Amaizing Jiangsu Coast - a trip report from 2017 Spring Tour

Trip report Apirl 11 ~ April 14, Jiangsu Coast

by Zhang Lin @SBS in China # Amazing Yellow Sea#

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Photo by Li Dongming

On 12 Apr we visited the migration traps at Yangkou Town, Rudong. Passerine migration was not in full wing yet. We saw a few winter visitors such as thrushes, Bluetail, and some early migrants including singing Asian Stubtail, and a regional rarity, Sulfur-breasted Warbler. Very good bushes and trees next to Haiyin Temple was all cleaned for construction of some Bhuda attractions. Thus it was poor for birding but it provided open ground for two Greater Short-toed Lark (or splitted as Mongolian Short-toed Lark). After brunch at Links Hotel, we had a quick look at some ponds behind the hotel and found it perfect for fresh water waders-hundreds of them, including Black-winged Stilt, Marsh Sandpiper,Wood Sandpiper, Temminck’s Stint and two regional rarity, Little Stint.

Black-winged Stilt Photo By Hu zhenhong

We then left Rudong and came toTiaozini mudflat in Dongtai.Soon we located huge amount of waders gathering due to the tide coming in. We walked on the mudflat and the first group of waders roosting we met were mainly peeps.Bigger waders were still near water.

As usual, at this time of year, the majority of peeps are Dunlins, with small numbers of Red-neck Stint, Sanderling, Broad-billed Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, Greater and Lesser Sand Plover.

Greater sand plover photo by QIan Jinghua

We stood more than 100m away with the sun behind us, busy scanning back and forth and after some effort, we found two Spoon-billed Sandpiper mostly in non-breeding plumage, with a little rufous starting to show on the fringes of tertials and around face and neckside.

We moved closer to look at them, and among bigger ones we found Grey Plover, Eurasian Curlew,two Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Red Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and two Nordmann's Greenshank.

 Bar-tailed Godwit by Luke Tang

Suddenly waders were flushed by something invisible and the flock in front of us all flew but they soon settled again and we relocated the two Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Meanwhile waders south of us joined in and we found another two Spoon-billed Sandpipers together at close range, close enough to spot one with a yellow flag on its left tibia. It is probably banded either here or in Kamchatka the last two years.It was a pity that they flew again before we could get close to read the engraving.

We went on to the north, where huge number of waders spread in several flocks. Some tourists came.We showed them the spectacular view of waders through scope and they fully enjoyed it and thus was not willing to walk on to flush them.

When we were satisfied and decided to go back to take a break, we counted in total 30000+ waders. The highlight include 11+ Spoon-billed Sandpiper,20+Nordmann's Greenshank, 20000+ Dunlin, 8000- Grey Plover,3000- Bar-tailed Godwit, 800 Great Knot and 3 Far Eastern Curlew.

 Far eastern Curlew by Qian Jinghua

On the morning of 13 April, we went to some farmlands near Yangkou Town to look for Little Curlew etc. When we walked through, we flushed about 100 pipits, mostly Red-throated, with some Buff-bellied.Two small flocks of Little Curlew took off from the ground before we could see them.

Japanese Quails were calling actively and besides a few we flushed, we also found four singing males of Japanese Reed Bunting.

We noticed that some Little Curlew landed on to the next patch of farmland. So we decided to walk back to our bus and try to spot them. Next to our bus we found quite a few Pallas's Reed Bunting and Siberian Stonechat.

Siberian Stonechat by Hu zhenhong

We drove along the edge of the farmland where the Little Curlew flock landed. Before spotting them, we saw something on the ground.To our delight, there were a few Kentish Plover with a single Oriental Plover.

Oriental Plover by QIanfeng

Every year mid-to late Apr is the peak time for Little Curlew's visible migration. We kept on seeing them coming from southeast. Some just flew over but some came to the farmland to feed briefly and then went on heading northwest along the coastline.

After brunch, we came to Dongling in Rudong. From the seawall we spotted both Eurasian and Black-faced Spoonbills.Another flock of Little Curlew flew over the seawall.

Little Curlew by Qian jinghua

On the mudflat there were much more gulls and terns than in Dongtai yesterday.

High numbers were 400 Black-head,100 Saunders's Gulls and 200 Common Tern, plus smaller numbers of Gull-billed Tern and Little Tern.

At the southern part there gathered many egrets. We didn't find any Chinese Egret, only Little, Great and Intermediate in nice breeding plumage. About 400 Great Knot were busy feeding here and allowed us to watch them from the seawall within 50m. We found five flagged ones from Chongming Island, Shanghai and two more from Kamchatka Russia.

Most of the waders were roosting on the mudflat too far to reach.We just counted them from the seawall and waited for the tide to retreat and the birds to come back to feed. After one hour, they came back.Busy scanning produced another regional rarity, a sub-adult Pallas's Gull.

Final result included again thousands of Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover,and 20+ Far Eastern Curlew and 9 Nordmann's Greenshank.

Behind the seawall in the reservoir, most ducks had left. There were 250 Coot with a few grebes. 30+ Spoonbills were roosting deep in the reed and thus it was impossible to say how many were Eurasian while how many were Black-faced.

When back to Links Hotel, we still had about an hour of sunshine so we checked another stretch of trees along an old seawall. Here we encountered a male Siberian Rubythroat perching low in a small tree, giving us several minutes' view and good opportunity for some photos.Another goodie was a male Blue-and-white Flycatcher.

In the evening we heard of a report of a male Oriental Plover in full br plumage at the patch which Little Curlew uses when we were watching the Siberian Rubythroat.

Greater long-toed Lark by Woniu

Siberian Ruby Throat By Lynne Anderson

Thus the next morning we went for a twitch but had no luck to find more Oriental Plover, although the Oriental Pratincoles were still there. Then back to woodland and found two Long-toed Stints on the way. Birding in the woodland was slow so we checked the ponds for waders again and then started the long drive north to our next destination, Lianyungang hoping to find many Asian Dowitcher and Relict Gull there. (And Jing Li did make it !)