Christmas comes early this year in Rudong…

03/12/2014 – Rudong

 

We arrived around 8 AM in Shanghai and were pleased to be greeted by a sunny clear blue sky; little did we know all of that was about to change all to soon…

After another 3,5 hour’s drive we rolled into the fishing harbor of Rudong. By now the clear blue sky had given way to a grey one and the first wet snowflakes began to drizzle down on our faces.

 

By the time we got birding a howling snowstorm was upon us and despite the many layers of clothing we could feel the cold in our bones, this was made even worse due to the fact that every single one of us had caught a bad cold by know.

We grinded on; birding the reed-beds and pastures around the harbor-front in a grey and white world that reminded us of the Maasvlakte in mid February… We were longing back to the warmth of Fuzhou only two days ago!

 

Birding through harsh weather by Garry Bakker

Birding through harsh weather by Garry Bakker

 

Despite the horrible weather we did find some good birds, best of the bunch was the very cool Reed Parrotbill; our Bearded Reedling on steroids! Another excellent bird was an Eastern Water-rail that was plain out in the open. But other than a couple of Rustic Buntings and a Vega Gull, there was not much else of note and around 4:30 PM we called it a day.

 

Rustic bunting by Garry Bakker

Rustic bunting by Garry Bakker

 

Unidentified large gulls - probably heuglin's or mongolian by Garry Bakker

Unidentified large gulls – probably heuglin’s or mongolian by Garry Bakker

 

Reed parrotbills by Garry Bakker

Reed parrotbills by Garry Bakker

 

Reed parrotbills by Garry Bakker

Reed parrotbill by Garry Bakker

 

 

Sophisticated boot drying tripod-system by Garry Bakker

Sophisticated boot drying tripod-system by Garry Bakker

 

Hopefully tomorrow will be better, let’s keep our fingers crossed!

 

Species list day 13 (underlined are LIFERS)

 

  1. Eurasian Teal
  2. Eastern Spot-billed Duck
  3. Little Grebe
  4. Common Kingfisher
  5. Eurasian Hoopoe
  6. Spotted Dove
  7. Oriental Turtle Dove
  8. Eurasian Collared Dove
  9. Eastern Water Rail 1 adult
  10. Spotted Redshank
  11. Eurasian Curlew
  12. Mongolian Gull
  13. Vega Gull 1 ad
  14. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Taimyrensis)
  15. Black-crowned Night-heron
  16. Chinese Pond Heron
  17. Grey Heron
  18. Little Egret
  19. Long-tailed Shrike
  20. (Oriental) Magpie
  21. Dusky Thrush 2
  22. Oriental Blackbird
  23. White-cheeked Starling
  24. Crested Myna
  25. Cinereous Tit
  26. Chinese Bulbul
  27. Plain Prinia
  28. Reed Parrotbill 2 flocks
  29. Vinous-throated Parrotbill
  30. Tree Sparrow
  31. White Wagtail (Leucopsis)
  32. Buff-bellied Pipit
  33. Oriental Greenfinch
  34. Pallas’s Reed Bunting
  35. Rustic Bunting 5
  36. Elegant Bunting 1

 

04/12/2014 – Rudon & Yancheng

 

When I opened the curtains I was pleased to see that clear blue sky of yesterday morning again. Furthermore it was far more comfortable – but still very cold – to be outside under these conditions. Especially the lack of snow was essential today, as good visibility was crucial. Why did we need good visibility? ‘Cause we were going to search for a true needle in a haystack; possibly one of the rarest and most threatened birds for this trip: the critically endangered Baer’s Pochard.

 

The Baer’s Pochard is a diving-duck that has become increasingly rare and hard to find over the last decade due to habitat fragmentation, hunting and hybridization with its far more common nephew: the Ferruginous Duck. In fact it has become so rare that recently a British birder undertook one entire trip only to twitch this mega-rare duck on some pond in Japan; where it had turned up as a vagrant two winters back.

 

To put things in perspective: the suitable habitat in Rudong and Yancheng combined is about 3 times the size of the Dutch Oostvaardersplassen; hundreds of thousands of ducks are wintering in this area; most of these ducks are either very far away from the nearest viewpoint or only visible under poor light conditions; Baer’s Pochard looks strikingly similar to a Ferrugionous Duck let alone a hybrid and to top it off there are an estimated 6 birds in the entire area!

 

Birding the yangcheng-coast by Garry Bakker

Birding the yangcheng-coast by Garry Bakker

 

We started in Rudong and when we arrived at the first possible location, for a moment we thought all hope was lost… There were literally thousands of ducks and coots on this lake and they were all at least a kilometer away from us. To make things worse we had to scope straight into the freezing cold wind!

After about half an hour we thought we’d found an adult male – some of us, including me, were sure that they’d seen a greenish head – but before we could even begin to positively exclude a hybrid the whole flock flew and landed twice as far away from us, making it impossible to find the possible Baer’s again…

 

Pallas's Gull by Garry Bakker

Pallas’s Gull by Garry Bakker

 

The morning went by without a Baer’s and best we could do were two vagrant Greater Flamingo’s and a group of 6 Dalmatian Pelicans. So we decided to have a quick lunch in Yancheng and then spend the rest of the day meticulously checking the fishponds in this area.

At the fishponds we got our first sprinkle of hope when we found a huge flock of diving ducks; unfortunately we had the worst possible light due to the low sun at the horizon. We maneuvered ourselves along a small dike and started working ourselves through rafts of hundreds of ducks. Now and then a false alarm, every time: Ferrugionous Duck, Tufted Duck or even the odd Greater Scaup

 

We were almost running out of time when I looked back and saw some ducks landing between the hundreds of ducks behind us. I started checking that particular flock again and suddenly saw a striking bird that got my pulse raising. I put Garry – who was standing next to me – on the bird and he immediately shouted: ‘THIS MUST BE IT!’

 

Baer's pochard first-winter male with male Common Pochard by Garry Bakker

Baer’s pochard first-winter male with male Common Pochard by Garry Bakker

 

And yes it indeed was a beautiful first winter male Baer’s Pochard. Our mission was completed! And to top it off it showed down to 40 meters with light in the back!

 

Baer's Pochard first winter male by Garry Bakker

Baer’s Pochard first winter male by Garry Bakker

 

Baer's pochard first winter male with Mallards by Garry Bakker

Baer’s pochard first winter male with Mallards by Garry Bakker

 

Baer's pochard first winter male by Garry Bakker

Baer’s pochard first winter male by Garry Bakker

 

Baer's Pochard first winter male by Garry Bakker

Baer’s Pochard first winter male by Garry Bakker

 

I love it when a plan comes together!

 

Baer's pochard! by Garry Bakker

Baer’s pochard! by Garry Bakker

 

Species list day 14 (underlined are LIFERS)

 

  1. Common Pheasant
  2. Eurasian Coot
  3. Bean Goose sp.
  4. Common Shelduck
  5. Ruddy Shelduck 1 group
  6. Eurasian Teal
  7. Northern Pintail
  8. Northern Shoveler
  9. Mallard
  10. Gadwall
  11. Smew
  12. Common Merganser
  13. Goldeneye
  14. Ferruginous Duck 4 males
  15. Baer’s Pochard 1 1st winter male + 1 probable adult male
  16. Tufted Duck
  17. Common Pochard
  18. Greater Scaup 1 1st winter, 1 ad female
  19. Eastern Spot-billed Duck
  20. Little Grebe
  21. Great Crested Grebe
  22. Black-necked Grebe 15
  23. Common Kingfisher
  24. Eurasian Hoopoe
  25. Spotted Dove
  26. Oriental Turtle Dove
  27. Eurasian Curlew
  28. Common Sandpiper
  29. Common Kestrel
  30. Mongolian Gull
  31. Black-headed Gull
  32. Greater Black-headed Gull 1 adult
  33. Whiskered Tern
  34. White-winged Black Tern 1
  35. Dalmatian Pelican 6
  36. Greater Flamingo 2
  37. Great Cormorant
  38. Oriental Stork 2
  39. Black-crowned Night-heron
  40. Chinese Pond Heron
  41. Grey Heron
  42. Little Egret
  43. Great Egret
  44. Long-tailed Shrike
  45. (Oriental) Magpie
  46. Azure-winged Magpie
  47. Oriental Blackbird
  48. Daurian Redstart
  49. White-cheeked Starling
  50. Crested Myna
  51. Cinereous Tit
  52. Chinese Bulbul
  53. Vinous-throated Parrotbill
  54. Tree Sparrow
  55. White Wagtail (Leucopsis)
  56. Buff-bellied Pipit
  57. Little Bunting
  58. Black-faced Bunting

 

Happy birding!

 

 

Arjan Dwarshuis
Arjan Dwarshuis
birding@arjandwarshuis.com