Saturday, 19 May 2012

Chinese Crested Tern

Another attempt at the elusive Chinese Crested Tern necessitated a 4.40am departure from the hotel, however with driving rain and dense mist it did seem like rather a foolish thing to do! Yet upon arrival at the narrow channel where our boatman was waiting to ferry us across to the estuary, the rain eased enough for us to seriously consider going for it. Once everyone was across and with the day brightening the thick mist was the next obstacle we had to overcome. The tide was receding rapidly but we just couldn’t see more than 50 yards in any direction, but we decided to wade across the channel onto the opposite side of the estuary and try our luck there. The mist did recede a little and we began to see some waders moving around but it was hard going. A small group of around 15 Great Crested Terns could just be made out in the poor conditions some distance away, but there wasn’t anything paler readily apparent amongst them. When they flew away some of the group decided to go with Menxiu and look for White-shouldered Starling so leaving a few foolish souls to continue the apparently futile tern search. Well, after a little while we could see blue sky and the mist lifted just enough to raise our optimism and then we started to hear terns somewhere in the distance and walked towards the commotion. Sure enough we could just about make out a group of Great Crested Terns, which promptly flew off and we wondered if it was just not to be our day. All of a sudden we picked up a couple of terns at the water’s edge which flew up and close past us showing very pale upperparts and a long, dark tipped bill – Chinese Crested Terns!! They disappeared into the mist and celebrations began. But we were not done as the distinctive sound of more terns carried to us through the dense bank of mist further along the coast. So we walked towards it and spotted a line of Great Cresteds on a sand bar, as well as the two Chinese Crested Terns again. The mist lifted sufficiently and we edged closer and closer until we daren’t go any more and lapped up the views of these incredibly rare birds. 

Chinese Crested Tern

Apologies for very rubbish photo (it's the 2 birds on the left!) but hopefully I can post some much better pics later from one of the tour participants.

So feeling rather elated we caught up with the rest of the group and enjoyed nice views of several White-shouldered Starlings on the telegraph wires, along with a flyby Lesser Coucal as well before heading up to Fuzhou Forest Park. We had lunch here before setting out on the trails and despite a heavy shower managed some nice views of Great Barbet, Chestnut Bulbul and Fork-tailed Sunbird. Another trail  gave brief views of a distant Bay Woodpecker, whilst a Collared Owlet flew in and perched overhead and a trio of Rufous Woodpeckers perched up in a big tree. Best of all was a couple Grey-headed Parrotbills called in and they gave nice protracted views as they fed close by. With Menxiu seeing a Pale-headed Woodpecker beside the trail the omens looked promising for our final bash at birding in south-east China tomorrow.

Collared Owlet

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