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China, April 2010

China 8th of April – 5th of May 2010

This year we decided to visit China during April which is when our kids have their school break. Money can be a deciding factor where to travel and so it was for us. We managed to get some cheap flights from Bangkok to Guangzhou (round trip at 60$US/person) and did all other travels using the excellent train services in China. 5 over night ride all in all. Tickets can in general only be bought 3 days in advance at the train station. There was no problem in getting tickets. We used the ‘hard sleepers’ which for us were not that hard. We could have opted for a cabin on our own with only 4 sleepers but that would have increased the expenses by 50% so we went for the 6 sleeper cabins. The beds are a bit on the narrow side but still functional (newer trains considerably more spacious). The Chinese travelers using these berths were in general good mannered people and we were always treated nicely.
It was a holiday and a reason to get out of the very hot temperatures of Bangkok. Northern China was just starting to enter in to spring and Southern China was still at pleasant temperatures compared with Thailand.

Guangzhou, Guangdong 8-14th of April 2010

Agile community:
Our friends live in a rather plush residential area. Mainly condominium buildings at various heights but also some single house sections included in the complex. The whole area was nicely landscaped with trees as well as bushes.
I was surprised to not see a single bird on the lawns. No doves, no mynas, no starlings or corvids of any sort. The song of Magpie Robin frequently filled the ears though and Chinese Bulbul (Light-vented Bulbul) also was very vocal. I did not expect to see any Yellow-bellied Prinias in a park land landscape with no reed beds but this little bird was quite common and sang a lot. The birds seen were less brightly colored then the ones I am used to from Thailand where they hardly ever stray from reeds.
Japanese White-eyes were pretty common but a bit tricky to see well. Mostly in small group buzzing from tree to tree. Great Tit with its characteristic and well known song was a nice and fairly regular bird. Especially near the edges of the compounds closer to the surrounding hill. Being Swedish I especially enjoyed the many White Wagtails in the area

* = new for the trip
L = lifer

*Japanese White-eye - common
*Great Tit - regular
*Chinese Bulbul -common
*Sooty-headed Bulbul -regular
*Common Tailorbird -regular
*Yellow-bellied Prinia -common
*Rock Pigeon –I saw only 4 birds in flight once
*Eurasian Treesparrow – rare, saw only one pair
*Magpie Robin –common
*White Wagtail - common
*Common Kingfisher – one bird
*Olive-backed Pipit – once only
*Barnswallow – common near the compounds



Town of Guangzhou:
A hopeless place to find birds
*Asian Koel – 1 bird
*Crested Myna -1 bird


Da Fah Chan:

This is a fairly large park about half an hour towards town from where we resided. I visited the park once in a morning and once in the afternoon. Lots of walkways, wooded areas, lawns and lakes. Naturally a lot of people in the park even during weekdays but I enjoyed my time in here and saw some good birds. Narcissus Flycatchers were passing through which was a great windfall for me as the bird was a new one for my life list. Such lovely looking birds! The rich song of a Hwamei led me to my 2nd lifer for the trip.

Sooty-headed Bulbul – a few
Chinese Bulbul –a few
Barnswallow – a few
Common Tailorbird – a few
Olive-backed Pipit – one group
*Rosy Pipit – a couple
*Long-tailed Shrike – 1 only
Japanese White-eye - common
Yellow-bellied Prinia - common
*Yellow-browed Warbler - some
*Dollarbird – a pair perched on exposed branches together with the Red-billed Blue Magpies
* Red-billed Blue Mapie – seen twice
*Narcissus Flycatcher-L - 4 males, best bird seen
*Blue-white Flycatcher – good views of one male
*Vivid Niltava – a few female birds seen well
*Red-whiskered Bulbul – a couple
*Ashy Drongo – a couple
*Spotted Dove - common
*Hwamei-L
Great Tit - common
*White-breasted Waterhen – 1 seen, many heard
Asian Koel – heard only

Train ride to Beijing:
Black-billed Magpie
Daurian Jackdaw-L – my only one for the trip
Common Crow
Common Starling
Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Buntings? a few tight flocks of either buntings or sparrows seen
Spotted Dove
Greater Cormorant – one in flight, I also saw a man in a little boat with a couple of birds helping him to catch fish.

Temple of Heaven, Beijing 16th April

I desperately wanted to see some birds but again there seemed to be no birds in the inner city until I visited the Temple of Heaven. Here I caught up with birds as soon as I stepped inside the entrance gate.
Right on the left hand side there was some coniferous trees planted in a line. The Azure-winged Magpies just loved this area. I was also very pleased to catch up with Red-billed and White-cheeked Starlings, birds I haven’t seen in Thailand. Also Yellow-billed Grosbeaks were new.

*Azure-winged Magpie-L – a dozen
*Red-billed Starling-L – 2 birds
*White-cheeked Starling-L – 1 bird
*Yellow-billed Grosbeak-L –4 birds
Eurasian Treesparrow - common
*Oriental Turtle Dove – 2 birds on a lawn
Chinese Bulbul – 1
*Carrion Crow – 1

University of communications, Beijing
*Pallas’s Leaf Warbler
Eurasian Kestrel
Eurasian Treesparrow


Yehayu, Beijing 17th of April

This was to be my big day for Northern China. Brian Ivon Jones lives in Beijing and his regular weekend hang out is an area an hour and a half North of town called Yeyahu. The area has a lot of agricultural fields and some wetlands near a dam and a lake. Also some stands of trees here and there.
In 2 and a half years time, Brian has visited the area 84 times! Who else would be a better companion on a day like this? Richard Carden and spouse also came along; Richard is a friend of Brian.
According to Brian this was to be one of his ‘worst days’ at Yeyahu. It was bitterly cold with a biting wind and very bleak weather. No rain but dark clouds all day. Just a word of caution though. Brian is a WALKER and I mean it. We practically walked all day and must have clocked in at least 25kilometers!
Along the way we picked up many interesting birds even though the real BIG ONES were not to show this weekend (cranes, bustards, Mongolian larks, oriental plover, and sand grouse).
It was a day of many a raptor and especially harriers. The smaller songbirds simply didn’t show up. Weather must have been too cold. But as Brian said: ‘Yehayu always comes up with something” and in the end it did. A Desert Wheatear was a definite first for the area and way Far East from its regular grounds. I ended up with 10 lifers for the day and a happy mix with birds I had seen before from Sweden and Thailand as well.

*Black-billed Magpie - common
*Pallas’s Bunting –L - common
*Eurasian Skylark – common
*Greater Short-toed Lark-L –one flock of 100
*Buff-bellied Pipit-L -4 seen well
*Desert Wheatear-L -1 bird
*Daurian Redstart - 1
*Orange-flanked Bluetail – several along bushy areas, trees hadn’t started to bud yet so a bit odd to see this bird in such an environment. In Thailand I see it on high mountains in broadleaf forest.
*Little Ringed Plover - 2
*Kentish Plover - 2
*Northern Lagwing - common
*Grey-headed Lapwing -2
*Black-winged Stilt - 6
*Common Pheasant -6
*Daurian Partridge-L - a pair
*Great Bittern – 2, great birds to see well in flight
*Little Egret -1
*Grey Heron -3
*Black-headed Gull -6
*Mongolian Gull-L -20 in a flock
*Merlin-L – a pair, best bird of the day for me
*Eastern Marsh Harrier - common
*Hen Harrier -several
*Pallid Harrier-L – 1 birds
*Common Buzzard – a few
*Upland Buzzard-L – one seen well perched
*Northern Goshawk – one in low flight
*Eurasian Sparrowhawk – one in flight
*Black Kite -common
*Kestrel – a few
*Falcated Duck-L – fantastic looking duck, many seen in 2 different bodies of water
*Common Teal – a dozen seen well
*Golden eye - 5
*Ruddy Shelduck -4
*Smew -many, great looking bird
*Coot - several
Little Grebe – a few
*Great Crested Grebe – 2 pairs
*Mallard - 20
*Gadwall -20
*Eurasian Wigeon - 12
*Collared Dove - 2
Oriental Turtle Dove - 3
*Common Swift -3
*Pacific Swift -4

Harbin, Heilongjiang Province 19-23rd April

We took the train to Harbin which is China’s 10th largest city at 9 million people with 4 million in the city proper. We found the city having much more of a ‘smaller city’ spirit in spite of its huge population.
Not many places to visit this time of year. A few hours on Sun Island but precious few birds around. I don’t know why as in a place like this in Europe one would still find many a bird. The Island should be very good in Spring I think as there are plenty of trees howbeit not much under storey vegetation.
A big surprise was to see a pair of Hoopoes flying around, besides that I only saw one pair of Great Tits and one Orange-flanked Bluetail.
I had a bit of inspiration and visited a city park next to our friend’s condominium. At first I saw no birds but then a few Dusky Thrushes perched in some barren trees in the late afternoon. I think these were probably passing through to breeding grounds further North. This is a bird I have wanted to see for long but never been in its distribution range before.
Also, it was cheer joy to see a flock of 120 Bohemian Waxwings come in to roost right before dusk.
Many Chinese have a habit of singing out loud while in the parks. They are good singers and seem to appreciate music very much on a whole. An older man came up and started singing ‘Santa Lucia for me’. Since I knew this song I joined him. Never in my life would I have imagined myself singing ‘Santa Lucia’ with an older Chinese man in a city park in China! Great experience!

White Wagtail – 1 in town, 2 at Sun Island
Black-billed Magpie – precious few
Orange-flanked Bluetail – 1 at Sun Island, 1 at City Park
*Plain Laughingthrush-L -1 barely seen at an almost bird less city park
*Eurasian Hoopoe – a pair
Eurasian Treesparrow - common
Feral Pigeons – a few
Great Tit – 2 at Sun Island
*Bohemian Waxwing-L – flock of 120
*Dusky Thrush-L – flock of 8
*Brambling – 2

The Great China Wall (Mutianyu) 24th April
A couple of hours spent at this very scenic site. Some birds were seen from the wall.

Great Tit -2
Daurian Redstart -6 (great views looking down)
Carrion Crow -2
Black-billed Magpie -1
*Green Woodpecker -1 (I heard it tapping on the Northern side of the wall and managed to pick him out)

Botanical Garden, Beijing 25th

In spite of it being a Sunday the Metro was still crowded early in the morning.
It took me a little over 2 hours to get there from my friends house near the Metro station in Eastern Beijing. The bus ride alone took almost 45 minutes from the end of the Metro line which was a bit frustrating. I ended up with only 2 hours at the park. Loads of people were around.
Still I would say the park was ‘birdy’, especially for Chinese standards. It didn’t take very long for me to connect with a flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills roaming about the vegetation next to a dried out stream. This was one of my target birds so I was very pleased.
I then decided to take the Western route up to the Temple of the reclining Buddha.
Believe it or not, but I managed to get lost and found myself way outside of the park boundaries. There was constructions going on and the sign posting had taken a toll.
I failed to see Chinese Hill Warbler and Chinese Nuthatch which are regularly seen around the temple area. Instead I was treated to some very lovely Yellow-throated Buntings.
The park was very nicely landscaped and many flower beds were already to be seen in spite of it just turning to spring. Many trees were blooming and one could tell spring was in the air. I could easily have spent a few more hours. I did see a couple of small passerines that I didn’t recognize by call but were unable to get good views of. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was to be my 2nd WP for China, a familiar bird from Sweden.

*Vinous-throated Parrotbill -10-L
*Great Spotted Woodpecker -1
*Yellow-throated Bunting -4-L
Great Tit
Black-billed Magpie –common
Azure-winged Magpie – common
Barnswallow – common
Eurasian Treesparrow – common
Carrion Crow – a few
Chinese Bulbul – a few
Common Kingfisher – 1
White-cheeked Starling-1
Plain Laughingthrush – heard
Bramblings -4
Chinese Grosbeak -12





Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 27th April

We took a 24 hour train ride to Gulin in Guangzhou Autonomous Region in the South. The train ran late 2 hours but otherwise we encountered no problems. The train took rather lengthy stops here and there which allowed for purchasing some refreshments. Otherwise it is quite comical how much type of merchants frequents the train selling all kind of things ranging from combs and aprons to food items.
One of my first Chinese words put to memory was ‘pee jeew’ (beer (, and I even managed to pick it out as the fast moving cart passed by our cabin.
We had made contact with someone through www.couchsurfing.com so had no trouble settling in for the night. From the apartment window I saw;

Brown-breasted Bulbul
Chinese Bulbul
Hwamei
*White-rumped Munia
Yellow-browed Warbler
Spotted Dove
Crested Myna
Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler

Yangshou: 27-29th

We quickly made the decision to go on from Guilin to Yangshou, a famous and scenic town about an hour’s bus ride south of Guilin. The next day we took a mini van that took us to a place half way down the river where we boarded a simple bamboo raft. This was a lot cheaper then the state run big ferries loaded with tourists. For the next 2 hours we enjoyed a very scenic and idyllic journey through some amazing landscape. It was great to see my first Collared Crows along the river. A couple of Plumbeous Redstarts were also a welcoming familiar sight.
Half way down the river we stopped for some local food. I took the opportunity to poke around the vegetation a bit and saw a Speckled Piculet which I thought had more of a rufous colored head then the one from Thailand. I also saw my very first Chestnut Bulbuls, a very pretty bird.
Yangshou is a well known tourist town with walkways reminding me of Europe. Lots of merchandise and food on offer. Streets were full of both Western and Chinese tourists.
We settled for a small hotel in the middle of it all. Rooms were clean, had hot water, free Internet and friendly personnel and very cheap at that.
Our best experience in the town was to hire bicycles and bike along the way out of town towards the Moon Hill. I was so happy to get out on the countryside after days of nothing but big cities. Someone once said: ‘cities are man’s festering sores on the body politic’ and I heartily agree to that.
I was very excited to see several flocks of Black-throated Tits along the roadside. These birds are attractively adorned and a bird I seldom see in Thailand.
I kept hearing a very distinct drawn out whistle which ended in a couple of explosive notes. What could it be? My voice recorder came in handy and the bird kept coming in. Another lifer: Brown-flanked Bush Warbler!
Most of the tourist attractions along the road require an entrance admission. We simply kept to our bikes and took in the many little simple sights along the way.
I also saw a couple of good birds at the city park: Blue-white FC and Blue Whistling Thrush.


Blue-white FC
*Asian Brown FC
Blue Whistling Thrush
Great Tit
Chinese Bulbul
Japanese White-eye

Bike ride:
White Wagtail – a few
*Brown Shrike -1
*Plain Prinia -common
Yellow-bellied Prinia -common
Chinese Bulbul -common
Brown-breasted Bulbul –a few in an orange orchard
Red-whiskered Bulbul – 2
*Black-throated Tit –several flocks of up to 20 birds
Great Tit - common
Red-billed Blue Magpie -2
Black-billed Magpie -1
Pacific Swift -30
*Blue Rock Thrush -1
Oriental Turtle Dove -1
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler -1
Yellow-browed Warbler -1
*Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler -5
*Common Blackbird - 2
Magpie Robin -2
Crested Myna -common
Greater Coucal -1


29th April Guilin city
A smaller city of around half a million people. The city focuses on tourism and has many nice walkways along water courses. We spent half a day taking in the city and enjoying some local food.
Last couple of hours we visited the Botanical Gardens which was very nicely landscaped.
Taxi is cheap in Guilin and distances short.

Yellow-browed Warbler
Great Tit
Japanese White-eye
Chestnut Bulbul
Chinese Bulbul
Brown-breasted Bulbul
Common Blackbird (Chinese)
White-rumped Munia
Common Tailorbird

Nanling State Forest Reserve
2-3d of May

We were fortunate enough to be able to visit this lovely place in the mountains of Northern Guangdong. Our friends had been there on a family excursion and were more then happy to revisit. A strait drive on a major motorway took us to the turn off some 250 kilometers North of Guangdong. The toll fee system in use is pretty hefty and we had to pay 28$US just to get there. Foreigners are not allowed to drive without a Chinese license and getting one is costly at about 1000$US.
I wasn’t able to find much online about birding in Guangdong but I did manage to find a short report as well as a biological research summary of the reserve.
We got there on a weekend and struggled to find lodging. The village is very small and only offers two hotels. A pharmacy owner offered us her 3 room apartment upstairs to which we readily agreed.
The next morning I walked from the room to the park entrance: 500m. Park fee was 60Yuan/day (9$US).
Fairy Pittas must have just arrived and getting ready to breed as they were calling all over the lower part of the reserve.
There wasn’t much water in the river but one can understand why this place holds no less then 4 Forktail species. I kept walking up for about 4 km where there is an obvious carpark, local produce on sale and a trail up the mountain. Just before the car park I caught up with my first lifer: Crested Kingfisher. The bird was skittish and didn’t give me long views but I was very happy to have bagged this wonderful bird.
In the afternoon we visited higher grounds where I felt the greatest potential must lie. My best birds here were Red-billed Lieothrix, Brown-breasted Flycatcher and Green-crowned Warbler (part of the Gold-spectacled complex).
I didn’t see many other potential birds such as Golden Parrotbills, Gold-breasted Fulvettas and Streak and Spotted Scimitar-Babblers but there simply wasn’t enough time with a van full of kids.
My daughter, Julia, told me of a black and white bird on a boulder at a waterfall that she had seen up the trail. So, the next morning, guess where I went? A pair of Little Forktails was very accommodating and even let me shoot a few pictures. A Chinese man was already there doing the same.
I wanted to get up to higher grounds but there was little traffic for hitch-hiking. Instead I walked downhill.
I heard what I thought must be a Rufous-capped Babbler. These things are very hard to see. I managed to tape it out in the open for a fraction of a second. Nice bird with a clean looking face.
Once back at the hotel (we stayed inside the reserve at a hotel up behind the car park) my friends had already taken off to higher ground. A pricy lesson learned (miscommunications) and I was confined to this midlevel for a few hours. I wasn’t feeling too good anyway though as I had picked up a stomach bug somewhere.
The highest point of the park lies at 1902 meter. One can drive to about 1600. Lots of pines mixed with broadleaved trees cover the mountains though not that densely.

White Wagtail – 2
Eursasian Treesparrow -4
Great Tit -10
Barnswallow -2
Pacific Swift -2
Plumbeus Redstart-4
Magpie Robin-1
Chinese Bulbul-10
Black-capped Kingfisher-1
Blue Whistling Thrush-10
*Grey Wagtail-1
*Crested Kingfisher-1-L
Chestnut Bulbul-20
*Mountain Bulbul-1
*Black Baza-6
*Crested Serpent Eagle-1
*Chinese Sparrowhawk-2
*Sulphur-breasted Warbler-1
*Blyth’s Leaf Warbler-1seen, many heard
*Green-crowned Warbler (Gold-spectacled) -3
*Greater Necklaced-Laughingthrush-2
*Great Barbet –Heard only
*Chinese Barbet (Black-browed) – Heard only
*Brown-cheeked Fulvetta – 1
*Streak-breasted Scimitar-Babbler –many heard
*Fairy Pitta – Heard only
Black-throated Tit – one group
*Lesser Cuckoo – Heard only
*Large Hawk Cuckoo –Heard only
Brown-breasted Flycatcher - 2
Dollarbird-1
Black-billed Magpie-1
Red-billed Blue Magpie-6
*Asian Barred Owlet-1
*Collared Owlet – Heard only
*White-browed Shrike-Babbler-1
*Pale-blue Flycatcher-1
*Chestnut-crowned Warbler-5
Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler-Heard only
*Pygmy Wren-babbler –Heard only
*Mountain Tailorbird –Heard only
*Bay Woodpecker –Heard only
*Yellow-cheeked Tit
*Manchurian Bush Warbler -1-L
*Little Forktail-2-L
*Slaty-backed Forktail-2
*Chestnut-capped Babbler-1-many heard-L
*Brown-cheeked Fulvetta-1
*Little Heron-1

All together I saw 137 species whereof 31 were lifers.



























Black-throated Tit
Black-throated Tit
Black-throated Tit
Black-throated Tit
Narcissus Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher
Narcissus Flycatcher
Blue&White Flycatcher
Blue&White Flycatcher
Blue&White Flycatcher
Blue&White Flycatcher
Blue&White Flycatcher
Blue&White Flycatcher
Blue&White Flycatcher, female
Blue&White Flycatcher, female
Brown-breasted Flycatcher
Brown-breasted Flycatcher
Brown-breasted Flycatcher
Brown-breasted Flycatcher
Orange-flanked Bush Robin
Orange-flanked Bush Robin
Red-billed Lieothrix
Red-billed Lieothrix
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Sooty-headed Bulbul
Chinese Bulbul
Chinese Bulbul
Chinese Bulbul
Chinese Bulbul
Mountain Bulbul
Mountain Bulbul
Mountain Bulbul
Mountain Bulbul
Collared Crow
Collared Crow
Collared Crow
Collared Crow
Azure-winged Magpie
Azure-winged Magpie
Black-billed Magpie
Black-billed Magpie
Crested Myna
Crested Myna
Red-billed Starling
Red-billed Starling
Red-billed Starling
Red-billed Starling
White-cheeked Starling
White-cheeked Starling
Dusky Thrush (Naumann's Thrush)
Dusky Thrush (Naumann's Thrush)
Blue Rock Thrush
Blue Rock Thrush
Hwamei
Hwamei
Yellow-billed Grosbeak
Yellow-billed Grosbeak
Yellow-billed Grosbeak
Yellow-billed Grosbeak
White-rumped Munia
White-rumped Munia
Japanese White-eye
Japanese White-eye
Hen Harrier
Hen Harrier
Common Buzzard
Common Buzzard
Bohemian Waxwings
Bohemian Waxwings
Bohemian Waxwing
Bohemian Waxwing
Olive-backed Pipit
Olive-backed Pipit
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Yellow-bellied Prinia
Comon Tailorbird
Comon Tailorbird
Bramblings
Bramblings
Chestnut-crowned Warbler
Chestnut-crowned Warbler
Chestnut-crowned Warbler
Chestnut-crowned Warbler
Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
Plumbeous Redstart
Plumbeous Redstart
Plumbeous Redstart
Plumbeous Redstart
Slaty-backed Forktail
Slaty-backed Forktail
Little Forktail
Little Forktail
Little Forktail
Little Forktail
Little Forktail
Little Forktail