Over 250 White-faced (Swinhoe’s) Plovers in Guangdong Province, China

Following Brian Jones’s extraordinary find of breeding White-faced (Swinhoe’s) Plovers in Guangdong Province (reported here last week), Brian returned last weekend to do a detailed count.  His total from just two beaches on the south coast was an astonishing 279 birds, easily eclipsing the previous highest count of 14.

Brian reports… (all photos by Brian Jones)

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I spent my second weekend at the two White-faced (Swinhoe’s) Plover breeding sites.  Saturday was bright sunshine and hot but no thunderstorms.  This time I managed to navigate my way from Shanghaizai village to the beach, about 1km to the south, without getting lost.  I walked east to the end of the beach before beginning my count but it was immediately apparent that there were many new arrivals amongst the Plover.  Many of these new birds appeared to have moulted more recently, having a fresher plumage, and I wondered if they had arrived from more southerly wintering grounds.

My head count along the approx. 3.5kms beach was 148 White-faced Plover.  This total consisted of approximately 60+ pairs, two young, and seven possible first summer birds.  There were several small groups of two males chasing a female as well as several females together, seemingly aggressively defending territory.  I saw several courtship rituals with females being chased first on the ground, then briefly in the air, repeated several times before on two occasions mating took place.  Two early breeding pairs had young.  The parents were very obviously in “decoy mode” so I kept well clear so as not to disturb them.  Happily two chicks showed themselves about 30ms away on a sand dune.

On Sunday I did a count on Dahu beach (approx. 4.5kms), which is my regular haunt.  It was very overcast and misty so the light was pretty awful but, despite the dull conditions and the disturbance from itinerant fishermen and dogs, I was pleasantly surprised to find 131 White-faced Plover.  This beach has less cover for the birds to nest, apart from one area where there is mangrove scrub growing at the back of the beach.

Finally if one supposes that there are other beaches along the south coast of China holding White-faced Plovers, it would mean the population is much greater than previously assumed, but where are these birds wintering?

I will provide an update after next weekend’s findings and the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society is organising a visit to the site with me over the second weekend of June, so we should be able to get more data with more feet on the ground.

Brian Jones 

Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China

White-faced Plover, Guangdong Province, China
White-faced Plover, Guangdong Province, China
Juvenile White-faced Plover, Guangdong Province, China
Young White-faced Plover, Guangdong Province, China