During the course of our trip to Qinghai and Tibet in August-September 2004 (see Graham Talbot's report on Surfbirds), Jesper Hornskov told me about a trip which he had made to Manchuria (Jilin Province) in the spring. There he had successfully found Jankowski's Buntings at a site north of Xianghai Reserve. This success was, however, clouded by the discovery that Jankowski's Bunting is now absent or at least very rare in its former core range in the Reserve itself where drought and overgrazing has severely degraded its lightly wooded steppe grassland habitat, whilst outside the reserve suitable habitat is fast disappearing due to the extension of arable agriculture. Thus, the official BirdLife status of "Vulnerable" is almost certainly out of date and its status should be redefined as "Endangered" or even "Critical".
A trip to find Jankowski's Bunting was thus a priority for me and I jumped at the chance to join a repeat trip organized by Jesper for May 2005. I decided to add a visit to two sites near Beijing before and after Manchuria: Xiaolongmen for Brown-eared Pheasant and Wulingshan where my main target was Elisa's Flycatcher. The timing of all this fortunately coincided with a gap in Alan Brown's birding plans and he decided to include the trip in a longer visit to China.
The Manchuria part of the trip was led and organized by Jesper Hornskov (email@example.com) ably supported by his local contacts. This was essential, Jankowski's Bunting is now so rare that there is no chance of finding it without local help. Hopefully, too, interest by foreign birders will help to raise the profile of this species before it is too late.
As well as organizing the official Manchuria tour, Jesper kindly arranged for our cars and drivers in the Beijing area. I had visited Xiaolongmen before (see Graham Talbot's report "The Great Pheasant Dip" on Surfbirds). At Wulingshan we made use of Björn Anderson's helpful report on Eurobirding.
6th May 2005 Hong Kong - Beijing - Xiaolongmen
I left Hong Kong at 03.30 in order to arrive early in Beijing. Unfortunately, the 'plane was struck by lightning on take-off and had to return to Hong Kong. We then boarded another 'plane and eventually arrived in Beijing at 10.00 (3½ hours late). Alan Brown and our driver were waiting and we quickly cleared the airport. We stopped for lunch at about 12.30 on the outskirts of Beijing and were happy to leave the choice of food to our driver. Perhaps he ordered rather more than we needed, but we were both impressed by the Peking Duck.
We reached our destination, Xiaolongmen, at 14.15 and our driver quickly sorted out the accommodation. I had seen this on my visit in February so knew more or less what to expect which was typical Chinese rural accommodation (i.e. clean bedding and eccentric plumbing) but this was on the better side of average. We had planned to walk up the road to a couple of trails which I knew of from February, but our driver took control and sensibly drove us to the top of the pass (the boundary between Beijing Municipality and Hebei Province). The drive took only 15 minutes and we spent the rest of the day walking back down the road (from 1300 - 1050m) with a couple of diversions up side trails, arriving back at the hotel at 17.10, just as it was getting dark. Other than along the highest stretch, where roadmenders were rather disruptive, the birding was pleasant rather than spectacular, with most of the species (tits and nuthatches especially) being the same as those which I had seen in February, the main difference being the abundance of Phylloscopus warblers. A couple of Common Pheasants were heard but there was no hint of our main quarry.
We shared dinner with our driver and a somewhat inebriated hotel staff member - of course we had a few drinks too - and retired at around 10.30.
Weather (at Xiaolongmen): sunny and cool, 15 - 10º. Altitude 1050 - 1300 m.
7th May 2005 Xiaolongmen - Beijing - train to Manchuria
Our driver awoke us at 04.45 and after a quick cup of coffee we drove up to the pass and began walking down at 05.00, well before the roadmenders had arrived. We soon heard a pheasant calling from the opposite side of the valley, but scanning revealed only a male Common Pheasant and searching the area only produced brief views of a Koklass Pheasant. We continued looking until we had to depart (at 10.00) but, as we had anticipated, we had no further sightings.
We broke the drive back to Beijing at the restaurant where we had stopped before and were dropped off at Beijing Central Station at 14.00. By 15.30 Jesper and three other group members had arrived; the rest of the group would board the train at Beidahe. We set off, promptly at 16.30 and, although our four berth sleeping compartments were very comfortable, we settled down in the restaurant car and enjoyed a few beers. We met up with the others at 21.00. We were now a very cosmopolitan group: three Danes, two Swedes, two Scots, a Canadian, a South African, a Dutchman and an Englishman (Tony Broome who had been a member of last year's Qinghai/Tibet group). The final group member, who was Swiss, would meet us in Baicheng. It was a good group, all experienced birders and most with considerable China experience.
Weather: 5º - 15 at Xiaolongmen, 20º- 25º in Beijing. Sunny but force 5 north wind. Altitude: 1050 - 1300 m at Xiaolongmen
8th May 2005 Baicheng area
I awoke at around 05.45 and had already seen a few birds from the train, including several Amur Falcons, prior to our arrival at Baicheng in northeast Jilin Province at 06.30. The final group member and Mr. Li (Jesper's "minder" for our time in the northeast) were there to meet us. We drove to our nearby hotel, which was to prove extremely comfortable, and after unloading the luggage and a spot of breakfast we set off in a minibus for the Jankowski's Bunting site which was about 25 km away. On the outskirts of town we picked up Jesper's birder contact whose local knowledge was essential as we were soon driving through a maze of dirt roads across rolling farmland with no major landmarks. There were lots of birds to be seen with Amur Falcons, which seemed to be nesting in every poplar shelterbelt, perhaps the most conspicuous species.
The first real stop came when Tony and I simultaneously noticed a long-winged bird which at first neither of us could even put a family to - its stiff-winged looping flight was more like a petrel than anything. However, it was clearly worth stopping for and, as we left the bus, I quickly got the 'scope on it confirming, as I had begun to suspect, that it was a displaying Oriental Plover. There turned out to be six birds, four males and two females - quite a surprise as this species was not on Jesper's 'possibles' list.
Our next stop was at a buckthorn shelterbelt. This was unusual as most of the shelterbelts were lines of poplars with no understorey. The buckthorn thicket provided much more cover and had proved a haven for migrants - mostly buntings but including a superb Long-eared Owl.
We then reached the Jankowski's Bunting stake-out. Its distinctive feature was that it was an island of ungrazed, uncultivated land, supporting long grass and frequent cherry bushes. Jesper's contact had confirmed only yesterday that the buntings were present. Before too long we all got moderate views of two or three males, at which point competing attractions - a group of Great Bustards and a pair of Demoiselle Cranes - came into play and we split up. Alan and I decided to concentrate on getting better views of the buntings and our perseverance was rewarded with, eventually, stunning views of six singing birds, all males. We also had brief flight views of a Pallas's Reed Bunting.
We left the site in mid-afternoon and returned to our hotel at Baicheng at 18.15. The drive back was a little dull, with not much seen at a couple of roadside stops and it always seemed to be ten kilometres to go. However, nothing could detract from the satisfaction of having seen the main target bird of the trip, though it was sobering to think that only a tiny fragment of suitable habitat remained in a vast expanse of marginal cropland and badly over-grazed steppe.
Weather & altitude: 5º - 10º, force 5-6 northeast wind, cloudy with a couple of light rain showers - felt cold. Altitude c. 250 m all day.
9th May 2005 Baicheng - Momage Reserve, Nei Mongol Autonomous Region - Baicheng
We left our hotel at 08.00 and, after a couple of not very productive stops, arrived at our destination, Momage reserve in the Nei Mongol Autonomous Region at 10.30. The reserve comprised a complex of wetlands (natural marshes and reservoirs) which supported a wide range of wetland species. The first wetland, a shallow lake surrounded by extensive, but heavily grazed, marshland is a traditional Siberian Crane stopover site. When we arrived there was no sign of any cranes, but a flock of Bean and Greater White-fronted Geese was encouraging and we were soon enjoying great views of parties of Little Curlews and Amur Falcons which permitted a close approach.
Whilst some of us were looking at the Little Curlews, others thought that they had glimpsed a group of large white crane-like birds at the far side of the lake. From our vantage point the possible "cranes" were invisible, but the location (close to a village) seemed unlikely. Still, few of us had the courage of our convictions and so most of the group embarked on a long and rather hot march across the fringes of the marsh. I was not alone in being unsurprised to be greeted on arrival by a flock of domestic geese! On the walk back, however, Alan noticed a very distant soaring flock of large birds. With bins they were obviously cranes, with 'scopes they were Siberian Cranes and Oriental Storks - the long walk had been worthwhile after all. There were a total of six Oriental Storks and 27 Siberian Cranes. Most passed straight over us giving prolonged, if slightly distant views. However, some of the cranes were seen to circle round and appeared to be dropping not to far away.
Back at the bus, our minder thought that he knew where they had landed, so after a picnic lunch we drove the short distance to another wetland where, indeed, we found a party of 13 Siberian Cranes and much else besides. Our arrival at the wetland coincided with a heavy rain squall, but this was short-lived. This wetland was ungrazed and largely comprised marshland with small areas of open water and supported a wide range of duck species as well as several remarkably visible and audible Great Bitterns (though not both at the same time, at least for me). For me the best birds were a couple of male Japanese Reed Buntings - my second bunting tick in two days - closely followed by my first adult male Pied Harrier.
We then moved on to a nearby reservoir where there were good numbers of Greater White-fronted Geese (we could not turn any into Lessers) and more ducks, including a female Common Goldeneye and a distant group of Baikal Teal. As it was getting dark we followed the geese to their feeding area (the wetland where we had begun) and enjoyed closer views but failed to find anything new. We returned to the hotel after dark ¨C once again it seemed a very long drive, but once again our efforts had been successful.
Weather & altitude: 10º - 20º, 3 - 4 northeast wind, mostly sunny but a heavy squall mid-afternoon. Altitude 160 - 180 m.
10th May 2005 Baicheng - Xianghai
We left the hotel at 08.00 and drove to Xianghai Reserve, where we arrived at 10.30. On the way into the reserve we stopped briefly at a lake in an interesting area with sand dunes interspersed with clumps of Mongolian Dune Elm in the flats. However, the lake itself was less exciting - the best was group of White-winged Scoters but these, and the other duck, were very distant. We checked into our excellent hotel, on the edge of the village with extensive wooded grounds that graded into the reserve, and I quickly found an Eye-browed Thrush and a Tristram's Bunting from the bedroom window.
However, there was on only time for a brief bit of birding around the hotel before we departed for a nearby lake and reedbed. This was a stake-out for Red-crowned Crane and we soon found a pair, though the extensive heat haze made the views less than ideal. There was also a pair of White-naped Cranes and a single sub-adult Common Crane (giving us five crane species for the trip) as well as a good selection of ducks and waders. Most elected to explore the lakeside, but I decided to take a walk through the surrounding woodland (a mixture of poplar plantations and Mongolian Dune Elm parkland) where I found a scattering of migrants, mostly Red-throated Flycatchers and buntings, and got great views of a party of four Chinese Hill Warblers.
I returned to the lake in the mid-afternoon, just in time to join the main group in flushing a most unexpected Greater Painted-snipe, then enjoyed brilliant views of the Red-crowned Cranes -
close enough to see the yellow-orange iris. Dark clouds were building up, suggesting a heavy squall was on the way and so we retreated to the bus. Just as I got back the squall hit, but it turned out to be a duststorm, not a rainstorm. Very strange, the sun was visible above us and the dust was very fine so that one hardly noticed it except a slight irritation to the eyes. The very strong wind made birding very difficult but I and a few others braved it to go and look at one of the two Long-eared Owls which Alan had found in the poplars. We then returned to the hotel, arriving just before dark; the journey was enlivened by our bus getting stuck in soft sand but we managed to push it out.
Weather & altitude: 20º - 25º - 15 º. Sunny with force 4 - 5 wind most of the day, then duststorm late afternoon with force 6 - 7. Altitude c. 220 m at Xianghai.
11th May 2005 Xianghai Reserve
In view of all the migrants that had been around yesterday we were out birding in the woods adjacent to the hotel just as it was getting light at 05.00. However, it soon became clear that almost all the migrants had moved on apart from a few Little Buntings. After breakfast at around 07.00 we all departed in a convoy of landcruisers and jeeps for another part of the reserve. We spent most of the morning birding around a large lake which produced a good variety of waterfowl and waders (including Baikal Teal, Asiatic Dowitchers and perhaps more unusually three Eurasian Oystercatchers) and at around midday moved on to another lake and canal (the new water supply for the reserve). There we found some more highly visible Great Bitterns and a surprise Red-necked Grebe.
The afternoon was spent at yet another wetland where Jesper hoped that we might find Baer's Pochard - a target for several of the group. We failed on this but were surprised to find another Greater Painted-snipe and I caught up with several waders which I had missed on the previous day on account of my spending most of the time looking for passerines.
On our way back we had about one more hour of daylight and decided to use this at a lake not far from the hotel. I don't think any of us had great expectations, but Tony distinguished himself by finding a small party of Lesser White-fronted Geese on the shore - a China tick for me and an excellent end to the day.
Weather & altitude: 9º - 20º. Sunny with cloudy intervals in the morning, sunny in the afternoon. Wind southwest 4 - 5. Altitude c. 200m.
12th May 2005 Xianghai Reserve - Kaitong - train to Beijing
After breakfast at 07.00 we headed for a wetland which had recently been restored as part of the water management measures and where we might, we hoped, find Baer's Pochard. (This was just about the only 'possible/probable' species left to look for.) On the way we stopped at a patch of Mongolian Dune Elm with some cherries where there had been a recent report of Jankowski's Bunting. We gave it a good thrashing and turned up a few migrants (Siberian Rubythroat, buntings and Phylloscopus) but there was no sign of Jankowski's Buntings. In view of the absence of a grassy understorey it seems likely that the birds had just been moving through.
The recently restored wetland was rather disappointing - perhaps it was just too recently reflooded to have had time to attract many waterbirds - and the only real highlight was a Roe Deer stag. In any case, the Manchurian leg of the trip was drawing to a close. The five of us who would be returning to Beijing left in mid-morning for a final look at the wetland with the Red-crowned Cranes whilst the others returned to the putative Jankowski's Bunting site. The wetland was quieter than on our first visit - many of the migrants had clearly passed through - but it was good to see the cranes again. I spent most of my time working the edge of the marshes where I enjoyed good views of two forms of Pallas's Reed Bunting and found several Bluethroats, the latter presumably newly-arrived.
At 14.30 we headed back to the hotel and packed up then we rejoined the remainder of the group for a late lunch/early dinner at a nearby restaurant. They were going to catch a later train for Beidahe. At 16.30 we made our farewells and drove to Kaitong where we arrived, far too early, at 17.50. We were shown into the VIP lounge which was a nice gesture by the railway staff, but actually it would have been slightly less boring had we waited in the main concourse. We finally boarded the train at about 20.30 and adjourned to the restaurant car for a couple of beers.
Weather & altitude: 15º - 25º. Sunny with 2 -3 southwest wind until mid afternoon, then from 18.00 wind increased to force 6 with duststorm and light rain showers. Altitude c. 200m.
13th May 2005 Beijing - Wulingshan
The train took an inland route through Nei Mongol Autonomous Region and at around 07.00 I surprised to see the watchtowers of the Great Wall on the skyline. Fortunately, this sighting coincided with a station and the stop gave us time to take some photographs.
Not long after the Great Wall we entered the lower country of Hebei Province. There were a few birds to be seen, but it was still something of a relief when we arrived at Beijing South Station at 12.50. There, Alan and I said goodbye to our companions and set off in our taxi (the same driver who had taken us to Xiaolongmen, pre-arranged through Jesper) for Wulingshan.
The drive took until 16.45, a bit longer than we had expected (this may have been because we arrived at Beijing South rather than the main station), through suburbs, farmland and finally the lower slopes of the mountain itself. As we ascended the mountain we could not help noticing that there were fewer leaves on the trees and the temperature was dropping. It was clearly still early spring up here ¨C were we too early? We quickly checked into the hotel, said goodbye to the driver (who was not staying, his friend would collect us), and got out into the field at 17.00. Following Bjorn's gen we walked down the upper section of the concrete road leading to the cable car and we quickly connected with a couple of Grey-sided Thrushes which gave excellent views as they squabbled beside a stream. We tracked a thrush-like song down to a splendid White-throated Rock Thrush singing from the top of a large spruce, this was the first time that I had seen a male of this species. We then quickly found another two or three Grey-sided Thrushes. However, it was starting to get dark so we headed back to the hotel where we found one more Grey-sided Thrush singing from the top of a small spruce near the cabins. We ate in the restaurant adjacent to the hotel; this was quite busy with a couple of coachloads of visitors.
Weather & altitude: 20º and cloudy in Beijing, c. 10º and sunny at Wulingshan but thick mist came down after dark. At Wulingshan birded down from the hotel: 1800 - 1650 m.
14th May 2005 Wulingshan
We needn't have bothered to set our alarm as we were awoken at 04.30 by shouts and slamming doors as the tour groups got in their buses to drive to the top of the mountain for the sunrise. Their chances did not look very high as it was still quite misty. We left the hotel at 05.00 and walked downhill and soon got below the mist. Once again Grey-sided Thrushes were conspicuous. I recorded and played back an interesting song and pulled out a Siberian Blue Robin which gave very brief views. At 1600 m I heard another song which sounded interesting and this time the response to playback was a first-year male Elisa's Flycatcher - that was a considerable relief as we were becoming very worried that we were too early. The same spot produced a White-backed Woodpecker, then a loud call from a Koklass Pheasant. We realized that it was responding to the flycatcher playback (which had Koklass Pheasant calls in the background) so played the MD again and a male Koklass Pheasant flew over our heads - not the best of views.
By late morning we reached the car park for the chairlift down to the waterfall, but put off by the crowds we decided to keep walking down the concrete road. This was a good choice as the next section (c. 1500 - 1450 m) produced five Elisa's Flycatchers including one stunning adult male as well as brief views of a Chinese Song Thrush. By 1450 m, however, the habitat was getting rather scrubby so we turned round. At 12.00 we stopped at the shop next to the chairlift for instant noodles then walked back up to the hotel by 14.30 (quite hard work as it was now quite hot). I had been rather cold the previous night so I took the opportunity to ask the hotel staff for an extra blanket. This was produced but cost me 10 RMB - Alan turned them down of course!
Our primary outstanding target was now Chinese Bush Warbler (for Alan). Unfortunately, though we had a recording and we knew that it had been recorded from Wulingshan, we didn't know where. However, there seemed to be extensive grassy areas above the hotel so we decided to try there. We walked up to 1825 m but were defeated by mist, also it was still very wintry at this altitude with hardly any leaves on the trees and we wondered again if we might be too early. We then tried a bit of birding around the altitude of the hotel but with increasing wind and thickening mist it was all a bit of a waste of time so we decided to call it a day at 17.15 and enjoyed a couple of celebratory beers in the restaurant before dinner.
Weather & altitude: 8º - 22º - 13º; misty until 06.30; sunny until 14.00 then misty and windy (5 - 6). Birded 1825 - 1450 m.
14th May 2005 Wulingshan - Beijing - Hong Kong
The alarm went off at 04.30 but the mist was so thick that we decided to sleep in: we eventually got out at 07.00. It was still misty and windy around the hotel but below 1750 m we got below the mist. However, it was still cloudy and windy and bird activity was much depressed compared with the previous day with little song and hardly any pheasants calling. Accordingly, we walked quite quickly down to the level of the chairlift but even here it was very quiet - along the stretch where we had found five Elisa's Flycatchers on the previous day only a single first summer male could be found - though this was very co-operative. We walked down to c. 1400 m but other than more views of co-operative Grey-sided Thrushes saw very little so turned round and headed back up. Alan decided to take a lift on a bus for the last section in order to have a last try for Chinese Bush Warbler above the hotel, whilst I tried a short side trail at 1700 m where I found (and photographed) one more Elisa's Flycatcher.
I got back to the hotel at 14.00 and packed, Alan stayed in the field a little longer, but with our taxi already waiting there seemed little point in lingering so we left at 15.00. The drive back to Beijing was enlivened by several sightings of Amur Falcons, which seemed to be passing through, as well as by our driver's slightly hair-raising driving. I was dropped off at the airport at 18.00 (Alan was continuing to Beidahe). I checked in and relaxed over a beer and a snack. My flight (Cathay Pacific Airbus 330) departed Beijing on time at 21.00. This time the flight was uneventful, we landed at Chek Lap Kok on time at 23.40 and I was home not long after midnight.
In the following list my life birds are indicated by a *, China ticks by +. The list refers to my observations - inevitably I missed a few birds seen by the group, but fortunately nothing of importance! Subspecies are noted where they are easily distinguished in the field and/or represent potential splits.
I have used the geographical term "Manchuria" to cover all sites visited in Jilin Province together with Momage Reserve (which is in Nei Mongol Autonomous Region).
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Seven seen near Beijing on 7th; recorded on four dates (56 bird-days) in Manchuria, maximum count was 40 at Xianghai Reserve on 11th.
+ Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
One (of two seen by most of the group) was a welcome surprise at Xianghai on 11th - not an easy bird to see in China.
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Ten were seen at Momage on 9th and 200 were recorded at Xianghai on 11th.
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
My only sighting was of one at Xianghai on 11th - others in the group saw a few more.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
A total of 32 (most in a single flock) were recorded at Xianghai on 11th.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Recorded on three dates (a total of 37 bird-days), all at Xianghai.
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Recorded on three dates (a total of 33 bird days) at Momage and Xianghai.
Great Egret Egretta alba
Two were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus
Two were seen near Beijing on7th.
Great Bittern Botauris stellaris
Five were seen at Momage on 9th and six were recorded at Xianghai on 11th - very easy to see at both sites.
Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana
Six over-flew Momage on 9th.
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Two were seen at Momage on 9th and seven were at Xianghai on 11th.
Swan Goose Anser cygnoides
Recorded on all three dates (54 bird-days) at Xianghai.
Bean Goose Anser fabalis
Twenty were seen at Momage on 9th.
Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons
A flock of 1250 was seen at Momage on 9th, 250 were seen at Xianghai on 11th and a single was seen there on 12th.
+ Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus
A party of five (one adult and four first winter birds) was an unexpected bonus at Xianghai on 11th.
Greylag Goose Anser anser
Seen on three dates, but only five bird-days, at Momage and Xianghai.
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Seen on three dates (ten bird-days) at Xianghai.
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
Seen on three dates (69 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai.
Falcated Duck Anas falcata
Singles seen at Momage on 9th and Xianghai on 10th, with ten there on 11th.
Gadwall Anas strepera
Recorded on four dates (166 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai.
Baikal Teal Anas Formosa
Twenty at Momage on 9th were a bit distant (especially for those who needed them); fortunately 20 were seen well at Xianghai on 11th.
Common Teal Anas crecca
Recorded on four dates (500 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchus
Seen on five dates (83 bird-days), near Beijing and at Momage and Xianghai.
Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhynchus zonorhyncha
Seen on six dates (67 bird-days); in Manchuria and from the train.
Northern Pintail Anas acuta
Seen on three dates (27 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai.
Garganey Anas querquedula
Seen on three dates (75 bird-days) at Xianghai.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Seen on four dates (46 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai.
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Seen on three dates (83 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai.
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca
One was seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Eight were seen at Momage on 9th and 14 were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
+ White-winged Scoter Melanitta deglandi stejnegeri
Fifteen were seen at Xianghai on 10th ¨C recently split from Velvet Scoter M. fusca by the BOU.
+ Common Goldeneye Bucephala clanga
Single females were seen at Momage on 9th and Xianghai on 11th.
Smew Mergellus albellus
One redhead was seen at Momage on 9th and two redheads were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator
Seven were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Goosander Mergus merganser
Two females were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus
Recorded on four dates (22 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai - the peak count was of nine at Momage on 9th.
Pied Harrier Circus macrourus
A superb adult male was seen at Momage on 9th, a second calendar year male was seen at Xianghai on 10th and another (probably a second calendar year female) was seen there on 11th.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
One displaying male was seen at Wulingshan on 14th - not listed as breeding in the Beijing/Hebei area by Cheng (1987) but China Bird Report 2003 lists a breeding record for Xiaolongmen.
Grey-faced Buzzard Butastur indicus
Two were seen at Xiaolongmen on 6th.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
One was seen at Xiaolongmen on 6th.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Seen on seven dates (18 bird-days) at all sites except Xiaolongmen. A pair was breeding on a cliff at 1500 m at Wulingshan.
Amur Falcon Falco amurensis
Seen on all five dates in Manchuria (155 bird-days) with 50 recorded in the Momage area on 9th and 50 seen on the drive to, and at, Xianghai on 10th. One was seen from the train near the Great Wall, Hebei Province and eleven, presumably migrants, were recorded on the drive from Wulingshan to Beijing on 15th.
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo
Singles were recorded near Baicheng on 8th and at 1800 m on Wulingshan on 14th.
Daurian Partridge Perdix dauurica
Pairs were seen in near Baicheng on 8th and at Xianghai on 10th.
Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrophylla xanthospila
A male was heard and seen briefly at Xiaolongmen on 7th. Variable numbers of calling males were recorded daily at Wulingshan: four in the evening on 13th, eight on 14th, but only three on 15th. Calling was intense on 14th and many birds were heard even late in the morning when one male was seen in flight.
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
Recorded on seven dates (40 bird-days, but most heard only). A male was seen at Xiaolongmen on 7th, four (1 male 3 females) were seen at Momage on 9th and a pair was flushed at Wulingshan on 14th. The birds were of the torquatus group with a grey rump and a conspicuous white collar and were quite pale. According to Madge and McGowan (2001) in Manchuria and Wulingshan the race is karpowi, whilst that at Xaiolongmen is perhaps the similar (and intergrading) kiangsuensis.
+ Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo
A pair was seen near Baicheng on 8th - rather distant unfortunately - I would have made an effort to get closer had I known that these were to be the only ones.
Siberian Crane Grus leucogeranus
A total of 27 were seen overhead at Momage on 9th, 13 seen nearby later were assumed to have been some of these.
White-naped Crane Grus vipio
A displaying pair was seen at Xianghai on 10th.
* Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis
The same pair was seen at Xianghai on 10th and 12th. Another pair was seen nearby by some of the group.
Common Crane Grus grus
One, perhaps a third calendar year bird, was seen at Xianghai on 10th and 12th and an additional pair was seen on the latter date.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Two were seen at Xianghai on 10th ¨C surprisingly scarce.
Common Coot Fulica atra
Also surprisingly scarce: six were seen at Momage on 9th and two were at Xianghai on 11th.
Great Bustard Otis tarda
A party of nine was seen at Xianghai on 8th. Views on the ground were a bit distant but two flew almost directly over us.
Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis
A male at Xianghai on 10th and a female at another site there on 11th were unexpected as Cheng gives the northern limit for this species as southern Liaoning Province. However, Birdquest has listed this species for Xianghai.
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Three were seen at Xianghai on 11th - quite a scarce species in China, though Cheng suggests that eastern Jilin Province is within the breeding range.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Seen on five dates (762 bird-days) at all sites in Manchuria where it was the most abundant wader; the highest count was of 500 at Xianghai on 11th.
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Twenty were seen at Xianghai on 10th, with three there on 11th.
Oriental Pratincole Glareola maldavirum
Seen on four dates (245 bird-days) in Manchuria - the highest count was of 150 at Xianghai on 11th.
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Seen on four dates (230 bird-days) in Manchuria, the highest day total was 80 at Xianghai on 11th.
Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus
Seen on all five dates (66 bird-days) in Manchuria.
Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva
A flock of 25 was seen at Xianghai on 12th.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Eighty were seen at Xianghai on 11th, with ten there on 12th.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Twenty were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Lesser Sandplover Charadrius mongolus
One was seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Oriental Plover Charadrius veredus
Six (four males and two females) was an unexpected highlight near Baicheng on 8th - not noted for Jilin Province by Cheng though he does list it as breeding in southwest Liaoning Province).
Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura
Two birds seen at Xianghai on 12th were most likely this species, however (as with most sight records) Swinhoe's Snipe G. stenura cannot be excluded.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Recorded on four dates (80 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai - the highest count was of 60 at Xianghai on 11th.
Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus
Four were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Recorded on four dates (275 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai - the peak count was of 150 at Xianghai on 10th.
Little Curlew Numenius minutus
Forty were seen at Momage on 9th.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
Four were seen near Baicheng on 8th, six at Xianghai on 10th and one there on 12th.
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Two were seen at Xianghai on 10th, with one there on 12th.
Common Redshank Tringa tetanus
Seen on four dates (48 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai - the peak count was of 30 at Xianghai on 11th.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Seen on four dates (386 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai - the peak count was of 200 at Xianghai on 10th.
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Seen on three dates (13 bird-days) at Xianghai - the peak count was of ten on 11th.
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Singles were seen at Xianghai on 11th and 12th.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Seen on four dates (170 bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai, the peak count was of 80 at Xianghai on 11th.
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Seen on three dates (ten bird-days) at Momage and Xianghai.
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii
Ten were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta
Five were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminate
I only saw one ¨C at Xianghai on 12th - though others in the group saw a few on 10th - 11th.
Mew Gull Larus canus heinei
Two second calendar year birds were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Heuglin's Gull Larus heuglini taimyrensis
One (probably a third calendar year bird) was seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Seen on all five dates (902 bird-days) in Manchuria, the highest count was of 500 at Xianghai on 10th.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo longipennis
Sixty were seen at Xianghai on 11th, with ten there on 12th.
Little Tern Sterna albifrons
Fifteen were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
Only seen at Xianghai; on 10th a migrant flock of 30 birds appeared over the marsh just before the duststorm arrived. Three were seen on 11th and two were seen on 12th.
Oriental Turtle Dove Streptopelia orientalis
Recorded on seven dates (35 bird-days), at all sites except Wulingshan.
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Two were seen on the outskirts of Beijing on 15th.
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Four were seen from the train to the north of Beijing on 7th and two were seen in the outskirts of Beijing on 13th.
Large Hawk Cuckoo Cuculus sparverioides
Recorded on four dates at Xiaolongmen (two on 7th), and Wulingshan (maximum of 5, including one seen, on 14th).
Horsfield's Cuckoo Cuculus horsfieldii
Recorded on five dates at Xiaolongmen (singles heard) and Wulingshan (up to three heard and one seen on 15th).
+ Tawny Owl Strix aluco ma
One was heard whilst it was still light at Wulingshan on 13th. It has been suggested that the vocalizations of the Chinese races (presumably ma, nivicola and yamadae) are sufficiently distinct from western forms that they may constitute a distinct species; however, I am unconvinced, this bird called just like a British Tawny Owl.
Little Owl Athene noctua
One was seen at Xianghai on 11th.
+ Northern Long-eared Owl Asio otus
One was found in a shelterbelt north of Baicheng on 8th, one (out of two seen by Alan) was seen at Xianghai on 10th and one (probably one of these) was seen there on 12th.
Common Swift Apus apus
One was seen at Xianghai on 11th and 12th and 15 were at Beijing Airport on 15th.
Fork-tailed Swift Apus pacificus
One was seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Recorded on four dates (25 bird days) in Manchuria, with a peak of 15 at Xianghai on 11th, and two seen on the outskirts of Beijing on 13th.
Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla
One was found in the grassland near Baicheng whilst we were searching for Jankowski's Buntings.
Grey-capped Woodpecker Dendrocopos canicapillus
One was seen at Wulingshan on 14th.
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos
One was seen at Wulingshan on 14th.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Recorded on five dates (seven bird-days) at Xiaolongmen and at Xianghai - the latter were presumably migrants.
Mongolian Lark Melanocorypha mongolica
Only recorded in the shrubby grassland north of Baicheng on 8th, where 15 were seen.
Asian Short-toed Lark Calandrella cheelensis
Recorded on all five dates (85 bird-days) in Manchuria, the peak count was of 50 north of Baicheng on 8th.
Northern Skylark Alauda arvensis
Twenty were seen north of Baicheng on 8th, one was heard at Momage on 9th and three were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Sand Martin Riparia riparia ijimae
A breeding colony with 450 birds was found at Xianghai on 11th and ten were seen elsewhere on the Reserve on 12th. Not positively identified as this form but R. (r.) diluta was excluded.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica gutturalis
Seen on nine (out of ten) dates (302 bird-days), not seen at Xiaolongmen and just one was seen at Wulingshan (at 1600 m). Presumably all birds were this form, no birds with rufous underparts resembling H. r. tytleri were noted.
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
Four were seen near Beijing on 7th and seen on all five dates (66 bird-days) in Manchuria.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Singles were recorded near Baicheng on 8th (ocularis), Xianghai on 11th (breeding leucopsis) and near Beijing on 13th and two were seen there on 15th.
Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola
Single males were seen at Xianghai on 10th and 11th.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
Singles were seen at Xiaolongmen on 7th and at Xianghai on 11th.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Recorded on four dates (390 bird-days) in Manchuria, with a maximum daily count of 200 at Xianghai on 10th. Most were macronyx (including several 'plexa'), there were a few simillima and at least one male taivana.
Richard's Pipit Anthus richardi
Ten were seen near Baicheng on 8th.
Blyth's Pipit Anthus godlewskii
One was seen near Baicheng on 8th.
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
Seen on six dates (52 bird-days) at Xiaolongmen and Manchuria, the peak count was of 30 at Xianghai on 10th.
Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus
Two were seen at Xianghai on 11th.
Long-tailed Minivet Pericrocotus ethologus
Only seen at Wulingshan: six on 14th and five on 15th.
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Recorded on five dates (36 bird-days) at Xiaolongmen and Wulingshan; the peak count was of 20 at Wulingshan on 14th.
White-throated Rock Thrush Monticola gularis
All records from Wulingshan: a singing male on 13th, a pair and an additional female on 14th and a male on 15th.
+ Grey-sided Thrush Turdus feae
A key bird at Wulingshan: five on 13th, 11 on 14th and six on 15th. Easy to see but, unexpectedly, we only had one singing male, most were nest-building or alarming. Recorded from 1400 - 1800 m, but perhaps commonest higher up.
Eye-browed Thrush Turdus obscurus
One was seen at Xianghai on 10th.
Chinese Song Thrush Turdus mupinensis
We, eventually, had brief views of one bird at Wulingshan in response to playback on 14th; what was probably the same bird was also heard on 15th.
Chinese Hill Warbler Rhopophilus pekinensis
Two were heard near Baicheng on 8th, a party of four gave great views at Xianghai on 10th and one was heard at Xianghai on 11th.
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus
Noted on five dates (21 bird-days) at Xiaolongmen and in Manchuria.
Yellow-streaked Warbler Phylloscopus armandii
One was seen at Xiaolongmen on 7th and two were seen in shrubby grassland just above the hotel at Wulingshan on 13th -14th.
Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus
Two were seen at Xiaolongmen on 6th, six were seen there on 7th and one was seen at Xianghai on 12th.
Chinese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus yunnanensis
Recorded on five dates, common at both Xiaolongmen and, especially, at Wulingshan where at least 100 were seen.
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus
Passage birds were noted on all five dates (19 bird-days) in Manchuria, the peak count was of seven at Xianghai on 19th.
Hume's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus humei mandellii
Recorded on all three dates at Wulingshan in similar numbers to Chinese Leaf Warbler. Not listed as a breeding species in the Beijing area by Cheng.
Claudia's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus claudiae
Two were seen at Xiaolongmen on 6th and recorded on all three dates at Wulingshan in similar numbers to the previous two species. Also not listed as a breeding species in the Beijing area by Cheng. [Recent split from Blyth's Leaf Warbler.]
* Elisa's Flycatcher Ficedula elisae
A total of seven birds were seen at Wulingshan. On 14th we saw one adult male, one female, two first summer males and two males which were apparently intermediate between adult and first summer birds. On 15th one of the first summer males and a different 'intermediate' male were seen.
First first summer males had yellow underparts, greenish wings and tail with two narrow white wing bars and only a hint of a supercilium. The 'intermediate'males had slightly brighter yellow underparts with a hint of orange on the throat, black wings and tail and an obvious white bar on the greater coverts (similar to that shown for Narcissus Flycatcher in MacKinnon and Phillipps) and a rather diffuse yellow supercilium extending from the bill to slightly behind the eye. The adult male matched the MacKinnon and Phillipps illustration of an adult male and showed a large white patch on the wing as well as a well-defined supercilium extending from the bill to above the eye. Does this species not reach full adult plumage until its third calendar year? This would be most unusual in passerines but something that we have suspected in trapped Mugimaki Flycatchers F. mugimaki in Hong Kong.
Red-throated Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla
One was seen at Xiaolongmen on 7th, two near Baicheng on 8th, 12 at Xianghai on 10th and six there on 12th. Most were males.
Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope
One was seen at Xianghai on 11th, with two there on 12th.
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica svecica
One was seen at Momage on 9th and seven at Xianghai on 12th.
Siberian Blue Robin Luscinia cyane
A singing male was seen briefly as it responded to play-back at Wulingshan on 11th and was heard again on 12th.
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus
Seen on five dates (74 bird-days) at Xialongmen and Wulingshan ¨C up to 20 were seen at both sites.
Stonechat Saxicola torquata stejnegeri
Seen on four dates (43 bird-days) in Manchuria, the peak count was of 30 at Momage on 8th.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Recorded on all five dates (22 bird-days) at Xiaolongmen and Wulingshan.
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris hellmayri
Two were seen at Xiaolongmen on 6th and four there on 7th. Just two were seen at Wulingshan, on 14th.
Songar Tit Poecile songarus stoetzneri
Seen on all five dates (75 bird-days) at Xiaolongmen and Wulingshan.
Coal Tit Periparus ater pekinensis
Six were seen at Xiaolongmen on 7th.
Yellow-bellied Tit Pardaliparus venustulus
Seen on five dates (13 bird-days): up to two at Xiaolongmen, one at Xianghai on 12th and up to six at Wulingshan.
Great Tit Parus major
One was seen at Xiaolongmen on 6th and four were seen at Wulingshan on 15th.
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europea
Seen on five dates (22 bird-days) at Xiaolongmen and Wulingshan; the highest count was of eight at Xiaolongmen on 7th.
Chinese Nuthatch Sitta villosa
At Xiaolongmen four were noted on 6th and three on 7th. Just one was seen at Wulingshan at 1400 m on 14th.
Chinese Penduline Tit Remiz consobrinus
Four were seen at Xianghai on 11th and one was heard there on 12th.
Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus sphenocercus
Seen on four dates (nine bird-days) in Manchuria, the peak count was of four near Baicheng on 8th.
Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus
Seen in the Beijing area, four on 13th and 15 on 15th.
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
One was seen at Wulingshan on 15th.
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyana
Only seen in Beijing: five on 6th, two on 7th and 15 on 13th.
Blue Magpie Urocissa erythrorhyncha
Two were heard at Xiaolongmen on 6th and four were seen there on 7th.
Black-billed Magpie Pica pica
Seen on nine dates: common in and around Beijing and in Manchuria.
Eurasian Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes
Seen on all three dates (13 bird-days) at Wulingshan.
Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus
Ten were seen on the drive from Baicheng to Momage on 9th.
+ Rook Corvus frugilegus pastinator
Seen on three dates (15 bird-days) in Manchuria, the highest count was of eight near Momage on 9th.
Oriental Crow Corvus (c.) orientalis
Seen on four dates (eight bird-days) in Manchuria and the Beijing area.
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchus
Seen on four dates (27 bird-days) at Xiaolongmen and Wulingshan.
Daurian Starling Sturnus sturnina
A male was seen at Xianghai on 12th.
White-cheeked Starling Sturnus cineraceus
Seen on five dates (35 bird-days) in Manchuria and around Beijing.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Seen on nine dates, common around Beijing and in Manchuria.
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla
One was seen at Xianghai on 10th.
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
Singles were seen at Xiaolongmen on 7th, Xianghai on 12th and Wulingshan on 15th.
Yellow-billed Grosbeak Euphona migratoria
A singing male was seen at Xianghai on 12th.
Godlewski's Bunting Emberiza godlewskii
Seen on three dates (30 bird-days) at Xiaolongmen and Wulingshan.
* Jankowski's Bunting Emberiza jankowskii
Six, all males, were seen near Baicheng on 8th.
* Japanese Reed Bunting Emberiza yessoensis
Two males were seen at Momage on 9th.
Tristram's Bunting Emberiza tristrami
Twelve were seen at Xianghai on 10th with two there on 12th.
Chestnut-eared Bunting Emberiza fucata
One was seen at Xianghai on 12th.
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla
The only species which was seen on all ten dates (276 bird-days) and at all sites: the highest count was of 100 in the Baicheng area on 8th.
Yellow-browed Bunting Emberiza chrysophrys
Five were seen at Xianghai on 10th with one there on 12th.
Yellow-throated Bunting Emberiza elegans
Eight were seen at Xiaolongmen on 7th, one near Baicheng on 9th, two at Xianghai on 10th and one there on 12th.
Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola
Seen on four dates (nine bird-days) in Manchuria.
Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala
Seen on four dates (24 bird-days) in Manchuria.
Pallas's Reed Bunting Emberiza pallasi
One was seen near Baicheng on 8th, ten at Xianghai on 10th and six there on 12th. Two races were seen: one very frosty black-and-white, the other with buffer plumage tones.
+ Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus
A fine stag was seen at Xianghai on 12th.
+ Brown Hare Lepus capensis
Singles were seen near Baicheng on 8th and at Xianghai on 10th and 12th.
Pere David's Rock Squirrel Sciurotamias davidianus
One was seen at Xiaolongmen on 6th, two were seen there on 7th and one was seen at Wulingshan on 15th.
Daurian Souslik Citellus dauricus
Seen on four dates (six individuals) in Manchuria.