Dalian – Day Eight

Another quiet day.  The showers didn’t materialise and the wind persisted in being a moderate to strong South-South-Easterly.  After taxi driver number 3 dropped us at the point, we enjoyed a trickle of early migration involving at least 9 Black-naped Orioles, 7 White-throated Needletails and 9 Forest Wagtails (our first of this trip).  But after that, it quietened down considerably and, by 9.30am, the skies were quiet.  We tried the woods and trails but these were equally dead with even fewer birds than yesterday – there really has been a major clearout in the last few days.

The highlight has to be the White-throated Needletails (again!).  After two hanging around high over the lighthouse at 5am, a group of 5 bombed past at head height at 0905am allowing excellent views of the rarely seen upperside of these beasts.  I rattled off a few images in the few seconds they were on view before they powered past the lighthouse and out to sea.  Whoosh!

Tomorrow is our final day at Laotieshan and we have high hopes.  The forecast is for the wind to switch to northerly overnight with light rain and drizzle from 3am through to 10am.  That might not sound like the recipe for a pleasant morning on a clifftop but, for a birder on the Chinese coast in May, that forecast could mean a stack of migrants on the peninsula.  The forecasters, so far, have not covered themselves in glory so we are not holding our collective breath but, if they are right, we could be in for a treat.  It would certainly be a nice way to end what has been a very memorable and fun trip.

Edit: a quick count up of the species seen so far shows that the total is on 149 species with a day to go! 

This immature male Amur Falcon was one of the highlights of an otherwise disappointing day.
Immature male Amur Falcon. Note the reddish 'trousers' and the grey feathers beginning to emerge on the breast.
One of 7 White-throated Needletails today. This image shows the less often seen upperparts, including the distinctive pale oval on the back and the greenish sheen to the inner wing.

Species List (in chronological order, not including Tree Sparrow or Common Magpie):

Ashy Minivet (3)

White-throated Needletail (7) – 2 at 0500 and 5 at 0905.

Chinese Grosbeak (16)

Spotted Dove (1)

Forest Wagtail (9)

Oriental Greenfinch (9)

White-cheeked Starling (5)

Barn Swallow (70)

Red-rumped Swallow (25)

Olive-backed Pipit (7)

Crested Myna (5)

Great Tit (6)

Black-naped Oriole (9)

Tristram’s Bunting (1)

Asian Brown Flycatcher (4)

Common Pheasant (5)

Pallas’s Warbler (1)

Amur Falcon (4)

Daurian Starling (6)

Peregrine (1)

Chinese Hill Warbler (2)

Fork-tailed Swift (9)

Black-tailed Gull (heavy passage east with 236 counted between 1345-1355 and 393 between 1505-1515)

Chinese Bulbul (2)

Egret sp (2) – too distant to be sure of identification but probably Chinese

Blue Rock Thrush (1)

Chinese Pond Heron (2)

Oriental Honey Buzzard (2) – one in off the sea at 0805 and one soaring at 1100

Large pipit sp (2) – possibly Blyth’s

Radde’s Warbler (1)

Hobby (2)

Two-barred Greenish Warbler (1)

Black-browed Reed Warbler (1)

Eastern Crowned Warbler (1)

Vinous-throated Parrotbill (6)

Grey-streaked Flycatcher (1)

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (1)

Yellow-browed Warbler (2)

Dark-sided Flycatcher (1)

White Wagtail (1) – ssp leucopsis

Common Rosefinch (1) – immature male singing

Dusky Warbler (1)

Streaked Shearwater (10) – all between 1345-1400.  In the evening, Jesper reported a passage rate of 900 per hour (!)

Dalian – Day Two

Today was our first full day at Laotieshan and we saw some high quality species.  Probably top of the list has to be the White-throated Rock Thrush, a new bird for both of us.  The supporting cast included such goodies as Eye-browed Thrush, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Siberian Blue Robin, Rufous-tailed Robin, Blue Rock Thrush, Ashy Minivet, Russet Sparrow, Black-naped Oriole, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Chinese Leaf Warbler, Chestnut Bunting and Japanese White-eye.

We did quite a bit of walking today.   As well as the immediate surroundings of the lighthouse garden, we also walked part of the ridge above the lighthouse and a few of the agricultural fields below.  Stunning scenery, great birding and not another birder in sight.

One of our first birds was a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler that not only called frequently but also showed well, immediately telling us that the birds we had seen yesterday were Eastern Crowned (we obviously heard Pale-legged while watching Eastern Crowned yesterday).  These birds, despite the field guides (which, incidentally, are very poor on Chinese leaf warblers), looked nothing like each other.  The Pale-legged is a much browner bird than Eastern Crowned.  It is also smaller and lacks any sort of crown stripe.  Once seen, it will never be confused again!

In the afternoon we conducted a short count of the Streaked Shearwaters that were, again, streaming past the point (none were seen in the morning).  In just 10 minutes we counted 61 passing south – a rate of over 350 per hour.

Tomorrow we plan to cover the point again until lunchtime, after which we are going to join up with Tom in Jinshitan to visit the local fish ponds (Chinese Egret there today) and then drive up the coast on Saturday to some of the prime wader spots.  Sunday should see us back at Laotieshan, ready to join up with Jesper Hornskov and his Manchuria team.

A few images from today and full species list below…

The lighthouse at Laotieshan from the ridge
Looking north along the ridge
The trail below the lighthouse (we saw Siberian Blue Robin, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and Russet Sparrow along here)
The same trail looking south (this was a favourite area for Brown Shrike and Tristram's Bunting)
Rufous-tailed Robin in the lighthouse garden
This Radde's Warbler defied its reputation as a skulker..
Record image of one of the White-throated Rock Thrushes we found today
The stunning Yellow-rumped Flycatcher was present in good numbers today at Laotieshan

Species list (in chronological order):

Eye-browed Thrush (11) – including one group of 8 in off sea

Yellow-browed Warbler (18) -

Chinese Grosbeak (2) – singing

Olive-backed Pipit (80 counted but likely many more passing overhead)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (2)

Siberian Stonechat (12)

Barn Swallow (47)

Yellow Wagtail (6) – early morning over the point

Dusky Warbler (7)

Radde’s Warbler (12) – including one very confiding individual

Grey Wagtail (3)

Brown Shrike (13)

Oriental Turtle Dove (2)

Oriental Greenfinch (8)

Richard’s Pipit (5)

Trsitram’s Bunting (8)

Little Bunting (47) – likely many of the hundreds of the ‘tick-buntings’ overhead early morning were also this species

Black-faced Bunting (10)

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (16) – mostly males

Siberian Rubythroat (2)

Great Tit (6)

Magpie (23)

Red-rumped Swallow (34)

Goshawk (2)

Taiga Flycatcher (11)

Japanese Quail (1) – flushed from path below lighthouse

Common Sandpiper (1) – on rocks offshore

Blue Rock Thrush (4) – including 2 singing males

Little Grebe (1) – on the sea just offshore

Black-tailed Gull (200+) – good numbers around the point

Eastern Crowned Warbler (3)

Siberian Blue Robin (9) – 7 males and 2 females

Brambling (1)

Ashy Minivet (3) – including a pair feeding along the path below the lighthouse

Asian Brown Flycatcher (4)

Red-flanked Bluetail (1)

Coal Tit (1)

Russet Sparrow (2) – in off sea and showed well for around 10 minutes before continuing north

Black-naped Oriole (1)

Amur Falcon (2)

Chinese Bulbul (4)

White Wagtail (ssp leucopsis) (1)

Hoopoe (1)

Oriental Honey Buzzard (6) – in off sea at c1200

Hume’s Warbler (1) – seen and heard

White-throated Rock Thrush (3) – all males

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (3) – 1 seen very well, the others heard

Yellow-throated Bunting (2)

Vinous-throated Parrotbill (10)

Meadow Bunting (2)

Common Pheasant (2)

Chestnut Bunting (1)

Japanese White-eye (1)

Chinese Leaf Warbler (1) – along the ridge

Chinese Hill Warbler (1) – heard only

Hobby (1)

Streaked Shearwater (61 in 10 minutes) – clearly present in some numbers but so far only seen late afternoon/evening.

Dalian – Day One

Spike and I arrived in Dalian at around 1400 and, following a short taxi ride, checked in to our hotel at Lushun by 1500.  After a brief negotiation with a local taxi driver, Spike and I were at the lighthouse at Laotieshan by 1615, giving us about 2 and a half hours before dusk.  Weather was warm and sunny, probably around 20 degrees C.  Our first surprise was the fact that spring seemed to be a little later here than Beijing.  Many of the trees were just beginning to come into leaf, with many still bare – probably a good 10 days/2 weeks behind Beijing.

Our taxi driver dropped us at the small car park at the lighthouse and we paid the 20 Yuan fee to enter (much of the area around the point is accessible free of charge but we wanted to check the point itself around the lighthouse).  Within 20-30 metres of the entrance we could hear a thrush turning over leaves and, after a short scan, we got onto a superp Pale Thrush – a new bird for both Spike and me.  Brilliant!  As we watched the thrush poke around in the leaf litter we were then treated to excellent views of a Rufous-tailed Robin as it constantly wagged its tail a few metres ahead.  Not a bad start!

Further along we encountered two superb Brown Shrikes, two Wrynecks, a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers and a stunning spring Pallas’s Warbler.  From the lighthouse we could see a good passage of Black-tailed Gulls whilst a mixed flock of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows fed overhead.

We re-traced our steps and then took a path along the cliff to the north on the eastern side.  Here we enjoyed two Siberian Blue Robins, a pair of Tristram’s Buntings, another Brown Shrike, two Ashy Minivets and at least 4 Asian Brown Flycatchers.

We then heard what we thought was a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler – a very distinctive high pitched metallic ‘tee tee tee’.  After a brief search, we enjoyed good views of at least 3 of these birds but were left slightly confused as they seemed to be very Eastern-crowned-like in appearance – relatively large, a largish bill and sporting at least a partial central crown stripe.  My experience of Pale-legged is limited to a couple of autumn passage birds on Happy Island last autumn but these birds looked different.  Thoughts turned to Sakhalin Leaf Warbler but on the evidence we saw, we are really not sure.  The call was very akin to Pale-legged Leaf, so this must be the likely identification.

At this point the path opened up with a good view of the ocean below.  There was a continued good movement of Black-tailed Gulls just offshore and then, just a bit further out, I got onto a shearwater and, soon, we realised that there were several..  in fact lots..!  We counted over 100 in about 15-20 minutes.. all moving south.  They were relatively large with pale underparts and a pale-ish face..  they had to be Streaked Shearwaters..

By now the light was fading and we turned and made our way back to the car park to rendez-vous with our taxi..  A nice introduction to this peninsula and plenty to keep us interested (and to fuel speculation about what might turn up tomorrow!).  We plan to cover the point tomorrow and Friday and then meet up with local birder, Tom Beeke, for a day up the coast to look for shorebirds on Saturday.  Tom enjoyed a good day today at the Country Park in Jinshitan and we are planning to keep in close contact over the next few days to compare notes and hopefully tip each other off to any passing megas!

Species list from today (in chronological order):

Tree Sparrow (many)

Common Magpie (9)

Red-rumped Swallow (17)

Barn Swallow (38)

Hoopoe (2)

Chinese Bulbul (4)

Rufous-tailed Robin (2)

Pale Thrush (1)

Common Pheasant (3)

Black-tailed Gull (300+)

Crested Myna (4) – feral

Chinese Grosbeak (8) – a single flock seemingly attempting to migrate south

Vinous-throated Parrotbill (2)

Yellow-browed Warbler (4)

Dusky Warbler (1)

Pallas’s Warbler (1)

Brown Shrike (3)

Wryneck (2)

Tristram’s Bunting (2)

Siberian Blue Robin (2)

Asian Brown Flycatcher (3)

Ashy Minivet (2)

Oriental Greenfinch (2)

Streaked Shearwater (100+ south in 15-20 minutes)

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler or Sakhalin Leaf Warbler (3)

Heuglin’s Gull (4) – ssp taimyrensis

Oriental Turtle Dove (1)

Sand Martin (1)

Olive-backed Pipit (1)

Siberian Stonechat (2)

Grey Wagtail (1)