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Posts Tagged ‘Collared Owlet’

Oriental Storks in flight

Oriental Storks at Poyang Lake

Dave and Trissie were expecting Amber when I visited China in 2012, so I was long over-due to see my youngest grandchild.  I wanted to visit in winter when I could also see wintering birds at Poyang Lake.  So, my targets for this trip were Siberian, Hooded, and White-naped Cranes; Oriental Storks; and 18-month old Amber.  Well, I wanted to see Scaly-sided Mergansers, too, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit that into the title of this post.

My original plans were to leave home on February 14, spend a few days with my family and rest, and then fly to Nanchang for four days of birding.  However, winter storms delayed my departure and I was not able to leave until February 17.  I arrived in Hong Kong at 10:30 PM on the 18th and left the next morning for Nanchang.  The Nanchang flight was delayed, too, due to weather, but we didn’t know that until we arrived at the Shenzhen airport.  I sent Dave home and sat there alone waiting for my flight.  The airport was so cold that I was shivering even with a thick Sherpa fleece, I was exhausted, I had a headache, and my shoulder and tummy hurt.

Crested Myna

Crested Mynas were common everywhere in China

Menxiu Tong of China Wild Tour had been our local guide for the 2012 Zoothera trip and I was looking forward to birding with him again.  Menxiu met me in Nanchang as planned and we had dinner and a good night’s rest.  The next morning, Thursday, February 20, we headed to Poyang Lake.  Our birding got off to a slow start due to cold and fog, but we found quite a few birds as the day warmed up, including two of our targets – Oriental Stork and Hooded Crane.  We did not get as close to the birds as I had hoped, but we had satisfying scope views.

Hooded Crane family 2

Hooded Crane family

On Friday, we found the other three crane species that regularly winter at Poyang Lake – Siberian, Common, and White-naped.  The White-naped Cranes were quite far out, but unmistakable.  Another species that I particularly enjoyed was Swan Goose.  We had long, close looks at a flock near the road.

Swan Geese

Swan Geese

After lunch on Friday, we headed to Wuyuan, where our target was Scaly-sided Merganser.  Wuyuan had been one of my favorite locations in 2012 and we returned to some of the same birding spots on Saturday.  First was the jungle path with rice paddies on one side and the river on the other.  We had hoped to find the mergansers on the river there, but we did not see them, so we enjoyed the birds that we did find.  It was especially nice to have great looks at a Collared Owlet.

Collared Owlet

Collared Owlet

Pied Falconet

Pied Falconet

On Saturday afternoon, we visited the little island where the Courtois’s Laughingthrushes breed, which was lovely in winter, too, and the only location in my entire three plus weeks in China where I saw woodpeckers.  We saw one of Wuyuan’s avian stars, Pied Falconet, and watched it go after (unsuccessfully) an Orange-bellied Leafbird that was larger than the Falconet.  A lovely female Plumbeous Redstart entertained me for quite a while as she sallied up for insects and then repeatedly landed on the same rock in the river.  Eurasian Jays were as gorgeous as I remembered from my first visit.

Plumbeous Redstart female

Female Plumbeous Redstart

We completed Saturday’s birding with a drive along the river, again hoping for Scaly-sided Mergansers, but not finding them.  At dinner that night, we talked about our options.  Menxiu’s plan was to return to the same spot we had birded in the morning and walk the nearly impenetrable jungle path by the river.  This “path” through thick bamboo was the only birding that I had opted out of on our 2012 trip.  I had simply said that I could not do it and waited under a lovely tree by the river while the others continued pushing through the jungle.  This time I whined and complained, but Menxiu was confident that we would see the mergansers in the river along that trail, so I agreed to his plan.

Eurasian Jay

Eurasian Jay

That Saturday night dinner was our third or fourth meal at the same restaurant in Wuyuan.  Menxiu liked it because it was on a side street where the locals ate.  What I remember is the toilet.  In China, they do not have “restrooms” or “bathrooms,” but simply “toilets.”  This one featured the usual squat toilet, but it had a bonus – a tub of water right next to the toilet with four fish swimming in it.  While it seemed odd to me, later Trissie told me that Chinese would never buy dead fish as we do.  They want their fish fresh so will only buy them live.  At that restaurant, you could visit the toilet and pick out the fish for your meal at the same time!  I have to say, though, that I generally enjoy the food in China and have never been sick there with anything other than a cold.

Another Wuyuan specialty is green dumplings.  I had fallen in love with them in 2012 and enjoyed having these wonderful dumplings for breakfast both mornings in Wuyuan.  I scrutinized them a little closer this time and it appeared that the filling was tofu and vegetables.  They are perfectly seasoned and great with hot sauce.

Black Eagle

Black Eagle

Menxiu surprised me on Sunday morning with a drive to the river in our van rather than a return to the dreaded jungle path.  We found a pair of Scaly-sided Mergansers right away and got good looks at them.  We enjoyed the rest of the morning walking a road alongside the river.  While I had missed a lot of birds earlier in the trip due to my poor vision, I saw nearly everything that morning.  And, what wonderful birds we saw!  A flock of Gray-headed Parrotbills were right over our heads in a little rice paddy.  Several Gray-sided Scimitar-Babblers allowed us quality views, including one bird just a few feet away foraging on the ground and oblivious to our presence.  Other sightings that morning included Mandarin and Spot-billed Duck, Black Eagle, Brown Crake, a male Fork-tailed Sunbird glistening in the sun, and my life Red-flanked Bluetail.  It was a magical morning that I will always remember.

Gray-headed Parrotbill

Gray-headed Parrotbill

After lunch, we returned one more time to the Laughingthrush island, and then headed to Nanchang and the airport.  We had found all of our target birds and enjoyed some wonderful winter birding.  Thanks to Menxiu Tong of China Wild Tour for leading this private trip for me.  Menxiu’s photos of the trip can be found on Facebook in his album Poyang Lake and Wuyuan Birding Tour, February 2014.

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The Chinese Crested Tern, a close relative of the Sandwich Tern, was our goal for the final segment of the Zoothera Global Birding trip to China in May 2012.  This Critically Endangered tern with a total population of less than 50 birds is much rarer than the Giant Panda.  It is declining rapidly for various reasons, including egg collection (for food) and the aggressive development of China’s coast with its resulting habitat loss.

Little Tern.  Lovely, but not our target.

After a short early afternoon flight from Nanchang to Fuzhou, we started out towards the MinJiang Estuary.  The roads were so narrow that we had to switch to two smaller vehicles for this part of the trip.  After we drove as close as possible, a boatman took us a few kilometres along the channel to the edge of the estuary.  We then waded across a coastal tidal creek and were finally able to start searching for the tern.  We saw Great Crested Tern, Little Tern, and shorebirds, but the Chinese Crested Tern eluded us except for a fleeting fly-over observed by the others.  But I did not see them well enough to count.  The dense mist made viewing conditions awful and I missed many of the shorebirds, too.  We returned to the boat and were ferried to our vehicles in the fading light.

Kentish Plover

The next morning we left the hotel at 4:40 AM to try again for the tern.  The weather was even worse than the first day with rain in addition to the mist.  Luckily, the rain stopped by the time we reached the channel to the estuary.  Our boatman ferried us across, but the mist was still very dense and we could not see more than 50 yards.  We decided to wade across the channel to the other side of the estuary.  Walking out there was like plodding through four inches of mud the consistency of glue with several inches of water on top of it.  My wellingtons were a size too big and I couldn’t get my balance.  With each step, as I pulled one foot out of the muck, the other foot sunk deeper.  Finally, I lost my equilibrium and the mud won, sucking me down until my clothes and binoculars were covered with the thick gooey stuff.  Menxiu, our Chinese guide, saw what happened and came back to pull me out of the muck.  I laughed and trudged on.

Shelley at MinJiang Estuary.  Photo by Raymond Shewan.

The mist continued to present such a challenge that I asked if anyone was interested in splitting the group so that some of us could leave.  Two others were also ready to go, so we left with Menxiu, while Nick and the remaining two birders stayed to continue their search for the tern.

Chinese Crested Tern. My big miss for the trip.

I was so happy to be off of the mud flats that I didn’t care if I missed the tern.  Our little group immediately started seeing new birds as soon as we were back on solid ground.  I finally had a great look at a Eurasian Hoopoe, which I had missed earlier in the trip.  And we saw two Black-winged Cuckooshrikes mating!  The others soon caught up with us, their luck having changed shortly after we left.  They were elated with their views of the Chinese Crested Terns.  So, everyone was satisfied with their morning as we set off for lunch and then Fuzhou National Forest Park.

The park was just what its name implied – a park in a forest – and it was one of the most beautiful places that we visited.  We saw some nice birds that afternoon, including a Blue Magpie.

Blue Magpie (also called Red-billed Blue Magpie)

One of the group’s favorites was this Collared Owlet.

Collared Owlet

The next morning we went to Fuzhou National Forest Park again.  I loved the park, but I was getting tired by the last few days of the trip.  While I was tired with a general lack of energy, some of the others were tired of Chinese food.  We actually broke down and ate at KFC a couple of times.  The food was similar to any other KFC, but the drinks were different.  There were no diet drinks and no water; just Coke and fruit juice.  One frustration we had during the entire trip was the unavailability of cold water to drink.  Early on, we had given up asking for water and just started drinking beer with every lunch and dinner.  Beer was served refreshingly icy cold and it seemed to be cheaper than water.

At Fuzhou National Forest Park, the paths were pretty much constant up and down.  After an hour or so, I announced that I wanted to go back to the car to wait for the group.  But, I learned that the trail that we were on was a loop and we were in the middle.  There was no easy way back to the car.  So, I continued on with the group and was glad that I stuck it out.  The last new bird of the trip was a stunning Slaty-backed Forktail, which I would have missed if I had gone back.  Another fun sighting was this family of Great Tits bathing.

Great Tit family bathing at Fuzhou National Forest Park.

Fuzhou National Forest Park also had quite a few butterflies.  My favorite was this Papilio paris.  Those metallic greenish blue spots on the hindwing are rather large and shimmer when this gorgeous butterfly is in flight.

Papilio paris, my favorite butterfly of the trip.

After a lovely but tiring morning, we headed to the airport for our flight to Shanghai.  It was the end of the Zoothera birding trip.  I said “goodbye” to Nick and the other guys in our group.  They had all been kind, patient, and helpful and we had shared many laughs together in addition to seeing rare and wonderful birds.  I had not just survived; I had enjoyed the trip.  The next morning, I took a flight to Beijing to meet my son, Dave.

Thanks once more to Tony Mills for the use of his photos. For more of Tony’s work, see Photo Art by Tony Mills and Not Just Birds.  For Nick’s official trip report, see SE China 2012.  The dates for this part of the trip were May 13-15, 2012.

Crested Myna, a bird frequently seen on the trip.

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