Laotieshan update – Saturday

10 degrees Celsius at dawn, with some cloud cover and light westerly winds.  After a slow start, the passerine migration really got going around 0600 and at times there were huge numbers of birds in the sky.  The dominant species was the Chestnut-flanked White-eye and their siskin-like calls were a constant background accompaniment to the morning.  Other prominent species, typical of recent days, were Ashy Minivet and Olive-backed Pipit but there were also signs of new movements with reasonable numbers of Oriental Turtle Doves and White-cheeked Starling.  A Siberian Rubythroat showed briefly in the nearby bushes, which it shared with good numbers of Radde’s and Dusky Warblers plus the occasional Lanceolated Warbler, and a cracking Bull-headed Shrike perched prominently as it scanned for prey in a crop field.  At around 0715 we were joined by Tom Beeke and friends who had driven down from Dalian to join us for the day.  (It was great to see you Tom!  And thanks again for ‘discovering’ Laotieshan as a visible migration hotspot last autumn..  the inspiration for our visit this year).

As the sun began to burn off the cloud and heat up the air, raptors began to move and we enjoyed groups of Black-eared Kites, Amur Falcons, Oriental Honey and Common Buzzards.  Singles of Grey-headed Lapwing and Grey-backed Thrush were nice additions to our species list before we made our way up to the ridge.  On the way we flushed a Woodcock and two White’s Thrushes from the same gully!  When we reached the top, raptors were moving – Eurasian and Japanese Sparrowhawks, Common Buzzards, Black-eared Kites, Kestrel, Hobby, Amur Falcon and Goshawk were all seen in the first couple of hours.  A total of 4 Greater Spotted Eagles was a good tally but the real spectacle was over 180 Grey-faced Buzzards, many of which passed in large groups of 10 or more…  Magnificent.  Grey-faced Buzzards are strange birds.  Sometimes they remind me of a harrier or an accipiter and, when they are flapping hard, to me they are reminiscent of Short-eared Owls..!  Bizarre, I know.. but if you have seen one, hopefully you know what I mean..

Bull-headed Shrike, Laotieshan, 1 October. A stunner.
Grey-faced Buzzards, Laotieshan, 1 October. Part of a flock of over 20.
Grey-faced Buzzard, Laotieshan, 1 October
Common (Eastern) Buzzard ssp japonicus, Laotieshan, 1 October

Tomorrow is forecast to be cool with northerly winds but clear and sunny.  We suspect, having been here for a week, that the best wind for migrant raptors is south-west, so we don’t expect too much for Sunday but you never know…

Thanks very much to Ken and Spike for the comments on the bush warbler in the last post.  We also think it’s most likely a first winter Spotted (David’s) Bush Warbler but we need to check literature on our return to Beijing.

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