Jankowski’s Bunting

jankowski's bunting female

Jankowski’s Bunting

 

A bird that is on the verge of extinction is seen in Beijng! Overseas birders were just as excited as the local birders. Busy with my work, i couldn’t find the time to visit firsthand but I finally got to see the small flock that has decided to winter in Beijing.

a bird that needs desperate help!

a bird that needs desperate help!

jankowski bunting

Jankowski’s bunting wintering in Beijing

jankowski bunting

Jankowski’s bunting

Its been quite sometime since I last visited Miyun! There were tractors cutting the grass, making rodents flee from their hideouts! Raptors definitely saw this opportunity and they were hovering around in search for their tasty food.

While people were busy taking photos of raptors, we’re on the other end trying to find the Jankowski’s buntings! It is a difficult task to I.D. them if not for the experts! But I wandered off alone to see more birds. Then i saw a group of buntings very close to me- my instinct was to photo first then I.D. later. And it paid off! :)

I hope people will make a contribution to save the bunting, especially for those who saw the bunting.. click here to donate! For more information about Jankowski’s bunting (also known as rufous-backed bunting), visit http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=8938

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Wildlife in Uganda

My first trip to Africa and I went to Uganda! Without my yellow fever vaccination ( out of stock in China and HK takes 3 months to get an appointment- blimey!) I took a risky move purely to see my dream bird. It was none other than the pre-historic looking Shoebill! I was told it’s a 99% chance of seeing the weird looking bird at Mabamba swamp but we failed to find it in my morning boat trip! :-/ The boat ride however, gave us awesome views of a variety of birds including African Jacanas, Malachite Kingfishers, Palmnut Vultures and even a Mamba snake!

I was devastated not seeing the shoebill- how can I leave Uganda without seeing the Shoebill!? My guide David Agenya (Gorilla whisperer) arranged an afternoon hunt and perseverance is in sight! No words can describe my feelings when I saw the Shoebill up-close, bucket list ticked and I can finally move on to my next venture- yup, searching for relatives!

shoebill5

Shoebill in Mabamba!

Relatives that share 98.4% DNA with me live in the Impenetrable forest at Bwindi and up the mountains! To see these rare relatives- you need a permit and a very good guide. We’re in good hands as David Agenya is the lead supervisor at the research centre- he arranged everything including a great lodge (The silverback) and personally took us up the hike! For 15 USD, I hired a porter which helped me with my backpack and gave me a push/ pull to get through the damp forest! To penetrate the impenetrable forest, our guards used machetes and after almost a 2hour hike (we’re lucky as in some cases it takes 8hrs), we finally saw our relatives! Yes, mountain Gorillas! We had very good views of the babies and the Silverback and his wives as we spent an hour with the family.

gorilla2

Silverback at Bwindi Impenetrable forest

Uganda has much to offer-located at the Equator, the weather is mild, with greens everywhere! No wonder it boasts of over 1000 birds in Uganda and is home to elephants, tree-climbing lions and cheeky chimpanzees and angry hippos, etc! I didnt have enough time to do a safari but just passing through the outskirts already gave me a hindsight of what I have missed! Surely, I’ll be back again for more! Thanks to David Agenya who only whispers to gorillas (davidagenya@gmail.com)!

Below are just some of the many birds and wildlife photos I’ve taken at lodges, drive-bys! :P

crowned crane

Crowned crane- national bird of Uganda

elephant3

Elephants in Uganda

giant kingfisher2

Giant Kingfisher

saddle-billed stork

Saddle-billed stork

helmeted guineafowl

helmeted guineafowl

lizard buzzard

lizard buzzard

Spur-winged lapwing

spur-winged lapwing

long crest eagle

Long-crested Eagle

African fish eagle

African Fish eagle

african buffalo

African Buffalo

African Harrier-hawk1

African harrier hawk

african golden breasted bunting

African golden breasted bunting

babboon

baboon!

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Birding in Wuerqihan Part 2

The visit this time to Wuerqihan, Inner Mongolia in November yielded as much surprise as last winter if not better! At -32c last year, we missed the grouses but apparently this is the best time to see the grouses plus the owl I missed last year- Ural Owl.

The dark was setting in when we had just seen a raccoon dog! Still thrilled with the raccoon or dog lifer, our car stumbled upon a rock that was in the middle of the road. A close look- Ural owl – one i had missed last winter, so it’s a thrill to see it at close distance too!

Ural owl on the road

Ural owl on the road

Of course the usual owls were there too- Great Grey and Hawk Owl. :P

Hawk owl is very common in Wuerqihan

Hawk owl is very common in Wuerqihan

greatgrey

Great grey owl wasn’t fussed about us

And of course, the grouses and the rare Black-billed capercaillie were seen this time. Hazel grouses were plentiful- male looked especially stunning with red eyelids. When winds picked up, it was a funny sight to see the Black grouse swaying on the thin stems of the trees!

black billed capercaillie is a MUST SEE in Wuerqihan

black billed capercaillie is a MUST SEE in Wuerqihan

Hazel grouse wears furry boots all year round.

Hazel grouses wears furry boots all year round.

Black grouse on a tree!

Black grouse on a tree!

Other birds seen included the Black woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, lesser spotted woodpecker, Eurasian Jay, Siberian Jay, Nuthatch, Willow tit, Azure tit, and also loads of ravens, crows, and long-tailed tits! At -10c, and not too windy, the weather was gd for the 3.5 days birding. But as the snow hasn’t filled the holes on the road, the car ride was slow and bumpy! Nonetheless, I hope to visit this magical forest again in Spring, hopefully see a lynx and some more rare birds. :)

willow tit in Inner Mongolia

willow tit in Inner Mongolia

lots of long-tailed tits here!

lots of long-tailed tits here!

And of course I have to post the raccoon dog! :)

Raccoon dog seen in the fields at Wuerqihan

Raccoon dog seen in the fields at Wuerqihan

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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?

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Birding in North Norfolk

It was not a birding trip but more of a break from the hustle and bustle! Staying in Wells-Next-the-Sea gave us easy access to the towns along the coast covered by the coastal hopper- bus that runs “regularly” from town to town along the coast. :P

The holiday mood was in full swing in Wells-Next-The-Sea and around with carnivals, fairs and parades happening nearly everyday in August! There were lots to eat, lots to do and of course lots to see. For one, the marshlands and open skies were incredibly breathtaking. Some of our walks through the open fields and a visit to Titchwell Nature Reserve gave us awesome views of birds in the area.

Walking highlights include:

Walk from Wells-Next-The-Sea to Holkam Park and back- 6 miles

Titchwell Nature Reserve

Walk from Burnam Deepdale to Burnam Oviary – 3 miles

Walk from Wells-Next-The-Sea to Holkam Beach – 3 miles

My lifers include :

Barnacle goose

Egyptian goose

Greater Black-backed gull

Song thrush

European Robin

Common Scoter

Pink footed goose!

A hybrid and a genuine together in lake at Holkam Park!

A hybrid and a genuine together in lake at Holkam Park!

Alson seen in Holkam Park

Also seen in Holkam Park

Greater Black backed gull in Titchwell Nature Reserve

Greater Black backed gull in Titchwell Nature Reserve

 

pink footed goose in Holkam Park

pink footed goose in Holkam Park

Common gulls and Sanderlings enjoyed the sea at Titchwell..

Common gulls and Sanderlings enjoyed the sea at Titchwell..

All seen at Titchwell Nature Reserve!

All seen at Titchwell Nature Reserve!

If you are lucky, you could spot three kinds of deer in Holkam park and estate!

From left- Chinese deer, Fallow deer, Red deer

From left- Chinese deer, Fallow deer, Red deer

And here’s some landscape photos of this wonderful coastal area and the lazy seals at Blakney point!

Holkham beach

Holkham beach

Pier at Wells-next-the-sea

Pier at Wells-next-the-sea

lazy seals at blakeney point

lazy seals at blakeney point

 

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