Frustration at Laotieshan

Frustration was the word of the day.  Anyone who has been birding in China will know that frustration is something that you just have to get used to.  Today we were chucked off one of the prime viewing areas for raptor migration simply because we were foreigners.  The area is close to a military base and so, understandably, it’s a sensitive site.  But the irony is that we can see more Chinese military sites from our hotel room (including submarines, frigates and other naval support vessels) than we can from the raptor viewpoint.  Nevertheless, at 1100 today we were told in no uncertain terms that we shouldn’t be there and that we would have to leave….  this was after one of the most impressive early morning raptor sessions of our visit so far with a Greater Spotted Eagle at 0630 (!), Common Buzzards passing at a rate of 250 per hour and a good number of Black-eared Kites, Goshawks and Eurasian Sparrowhawks.

However, every cloud has a silver lining and, earlier in the day, we met up with a group from the Beijing Birdwatching Society (including Zhong Jia and Tian Yang) who were visiting Laotieshan for a few days.  They told us about another place, open to foreigners, from where the raptors can be viewed and they helpfully arranged for us to meet the head of research at the Laotieshan nature reserve and secure an invitation to the ringing station nearby.  So tomorrow we will be taken up to the ringing station and from there we can walk up to the ridge without the threat of military intervention..  The ringing station itself sounds intriguing.. they told us that they had caught a Swinhoe’s Rail a couple of days ago!  Wow…

The ringing station is apparently near to the area where locals traditionally put up mist nets to capture migrating birds (mostly for the bird trade).  One Chinese contact we met said that they used to catch around 4,000 raptors a year at Laotieshan until improved wardening severely curtailed illegal mist-netting.  Even now many nets are put up by locals and it’s a continuing process to try to reduce the number of illegal nets at this time of year…

Zhong Jia and Tian Yang also told us about a new hotel that had recently opened much nearer to Laotieshan than our base in Lushun.  The rooms looked good, the prices reasonable and the bonus is that one can watch raptors from the garden…. in a short visit this afternoon we enjoyed views of 6 Grey-faced Buzzards right overhead plus an astonishing movement of Amur Falcons involving around 600 birds in a single flock… wow.

Tomorrow is my last day at Laotieshan.  I will have a full day there before making my way to the airport for the short flight back to Beijing.  It’s going to be very tough to tear myself away but Peter will be staying until Friday and Paul hopes to stay for several weeks, access permitting.  Let’s hope tomorrow is a bumper day!

One of today's Grey-faced Buzzards at Laotieshan.


5 thoughts on “Frustration at Laotieshan”

  1. Wow, i didn’t even realize there was a Laotieshan Nature Reserve. Of course, you could get kicked out of that just for being a foreigner, too ! It has happened to me elsewhere in China. Hopefully the BBS introductions will smooth the way. And maybe you can help get rid of illegal mist nets (where is Brian and his trusty Swiss Army knife when you need him 🙂

    1. Hi Spike,
      We missed you this autumn! The nature reserve staff were extremely friendly and hospitable, I am sure mostly thanks to the fact we were introduced through the Beijing Birdwatching Society. We were impressed with the staff there and, although the level of knowledge is not the same as would be expected in the west, their enthusiasm and ringing expertise is not in doubt. They work with the Mackinnon field guide to identify the birds they trap. I am sure they make the odd mistake but the guys we met are learning fast, so I am sure they will be able to develop some good data on the migration at Laotieshan over the next few years.
      I hope you are getting used to the US.. Terry

  2. Stupendous number of migrants from Dalian Terry – great to see the place being done systematically and to see you guys reaping the rewards.

    Enjoying the Beijing birds too – the ST Eagle pix are terrific!


    PS regards to Paul and Jesper when you next see either of them.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Mike. Some of the counts have been truly staggering. We’ll do a full report soon and Paul’s extended stay will provide a good picture of how the migration evolves over the autumn period. It is already clear that we probably arrived (24 Sep) at the tail end of the Oriental Honey Buzzard passage; 4 October was the first day when the number of Common Buzzard exceeded that of Oriental Honey Buzzard. Upland and Rough-legged can probably be expected soon, although in smaller numbers. The Greater Spotted Eagle passage is probably only just beginning, so it’ll be interesting to hear from Paul how many pass through in the next few weeks.
      Cheers, Terry

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