Sadly, it is still relatively common to find illegal mist nets in China. Most appear to be erected by poor people who will likely either eat the birds caught or sell them as cagebirds, if they are popular species. For me, it is always with a heavy heart that I try to render the nets unusable, knowing on the one hand that they are illegal under Chinese law but, at the same time, that for some people, bird trapping may form an important part of their income.
Encouragingly, the practice of trapping birds seems to be declining, with the market for cagebirds predominantly being driven by a slowly shrinking older generation, so hopefully in the not too distant future illegal mist nets will be a thing of the past in China.
Whilst at Laotieshan for several days last week we bumped into a few members of the Panjin Birdwatching Society (from northern Liaoning). The group, led by the famous Mr Zhang Ming (a very talented photographer) was predominantly interested in bird photography and were visiting to take advantage of the raptor migration at Laotieshan. Mr Zhang told us about the sighting of a Band-bellied Crake on a very small pool near to Dalian city.. Having never seen this species, Mr Zhang and his friends offered to take us there.. so off we went in a small convoy of 4x4s for the short journey to the site. After stopping for a delicious lunch, during which Mr Zhang showed us some stunning images of rare and difficult to see Chinese birds, including Jankowski’s Bunting, we arrived at the site and began to look for the specific pond. It wasn’t long before we found it but, despite observing the weedy fringes for close on 2 hours, there were no signs of any crakes and we were forced to assume that the bird had moved on. Whilst exploring the site we came across several illegal mist nets, some of which held live birds. It was pleasing to see the Panjin Birdwatching Society members rescue the birds, take down the nets and destroy them. And much better that they were taken down by Chinese birders and not ‘interfering foreigners’..!