Birding Nanhui, Shanghai – China Birding


I recently returned from leading the Zootherabirding tour to Southeast China where we enjoyed some large numbers of shorebirds, range-restricted forest species and a wide variety of passage migrants. We flew in and out of Shanghai, traveling around this and neighbouring provinces, and one site, just outside of Shanghai provided me with my first birding in China when I visited alone, and making two more visits over the course of the trip, Nanhui gave us some really good birding and a really varied list of birds, certainly a migration hotspot and one of those places where the birds change on a daily basis. My personal favourite here was the very impressive Reed Parrotbill, a really great bird which made making the trip to China worth it in itself but there were loads more good birds here.

Reed-parrotbillReed Parrotbill

Parrotbills are a really cool group of birds and this is one of the best. I found my first Reed Parrotbills in a reedy ditch alongside a road as I walked into the site. They were not particularly easy to observe at first as they flitted around at the base of the reeds, but every now and then they would shuffle up the reed stems and call, allowing me to get this photo. It turned out that they are not uncommon at Nanhui and we saw several birds on each of our visits, everyone really enjoying this colourful and charismatic species and the photographers in the group got some really stunning images.

Another special bird at Nanhui was Marsh Grassbird (Japanese Swamp Warbler). This regional endemic is in decline due to destruction of wetlands but was fairly common in the reedbeds here, although actually seeing this species well was quite tough. Quite easily detectable by its trilling song this bird briefly flies up out of the reeds in song and then quickly parachutes back down into them. With some persistence we were able to get good ‘scope views of this streaky bird and the most skillful photographers even managed to get some pictures. Alas, that did not include me! It was notable that on the visit to Nanhui that we made when it was windy we neither saw nor even heard Marsh Grassbird – ensure you look for it when the weather is calm!

Chinese-penduline-titChinese Penduline Tit

Chinese Penduline Tit is another reed-dwelling bird that is tough to see in windy conditions but fortunately on my first visit alone and on the group visit the next day we were able to see these cute little birds well. This photo was taken in a roadside tree as I was walking from the station. I heard the call of Chinese Penduline Tit and mimicked it with this very successful result.

Nanhui was also a good place to get to grips with some of the common birds of the open country in SE China; Crested Myna, Long-tailed Shrike, White-cheeked Starling, Oriental Turtle Dove, Light-vented Bulbul, Spotted Dove, Japanese Tit & Black-faced Bunting.

Light-vented-bulbulLight-vented Bulbul

Long-tailed-shrikeLong-tailed Shrike

White-cheeked-starlingWhite-cheeked Starling

Black-faced-bunting-female2Female Black-faced Bunting

Over the course of the 3 visits Nanhui proved to be good for waterbirds too with the highlights being 2 flypast Eurasian Bitterns, at least 4 Chinese Egrets and 5 Falcated Ducks. We also recorded Purple Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron, Grey Heron, Great Crested Grebe, Eurasian Coot and, on my first visit, 1 adult male Shoveler.

All good stuff but what we were after was a nice mixture of migrants and although we never got the ideal conditions for a major fall of migrants we did find a decent number of interesting species with one of the major highlights being a Northern Boobook.

Northern-boobookNorthern Boobook

Some of the other migrant highlights here included a wonderful group of around 35 Little Curlew in a ploughed field along with a similar number of Oriental Pratincoles and a single Richard’s Pipit, 1 male Japanese Thrush and 1 female, 1 Pale Thrush, 3 Grey-backed Thrushes, 2 Pallas’s Reed Buntings, several Tristram’s Buntings, 1 Rufous-tailed Robin, 1 Siberian Blue Robin, 2 Dusky Warblers, 3 Asian Brown Flycatchers, 1 female Green-backed Flycatcher, 1 Hair-crested Drongo, 1 singing Manchurian Reed Warbler, 1 flyover calling Swinhoe’s Snipe, 1 Common Snipe, 7 Japanese White-eyes, 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, 1 female Siberian Rubythroat, 1 Eastern Crowned Warbler and 5 Chinese Grosbeaks while Narcissus Flycatcher proved to be one of the commoner migrants and one of the most obliging.

Narcissus-flycatcher1Narcissus Flycatcher

Chinese-grosbeak-female2Chinese Grosbeak

Eastern-crowned-warblerEastern Crowned Warbler

All in all Nanhui provided us with some great birds even though, at times, birding was tricky due to weather conditions preventing large numbers of migrants from arriving. A combination of waterbirds, reedbed species and migrants meant that we saw a wide variety of species at this site and it was a key site in the overall picture of our tour while Reed Parrotbill was voted into the top three birds of the entire trip!

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