Stuck on Spoon-billed Island

30/11/2014 – Emeifeng (morning) & Fuzhou mudflats (afternoon)

 

Before we left Emeifeng we did one more short trip up and down the mountain. No Elliot’s this time but a group of 4 female Koklass Pheasants was a pleasant surprise. We also got one more fantastic male Silver Pheasant and even though we saw quite a lot of them already, it’s hard not to get excited every time you come across such a black-and-white ghost.

 

After a quick breakfast in Xinqiao we boarded the high speed-train to Fuzhou; no comfortable seats this time but standing in the balcony because we changed our reservations in order to get to Fuzhou half a day earlier then planned… Timing was crucial, as we needed to be on the sandbank that the enigmatic Spoon-billed Sandpiper – our target at this site – uses as a tidal roost, before the tide set in!

 

Right after our arrival in Fuzhou we dumped our luggage in the hotel, jumped in a taxi, picked up some junk food and raced towards the coast. We arrived just in time, ran up the dike and…Shit! It turned out that we first had to cross a huge reed-covered intertidal-zone. This meant wading bare-feet through knee-deep stinking mud with sharp rocks and sticks dangerously hidden from sight. However we knew that the juice lurking beyond this minefield was definitely worth the squeeze… So fuck it, there we went!

 

We luckily all made it through without injuries. After this a huge sandbank with thousands of waders on it was at our muddy feet. We immediately started scanning through flocks of mainly Dunlins and Kentish Plovers with an occasional Lesser Sand plover and Red-necked Stint standing among them. Now and then one of the rarest gulls in the world – Saunders’s Gull – flew by and a nice flock of no fewer than 21 Black-faced Spoonbills – another endangered species – provided a welcome distraction. Suddenly Menxiu picked up a Spoonie, but before we could get our scopes on it, the whole flock of waders flew again…

 

Spoon-billed sandpiper by Garry Bakker

Spoon-billed sandpiper by Garry Bakker

 

Spoon-billed sandpiper with dunlins by Garry Bakker

Spoon-billed sandpiper with dunlins by Garry Bakker

 

Spoon-billed sandpipers by Garry Bakker

Spoon-billed sandpipers by Garry Bakker

 

Black-faced spoonbills by Garry Bakker

Black-faced spoonbills by Garry Bakker

 

It took us a tense half hour before we found another Spoon-billed Sandpiper. This time we all got good views of its extraordinarily shaped bill. What a charismatic and unique bird indeed! Even Garry, Wil and Lucas – who all saw this species in Thailand before – were thrilled to see it again. Personally I just couldn’t stop rattling about how special I found the whole experience; rushing through Fuzhou, wading through the mud and then actually finding this true needle in a haystack of which sadly less than 400 (!) remain in the wild. In total we found a minimum of 6 different birds, which accounts for 1.5 percent of the world population; a sad thought indeed…

 

As we dragged ourselves away from the Spoonies we noticed that the tide was so high that we had to wade through even deeper mud before we could pay a local fisherman to take us in a wobbly boat back to shore. On the way back Bas picked up a very late Far Eastern Curlew, a nice bonus!

 

This was simply a once in a lifetime experience!

 

Good Birding!

 

 

Scanning he mudflats by Garry Bakker

Scanning he mudflats by Garry Bakker

 

Saunders gull by Garry Bakker

Saunders gull by Garry Bakker

 

Saunders gull by Garry Bakker (2)

Saunders gull by Garry Bakker

 

 

Crossing the mud at Fuzhou by Garry Bakker

Crossing the mud at Fuzhou by Garry Bakker

 

 

Writing the blog requires attitude by Garry Bakker

 

 

 Writing the blog requires attitude by Garry Bakker

 

Species list day 10 (underlined are LIFERS)

  1. Chinese Bamboo Partridge (heard)
  2. Koklass Pheasant 4 females 1 male
  3. Silver Pheasant 1 male
  4. Eastern Spot-billed Duck
  5. Eurasian Teal
  6. Eurasian Wigeon
  7. Pintail
  8. Common Kingfisher
  9. White-throated Kingfisher
  10. Asian Barred Owlet 1 heard
  11. Eurasian Curlew
  12. Far Eastern Curlew 1
  13. Eurasian Oystercatcher (Osculans)
  14. Greenshank
  15. Common Sandpiper
  16. Spotted Redshank
  17. Dunlin (Sakhalina, Articola)
  18. Red-necked Stint 5
  19. Spoon-billed Sandpiper minimum 6 max 9
  20. Sanderling
  21. Grey Plover
  22. Mongolian Plover
  23. Kentish Plover
  24. Little Ringed Plover
  25. Saunders’s Gull minimum 22
  26. Mongolian Gull (Gull sp. Couple of birds await identification by Photo’s)
  27. Caspian Tern 8
  28. Eastern Buzzard
  29. Eastern Marsh Harrier 1
  30. Black-shouldered Kite
  31. Great Cormorant
  32. Little Egret
  33. Chinese Pond Heron
  34. Intermediate Egret
  35. Great Egret
  36. Grey Heron
  37. Black-crowned Night Heron
  38. Black-faced Spoonbill 21+
  39. Eurasian Spoonbill 2
  40. Long-tailed Shrike
  41. Red-billed Blue Magpie
  42. White’s Thrush 1
  43. Pale thrush 1 male 1 female
  44. Daurian Redstart
  45. Spotted forktail 1
  46. White-crowned Forktail
  47. Crested Myna
  48. Yellow-cheeked Tit
  49. Chinese Penduline Tit 3 groups
  50. Barn Swallow
  51. Chinese Bulbul
  52. Zitting Cisticola
  53. Plain Prinia
  54. Huet’s Fulvetta
  55. Oriental Skylark
  56. Tree Sparrow
  57. Eastern Yellow Wagtail
  58. White Wagtail (Leucopsis)
  59. Red-throated Pipit
  60. Olive-backed Pipit
  61. Ridchard’s Pipit
  62. Black-faced Bunting
  63. Pallas’s Bunting (Reinoud)

 

Muddy legs by Garry Bakker

Muddy legs by Garry Bakker

 

Arjan Dwarshuis
Arjan Dwarshuis
birding@arjandwarshuis.com