Po Yang, China, 21st - 24th December 2000

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT surfbirds.com)


Graham Talbot
Volker Schmidt


Po Yang in Jiangxi Province is a huge lake surrounded by a number of smaller lakes. In the summer the lakes are filled by the flooding of the Jangzi River however in the autumn as the waters subside vast areas of shallow water and extensive muddy banks are created producing idea habitat for cranes ducks and geese. The area is the main wintering ground for 95% of the worlds Siberian Crane population as well as a major wintering ground for White-naped and Hooded Cranes

Only a fraction of the area is designated a reserve which is centred around the village of Wu Cheng where the reserve Head Quarters is located and basically incorporates the smaller lakes of Dahu Chi, Sha Hu, and Bang Hu. Surrounding these lakes are extensive areas of low lying grass which is idea feeding areas for geese and ducks with the longer grass being the wintering areas of Great Bustard and Japanese Marsh warbler.

The village of Wu Cheng is located on higher ground at the confluence of the river Xiu and the river Gan and is surrounded by large areas of cultivated fields, paddies and small areas of woodland. Access to the village from Nanchang is by either a rough dirt track or by a twice-daily riverboat.


As with many places in the remoter parts of China access is not easy mainly due to the language barrier. Because of this and due the short duration of our visit we made all the arrangements through a travel company recommended to us by some Hong Kong birders. This was not cheap but we encountered no problems and we had a guide who spoke English throughout the trip and at the reserve the warden took us out the two days we were there. If time were no problem then it would be possible to find your own way to the reserve.

We stayed at the Head Quarters which was basic and had obviously seen better days. There was no heating and the only hot water was the provision of a large jug for washing each day. All food was provided by the reserve HQ It was typical Chinese fare with a strong emphasises on fish.

During our stay the weather proved our greatest enemy. On the drive into the reserve on the first day the sun was shinning and it was perfect conditions for birdwatching. At night a frost appeared and to our dismay in the morning we woke to thick fog which only cleared for about 4hours in the late afternoon This was repeated on the second day and fog was still present as we left on the last day. Although mist often occurs first thing apparently the presence of fog for the majority of the day is unusual. I think we were just unlucky


Thursday 21st December 2000

Crossed the boarder from Hong Kong into China at Lo Wu and took a taxi to Shenzhen airport where we caught the late morning flight to Nanchang arriving one hour latter. As we had already cleared immigration at Lo Wu we collected our bags and were met by a Mr He and his niece Mary Both of them spoke very good English and although not birdwatchers had in the past acted as guides for other birdwatching groups.

A mini bus was waiting to take us to the reserve HQ along the dirt road, which passes close to Dahu Lake. En route we stopped a number of times and saw Oriental White Stork, Black Shouldered Kite and Ring and Necked Pheasant. About half way along the track the condition deteriorated to such an extent that it was not possible to go any further. Luckily a mini bus with much higher ground clearance approached us from Wu Chen and after a heated debate between the two drivers a deal was struck and we transferred to the other mini bus, which turned around and took us to Wu Chen

Friday 22nd December 2000

Woke up to thick fog with visibility down to about 30m. Hoping that it would clear as soon as the sun rose we set off in a barge along the river Xiu. However very soon it became obvious that the captain of the barge was unhappy at having to travel in the fog and was not quite sure where we were. We landed on the riverbank and discovered a large area of reeds, which quickly produced Japanese Marsh Warbler. Although many birds could be heard calling as they flew overhead the thick fog prevailed. Returned to the barge and travelled back towards Wu Chen stopping on the opposite bank to the village. We walked for about 4km along a raised embankment which over looked a small section of Bang Hu and as the fog slowly cleared we could see across large areas of grassland and shallow pools. Still there was no sign of any cranes so we returned to the barge and headed up the Xiu river for about an hour to the lake of Sha Hu. By now it was about 15.00 the fog had cleared and eventually we found a party of 15 Siberian Cranes and about 450 White napped Cranes as well as a large selection of other water birds. Left the area at dusk after a quick look at Dahu Chi where more water birds were seen

Saturday 23rd December 2000

Woke again to even thicker fog and decided it was pointless taking the barge out to the lakes so spent the morning birding the fields, paddies and small woods around Wu Chen. By about 13.00 the fog started to clear so we took a barge to the large lake of Bang Hu but again no sign of the large flocks of cranes although we managed to find Palla’s Reed Bunting in the surrounding grassland Had a brief look at Mei Xi on the way back but by now dusk was approaching so we returned to Wu Chen disappointed

Sunday 24th December 2000

Awoke to thick fog yet again and due to the fog the river ferry back to Nanchang was not operating As there were no buses leaving the village that morning it was decided following a heated debate between our guide and the captain of the barge that the only way out was by barge and so we headed up river towards Nanchang in thick fog. I was not quite sure if the captain really new where he was going however after two hours we eventually arrived at a small village much to the Captains and our relief. Our mini bus was waiting for us and as we left the village three Brown Crakes were seen feeding on the road.

Arrived at Nanchang airport only to find our flight was delayed due to the fog Eventually left late afternoon arriving at Shenzhen an hour latter from where we got a taxi to the boarder crossing back into Hong Kong early evening

All in all a disappointing trip although we saw most of the key birds we were unable to take advantage of the full potential of the area due to the weather

Systematic List.

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
2 seen from the mini bus in the fields around Wu Chen 21st December

Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)
150 at Sha Hu 22nd December, 300 at Bang Hu 22nd December, 300 Bang Hu 23rd December and 300 Mei Xi 23rd December

Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides)
300 Sha Hu 22nd December, 50 Bang Hu 23rd December, 300 Mei Xi 23rd December

Bean Goose (Anser fabalis)
10 flying over entrance road 21st December

Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
1500 Sha Hu 22nd December, 100 Mei Xi 23rd December

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)
2 Bang Hu 22nd December

Spot-billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha)
50 Sha Hu 22nd December

Pintail (Anas acuta)
10 Sha Hu 22nd December

Common Teal (Anas crecca)
25 Sha Hu 22nd December

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
3 on the river 22nd December, 7 River Gan 23rd December

Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
2 on 22nd December

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)
Common along the river max of 10 seen daily

Spotted Dove (Strreptopelia chinensis)
8 Wu Chen Village 22nd December, 10 Wu Chen village and sorrounding fields 23rd December

Siberian Crane (Crus leucogeranus)
15 Sha Hu 22nd December

White-naped Crane (Crus vipo)
450 Sha Hu 22nd December, 5 Bang Hu 23rd December

Comman Crane (Crus grus)
3 Bang Hu 23rd December

Japanese Quail (Coturnix japonica)
A total of 6 seen in reserve 22nd December

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
2 Bang Hu 22nd December

Brown Crake (Amaurornis akool)
3 on road by ferry terminal near Nanchang 24 December

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
1 Sha Hu 22nd December

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common grass land bird seen in good numbers every day

Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
500 Sha Hu 22nd December

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
1 Mei Xi 23rd December

Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
7 Xia river 22nd December 5 Xia river 23rd December

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
4 along the entrance 21st December, 2 Bang Hu 23rd December

Eastern Marsh Harrier (Cirus spilonotus)
1 entrance road 21st December

Hen Harrier (Cirus cyaneus)
2 Bang Hu 22nd December, 1 Bang Hu 23rd December

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
2 Bang Hu 22nd December, 2 Bang Hu 23rd December

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Singles seen on 22nd and 23rd December

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Small numbers seen in suitable habitat

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
1 Bang Hu 22nd December

Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus)
1 Bang Hu 22nd December, 2 Bang Hu 23rd December

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Fairly common throughout the reserve

Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
600 Sha Hu 22nd December

Oriental White Stork (Ciconia boyciana)
30 Dahu Hu 21st December, 80 Sha Hu 22nd December, 1near Dahu Chi 23rd December

Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach)
Fairly common in suitable habitat

Chinese Grey Shrike (Lanius sphenocercus)
I Bang Hu 22nd December

Black bird (Turdus merula)
1 Wu Chen 22nd December

Dusky Thrush (Turdus naumanni)
1 Sha Hu 22nd December, 1 Wu Chen 23rd December

Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus)
1 Wu Chen 22nd December, 3 Wu Chen 23rd December

Black-collard Starling (Sturnus nigricollis)
Up to 40 Wu Chen 22/23rd December

Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus)
20 Wu Chen 23rd December

Yellow-bellied Tit ( Parus venustulus)
20 Wu Chen 23rd December

Great Tit ( Parus Major)
1 Wu Chen 23rd December

Black-throated Tit (Aegithalos concinnus)
15 Wu Chen 23rd December, 10 Wu Chen 24th December

Zitting Cisticola ( Cisticola juncidis)
Common in long Grass

Japanese Marsh Warbler (Locustella pryeri)
10 in reeds by Bang Hu 22nd December, 2 Mei Xi 23rd December

Oriental Skylark (Aauda gulgula)
Seen in good numbers both days with a max of 10 on 22nd December

White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata)
10 Wu Chen 23rd December

Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
Common in in suitable habitat

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
1 Wu Chen 23rd December

Richards Pipit (Anthus richardi)
1 opposite Wu Chen 22nd December, 1 Wu Chen 23rd December

Olive-backed Pipit ( Anthus hodgsoni)
5 Head Quarters 22/23rd December

Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus rubescens)
Common total of up to 100 22nd December

Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)
2 near Bang Hu 22nd December

Grey -capped Greenfinch (Carduelis sinica)
7 Wu Chen 23rd December

Yellow-billed Grosbeak (Eophona migratoria)
15 Whu Chen 22nd December, 20 Wu Chen 23rd December

Little Bunting (Emberiza pusilla)
2 Bang Hu 2nd December, 6 Wu Chen 23rd December

Black-faced Bunting (Emberiza spodocephala)
10 Wu Chen 23rd December

Chestnut-eared Bunting (Eberiza fucata)
1 Bang Hu 22nd December

Pallas’s Bunting (Emberiza pallasi)
2 Bang Hu 23rd December

Books (see a selection of Asia Guides available to buy online here)

For further information please contact
Graham Talbot
2 Brandreth Road
E6 5QB

e-mail gtalbot@netvigator.com