May 05

Just back from Beidaihe (east China) - for bird race commemorating 20th anniversary of team including me pitching up for first survey since 1940s. Was in China 10-16 May; as well as Beidaihe, also made it to Happy Island.

Some info here, as just sent to my family, which I hope will be of interest. Plan to do more, inc for this website.

Following suggestion from Dr George Archibald, director of International Crane Founation, I mentioned idea for another survey, inc cranes. Didn't push for it - wasn't much time given all other things going on; but I have a few ideas. Maybe a mix of some Chinese birders, who mostly I hope might have some free time from work (weekends), and perhaps see if can encourage some overseas birders to stay for a while.

Made strong mention of wetland damage; also a major concern of some locals, and - I learned - of forestry/China Wildlife Conservation Assoc people at their base just north of town.

Had quite a trip.
Mostly, driven by Chen Liang, a senior reporter from China Daily (English language), who is into birding - managed to get to quite a few places, partly to see how habitats look, partly seeing birds - some good sightings.

Big banquet for the bird race on Sat night. I gave speech - funny when I stood up to mike, as lots of cameras suddenly appeared in front, with journos taking photos. Spoke in Chinese; partly re good things, also mentioning bad impacts on habitats over years, and still hope for some conservation.

Had met director of Beidaihe govt three days before; a relatively new guy, who seems keen to make some improvements re greenery. I complained about the changes, showed and gave them some photos; but he said they've also held off developing some areas because of bird records; lately, bought some of land from locals, and knocked down 11 private (farm) houses, w some compensation (these houses maybe built illegally - I was long ago told of "temporary" buildings for pig farms, fish farming).

Director wants a conservation plan from me - to let experts review. Means I can dust off plan from years ago, by Michael Ounsted, then head of developments at Slimbridge, for small wetland reserve with visitor facilities (just found the plan; will photocopy to send copies to Beidaihe). Also plenty more ideas.
Well, let's see.

Are some good changes in birds - plenty of Little and Great egrets, which rare before. I was shown part of a colony that now holds maybe 3000 egrets and night herons. This is in a reserve, by forestry dept, which to me always seemed pretty useless in this area for conservation - met guys from this, and told them so (well, I've spent much time n effort - pretty words of little use) and guy told me they too share concerns about wetlands being damaged, their director wants to see me as and when I return. (Also several Chinese egrets at Beidaihe and nearby, which were very rare; not sure if any breeding in the area.)

Went out Sunday morning with small crew from China Central TV; filmed birding, and interview outdoors - again babbling away in Chinese. So, maybe will be on national tv here some time.

Nice to see various people again - Prof Hsu Weishu (helped me in late 80s), Xu Xiaohong (also helped, with travel plans at the town, later with conservation; at a dinner, two reporters from local paper came to interview me - not much need, as Mrs Xu told them enough for a small book!), travel agent Jean Wang, even guy who used to drive bus on several tours, and Paul Holt with whom I co-led tours, plus a few other birders.

Great that now there are Chinese birders - several with real fine telescopes and cameras. Big Taiwanese group there too; at dinner Sunday night, they had me give short talk on birds of Beidaihe and nearby; several had me autograph field guide or bird photos.

Ah well, my 15 minutes of fame over for now, so back to the summer heat in HK.

Martin

Here's Chen Liang's feature story in the China Daily:

A Briton, birds and Beidaihe
 

Martin