November 18, 2012

Bird Conservation in China

Terry Townshend is a British birder and conservationist who has been living and working in Beijing since August 2010. See his great blog Birding Beijing. His article about the ongoing Oriental Stork poisoning incident at Beidagang Reservoir, Tianjin (just 30 minutes from Beijing by train) and how it could mark a turning point in China, is now online at Birding Frontiers: click here.

Tragic: An globally Endangered Oriental Stork poisoned by poachers at Beidagang. The population of these majestic birds is estimated to be fewer than 2,500 individuals.

In addition, there’s a podcast where he’s talking with Charlie Moores of Talking Naturally about his involvement in a campaign to draw attention to the widespread use of illegal mist nets in China (millions of birds are estimated to be caught every year) and the campaign being led by Chinese activists to stamp out their use: click here.

Read more here, and please leave a message of support for the wonderful work of the many volunteers involved. Thanks!: click

November 17, 2012

Birding with the
Mongolian Birdwatching Club
text & photos © Andreas Buchheim

In the morning of 27 October I teamed up with 9 members of the Mongolian Birdwatching Club and our first stop was at the UB Ponds to the west of the city. Compared my last week’s visit there was more open water but still the smaller ponds were completely frozen over. It was about minus 7°C and snowing lightly when we arrived and soon saw 2 first winter Common Gulls, an adult Mongolian Gull, 25 Mallards and some Ruddy Shelducks. We then went on to check the bushland at the ponds. Here we had great views of Long-tailed Tits, Azure Tits and Long-tailed Rosefinches. Furthermore there were no less than 5 Grey Herons still probably hoping for a good but rather late catch. A real late one was flushed by us when we were heading back to the cars: a Barn Swallow (but see here for Brian Watmough’s late Barn Swallow). The first winter swallow performed already quite weakly, no wonder given the low temperatures and the falling snow. It flew mostly along the edges of the ponds and once was seen landing on the ice where it picked up something, may be a dead insect that had not survived the night. Quite likely that the poor bird will face the same fate soon!

Barn Swallow on the frozen pond,
UB Ponds, Oct 2012

Barn Swallow, UB Ponds, Oct 2012

Common Raven, UB Ponds, Oct 2012

On our way back we saw lots of Horned Larks (only the local subspecies seen), a nice male Merlin and one of the paler Sakers, which quickly was chosen for mobbing by the Common Ravens. At the “Swan Pond” we found further waterfowl, namely 50 Mallards, 20 Ruddy Shelducks, 2 juvenile Eurasian Wigeons and a female Common Goldeneye.

By the time we arrived at the area below Songino Khairkhan Uul (also, see for example here) the snow had stopped and it was quite sunny. We spread out in search for birds. Large numbers of tits were around: most were Long-tailed, but we saw also Azure, Willow, Eastern Marsh and Great Tits. More than 20 Azure-winged Magpies showed as briefly as usual, proving to be unapproachable again. Although we also checked the forest downstream of the Songino bridge (about to the Tuul River Country Club Golf course) we could not find any waxwings clearly due to the complete lack of fruits. Similarly the number of thrushes was low. Just a single first winter Red-throated Thrush was around feeding in the mud. The only finches we saw were 70 Hawfinches, 11 Bramblings and a female Chaffinch.

Azure-winged Magpie,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

orange-flanked Eurasian Nuthatch,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

white-flanked Eurasian Nuthatch,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

female Black Woodpecker,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

Oriental (Carrion) Crow,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

Mongolian Gull by the Songino bridge, Oct 2012

November 5, 2012

Wanted: Volunteers for bird studies
at Muraviovka Park in the Amur region!

Muraviovka Park. © W. Heim

Muraviovka Park is the only private nature reserve in Far-eastern Russia and is situated at the middle reaches of the Amur River. The place is well-known for its important breeding populations of Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana, Red-crowned Grus japonensis and White-naped Cranes Grus vipio and as a roosting site for big numbers of Hooded Cranes Grus monacha. But there are more species at Muraviovka Park, either highly endangered or little-known, which deserve special interest.

During the last two years, autumn songbird migration was studied at Muraviovka Park. Until now, over 9000 birds, totalling 95 species were mist-netted and ringed (e.g. Results of an autumnal bird ringing project at Muraviovka Park in 2011: PDF, 65 KB). We collect data about phenology, biometry, ageing and sexing as well as habitat use, which was never done before in the Amur region in a standardized way. Through our work, we noticed the importance of the Park for a variety of bird species as a safe roosting site. Many birds stay several days or even weeks to refuel, before continuing their journey over thousands of kilometres to their wintering grounds in South-east Asia or India.

Saving crane habitats during a wildfire in 2011. © W. Heim

In 2013, we will also study the spring migration with mist-nets and migration counts on a daily basis and continue the standardized observation of the autumn migration at the Park. Furthermore, we want to collect information about breeding status, abundance and potential threads, for example for the following target species: Spot-billed Duck Anas poecilorhyncha, Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri, Yellow-legged Buttonquail Turnix tanki, Band-bellied Crake Porzana exquisita, Menzbier’s Pipit Anthus (gustavi) menzbieri, Manchurian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus tangorum and Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola. The collected data will be used to evaluate the success of the Park and to create conservation strategies.

Long-tailed Rosefinch. © W. Heim

And for this, we (a team of German students and ornithologists) need your help! If you are interested and if you have time for at least four weeks between March and October 2013, write us at: amurbirding at

Current information is always available on our blog:

Wieland Heim

November 4, 2012

Shocking Amur Falcon
Massacre in Nagaland

This is a documentation by by Shashank Dalvi and Ramki Sreenivasan “of the shocking massacre of tens of thousands of migratory Amur Falcons Falco amurensis in the remote state of Nagaland in India’s northeast. We estimate that during the peak migration 12,000 – 14,000 birds are being hunted for consumption and commercial sale every day. We further estimate that a mind-boggling 120,000 to 140,000 birds are being slaughtered in Nagaland every year during their passage through the state...” more on the Conservation India website: click here

Male Amur Falcon, Mongolia. © M. Putze
Amur Falcon is a common breeding visitor
to northern/north-eastern Mongolia.

Female Amur Falcon, Mongolia. © M. Putze
It is very likely that quite many of the birds killed
in Nagaland originated in Mongolia!

November 3, 2012

October round-up

text and photos © by Andreas Buchheim

As this is my first October visit to Mongolia everything seems rather new for me and I was quite curious to see what is around below Songino Khairkhan Uul (compare for example: Sept 2011; Jan 2012) and what can be seen at the UB-Ponds (Sept 2011) this time of the year. On 20 October I started below the mountain and went on to check the ponds. The full round took just 3 hours: not many birds to see! It had been about minus 10°C in the morning and it was still minus 5°C when I returned back home.

The trees along the river do not have any berries this winter and the Bohemian Waxwings and the thrushes will have to find an alternative site for over-wintering. Nevertheless there were about 50 Waxwings and a single Dusky Thrush plus a Black-throated Thrush, both on the other side of the sewage stream. Long-tailed Tits were searching for food in at least three flocks of in total about 25 birds and I also had about 10 Azure and 2 Great Tits. Further there was a group of 5 Meadow Buntings, 70 very shy Hawfinches, an unapproachable group of 15 Bramblings which were accompanied by 2 male and 5 female Chaffinches. I only got some record shots of some of the latter even with a lot of effort. 4 Eurasian Nuthatches, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers (seen singly) and a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker completed the small set of birds (of course, the usual corvids had been around as well as were countless Eurasian Tree Sparrows).

This nut will never hatch!
Eurasian Nuthatch, below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

First winter Great Spotted Woodpecker
(see the single red feather on the crown!),
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

Record-shot of one of the male Chaffinches,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

Record-shot of one of the female Chaffinches,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

Record-shot of another of the female Chaffinches,
below Songino Khairkhan Uul, Oct 2012

Most of the ponds were frozen already but the main pond was half open still. Only 5 Common Goldeneyes were present and I saw about 35–40 Ruddy Shelducks. The only other waterfowl were 40 Mallards and a single female Northern Pintail. But there were three species of gull: an adult Mongolian Gull (without a wing-tag, though), a first-winter Black-headed Gull and no less than 5 first-winter Common Gulls. That was it!

Ruddy Shelduck in flight, UB-Ponds, Oct 2012

Ruddy Shelduck, UB-Ponds, Oct 2012

Which plant is this? UB-Ponds, Oct 2012