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Posts Tagged ‘Black-winged Stilt’

After the Zoothera Birding trip to Yunnan, I flew to Shenzhen on February 2 to visit with my son Dave and his girlfriend Rachel.  The timing was perfect as it allowed me to join Rachel’s family for the celebration of Chinese New Year, the quintessential food and family holiday.  Many stores and businesses close for the week-long holiday, commonly called Spring Festival in China, so that people can return to their home towns to celebrate with their families.  The holiday starts with a huge meal on New Year’s Eve.  Our table was overflowing with plain boiled chicken served with ginger-green onion dip, braised prawns, roasted goose, sautéed Chinese cabbage with vermicelli, steamed Turbot fish, stir-fry vegetables, fried oysters, and chicken soup.  Everything was delicious, but we could not eat it all.  I later learned that it’s part of the tradition to have leftovers so that there is plenty to eat without any cooking or other work on the first day of the new year.

Dazzling decorations in Shenzhen celebrate Spring Festival

Dazzling decorations in Shenzhen celebrate Spring Festival

When I was not spending time with Dave or Rachel, I was free to go birding in Shenzhen’s parks.  This was my fifth trip to China and I have become very comfortable going out by myself.  I don’t see a lot of species, but it’s very satisfying to find them myself.  And, I love those birds!  It’s like visiting old friends. (more…)

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I was the only woman, the only American, the least experienced birder, and the least physically fit participant in the Zoothera Global Birding trip to Southeast China in May. Fortunately for me, the leaders and other birders were very patient and helpful and we all had a good sense of humor. That help was needed as I had more difficulty that I expected keeping up and getting quality views of the birds. My birding at home was much better after my cataract surgery last year. And, I had just successfully climbed the Pinnacle Trail at Big Bend a couple of weeks earlier. But birding on mud flats and in bamboo forests in hot weather with inadequate sleep proved to be a challenge for me. The guys, however, considered this to be an “easy” trip.

The trip started at the Shanghai airport where I met Zoothera’s owner, Nick Bray, local China guide, Menxiu Tong, and the five other birders on the morning of May 4, 2012. One of the birders, Tony Mills, is a semi-professional photographer and he generously provided all of the photos in this post. For more of Tony’s work, see his website, Photo Art by Tony Mills.

We headed out right away towards the coast. A great little spot right by the road gave us close views of several species including several Sharp-tailed Sandpipers.

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

We also saw a Swinhoe’s Snipe at the same spot. Everyone was very excited about the snipe as it is less common than Pintal Snipe, but it is very difficult to see the difference between the two species. Our leaders agreed on the identification after watching the bird for 15 minutes or so and examining multiple photos of the bird. Tony and both of our leaders were skillful photographers which facilitated “instant replay” and allowed detailed study of the snipe in flight moments after we had watched it.

Swinhoe's Snipe

Swinhoe’s Snipe

A small wooded area further on provided a change of pace and new birds including this gorgeous Narcissus Flycatcher. In China, it’s the warblers that are dull and flycatchers that are bright and colorful.

Narcissus Flycatcher

After this exciting start to the trip, we settled in for the 4-hour drive to Rudong where we would spend the night and the next day and a half.  The photo below is our hotel in Rudong; the other places that we stayed were similar. Our accommodations for the trip were typical Chinese hotels – clean enough, safe, and air-conditioned, but very basic. The beds were hard, the rooms were small, and the bathrooms were one big room with a drain in the middle of the floor and no separate shower enclosure. Another odd bathroom feature in most rooms was a full-length window between the shower and the bedroom. Our hotels usually had western style toilets, a luxury as restaurants and other public places normally had squat toilets.

Rudong, China

Rudong, China

We started our first morning in Rudong at the “Magic Forest”, a small wooded area that attracts migrants. The star of the forest that day was this spectacular male Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher.

Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher

Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher

Our target in Rudong was Spoon-billed Sandpiper. This critically endangered sandpiper had captured my heart a couple of years ago and was the most important bird of the trip for me. I had expected to break down sobbing when I actually saw the bird, either from joy, or sadness that this charismatic little sandpiper is on the verge of extinction. Surprisingly, the actual sighting of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper was a non-emotional, somewhat disappointing event for me. First, we were not able to get close and had only distant scope views. Second, the sandpiper was difficult to identify. It looks unmistakable in the field guides, but the actual bird looks very much like a Red-necked Stint unless it holds it head just right so that you can see its spoon-shaped bill. Nonetheless, I was thrilled to add Spoon-billed Sandpiper to my life list. In Tony’s photo below, the Spoonie is in front, just right of the Dunlin.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other shorebirds

Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other shorebirds

Here is a sampling of other birds we saw along the coast on our first day there.

Gray-headed Lapwing

Gray-headed Lapwing

Black-winged Stilts

Black-winged Stilts

Saunder’s Gull

Our last stop for the day was the ‘new’ Magic Forest, a small area of isolated trees and scrub, where migrants had arrived during the afternoon. This Northern Boobook (Ninox japonica) appeared to be as excited as we were and flew around several times to escape us, but we all got great views of this gorgeous owl.

Northern Boobook (Ninox japonica)

Northern Boobook (Ninox japonica)

The next morning we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Boobook was in the same area along with many new migrants that had arrived overnight. One of the birds that I enjoyed seeing wasn’t rare at all, but this sweet Oriental Turtle Dove on her nest.

Oriental Turtle Dove

Oriental Turtle Dove

After enjoying the Magic Forest for a couple of hours, we hurried out to the tidal flats for shorebirds. In addition to the expected birds, we found a nice group of Black-faced Spoonbills. This is another endangered bird with a global population of less than 3,000. I had seen them in Hong Kong in 2009 and found it interesting that their feeding style is completely different from our Roseate Spoonbill. Instead of using their bills to strain food from the water as their pink cousins do, Black-faced Spoonbills sweep their bills from side to side searching for small fish and shrimp.

Black-faced Spoonbills

Black-faced Spoonbills

Some of my favorite new shorebirds were the Sand-plovers. We saw Greater and Lesser Sand-plovers on both days.

Lesser Sand-plover

Lesser Sand-plover

The photo below is our group on the tidal flats at Rudong. I was as overwhelmed as it looks. There were birds everywhere, but not 20 feet away as I enjoyed in Florida, and most were new to me. But, of course, I was thrilled with this shorebird bonanza. After enjoying this spectacle, we returned to the hotel for lunch and headed to the airport for our flight to Nanchang and the next phase of our birding adventure in Southeast China.

On the beach at Rudong

On the beach at Rudong

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