Panjin Birding by the Old Fat Man (1 Viewer)

Owen Krout

Well-known member
Thanks, Tom. That is one of the common subjects that I have actively been targeting for a first class photo. They are quite common indeed, but are generally shy enough and/or flying high enough to make getting a good shot difficult. I had a goal for that day to try to get a good detail shot and this very cooperative GCC made several slow close passes at just over head height. The all white or all black birds can be really difficult to get detail like that. You have to get all the settings just right and the lighting you can't control. Of course the best results came with reacting to an unexpected opportunity and just pulling the Canon 7D up preset on the Ts setting at 1/200th and letting the camera work its magic. Very little processing required other than a minor crop.
 

Owen Krout

Well-known member
OCT-9 Gedalou Reservoir

There having been ebird reports of interesting migration activity in the last week, I decided that I would go out to Gedalou Reservoir later in the day and see if I could catch ducks and/or geese coming in late in the day after feeding in fields and ponds in the general area. Late afternoon would have the sun mostly behind me and low down. Also, I was hoping to figure out what the loudly calling unidentified bird was from the last trip.

Arrived at 3:00 and did a quick search of fish ponds and reeds, but both were empty or any activity. There were some Mongolian Gull doing laps along the shoreline of the lake, so I moved up there and captured an interesting shot. This unfortunate has a badly deformed upper bill, but seemed to be healthy otherwise.

Several flocks of Black-Headed Gull were resting on the water out towards the middle of the lake, but no ducks or geese to be seen. Large numbers of Barn Swallow were lazily moving in a general southward direction high overhead, mostly only visible in the binoculars. Occasional Great Crested Grebe were scattered along the shoreline and one group of five Little Grebe were found.

Over a couple of hours I observed some interesting activity by Oriental Magpie. They are very common around the lake, but I kept seeing large 'family' groups. I at first thought that it was one large family following me, which they often will do, but at one point I found an observation point from which I could see three groups of about 20 each spread out over about a half a kilometer and each group centered around their large nests. As is common for Magpie, by that late in the day they have found plenty to eat and are obviously in a playful mood. They were chasing each other, soaring up and down in pairs and generally raising a racket. That was unusually large numbers by itself, but the really interesting behavior came right at sunset. I was preparing to leave as the light was fading fast and had six large flocks of OM pass directly overhead, all headed for the same copse of trees about a half a kilometer to the south of me. With the binoculars I got an actual count of 155 Oriental Magpie passing over me in about 15 minutes time! I had a good open view and I am sure it was not the same birds circling around. I could see and occasionally hear, an immense amount of activity in the one small area that they had all vectored into. Figuring that this included the three groups I had seen earlier I endeavored to not double count.

I knew that they tend towards family flocks, but I had not heard of flocks gathering together to roost for the evening. Anybody else seen anything like this before?

Just at the last light, Great Egret started appearing out of the gloom. They were all apparently migrating as they were headed south and slowly resolved into view as they descended from on high. From single birds to a flight of three, a flight of four and one of five birds. I counted 25 in total. I also spotted in the binoculars 13 Spot-Billed Duck coming in low from the west as I was following a group of GH settling down in a fish pond.

I did hear my mystery bird loudly calling a GRACK - GRACK - GRACK - GRACK call again, in three different locations. Still no joy on any idea what it was.

Gedalou Reservoir, Panjin, Dawa County, Liaoning, CN, Liaoning, CN
Oct 9, 2020 3:00 PM - 8:30 AM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 kilometer(s)
9 species

Eastern Spot-billed Duck (Anas zonorhyncha) 13
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) 5
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) 12
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 75
Herring Gull (Mongolian) (Larus argentatus mongolicus) 20
Great Egret (Ardea alba) 25
Oriental Magpie (Pica serica) 155 Actual physical count: Clearly observed with binoculars; Individuals and flocks of 20+ passed directly over at twilight; all congregated in wooded area approx. 0.5 kilometers south of observer.
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 200
Light-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis) 11

View this checklist online at https://ebird.org/checklist/S74593801
 

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Owen Krout

Well-known member
More form September 30th

I was sorting through and deleting photos from my September 30th outing and found some I had failed to record in my field notes. I am lucky to see even a single Black-Faced Bunting a year here, but these were from a flock of about 15.

I wanted desperately to get out in the excellent weather today, but tomorrow I have to start on the process of renewing my residence permit again and didn't want to take the chance of picking up a cold as it wouldn't be good to show up at the PSB office sniffling and coughing. Bad part is that I am sure I know where to pick up some good migration activity.
 

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etudiant

Well-known member
Sad, the bureaucracy remains clueless.
I cannot think of an individual more beneficial to the global acceptance/understanding of the new China than you, yet you have to jump through hoops for the right to stay there.
Is anyone intelligent aware?
 

Owen Krout

Well-known member
In all fairness, I have to say that I have a lot of local support right up to the local sub0district PSB officers and even certain Party members who are friendly and all would like for me to just be given Permanent Residence status. I have been accepted locally as a 'researcher'. Just before the funding for it has dried up and put everything on hold for now due to all the natural disasters this year, I was, technically at least, taken in as a founding member and 'Executive Chairman for American Liaison' for the China Panjin World (CN-51) Bird Research Center. I share my photographs and knowledge about what i have found here without charge and without pay, but it does lead to me getting some help with transportation and even occasional access to areas that are normally off limits and the police no longer follow me around wondering what the foreigner with the big professional looking camera rig is up to. All may come to nothing as governmental funding needs change, but at least permission for a building and the location have been designated.

Being a Quaker, I am steeped in the philosophy of being respectful of others viewpoints/beliefs but also in strongly held personal beliefs and most of all the importance of honesty. No matter what I personally believe, the Chinese are the ones who have the right to have whatever government they want. I've been quizzed about my beliefs many times here by governmental types and they have always shown satisfaction with my attitude.

It is basically just the same thing that happened when the university still wanted me but the bureaucracy ruled that I was too old to issue a work visa to me. I get irritated at having to jump through the hoops and having to pay a 1000 RMB every three months or so, but to me it just comes down to my basic principle of, "Its not America, its China". It is essentially the oldest and largest bureaucracy in the world and I am just one insignificant 'foreigner' to that faceless bureaucracy.
 

Owen Krout

Well-known member
OCT-15 Xuefu Marsh

I was supposed to have transportation to make a wide tour of the lakes in the southern part of Panjin and the shoreline in the area near Yingkou, but that fell through so I decided to walk over to the local marsh and see what I could tease out of it and it's immediate surroundings. Setting out later in the afternoon than I typically do, I also knew that the lighting might lend itself to trying for some more artistic photos. Generally, I do technical photography, more interested in photos for ID purposes. I am an engineer after all, not an artist.

I started out in a wooded area along the edge of the marsh and was quickly rewarded with a pair of Hoopoe being remarkably tolerant of me, allowing me to approach to within a few meters. A Spotted Dove called from the trees immediately behind me, but I never managed to get eyes on it. Still standing in the same spot while the Hoopoe probed away at the ground only about five meters away, I spotted movement in the foliage of the trees and after a great deal of effort, finally managed to get a couple of good shots of a Pallas's Leaf Warbler when it moved over to a pine that exposed it just enough for me to manage to focus on it through the intervening needles.

A few Chinese Bulbul were working about the area but were acting like they were very agitated and never sit still long enough for me to frame a shot. The possible cause of their agitation may have been that the Magpie wars were back on again. This is the strip of land where the Azure-Winged Magpie took over and destroyed the Oriental Magpie nest this spring. On this day the OM had mustered together seven individuals which outnumbered the unusually small group of only six AWM. The AWM eventually retreated from the area leaving the OM investigating the tree where their nest had once sat.

The entertainment over, I started to leave the immediate area but on my way out I was using the binoculars to affirm the ID on four Naumann's Thrush when I was surprised by a Daurian Redstart which cooperatively popped up to a branch which provided excellent lighting and background.

Continued. . .
 

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Owen Krout

Well-known member
OCT-15 Xuefu Marsh continued

I decided at that point to move over to a section of the marsh itself where a raised narrow dirt pathway passes right through the middle of the reeds. This is where I spent most of the next two hours, mostly standing quietly in a promising spot and working with the binoculars to try and tease out what it was that I could hear rustling about in the reeds. By using the binoculars properly I can achieve not only magnification but also the increased depth perception so that I can gently work the focal point in and out to see clearly into particular distances into the reeds. Often that is the only way to make out the various species that live in the reeds. This time I had three distinct groups.

There was a very large group of at least 70 Eurasian Tree Sparrow to one side, which if one didn't know better they could easily dismiss the whole thing as just a bunch of sparrows and move on. After standing there long enough though I was able to make out a much smaller flock of Black-Faced Bunting. All that I could see were females. I managed to pick about 20 out but I am sure there were many more too buried in the reeds to see.

Finally, after a lot of effort with the binoculars, in the middle of these two groups, I managed to pick out a few Chinese Penduline Tit. Their distinctive breeding colors with the mask were so faded at this point that it took awhile to be sure of what I was looking at but finally one did move up out of the depths of the reeds and presented itself for another portrait with good lighting and surroundings. Again difficult to say for sure, but my impression was that this flock was somewhat larger than the BFB, just much more elusive.

While this was going on, four Rock Dove had arrived and where foraging over the ground where some people have small garden plots. I believe that these were not domestic, at least anymore, as I have seen RD in the area before in small numbers and there behavior doesn't impress me as being domestic. Also they look to be slimmer than the domestic birds usually are. Shortly after their arrival, 14 Oriental Magpie came in as a group and also took to foraging on the ground.

As it was getting late in the afternoon, I started to work my way back home and as I passed what remains of a village that is slowing being swallowed up by the city growing around it while it's inhabitants age away themselves, a sudden loud racket of six Azure-Winged Magpie, and maybe as many Chinese Bulbul and a couple of Hoopoe caught my attention. It turned out to be a cat that they had spotted and while the AWM screamed insults and threats, the Hoopoe swooped and displayed. The cat's target was apparently a Spotted Dove as one suddenly popped up out of the grass near the cat and nervously perched nearby watching. All the commotion eventually attracted a Grey-Headed Woodpecker. The cat tried to act like it didn't even notice, but after a few very close passes by the AWM it seemed to decide that it's pride was better served by moving to somewhere else and it disappeared into the village.

Not the waterfowl I had originally intended to be spotting, but still an interesting afternoon.
 

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etudiant

Well-known member
....working with the binoculars to try and tease out what it was that I could hear rustling about in the reeds. By using the binoculars properly I can achieve not only magnification but also the increased depth perception so that I can gently work the focal point in and out to see clearly into particular distances into the reeds. Often that is the only way to make out the various species that live in the reeds.....

You've offered the perfect illustration of a not uncommon situation where limited DoF and slow focusing are helpful for getting the bird. Yet these are not at all sought after marketing attributes for birding binoculars. Rather the emphasis is on great DoF and fast focus. Is that really what birders need?
 

Owen Krout

Well-known member
A good question, etudiant. Personally, I would agree with your conclusion as, despite my making heavy use photography, I do use my binoculars just as much for everything from, what am I seeing 500m out, to what is that hiding in the dense foliage 10m away and everything in between. I also would rather have that relatively slow focus and shallower depth of field. Personally, I don't have any problem with working the focus wheel. In fact it is just an automatic action that I don't really think about at all.

I have a pair of 10x32 Vortex Diamondback bins that were relatively cheap. While they are not top of the line in any respect, they get the job done for me and have proven themselves to be rugged and well enough weatherproofed for my needs. I bought the display model as is for under $200 US when the sporting goods store was out of new stock. Their strongest point has proved to be that they came with a lifetime warranty. Using them pretty much daily for about five years and not exactly treating them gently I did manage to wear out my first pair with minor issues finally adding up to not really usable anymore when they started fogging up internally. As I figured it was just the usual advertising scam and I had left the receipt in the glove box where they had lived when I sold my truck, I doubted the warranty was still good. However, I decided, what the heck, might as well try, and filled out the form I got online, mailed them in to Vector sans receipt. To my delight, within 10 days I received a brand new pair back.

I have in the past had a pair of no focus bins and while they were great to just put up to your eyes and be instantly in focus, they couldn't be used to tease something out of the clutter. Basically, everything out past the minimum focus distance was always in focus. My brother wears glasses and he now has that pair as he says they work much better for him than anything he has tried before.

I have seriously considered upgrading from what I have, but if it works, don't fix it.
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
A cool woodpecker shot Owen.

I admire your phlegmatic approach to the vagaries of bureaucracy - drives me nuts when I butt heads with it!

Cheers
Mike
 

Owen Krout

Well-known member
A cool woodpecker shot Owen.

I admire your phlegmatic approach to the vagaries of bureaucracy - drives me nuts when I butt heads with it!

Cheers
Mike

I try at least, Mike. Stoic is probably a better description as I have a natural tendency towards a temper, but found the writings of Marcus Aurelius et al. and Thoreau and Emerson when I reached university and now have spent a lifetime trying to apply all that.

Real frustration was the interplay of having to deal with both the US and Chinese bureaucracies when trying to get my wife and her daughter their Green Cards to go to America for the first time.
 

Owen Krout

Well-known member
Yingkou Wetland Park OCT-17

Not having made it that far anytime this year, I decided to make the run down to Yingkou and check out the Wetland Park for migrating waterfowl and shorebirds.

Unfortunately, the trend of the last couple of years continues and what was once a rich hotspot seems to continue to decline. The wetland patch itself looked to be in very good shape, but other than a dozen of so Black-Headed Gull and one Black-Tailed Gull, nothing was to be seen. Even the usual buntings and warblers along the roadway were nowhere to be found and even more striking was no magpie of either species.

Moving on to the shoreline, which is at the mouth of the Da Liao river and arriving about an hour and a half before low tide, there was little to be found on the vast mud flat. Over the next hour I managed to spot 20 or so Kentish Plover scurrying about, a couple of Dunlin and eight Eurasian Curlew. I did managed to get some useful inflight photos of the Kentish P which may come in useful in the future and the Curlew, so I am certain that they were indeed Eurasian Curlew.

The only other thing of note was a passenger boat trailing a flock of mostly Black-Headed Gull with a few Saunder's Gull mixed in with them.

One Mongolian Gull was making lazy circuits along the shoreline. The few Saunder's Gull were especially difficult to photography do their fast and erratic flights where they would suddenly plunge down to the mud to pick up crabs. I did get some decent shots of a Saunder's Gull as it managed to choke down a crab whole.

Yingkou Wetland Park, Liaoning, CN
Oct 17, 2020 10:15 AM - 12:00 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 kilometer(s)
7 species

Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) 20
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) 8
Dunlin (Calidris alpina) 2
Saunders's Gull (Saundersilarus saundersi) 10
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 40
Black-tailed Gull (Larus crassirostris) 5
Herring Gull (Mongolian) (Larus argentatus mongolicus) 1
 

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Owen Krout

Well-known member
I hadn't gotten around to processing the photos of this until just now, but an interesting random find during my trip to Yingkou. Shining brightly in the sunlight was this prosperity frog. It was located well offshore and where it would be underwater at high tide, so took some purposeful effort to place it there. I didn't see the incidental piece off to one side at the time and I don't know what it is, though to me it just gives off a vibe of being old.
 

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etudiant

Well-known member
I hadn't gotten around to processing the photos of this until just now, but an interesting random find during my trip to Yingkou. Shining brightly in the sunlight was this prosperity frog. It was located well offshore and where it would be underwater at high tide, so took some purposeful effort to place it there. I didn't see the incidental piece off to one side at the time and I don't know what it is, though to me it just gives off a vibe of being old.

Thank you, Owen, for this tidbit.
I'd never heard of a prosperity frog, but if it is a popular meme in China, it seems a great way to get people to think ecologically. Maybe the old culture legacies have real wisdom in them.
 

Owen Krout

Well-known member
If you frequent any China Town area anywhere in the world, this is one of the folklore themes you will see in many businesses and homes. Technically, it is a three legged toad and often associated with Feng Shui, particularly in the Western world. Up here in the Northeast of China, Dong Bei, it is more often just a cultural icon. Water and toads (or frogs) are generally folklore items associated with wealth. https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-place-your-feng-shui-money-frog-1275008 It either will have images or coins embossed on it and/or coins, preferably in the style of the old coins with square holes in the middle (more folklore) and/or one or more coins in its mouth.
 

etudiant

Well-known member
If you frequent any China Town area anywhere in the world, this is one of the folklore themes you will see in many businesses and homes. Technically, it is a three legged toad and often associated with Feng Shui, particularly in the Western world. Up here in the Northeast of China, Dong Bei, it is more often just a cultural icon. Water and toads (or frogs) are generally folklore items associated with wealth. https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-place-your-feng-shui-money-frog-1275008 It either will have images or coins embossed on it and/or coins, preferably in the style of the old coins with square holes in the middle (more folklore) and/or one or more coins in its mouth.

Just a different world! Thank you for the quick overview.
China is so endlessly fascinating because the culture appears to have resisted any thought of the divine, thousands of years of history without a Jesus or a Mohammed, yet very deeply superstitious. Must be a challenge to navigate on anything other than ordinary affairs.
 

Owen Krout

Well-known member
Oct-22

A quick one here as I did a hike into a side area from my usual birding and didn't find a lot, but did manage to find a couple of Eurasian Wren, in the same general area where I have seen them before, but still rare to actually see any.

Also, the first time I have actually seen any Little Grebe out of the water. When I walked by the small pond the first time, I saw only one adult LG. However, as I went by on the way out, I spotted these two juveniles apparently sunning themselves on the bank. I managed to get a decent photo as the adult saw me and motored across the pond to warn them, they then noticed me and headed back to the water.
 

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Owen Krout

Well-known member
OCT-24 Gedalou Reservoir

I made it out to the Gedalou Reservoir again on the 24th and it was well worth the trip. First thing on arrival was to see that roughly hand sized turtles had decided to leave the main reservoir and cross the road towards the fish ponds. It being a fairly cool day, they were slow moving and some had stopped to sun themselves on the road. A few already had been run over. Therefore my first job was to pick the little dunderheads up and move them into the weeds off the road. That generated obvious puzzlement from some locals who couldn't fathom why I would be doing such a thing.

That being done it was time to scan the lake it it was immediately obvious that this was Gull day for the reservoir. Stepping up to the wall there were about 50 Mongolian Gull floating just offshore where they had found a school of fish thick enough that they didn't have to fly and could just reach down every now and then to snag a snack. They were arrayed in a semi-circle enclosing "their" fish and were aggressively chasing off the Black-Headed Gull which reached on out on the lake. There were easily 150 of the BHG with smaller numbers of them flying over to swoop down and snag a fish out of the Mongolian's fishing grounds. Off in the far distance, 500m or more, were a large number of smaller, white birds, just too far off to identify, but the general jizz was that of Terns. Probably 50-75 of them. They were just resting on the water and not out fishing.

As I was moving along, a single Gray Heron slowly flapped its way by.

Mixed in with he gulls and about 500m further down the shoreline, just beyond the mass of gulls, were a total of about 25 Great Crested Grebe. What proved to be a total of 15 Little Grebe attracted my attention just beyond there.

continued
 

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Owen Krout

Well-known member
OCT-24 Gedalou Reservoir continued

As I moved in to investigate, the Little Grebe, I found four Naumann's Thrush. Just a few meters further down the road, I discovered a bush full of a very active flock of something, but just as I slowly moved in to identify, a car went rushing past in a typical very unsafe manner along the road, which is barely wide enough for two cars to pass by each other. That scared the birds off, but shortly they returned and proved out to be about 50 Brambling in two flocks on each side of the road. As I was concentrating on the Brambling, I walked right up on a Eurasian Collared Dove startling it out of the cover it was hiding in.

Finally getting back to the Little Grebe, I was delighted to discover a pair of Horned Grebe unmistakeable with those bright red eyes. A lifer for my list! They were preoccupied with each other doing a sort of dance on the water, coming in close and then separating, all the while doing synchronized quick turns of their heads, turning towards each other and then away in perfect harmony.

As I started to walk back to where I entered for my pickup, I noticed a ruckus by an obviously large flock of something on the other side of some fish ponds, so hiked down to there to investigate. Good move as a large flock of Eurasian Tree Sparrow turned out to be the actors, but I followed my own advice to check out those flocks of "just sparrows" as there might be small numbers of something more interesting around them. As I was using the binoculars to scan down into the reeds I found a small group of what I first thought were probably Long-Tailed Tit but turned out to be about 10 Bearded Reedlings. Unmistakeable with that prominent black "mustache" as one suddenly appeared filling my field of view in the binoculars. I only got a quick look at a couple who popped up to check me out and then nothing but glimpses of movement deeper in the reeds, so sadly, no photos this time. Another lifer! Two in one day! Already having the easy finds for Panjin and being limited in my excursions this year, that is a rarity anymore.

Also, just next to the BR where about 25 Vinous-Throated Parrotbill, also buried deep in the reeds. Add in the 19 Oriental Magpie that I counted in the area and it was worth the side trip.

Finally, as I waited for the taxi, I had 8 White-Cheeked Starling appear on the power lines just overhead.
 

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