Bye bye Zhenghlou

Allmänt / 2015-03-23 / 10:13:29
Five days ago I left the study area to join my dad on a trip through the Henan and Hebei provinces, final destination being Beijing, from where we fly home on Monday next week. So far we've been to Xinyang, Luoyang, Zhengzhou and today we arrived in Shijuazhuang. It's nice to finish my China-visit with a little bit of touristing.

Longmen caves. The stone carvings are incredible, but the highlight for me was a Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muriara) climbing around on one of the largest statues. Maybe the last new species I'll see in China!

At the Shaolin temple we saw a very impressive Kung fu performance by young students. The surrounding area was really beautiful and a calm contrast to the chaotic city of Zhengzhou.

I'm very glad that spring started so early this year that I got to experience these little critters! 
I have a feeling going home might feel like going back in time a whole month, with spring barely begun :)

First chicks of the season

Allmänt / 2015-03-11 / 14:09:37
Yesterday Yu Jin and Zhang Peng found a new nest of Black-throated Tits (Aegithalos concinnus), and to their surprise it contained six tiny chicks! 

They are approximately 3 days old and if they survive we will band them on Tuesday next week, the day before I leave.

Most of the other birds are still laying or have just started incubating their eggs, so it will be two more weeks before the real baby-boom comes.

Every nest has it's own ID and information card, they are checked every two days and the card updated. My area is pretty small and more or less all nests have already been found, very rarely do I see birds that I don't already know which nest they belong to. So today I was happy to do some recordings of the nests with eggs that are being incubated, instead of simply wandering around looking for new pairs. I rig the camera and then wait at a great enough distance that the birds don't mind me, but close enough so that I can make sure that the camera isn't stolen. It's pretty tedious, but still nice to do something different!

The Lapwings have arrived!

Allmänt / 2015-03-05 / 13:30:41
Just as suddenly as it happens with the Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) back home, every field in the area has become the home of Grey-headed Lapwings (Vanellus cinereus). And they are not the only new arrivals, every day I find at least one new species! Yesterday's highlight was an Asian Verditer Flycatcher (Eumyias thalassinus), a turquoise flycatcher that I didn't even know occure in this area. 

Today I went back to check on the nest that I posted a picture of two days ago, this was all that was left...

To make things even worse the predator (most likely a cat or weasel) had caught the female Silver-throated Tit (Aegithalos glaucogularis) when she was incubating her eggs, and this was all that was left of her...
This early in the season a pair that loose their nest still have time to build a new one and try again. Later in the season they might join another pair and help them raise their chicks. Since this male is now alone he might become a helper already this early in the season.

Today was the last day of the spring festival, which was celebrated with even more fireworks (making it almost impossible to hear the tits, reeeeally inconvenient for us) and a real feast for lunch. We have moved back into the Chen's house and were lucky to be invited to eat with them. On the table were 14 (!) different dishes and we toasted over and over again with rice-wine. I haven't had that good food since Christmas!

Back in the bush

Allmänt / 2015-03-03 / 13:21:25
Since we returned from Beijing on Sunday we've been staying in the Dongzhai reserve. The beds at the Chen's house at still occupied by visiting relatives so we're going to have to stay here for another few days.
Yesterday we spent the whole day birding in the reserve, to my delight. Without mistnets that needed checking every hour we could explore a lot more of the area, which generated three new species; Rufous-bellied Woodpecker (Hypopicus hyperythrus), Brown-breasted Bulbul (Pycnonotus xanthorrhous) and Blue Whistling Thrush (Myophonus caeruleus).

Today we walked down the mountain to the main road and took a bus to Segang. The study area starts at the outskirts of town and we spent the whole day trying to check as many nests as possible. Many had been destroyed or abandoned during the last few weeks, but at least 10 nests so far have eggs. The eggs are only incubated for two weeks so some if them might be starting to hatch really soon!

This is the nest of a Silver-throated Tit (Aegithalos glaucogularis), it's been carefully built with moss, cotton and spiderweb, and the inside filled with soft feathers.

Spring is oficially here, the cherry trees are blooming! 
It feels as if more bird species are starting to show up already, today I found some Red-billed Starlings (Sturnus sericeus) mixed in with the usual flock of White-cheeked Starlings (Sturnus cineraceus) and in the afternoon an adult male Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) was circling above one of the rice fields, a stunning sight.
I hope that at least some migrants are going to start to appear before I leave in a couple of weeks.

When I was photographing the cherry blossoms two Palla's Leaf Warblers (Phylloscopus proregulus) were foraging in the tree. I hadn't even noticed them before one came and landed on a twig only 30 cm away from me, not wary of me at all. I never get tired of these little guys!

Today was a great day, I'm really happy to be back in the field!

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