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Posts Tagged ‘Red-flanked Bluetail’

View from The Bund on the overcast day we were there.

View from The Bund on the overcast day we were there.

“There are some birders,” said my son, Dave, as we walked along The Bund, a famous waterfront area in central Shanghai.  Birding is unusual in China, so I could hardly believe it, but two men and a woman had binoculars and scopes fixed on gulls in the river.  We walked up to them and introduced ourselves.  Surprisingly, I was familiar with Craig Brelsford, an American birder living in Shanghai with his wife, Elaine Du, and their friend and fellow birder, Michael Grunwell, from the Facebook group Birding China.  We all marveled at the coincidence of meeting there and had a great time talking about China, birds, websites (a common interest of Craig and Dave), and travel.  Elaine was surprised that Dave has been to Baoshan, in the western province of Yunnan, and they compared notes on their trips there.

Dave - all dressed up and ready for the awards presentation, the reason that we were in Shanghai.

Dave – all dressed up and ready for the awards presentation, the reason that we were in Shanghai.

I had arrived in China a week earlier, on March 4, for my fourth trip to visit my oldest son who has lived in Shenzhen since January 2008.  We were in Shanghai for one of Dave’s occasional jobs as an awards presenter for an organization similar to Guinness World Records.  The Chinese take these awards very seriously and about 200 people attended the presentation.  Three awards were given that day, including one for the world’s largest enamel floor.

Images of fish and other oceanic creatures were scattered about the beautiful blue and gold enamel floor.

Images of fish and other oceanic creatures were scattered about the beautiful blue and gold enamel floor.

Dave was done with his responsibilities shortly after noon, so we spent the afternoon exploring The Bund.  Craig and Michael showed me a little group of Black-headed Gulls that I hadn’t picked up with my binoculars and we talked about the identity of the big white-headed gulls, which Michael was confident were Mongolian Gulls.

Probable Mongolian Gull on the Huangpu River.

Probable Mongolian Gull on the Huangpu River.

Dave and I had planned to go to Shanghai’s Century Park the next morning and Craig confirmed that our plan was a good one.  He said that I could expect to find Pale Thrush there and I was pleased that I did find one right away.  Life bird number one for this trip!  A short time later Dave pointed out a bird perched on a branch of a nearby tree.  When I started taking photographs, a young Chinese woman walked right over to where my camera was pointed and flushed the bird.  All I’d seen was a crest like a tit or bunting and yellow on the throat.  But that was enough to identify the bird as a Yellow-throated Bunting, another life bird.

The most interesting bird at Century Park was this Red-flanked Bluetail.  After working with a millipede for quite a while, he finally swallowed it whole.

Red-flanked Bluetail in Shanghai's Century Park.

Red-flanked Bluetail in Shanghai’s Century Park.

Dave and I did a little more sightseeing, had a nice dinner, and flew back to Shenzhen the next morning.

Dim sum for Dave, Amber, and me.

Dim sum for Dave, Amber, and me.

My previous trips included serious birding; this time I focused on spending time with Dave and my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Amber.  A bonus was meeting Dave’s girlfriend, Rachel, and her family.

I had arrived on a Friday evening, just in time to join Rachel’s family for their traditional Saturday dim sum the next day.  The American equivalent of dim sum would be a family style meal consisting exclusively of shared appetizers. Dim sum originated in Guangzhou (formerly called Canton), just an hour from Shenzhen.  It just may be my favorite type of Chinese food; I love trying so many different dishes.  Food is an important part of Chinese culture and there is an abundance of it at every meal.

Making dumplings with Amber and Rachel's father.  It's harder than I expected.  Mine barely held together when they were cooked.

Making dumplings with Amber and Rachel’s father.  It’s harder than I expected.  Mine barely held together when they were cooked.

Shortly after we got back to Shenzhen, I spent a weekend with Amber and her mom, Trissie.  We went to Evergreen Resort, a place we had visited in 2014, but this time we stayed overnight.  The resort has lots of outside activities for kids, but it was hard to get Amber away from the hanging bridge.  She is absolutely fearless and walked back and forth on the bridge until dark.

Amber and Trissie crossing the hanging bridge at Evergreen Resort.

Amber and Trissie crossing the hanging bridge at Evergreen Resort.

After the weekend, I was back at Dave’s and we quickly settled into a routine similar to my last visit.  I usually went for a walk to nearby Shenzhen Central Park by myself each morning.  Dave, Amber, and I did something together in the afternoon, and then Rachel joined us for dinner.  Dave is the primary caregiver for his daughter and he works from home, so we had a lot of flexibility with our schedule.

Amber loves climbing trees.

Amber loves climbing trees.

The park was usually busy with people as the Chinese walk, talk, sit, dance, and generally enjoy their parks.  Between the people and obsessive cleaning up, I thought that I might not see many birds.  Still, I managed to see 30 species in Shenzhen Central Park.  I can recognize the songs or calls of only a handful of birds, so I couldn’t bird by ear like I do at home and had to actually see the birds.

Sweeping up fallen flowers in Shenzhen City Park. I have observed this "cleaning up" in all of Shenzhen's city parks.

Sweeping up fallen flowers in Shenzhen City Park. I have observed this “cleaning up” in all of Shenzhen’s city parks.

I was thrilled with Masked Laughingthrushes on my first visit to China.  I saw them again on my second visit.  By my third trip, I realized they were one of the most common birds in Guangdong Province.  Regardless, they are one of my favorites.

Masked Laughingthrush, a very common bird in Southern China.

Masked Laughingthrush, a very common bird in Southern China.

Asian Koels symbolize city birding in China for me.  I loved this proud, bold male singing from a treetop on the edge of the park with apartments in the background.

Asian Koels could be heard calling at nearly every park I visited in Shenzhen.

Asian Koels could be heard calling at nearly every park I visited in Shenzhen.

Unidentified damselfly.

Unidentified damselfly.

Dave and Rachel knew how much I loved going to parks, so they planned fun and interesting outings farther from home on the weekends.  Shenzhen may be the greenest city in China with its many gorgeous parks.  But in spite of much time spent outside, most Chinese seem rather removed from nature.  When we found this little damselfly, Rachel’s first reaction was “get it away from me!”  But, she saw my delight and was soon right there beside me getting as close as possible to get a photo with her iPhone.

Our most exciting nature find was these Clearwing Tiger Moths at Fairy Lake Botanical Garden.  We spent quite a bit of time admiring and photographing these mating moths.  We were on a narrow path and it wasn’t possible to pass us without seeing the objects of our attention.  These gorgeous creatures caught the interest of everyone who came by.

Clearwing Tiger Moths at Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, perhaps the nature highlight of the trip.

Clearwing Tiger Moths at Fairy Lake Botanical Garden, perhaps the nature highlight of the trip.

I was able to plan one day dedicated to birding.  Mike Kilburn, who had guided me for a day on my first trip in 2009, no longer works as a guide, but he generously invited me to join him for some birding in Hong Kong.  Since I had spent very little time in Hong Kong, Dave and I decided to go a day early and do some sightseeing.  We stayed in the area most tourists flock to, Tsim Sha Tsui in the central area of Kowloon.  We enjoyed walking the streets, Kowloon Park, and the Science Museum.

The next day Mike took us to Lantau Island, the largest island in Hong Kong, which is less densely populated than the other Hong Kong islands and primarily consists of mountainous terrain.  First we went to Tai O, a three-centuries-old fishing village which is famous for its waterways, stilt houses, fishing boats and scenery.

Stilt houses at Tai O.

Stilt houses at Tai O.

This was where I got my third and last life bird of the trip, Gray-faced Buzzard, when five birds flew over.

Next, Mike took us to Pui O, a more agricultural area on Lantau Island, which has a resident population of water buffaloes.  Pui O is one of the few remaining areas where they still occur in Hong Kong.

Water Buffalo and Cattle Egret at Pui O.

Water Buffalo and Cattle Egret at Pui O.

I had my best look ever at Intermediate Egret here, which is just like its name suggests – an egret intermediate in size between Little Egret and Great Egret.

Intermediate Egret at Pui O.

Intermediate Egret at Pui O.

It was great to catch up with Mike and especially to hear about his new job as Senior Manager, Environment, Air Port Authority of Hong Kong.  I was impressed that the airport had such a position and knew that no one could be more effective in that role than Mike.  After an enjoyable day, it was all too soon to thank Mike and head back to Shenzhen.

The last few days were filled with family time and visits to the nearby Shenzhen Central Park.  I was fascinated by three White-shouldered Starlings that arrived at the park just before my trip ended.  I had seen them once before (during the Zoothera bird tour that was part of my 2012 trip), but I found these by myself.  That always makes birds special to me and I had time to really study these birds.

White-shouldered Starling. Many species of birds were attracted to these trees with huge flowers.

White-shouldered Starling. Many species of birds were attracted to these trees with huge flowers.

I was in China for nearly the entire month of March, but it went quickly.  After four trips, it now feels familiar and comfortable.  I miss Dave and Amber and the birds of China, but not the seven flights of stairs to Dave’s apartment.  I expect another trip is in my future, but for now it is good to be home and back to even more familiar and comfortable surroundings.  More photos can be found in my Flickr albums China 2016 – Birds & Butterflies and China 2016 – People  & Places.

Amber the explorer.

Amber the explorer.

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Dave and Amber

Dave & Amber

After my birding trip to Poyang Lake and Wuyuan, I spent two weeks with my son Dave, his girlfriend Trissie, and their eighteen-month-old daughter.

Amber making friends

Amber making friends

Amber is a beautiful little girl and she attracted compliments everywhere we went. She likes Mommy or Daddy in sight, but is otherwise quite bold and unafraid. She makes friends easily, both human and canine. She loves climbing and enjoys playgrounds, trees, and stairs. She liked the slide at Evergreen Resort, too, and could have played on it all day. She is adventurous with food and will eat anything, even peppers that were too hot for me. Amber is like her Daddy in many ways. I remembered Dave as a baby when I tried to get Amber to sit still for a story. I had no more luck reading to her than I’d had with Dave 45 years ago.

Amber and Trissie playing with bubbles while waiting for the rain to stop.

Amber and Trissie playing with bubbles while waiting for the rain to stop.

We quickly settled into a routine in which I went birding alone on weekday mornings. I feel totally safe in China and had ventured out a little on my own on previous trips. I knew that the biggest challenge would be communication. Very few Chinese speak English (including taxi drivers), so Trissie wrote the names of the parks that I wanted to visit in Mandarin as well as directions for getting home. The first day that I got a taxi by myself things went smoothly and I was thrilled to find a life bird, Scaly Thrush, at Da Sha He Park.

Scaly Thrush.  A life bird that I found by myself.

Scaly Thrush. A life bird that I found by myself in Shenzhen.

HomeOne day, I decided to take a taxi to a park close to the apartment and then walk home. I naively got in a taxi and the driver started down the road. I showed him my directions and could see that something was wrong. I called Trissie and she talked to the driver. And, then I talked to Trissie. She said “He doesn’t know where the park is. Get out.” I needed her help to even get the driver to stop. Soon I was standing on a very busy street, not knowing where I was, or how to get to the park or back home. I quickly learned to never get in a taxi without first showing the little piece of paper with my destination to the driver and getting a nod “yes”. The next two taxis that stopped that morning both shook their heads “no.” Finally, a bike taxi stopped. I showed him the piece of paper with the park address, he shook his head “yes” and motioned for me to get on the bike. After yet another call to Trissie, I cautiously got on the bike, which was just like a regular bicycle, but with a bigger seat on the back for passengers. The park turned out to be very close and the bike taxi got me there quickly and safely.

At the park, I got a little confused about which path to take when I got to the top of the mountain. A very friendly woman called me over and I said “Nǐ hǎo,” the Chinese greeting for “Hello.” That started a long one-sided conversation in Mandarin. I am certain that the man who was with her told the woman that “Nǐ hǎo” was the only Chinese phrase I could understand, but the woman kept talking. She tried to give me a glossy flyer with photos of apartments and prices and her name and phone number. All I wanted was help getting off the mountain! After calling Trissie for help once again, the woman took me by the arm and led me down the mountain path. I could not make her understand that I wanted to go slowly and look for birds on the way. Finally, she let me go when we neared the park entrance and I sneaked back to search for birds.

Oriental Magpie-Robin

Oriental Magpie-Robin. A common bird in South China.

My taxi experiences were inconsistent, but it was usually easier to get to a park than to get back home. Getting home from the park farthest away was easy one day and took four taxis the next day before a driver shook his head “yes” when I showed him my directions.

The phone calls to Trissie were made using a phone that she and Dave had loaned to me. I did not check into using my own phone as I assumed that it would be prohibitively expensive and/or just plain not work. So, I could communicate within China, but not with friends at home. I could receive email, but could not send messages. Facebook is banned in China, so that was not an option either. Finally, I figured out that instant message programs that work over Wi-Fi were easy and reliable, but I had not planned for their use in advance. Next time I’ll be better prepared.

Asian Koel (female)

Asian Koel (female)

All the challenges of getting around by myself were worth it, though. I enjoyed the morning birding and found one more life bird on my own, Asian Koel. It’s a rather common bird and I found two males and two females before the trip was over. Many birds I had seen only once before, like this Common Tailorbird.  I had to work hard to identify them, but even poor photos helped.  I couldn’t get both ends of the Tailorbird in the same photo, but these two together nailed the ID.

Common Tailorbird tail

Common Tailorbird tail

Common Tailorbird

Common Tailorbird front end

I also had to work very hard to get a photo of this Little Ringed Plover. I never could see the bird in the viewfinder, but had to just point the camera in the right direction and snap a photo.

Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover

The water birds at Shenzhen Mangrove Coastal Ecological Park were easier to identify and photograph. I saw dozens of my ABA nemesis bird, Eurasian Wigeon, along with Northern Shoveler, Great Crested Grebe, Little Egret, Tufted Duck, and many others.

Great Crested Grebe

Great Crested Grebe

Little Egret

Little Egret

The last bird that I saw in Shenzhen was this lovely female Red-flanked Bluetail. I was disappointed in the park I visited that day, but when I saw this bird as I was leaving, she made the morning worthwhile!

Red-flanked Bluetail at Zhongshan Park in Shenzhen

Red-flanked Bluetail at Zhongshan Park in Shenzhen

Birding alone in a foreign country is a great way to learn birds. I was able to identify 51 species in two weeks. I noticed details (and will remember them) much better than when I had a guide. I would not want to do all of my birding alone, but it’s a great complement to a few days with a guide and I look forward to doing it again.

Red-whiskered Bulbul - a common bird, but one of my favorites.

Red-whiskered Bulbul – a common bird, but one of my favorites.

 

I enjoyed the experience of living in China for nearly three weeks rather than visiting as a tourist. I thank Dave and Trissie for doing so much to make it easy and comfortable for me. The dates for this part of the trip were February 24 to March 10, 2014. More photos of Amber can be seen in my Flickr set Amber – Feb/March 2014. Photos of the birds that I saw in China (including the first part of the trip) are in my Flickr set China – Feb/March 2014 (Birds).

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