Shanghai – Rudong – Fuzhou – Shanghai
Beijing – Beidaihe – Beijing
April – Mid May, September – Mid-October
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Day 1 Shanghai – Xiaoyangshan Island
The tour beginsthis morning at Shanghai (Pudong) airport on the east coast of mainland China, from where we will drive southwards to Nanhui for an overnight stay. After dropping off our luggage at our hotel, and a chance to wash and change, we will head off to Xiao Yangshan island, far out to sea at the end of a hugely impressive 32kmlong (20 miles long) bridge that nowadays connects this once-remote island of Zhejiang province with the city state of Shanghai, and all because it was the nearest place a deepwater container port could be built to the city.
Xiao Yangshan has become famous amongst the small band of Shanghai birders because of the impressive passerine migrant ‘falls’ that occur on this small island in spring, and also because the island has attracted numerous vagrants over the years, including unexpected species like Claudia’s Leaf Warbler, Rufous-faced Warbler, Varied Tit and Japanese Yellow Bunting. Brown-flanked Bush Warbler nests on the island. There are only a few small wooded patches on the island, so migrants are very concentrated and often very approachable. We have a great chance for stunning views here of just about any of the species listed later for Yangkou. You never know how it will be out on the island. If the weather is sunny and calm it is likely to be quite, and if the weather is less clement the island can be almost ‘hopping’ with grounded birds. As we explore one of the wooded areas on this attractive, granitic island we will be right next to the container port, which, with its forest of cranes, thousands of containers and vast container ships, forms a bizarre backdrop as one seeks out thrushes, flycatchers, warblers and buntings near an ancient temple! from where we will head northeastwards to Yangkou in Rudong County of Jiangsu province for a six nights stay. Later we will begin exploring this wonderful area.
Manchurian Bush Warbler
Day 2 Nanhui, Shanghai – Rudong
This morning we will explore a large reedbed area that is home to a good population of the scarce Japanese Swamp Warbler (or Marsh Grassbird), and we should have little trouble finding this range-restricted species as they will be calling frequently, often during their spectacular parachuting display flight. The extensive reedbeds are also home to a thriving population of Eurasian Bitterns and these can be quite visible at this season. It is also an excellent area for handsome Reed Parrotbills, the last Chinese Penduline Tits and Pallas’s Reed Buntings of the winter and, in the right conditions, passerine migrants can be plentiful at the small areas of woodland along the nearby coast.
There are also areas of disused farmland around Nanhui which we will check out for pipits and buntings, and perhaps find Pacific Golden Plovers and Little Curlews. Afterwards we headed northeastwards into Jiangsu province, our destination the fishing port of Yangkou in Rudong County where we will stay for six nights. We may arrive in time for some initial exploration.
Siberian Blue Robin
Day 3 – 7 Rudong
Yangkou has recently become famous as a ‘migration hotspot’ on China’s eastern seaboard and justifiably so. Its main cause for fame is its rich mudflats and the shorebirds that are attracted to feed here, gathering to roost beside the lagoons and channels behind the various seawall, but there are other habitats that are just as important in creating habitat diversity that attracts passerine migrants and other species, including in particular the wooded sections of the seawalls, the small patch of woodland at the Yangkou temple, various fishponds, the ‘turf farm’ and some reed-fringed ponds. During our visit to the area we will repeatedly explore these different habitats and our persistence will surely result in a simply staggering variety of species, including many much-desired Eastern Palearctic migrants
Shorebirds take pride of place here and we will record up to 40 or more species during our visit! For most of the time the great majority of shorebirds are out feeding on the vast sandy mudflats of the Yellow Sea, mudflats that are rapidly extending outwards as siltation from the Yangtze and Huang He (Yellow River) is now so enormous that the coastline is shifting eastwards by up to 10m or locally even 20m every year! At Yangkou large areas of these mudflats are now peppered with huge wind turbines as China races to become the world’s largest producer of wind energy. The tide goes out up to 10km (6 miles) in this remarkable area, so the best plan is to use rubber boots and walk out on the pretty firm and easy to walk on mudflats close to the seawalls and watch the birds while they are feeding on the rising or falling tide, and in between scan through the often tightly-packed roosting flocks along the creeks and lagoons inland of the seawalls during the high tide roosting period. Views are not as close as on the mudflats, but there is more time to scour the flocks for the most interesting species.
Prime place amongst the shorebirds goes, of course, to the fantastic little Spoonbilled Sandpiper, the area’s signature bird and a critically endangered species. These are probably the easiest and most accessible Spoon-billed Sandpipers in the world and in the spring of 2011, more than 100 were found in the whole area during a coordinated count! We will look for them at one of the many high tide roosts where, after a few false alerts from hopeful-looking Red-necked Stints, a turn of the head should reveal the spatulate appendage that we have been looking for! They can take some finding though amongst the great numbers of Red-necked Stints and Dunlins. Once they are sleeping and the face and bill are hidden, they are extremely hard to spot. We should find several at least, if not more, some of which will be sporting their splendid brick-red breeding plumage. We will also have an opportunity to look for them on the mudflats, feeding with their classic sewing-machine action as they work their way through shallow pools.
The two other major mudflat specialities are Asian Dowitcher and Nordmann’s Greenshank, both of which we should find during our Yangkou days. The dowitchers will be in their gorgeous breeding plumage and often the greenshanks are already showing their summer spotting.
Seeing so many shorebirds in breeding plumage is a marvellous aspect of Yangkou, and other mudflat specialists in their summer finery include Grey (or Black-bellied), Mongolian and Greater Sand Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Ruddy Turnstones, Red and Great Knots, Sanderlings, Rednecked Stints, Dunlins and Curlew Sandpipers. These species will surely steal the limelight, but Eurasian Oystercatchers (here of the endangered East Asian race that may represent a distinct species), Pied Avocets (uncommon), Kentish Plovers, Eurasian Curlews, impressively longbilled Eastern Curlews, Eurasian Whimbrels, Common Redshanks, Common Greenshanks, Terek Sandpipers, Grey-tailed Tattlers and Broad-billed Sandpipers are all handsome in their own way.
The shorebird fest does not stop there, however, as the many fishponds, damp areas and the ‘turf farm’ attract Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plover, Pacific Golden Plovers, Greyheaded Lapwings, Little Curlews, Eastern Black-tailed Godwits, Pin-tailed and Common Snipes, Spotted Redshanks, Marsh, Green, Wood, Common and Sharptailed Sandpipers, Longtoed and Temminck’s Stints, Red-necked Phalaropes (uncommon) and Oriental Pratincole.
There are plenty of other waterbirds at Yangkou, and amongst these the most exciting are Saunders’s Gull, an endangered species that breeds only on the East China coast, and the rare Chinese (or Swinhoe’s Egret). The gulls are positively common here and the adults will be in their very smart breeding plumage, whereas the egret occurs only in small numbers on migration.
Apart from shorebirds and other waterbirds, the other big draw at Yangkou is migrant passerines, for the lack of woodland in the area concentrates species migrating northwards up China’s eastern seaboard into a small number of ‘migrant traps’. We are staying long enough to hope for at least one good ‘fall’ of passerine migrants during our visit and we might be even more fortunate. Nonetheless, even on ‘quiet’ days at Yangkou there is usually a good variety of species, especially at the ‘Magic Woods’, a particular wooded section of seawall, and at the scrubby patch at the Yangkou temple.
The sheer variety of migrant chats, thrushes, flycatchers, warblers and buntings heading up into northeastern Asia is fantastic, making every walk here full of hope for something new or special. Chats included Siberian Rubythroat, Bluethroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, the superb Siberian Blue Robin and Rufous-tailed Robin (or Swinhoe’s Pseudorobin, what a great name that was!), Siberian Stonechat, Whitethroated Rock Thrush and Blue Rock Thrush of the redbellied form philippensis. Thrushes included White’s, Siberian, Eyebrowed, Pale, Brown-headed, Japanese (or Grey) and Dusky. Flycatchers are especially diverse (and often colourful) and include Grey-streaked, Dark-sided, Asian Brown, Yellow-rumped, the gorgeous Narcissus, Mugimaki, Taiga (or Red-throated), the superb Blue-and-white Flycatcher and the impressive Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. Warblers include the normally very secretive Asian Stubtail, which can sometimes be seen in full view out in the open, Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Dusky, Radde’s and Yellow-browed Warblers, Arctic Warbler (and perhaps Japanese or Kamchatka Leaf Warblers, which are recent splits), Pallas’s and Palelegged (and rarely Sakhalin) Leaf Warblers, and Eastern Crowned Warbler. Last but by no means least, buntings include Black-faced, Meadow, Chestnut-eared, Tristram’s, Chestnut, Yellowbreasted, Little and even the much sought-after Yellowbrowed. Other passerine migrants include Sand Martin (or Bank Swallow), Ashy Minivet, Brown Shrike (several forms are possible), Bull-headed Shrike, Daurian (or Purple-backed) Starling, Siberian Stonechat, Goldcrest, Forest, Eastern Yellow (or Alaska), Eastern Grey-headed, Green-headed, Citrine, Grey, Amur and East Siberian Wagtails, Richard’s, Pechora, Olive-backed and Red-throated Pipits, Brambling and Eurasian Siskin.
Other likely species at Yangkou include Japanese Quail, Common (or Ringnecked) Pheasant, Eurasian Wigeon, Eastern Spot billed Spotbilled Duck, Falcated Duck (uncommon), Little Grebe, Black-crowned Night Heron, Chinese Pond Heron, Eastern Cattle, Eastern Great, Intermediate and Little Egrets, Grey and Purple Herons, Western Osprey, Pied and Eastern Marsh Harriers, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Amur Falcon, Common Kestrel (uncommon), Peregrine, White-breasted Waterhen, Common Moorhen, Pheasant-tailed Jacana (uncommon), Black-headed, Heuglin’s (taimyrensis) and Mongolian Gulls, Gullbilled, Little, Common (of the distinctive form longipennis), Whiskered and White-winged Terns, Rock Dove, Oriental and Red Turtle Doves, Spotted Dove, Common and Indian Cuckoos, Pacific (or Forktailed) Swift, White-throated Needletail, the colourful Black-capped Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Oriental Dollarbird, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Wryneck, Greyheaded (or Grey-faced) and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Shrike, Blacknaped Oriole, Black Drongo, Azure-winged, Red-billed Blue and Eurasian Magpies, Japanese Tit, Oriental Skylark, Light-vented (or Chinese) Bulbul, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, the bulky Manchurian Bush Warbler, Oriental Reed Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Plain Prinia, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Japanese Whiteeye, Crested Myna, Redbilled and White-cheeked Starlings, Chinese Blackbird, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, and the superb Chinese (or Yellow-billed) Grosbeak.
Day 8 Rudong – Nanhui, Shanghai
After a final morning it will be time to leave glorious Yangkou and head back to Shanghai region, where we again spent the night at Nanhui.
Day 9 Nanhui, Shanghai – Xiaoyangshan Island – Fuzhou
Today we will pay a return visit to Xiao Yangshan island to try and catch later-arriving migrants and have another chance for the right weather for an impressive ‘fall’. Afterwards we will return to Pudong and catch an afternoon flight southwards to Fuzhou for a three nights stay. We will divide our time between two nights at nearby Changle and one night at Fuzhou itself.
Day 10 -11 Fuzhou
Our main reason for visiting Fuzhou is to explore the vast Min Jiang Estuary which has become famous in birding circles in recent years as a regular loafing area for Chinese Crested Terns. Our main focus will be on finding this rare species which at this time is in perfect breeding plumage, and our efforts will to some extent be dictated by the state of the tide. After searching through the assembled Greater Crested Terns, our attention will hopefully be drawn to a ghostly pale tern amongst them sporting a bright yellow, black-tipped bill. With luck we will even see them displaying and perhaps passing fish to one another! Chinese Crested Tern really is one of those species that most birders never dreamt of seeing, but for the moment at least, we now have a great chance! If we have trouble finding it on our first attempt, we will have another chance the following day.
There are likely to be some lingering Black-faced Spoonbills still present, yet another endangered East Asian waterbird. Also to be found at the Min Jiang estuary is the recently discovered White-faced (or Swinhoe’s) Plover. The jury is still out on whether this is just a pale race of Kentish Plover or a good species, but we will enjoy them anyway. There is a good wader roost here too, and we will have a good look through in case we can add any new species (this is a better area than Yangkou for Great Knot, for example).
Other new species likely in this area include Yellow Bittern, Black-tailed Gull, Caspian Tern, Yellowbellied Prinia, Masked Laughingthrush and Whiteshouldered (or Chinese) Starling. Some other migrants may also be present and at this season, anything is possible! Styan’s (or Pleske’s)
Grasshopper Warbler is a potential find here.
Whilst in Fuzhou region, we will also spend some time in an area of foothill forest close to the city itself. Here we should find such specialities as Chinese Bamboo Partridge, Collared Finchbill, Chestnut Bulbul, Spotted Wren-babbler, Greysided Scimitar Babbler, Chinese Hwamei, Huet’s Fulvetta and Fork-tailed Sunbird, whilst other new species may well include Black Eagle, Great Barbet, Large Hawk-Cuckoo, Bay and Rufous Woodpeckers, Large Woodshrike, Scarlet Minivet, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Hair-crested Drongo, Grey Treepie, Redwhiskered and Black Bulbuls, Black-throated Bushtit, Rufous-capped Babbler, the charismatic Greaternecklaced Laughingthrush, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Blue Whistling Thrush, Oriental Magpie-robin, Slaty-backed and White-crowned Forktails, and Common Tailorbird. White-necklaced (or Rickett’s
Hill) Partridge is fairly common here and we are sure to hear this species, although we will consider ourselves lucky if the entire group manages to get views of this secretive species. The scarce and localized Paleheaded Woodpecker is also possible. We have even seen Siberian Thrush on migration here.
Chinese Crested Tern
Spotted Wren Babbler
Day 12 Fuzhou – Shanghai
After some final birding in the Fuzhou area we will transfer to Fuzhou airport where the tour will end this afternoon.
Day 1 Beijing
Arrive Beijing and overnight.
Day 2 Beijing – Beidaihe
We’ll go to Beidaihe in the early morning by high speed train. We’ll spend next 3.5 days birding around Beidaihe. Overight in Beidaihe.
Day 3-5 Beidaihe
Full day birding in Beidaihe to search Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Baillon’s Crake, Grey-tailed Tattler, Dark-sided Flycatcher, and Oriental Reed, Thick-billed, Pallas’s Grasshopper, and Lanceolated Warblers, Koklass Pheasant, Large Hawk, Lesser, Indian, and Oriental Cuckoos, near endemics such as Chinese Nuthatch and Yellow-bellied Tit, Hair-crested Drongo, Chinese Thrush, White-bellied Redstart, and the recently described Chinese Leaf Warbler, as well as La Touche’s Leaf Warbler and Yellow-throated Bunting, Grey-sided Thrush and Green-backed Flycatcher, Long-billed Plover, Red-billed Chough, and Eurasian Crag Martin, Plain Laughingthrush, Yellow-streaked and Chinese Hill Warblers, and Vinous-throated Parrotbill.
Day 6 Beidaihe – Beijing
After some final birding on the coast we’ll take the train back to Beijing and spend the night in a hotel close to the airport.
Chinese Leaf Wabler