Friday, 15 May 2015

SE China - Migrant Hunting Begins.....

Following an 11 hour overnight direct flight with Virgin Atlantic we arrived in Shanghai Pudong Airport around 9.20am and were soon on our way to the area known as Nanhui, just around an hours drive away. After check-in and lunch at a pretty decent hotel we drove to the nearby coast and had our first crack at some migrants. A few Yellow-browed Warblers were joined by a single Pallas’s Warbler skulking in some tall grass beside the road and a rather annoying high NW wind was to remain with us for the rest of the afternoon. We also saw our first Vinous-throated Parrotbills here, and this species would prove to be quite common throughout the tour, but a female Narcissus Flycatcher was a little more of an i.d challenge and a Chestnut Bulbul was a little off course. 

Narcissus Flycatcher (female)

Yet pride of place went to a breeding-plumaged Chinese Egret feeding in a ditch beside the mudflats, and a Black-tailed Gull was also spotted perched on a buoy. Oh yes! We moved down the road a short distance to overlook a vast reedbed where a stonking Reed Parrotbill flew in below our vantage point and we had great views, although much better was to come when we followed a dirt track into the reeds. 

The Chinese endemic Reed Parrotbill - like a Bearded Reedling on steroids!

We could also hear Japanese Swamp Warblers (also known as Marsh Grassbird) singing but they were also keeping their heads down and it looked like they wouldn’t show at all in the strong breeze. But once on the dirt track that runs across this vast area we noticed that this spot was a little more sheltered and after a brief burst of song from the ipod a Japanese Swamp Warbler flew straight in and sang back at us for several minutes, moving between some tall reed stems right out in the open. 

Marsh Grassbird gave crippling views.

This was my best views ever and we could fully appreciate this little beauty for a change! Then a pair of Chinese Grosbeaks appeared and an Eye-browed Thrush flew into dense cover, not to be seen again. It was just a shame that a Manchurian Bush Warbler failed to show at the same spot – but we’d have better chances over the next few days in Rudong.

Birding at Nanhui
Searching for Waders

So with the 2 key target species done and dusted we set about building an impressive shorebird list and began with a flock of 11 Grey-tailed Tattlers roosting in a small pool below the road. 

Grey-tailed Tattlers

Out on the mudflats there weren’t that many birds but a small group of Red-necked Stints was much appreciated. But check this out – just a little further along the road was a moderately-sized pool surrounded by reeds and here we saw 3 Chinese Egrets, Purple Heron, 3 Long-toed Stints, a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, 3 Terek Sandpipers, 20+ Marsh Sandpipers, several immaculate breeding-plumaged Spotted Redshanks and Curlew Sandpipers, a pair of Garganey, 2 Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Citrine Wagtail, and best of all – a pair of Black-faced Spoonbills. Amazingly, there were another 23 spoonbills out on the mudflats behind us as well. Not a bad haul huh?

Quite a unique photo - Chinese Egret with Black-faced Spoonbills

2 more Chinese Egrets

With the lure of more migrant passerines up ahead we drove a couple of minutes to a nice area of tall dense trees and bushes surrounding some type of convention centre and despite the large number of noisy locals enjoying the holiday still found an impressive array of goodies. Best of all was a Grey-crowned Warbler we watched feeding in a sheltered area for quite some time and I was pleased to hear it call on several occasions, as these seicercus warblers are really tricky. 

Note the slightly broken eye-ring just behind the eye of this Grey-crowned Warbler.

Grey-crowned Warbler

There were also a skulking Pale Thrush, a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, several Eastern Crowned Warblers, Yellow-browed Warbler and eventually we nailed a couple of Pale-legged Leaf-Warblers as well. There was also Long-tailed Shrike, a couple more female Narcissus Flycatchers and an Asian Brown Flycatcher.

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Record shot of Pale-legged Leaf Warbler.

With the light fading fast we drove along the coast and walked between some large ponds, witnessing a large movement of Eastern Yellow Wagtails that including many of the attractive taivana subspecies. A LIttle Bunting showed briefly, a Whiskered Tern flew past, we found another Black-faced Spoonbill, 3 Terek Sandpipers flew over, watched an Oriental Reed Warbler singing, and finished with a Black-capped Kingfisher to round of an exciting introduction to our south-eastern China adventure.

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