Birding in Nanpu, Hebei 南堡.

A 3 to 4 hour drive from Beijing gets to Nanpu (南堡), Hebei region- a vast area with mudflats, sea and some fields allowing birds of all shapes and sizes muster in this area for a rest before moving on.

We pedalled to the metal to get to the ponds and sea wall in early dawn hoping to see as much as we can and we’re not disappointed! Waders were all close- sharp-tailed sandpipers, plovers, relict gulls, black-tailed gulls, little terns, whimbrels, sandpipers, stints, etc., just to name a few! Bird photographers will be pleased with the proximity of birds. 🙂

Black tailed gill in nanpu

Black tailed gill in nanpu

lots of stints at nanpu

lots of stints at nanpu- this is long-toed stint

It was brilliant to see so many waders but even more exciting to see a lifer- Reed Parrotbill! They were not hard to see as they come in small flocks and they are residents there!

reed parrotbill

We looked into every pond and corner possible and arrived on an off-trail, close to the sea. The wind picked up and clouds gathered into odd shapes but we thought nothing of it; mesmerised by the sudden fallout from the sky! Just along this path, we saw- wryneck, brown shrikes, bluethroats, yellow-browed buntings! As we drove along, birds seemed reluctant to fly elsewhere, but to move further up the trail. It was an odd behaviour and very soon we knew why!

wryneck in nanpu

wryneck in nanpu

yellow-browed bunting along the trail

yellow-browed bunting along the trail

As we nimble along the trail- sea is on the right and ponds on the left…we were hit by a hailstones! With no trees anywhere in sight, our car took shelter next to a small shrub. The 30 minute hailstone fallout felt like forever! I was worried if the windscreens would crack or the car would be blown into the pond or sea, as the car shook vigorously during the storm. Here’s the video.

hailstone storm

It was 4pm but it felt like late evening. We had no idea where we were and to add to the drama, we were low on fuel.. :-/ When winds died down a little we drove through the flooded trail with caution. With our car headlights on, we could see waders took shelter on this trail too. We came to a dead end and decided to U-turn and take the route where we came in! By then it was raining cats and dogs, also raining down plovers, stints, curlews, on to the trail!

By the time we arrived back at the start of the trail, the rain had stopped and out came the sun! With much delight, we not only saw a Japanese Quail, but also a double rainbow- how cool is that? 🙂 Every cloud has a silver lining. With houses in sight, I know I am back to civilisation.

japanese quail at nanpu

japanese quail at nanpu

how often do you get to see a double rainbow?

how often do you get to see a double rainbow?

Rails and Crakes at Long Valley, HK

Vegetated fields at Long Valley, Hong Kong, provide a superb habitat for any rails or crakes on migration. Lately, while we’re scoping hopelessly for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Mai Po, a rare bird alert was sent out by an avid birder, Allen Chan. Apparently he found a White-browed Crake, a second record for Hong Kong! Quickly, we gave up our hunt for Spoonie and made our way to see the crake! Amazingly, it was still there-after an hour walk out of Mai Po and drive to Long Valley!!

I assumed the crake just arrived as it was busy feasting on frog spawn, small fish and aquatic plants in the muddy field and hardly took notice of us. I was glad we got to see it as it stayed very hidden the next day on.. I felt sorry for those who didn’t get to see it.. :-/

white-browed crake, 2nd record in HK, 2014

white-browed crake, 2nd record in HK, 2014

Apart from the White-browed crake, a Slaty-breasted Rail and Ruddy-breasted Crake were seen earlier this year. It was an accidental find for me as I walked aimlessly in Long Valley in early morning and saw them both foraged on molluscs in the same vegetation field.

slaty-breasted rail in Long Valley, HK, 2014

slaty-breasted rail in Long Valley, HK, 2014

ruddy-breasted crake in Long Valley, HK, 2014

ruddy-breasted crake in Long Valley, HK, 2014

A Baillon’s crake was seen in a shallow water pond and even a wild Japanese Quail can be found in Long Valley too! There are a variety of vegetated ponds at Long Valley- in short, there is no shortage of food or accommodation for rails and its extended family! I’m keeping my fingers crossed to see another rail/ crake come by! Truly, nothing beats the feeling of seeing a rail or crake come out from its hiding habitat…

Eastern Baillon's crake in Long Valley, Nov 2013

Eastern Baillon’s crake in Long Valley, Nov 2013

 

Japanese Quail

Japanese Quail