it would have been loaded with birds, particularly Red-wing Blackbirds. At the point where the trail entered there was an official of some sort in uniform and with the red and blue lights flashing on his vehicle, but since he was sound asleep in the front seat, I figured he was just hiding out in a good place to sneak a nap on the clock, so I just ignored him and proceeded in. Sadly, it was strikingly quiet. There were not only no birds, but no sign of any wildlife at all on my side of the lake. I had noted another vehicle matching the one I passed on the opposite side of the lake and when they noticed me, they used the loudspeakers to order me away, "Ni shi zoula!" was clear enough even to my broken Chinese. I pretended not to hear for a little while (He's on the other side of the lake - what's he going to do?", then decided it was a waste anyway and walked back out. The fellow on my side was snoring by this point so I just went quietly by and let him sleep.

Count for the first hour - zero. Not even a sparrow.

I then moved across the street to a park right behind the police station and finding it very quiet and my knees complaining, I decided that often the best thing to do is nothing and sat down in a gazebo and waited to see what turned up. Patience paid off and about eight Tarsiger cyanurus - Orange-flanked Bluetail came out of hiding. The amount of variation just in that species is surprising. The males were keeping to the north side of the sidewalk and the females to the south. The males are just starting to get their more colorful plumage but apparently not good enough yet to impress the ladies. A flock of 32 Rock Pigeon - Columba livia circled without stop over the village to the north of the park for about two hours and were still circling at almost dark when I left. Just as I got ready to leave a single Grey Heron flapped up from the south, well above the highrises and made three turns over the water, then decided better of it and went back south.

April, 01, 2015

(1) Falco tinnunculus - Common Kestrel

(10) Passer montanus - Eurasian Tree Sparrow

(8) Tarsiger cyanurus - Orange-flanked Bluetail

(6) Pycnonotus sinensis - Chinese Bulbul

(1) Parus minor - Japanese Tit

(32) Columba livia - Rock Dove (Common domestic pigeon) [Better air traffic control needed!]

(2) Emberiza pusilla - Little Bunting

(1) Ardea cinera - Grey Heron


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Nice! I saw my first orange-flanked bluetails yesterday too. Nice to see your pics of them. And snow today as well... ah well.

PS. I only got good looks at 2 (1 m, 1 f), but there were several others of the same general type which I didn't manage to resolve in my rather brief opportunity.
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8 Bluetails sounds like a minor fall - never seen that many together.


Not a fail. They were Bluetails. Understand, they were not bunched up together like Tits, they were spread out over maybe 50 meters but all up on the sidewalk. Probably just arrived and staking out their territory. For Bluetails, that is a flock. Boys on the right, girls on the left. I managed useable images of five different individuals. There were more females but they were more shy and were staying buried in the brush where I could make them out but couldn't get a decent picture.

The one in flight is not great, but clearly shows the blue tail and blue shoulders.


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Hi Owen,

In case you haven't heard, the term "fall" in birding refers to when a group of migrating birds all suddenly land in one area (because of weather usually) and are easy to see. Great to see!
Well, that makes a "fail" then! I misread it anyway, but even if I hadn't, I wouldn't have understood. I'm entirely new to the birding community and ignorant of the lingo. Up until now it has been nothing more than me with a bird guide book and my own curiosity. Oh well, we live and we learn.
No worries Owen - we're all on here to share and learn, and the
bottom line is that a group of 8 Bluetails is a pretty special sighting.
They certainly beat the solitary Little Bunting that was my return for five hours' birding this morning!

You'll learn all the terms soon enough :) I only started properly birding about a year ago and a new phrase appears every now and then but I'd say I know most of them. That's the fun of birding, learning new things! Nice to see the Orange-flanked Bluetail. We don't get them here, occasionally a Red-flanked Bluetail might appear on our shores and cause a stir.
I think I tripped up on the common names, melding them together. Different sources have it as Red-flanked Bluetail; Orange-flanked Bush Robin; Northern Red-flanked Bush Robin. I was sure I had found it somewhere under the name I used, but now can't find it, so probably just mixed them up. At least here they are orange not red. I got the scientific name correct though! Tarsiger cyanurus.

Still toughing out the wait for my Birds of East Asia. Had another new one to me today that I was sure would be easy to figure out but for the life of me I am not finding. I am sure is perfectly obvious to those of you familiar with birds of NE China.

Also had two showing bright blue and white but which were moving very fast and tangled up together in close combat. Only a quick glimpse as they zoomed out of the village, overhead and across the pond into trees. :C Hopefully a better look next time. Fast enough and the right size and general shape that they may have been swallows, maybe Barn Swallows?


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Well done Owen with your 'first' report. It is well written and interesting to read. :t:

Your photos are fabulous, and the thing is you will never get the same birds on the same day no matter where you go. You will learn the species with lots of practice, and outings to areas that specfic birds are. :gh:

Like you, I have worked all of my life in an engineering job, and like you enjoy birding as a hobby in my spare time. There is no comparison at all. Working hard means to me you play hard too! :king:

I have to say that birding is a type of hobby anyone of any age can enjoy. Love to see a Bluetail and a Cardinal from your neck of the woods anytime.
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White Wagtail (sub-species leucopsis). Always one of the first migrants and a sure sign that Spring is eventually coming one day.....

Ah, thanks Tom. Then you understand, something about being an American, the engineering training and mind-set and the German ancestry that once I decide to do something I have to do it "right". I know I was considered a constant pest at the aerospace university as I was constantly proposing ways to do things better and the Chinese way is to not make any "disruptive" changes.

As for signs of Spring finally making itself known, yesterday was a good day for that. I encountered a nice big black beetle also, but the auto-focus chose the curb not the beetle.


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Amen to all things said about the Bluetail. The no.of males is simply awesome. In Shanghai, the females are the majority. So, i will be high even if i see a single male :)
Good luck Owen. The spring is just getting started.
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