Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Wuyuan’

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.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The morning after our arrival in Nanchang, we made the long drive to Wuyishan National Key Nature Reserve.  But first we had to have breakfast.  In China, breakfast food is frequently the same as dinner, but noodle shops are also popular.  They all looked pretty much the same, so the photo below may or may not be where we ate breakfast on our first morning.  One of the regional specialties of this area is green dumplings, which were one of my favorite foods in China.  I have no idea what was in them, but they were delicious.  On some days, we started out for birding before the noodle shops opened at 6 AM, but when we did indulge in breakfast, it was usually a bowl of noodles with a fried egg and green dumplings.

Wuyishan National Key Nature Reserve is the largest and the most comprehensive surviving semi-subtropical forest in southeast China.  While we saw devastating habitat loss in much of China, especially along the coast, the Chinese seem to be continuing twelve centuries of tradition in protecting areas in the Wuyi Mountains.  The Wuyishan Reserve became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1987 and a UNESCO World Heritage  site in 1999 .  (Wuyishan Biosphere Reserve info and Wuyishan World Heritage info.)

The reserve’s winding road to Huanggang Mountain, the highest peak in the Wuyi range at 7080 feet, provided spectacular views of the mountains, their gentle waterfalls, and changing vegetation as we ascended the mountain, progressing from tea and bamboo to evergreen broad-leaved forest to the treeless summit.  We were told that the number of visitors is limited and that the fees to enter the park are quite high.  These restrictions gave us our own private escort and we saw no other tourists during our two days in the park.  I finally found this news article which describes the restricted access to the reserve which began in 2009 to protect the environment.

Wuyishan

Wuyishan

Wuyishan National Key Nature Reserve is reputedly the easiest place in the world to see Cabot’s Tragopan, a vulnerable species which is endemic to southeast China.  We were fortunate to find this splendid male on our first afternoon in the reserve.

Cabot's Tragopan

Cabot’s Tragopan

We observed him from our minibus for 20 minutes, only a few feet from the road feeding in small trees.  No words are adequate to describe that head, but the rest of the bird was equally fascinating.  The pattern on his back looked like it was created with intricate bead work which seemed to fade to lace on the ends of the wings and tail.  That tragopan was the most gorgeous bird I’ve ever seen.

Cabot's Tragopan

Cabot’s Tragopan

The next morning we headed for the summit at 4:30 AM, but dense mist and high wind made for poor visibility and not much fun.  We had rain in the afternoon which became heavier during the night.  In between the showers, though, we did see some nice birds including the following.

Pygmy Wren-babbler (Pnoepyga pusilla, now called Pygmy Cupwing)

Pygmy Wren-babbler (Pnoepyga pusilla, now called Pygmy Cupwing)

Fujian Fulvetta

Fujian Fulvetta

White-browed Shrike-babbler

White-browed Shrike-babbler

Hartert's Warbler

Hartert’s Warbler

On our last morning in the Wuyishan Reserve, we drove to the summit again and were much luckier with the weather than we had been the previous morning.

Wuyishan summit

Wuyishan summit

We missed the Upland Pipits that we’d hoped for, but all had nice views of Rosy Pipits and a few other birds including this Brown Bush Warbler.

Brown Bush Warbler

Brown Bush Warbler

A monument proudly proclaimed that we were at the highest peak of the Wuyi Mountains.

Wuyishan was my favorite part of the trip, so I was sad to leave, but we had more wonderful birds to see in other places, so it was back in our minibus for the long afternoon drive to Wuyuan.  Our target there was Courtois’s Laughingthrush, one of the world’s rarest birds with a wild population estimated at 200 – 250 individuals.  Much has been written about its rediscovery in 2000; previously it was known only from two museum specimens collected in 1919.  For a thorough accounting of the story see Little-known Oriental Bird: Courtois’s Laughingthrush.  Since that report, the Courtois’s Laughingthrush has been awarded full species status.

To say that I was not disappointed would be a huge understatement.  Here was a bird that was not only rare, but it was big, beautiful, colorful and gregarious.  Unlike most other Laughingthrushes, Courtois’s Laughingthrush nests in loose colonies.  We were fortunate to observe nest-building, mutual preening, and much interaction between the 50 or so birds in the area that we visited.

Courtois's Laughingthrush

Courtois’s Laughingthrush

The little island in the middle of a river running by a small rural village where we saw the Courtois’s Laughingthrush was quite interesting.  The large trees on the island where the birds nest have been protected by the villagers for centuries and are probably the reason that the birds still survive.  The island was shared with many other bird species, dozens of chickens running around, and a water buffalo grazing.  In addition to our group, there were about about a dozen Chinese photographers admiring the Laughingthrushes.

In the river surrounding the island with the Courtois’s Laughingthrushes, we saw these gorgeous drake Mandarin Ducks.

Mandarin Ducks

Mandarin Ducks

Other great birds in Wuyuan included White-browed Laughingthrushes.

White-browed Laughingthrushes

White-browed Laughingthrushes

Also found nearby was a Long-billed Plover.  This species is not rare or endangered, but it was a target bird for the trip as its range is limited to East Asia.

Long-billed Plover

Long-billed Plover

On our second morning at Wuyuan, we had a surprising view of two Chinese Bamboo-partridges fighting on the side of the road.  This is a species rarely seen in the open.

Chinese Bamboo-partridge

Chinese Bamboo-partridge

Chinese Pond Heron is a common bird in China and I enjoyed seeing them in their finest breeding plumage.  In non-breeding plumage, they are just plain brown birds.

Chinese Pond Heron

Chinese Pond Heron

After three full days in Wuyuan, it was time to head to the airport once again for our flight to Fuzhou and the last part of our birding trip.

Thanks again to Tony Mills for the generous use of his photos in this post. For more of Tony’s work, see Photo Art by Tony Mills and Not Just Birds.

Read Full Post »