The weather having turned great after the passing of the tropical depression which had been typhoon Bavi so I decided to check out the Panjin Wetland Park. Not as crazy as it might sound as we were actually quite lucky and only got some heavy rain for one day.
I covered less ground than usual but that was because I didn't have to. I ended up spending most time stationary observing what was passing by rather than having to hunt out interesting observations.
Heron and Egret were abundant with 13 Gray Heron being seen. That was of note in itself as GH are usually only seen in ones or twos. That day they were scattered about liberally. Also noted were s couple of Great Egret, 15 Intermediate Egret and 7 Little Egret. Two Chinese Pond Heron and 11 Black-Crowned Night-Heron rounded out that grouping. One of the PH was a youngster still being fed by an adult.
The biggest concentration of heron and egret was on their own little island paradise as they had taken over a small island, about 200 meters from the nearest shore. It is positioned directly under the high speed rail line viaduct, but they are conditioned to it and payed no attention to the trains rushing overhead. I was a good 400 meters from the island at the best spot I could reach on the south side of the lake and I am sure I could have increased my counts by moving to the nearest approach to the island which would be 200 meters away and on the north side, but in a classic case of you can't get there from here, it would have involved a good 5km hike to get there and about 2.5km to hike out to where I could get a taxi back home.
Additionally, I was able to spot 33 Great Cormorant scattered about the lake. Typically, they were mostly keeping their distance from any human activity. Only 10 Black-Headed Gull and two Common Tern were identified with a few distant birds not identifiable for sure, but probably more of the same.
Three fast movers spooked up from the shoreline of a small island that is just offshore as I walked by and due to the general color and particularly the tail pattern, as well as their extremely fast flight, I immediately thought Ashy Minivet, which can occasionally can be spotted, usually migrating through. After looking at the only three blurry shots that I managed, as the autofocus couldn't keep up with their erratic, swift flight, I'm not as sure. I'll include the blob shots in a second post to see what anyone else thinks.
Rounded out the day with the normal large flock of Azure-Winged Magpie and decided to head back home before the rush hours hit.
Panjin Wetland Park, Liaoning, CN
Aug 29, 2020 11:45 AM - 2:00 PM
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 10
Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) 2
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 33
Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) 13
Great Egret (Ardea alba) 2
Intermediate Egret (Ardea intermedia) 15
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) 7
Chinese Pond-Heron (Ardeola bacchus) 2
Black-crowned Night-Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) 11
Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus) 25
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 25
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) 10
That's exactly what I thought once I was able to get a good look at the processed pics and hence the reason I hadn't claimed anything yet. Unusual habitat and behavior, but being immature I suppose they don't know what they are doing yet. A bit too early for the AM migrants too though.
I returned to the Qingshui River on the morning of the 30th to check on the gull and tern again. Overall numbers continue to steadily decline, but I did manage to add an adult and two immature Eurasian Coot this time. The adult seems to have lost any interest in the company of the youngsters as when they came out of hiding, the adult promptly left the area.
I encountered the single Wood Sandpiper again, this time it had made itself a nest and was sitting in it. Again, it definitely noticed me, but showed no sign of alarm.
While trying my best to find a spot where I could get a chance of a better closeup of the Tern as flew by, I found some Reed Parrotbill eating the seeds off the reeds. One popped up out of the reeds to sing briefly before giving me a hard stare before dropping out of sight again. Twenty meters away from there I could see movement in the reeds and hear the cracking of seeds. I expected to find some more RP, but it was a flock of Vineous Throated Parrotbill that popped up and flew off instead.
The mix over the water had changed to mostly Black-Headed Gull but still with much reduced numbers of White-Winged Tern and Whiskered Tern. I didn't get any really good shots of them, but was able to keep some in the much wider field of view of my binoculars enough to be sure of the ID.
Panjin, Dawa County, Liaoning, CN, Liaoning, CN
Aug 30, 2020 9:45 AM - 11:45 AM
Not uncommon for both Parrotbills to be found close to each other, though they do usually segregate like this and the Vinous-Throated PB tend to be more reclusive and harder to get a photo of.
Something that I don't think I have reported here is that a couple of years of effort at attracting some birds has finally had some success. For the last few years I kept trying various versions of feeding and of birdbaths with no success. Finally the latest version of a birdbath worked! By July this year a few sparrows were cautiously using it to drink from and soon started bathing. Eventually, some Chinese Bulbul joined in very vigorously splashing until they would splash all the water out. Now we have some of the braver members of the local Azure-Winged Magpie family eyeing it, but I have yet to see any of them using it. Feeding has mostly been a bust, though at this time I have a handful of peanuts in the shells setting out near the bath hoping to attract the attention of the Magpies.
Owen, I recall you mentioning this a little before. It's great to hear that they are catching on to the bath (which should be quite attractive in a somewhat dry area). It's quite interesting to me how much birds observe others, and learn about opportunities from these observations!
I can't remember if I shared that I had attracted sparrows to a (very simple) feeder (stuck to the window) which I filled with millet. They loved it, but for whatever reasons (fifth floor location, millet feed, or small size of feeder) I never managed to attract anything other than the sparrows. Oh, yeah, I guess the magpies came for a look once or twice, but it was clearly not set up for them!
Catching up with September activity (or lack there of)
I haven't done well on either birding activity or in posting here for the last couple of weeks. Initially I was just occupied with some good birding and sorting through the photos and editing them. Then some White Monkey work keeping me occupied for a few days. Unfortunately, I caught a fierce head cold, most likely from the WM work as my birding is almost always well isolated from any close contact with people. I just didn't have the energy to do anything except lie about and sleep for about 10 days. A few days of rain thrown in and the month was gone.
I'm going to opt for the quick and easy here to catch up and let a few photos fill in.
I made a trip up to the Panjin Wetland Park, specifically the top end, i.e. the far east end. I was disappointed with the total lack of migrating Passerines. The wooded areas, which usually harbor lots of life at this time of year were very quiet. I did find a few of the Yellow Ground Squirrels making a comeback on reestablishing their former colony.
Black-Headed Gull and Common Cormorant made up the majority of the birds out on the water. But the Gray Heron made up most of the interesting activity.
As I write this I am finding out that what little editing, ID and filing I did while not feeling up to par would have just as well been left to later. Misfiled photos, photos edited but no ID assigned, species not reported. I'll have to go back and add the Mongolian Gull.
Panjin Wetland Park, Liaoning, CN
Sep 16, 2020 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
On September 17th I decided to check on XiHu Park (West Lake) on the outskirts of Dawa on the off chance of finding something of real interest. It is a location that can intermittently produce some nice migrant action. Alas, this time there was not much to be found with even the normally large family of Azure-Winged Magpie not showing themselves. I did get a nice story shot however of a male Eurasian Coot presenting a gift to a rather skeptical looking female. My wife got a laugh at the photo and declared it to be, "Is that the best you can do?"
At least it was a really nice day for a four kilometer or so hike.
XiHu Park, Dawa, Liaoning, China, Liaoning, CN
Sep 17, 2020 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) 2
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) 11
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) 2
Gray-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) 1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 25
Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) 10
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) 30
I had a more productive outing in going to Gedalou Reservoir on September 19th. It took a lot of walking as I guessed wrong early on and went the wrong way for about a kilometer with little to see. I then noticed in the binoculars that in the opposite direction I could just make out activity out on the lake.
I was awarded as soon as arriving at the little village with fish and crab ponds with some Mongolian Gull soaring overhead. I tramped around some of the ponds as they have in the past produced well, but only found one Little Grebe and one of the locals who wanted to show off his lunch of crabs still in the trap.
Once I moved up onto the shoreline of the main lake itself and got headed in the right direction, Gray Heron were found lurking along the edges of the water and a couple did some impressive flybys. It appears to have been an unusually good year for the GH.
As usual, Great Crested Grebe were sprinkled about on the water with one adult still guarding an obviously smaller juvenile. A few more Little Grebe dove and popped up between the other grebes.
As I passed by a nest, an Oriental Magpie was sitting in the topmost branches of the tree scolding me and was narrowly missed as a Eurasian Kestrel flashed in trying to take advantage of the Magpie being distracted, but miscalculated and just managed to loosen a few feathers. That shut him up!
As I got closer I was able to make out that the big flocks floating out in the middle of the lake where mostly Black-Headed Gull with a few occasionally lifting up and soaring about over the lake.
As I was stepping down a path towards some more of the fish ponds to see if anything interesting was to be found I had a strange observation that I still haven't been able to identify. A roughly pigeon sized bird suddenly burst from cover in the tree tops directly overhead and let out a loud "Grack!" call that I can only describe as being something between an alarmed chicken and a Guineafowl. Every bit as loud as a Guinea! It gave the same call again a few minutes later about a hundred meters away and again up in the trees. It impressed me as being dark colored, brown, I think, but I only got a quick glance and that was looking up almost into the sun. If I could find a recording of that call, I am sure I could make an ID by that, but so far no luck with anything I have guessed at.
Finishing up and mostly with the aid of the binoculars, I was able to find a single Purple Heron making its slow stately passage across the lake and a somewhat special find of some White-Winged Tern soaring about the crab sales area. A little out of place but the three tropical storms may have somewhat disrupted normal migration patterns especially since during that time we were on the very edge of the rain bands on all three and had steady strong northerly winds for about five days straight.
Barn Swallow were steadily making their way south.
Gedalou Reservoir, Panjin, Dawa County, Liaoning, CN, Liaoning, CN
Sep 19, 2020 10:45 AM - 1:45 PM
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) 8
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) 9
Oriental Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia orientalis) 2
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 150
Herring Gull (Mongolian) (Larus argentatus mongolicus) 20
White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus) 20 Aprox. 20 over large lake; Three recent tropical storms may have caused altered migration pathway
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) 15
Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) 11
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) 1
Eurasian Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) 1
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 40
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) 40
.... I did get a nice story shot however of a male Eurasian Coot presenting a gift to a rather skeptical looking female. My wife got a laugh at the photo and declared it to be, "Is that the best you can do?"
It's so nice for you to be able to keep this patch! It's hard to see the changes in habitat (I know!), but great to be able to make good generalizations about changes from year to year. Thanks for the photos and commentary - it is fun to read.
Several attempts at finding some Passerines came up mostly empty with the only notable find being some Siberian Stonechat feeding and well hidden, in the reeds and other tall growth along a narrow, overgrown footpath through a marshy area.
However, I returned to the Panjin Wetland Park on September 30th for much better results. Things started off slowly and I actually considered quitting, but luckily I decided to press on. Initially, other than the ubiquitous Tree Sparrow, a total of 28 Great Cormorant and about 60 Black-Headed Gull were the only thing in evidence except for a few Gray Heron.
As I pressed on I found the regular large family of Azure-Winged Magpie but they were unusually reclusive and actually avoided people while they harrassed a Great Spotted Woodpecker that revealed itself as it flew between trees. A single Oriental Magpie was also discovered by them and was of special delight to me as it just went on about foraging the floor of a wooded area, totally ignoring the AWM. The thing that was so entertaining was that it was undoubtably the fattest OM that I have ever seen! In fact it so so rotund that instead of the usual hopping along it was actually waddling along in a duck walk. Unfortunately, it was so deep in the shadows and undergrowth that I didn't get any pictures that really conveyed it's appearance.
A couple more Great-Spotted Woodpecker and again I hit an area with nothing of interest and considered giving up, but another half kilometer along things started to pickup again. At that point I reached the east shore of the lake beyond which is a more typical wetland with several shallow ponds and heavy reed growth. A single Great Crested Grebe paddled about the main pond along with a Eurasian Coot. However I could hear ducks to the north and set out to find them.
With each pond I kept coming up empty, but I could still hear ducks further on. As I was standing debating which pathway to take at a junction, I noted an Oriental Magpie down one the ground at the edge of one of the paths repeatably, obviously very cautiously, approaching something on the ground and giving it a sudden peck then popping up into the air to quickly retreat back. My curiosity up, I decided to check it out for a very interesting find. The O. Magpie retreated to a nest in the top a tree which overhung the area to noisily warn me as I approached. Upon arriving I found a freshly killed snake which Andyadcock in the Reptiles and Amphibians forum helpfully identified as a Tiger Keelback Rhabdophis tigrinus. A beautiful venomous snake, though with the small mouth and the venom glands being located in the back of the mouth make it not really of much danger.
Shortly after that I finally managed to find the ducks, though I wasn't able to get really close due to them being in an area right next to a flood control dam which has new barriers, fences and signs declaring it off bounds. I was just able to stand on tiptoe and rest the lens on the top of the fence to get a few decent shots of what I counted as 14 Spot-Billed Duck and one Eurasian Coot. I suspicion that the impoundment pool on the other side of the dam would have held more of interest, but it would have required at least a couple of kilometers of hiking around to reach an unrestricted area where I might have been able to get a decent view of it.
Shortly after that I encountered a known regular narrow migration flyway which is heavily used by both Red-Rumped and Barn Swallow. This time it appeared to be all Barn Swallow with 120 being estimated in a very short time. When active it is like a stream of swallows flowing along from north to south and you suddenly go from seeing very few birds to suddenly having a constant stream overhead.
Moving on down the river bank I was able to see that the water level is still well elevated above the normal and that it has been much higher this year. Great Egret, Intermediate Egret and Little Egret were to be seen working along the far bank in small numbers as well as a couple of Black-Crowned Night-Heron. It appears that most of them have moved along south in the migration while the Mongolian Gull start to move back into the area for the winter.
I was lucky in the timing as 23 Gray-Headed Lapwing came in high from the north and decided to stop at the river, circling overhead and descending until the finally picked a spot where the far bank had been undercut leaving a recessed shelf which offered a landing spot and shelter from being seen from above.
It was getting late enough in the afternoon and I was feeling the effects of the longer hike, so I moved on out along the last kilometer and a half of the pathway rather quickly, but still managed to find a few Reed Warblers unmistakably calling from the depths of the reeds and at least 20 Vinous-Throated Parrotbill foraging. I am sure there were many more of the Parrotbill, but they can be very difficult to actually see as they tend to stay well hidden. Up in some trees along the path I found 25 or so Little Bunting.
Panjin Wetland Park, Liaoning, CN
Sep 30, 2020 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM
In a last delight as I was hurrying out of the wetland park, I encountered another large flock of Black-Headed Gull perched along a heating supply pipe that elevates to cross the river. In an entertaining display, an Oriental Magpie had decided that it could not tolerate their presence on what was apparently what it considered its private domain and it was walking down the length of the pipe, head down, forcing them to vacate one at a time.