Asian Dowitchers

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!

6 thoughts on “Asian Dowitchers”

  1. Wow – an exciting trip, for several reasons. Great to hear about the sightings and to know you got back in time for what was a successful surgery!

  2. Thank you Gretchen.. I was lucky! I am well on the way to recovery now, so planning another visit to the coast later this week… it’s full of birds, so I am sure there are more goodies waiting to be found!

  3. Great no of Dowitchers. Sorry about your appendicitis. I had a terrible time during my university exam. Glad to know that you are well ahead of your recovery time. Good luck with Autumn Birding, TT.

  4. I’m just back from a long trip abroad (where I managed to see my first Asiatic Dowitcher) and I’m now catching up with posts. So pleased you made the right decision to return home and hope you are recovered now – I notice there are subsequent blog posts which I’ll read in turn, so I assume all is well. Glad you’re still with us!

  5. Thank you Ken! Asian Dowitchers are special birds, so I am very pleased that you caught up with one on your trip. Thankfully all is well now and I am fully recovered… so it’s back to business as usual. The treatment I received in Beijing was first class… the staff, from the surgeon to the anaesthetists to the nursing staff, were wonderful without exception.

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