China 2012

CHINA  26TH APRIL TO 27TH MAY 2012         Jon Hornbuckle

Participants: Brian Foster, Jon Hornbuckle, Dave Pitman, Dave Woodford and Lori Szucs

Having visited Sichuan and Tibet in 2000 and Yunnan in 2002, I decided to look for the special birds in other parts of China in 2011. I received quotes from two reliable Chinese bird tour operators for 18 day trips for a party of 4. One was 6189USD/person and included 6 internal flights, the other was 5175USD but not so comprehensive. Major expenses were use of a minibus and English-speaking guide throughout, and the local guides needed to see Jankowski’s Bunting (£200+ each) and visit Wuyishan. As it was too expensive for me, I decided to postpone till 2012 and find like-minded souls willing to do a self-organised trip. I found 4 excellent companions, one of whom (DW) left before the end and was replaced by LS. We broadened the itinerary to visit more sites, after months of emailing and discussion, and added a week in Mongolia, so the trip lasted 34 days including international flights, with 25 days spent in China. It was a great success with nearly all targets seen, highlights for me being the sight of huge numbers of Siberian Cranes and breeding Relict Gulls, critically endangered Jankowski’s Bunting, Crested Ibis, Blue-crowned Laughingthrush and Chinese Crested Tern, and spectacular Cabot’s Tragopan, Brown Eared, Elliot’s and Reeves’s Pheasants, not to mention the famed Terracotta Warriors. The approx all-in cost was £1100 in China including two internal flights.


Timing – the early months are best for seeing the waterbirds (at Poyang), wintering Relict Gulls and Spoon-billed Sandpiper on the coast, and pheasants before the breeding season, but Chinese Crested Tern and Jankowski's Bunting won’t be seen till May and this is the peak month for migration, so May it had to be. One of the group jumped the gun and booked his passage to China on April 25, while another was starting a tour of Sichuan on May 28, so that defined the dates for the trip. In retrospect, a week or two later would probably have been better as migrants we missed might have arrived by then. We would have had to go to Manchuria first though to have any chance of good numbers of Siberian Crane and waterfowl.

After deciding on the itinerary, the next hurdle was to determine how to access the sites. From trip reports and friendly advice, most seemed straightforward except for Cabot’s Tragopan (Wuyishan) and Jankowski's Bunting (Manchuria). Finding good sites around Wuyuan for Elliot’s Pheasant also needed help. In the event, we exchanged emails with Xie Kai, who had helped my friend Rich Hopf to visit the Tragopan site, and agreed to book a full 4-day package to Wuyuan and Wuyishan with Kai’s friend Laolin, the only guide authorised to take visitors up into the mountains on the Jianxi side of Wuyishan where the Tragopans still occur. This cost 2800CNY each. We decided to try to find local help to see the Bunting when we reached Manchuria, and that succeeded. 

All that remained was to book trains and flights to take us round the country, which we did on the internet where possible for flights and by using a Beijing agency for some of the trains. The remaining transport would be by bus or taxi, both of which are relatively cheap. Communication could be a problem but Kai would be with us for some of the time and we hoped to find English-speakers amongst the locals. China has changed in many ways in the last decade, very importantly for us, most Chinese are now very friendly and helpful – gone are the days when they could be punished for talking to foreigners. We often found an English-speaking local, usually of student age, to help us, and acquired a list of the mobile numbers of several volunteers who would talk to taxi drivers, hotel receptionists and the like when help was needed. DP was particularly good at this, with his Chinese sim card the most valuable thing we bought. Especially helpful were Craig Brelsford, an American bird photographer living in Shanghai who spoke Chinese well, Terry Townsend, a British birder working in Beijing, Jemmy at Tumuji and Tang from Harbin University.

Exchange rate: just under 10 Chinese Yuan Renminbi (CNY) to the pound.

Best book: Birds of East Asia by Mark Brazil (2009). Birding in South-east Asia by Tim Woodward (2006) is useful for sites as far North as Wuyuan.

Visas – we had to get double entry visas so we could return directly from Mongolia. This was straightforward, just cost more, £99 plus Special Delivery postage. We applied to China Visa Services at Manchester – they were insistent that we supplied details of our itinerary and bookings, even rang DW to tell him. The only accommodation we had booked was the hostel in Beijing but they eventually accepted this with a covering note on why that was all we could offer.   


April 26 Beijing Botanical Gardens. O/n train to SE

April 27 Taxi from Hai’an’xian to Yankou.

April 28 Yankou

April 29 Taxi to Shanghai, fly Shanghai Hongqiao airport (not Pudong airport) to Shenyang. O/n train to Zhenlai  April 30 to May 2  Manchuria: Momoge and Tumuji

May 2   Momoge am, pm Zhenlai to Zhalong Crane Reserve by taxi

May 3   Zhalong Crane Reserve am, Qiqihar – Harbin by train pm.

May 4   Day trip from Harbin to Moershan

May 5   Fly Harbin - Xian, bus to Yangxian

May 6   Yangxian area, bus to Xian am. Terracotta warriors pm. O/n train to Shenmu

May 7   Shenmu – Lake Hongjian by taxi.

May 8   L.Hongjian – Daluita by taxi – Dongsheng – Hohhot by bus. Flight to UB

May 9 – 16 Mongolia

May 16 Fly UB – Beijing. Train Beijing to Taiyuan, Shanxi, taxi to Jiaocheng. 

May 17 Taxi to Xuanzhong monastery

May 18 Xuanzhong monastery am, bus to Taiyuan, o/n train to Xinyang.

May 19 Taxi to Donghzai

May 20 Donghzai, taxi to Jianqiang pm, bus to Xinyang, o/n train to Shangrao

May 21 Minibus to Wuyuan early am, all day birding sites in this area, o/n Wuyuan

May 22 Wuyuan am, minibus to Wuyishan NP pm

May 23  Wuyishan NP

May 24 Wuyishan all day, o/n train to Fuzhou

May 25 Fuzhou all day, o/n Fuzhou Forest Park

May 26 Fuzhou Forest Park am, o/n train to Beijing

May 27 Arrive Bejing 13.00, metro to Bejing Olympic Park pm.

May 28 Fly to Manchester

To be sure of seeing the spoonies, we went to Yankou first, also seeing Reed Parrotbill, then to Manchuria for the cranes and geese at Momoge, their stopover site. Here we were able to solve the biggest problem, how to see Jankowski's Bunting, thanks to DW’s efforts and previous visit to Tumuji Reserve. We stayed in the north to see Oriental Stork at Zhalong, a breeding site for a few pairs, which also gave Northern Parrotbill (unexpectedly) and good views of the magnificent male Pied Harrier, another of my targets. A visit to the Harbin area was the place where time was too short – we only had time for a single day trip and chose Moershan, hoping for Eastern Water Rail, Band-bellied Crake and Swinhoes Rail but were a couple of weeks too early. With more time we could have gone to a reserve for Scaly-sided Merganser. Next we headed a long way SW to fit in Xian for Crested Ibis, while DW did his own pre-arranged thing at Harbin. Then we moved north to Lake Hongjian, on the Inner Mongolia border for Relict Gull. What a fine site that was with numerous breeding-plumage gulls feeding and displaying, along with Amur Falcons and other migrants.

After a week’s visit to Mongolia, we headed SW from Beijing to the Brown-eared Pheasant site. DW returned to Beijing and home while we continued further south to Donghzai where Lori and Kai joined us for the rest of the trip. Arrangements were easy now as we had Kai with us and had booked a 4 day trip with Laolin, who met us at Wuyuan, showed us his sites for Blue-crowned LT and Elliot’s Pheasant, then took us to Wuyishan for 2 full days on the mountain, Cabot’s Tragopan being the star bird. He left us at Wuyishan station to travel by train to Fuzhou where his friend Laodeng took us to the Chinese Crested Tern roosting site and Fuzhou Forest Park. Hence we completed our desired itinerary without hitch, with only Elliot’s Pheasant and White-necklaced Partridge giving us serious grief.

Key birds

Brown-eared Pheasant   Jiaocheng, Shangxi Province

Reeves’ Pheasant          Donghzai, Xinyang

Elliot's Pheasant            Wuyuan, Jiangxi (and Wuyishan NNR)

White-necklaced Hill Partridge    Wuyishan NNR, Jiangxi & Fuzhou FP, Fujian

Cabot's Tragopan           Wuyishan NNR

Swan Goose                  Momoge, Jilin

Siberian Crane                    Momoge

Crested Ibis                   Yangxian, Shangxi

Oriental Stork                Zhalong Crane Reserve, Jilin

Spoon-billed Sandpiper   Yankou,

Chinese Crested Tern     Min Jiang Estuary, Fuzhou

Relict Gull                     Lake Hongjian, Shaanxi

Hartert’s Warbler            Wuyishan NNR

Claudia’s Warbler                               Wuyishan NNR

Blue-crowned Laughingthrush      Wuyuan

Indochinese Fulvetta       Wuyishan NNR

Reed Parrotbill               Yankou

Northern Parrotbill               Zhalong Crane Reserve

Jankowski's Bunting       Baicheng, Jilin


April 26:  After assembling at the busy Beijing Central Youth Hostel near to Beijing Central Railway Station, BF, JH, DP and DW left bags and walked to the ticket agency to collect and pay for pre-booked train tickets. Then we took a taxi to the extensive Beijing Botanical Gardens and walked quite a way through the crowds to the NW corner where we left the parkland and trekked up the hillside, eventually locating 2 Chinese Hill Warbler. We returned the way we came, seeing disappointingly few birds apart from Azure-winged Magpies and Chinese Bulbuls, collected our gear from the hostel and caught the overnight sleeper train SE to Hai’nan’xian.

April 27: Arrived at Hai’an’xian at c.9am to be met by Kai with whom we emailed who had offered to help us. Took a taxi for the hour’s journey to Yankou and booked in at a cheap but adequate hotel near the coast, then walked to the coast, stopping at a reedbed to spot Reed Parrotbill. Watched Saunder’s Gulls taking fish and Manchurian Bush-Warblers singing from buildings and trees near the large temple. Walked south along the coastal track for some 3km as the tide slowly came in – waders were too far out so went on to the mud, crossing it nearly to the sea where 1000s of breeding-plumaged birds were feeding, mostly Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey Plovers, Lesser Sandplovers, Dunlin and Red-necked Stints. Flocks of the smaller birds flew in closer and rested with hidden faces so it was very difficult to detect any Spoon-billed Sandpipers with them. Walked back and spent some time looking for migrants in a small open wood behind the temple. Birds included Radde’s Warbler, Asian Brown and Blue-and-white Flycatchers, Brown-headed and Grey-backed Thrushes and Black-faced Bunting.

April 28: An early taxi took us to the north coast where we walked inland along a traffic-free, tree-lined road holding a good selection of birds, eg Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Pallas’s and Hume’s Warbler, Yellow-rumped and Narcissus Flycatchers and Chinese Grosbeak. Kai left us to arrange for a tractor with trailer to take us out over the mud to the sea. We met Craig Brelsford and his Indian assistant photographing birds as we walked back along the road and invited him to join us on the tractor. We were surprised to see the trailer already held locals going out to their oyster/ cockle-collecting grounds. It was at least 3km over the mud to the wader feeding area. It was low tide and the waders were well scattered but we eventually located 2 Spoonies in partial breeding-plumage amongst the stints. We returned to the hotel to wash off the mud and have lunch, then explored the small wood again. Fewer migrants today but a few goodies - Rufous-tailed Robin, Daurian Redstart, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Eastern Crowned Warbler and Tristram’s Bunting. While returning to the hotel, 1000s of wagtails, mainly Yellow, flew into the reeds to roost.

April 29: After all the good weather so far (BF and DW were sunburnt), it rained hard all morning. We tried birding but gave up when nothing seemed to be active. Booked a taxi to Pudong airport, Shanghai for 800CNY, allowing 5 hours but did it in 31/2. [Note that there is another active airport, Hongqiao, at Shanghai, some distance from Pudong.] Spent a long time with Kai, trying to work out how to see Jankowski’s Bunting as we were heading a long way North to Shenyang. Then found the check-in queues were very long so we only just made the flight, then found it was delayed for over an hour. At Shenyang we had to move quickly to get to the station for our o/n train to Zhenlai, but again it was an hour late.

April 30: Arrived at Zhenlai at 05.30, in Manchuria (historical name for the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang in the far northeast), a land of Mongoloid people and spicy food. Leaving the station, DW spotted the taxi-driver he had used on his visit last year so we were soon on our way to Momoge after dropping the bags at a decent hotel (100CNY a room). We slowly drove around the large wetland on the one road, set out in a square, stopping many times for the numerous birds. What a sight - virtually the whole of the world population of Siberian Cranes were present, at least 2500 along with Hooded Cranes, many geese, mainly Bean but some Lesser and Greater Whitefronts, ducks and waders. In the afternoon we headed north to Tumuji where DW was able to find the reserve manager he had met a year earlier. The latter agreed to show us Jankowski’s Bunting tomorrow! We returned to Zhenlai in high spirits and indulged in a spicy meal with beers, followed by free and fast email on the pc in our room.

May 1: Good weather today, as needed for this important day. DP and DW visited a lake on the edge of town, seeing a few new birds including Pied Harrier. The taxi driver came at 7am to take us to a popular, excellent breakfast bar with a large selection of egg, “bread” and veg dishes. We drove to Tumuji where we found there was an active mist-netting and ringing project, enabling me to handle a few buntings and warblers. We met Jemmy (Chen Yachang), a student from Northeast Forestry University working on cranes and management of the reserve – she was to come with us today as English-speaking interpreter. We set off northwards in our taxi, following the manager and Jemmy in the reserve’s pick-up, to an over-grazed grassland which was said to have held 3 buntings last year. All we saw were Short-toed and Mongolian Larks and Stonechats, and a tractor ploughing up the land. Then to the reserve’s “core” area holding Great Bustards, but as none were visible and no buntings had been seen there in recent years, we continued south for some distance to a small dried-up lake. Here there were 3 Bustards and another 2 further on in more overgrazed grassland. Eventually we found some pristine habitat on a ridge with small pink-flowered apricot trees in long grass. Soon had great views of a singing J Bunting with a skulking female!! A survey of more of this area revealed a further 3 males and 2 females, but there was evidence of large tyre tracks so it did not look at all secure. We undertook to the reserve manager to do what we could to involve the international conservation movement in helping to protect the reserve and its buntings. Our final destination was a wetland of large lakes, surrounded by extensive dried mud, teeming with waterbirds. There were many Bean and Greater White-fronted Geese and waders, especially Black-tailed Godwits, with smaller numbers of cranes from 5 species including a single White-naped. Our main target was Oriental White Stork but numbers had declined from 20 in early April to 1 yesterday and now we could not find any. Bad luck but it had been a great day.

May 2: After breakfast at 06.00, we returned to Momoge, the main targets being Baer’s Pochard and Baikal Teal. DP spotted a lovely male Teal, the only one of the trip, but there was no sign of a Pochard – evidently a rare, threatened bird now. Crane and goose numbers seemed much smaller today – it would not be long before they had all left for the breeding grounds. At 11.00 we took the taxi to Zhalong Crane Reserve, at a cost of 900CNY. We easily reached the outskirts of Qiqihar city but our driver then flagged down a local taxi and asked the driver to take us to the reserve (for 100CNY from him) as he was unfamiliar with the way. It turned out the local didn’t really know either, but we eventually almost made it, after an hour of bad roads. The road was closed due to major repair so we had to walk 200m alongside the works to where Haoo, a friend of Jemmy’s, was waiting to help us. He was a member of a student team working on the ecology of the crane reserve – the cranes here are Red-crowned, resident breeders.

An electric buggie took us to the reserve entrance and after paying the daily fee of 50CNY, to the only hotel. This was rather high class and expensive for us, at 960CNY for 2 rooms, but assisted by Haoo, we persuaded them to give us one large room with 3 beds for 580CNY, a good deal. We birded with Haoo from 4.30pm and saw Swan Goose very close, a rare Red-necked Grebe, migrant Naumann’s Thrush and a distant pair of Storks on a platform nest and flying in with nesting material, in ideal light. We went to the restaurant at 6.30, only to find it closed, but at Haoo’s request the chef opened up and cooked us a very good meal for a mere 30CNY. 

May 3:  Fine weather again but cold early, windy later. Birded near the hotel from 5 till 7, with fine views of Northern Parrotbill, a good split from Reed Parrotbill – quite a surprise – and 3 species of Reed-Bunting. After a breakfast of noodles and hard-boiled eggs, kindly cooked by the students, we walked to where Hooa had seen Eastern Water Rail. No luck for us but good views of Pied Harriers and more Northern Parrotbills. Returned to the hotel at 10 and saw Ashy Minivet and Yellow-browed Bunting nearby. Phoned a taxi to take us from this excellent reserve to Qiqihar station (150CNY), arriving at 12.30, and with a student’s help bought tickets on the 1pm train to Harbin – only 25CNY for hard seats which were quite adequate. Unfortunately, we had neglected to ask when it would arrive and belatedly discovered it was a very slow train, through flat land, much of it ploughed or industrial but with some extensive wetlands. It took 5h 25m for a relatively short distance – we should have taken a later express or a bus. Met by Tang, another of Jemmy’s friends, at Harbin and taken to Fashion Hotel (120CNY per room), then had a good dinner at a local restaurant.

May 4: Today we did a day trip from Harbin to Moershan, having decided there was not enough time to do justice to the Scaly-sided Merganser site further away. We boarded a small bus with Tang, and arrived at Moershan town at 7.30 but took some time to locate the Harbin University ringing site, by taxi. There were 2 ringing stations; we found the southern one with seven 10m long nets and a nice area of hill forest, primarily conifers, and ponds. Had good views of singing Yellow-throated and Yellow-browed Buntings, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Grey-backed Thrush. DW had an obliging pair of Long-tailed Rosefinch but the rest of us were unable to find it. At 12.30 we went to the northern site and found many nets surrounding a wetland, manned by Chang Jiachuan, a 78 year old ornithologist who had worked there for years. He had caught 100 birds that morning but it was too windy by the time we arrived. He told us we were 2 weeks too early for migrants such as Band-bellied Crake. We had stellar views of Rufous-tailed Robin but little else before visiting the offices to shelter from a heavy shower. We had to leave at 3.30 as Tang had a lecture to attend in Harbin at 6pm, and only just made it in time. After supper, DP and I met up with Drew (Zhu Binrun), an English-speaking local who had just returned from a visit to Qi Xinghe reserve, some 700km to the east, with breeding Oriental Storks (take bus from Harbin to Bao qing).

May 5:  With temporary farewells to DW, who had arranged to meet a local birder to look for Swinhoe’s Rail, we took a taxi at 6am to the airport (120CNY) for our Harbin to Xian flight, which left 20 mins early! On arrival at 11, DP rang the student who Tang had arranged to meet us but try as we might, we could not find him. It took an hour before the penny dropped and we realised he was at Shenyang airport over 1000km away, our pronunciation of Xian had been unrecognizable! We quickly caught a coach (going to Hanzhong) at the terminal immediately outside the airport to Yanxian, the last resort of the Crested Ibis. It was a spectacular journey on a new road through the heavily forested Qinling mountains, home to the Giant Panda and Blackthroat. Tang had kindly rung a friend working on Ibis conservation at Yangxian and we were told to meet him on the edge of Yanxian town. We were actually met by the Director of the Ibis reserve who took us in her Landcruiser to her office. Here she offered us use of the vehicle and a birdguide for a mere 2500CNY. We declined this and she eventually offered to ring a taxi driver who would take us to a good site for Ibis by the river 4km out of town. This she kindly did and we were soon searching for Ibis in the agricultural fields and paddies. There was a heronry on one side and a captive breeding facility some way off on the other, with Long-billed Plover and Green Sandpiper in the nearby small river. After a while an Ibis flew past, fed in the fields then flew to roost in the captive/ reserve area. We walked to this area for good views of the roosting birds, then to the heronry in the hope that truly wild Ibis would roost there with the Night-Herons, Grey Herons and egrets. At dusk one Ibis came and fed in a paddy but soon departed and so we did too. We were taken to Bai Yun Hotel, the best in town, and negotiated 2 rooms for a total of 280CNY.

May 6: The taxi driver collected us at 6am with his young daughter who spoke some English. Terry had told us the best two sites for wild Ibis and we headed for one, driving through the rolling hills (500-700m asl), under an old viaduct to a small bridge just outside a village (Cheng Xixiang?). We birded around here till 08.15, soon seeing 2 Ibis with full beaks flying in different directions so presumably to different nests. We tracked one down and found an adult with 2 young chicks at eye level, which we were able to watch for some time – a wonderful sight. We tried for Golden Pheasant as several were calling but the only one seen was a female by DP. A pair of Chinese Goshawks mated in a conifer, Yellow-rumped Flycatchers and Daurian Redstarts were singing, 3 Hair-crested Drongo displayed to each other and a pair of Black-throated Tits fed low in a patch of rape. We rushed back to the bus station, passing a Black-capped Kingfisher perched on a tele wire, and caught the 9.30 bus to Xian. The bus stopped at a service station in the middle of the mountains so I spent a few minutes photographing, out of sight of the bus which was only prevented from going without me by Brian and Dave’s best efforts. Arriving at 1pm we took a taxi to see the famous Terracotta Warriors but were taken to the wrong place and had to start again with another taxi, going much further this time. We left our bags at a Left Luggage office, paid the 150CNY entrance fee, then had a long walk past numerous stalls, through parkland to 3 buildings, each housing large pits full of the warriors and their horses. It was a Sunday so Chinese tourists were numerous but it was an amazing spectacle. We had to collect our bags by 5pm when the office closed, then find the public bus station – most visitors had come in tour groups with their own coaches. The 7CNY journey back to the railway station took an hour. We collected our train tickets, then ate at Macdonald’s, and caught the 10pm sleeper to Julin/Yulin. Finding it continued to Shenmu, a better starting point for travelling to Lake Hongjian, our next objective, we decided to stay on the train as far as Shenmu, an extra 3 hours and pay any additional fare.  

May 7:  A good night on the sleeper, reaching Shenmu at about 10am. The station was chaotic but fellow-passengers helped us find a taxi to Lake Hongjian, a resort in the Ordos desert for 150CNY, arriving at noon. It was surprisingly quiet considering what a large resort it appeared to be. A young female “tour guide” guided us to a large hotel and we eventually agreed on a triple room for 200CNY, then birded individually till 7pm. Relict Gulls were all along the edge of the shore, all beautiful adults or second years in breeding plumage, some displaying – possibly 1000 birds but no sign of nests, though less than half the lake was visible. Other birds of interest were Amur Falcon, Citrine Wagtail, Blyth’s Pipit and large numbers of Martins, which I assumed would be Plain but later discovered were Sand Martins. The few migrants included at least 2 “Lesser” Whitethroats, which sang quite differently to our bird leading me to think they might be Margelanic, a Clements endorsed split, but as that’s out of range, its more likely that they were the halimodendri form of Lesser or S. minula, Desert Lesser Whitethroat. Birding came to an early halt as the heavens turned dark and heavy rain fell for some time.

We tried to book a bus or a taxi to take us into nearby Inner Mongolia tomorrow but were assured there weren’t any. In the evening the tour guide and her friend reported that they had been able to find someone who would take us for a fee to the nearest town where we could get a bus, relieving us of the worry that we might miss the key twice-a-week flight from Hohot to Ulaan Bataar. We had some difficulty in finding an open restaurant as all were either shut or had little or no food! We eventually found one that proposed to buy a carp and cook it, so agreed to that – OK but rather boney and expensive, but at least the veg was plentiful.

May 8: A fine day but we only had time to bird from dawn, 5.15, till 6.25 when we had to leave for Hohot. Disappointing for migrants – just the whitethroats, a female Hobby or Amur Falcon and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. BF saw a pair of Amurs displaying over a small wood. The taxi/ private car took us to Daluita, driven by an apparent learner so we only just made it for the 7am local bus. However, the bus didn’t depart till about 7.30, then took a devious route before stopping at a town before the large city of Dongsheng for at least 30 mins. We rued not grabbing a taxi there to Dongsheng, which we finally reached at 10am. We still had a long way to go to Hohot in time for the 17.20 international flight to UB. All was not lost because a local helped us to buy tickets for the 10.15 bus (62CNY), and it set off on time at speed. We arrived at 2pm and grabbed a taxi to the airport, booking in with plenty of time. After all that, the flight was delayed for 2 hours due to bad weather in Mongolia – could have done more birding at the lake!

May 9 - 16: Tumen’s tour of Mongolia, with DW who flew to UB from Beijing – a first class experience.

May 16: Arrived at Beijing from UB on time (for the first time in several days due to delaying high winds). Took the metro to the city (2 trains) to go to the ticket agency to collect our train tickets, then taxi to the West station in time for the 17.57 high speed train to Taiyuan in Shanxi province. Arrived at 21.45 and squeezed into a taxi for the 50km journey on good roads to Jiaocheng. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t know exactly where the town was or any hotels there so we drove up and down in the dark till I dug out Paul Holt’s report with a hotel phone no. in it and the driver was able to phone it for instructions on how to get there – GuaShan Hotel, Jiacheng county, Lyliang city, tel 0358-3551888. We finally got to bed at 00.30, needing to get a taxi at 5am in the morning!

May 17 DP and DW looked for a taxi but couldn’t find one till 05.30. By the time we were all ready and had driven the 10km to Xuanzhong monastery, delayed by road works on the way, then debated whether to keep the taxi, it was 06.00. We walked up to the entrance gate and found 4 Chinese photographers smiling smugly, having just photo’d a Brown Eared Pheasant at point blank range, feeding on rice they had placed on the temple wall. It had left 5 mins earlier. We waited hopefully as they said there had been two yesterday, but although we heard 1 or 2 calling none returned. We walked up a trail through pines above the monastery but saw nothing of note, and the courtyard inside the monastery where pheasants were said to feed was under noisy repair. Down at the car-park we watched Nutcrackers feeding and did the short trail along the river, seeing a pair of Grey-faced Woodpeckers. At 10 we returned to the Guashan hotel, and slept and emailed till 15.00. Back at the monastery, we explored the lower hillside across the gorge and saw a BE Pheasant skulking in the undergrowth, as pheasants do – a tick but not the view we had hoped for. We stayed in the area till 19.00, with a Blue Rock-Thrush the only new bird. We talked to the locals and watched 3 monks shelling and eating walnuts on the bridge over the deep gorge, but no pheasants. Taxi back to the hotel for a good meal at the only restaurant still open.

May 18 Taxi at 04.45 to Xuanzhong monastery. No photographers this time so we poured rice and corn onto the wall but the only birds that fed were Tree Sparrows and Blue Magpies. Frustrated was rising by 06.10 but then the door to the monastery was opened by a monk who beckoned us in. There was a spectacular BE Pheasant eating rice grains scattered amongst the construction debris in the courtyard. After a few minutes it jumped up onto the wall and displayed itself very photogenically, calling now and again. This went on for some 20 mins until one of the few monks watching the performance had enough of our presence and threw a rock at the bird, causing it to leap down off the wall into the gorge. We promptly left the arena to look over the lower wall outside but the bird had gone. DW took a taxi to Taiyuan as he had to return to Beijing to catch his flight home on the morrow. I walked up the trail – heard a Chinese Hill Warbler but nothing else other than tits. We saw a Long-tailed Rosefinch in the gorge near the car park and tried walking down the road for better views but it was very noisy with major repair works. Took a taxi back to the hotel at 08.30, ate and packed then walked to the bus terminus to return to Taiyuan: 12.20-13.35. Caught a no. 819 local bus to the station and spent late afternoon relaxing in Dicos as it was 36 degrees outside. We left Taiyuan on a sleeper to Xinyang.

May 19: Arriving at 07.15, we were met by Kai with a minibus taxi. He stayed at the station to queue for train tickets (1 hour) for our next leg (which he could not do before because he needed our passports) while we drove to Donghzai Reserve, arriving at 08.30. We were staying in the reserve’s basic lodgings so were soon in the field, spending the morning on the Valley Trail. We saw a party of Streaked Scimitar-babblers bathing in the stream and flushed a female Reeves’s Pheasant, the main target here, and a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo. A Fairy Pitta started calling and responded well to playback, eventually giving great views. A migrant Asian Paradise-Flycatcher was seen along with Orange-headed Ground-Thrush and a single Swinhoe’s Minivet. Returning to the centre for lunch, we met Lori (LS) who had already spent 2 days here, with Kai, and had good views of the Pheasant. He had come via Shanghai where he visited Nanhui wetlands to see Reed Parrotbill and Japanese Marsh Warbler, also catching Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher. The afternoon was spent on the “Pheasant Trail” where we flushed 4 or 5 Reeves – very difficult to see on the ground due to the height of the vegetation at this time of year. We had good views of Grey-faced Buzzard and displaying Black Bazas. Spent the last hour of daylight on the approach road with Lori, who had seen a male Reeves flying to roost in a roadside tree and 2 males feeding on bare ground in a bushy area on the hillside  – he had found that they disappeared as soon as they saw him so it was imperative to look for them quietly at a distance.

May 20: At 05.45 I walked the approach road to the small village with Lori to look for male Reeves and Long-tailed Tit, the form here being a potential split, but only seeing Black-throated Tit of the red-capped nominate form, sometimes split as Red-headed Tit. After breakfast we spent the morning on the Pheasant Trail, with 3 good views of Reeves in flight - DP had a male on the ground. There was no sign of Brown-chested Jungle-Flycatcher that breeds here – perhaps we were too early. In the afternoon did the approach road again till 06.00 but with little reward. After a quick dinner, we drove to Jianqiang in an hour, then took a bus to Xinyang and a sleeper train to Shangrao.

May 21: We left the train at the ungodly hour of 1.30 am and were met by Laolin who was to be our driver and guide for the next few days. We drove to Wuyuan in his minibus, arriving at 04.00 at one of his sites for Elliot’s Pheasant. We soon saw Grey-sided Scimitar-babbler, then spent a long time looking for the pheasant. BF flushed a female but no others were seen. Another trail nearby gave Grey-headed Parrotbill but no pheasants. In the afternoon we drove some distance to one of the few known sites for Blue-crowned Laughingthrush, a small open woodland by a river. Several Chinese photographers were at work as at least 20 birds were very active, some collecting nesting material, others feeding in communal parties or singly. Jays and Blackbirds bathed in a quiet pool. It was amazing to think the laughingthrushes were Critically endangered, yet so easy to see here. We drove on with stops to look for perched Pied Falconets, until we reached the town of Xiaoqi. This turned out to be a well-known site for the Falconet, with a pair breeding in a tree-hole visible from the flat roof of a nearby restaurant. We stayed here till dusk, seeing an adult enter the nest-hole and a youngster occasionally poking its head out. What we really wanted was for an adult to perch on its favourite branch close to the rooftop, but it was not to be – the branch was only occupied by Oriental Turtle Doves. After a fine meal, we departed for our hotel near Wuyuan.

May 22: Checked out at 04.00 and drove to another of Laolin’s sites for Elliot’s Pheasant. I stayed with him as the others strode off up the hill into bamboo at some speed. We went back down the hill and heard some activity by the stream – soon a pair of Silver Pheasants erupted out of the bush, nice but disappointing. We turned off the trail and walked along the side of small fields growing turnip-like crops and rice. Suddenly a pair of Elliots flew up in opposite directions – they had been eating the “turnips”. The male flew near me and turned down the valley over the crops for some distance “showing well”. Laolin was all smiles and embraced me. Returning to where we had last seen the others, BF soon appeared but DP and LS were away a long time. We went back to the pheasant location, but to no avail. We drove to a village where Blue-crowned Laughingthrush often feed on  the apricot-like fruits of Eriobotrya japonica or Loquat tree and Laolin had seen Short-tailed Parrotbill nearby. I chose to photo the LTs while the others looked for the parrotbills, without success. The fruiting trees were bare so no LTs. Laolin took Kai and me to another village nearby where a few skittish LTs were feeding on Loquats.  

We drove south for 5 hours to Wuyishan NP, arriving at 17.00, and checked in at the reserve accommodation by the river (at 865m). We soon saw Hartert’s and Claudia’s Warblers and watched a pair of Yellow-cheeked Tits making a nest in a vertical metal pipe. A walk along the quiet road gave Pygmy Wren-babbler and Plumbeous Redstart. Nice dinner at 18.00.  

May 23: We spent all day from 04.30 to 18.30 on the mountain in Wuyishan NP. It was mostly sunny and cloudy but not so pleasant near the top where it was windy with low cloud. We looked for White-necklaced Partridge and Elliot’s Pheasant before entering the controlled higher part of the reserve at Gate 2. All we saw of note below Gate 2 was a Bamboo-Partridge; Brown-chested Jungle-Flycatcher was not at the only site known to Laolin. He is the only guide allowed to take birders into the montane reserve. The main objective was to see Cabot’s Tragopan, easily achieved outside the breeding season, but not so easy now. It was some time before we saw one - a female perched briefly in a tree by the road, but then had a prolonged but not good view of a male well below the road; I missed a male flushed close to the road, and finally a female walked quickly across the road late on. Two calling cuckoos at 1500-1600m caused some excitement. One was a Lesser, eventually giving good views but the other sounded like a Hoopoe so should have been an Oriental or Himalayan – we saw it in flight but not perched. Laolin, who had proved himself to be a very knowledgeable birder, was adamant that it was a Hodgson’s, now split as Northern Hawk-Cuckoo in Eastern China and Japan, a bird I needed, but that sounds very different. I now think it was a confusion of English names because Oriental and Himalayan have been called Hodgson’s in the past. A good mixed flock contained White-browed and Green Shrike-babblers and Indochinese Yuhina, while Chestnut-bellied Rockthrush, Small Forktail, Kloss’s Warbler and Yellow-bellied Tit were other good birds seen, with a Rosy Pipit of an isolated population at the top of the mountain. There was certainly more variety of birds here than anywhere else on the trip.

May 24:  Another full day on the mountain till 17.00 but mostly in dull conditions with some rain and low cloud early on. We looked for Elliot’s Pheasant till 09.00, mainly in the small tea plantations, hearing it according to Laolin but no sightings. We were shocked to hear that we could not go beyond Gate 2 today because of “a meeting” being held. After several phone discussions, Laolin eventually got clearance to take us up the mountain. We searched for Grey-hooded Fulvetta, a localised split off Streak-throated, near the top only seeing one. Spent some time trying to photo and record warblers singing in the reedy patches and bushes at the top because Laolin said they were Blunt-winged but only managed to find Brown and Yellowish-bellied Bush-warblers. Failed to see Cabots till we were coming down, then had a pair by the roadside with the male on the wall, then a male in a tree – it fluttered its wings in display but was facing the wrong way for good photos. A young Spotted Forktail perched in a tree calling for food, 6 Brown Bullfinch and a pair of White-backed Woodpecker fed in the trees but a Short-tailed Parrotbill was only seen by DP and LS. Back at the lodge, we packed up and left at 18.00 for the surprisingly long drive to Wuyishan city, stopping on the way for dinner at a local restaurant. We reached the station in plenty of time for the 23.00 sleeper to Fuzhou and Kai bought tickets for DP and JH from Fuzhou to Beijing on May 26, but only hard seats (250CNY for a 20 hour journey!) as no sleepers were available. Farewell to Laolin who had been a friendly and excellent guide, leader and driver.

May 25:  The train arrived at Fuzhou 15 mins late at 05.20. Our guide Laodeng arrived at 07.00 in his 4 x 4, with a Svorowski scope, and drove through the large city to an area of paddies near Minjiang estuary. We spent the next 2 1/2 hr observing a good selection of waders in breeding plumage, including Sharp-tailed and Marsh Sandpipers, White-winged Terns and starlings including Daurian, White-shouldered and Black-collared. Then we went by punt to the island where terns roost. We passed a White-faced/Swinhoe’s Plover but the punter refused to go back for us to study it as it would be against the current – and little did we know that it would be the only one we would see. There wasn’t much activity at the watch-point on the island, just a few waders and terns, so it was a long wait for high tide at 13.00. Laodeng said the cool, windy conditions were unfortunate because the terns would not roost till later than normal and not stay for long. Seems he was right because the Great Crested didn’t appear in numbers till 13.30 and it was some time before we spotted two almost all white Chinese Crested. Good views in the scope, including copulation. The tide was soon going out so we were able to walk over the mud to get good views of the terns – the Chinese Crested were about the first to leave at 14.00. The only notable wader was a deep red Red Knot, no Great Knots. The drive back through the city to Fuzhou Forest Park seemed a long one. We booked in at the hotel, in the rain, negotiated rooms for 180CNY each, then had difficulty finding anywhere to eat as the main restaurants were shut but eventually found a small place that cooked basic food. Got soaked going back to the hotel in heavy rain accompanied by lightening.

May 26: 05.45-12.00 walking the trails and road in Fuzhou Forest Park with many locals, climbing 300m in  elevation. Failed to see White-necklaced Partridge, which only called occasionally, best birds being Slaty-backed Forktail, Grey-sided Scimitar-babbler, Fork-tailed Sunbird and White-bellied Munia (nest building). Brunch at the restaurant in the Botanical gardens, which looked a promising site for the partridge when quiet early in the morning. Had difficulty finding the hotel on the way back. Then taxi to the city, and farewell to BF and LS who stayed on another night before leaving for Sichuan and Australia, respectively. They had another crack at the partridge next morning, with a near miss but did see 4 Silver Pheasants. Farewell to Kai, who was heading South to his parent’s house – he had been extremely helpful. We caught the 16.56 train to Beijing, sitting initially in a crowded hard seat coach before moving to a 3-tier sleeper for an extra 180CNY. Female company was better in the first coach, although the only woman in the sleeper gave me the thumbs up for the size of my nose. 

May 27: Spent the morning looking out at the typical flat landscape of agriculture, plantations and building    sites, arriving at Beijing West at 13,00. Queued for taxi for 30 mins, then had to ask Craig to tell the driver we wanted to go to the Central Hostel (30CNY). Booked in at the hostel (120CNY) then took the metro to sunny Beijing Olympic Park, alighting at South station which had a useful tourist office outside. Heaving with people, it being a Sunday, the park had extensive reedbeds but few birds except for Oriental Reed-Warblers and Eurasian Cuckoos. We saw a scarce Cinnamon Bittern but had no reponse to play-back of Eastern Water Rail. Arrived back at the hostel at 20.00, ate a burger then met Terry Townsend for beers and chat till 23.00 – a nice end to a great trip!

May 28: Up at 04.00 for 25 min taxi ride to airport (110CNY) for trouble-free Swiss Air flight to Manchester via Zurich.


Beijing (Terry Townsend)

1. Botanical Garden, NW Beijing, near the Summer Palace - probably the best site in the city (if you avoid weekends), a good area for general birding, with Chinese Nuthatch and, by walking up the hill at the back of the gardens, a good chance of Chinese Hill Warbler and Plain Laughingthrush.

The best area for Chinese Nuthatch is the conifers immediately behind the Conservatory (which you should be able to see on the maps) but not always present.

For Chinese Hill Warbler, the best area is NOT in the gardens themselves but around the top of the ridge at the back of the gardens - prefer scrubby areas with fewer trees. To cover this area properly, it will take about 45 mins to 1 hour to walk from the main entrance through the gardens and up one of the tracks at the back of the gardens.  My preferred route is to walk up to Cherry Valley (the far NW of the gardens) until you reach the toilet block (at the very top of the map); just before the toilet block is a tarmac road to the right that slopes steeply uphill. Take this and after about 100 metres the tarmac road ends at a wall; take the track here through the woods to the right and walk steadily uphill for about 15 minutes.  Cross the road you come to and continue up an obvious path.  At the road junction, ignore the main road running left and right and the road straight ahead going downhill, take the road that slopes uphill to the left.  This winds its way up and then levels out.  Anywhere along here can be good for Chinese Hill Warbler but the best area is about 15-20 mins walk along where it opens up a little and becomes more scrubby.  Plain Laughingthrush is here and there is the possibility of buntings and maybe a rosefinch or two as well as raptors in spring and autumn. Chinese Grosbeak also occurs.

2. Olympic Forest (Chaoyang) Park.  North Beijing, near the 4th ring road.  

Another good area for general birding, not as well-visited as the more established parks and therefore relatively easy to get away from people. The northern section in particular is often undisturbed. There is some good wetland/reedbed habitat in the SW corner of the southern section as well as some mature pine trees and other trees/shrubs. Birds like Yellow Bittern breed here. Can be reached by metro easily (line 10 to Beitucheng then change to line 8 north and alight at the station called "Olympic Forest Park South Gate"). Cover the SW area first (reedbeds and "underwater corridor") and then explore more widely, maybe taking in some of the wooded hills where you will see lots of phylloscopus warblers, thrushes, bluetails, buntings etc at migration time. Oriental Scops Owls come through in May.

An interesting site further away is Wulingshan, Hebei province, holding Elisa's Flycatcher, Bull-headed Shrike and Grey-sided Thrush.

Xuanzhong monastery is about 10 kilometers (by road) from Jiaocheng in Shanxi. It is the only known site where the scarce Brown Eared Pheasant can be easily seen, especially outside the breeding season. When we went there in mid May Chinese bird photographers put small piles of rice along the top of the wall by the entrance door of the temple/ monastery. Two pheasants fed there at 06.00 on 16th and one on 17th which we just missed because we arrived at the town after midnight and had difficulty finding a taxi early on 17th. At 15.30 we saw one lurking on the forested steep hillside opposite the area where Paul Holt had seen several, near the bridge to nowhere over the dry stream. Next day we put food out as the Chinese had gone but the bird did not show. Fortunately, a man opened the temple door at 06.20 and beckoned us in, and there was a pheasant feeding on rice on the ground for c.10mins before flying up onto the wall where it stayed for some time until a local threw a rock at it, causing it to fly away. So you can either try to get the monks to let you in - we gave the guy a fiver afterwards - or go to a high viewpoint into the temple, eg from a short way up the track on the right just before the entrance gate.

To reach the temple, take a train to Taiyuan then a taxi either to the west bus station for a bus to Jiaocheng (cheaper) or go all the way to Jiaocheng (50 km, 1 hour) and continue another 5 km NW down the main highway before turning right to the temple another 4km uphill. After seeing Pheasants bird the access road for White-browed Hill-warbler, Long-tailed Rosefinch and Long-tailed Tit (proposed split). The nearest hotel is the good quality Guashan hotel.

Yankou is a coastal town and port north of Rudong, about 200km north of Shanghai, with extensive mud flats, small patches of woodland and a few tree-lined roads - excellent habitat for migrants, notably Spoon-billed Sandpiper, which may stay well into May. Reed Parrotbill occurs in reedy pools but is commoner further south, eg at Dongtan NR, Nanhui and Chongming Island near Shanghai where Japanese Swamp Warbler is also found. The shortest routes from the north are by train to Nantong, alighting at Hai’nan’xian, or flight to Shanghai and taxi to Yankou. Note there are two airports in Shanghai, Hongqiao and Pudong airports. Chongming island is about 2 hours drive from Hongqiao airport. At Yankou, turn left and head (east I think) along the river to the port. You will pass 2 hotels, restaurants and shops on the right about a km before reaching a large new temple on the coast – the patch of open woodland behind the temple was good for migrants and the nearby pools for Saunder’s Gull. Walk to the right along the paved road for c.3km to see the waders at high tide – the mud is easily reached from the base of the large pylons. We saw at least 2 spoonies by heading north from the temple by taxi over the bridge then 4-5km along a straight paved road adjacent to the sea. The bay here is covered by spartina grass as far as the eye can see. The waders were out beyond this impenetrable sea of grass. After 4-5km the paved road ends - a tree-lined track runs inland (good for migrants), whilst the road continues as an unpaved track bearing NE. Also here the sea wall turns east and there is a slipway onto the mud; this is where we travelled out several km to the mudflats by tractor. On foot you can walk directly out following the well marked vehicle tracks. The spartina grass prevents you from straying off course. After about 1 km you cross a stream then follow it out to the sea another 30mins walk away. There was lots of cockle-collecting activity but still large expanses of mud for parties of waders

YangXian, Shaanxi, is the site for Crested Ibis, localised but not uncommon in the agricultural land outside the town. Take a bus from Xi’an to Yangxian through the Qinling Shan, past Foping Giant Panda Reserve. Best to use the taxi driver we used at Yangxian because he knows where we found the active nest. Park at the conduit by the road on the right, a few 100m above the village and walk along the conduit for c200m - the nest is in pines on the left at eye level, fairly easy to see.  Can be done as a day trip from Xian but better to stay at Baiyun Hotel in YangXian for a longer visit with opportunities of other birds such as Golden Pheasant and migrants..

Donghzai Nature Reserve, Henan

Key birds here are

  1. Reeves’s Pheasant – fairly widespread in small numbers but shy and difficult to see on the ground
  2. Fairy Pitta – calling in May up the Valley Trail
  3. Chestnut-winged Cuckoo on Valley Trail
  4. Swinhoe’s Minivet – scarce, only saw it near guesthouse
  5. Brown-chested Jungle-Flycatcher – had not arrived by May 20

Reached from Beijing West station on a hi-speed train south to Xinyang [about 7 hours], then taxi to the reserve [70 to 100 CNY, less than one hour]. There are rooms and meals at the guesthouse in the reserve or in a hotel at the village a few km away. The 2 main trails and the approach road from the village are all worth walking.

Wuyuan is an important site for two species where transport is needed, and preferably a guide with local knowledge. Laolin was almost ideal here but needed encouragement to come with us at times.

Key birds are

1.Elliot's Pheasant – several sites, eg one described by Björn Andersson, but not guaranteed by any means! Seems to like root vegetables so perhaps best looked for where they are being grown or in damp patches in woodland.

2. Blue-crowned Laughingthrush – easy at well-known sites here, but nowhere else as the world population is very low.

3. Grey-sided Laughingthrush – not uncommon at forest edge here and at other sites such as Fuzhou FP.

There are buses to Wuyuan from Shanghai.

Wuyishan National Nature Reserve is probably the premier site in southeast China. The road winds through the hills and passes two reservoirs before getting to where the accommodation is at the Jiangxi Reserve HQ’s village (Xikeng) at 900m elevation. A fast-flowing river runs behind the guesthouse. The road ascends to about 1180m where you turn right to enter Fujian Province or continue left past a locked barrier for about 15 km (marked as km12 to km 27) along a track to the summit of Huanggangshan (2158m). The road passes in turn through broadleaf, pine, bamboo, and montane grassland at the end of the treeline at km 25, the main peak of Wuyishan (1850m elevation). Laolin appears to be the only guide with permission to take visitors up the mountain on the Jianxi side, Kai has been acting as interpreter for him in recent times. Cabot’s Tragopan, the star bird here, used to be seen on the Fujian side but is said to be hunted out now. There is an excellent selection of other birds here, from the difficult Elliot’s Pheasant and White-necklaced Partridge at the lower levels, to Pere David’s Fulvetta (split from Grey-cheeked), Indochinese Yuhina and a variety of recently split warblers such as Hartert’s, Claudia’s, Kloss’s and Alstrom’s in the middle reaches, to Grey-hooded Fulvetta and an isolated population of Rosy Pipit near the summit. It’s not a cheap trip, eg entrance fee is about 300CNY per day, but best to book Laolin well ahead through Kai, requesting a discount if necessary.

Fuzhou, Fujian is the starting point for visiting the Minjiang estuary to look for Chinese Crested Terns, which can be found between May 1st and Oct 1st. This excellent site is reached by a 10min boat ride and a 2 min walk. As the tide drops Great Crested Terns gather on exposed mudbanks and are joined by small numbers of the very rare Chinese Crested. There are a few guides who will take you to the site – Kai arranged for Laodeng to pick us up at the station, take us to tern island with the requisite permits and afterwards to Fuzhou Forest Park, in his 4 x 4, for 450CNY each. The park is reckoned to be one of the best sites for White-necklaced Partridge but we failed to see it.

Momoge in the Zhenlai area of Jilin province is famed for hosting up to 3000 Siberian Cranes amongst many other waterbirds in late April and early May, while nearby Tumuji National Nature Reserve is one of the last resorts of the critically endangered Jankowski’s Bunting. Zhenlai can be reached by train, eg from Shenyang or Beijing, or flight to Changchun and then long bus or taxi drive. A taxi is needed for the whole day to travel to and around both sites. Momoge is very straightforward – just drive along the road around the wetland, some 30 mins from Zhenlai – but finding the bunting is more difficult. Ideally, contact the director of Tumuji reserve, currently, to offer to help in the conservation of the reserve, and ask if he can arrange for you to go to a site where the bunting occurs (which should be possible in a taxi). He may want a financial contribution to do this. His office is in a large building on the right on the southern edge of Tumuji town. The easy alternative is to pay a high price for Jesper or Mr Sun to take you.

Zhalong Crane Reserve, near Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province can be reached by train from Beijing to Qiqihar, though it may take 24 hr, then bus or taxi to the reserve 26km away. Can fly to Harbin, a few hours by train from Qiqihar, or possibly to Qiqihar. Key birds are breeding Oriental Stork (several pairs but scattered), Red-crowned Crane, Pied Harrier and Northern Parrotbill. There are said to be lots of migrants in trees early June time – we saw some but not many in early May - can include the rare Chinese Bush-Warbler and Gray’s Gropper. The only hotel in the reserve is quite expensive; there is cheap accommodation in the village but several km away and you would have to pay the 50CNY entrance fee to the reserve every day – don’t if you stay in it.

Note that Honghe National Nature Reserve, much further north, is the largest breeding ground of Oriental White Stork in China with over 20 pairs.

Harbin, Heilongjiang has a good park outside the city and birding sites further afield. You can day trip to Moershan forest farm where there is a long term ringing project by Harbin university – 2 Swinhoes Rail have been trapped there. It has woodland, wet meadows and marshes with Band-bellied Crake and Eastern Water Rail from late May onwards. You can overnight in the centre there by prior arrangement.

A little further to the north Dailing is said an excellent place with Band-bellied Crake, and near to a Scaly-sided Merganser reserve. However the latter may be more easily seen along Yongcui River inside Yongcui and Bishui Reserves – a birder recently recorded at least 7 different birds while about 40 birds are said to occur in the area.

Harbin is a major centre with flights, eg from Beijing and Xian, and trains, eg from Qiqihar (near to Zhalong Crane Reserve).

Lake Hongjian (Hong Jian Nao) in northern Shaanxi is probably the world’s major breeding site for Relict Gulls. It lies on the edge of the Ordos Desert and has good facilities at a holiday resort there. There are no buses or taxis but trains go to Shenmu and Yulin where taxis can be hired to take you the 100km or so to the lake. There are probably buses to Daluita, the nearby town, and taxis available there but we were unable to establish this. We only saw a small part of the lake, estimating that there were very approximately 1000 adult Relict Gulls along the shore, many displaying and interacting – no other species and no visible nests. Motor boats do go out on the lake but as far as we could tell, not to the breeding grounds. Good numbers of other birds were around, eg Amur Falcon, Citrine Wagtail and Blyth’s Pipit, but of relatively few species.


We are very grateful for all the assistance freely given by many people, most notably Xei Kai , Terry Townsend, Craig Brelsford, Cheng Wan Jun and Jemmy (Chen Ya Chang) at Tumuji, Tang Lin Fang at Harbin, and Laodeng at Fuzhou, with additional help and information from Hooa, Qingyu, Paul Holt, Nick Dymond, Richard Fairbank, Rich Hopf, Mikael Bauer, Paul Leader, George Wagner and Martin Williams, with apologies to anyone whose name is not mentioned.


Relict Gull

There was a sharp increase in the Ordos Relict Gull population, from 200 birds since they were first observed in 2000 to 11,000 birds, or 2,460 nests, in 2005 (Xiao et al. 2006) in Hongjian (Hongjiannao) Lake, Shenmu County, northern Shaanxi. Huo et al and He et al. (2007) noted an increase from 87 nests in 2000 to 5,038 nests in 2007. This rapid increase was attributed to conservation success at Hongjian Lake, though this population growth is unlikely to have been through reproduction. The increase appears to be mainly due to migration from Ordos where ecological failure has caused the Relict Gulls to abandon the reserve and establish new colonies about 100 km southward.

Jankowski’s Bunting is now critically endangered. A round-table meeting on its conservation took
place at Tumuji National Nature Reserve on 6-8th June 2012. Representatives attended from Tumuji and Keerqin NNRs, BirdLife International, Beijing Bird Watching Society (who conducted surveys in 2011 and 12), the National Bird Banding Centre and Northeast Normal University. The participants also visited Keerqin Nature Reserve and found Jankowski's buntings at both Keerqin and Tumuji. The meeting was constructive and the results were encouraging. In addition to better local protection, there are now plans for habitat restoration, increasing local awareness of the species' requirements and ongoing advocacy work to secure support at government level.
David Buckingham, OBC Conservation Committee

Shorebirds – Bryan Ivor Jones and Martin Williams

China is a country where change occurs very slowly except for coastal urban industrialisation, which is a disadvantage when considering the plight of threatened species because by the time the talking has stopped the species has usually become extinct. Our big fight at the moment is trying to protect the East Asian flyway stop-over points which are vanishing at an alarming rate for the obvious reasons. The latest report shows substantial decreases in many shorebird populations.

There is a map indicating existing/planned projects that would create a "Great Wall of Wind Farms" along the north of Bay of Bohai. The Administrator of Linghai reserve had been reinstated, after the region's authorities reassigned him following him fining two state-owned firms for building a wind farm that reduced the reserve area by 7,000ha. A recent map of Linghai area includes part showing a wind farm right within the heart of the reserve.
It's just further horrific development by China, like some gold rush country, with officials hell-bent on getting all they can into their pockets, now sees the coastal mudflats as easy targets for reclamations, wind farms, whatever; never mind about the future for fisheries, "national treasures” like Red-crowned Cranes, or treaties on protecting migratory species. Mudflat devastation is all the easier when, as with Korea's Saemangeum, it seems the international conservation community could hardly care less.

Baer’s Pochard is a rare bird now, breeding well north of Beijing, Terry Townsend reports that at least 4 pairs have bred this year 300km south of Beijing at Hengshui Hu in Hebei Province.  “Remarkable that this site is so far south from its traditional range.  Maybe it's an adaptation to the deteriorating conditions in north-east China? Hopefully they will breed regularly.  There were reports from there in June 2010 and 2011, so maybe it's becoming a regular breeding site for them.


There is an efficient and widespread railway service but its difficult to know what the rules are for buying tickets, Here’s what I’ve read and been told, some conflicting details:-

There is no electronic booking system so you must buy tickets at the station from where the train departs if you want a sleeper. If you do not want a sleeper, 'hard seats' can be bought at stations en route but not always, many trains have little if any seating, just beds. It’s the slow trains which have the seats but these are often packed and can be noisy.
You cannot usually get train tickets on the day from major stations and ticket purchase can take hours of queuing with the ticket seller unable to understand even the destination you want, so try to get a local to help.

To book sleepers from say Shenyang to Zhenlai when the train starts in Dalian, the agent in Beijing tells an agent in Dalian to book the seats. The agent in Dalian sends the tickets to Shenyang and arranges for someone to meet you at the train station with the tickets, but needs a lot of notice and a fee.
Tickets can in general only be bought 3 days in advance at the train station. ‘Hard sleepers’, which for us were not that hard, are in 6 sleeper cabins. We could have opted for a cabin on our own with only 4 sleepers but that would have increased the expense by 50% so we rarely booked them.

Train schedule and prices are on You can book trains on the internet and give an agency address for them to be delivered to but there is a charge of £15 a ticket.

You can only purchase train tickets at the train station (rarely train ticket office) in the city you depart from and only within the preceding 14 days before departure. Purchasing a sleeper bed on one or two days notice may be difficult if not impossible. All tickets are one-way and can only be bought with cash. The high-speed trains (G, D, Z) can usually be booked one-month in advance but this is not necessary as they run frequently and you can simply go to the station and usually get on one within an hour or two.  The larger cities have multiple train stations (North, South, West, High-Speed, etc) and you have to go to the correct station that offers service to your destination.


Craig Brelsford  0086 15821698624: American bird photographer living in Shanghai (interpreted for us by mobile)

Terry Townsend   +86 15011289613

Tang at Harbin University   15244600697

Jemmy at Tumuji  18248287141

Xai Kai


Taxonomy mainly follows Brazil (2009). W = Wuyishan, LH = Lake Hongjian, X = Xuanzhong monastery

Daurian Partridge, Perdix dauurica: 2 near Tumuji and 4 at LH

Japanese Quail, Coturnix japonica: 3 at Zhalong and 1 at Yangxian

White-necklaced Partridge, Arborophila gingica: only heard at W and Fuzhou Park

Chinese Bamboo-Partridge, Bambusicola thoracica: 1 taped in at W, heard at Wuyuan and Fuzhou Park

Cabot’s Tragopan, Tragopan caboti: 3 on 23rd at W, 2 pairs and a juv on 24th.

Silver Pheasant, Lophura nycthemera: a pair at Wuyuan, 4 males at Fuzhou Park (LS, BF)

Golden Pheasant, Chrysolophus pictus: 1 flushed by DP near Yangxian and 5 heard

Brown-eared Pheasant, Crossoptilon mantchuricum: 1 skulking in hillside vegetation at X on 17th, 1 feeding in the monastery on 18th.

Elliot’s Pheasant, Syrmaticus ellioti: female flushed by BF at Wuyuan on 21st, pair flushed by JH and L on 22nd; heard at W

Reeves’s Pheasant, Syrmaticus reevesii: 4-6 daily including 2 males observed feeding by LS and 1 male flying to roost in tree.

Ring-necked Pheasant, Phasianus colchicus: fairly common

Little Grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis:5 at Yankou, 10 and Zhalong and others heard.

Black-necked Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis: 8 at Momoge

Red-necked Grebe, Podiceps grisegena: 1 at Zhalong – a scarce bird in China

Great Crested Grebe, Podiceps cristatus: 2 at M, 10 at Zhalong

Great Bittern, Botaurus stellaris: 2 seen at M and Zhalong with other heard booming.

Yellow Bittern, Ixobrychus sinensis: at least 4 at Olympic Park, Beijing

Cinnamon Bittern, Ixobrychus cinnamomeus: 1 at Olympic Park, Beijing

Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea: fairly common, especially at Yangxian

Purple Heron, Ardea purpurea: several at Momoge and Zhalong

Great Egret, Ardea alba: fairly common

Intermediate Egret, Mesophoyx intermedia: 1 at Fuzhou, possibly overlooked in the south.

Little Egret, Egretta garzetta: locally common

Cattle Egret, Bubulcus ibis: locally common

Chinese Pond-Heron, Ardeola bacchus: locally common

Striated Heron, Butorides striatus: singles at Fuzhou and Wuyuan were only ones noted

Black-crowned Night-Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax: fairly common, especially at Yangxian

Crested Ibis, Nipponia Nippon: at least 2 wild birds on 5th and 3 plus 2 young in nest on 6th near Yangxian

Eurasian Spoonbill, Platalea leucorodia: 15 at Tumuji, 1 at Momoge

Oriental Stork, Ciconia boyciana: 2 active nests at Zhalong. Up to 20 had wintered at Tumuge, the last one leaving the day before our visit!

Swan Goose, Anser cygnoides: only 6 at Momoge but c.20 at Zhalong

Greater White-fronted Goose, Anser albifrons: c.100 at Tumuji and a few at Momoge

Lesser White-fronted Goose, Anser erythropus: several at Momoge

Bean Goose, Anser fabalis: c.1000 at Momoge, 50 at Tumuji

Whooper Swan, Cygnus Cygnus: 6 at Momoge, 50 at Tumuji

Bewick’s Swan, Cygnus columbianus: 50 at Tumuji

Ruddy Shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea: 1 at Tumuji, 4 at LH

Mandarin Duck, Aix galericulata: 2 at Donghzai, 3 at Wuyuan

Gadwall, Anas strepera: 2 at Momoge and Tumuji

Falcated Duck, Anas falcate: 2 at Momoge

Mallard, Anas platyrhynchoscommon in the north

Chinese Spotbill, Anas (poecilorhyncha) zonorhyncha: 2 at Momoge, Tumuji and Zhalong, 3 at Wuyuan, 1 at Fuzhou

Northern Shoveler, Anas clypeata 10 at Momoje and Tumuji, 2 at Zhalong

Northern Pintail, Anas acuta: up to 200 at Momoge, 10 at Tumuji, 6 at Zhalong

Garganey, Anas querquedula: 20 at Momoge

Baikal Teal, Anas Formosa: a male at Momoge

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca: numerous at Momoge and Zhalong

Common Pochard, Aythya ferina: 20 at Momoge, 10 at Zhalong

Tufted Duck, Aythya fuligula: 30 at Momoge, 20 at Zhalong

Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula: 20 at Momoge, 1 at Zhalong

Black Baza, Aviceda leuphotes: up to 6 at Donghzai, including some display

Black-eared Kite, Milvus (migrans) lineatus: 1 at Momoge was the only one!

Grey-faced Buzzard, Butastur indicus: 2 or 3 at Donghzai both days

Eastern Marsh-Harrier, Circus spilonotus: 2 at Momoge and Tumuji, 4 at Zhalong

Hen Harrier, Circus cyaneus: singles at Momoge and Zhalong

Pied Harrier, Circus melanoleucos: single males at Zhenlai and Zhalong with 1 female at Zhalong

Chinese Goshawk, Accipiter soloensis: a pair near Yangxian, copulating, singles at Donghzai and Wuyuan.

Northern Goshawk, Accipiter gentiles: 1 at Momoge

Eastern/Japanese Buzzard, Buteo (buteo) japonicus: I at Zhalong

Pied Falconet, Microhierax melanoleucus: an adult with a juv in the nest hole near Donghzai

Eurasian Kestrel, Falco tinnunculus: 1 at Yankou, 3 at Momoge and Tumuji

Amur Falcon, Falco amurensis: singles at Yankou and LH, with a pair calling at LH (BF)

Eurasian Hobby, Falco subbuteo: 1 at LH

White-breasted Waterhen, Amaurornis phoenicurus: 1 at Donghzai, 2 at Fuzhou

Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus: 2 at Beijing

Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra: locally common, especially at Zhalong

Great Bustard, Otis tarda: 5 near Tumuji

Demoiselle Crane, Grus virgo: only 1 at Momoge, contrasting with 20 a day around Ulaan Baator

Siberian Crane, Grus leucogeranus: c.c.3000 at Momoge on April 30 but only 1000+ on May 2, with 7 at Tumuji

White-naped Crane, Grus vipio: singles at Tumuji and Zhalong

Hooded Crane, Grus monacha: 20 at Momoge and 50 at Tumuji

Common Crane, Grus grus: 100 at Tumuji

Red-crowned Crane, Grus japonensis: 7 at Tumuji, 10 at Momoge, 6 at Zhalong

Northern Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus: common in the Momoge area, a few at Zhalong, 1 LH

Grey-headed Lapwing, Vanellus cinereus: fairly common, especially at LH

Black-bellied Plover, Pluvialis squatarola: 5 Minjiang estuary

Pacific Golden-Plover, Pluvialis fulva:  3 Minjiang estuary

Greater Sandplover, Charadrius leschenaultia: 2 Minjiang estuary

Lesser Sandplover, Charadrius mongolus: 100s at Yankou, 15 Minjiang estuary

"White-faced"/ "Swinhoe's" Plover, Charadrius dealbatus: only 1 was identified at Minjiang estuary

Long-billed Plover, Charadrius placidus: 1 in river bed 4km outside Yangxian

Little Ringed Plover, Charadrius dubius: up to 10 daily in the north

Kentish Plover, Charadrius alexandrinus: common Yankou and a few elsewhere

Eurasian Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus: 4 at Yankou

Black-winged Stilt, Himantopus himantopus: only 2 at Yankou, very common at Momoge, fairly common at Zhalong and LH, 6 Minjiang estuary

Pied Avocet, Recurvirostra avosetta: up to 20 at Momoge and 2 at LH

Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus: up to 20 at Momoge, 40 Minjiang estuary

Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos: up to 3 most days

Common Greenshank, Tringa nebularia: common at Yankou, small numbers elsewhere

Green Sandpiper, Tringa ochropus: 1 or 2 throughout the North

Marsh Sandpiper, Tringa stagnatilis: 7 Minjiang estuary

Wood Sandpiper, Tringa glareola: amazingly common, c.500 at Tumuji and 100 at Momoge

Common Redshank, Tringa tetanus: only 1 or 2 at Yankou, Tumuji, Momoge and Yangxian

Ruff, Philomachus pugnax: 2 males in breeding plumage at Momoge, 20 at Tumuji

Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus: a few at Yankou, heard calling at Minjiang estuary

Far Eastern Curlew, Numenius madagascariensis: a few at Yankou

Eurasian Curlew, Numenius arquata: a few at Yankou, Momoge and Minjiang estuary

Eastern Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa (limosa) melanuroides: possibly 5000 at Tumuji and  Momoge, only 6 elsewhere, at LH 

Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica: common in breeding plumage at Yankou

Ruddy Turnstone, Arenaria interpres: common at Yankou

Red Knot, Calidris canutus: 1 in full breeding plumage Minjiang estuary

Sanderling, Calidris alba: a few at Yankou, 10 Minjiang estuary

Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus: at least 2 in partial breeding plumage at Yankou

Temminck’s Stint, Calidris temminckii: at least 4 at Momoge

Red-necked Stint, Calidris ruficollis: abundant at Yankou, 10 Minjiang estuary

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Calidris acuminate: 15 in paddies at Minjiang estuary

Dunlin, Calidris alpine: common at Yankou

Curlew Sandpiper, Calidris ferruginea: 1 at Yankou

Broad-billed Sandpiper, Limicola falcinellus: 1 at Yankou

Common Snipe, Gallinago gallinago: 1 at Yankou, 10 at Tumuji, 500 at Momoge, 2 at Zhalong

Oriental Pratincole, Glareola maldivarum: 6 at Tumuji and 20 at Momoge

Greater Painted-snipe, Rostratula benghalensis: 2 near Wuyuan

Saunders’s Gull, Larus saundersi: at least 20 at Yankou

Heuglin’s Gull, Larus heuglini: fairly common at Yankou

Black-headed Gull, Larus ridibundus: common at Tumuji, Momoge and Zhalong

Relict Gull, Larus relictus: at least 1000, all in breeding plumage, at LH, with many displaying along the shore of the lake

Little Tern, Sterna albifrons: 3 Minjiang estuary

Gull-billed Tern, Sterna nilotica:  6 LH and Minjiang estuary

White-winged Tern, Chlidonias leucopterus:  4 in breeding plumage at Minjiang estuary

Whiskered Tern, Chlidonias hybridus: 4 at Yankou

Common Tern, Sterna hirundo:  common at Yankou, 10 at Zhalong, 4 LH

Great Crested Tern, Sterna bergii:  50 Minjiang estuary

Chinese Crested Tern, Sterna bernsteini  2 adults arrived at the Minjiang estuary tern roost as the high tide was going out at 13.40, displayed, copulated and left at 14.00.

Oriental Turtle-Dove, Streptopelia orientalis:  1 at Beijing Bot Gardens, 20 at Yangxian, up to 6 daily from Donghzai southwards.

Collared Dove, Streptopelia decaocto:  2 at Zhalong

Spotted Dove, Streptopelia chinensis:  fairly common

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, Clamator coromandus: 2 at Donghzai

Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Cuculus sparverioides: 1 at Yankou, Wuyuan and Fuzhou, heard elsewhere

Indian Cuckoo, Cuculus micropterus:  heard at Donghzai

Common Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus: surprisingly common at Beijing Olympic Park with at least 8 seen

Oriental Cuckoo, Cuculus saturatus:  1 at Wuyishan

Lesser Cuckoo, Cuculus poliocephalus:  singles seen at W and Fuzhou Park with others heard

Asian Koel, Eudynamys scolopacea:  heard at Yangxian, Donghzai and Fuzhou Park

Lesser/Greater  Coucal , Centropus bengalensis/sinensis:  1 at Fuzhou Park

Oriental Scops-Owl, Otus sunia:  heard at Donghzai

Collared Owlet, Glaucidium brodiei:  heard at Donghzai

Little Owl, Athene noctua:  1 at Tumuji

Grey Nightjar, Caprimulgus indicus:  2 at W

Common Swift, Apus apus:  20 at Beijing and Yangxian

Fork-tailed Swift, Apus pacificus:  a few singles

Common Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis: a few singles with 2 at Moershan

White-throated Kingfisher, Halcyon smyrnensis:  singles at Yankou and Wuyuan

Black-capped Kingfisher, Halcyon pileata:  1 at X, 2 at Donghzai

Crested Kingfisher, Megaceryle lugubris:  1 at Donghzai (LS)

Pied Kingfisher, Ceryle rudis:  1 at Wuyuan

Hoopoe, Upupa epops:  1 or 2 most days with 3 at Fuzhou Park

Dollarbird, Eurystomus orientalis:  3 at Wuyan, 1 at W

Blue-throated Bee-eater, Merops viridis:  2 at Wuyuan

Great Barbet, Megalaima virens:  3+ at Fuzhou Park

Wryneck, Jynx torquilla:  2 at Zhalong

Grey-faced Woodpecker, Picus canus:  2 at X, singles at Donghzai and Wuyuan, heard at Fuzhou

Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker, Dendrocopos canicapillus:  1 at Beijing Bot Gardens, 3 at Donghzai, 1 at Wuyuan

Bay woodpecker, Blythipicus pyrrhotis:  1 at W

Rufous Woodpecker, Celeus brachyurus:  1 at Wuyan

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos minor:  1 at Moershan

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major:  a few singles

White-backed Woodpecker, Dendrocopos leucotos:  a pair at W, heard at Moershan

Fairy Pitta, Pitta nympha:  1 seen very well at Donghzai, others heard

Mongolian Lark, Melanocorypha mongolica:  5 at Tumuji

Asian Short-toed Lark, Calandrella cheleensis:  10 at Tumuji

Skylark, Alauda arvensis:  common at Tumuji

Oriental Skylark, Alauda gulgula:  a few at Beijing and Yankou

Crested Lark, Galerida cristata:  2 at Tumuji, a few at LH

Bank Swallow, Riparia riparia:  1 at Zhalong, 500 at LH

Barn Swallow, Hirundo rustica:  common throughout the lowlands

Red-rumped Swallow, Hirundo daurica:  4 at Yankou, a few at Momoge, 10 at Zhalong and Wuyuan

Plain Martin , Riparia paludicola:  2 at Donghzai

Asian House Martin, Delichon dasypus:  2 at Yankou, 10 at W

Grey Wagtail, Motacilla cinerea:  1 at Moershan and W

White Wagtail, Motacilla alba lugens:  fairly common throughout

Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Motacilla (flava) tschutschensis:  very common at Yankou and LH, with a few elsewhere in the north

Citrine Wagtail, Motacilla citreola:  20 at LH

Richard’s Pipit, Anthus richardi:  1 at Zhalong and LH

Blyth’s Pipit, Anthus godlewskii:  1 at LH

Rosy Pipit, Anthus roseatus:  2 at W

Olive-backed Pipit, Anthus hodgsoni:  common at Yankou, 6 at Zhalong, 1 at Yangxian

Buff-bellied Pipit, Anthus rubescens:  1 at Zhalong

Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, Coracina melaschistos:  2 at Wuyuan

Ashy Minivet, Pericrocotus divaricatus:  2 at Zhalong

Swinhoe's/Brown-rumped Minivet, Pericrocotus cantonensis:  1 at Donghzai

Scarlet Minivet, Pericrocotus flammeus:  4 at Fuzhou

Grey-chinned Minivet, Pericrocotus solaris:  4 at W

Collared Finchbill, Spizixos semitorques:  2 at Yangxian, 3 at Donghzai, 2 Wuyuan, 10 Fuzhou Park

Chinese/Light-vented Bulbul, Pycnonotus sinensis:  common except in the north

Red Whiskered Bulbul, Pycnonotus jocosus:  2 at Fuzhou Park

Mountain Bulbul, Hypsipetes mcclellandii:  1 at Wuyuan, 2 W and Fuzhou Park

Chestnut Bulbul, Hemixos castanonotus:  4 at Wuyuan, 2 W and 6 Fuzhou Park

Black Bulbul, Hypsipetes leucocephalus:  1 at Donghzai and Wuyuan

Chinese Hill Warbler, Rhopophilus pekinensis:  2 above Beijing Bot Gardens, heard at X

Zitting Cisticola, Cisticola juncidis:  heard at Fuzhou

Manchurian Bush-Warbler, Cettia canturians:  at least 3 singing at Yankou, heard at Yangxian

Brownish-flanked Bush-Warbler, Cettia fortipes:  singles at Yankou, 2 at Donghzai and Wuyuan

Yellowish-bellied Bush-Warbler, Cettia acanthizoides:  2 at W

Russet Bush-Warbler, Bradypterus seebohmi:  heard at W

Brown Bush-Warbler, Bradypterus luteoventris:  10 singing at the top of W

Plain Prinia, Prinia inornata:  3 at Beijing Bot Gardens, common at Yankou and Fuzhou

Yellow-bellied Prinia, Prinia flaviventris:  1 at Fuzhou

Black-browed Reed-Warbler, Acrocephalus bistrigiceps:  1 at Yankou and Minjiang estuary

Oriental Reed-Warbler, Acrocephalus orientalis:  common at Yankou, Beijing Olympic Park and Minjiang estuary

Thick-billed Warbler, Acrocephalus aedon:  1 at LH

Lesser Whitethroat, Sylvia curruca halimodendri:  2+ at LH, singing very differently from our form

Dusky Warbler, Phylloscopus fuscatus:  3 at Zhalong, 1 at Moershan

Buff-throated Warbler, Phylloscopus subaffinis:  2 at W, 1 at Fuzhou

Radde’s Warbler, Phylloscopus schwarzi:  singles at Yankou, Moershan and LH

Pallas's Warbler, Phylloscopus proregulus: 1 at Yankou

Yellow-browed/ Arctic/Hume’s Warblers, Phylloscopus inornatus/ borealis/humei: small numbers of these Phyllosc warblers were seen throughout, north of Wuyuan, but we didn’t put much effort into identifying them.

Eastern Crowned Leaf-Warbler, Phylloscopus coronatus: 1 at Yankou

Claudia's Leaf-warbler, Phylloscopus claudiae: 3 at W

Hartert's Leaf-Warbler (white-tailed), Phylloscopus goodsoni fokiensis: 2 at W

Kloss's Leaf-Warbler, Phylloscopus ogiliviegranti: 2 at W

Bianchi's Warbler, Seicercus valentini: 4 at W

White-spectacled Warbler, Seicercus affinis: 1 at W

Alstrom's Warbler (Plain-tailed), Seicercus soror: 1 at W

Chestnut-crowned Warbler, Seicercus castaniceps: 6 at W

Rufous-faced Warbler, Abroscopus albogularis: 2 at W

Asian Paradise-Flycatcher, Terpsiphone paradisi: 1 at Donghzai

Asian Brown Flycatcher, Muscicapa dauurica: a few at Yankou

Dark-sided Flycatcher, Muscicapa sibirica: 1 at Yankou

Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Muscicapa griseisticta: 1 at Yankou

Korean (Yellow-rumped) Flycatcher, Ficedula zanthopygia: 2 at Yankou, 1 at X

Mugimaki Flycatcher, Ficedula mugimaki: 2 at Yankou

Taiga Flycatcher, Ficedula albcilla: 1 at Yankou, 6 at Zhalong

Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Cyanoptila cyanomelana: 2 at Yankou on 27 and 28th

Small Niltava, Niltava macgrigoriae: 3 at W

Rufous-tailed Robin, Luscinia sibilans: 1 at Yankou and Moershan

Siberian Rubythroat, Luscinia calliope: 1 at Yankou

Oriental Magpie-Robin, Copsychus saularis: fairly common in the south

Daurian Redstart, Phoenicurus auroreus: 1 at Yankou, Moershan, Yangxian and 4 at X

Plumbeous Redstart, Rhyacornis fuliginosus: 3 adults and 1 juv at W

White-crowned Forktail, Enicurus leschenaulti: 2 at Donghzai, 1 at Wuyuan

Slaty-backed Forktail, Enicurus schistaceus: 1 at Fuzhou Park

Spotted Forktail, Enicurus maculatus: 1 with a juv at W

Small Forktail, Enicurus scouleri: 1 at W

Siberian Stonechat, Saxicola maurus: small numbers throughout

Grey Bushchat, Saxicola ferreus: 2 at Wuyuan

Chestnut-bellied Rock-Thrush, Monticola rufiventris: 6 at W

Blue Rock-Thrush, Monticola solitarius: 1 at X

Blue Whistling-Thrush, Myiophonus caeruleus: 2 at Donghzai, 1 at W

Orange-headed Thrush, Zoothera citrina: 1 at Donghzai

Eurasian (Chinese) Blackbird, Turdus merula mandarinus: 6 at Wuyuan, 2 at Fuzhou

Grey-backed Thrush, Turdus hortulorum: 1 at Yankou, 4 at Moershan

Brown-headed Thrush, Turdus chrysolaus: 1 at Yankou

Naumann’s Thrush, Turdus naumanni: 1 at Zhalong

Dusky Thrush, Turdus eunomus: 1 at LH

White-browed Shortwing, Brachypteryx montana: heard at W

Masked Laughingthrush, Garrulax perspicillatus: 2 at Wuyuan

Plain Laughingthrush, Garrulax davidi: 2 at X

Blue-crowned Laughingthrush, Garrulax galbanus: 25+ at Wuyuan

Buffy (Rusty) Laughingthrush, Garrulax (poecilorhynchus) berthemyi: heard at W

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush, Garrulax pectoralis: 2 at Wuyuan, 6 W, 4 Fuzhou Park

Hwamei, Garrulax canorus: 4 at Donghzai, 1 Wuyuan, 2 Fuzhou Park

Grey-sided Scimitar-Babbler, Pomatorhinus swinhoei: 3 at Wuyuan, 1 Fuzhou Park

Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler, Pomatorhinus ruficollis: 2 at Donghzai and Wuyuan, heard elsewhere

Pygmy Wren-Babbler, Pnoepyga pusilla: 1 at W

Spotted Wren-Babbler, Spelaeornis formosus: 1 at Wuyuan and W

Rufous-capped Babbler, Stachyris ruficeps: 1 at Wuyuan and 2 at Fuzhou Park

Red-billed Leiothrix, Leiothrix lutea: 10 at W

White-browed Shrike-Babbler, Pteruthius flaviscapis ricketti: 1 at W

Green Shrike-Babbler, Pteruthius xanthochlorus obscurus: 2 at W

Grey-hooded (Streak-throated) Fulvetta, Alcippe cinereiceps: 1 at W

Pere-David's/Grey-cheeked Fulvetta, Alcippe morrisonia hueti: common at Wuyuan, 2 W, 4 Fuzhou Park

Indo-Chinese Yuhina, Yuhina torqueola: 10 at W

Black-chinned Yuhina, Yuhina nigrimenta pallida: 6 at W

White-bellied Erpornis(Yuhina), Erpornis(Yuhina) zantholeuca: 3 at W

Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Paradoxornis webbianus: locally common

Grey-headed Parrotbill, Paradoxornis gularis: 1 at Wuyuan, 2 at Fuzhou Park

Short-tailed Parrotbill, Paradoxornis davidianus: 1 at W

Reed Parrotbill, Paradoxornis heudei: 4 at Yankou

Northern Parrotbill, Paradoxornis (heudei) polivanovi: 9 at Zhalong

Marsh Tit , Poecile palustris: 1+ at Moershan

Willow Tit, Poecile montanus: 1+ at Moershan

Songar Tit, Poecile songarus: 1 at Yankou

Coal Tit, Periparus ater: 1 at Donghzai, 4 at W

Yellow-bellied Tit, Pardaliparus venustulus: a pair nest-building in a vertical metal tube at W

Japanese/Eastern Great Tit, Parus (major) minor: 6 at Moershan and X

Southern Great Tit, Parus cinereus: common at Yankou and Donghzai, a few at W and Fuzhou Park

Green-backed Tit, Parus monticolus: 1 at Bejing Bot Gardens was the only record, probably overlooked

Yellow-cheeked Tit, Parus spilonotus: 4 at W

Chinese Penduline-Tit, Remiz consobrinus: a flock of 10 flew over Yankou

Long-tailed Tit, Aegithalos caudatus: heard at Moershan, 2 at Donghzai (LS)

Black-throated Tit, Aegithalos concinnus: 3 at Yangxian, common in the south

Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Sitta nagaensis: 1 at W

Japanese White-eye, Zosterops japonicus: 2 at Donghzai, 6 at W

Fork-tailed Sunbird, Aethopyga christinae: 2+ at Fuzhou Park

Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker, Dicaeum melanoxanthum: 2 at W

Black-naped Oriole, Oriolus chinensis: 1 at Wuyuan

Black Drongo, Dicrurus macrocercus: a few throughout south of Beijing

Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus leucogenis: 2 at Donghzai and Wuyuan

Hair-crested Drongo, Dicrurus hottentottus: 1 at X and 6 at Donghzai

Crested Myna, Acridotheres cristatellus: fairly common in the south

Black-collared Starling, Sturnus nigricollis: 4 at Wuyuan, 10 at Fuzhou

Daurian Starling, Sturnus sturninus: 1 at Fuzhou

Red-billed Starling, Sturnus sericeus: fairly common at Yankou, Donghzai, Wuyuan and Fuzhou

White-cheeked Starling, Sturnus cineraceus: 20 at LH

White-shouldered Starling, Sturnus sinensis: 4 at Fuzhou

Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus: singles at Yankou, Moershan and Yangxian

Long-tailed Shrike, Lanius schach: a few throughout

Eurasian Jay, Garrulus glandarius: a few throughout

Azure-winged Magpie, Cyanopica cyana: common at Beijing and on train journeys, 1 at Moershan

Red-billed Blue Magpie, Urocissa erythrorhyncha: scattered records including 6 at X monastery

Grey Treepie, Dendrocitta formosae sericea: 1 at Wuyuan, 4 at Fuzhou Park

Eurasian Magpie, Pica pica: fairly common throughout

Daurian Jackdaw, Corvus dauuricus: common at Momoge

Spotted Nutcracker, Nucifraga caryocatactes: 8 at X

Rook, Corvus frugilegus: 10+ at Zhalong

Carrion Crow, Corvus corone: common in the Momoge – Zhalong area

Large-billed Crow, Corvus macrorhynchos: common around Beijing and Yangxian

Brown Bullfinch, Pyrrhula nipalensis: 6 at W

Oriental(Grey-capped) Greenfinch, Carduelis sinica: 1 or 2 at Beijing, Yangxian, LH and X, 6 Fuzhou Park

Chinese Grosbeak, Eophona migratoria: common at Yankou

Long-tailed Rosefinch, Uragus sibiricus: 1 at X (lepidus), and a pair at Moershan for DW

Russet Sparrow, Passer rutilans: 10 at Donghzai

Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Passer montanus: common throughout

Scaly-breasted Munia, Lonchura punctulata: 2 at Wuyuan and Olympic Park, 6 Fuzhou Park

White-rumped Munia, Lonchura striata: pair nest-building at Fuzhou Park

Crested Bunting, Melophus lathami: 2 at Wuyuan

Godlewski’s Bunting, Emberiza godlewskii: 1 at X

Jankowski's Bunting, Emberiza jankowskii: 4 males and 3 females at Tumuji

Tristram’s Bunting, Emberiza tristrami: 2 at Yankou

Little Bunting, Emberiza pusilla: 15 at Momoge, 3+ at Tumuji, 1 at Zhalong

Yellow-browed Bunting, Emberiza chrysophrys: 2 at Zhalong and Moershan

Yellow-throated Bunting, Emberiza elegans: 2 at Beijing Bot Gardens, Tumuji and Moershan, 1 at Zhalong

Black-faced Bunting, Emberiza spodocephala: singles at Yankou, 8 at Momoge, 4 at Zhalong, 2 at Moershan

Japanese Reed Bunting, Emberiza yessoensis: singles at Zhalong

Common Reed Bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus: a few at Zhalong and LH

Pallas’s Reed Bunting, Emberiza pallasi: 1 at Yankou, 2 at Zhalong and LH.


Eastern Water Rail                         Rallus indicus

White-necklaced Partridge              Arborophila gingica

Swinhoe's Rail                               Coturnicops exquisitus

Band-bellied Crake                         Porzana paykullii

Northern Hawk-Cuckoo                   Cuculus hyperythrus 

Northern Hawk-Owl/Boobook            Ninox japonica

Brown-chested Jungle-Flycatcher      Rhinomyias brunneata

Marsh Grassbird                            Megalurus pryeri



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