Early August is a great time to see a range of east Asian shorebirds on the coast of China. So last Saturday I planned to make a 2-day trip to check out Nanpu, a vast and featureless area of salt works and ponds to the south of Tangshan in Hebei Province that hosts hundreds of thousands of waders in spring and autumn.
I woke a little earlier than usual with mild abdominal pain. I put it down to the particularly spicy curry I had consumed on the Friday evening, popped a couple of paracetamol and set off. There was no way a little stomach pain was going to stop me driving the 2.5 hours to see 100,000+ waders on the coast…
As my journey progressed I was excited to see the air and cloud clearing – having started as a smoggy and cloudy day, Saturday turned into a beautifully clear, blue sky day.
On arrival I slowly drove the long road towards the coast, checking the roadside ponds. I was buoyed by a beautiful BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER in amongst the many SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPERS, KENTISH PLOVERS and BLACK-WINGED STILTS.
I then found a superb pond filled with mostly BLACK-TAILED GODWITS, MARSH SANDPIPERS and SPOTTED REDSHANKS. As I carefully scanned, I found a group of ASIAN DOWITCHERS, a regular but fairly scarce migrant. I counted 22, 21 adults and one juvenile, in a small area. By now my abdominal pain was worsening and I was considering whether to go to a local hotel to rest or to drive back to Beijing. Whilst I was deciding what to do, I took the opportunity to record some video of the ASIAN DOWITCHERS.
After making this recording I decided to head back to Beijing; if I was going to be ill, I would much rather be in my apartment in Beijing than in a low-grade hotel in a small Chinese town. I was glad I did. When I reached my apartment late on Saturday evening, I could hardly stand up due to the pain. I called a friend and he took me to the Emergency Room of my local hospital where, after a series of tests and a CT scan, I was diagnosed with acute appendicitis. Just a few hours later I was in the recovery room after my appendectomy, feeling glad that my appendix didn’t decide to misbehave in some remote part of the developing world!