Friday, 29 May 2015

It's All About The Tern.......

Due to a ridiculously early high tide we left in three separate taxis at stupid o’clock, well that is 4am and drove for 15 minutes to the coast. Here we boarded 2 small boats and got ‘punted’ along a muddy creek for around 25 minutes until we reached Shanyutan Island and already it was light and we could see birds out on the mudflats. So we walked along the sand until we could find a place to cross the sticky mud quite easily and then walked towards the water’s edge to begin scanning for the Holy Grail – Chinese Crested Tern, one of the rarest birds on the planet. According to BirdLife International this bird is listed as Critically Endangered with less than 50 mature individuals left. At first just a few Greater Crested Terns flew by out to sea, but then a couple of large, paler terns were picked far out to sea and as they came closer it was apparent that we were looking at a pair of Chinese Crested Terns. They flew by quite a way out and headed off to the bay to our left where they disappeared. Wow! To say everyone was elated to see them so easily is an understatement. So we watched several White-faced Plovers feeding nearby for a little while and then noticed a group of Greater Crested Terns loafing off to our right on a small sandbar and sure enough, there was another Chinese Crested Tern in amongst them. 

A few iffy photos of Chinese Crested Terns with Greater Crested Terns...

Watching the terns....

So we walked closer, until about 150m away and scoped the flock, getting great looks at ‘the biggie’ and eventually we found 4 Chinese Crested Terns. We watched them for an hour, and occasionally the whole flock would fly around and then settle in the same place again. This could not have gone any better.

There were plenty of shorebirds around including Red-necked and Long-toed Stints, Sharp-tailed and Terek Sandpipers, a lone Great Knot, a flock of breeding-plumaged Sanderling, Dunlin and Red Knot and also a flock of 10+ Black-faced Spoonbills were some distance away. There was also Caspian, White-winged, Black, Little & Common Terns, as well as 3 immature Black-tailed Gulls, Sooty-headed Bulbul and Grey-capped Greenfinch. So we left and returned to the hotel for breakfast, loaded the luggage up and checked out. Then we searched for migrants along the coastal fields and came up trumps with a female Yellow-breasted Bunting feeding along a drainage ditch. There was also Yellow Bittern, Oriental Skylark, 2 Pacific Golden Plovers, Oriental Pratincole, 2 fine Little Curlews, Black-collared and White-cheeked Starlings, Masked and White-browed Laughingthrushes, and both Oriental and Black-browed Reed Warblers.

Little Curlew in the heat haze...

Yellow Bittern

After lunch we drove to our new hotel close to the entrance of Fuzhou Forest Park and following a short break we drove into the park. It was rather hot but there were quite a few birds around and a pair of the distinctive local race of Orange-bellied Leafbirds were seen in a bare tree on the slope above us (a potential future split). Several Great Barbets were around, and Chestnut Bulbuls were also prominent. 

Chestnut Bulbul

Yet another Collared Owlet was seen in a tree beside the path and was attracting numerous birds, with some splendid male Fork-tailed Sunbirds, Common Tailorbird, and both Grey-chinned and Scarlet Minivets mobbing it. The trail went up onto the side of the hill and was quite steep in places but the effort was worth it as we saw Blue Whistling Thrush, a mixed flock of Lesser and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes, a fine Grey-headed Parrotbill, brief Grey-sided Scimitar-Babbler, and best of all a few White-necklaced Partridges were feeding in the leaf litter below the trail. And that was our day. 


  1. Great blog Nick....full of exciting birding experiences. Congratulations!!

  2. Wow - Chinese Crested Terns and can even see the white tip to beak! (pic 3). Good one, Nick.