Sunny and warm, light northerly winds, almost no cloud. Much reduced visible migration and very few hirundines compared with yesterday. Nevertheless, it was another good day at this special site. Highlights included another White-throated Needletail that came in at nearly head height (see photo), several Japanese Sparrowhawks, a single Chinese Sparrowhawk, several Lanceolated Warblers and an unexpected new bird in the form of a Japanese Grosbeak that was suspected as it flew overhead and identified from photos!
Species List (in chronological order):
Fork-tailed Swift (6)
Yellow-browed Warbler (15)
Asian Brown Flycatcher (10)
Rufous-tailed Robin (1)
Ashy Minivet (3)
Chinese Bulbul (5)
Black-naped Oriole (7) – in off the sea
Brown Shrike (6)
Olive-backed Pipit (5)
Oriental Turtle Dove (2)
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (3)
Lanceolated Warbler (3)
Oriental Greenfinch (4)
Common Pheasant (4)
Great Tit (6)
White-throated Rock Thrush (1)
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (2)
Tristram’s Bunting (1)
Dusky Warbler (4)
Eye-browed Thrush (3)
Common Magpie (36 in the air together off the lighthouse at 0630)
Today was wader day. And after travelling to Jinshitan (just north of Dalian city) yesterday afternoon, we stayed overnight in a very cheap (but functional) hotel ahead of our 5am pick up. Our destination was Pikou, a relatively small town (or so it appears on the map, but actually looks larger than many UK cities!) north of Dalian on the east coast of the peninsula. The journey, which without stops should take less than an hour and a half, is peppered with good birding sites and there are lots of mudflats all the way up, providing good habitat for wading birds. Tom showed us some fabulous sites and I am indebted to him for his guidance, expertise and company today – thanks Tom!!
The highlight was undoubtedly the 6 Black-faced Spoonbills at Zhuange (north of Pikou) with a supporting cast of over 50 Chinese Egrets, 400 Great Knot, over 1,000 Dunlin of the very smart race sakhalina, 300+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 450+ Red-necked Stint, 150+ Terek Sandpiper, 40 Lesser Sand Plover, 2 Greater Sand Plover, 26 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, 7 Grey-tailed Tattler and Saunders’ Gull.
After enjoying the Black-faced Spoonbills (almost all of the total breeding population in China!), we experienced a stunning encounter with a host of waders at a site just south of Zhuange where we sat and watched the waders come towards us as the tide came in, giving us fabulous views of Great Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-necked Stint, Grey Plover, Lesser Sand Plover etc all in superb breeding plumage. A real bonus was finding 15 birds with coloured rings or flags on their legs. These birds will have been ‘marked’ by ornithologists studying migration routes and I will report these birds (7 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Great Knot, 1 Red Knot and 1 Grey Plover) in the hope of discovering something about their history. Many will almost certainly have been ringed in Australia, illustrating just how far these birds travel every year from their breeding grounds near the Arctic circle to their wintering grounds in the southern hemisphere.. truly remarkable.
The drive back ended with a Little Owl just outside Jinshitan – the first time I have seen this species in China – and we arrived back too late to catch the last train back to Dalian and from there to Lushun. So we will begin tomorrow by travelling to Lushun, checking in to our hotel and probably won’t reach Laotieshan until late morning. So we will miss the early hours of migration but it was worth it!
I was a bit lax on the species list today, simply because we stopped at so many sites and saw so many birds! So the following species list is not comprehensive but hopefully gives a flavour of the day…
Kentish Plover (12)
Chinese Egret (56)
Chinese Pond Heron (1)
Black-tailed Gull (150+)
Grey-tailed Tattler (7)
Black-headed Gull (400+)
Little Egret (6)
Common Sandpiper (4)
Intermediate Egret (1)
Wood Sandpiper (16)
Black-crowned Night Heron (8)
Grey Heron (5)
Common Pheasant (8)
Barn Swallow (300+)
Red-rumped Swallow (25+)
Fork-tailed Swift (60+)
Little Tern (8)
Pacific Golden Plover (57)
Richard’s Pipit (4)
Red-necked Stint (428 including 385 just south of Zuanghe)
Day Three at Dalian was the day that Laotieshan began to deliver in style. In one 5-minute period between 0810 and 0815 we saw a White-throated Needletail, a Japanese Waxwing and a Rufous-bellied Woodpecker all fly in off the sea and head inland… followed very closely by a Merlin! Wow..
The day began at 0530 at the lighthouse and, as on the first full day, we began by birding the track that runs north-east below the lighthouse. On the entrance track we found a Rufous-tailed Robin and, almost immediately afterwards, flushed a Grey Nightjar. Then, just before we began to walk north-east we disturbed a thrush from the verge and, after it flew a short distance, we could see it was a superb Grey-backed Thrush. Not a bad start!
The track below the lighthouse was in shade and it was relatively quiet with just a Siberian Blue Robin, a couple of Asian Brown Flycatchers, an Ashy Minivet and a few Meadow and Tristram’s Buntings. The sun hits this area between 0730 and 0800 so we discussed whether, on balance, it was probably better to cover another area first thing and then return here later in the morning. After our experience in the hours that followed, we will almost certainly heed this thought when we return to Laotieshan from our northern wader sojourn on Saturday.
The reason is that we discovered a fantastic clearing on the ridge from where to watch visible migration and, between 0830 and 1030, we saw an additional 2 White-throated Needletails (off the sea and past me at head height!) and 3 House Martins (scarce in northern China), one of which was definitely a Northern House Martin and the other two not identified as either Northern or Asian. The supporting cast included 47 Fork-tailed (Pacific) Swifts, 18 Amur Falcons, 700+ Barn Swallows, 70+ Red-rumped Swallows, 15 Sand Martins, a single Merlin, 8 Hobbies, 3 Eurasian Sparrowhawks, a single Chestnut Bunting, 6 White-eyes (not identified to species) and 3 Chinese Pond Herons. On the slope we found two more White-throated Rock Thrushes (in a different location to yesterday) and on the way down I flushed an Oriental Scops Owl which perched briefly before flying off into dense cover.
It was with a heavy heart that we left Laotieshan at 1100 to travel to Dalian to meet up with Tom Beeke to cover the Jinshitan Fish Ponds in the afternoon ahead of our big wader day on Saturday (at Pikou). After meeting up with Tom, the Fish Ponds produced a stunning Sharp-tailed Sandpiper which Tom had found previously as well as 2 distant Chinese Egrets, 28 Pacific Golden Plover in stunning summer plumage, a large and close-knit flock of 65 large white-headed gulls seemingly migrating west (probably Vega but I need to check the images) as well as 3 Oriental Honey Buzzards, Chinese Penduline Tits, Oriental Reed Warbler, Zitting Cisticola etc etc..
After fantastic home-made pizza with Tom and his family, we arrived at our Jinshitan hotel at about 8.30pm and I’m writing this before I hit my bed and try to get as much sleep as possible before our 0430 start tomorrow, so apologies if this reads a little awkwardly!
Full species list (in chronological order):
Amur Falcon (18)
Brown Shrike (14)
Great Tit (4)
Rufous-tailed Robin (1)
Grey Nightjar (1)
Grey Wagtail (3)
Grey-backed Thrush (1)
Chinese Bulbul (5)
Pallas’s Warbler (5)
Taiga Flycatcher (2)
Yellow-browed Warbler (12)
Oriental Greenfinch (6)
Richard’s Pipit (5)
Olive-backed Pipit (18) – most very early morning
Dusky Warbler (4)
Fork-tailed Swift (55)
Ashy Minivet (3)
Siberian Stonechat (2)
Tristram’s Bunting (2)
Barn Swallow (coming in off the sea at the rate of 350+ per hour)
Red-rumped Swallow (in off the sea at a rate of c35 per hour)
Asian Brown Flycatcher (2)
Radde’s Warbler (9)
Siberian Blue Robin (3)
Black-tailed Gull (150+ offshore)
Heuglin’s Gull ssp taimyrensis (1)
Yellow Wagtail (1)
Chinese Pond Heron (3)
Meadow Bunting (5)
Siberian Rubythroat (1)
White-throated Rock Thrush (2)
Common Pheasant (1)
White-throated Needletail (3) – in off sea (1 at 0810 and 2 at 1030)
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker (1) – in off sea and continued north
Japanese Waxwing (1) – in off sea and continued north
Chestnut Bunting (1)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (3)
Chinese Hill Warbler (2)
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (1)
Sand Martin (15)
Northern House Martin (1)
House Martin sp (either Asian or Northern) (2)
White-eye sp (6)
Oriental Scops Owl (1)
Black Drongo (2) – at the point, feeding actively and almost certainly fresh in.
Jinshitan Fish Ponds (1530-1900)
Chinese Spot-billed Duck (4)
Chinese Egret (2)
White Wagtail (2)
Siberian Stonechat (3)
Yellow Wagtail (3) including one of the subspecies taivana)
Sand Martin (5)
Zitting Cisticola (1)
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (1)
Common Sandpiper (1)
Black-winged Stilt (2)
Pacific Golden Plover (28)
Marsh Sandpiper (1)
Eastern Marsh Harrier (2)
Chinese Penduline Tit (3)
Large white-headed gull sp (65) – all in one flock at 1635 moving west
Today was our first full day at Laotieshan and we saw some high quality species. Probably top of the list has to be the White-throated Rock Thrush, a new bird for both of us. The supporting cast included such goodies as Eye-browed Thrush, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Siberian Blue Robin, Rufous-tailed Robin, Blue Rock Thrush, Ashy Minivet, Russet Sparrow, Black-naped Oriole, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Chinese Leaf Warbler, Chestnut Bunting and Japanese White-eye.
We did quite a bit of walking today. As well as the immediate surroundings of the lighthouse garden, we also walked part of the ridge above the lighthouse and a few of the agricultural fields below. Stunning scenery, great birding and not another birder in sight.
One of our first birds was a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler that not only called frequently but also showed well, immediately telling us that the birds we had seen yesterday were Eastern Crowned (we obviously heard Pale-legged while watching Eastern Crowned yesterday). These birds, despite the field guides (which, incidentally, are very poor on Chinese leaf warblers), looked nothing like each other. The Pale-legged is a much browner bird than Eastern Crowned. It is also smaller and lacks any sort of crown stripe. Once seen, it will never be confused again!
In the afternoon we conducted a short count of the Streaked Shearwaters that were, again, streaming past the point (none were seen in the morning). In just 10 minutes we counted 61 passing south – a rate of over 350 per hour.
Tomorrow we plan to cover the point again until lunchtime, after which we are going to join up with Tom in Jinshitan to visit the local fish ponds (Chinese Egret there today) and then drive up the coast on Saturday to some of the prime wader spots. Sunday should see us back at Laotieshan, ready to join up with Jesper Hornskov and his Manchuria team.
A few images from today and full species list below…
Species list (in chronological order):
Eye-browed Thrush (11) – including one group of 8 in off sea
Yellow-browed Warbler (18) –
Chinese Grosbeak (2) – singing
Olive-backed Pipit (80 counted but likely many more passing overhead)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (2)
Siberian Stonechat (12)
Barn Swallow (47)
Yellow Wagtail (6) – early morning over the point
Dusky Warbler (7)
Radde’s Warbler (12) – including one very confiding individual
Grey Wagtail (3)
Brown Shrike (13)
Oriental Turtle Dove (2)
Oriental Greenfinch (8)
Richard’s Pipit (5)
Trsitram’s Bunting (8)
Little Bunting (47) – likely many of the hundreds of the ‘tick-buntings’ overhead early morning were also this species
Black-faced Bunting (10)
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (16) – mostly males
Siberian Rubythroat (2)
Great Tit (6)
Red-rumped Swallow (34)
Taiga Flycatcher (11)
Japanese Quail (1) – flushed from path below lighthouse
Common Sandpiper (1) – on rocks offshore
Blue Rock Thrush (4) – including 2 singing males
Little Grebe (1) – on the sea just offshore
Black-tailed Gull (200+) – good numbers around the point
Eastern Crowned Warbler (3)
Siberian Blue Robin (9) – 7 males and 2 females
Ashy Minivet (3) – including a pair feeding along the path below the lighthouse
Asian Brown Flycatcher (4)
Red-flanked Bluetail (1)
Coal Tit (1)
Russet Sparrow (2) – in off sea and showed well for around 10 minutes before continuing north
Black-naped Oriole (1)
Amur Falcon (2)
Chinese Bulbul (4)
White Wagtail (ssp leucopsis) (1)
Oriental Honey Buzzard (6) – in off sea at c1200
Hume’s Warbler (1) – seen and heard
White-throated Rock Thrush (3) – all males
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (3) – 1 seen very well, the others heard
Yellow-throated Bunting (2)
Vinous-throated Parrotbill (10)
Meadow Bunting (2)
Common Pheasant (2)
Chestnut Bunting (1)
Japanese White-eye (1)
Chinese Leaf Warbler (1) – along the ridge
Chinese Hill Warbler (1) – heard only
Streaked Shearwater (61 in 10 minutes) – clearly present in some numbers but so far only seen late afternoon/evening.
Spike and I arrived in Dalian at around 1400 and, following a short taxi ride, checked in to our hotel at Lushun by 1500. After a brief negotiation with a local taxi driver, Spike and I were at the lighthouse at Laotieshan by 1615, giving us about 2 and a half hours before dusk. Weather was warm and sunny, probably around 20 degrees C. Our first surprise was the fact that spring seemed to be a little later here than Beijing. Many of the trees were just beginning to come into leaf, with many still bare – probably a good 10 days/2 weeks behind Beijing.
Our taxi driver dropped us at the small car park at the lighthouse and we paid the 20 Yuan fee to enter (much of the area around the point is accessible free of charge but we wanted to check the point itself around the lighthouse). Within 20-30 metres of the entrance we could hear a thrush turning over leaves and, after a short scan, we got onto a superp Pale Thrush – a new bird for both Spike and me. Brilliant! As we watched the thrush poke around in the leaf litter we were then treated to excellent views of a Rufous-tailed Robin as it constantly wagged its tail a few metres ahead. Not a bad start!
Further along we encountered two superb Brown Shrikes, two Wrynecks, a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers and a stunning spring Pallas’s Warbler. From the lighthouse we could see a good passage of Black-tailed Gulls whilst a mixed flock of Barn and Red-rumped Swallows fed overhead.
We re-traced our steps and then took a path along the cliff to the north on the eastern side. Here we enjoyed two Siberian Blue Robins, a pair of Tristram’s Buntings, another Brown Shrike, two Ashy Minivets and at least 4 Asian Brown Flycatchers.
We then heard what we thought was a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler – a very distinctive high pitched metallic ‘tee tee tee’. After a brief search, we enjoyed good views of at least 3 of these birds but were left slightly confused as they seemed to be very Eastern-crowned-like in appearance – relatively large, a largish bill and sporting at least a partial central crown stripe. My experience of Pale-legged is limited to a couple of autumn passage birds on Happy Island last autumn but these birds looked different. Thoughts turned to Sakhalin Leaf Warbler but on the evidence we saw, we are really not sure. The call was very akin to Pale-legged Leaf, so this must be the likely identification.
At this point the path opened up with a good view of the ocean below. There was a continued good movement of Black-tailed Gulls just offshore and then, just a bit further out, I got onto a shearwater and, soon, we realised that there were several.. in fact lots..! We counted over 100 in about 15-20 minutes.. all moving south. They were relatively large with pale underparts and a pale-ish face.. they had to be Streaked Shearwaters..
By now the light was fading and we turned and made our way back to the car park to rendez-vous with our taxi.. A nice introduction to this peninsula and plenty to keep us interested (and to fuel speculation about what might turn up tomorrow!). We plan to cover the point tomorrow and Friday and then meet up with local birder, Tom Beeke, for a day up the coast to look for shorebirds on Saturday. Tom enjoyed a good day today at the Country Park in Jinshitan and we are planning to keep in close contact over the next few days to compare notes and hopefully tip each other off to any passing megas!
Species list from today (in chronological order):
Tree Sparrow (many)
Common Magpie (9)
Red-rumped Swallow (17)
Barn Swallow (38)
Chinese Bulbul (4)
Rufous-tailed Robin (2)
Pale Thrush (1)
Common Pheasant (3)
Black-tailed Gull (300+)
Crested Myna (4) – feral
Chinese Grosbeak (8) – a single flock seemingly attempting to migrate south
Vinous-throated Parrotbill (2)
Yellow-browed Warbler (4)
Dusky Warbler (1)
Pallas’s Warbler (1)
Brown Shrike (3)
Tristram’s Bunting (2)
Siberian Blue Robin (2)
Asian Brown Flycatcher (3)
Ashy Minivet (2)
Oriental Greenfinch (2)
Streaked Shearwater (100+ south in 15-20 minutes)
Pale-legged Leaf Warbler or Sakhalin Leaf Warbler (3)
A short trip to Dalian over the Spring Festival holiday was simply brilliant. I nipped over with Spike Millington and met up with Dalian-based Canadian, Tom Beeke. Tom is a top man – he met us at the airport, arranged our hotel and took us to all the best spots in the area. His enthusiasm and knowledge of the local birds made for a thoroughly enjoyable trip. Highlights included finding a Pallas’s Gull (Great Black-headed Gull) in exactly the same spot where one was found last winter, 3 wing-tagged Mongolian Gulls, good numbers of both Pallas’s and Long-tailed Rosefinch, 9 Oriental White Storks, 4 Varied Tits (stunners) and an unusual winter record of Yellow-browed Bunting.
The trip started at Jinzhou dump for gulls. There is a small landfill site here and, although on arrival the gull numbers were quite low, they steadily built throughout the day. The vast majority were Mongolian Gulls (Larus mongolicus) with c230 individuals. Also present were Vega Gulls, Heuglin’s Gull (tamyrensis?), a few Common and Black-headed Gulls plus at least one Slaty-backed (a first winter) and a probable first winter Glaucous-winged Gull. Other species on the estuary included Mallard, Spot-billed Duck, White-tailed Eagle (at least 5 individuals) and 9 Oriental White Storks. However, the highlight was finding an adult Pallas’s (Great Black-headed Gull) that flew into the estuary in the mid-afternoon. A brilliant and unmistakable bird.
Andreas Buchheim had asked me to look out for wing-tagged mongolicus and it wasn’t long before I found three – “AB56”, “AF50” and “AF63”. The ringing data shows that two were ringed at a colony in Lake Baikal (almost 2,000km away) and the third was ringed at Khokh Nuur in Mongolia (almost 1,300km from Dalian). It’s always great to see ringed or tagged birds and find out a bit about their history. Tom will now look out for more this winter.
On the second day we decided to visit the southernmost point of the peninsula at Laotieshan (about an hour and a half from Dalian). Tom had never visited in winter, so it was a bit of an unknown quantity. We might see lots of birds or nothing at all. On the way we jammed in on a flock of Bohemian Waxwings at Lushun – Tom’s first record in the Dalian area. On arrival at Laotieshan, the habitat around the point looked brilliant for migration and Tom recalled his ‘big day’ here in October last year – thousands of raptors and huge numbers of passerines passing through with Tom the only birder! In mid-winter, as expected, it was a bit quieter but, nevertheless, we did see some good birds. A nice male Long-tailed Rosefinch was a good start and a Chinese Hill Warbler checked us out while Tom lured it in with a remarkable imitation of its call. A roving tit flock in a small wood produced Tom’s second record of Yellow-bellied Tit among the Coal and Great Tits and Siberian Accentors and Yellow-throated Buntings appeared at regular intervals. A few Naumann’s Thrushes added a splash of colour and a single Hawfinch was the first of 27 we were to see that day (including a single flock of 26). After a lunch of delicious dumplings, the afternoon started brilliantly when a trail we took just north of the peninsula produced 4 Pallas’s Rosefinches – a key target bird – and a few metres further along we enjoyed a nice male Yellow-browed Bunting – an unusual winter record. A Peregrine and a Kestrel provided the raptor interest and we encountered more Long-tailed Rosefinches, Siberian Accentors, Meadow and Yellow-throated Buntings.
Our final day was spent on Tom’s local patch at Jinshitan and we visited several sites including a reservoir, the country park, the small fishing harbour and, best of all, the golf club. The first site of the day – the reservoir – produced both Pallas’s and Long-tailed Rosefinches, a brief Goshawk, Yellow-throated, Pallas’s Reed, Meadow and Rustic Buntings plus Coal Tit, Siberian Accentor, Japanese Quail and a beautiful male Hen Harrier. The country park and the fishing harbour were both quiet but on the way to lunch we enjoyed a very cooperative Rough-legged Buzzard that we originally thought might be an Upland due to the large whitish patch on the upperwing. Post-lunch we visited the golf course and it was here, in a lovely little wooded valley, that we encountered another target bird – Varied Tit. These birds are stunners and we enjoyed very good and prolonged views of 2 of these little gems in a mixed tit flock. Wow! A Treecreeper struggled to gain our attention, even though it’s a difficult bird to see in the Beijing area, and the supporting cast here included Chinese Hill Warblers, Pallas’s and Long-tailed Rosefinches and more Siberian Accentors. Two more Varied Tits were seen briefly alongside the road (definitely different birds due to their blotchy plumage) and a walk around the more open parts of the course produced more Long-tailed Rosefinches, several of which posed nicely for photographs before we reluctantly headed off to the airport for the flight home.
Big thanks to Tom for making all the arrangements and accompanying us on a brilliant trip.
Already making plans to revisit in migration season – the peninsula at Laotieshan looks simply awesome for migrants.