Sunday, 11 December 2016

China: Poyang Hu

We woke to gale force winds and some light rain that did little to dampen our spirits and I’m always a little amazed at the resilience of birders to cope with such tough conditions. But our perseverance did pay off with some stunningly excellent, quality, rare birds today. We began by walking 1.5kms to a large lake where we had distant views of both Siberian and White-naped Cranes, which was a little frustrating but definitely good enough to tick. I was hopeful of getting them closer at some stage during our stay here, so we scoped them and had reasonable views. There were also 8 Oriental Storks dotted around the lake, as well as brief Black-throated Bushtit, Japanese White-eyes and Vinous-throated Parrotbill on the walk in, but with the high winds it wasn’t really a day for doing passerines. So we retuned to the bus and drove to a different lake that was teeming with birds, and after scoping huge congregations of geese and ducks that were just too distant we began getting closer birds from the road. There was an amazing  number of Taiga Bean Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese here and we made several stops to scan the area, sheltering behind the bus from the wind. 

Taiga Bean Goose

Greater White-fronted Goose

It then began to rain quite steadily, just to add to the drama! But we continued birding and enjoyed nice looks at the geese, with Paul first picking out a Swan Goose and then a Lesser White-fronted Goose. What fabulous birds and 28 years since I’ve seen a Lesser White-front. We drove closer and I got some reasonable photos….. 

Lesser White-fronted Goose

Driving further along the lakeshore and a family of 3 Hooded Cranes was next up – our 6th species of crane on this tour! 

Hooded Cranes

But by now it was after midday so we retraced our steps, stopping to view an Eurasian Bittern and then getting to grips with a few Buff-bellied (japonicas) Pipits to compare to the Water Pipit seen earlier.

Eurasian Bittern

During lunch at a restaurant in Wucheng we had Red-billed and Black-collared Starlings, some White Wagtails (lugens and ocularis races), and an Oriental Magpie Robin. Then we drove to the other side of the lake we had visited after breakfast this morning and got much closer to the 16 Siberian Cranes we had seen so distantly then. And boy was this good! 

Siberian and White-naped Cranes

There were 3 White-naped Cranes with them and we crept as close as possible, although still around 400m away and separated by an arm of the lake so the birds weren’t in the least bit bothered by us. We studied them for over an hour and lapped up the views – a real privilege to see such rare birds. 

Watching the cranes...

It wasn’t raining but still the wind was ridiculous and we hunkered down below a bank for a modicum of shelter. And that was our day, so we retreated back to the hotel ‘wind blown and interesting’ at 5pm. A great day.

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