Tuesday, 20 May 2014

SE China: Fuzhou & the Minjang Estuary.

It is the 9th May & we are on our way to the airport for our flight to Fuzhou City. We arrive late morning & then drive to the Botanical Gardens, which is also a forest reserve. Lots of people around & we have lunch & then take the longest path up into the hills. Birds are not prolific, but after sometime & effort, we did see a couple of real gems:
Walking the trails, looking for
White-necklaced Partridge.

White-necklaced Partridge 2 seen, but several more heard; Great Barbet; 2 Rufous Woodpecker; 2 Grey-chinned Minivet; 3 Chestnut Bulbul; Orange-bellied Leafbird; Grey-streaked Flycatcher; 2 Grey-sided Scimitar Babbler; 2 Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler; Huet's Fulvetta & 3+ Fork-tailed Sunbird. It started to rain, so we headed back to the bus & drove to our hotel. Little else was seen.
 It is 10th May & we are up before dawn for the short drive to the Minjang Estuary. Our goal was to see the Chinese Crested Tern, which is one of the rarest birds in the world, with a population of only 50 birds (estimated in 2007). So the pressure was on!
Sue & Ron, ready for the day!

 We arrived at the site just as dawn was breaking. Most of us either in wellington boots or plastic bags over our shoes. I had taken a pair of slippers from my hotel room, because we had all been warned of the thick & treacherous mud which lay in wait for us once we got on to the mudflats. First however, we had to get there. So we transferred into two small boats & we were punted along by the local boatmen, down the main channel. Barn Swallows were leaving their roost in reasonable numbers & in the half light many eastern Yellow Wagtails flew over, with at least two or three, Citrine Wagtails sprinkled in their number as well.
 Down the main channel.
 The conditions were not ideal.
Yep! Then it started to rain!
The scene that greeted us, didn't look too promising!

Getting out of the small boats was interesting! The mud really was deep & slippy, but we all made it to slightly firmer ground unscathed. Everyone was on the look out, but there was precious little to be seen at first. But then one flew by! The very pale upper parts, short tail and slightly smaller size was  evident. I transferred to my scope, & smiled as I saw the dark tipped yellow bill, which confirmed the identification. The only problem was, the bird just kept on going past!
We started to look at other species & found a pair of Swinhoe's (White-faced) Plovers on the sand. A lone Black-faced Spoonbill was asleep on the sand bar & nearby was a Eurasian Oystercatcher. A good variety of waders were noted, the best species being: 2 Grey-headed Lapwing; 6 Asian Dowitcher; 2 eastern Black-tailed Godwit; 3 Far Eastern Curlew; 24 Spotted Redshank; 18 Common Greenshank; 680+ Sanderling; 75+ Red-necked Stint; 10 Sharp-tailed Sandpiper & a Broad-billed Sandpiper. The gulls on the far sand spit all turned out to be Black-tailed Gulls. A further five large gulls were unidentified, being too far away for positive identification.
There were now plenty of terns to check, including at least 45 Greater crested Terns, but nothing was among them. 6 Little; 7 Gull-billed; 13 White-winged Black & at least 45 Whiskered Terns were around, or flying by.
 It is the one on the left!
 Chinese crested Tern on either side
of the Great crested Tern.
 Starting to display!
Yes! It is happening!
 Get ready now!
 Looks like they will be nesting
somewhere this year!

Happy now?
 All these photos were taken at 100X magnification.

 I know there are a lot of photos of them,
but it is one of the rarest birds in the world!

 But then it happened! 2 Chinese crested Terns were spotted, bathing in a tidal pool, around 400m away. We all enjoyed great scope views & as the tide ebbed & started to recede four more birds flew in all adults! We were watching six of the most endangered birds in the world, right in front of us! Everyone was elated with such prolonged views.
All smiles on the way back. Mission accomplished!

But then it was time to leave, the boatmen were worried we might not get back down the tidal channel. Getting into the boats was just as much fun as getting out had been! I had long ago abandoned my slippers & was walking barefoot, through a variety of interesting terrain! our journey back was uneventful with at least 10 Oriental Reed Warblers were singing from the reeds & gave good views. A Petchora Pipit showed for some & the Yellow-bellied Prinias here, had slate grey heads. Maybe a future armchair tick?
All too much for some!

 We all cleaned ourselves up, which was no mean feet & we were once again back on the bus & on our way to the distant mountain of Emeifang. Not much else was seen for the rest of the day & we spent the night at a basic hotel close to the base of Emeifang.

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