This week I visited Nanpu with Jennifer Leung and Ben Wielstra. This site, on the Hebei coast just 2.5 hours from Beijing, offers world class shorebirding. With tens of thousands of waders, thousands of marsh terns and some rare East Asian specialities such as RELICT and SAUNDERS’S GULLS and ASIAN DOWITCHER, this site is hard to beat. Throw in some visible migration and the passerine migrant magnet of the tiny “Magic Wood” and it’s a wonderful place to spend a few days birding.
Here is a sample of just how many birds are on show here at this time of the year…
One of the most abundant shorebirds is the SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER which can be found on the settling pools, the banks of tidal creeks and on the mudflats themselves. Of the 1000s seen over the visit, we saw only two juveniles. This one is an adult.
The spectacle of 1000s of waders arriving at the mudflats, as the mud becomes exposed on the falling tide, is superb… I counted 834 GREAT KNOT on the 14th and, at a different site, over 700 on 15th.. including a couple of colour-flagged birds with individual engravings.
Here is a short video of some of the GREAT KNOT shortly after they arrived at the first exposed mud. The sharp-eyed will notice one of the birds is colour-flagged with a combination of black over white on the upper right leg.
One of the GREAT KNOT sported a yellow flag with the letters “UWE”. On return to Beijing I reported it to the Aussie shorebirders and, within minutes, I had received a reply with the individual history of this bird. Our sighting was the first of this individual outside Australia…
Banding of “UWE”
06/03/2011 Boiler Point, Roebuck Bay, Broome (-18.00, 122.37) Australia 06313620 (UWE) Aged 2+
03/10/2011 Boiler Point, Roebuck Bay, Broome (17.00, 122.00) Australia Chris Hassell & Clare Morton
12/10/2011 Boiler Point, Roebuck Bay, Broome (17.00, 122.00) Australia Chris Hassell & Clare Morton
13/10/2011 Boiler Point, Roebuck Bay, Broome (17.00, 122.00) Australia Chris Hassell & Clare Morton
01/11/2011 Minton’s Straight (-17.98, 122.35) Australia Chris Hassell & Clare Morton
16/12/2011 Boiler Point, Roebuck Bay, Broome (17.00, 122.00) Australia Chris Hassell
18/12/2011 Boiler Point, Roebuck Bay, Broome (17.00, 122.00) Australia Chris Hassell
19/02/2013 Boiler Point, Roebuck Bay, Broome (17.00, 122.00) Australia Chris Hassell
20/12/2013 Minton’s Straight (-17.98, 122.35) Australia Chris Hassell
14/08/2014 Nan Pu, Bohai Bay (39.04, 118.36) China (mainland) Terry Townshend, Jennifer Leung & Ben Wielstra
Among the large numbers of GREAT KNOT were some RED KNOT and this photo shows the two species together, allowing a direct comparison. Note the size difference plus the difference in underpart markings, bill length and shape.
One of Nanpu’s specialities is the RELICT GULL. Although it’s primarily a wintering location, a few non-breeders remain all year round and it’s possible to see this species at any time of the year. Right now, the breeding birds are returning to the coast, along with a few first year juveniles. We saw at least three of this year’s young amongst more than 100 of these beautiful gulls. Here is an adult just beginning to moult out of breeding plumage:
Although Nanpu is primarily a shorebird site, its location on the east China coast means it is also an excellent place to witness visible migration. Even though our visit was in mid-August, we witnessed a nice passage of RICHARD’S PIPITS and YELLOW WAGTAILS and the “Magic Wood” – a tiny patch of trees and shrubs in the middle of the vast open area of ponds – hosted at least 8 EASTERN CROWNED and 6 ARCTIC WARBLERS as well as YELLOW-RUMPED, ASIAN BROWN, GREY-STREAKED and DARK-SIDED FLYCATCHERS. I can only imagine what this newly discovered ‘oasis’ will be like in September and October.
A nice surprise was this adult male DAURIAN STARLING, a scarce passage migrant in the Beijing/Hebei area.
And an even bigger surprise was an unseasonal PALLAS’S SANDGROUSE that flew backwards and forwards just inland from the sea wall and settled on some rough ground between some ‘nodding donkeys’. Bizarre.
All in all it was a brilliant few days. The full species list is below. Big thanks to Jennifer and Ben for their great company… itching to get back already!