1985年春天，我第一次訪問中國東海岸的度假勝地北戴河，此後每年都會回來，主要是作為遷徙調查和觀鳥之旅的領隊或聯合領隊，也有幾次是為了度假。總而言之，我在這個小鎮待了一年多，獲得了超過 300 名亞洲移民的北戴河名單，並體驗了絕佳的觀鳥體驗。此外，為了刺激保護工作——部分是在我的敦促下，1990年春天，該鎮建立了一個不起眼的自然保護區。
也就是說，如果沒有景觀美化工作，就不會令人印象深刻。我記得我曾向國際鶴類基金會主任喬治·阿奇博爾德博士大肆談論該保護區的潛力。我說，考慮到北戴河上空飛行路線的鳥類數量，該保護區的鳥類密度可以與北美最好的候鳥陷阱一樣高。 “是的，”阿奇博爾德回答道。 “但這些都是巨型蜱蟲。”
[本文最初發表於 Birding（美國觀鳥協會）：1994 年 10 月和 1995 年 2 月。]
東方白鸛等巨型蜱蟲（白鸛），實際上僅限於俄羅斯東部和中國；大約有 3000 名世界人口，其中大部分在秋季遷徙到北戴河。巨型蜱蟲，如遠東特有的三隻瀕臨滅絕的鶴——丹頂鶴 (鶴）， 連帽的 （G.莫納查）和白枕（G. vipio）——以及西伯利亞鶴（白鶴芋），在伊朗危在旦夕，但在遠東地區數量接近 3000 艘，經過北戴河時有數百艘。還有桑德斯鷗（黑鷗），世界人口大約為 2000 年，遺鷗（殘遺乳桿菌）（4000-5000），以及諾德曼的青腳鷸（丁香）（1000），這些都為該鎮的小河口增光添彩——僅在北戴河才能經常看到遺鷗遷徙。
北戴河目前排名 這 看到東亞移民的地方。隨便挑一個到北美的亞洲流浪者，很可能就發生在北戴河。東方 Pratincole (馬爾迪瓦格萊烏拉）？西伯利亞藍知更鳥（藍絲蟲）？西伯利亞紅喉鳥 (E. 卡利奧佩）？眉鶇 (暗鶇）？披針鶯 (披針蝗）？都是常見的。叉尾雨燕 (太平洋鴨）以數千計傳遞。成群的蒙古鴴會造訪河口（蒙古鰈魚）。木鷸 (黃胸鷸) 和長腳趾 (小鯽）更喜歡潮濕的稻田，在晚春時節，這裡是尋找白鷚的地方（古斯塔維).
全鎮[洋河以北至秦皇島]名錄目前約有389種；其中一年內可能會發生 300 多次，全年可能只有 14 次發生——其餘的至少是部分移民。多樣性主要源於北戴河的位置（地圖）。北戴河位於北京以東280公里處，地處東海最北端的渤海灣邊緣。幾條飛行路線在該地區交匯，連接著中國南部、澳大利亞、泰國的冬季棲息地，甚至是阿穆爾隼的東南部，以及從中國東北到俄羅斯北極地區的繁殖地。
這就是我們1985年調查隊先遣隊的四人所面臨的情況。我們按照喬治·阿奇博爾德的建議於早春抵達，他鼓勵我們留意西伯利亞鶴和其他鶴，它們是遷徙的先鋒。第一天，我們早到似乎很值得——我們看到了 47 個 Common 鶴 和 13 只丹頂鶴，以及西伯利亞口音鳥等越冬鳴禽 夏枯草，以及新抵達的歐亞戴勝 烏普帕埃波普斯 和達烏爾紅尾鴝 金尾鳳凰.
然後，我們開始疑惑。在蓮花山上，我們看著天空尋找遷徙的候鳥，時間一天天過去，但除了偶爾看到成群的豆雁外，什麼也沒看到。 豆雁 和普通起重機。 “你管這個叫什麼，馬丁？ “我稱之為‘無鳥’。”我們的一名隊員在漫長的下午值班期間嘀咕道。天氣看起來不錯，天空常常晴朗，微風徐徐。也許人口已經崩潰，鵝和鶴的大飛行已經成為歷史？
但我們沒有考慮到鶴對天氣的挑剔。可能是因為沿海走廊除了濕地中的石質河口外幾乎沒有什麼，鶴只在天氣適宜的日子才會大量飛越北戴河——這一策略幫助它們在兩地之間至少飛行 200 公里。北戴河以南的廣闊平原及其泥濘的河口，以及北邊滿洲的沼澤。
3 月21 日，我們第一個“浪潮”日的早晨，屬於豆雁，它們成群結隊地經過，數量多達400 只。當我們第一次通過雙筒望遠鏡發現它們時，它們只是一排排的點，它們接近並飛過我們的觀察點，鳴叫著高聲。隨著鵝的數量逐漸減少，鶴開始飛過。從中午開始，他們就搶盡了風頭。
當天共捕獲豆雁 1016 只、不明雁 533 只、普通鶴 631 只、丹頂鶴 128 只、西伯利亞鶴 122 只。隨之而來的是更多的起重機“波浪”，正如海明森所說的那樣。再次，它們與向東溜走的高壓系統同時發生，產生了相當穩定的條件，風大致沿著鳥類飛行的方向，並且幾乎保證了目的地的良好天氣。 （只是白頭鶴的峰值數量不同；陰天有西南風，下午有小雨，有257只向北飛去。）
春季結束時，我們共有 4409 只普通鶴、244 只丹頂鶴、309 隻白頭鶴和 652 只西伯利亞鶴，以及 1785 隻身份不明的鶴，其中大部分是普通鶴。如果你考慮到每年春天在內布拉斯加州普拉特河停泊的大約50 萬隻沙丘，這幾乎算不上什麼驚天動地的事情，但丹頂鶴、冠鶴和西伯利亞鶴總共只能聚集12,000 只—— 652 只西伯利亞鶴約佔40%當時已知的世界人口。
當然，鶴並不是我們在早春看到的唯一鳥類。隨著他們的浪潮來來去去，整體遷徙正在形成。許多冬季遊客在三月的最後兩週離開；我們到達時常見的西伯利亞口音變得稀少，歐亞雲雀成群 阿勞達阿文西斯 田野裡的鳥兒越來越少，普通金眼鳥的數量也越來越少 布斯帕拉·克蘭古拉 在海上。我們看到其他早期遷徙者向北遷徙：成群的北田鳧 瓦內魯斯, 魯克斯 烏鴉 和達烏爾寒鴉 烏鴉 成百上千隻笨重的大鴇奧蒂斯·塔達（Otis tarda）鬆散地成群結隊，一隻巨大的白尾鷹 白鯨。隨著早起鳥類數量的減少，更多的物種加入了遷徙。
4月9日，低雲和薄霧使我們無法從蓮花山觀看。但我們確實看到了遷移的進展。在海灘小屋裡，我們看到鴨子向北海岸飛去：527 Garganey 鴨, 66 鐮狀青色 鐮形鴨, 377 只 斑嘴鴨 斑嘴鴨，和10只鴛鴦 艾克斯。木鴛鴦的近親 艾克斯·斯彭薩在英國，普通話作為野鳥而被我們所熟悉；但現在我們在前往滿洲和俄羅斯東部河流森林的途中看到了它們真正的野生狀態。
在觀看過程中，我們注意到鳴禽從海上飛來。中午時分，偶爾會有鴨群出現，我們有機會在下午騎自行車尋找它們，結果發現鴨群大量湧入——這是一種後果。紅腹藍尾鷸 眼鏡猴 很充足；大多數花園和灌木叢中都能聽到它們的鳴叫聲。它們在仍然光禿禿的植被中飛翔，很容易被發現，讓我們可以欣賞到英俊的藍白相間的雄鳥，它們的側面塗有橙色。小帕拉斯葉鶯喜歡灌木叢和樹木，有時盤旋捕捉昆蟲，有時顫抖著發出一陣旋律優美的歌聲。
還有彩旗：晚期鄉村風格 黃鸝, 成群的黃喉 線蟲，他們興奮時會豎起頂峰。一對長尾朱雀 西伯利亞烏拉古斯 徘徊在鷹溝——它們是體型輕盈的雜技鳥，雄性呈淡粉色，有兩條白色翼條。
另一種徘徊的鳥是一隻未成熟的雄性丑角鴨 表演者，在岩石東海岸附近的海上。我三天前就發現了它，這是一個意想不到的、令人興奮的景象——這是北戴河的第一次，也是中國為數不多的記錄之一（北戴河又出現了兩次目擊事件） ，還有一隻一直想要的救生鳥。
不足為奇的是，一些物種在 4 月 9 日首次出現，並很快變得普遍。一對暗鶯 黑毛柳鷸 黑臉鹀在海濱灌木叢中疲憊不堪，平易近人 灰頭鷴 有兩隻暗色鶇拖著腳步在一塊光禿禿的地面上行走。 鶇 在一片現在已被旅館覆蓋的田野裡，晚上，兩隻東方小草在小水庫上空叫賣昆蟲。
春季遷徙在五月中旬左右達到高峰。由於仍有少數早期候鳥有待發現，大量鳥類主要在此時經過，隨著遷徙速度加快，每天都可能產生新物種，兩週的觀鳥可能會產生 200 種鳥類。
雖然藍知更鳥和紅喉鶲可能只能短暫地瞥見，但黃腰鶲 花斑鰍 是炫耀。下面它們發出黃色的光，就像原鳴鶯一樣 柑橘原蟲;它們上面是黑色的，有白色的翼條和黃色的臀部。稀有的亞洲天堂-捕手 天堂神龜 它們的羽毛並不特別，只是頭部呈黑色，上面呈紅褐色，下面呈淺灰色，但擁有長而飄逸的尾巴，幾乎是身體長度的兩倍。
成群的黃胸鹀 Emberiza aureola add colour to the fields. Common Rosefinches Carpodacus erythrinus gather in trees, the red males breezily whistling to one another.
If all these birds sound like they won’t challenge your identification skills, try looking at some of the other songbirds occuring at this time. Phylloscopus warblers, for example. Now, even if the only `Phyllosc’ you know is Arctic Warbler P. borealis, you have a fair idea of what to expect — several members of this family look pretty much like Arctic Warblers, with greenish upperparts pale supercilium and dark eyestripe, and white or off-white underparts.
Identifying the early Pallas’s Leaf- P. proregulus and Yellow-browed [[Inornate]] P. inornatus inornatus, the later Eastern Crowned P. coronatus, Pale-legged P. tenellipes, Arctic, scarce Blyth’s Leaf- P. reguloides and — perhaps the latest of all — Two-barred Greenish P. plumbeitarsus warblers is based on characters like wing-bars (are there any?; if so, one or two, broad or thin?), rump (if yellow, Pallas’s — that was easy enough), presence of a crown stripe, tertial fringes, leg color, lower mandible color; and even the amount of mottling on the ear coverts — not easy to notice when a bird is busily moving through the foliage. Calls help too: I still find the very different calls are the best way of confidently distinguishing Arctic and Two-barred Greenish warblers, and the high, bluetail-like wheet helps with finding unobtrusive Pale-legged Leaf-Warblers. Call is also a big help in identifying Beidaihe’s brown Phylloscs, Dusky, Radde’s P. schwarzi, and — much rarer — Yellow-streaked P. armandii warblers.
Then there are the reed-warblers. The biggest — Oriental (Great) Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus (arundinaceus) orientalis — is straightforward enough, its face pattern helping to tell it from the similar Thick-billed Warbler Phragmaticola aedon. But picking out a Manchurian Paddyfield Warbler A. (agricola) tangorum (right) or a Blunt-winged Warbler A. concinens from the host of Black-browed Reed-Warblers A. bistrigiceps that arrive late in May relies on subtle features.
Adding to the fun are Locustella — or `grasshopper’ — warblers, which I mostly see in flight: dark, thin-tailed Lanceolated Warblers (left), Pallas’s Grasshopper-Warblers L. certhiola with longer tails and reddish-brown rumps. Similar Japanese Marsh-Warblers Megalurus pryeri seem even more loathe to be seen well. Other brown skulkers, like Spotted Bush-Warblers Bradypterus thoracicus davidi and Gray’s Grasshopper-Warblers L. fasciolata, favour wooded areas.
Confused? I’d like to say you won’t be, after a visit to Beidaihe. But maybe you will: for some of the eastern Palaearctic warblers, identification techniques are still evolving.
South of Beidaihe are three estuarine areas: the muddy lagoon of Qilihai, which has only a narrow channel to the sea, the mouth of the Luanhe (Luan River), and a complex of sandbars and mudflats off the mouth of the Daqinghe. All are better than Beidaihe for coastal shorebirds — for although Beidaihe attracts an excellent variety of shorebirds (including freshwater specialists, 52 species to date), its mudflats and marshes are too small to hold large numbers. By contrast, the few visits we have made to these three areas suggest that at least the Daqinghe and Luanhe could rank as internationally important wetlands. Indeed, the Daqinghe complex may be one of the top shorebird sites in east Asia.
During a birding tour I co-led in May 1992, we made a two-day foray that covered the three sites. The trip to the Daqinghe, in particular, was something of a gamble, as the only other May visit I had made or knew of was the previous year when, at the end of the month, the mudflats were almost deserted. But the gamble paid off, with some spectacular birding — our list for the two days included 37 shorebird species.
We began to the west of the Qilihai lagoon with at least 30 Little Curlews Numenius minutus. A close relative of the Eskimo Curlew N. borealis, Little Curlew is far commoner, but localised in its distribution.
Then, to the Luanhe. The shorebirds were in only modest numbers, but eight species of gulls included five Saunders’s in smart summer plumage, three unexpected Relicts, and a Little Gull Larus minutus — which may have been only the fifth for China. A plantation of young trees held a good concentration of warblers, thrushes and buntings — a sign of things to come. [Sadly, much of the Luanhe has reportedly been ruined by developments including fishponds; reportedly destroyed a Saunders’ Gull colony.]
The next day, we took a boat to a small island off the mouth of the Daqinghe. The mudflats we passed during the crossing teemed with shorebirds including Mongolian Plovers, Great Knots Calidris tenuirostris, Far-Eastern Curlews 馬達加斯加努門紐斯, and 14 endangered Asiatic Dowitchers Limnodromus semipalmatus; there were also Saunders’s Gulls and a flock of 5000 Common Black-headed Gulls 紅鷗. The island, with its sparse cover of shrubs, low trees, and long grass, teemed with songbirds — among the entries I made in the daily log were estimates of 230 (Siberian) Stonechats Saxicola torquata stejnegeri, 50 Brown Shrikes 冠毛拉尼烏斯 and 20 Dusky Warblers, along with 39 thrushes of six species, including an amazing seven White’s (Scaly) Thrushes Zoothera dauma in one bush.
Four days later, two Swedes were among a group of birders who were staying at Beidaihe and — when we returned with our tales of the rarities and teeming migrants — promptly visited the same island. Rather than just watch songbirds, they checked the mud off the island’s west coast, and found a shorebird roost with around 3500 Red Knot C. canutus and 1500 Great Knot, and at least 100 Asiatic Dowitchers. On a return trip later in the month, I too saw the roost; the knot flock was smaller, with fewer than 2000 birds, but still impressive, and other shorebirds that gathered as the tide rose included perhaps 1000 Bar-tailed Godwits 鹿蹄草. The day before, on a spit 10 km to the east, our group had found several hundred roosting shorebirds, and 3000 Eastern Common Terns Sterna hirundo longipennis.
Because the area is large, with many sandbars and small islands that could hold roosts, these figures may represent a fraction of the numbers of gulls, terns and shorebirds present during our visits. As to the numbers of birds that use the area during an entire spring — for the time being, at least, we can only guess.
Facing south across a shallow gulf — annual host to large flocks of birds of mudflats and scene of large songbird arrivals — the Daqinghe area is probably the closest you could find in Asia to the Upper Texas Coast; its prime birding area — the island with the teeming songbirds and high tide roost — a sort of Bolivar Flats and High Island combined. (And the name of the island? `Kwaile Dao’ — which, appropriately for birders flush with a successful visit, translates as `Happy Island’. [It now seems I helped invent this name! — after some misunderstanding with local guides, who indeed said the name was Kuaile Dao, though locals have since said it’s called Shijiutuo, which is far duller, with no ready translation.])
[Another wetland well worth a try is TIanmahu – Pegasus Lake, or Heavenly Horse Lake – to west of town, formed by reservoir at foot of mountains. Superb shallow margins, with grassland above.]
By the end of May, the spring migration is almost over; the birding is often sparse. But given fallout conditions — which in spring can include rain, or a threat of rain — there may still be good counts. On 7 June 1991, the town’s easternmost headland, Lighthouse Point, heaved with reed-warblers, Acrocephalus warblers and other songbirds.
Among the late-spring migrants are marsh birds — Yellow Bitterns Ixobrychus sinensis and Schrenck’s Bitterns I. eurhythmus, Baillon’s Crake Porzana pusilla, reed-warblers, and Locustella warblers, which time their journeys to coincide with the late growth of the emergent vegetation they lurk in.
At the end of May and in early June, there is the chance of what may be the last megatick of spring, the little known, now endangered Streaked Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus sorghophilus (right).
Though, as with any migration watchpoint, the birding varies from one year to the next, it rarely disappoints. `When people hear what we’ve seen this spring,’ said one birder last year, `it will blow their minds.’
But mind-blowing or not, the migration at Beidaihe has a sobering side. Numbers of several species have fallen — dramatically in some cases — and the migration we see today may be only a shadow of the migration early this century.
I write `may be’ because, although information on birds in the Beidaihe area earlier this century is relatively plentiful, it is often hard to compare it with recent observations. It is not easy to judge whether numbers of a species have changed — and if they have changed, to what extent. Despite this problem, for many migrants, I know of no better information for assessing population changes. Beidaihe is probably the best studied migration watchpoint in east Asia, with studies dating back to 1910.
The first study was by British consul John D.D. La Touche, whose work on birds during his postings in China, and comprehensive — and still useful — A handbook of the birds of eastern China were significant contributions to the country’s ornithology. Through his own observations, and the specimens and sightings of collectors employed by the British Ornithologists’ Club’s Migration Committee, he worked on the birds at the nearby port of Qinhuangdao from 1910 to 1917.
Sadly, in reporting his results, La Touche rarely gave numbers, but instead used comments such as `abundant’, `common’, or `scarce’. It is hard to guess whether his uses of these terms would agree with ours; how would he have reported the migration at current levels? Because the terms `abundant’ and `very abundant’ appear through his papers far more often than we would use them today, was La Touche too liberal in using them?
A member of one of our survey teams argues that he was. I am not convinced; La Touche’s writings suggest he was level-headed. If so, several species have undergone a steep, sad decline in numbers. Indeed, La Touche wrote of `long streams’ of migrants passing down the coast in autumn: by today’s standards, his description seems exaggerated.
We are on safer ground in making comparisons with the work of Hemmingsen, who gave fuller accounts of the species he recorded, often with some numbers, sometimes with seasonal totals. Again, there are problems: Hemmingsen was a lone observer — albeit helped by servants whom he paid for finding flocks of passing cranes, geese and other birds — working under the constraints of Japanese occupation. The habitats have changed: Beidaihe today is radically different from the small town he would have known, a brash resort that has expanded as China’s economy has boomed.
Difficulties aside, comparing our results with those of La Touche and Hemmingsen paints a bleak picture. Though the data may be poorer, it seems the situation is much the same as in North America, with migrants in decline, and several causes for the dropping numbers, all rooted in a devastatingly huge human population.
As you would expect, habitat damage and destruction ranks high on the list of causes. That last megatick of spring, Streaked Reed-Warbler, occurred in fair numbers during La Touche’s time, but is rare today. Thought to breed in Manchurian wetlands — no one yet knows for sure — it winters in the Philippines, and it may be here that the problems lie, as several of the wetlands it favoured have been `reclaimed’.
The warbler is far from being alone as a wetland bird in decline. Hemmingsen saw up to 10,000 Bean Geese passing in autumn; even with teams of observers monitoring visible migration in shifts, our best count is only around 4000. Nor have the flights of Oriental White Storks and Common Cranes we have witnessed matched the peak numbers recorded by Hemmingsen. Flocks of Tundra (Bewick’s) Swans 哥倫比亞天鵝 are smaller and fewer — there have been none in recent autumns. Northern Pintail Anas acuta, which La Touche regarded as `perhaps the most abundant of the larger ducks’ is uncommon; Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri — `extremely abundant’ in autumn, according to La Touche — is now uncommon at best. Baillon’s Crake is apparently scarcer, so too Eurasian Coot 富利卡·阿特拉, Little Curlew, Pallas’s Grasshopper-Warbler and Japanese Marsh-Warbler.
Baikal Teal Anas formosa perhaps deserves special mention; its population has not declined or plummetted, but crashed. It used to be abundant in east Asia — Hemmingsen once saw a flock of 1000-2000 at Beidaihe. Now it is uncommon throughout most of its range: at Beidaihe, there have been just 15 individuals recorded since we restarted studies in 1985. The reasons for the crash are unclear. Possibly, the chief cause is hunting.
Another anomaly among the dwindling wetland birds is Sanderling Calidris alba. Generally — because of increased coverage, or vanishing habitat elsewhere? — we have found shorebirds in higher numbers than Hemmingsen reported. Sanderling is different. Hemmingsen saw it `in flocks of, say, 30-100′; but our recent records are sparse, with single figures only. I wonder if it is a victim of disturbance on its wintering grounds, which for `our’ population are chiefly along the coasts of Southeast Asia. A beach specialist, Sanderling may have lost out to resorts built for sun-worshipping tourists.
Nearer to Beidaihe, the coastal wetlands have suffered. Hemmingsen reported Eurasian Oystercatchers Haematopus ostralegus osculans — which are of an endangered eastern race — at one of Beidaihe’s estuaries in June. Perhaps they bred; but no longer. Developments have left even the more resilient Little Terns Sterna albifrons pressed for space.
Fish ponds and shrimp ponds have spread like wildfire along the coast south of the town. The saltmarshes they have replaced will have been used by birds such as cranes, geese, and Great Bustards. All these birds still stop over — regularly, judging by our few visits — on an area of saltmarsh and rough fields that remains, sandwiched between shrimp ponds, at the Luanhe estuary.
This area also holds [now, 2005: held, as area reportedly ruined] perhaps a hundred breeding pairs of Saunders’s Gulls. Numbering only around 2000, and endemic to China as a breeding bird — its breeding grounds were first discovered only in 1987 — Saunders’s Gull must be among the country’s most threatened vertebrates. It is known to breed only at three sites in addition to the Luanhe: on the coast of southern Manchuria, in the Yellow River Delta, and north of Shanghai. At each of these, the shrimp ponds and other developments are moving in; already, the largest colony may have been destroyed by a reservoir, built to irrigate fields in a supposed wildlife sanctuary.
There may be another disaster story unfolding: the the Three Gorges Dam, an overblown project that will flood a region that has, said a newspaper report, been compared to the Grand Canyon. The dam will disrupt the flow of the Yangzi, threatening species unique to the river such as the Yangzi River Dolphin and the Chinese Sturgeon. The mudflats at the river mouth will be affected. And the summer floods that fill huge lakes along the river valley may be reduced.
These lakes are of immense importance for waterfowl, especially in winter, when a corner of one lake — Poyang — may hold over a quarter of a million ducks, geese, swans, and cranes, including Siberians. China’s wintering Siberians, `lost’ to ornithology since late last century, were rediscovered at Poyang in the winter of 1980-1981; a reserve was established, and many more birds arrived to enjoy protection from rampant hunting. The Siberian Crane numbers at Poyang increased substantially, from 140 when they were first found, to a peak of 2900. Their boom may be short-lived.
Another cause of falling populations is deforestation. It is, however, hard to tell if its impact has been similar to wetland destruction, as gauging population changes of Beidaihe songbirds from past and recent records is more difficult than it is for waterfowl. But in one case — Siberian Blue Robin — the evidence seems irrefutable: there has been a serious decline. And there is a likely culprit: destruction of the tropical forests in its winter range.
`In the spring … this species swarmed Beidaihe about the middle of May and some time after,’ Hemmingsen wrote of the Blue Robin; sometimes, they were `too numerous to count’. And though Hemmingsen saw relatively few in autumn — because of the denser foliage — there is a report of a great fall of them at Beidaihe. One of the Beijing-based birding missionaries, G.D. Wilder, related rather casually that, `On September 10  the Siberian blue chat … was in the fields and on the grassy hillside among small pines in thousands….’ Only in one recent spring have numbers been high, with 250 one day — impressive, but not swarming; they have otherwise been easy to count. And autumn numbers have been modest; the fall Wilder described now seems like a remote fantasy.
Wintering in Southeast Asia, the Siberian Blue Robin is especially vulnerable to the deforestation as, at least in Thailand, it prefers lowland forests, which are invariably the first to be felled. Other migrants have surely suffered in much the same way. [Added early 2004: Problems surely worsening, with reports of increased logging in Indonesia (and elsewhere) to supply China’s demand for timber.]
The carnage looks set to spread to the north, to the breeding grounds of many migrants. With the break-up of the Soviet Union, and a more open Russia eager for revenue, Korean, Japanese, and other companies have been quick to offer their help in stripping the Siberian forests.
It may not be long before the effects of deforestation will show more clearly in the numbers of migrants occurring at Beidaihe. Within decades, the migration we know today could become as much an impossible dream as the migration in La Touche’s time is to us now.
Hunting worsens the blight of habitat loss and destruction. La Touche reported that at the end of last century egrets were devastated by plume-hunting. In the decades since his work, their populations may have recovered, but only slightly, suggesting hunting still takes a toll. [2005 update: egrets are becoming fairly common along the coast, with a substantial egretry now at Beidaihe.] Hunting has surely had a large impact on waterfowl — it may have devastated the population of Baikal teal, which has a habit of flying in dense flocks with predictable daily movement patterns. Perhaps it has also impacted Great Bustards, which similarly pass Beidaihe in smaller flocks than before, as well as many other birds.
An article in the February 1993 issue of China Environment News was headlined, `Hunters decimate Boyang’s wild birds.’ Each winter, according to the article, 300,000 ducks are killed by poisoned bait at Poyang (Boyang). (In turn, deaths of people poisoned by eating the ducks are common.) Waterfowl are also shot, even though this is `forbidden by the state’. They are sold in markets, with some — particularly rarer, supposedly protected species — destined for restaurants in southern China and Hong Kong. The market price per duck is around US$3. Geese cost almost US$10 each, while swans fetch roughly US$30 — more than many Chinese earn in a month.
Reflecting the hunting pressures they face, Beidaihe migrants are invariably wary. During the surveys at the town, we have seen gulls and thrushes shot for food, some other birds shot at purely for sport, and children with sling shots letting fly at warblers, bluetails, redstarts, and other songbirds that come within range. [2005 update: Now unusual to see this, thanks to education and law enforcement work.]
Trapping is widespread; despite laws against it, finches, buntings, and Northern Goshawks Accipiter gentilis are trapped at Beidaihe. [2005 update: there is still some trapping, but this is far less blatant, as the local government has made some efforts to catch and punish bird trappers.]
Often, it is hard to gauge the impact of trapping. But one example — from Thailand, but involving migrant songbirds that pass through Beidaihe — shows that it can be devastating. During surveys of a wildlife market in Bangkok during the late 1960s, Yellow Wagtails 黃鰍 and Yellow-breasted Buntings were abundant, with totals of 16,721 and 87,209, respectively. Yet a repeat survey from December 1987 to December 1988 found none of either species. The likely reason is trapping at their communal roosts.
While both these species are still common at Beidaihe, they are by no means as abundant as La Touche described (Yellow Wagtail passed in `immense flocks’; Yellow-breasted Bunting swarmed in the crops). Trapping may be the reason here, too. Maybe many were — and still are — trapped in south China, where the Yellow-breasted Bunting, known as the `rice bird’, is popularly eaten. Maybe the wagtails and buntings trapped and sold in Thailand included birds that had traveled through Beidaihe.
Pesticides, which in many parts of east Asia are often applied liberally and carelessly, have probably reaped their own, grim harvest of wild birds. I know of no serious work on their effects on bird populations in China — whose Silent Spring is yet to be written. So, as too often when looking for causes for declines in Beidaihe migrants, we can do little better than guess when pesticides are to blame. Probably, they are chiefly responsible for steep declines in the numbers of Black Kites 遊走米爾烏斯 and Rooks.
Amid the declines, and the doom and gloom, there are a few positive signs. Encouraged by the arrivals of increasing numbers of birders, the Beidaihe government has established a small reserve by the reservoir. Currently only fields with a little marsh, the reserve area will, if all goes to plan, be transformed into a lagoon overlooked by a visitor centre. [2005 update: still hoping this will work out; see article from May 2005 visit.] Another reserve has been designated at the western part of the Lotus Hills, affording some protection to rolling, wooded parkland. And, again partly as a result of our observations, the Luanhe mouth is now a reserve. [Hah! – supposedly. I heard this; later learned it had been largely ruined by new fishpond developments.]
After massively abusing its environment during the 1960s and 1970s, China as a whole is taking some measures aimed at improving the situation. Among these is a `green wall’, a coastal shelterbelt of tree plantations. Though, as it does at Beidaihe, the green wall sometimes covers land that was used by resting storks, cranes, geese, and Great Bustards, it is surely an important habitat for migrant songbirds, which previously might have found little cover along long stretches of coast.
Tree planting has transformed Beidaihe. Writing in the 1920s, Wilder reported that with new plantations had come nesting Oriental Turtle-Doves Streptopelia orientalis, woodpeckers (Grey-headed Picus canus and Greater Spotted Picus major), Great Tits Parus major, and Black-naped Orioles Oriolus chinensis — all of which are common today. More recently, Chinese Pond-Herons 酒神鳥 — which Hemmingsen did not record even as a visitor — have established a colony in a plantation beside the reservoir. [2005 update: there is now a substantial, thriving egretry, including Great and Little egrets and Black-crowned Night-Herons.] But even the best of the town’s woods has a man-made feel, and holds only a low diversity of breeding birds. For more natural woodland, we have had to look farther afield.
At the end of a bouncy, three-hour minibus journey from Beidaihe, we have found Old Peak, a scenic spot centering on a 1424m summit, highest of the mountains near the town. The ravine leading into the area is clothed with deciduous woodland — a welcome sight after the polluting factories and scrubby hillsides en route— and above it there is a conifer plantation in a basin flanked by craggy peaks, and more pockets
I have made four visits, all in late spring, when the songs of five species of cuckoos — Large Hawk- Cuculus sparverioides, Common C. canorus, Oriental C. saturatus, Lesser C. poliocephalus and Indian C. micropterus — ring out across the hills, Ring-necked 雉雞 and Koklass Pucrasia macrolopha pheasants call from the dense cover, and Hair-crested Drongos Dicrurus hottentottus hawk insects among the trees.
Among other birds that probably or definitely breed locally are Chinese Nutchatch Sitta villosa, Eastern Crowned Warbler, Chinese Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus sichuanensis (a recently discovered species, mainly known from central China), Elisae’s Flycatcher Ficedula elisae (formerly regarded as a species with this common name; then lumped with Narcissus Flycatcher F. narcissina for some reason; lately treated by discerning folk as separate species, though unfortunately with drab name Green-backed Flycatcher [why-oh-why-oh-why must great birds be given deadly dull names?]) – or Chinese Flycatcher – Siberian Blue Robin, Feae’s Thrush Turdus feae, Chinese Song Thrush Turdus mupinensis, Daurian Redstart, and Yellow-throated Bunting. Some of these are outside their published breeding ranges. Ornithologically, these hills have been little explored.
In the basin, there is a weather-carved outcrop of granite, with views down through a steep, wooded ravine to foothills with ruins of the Great Wall, and beyond to the coastal plain, gray and blurred in the haze. Standing here on a fine spring day, listening to the songs and calls from the regenerating forest, I can find hope for the future. Though declines may be inevitable, they need not be unchecked; it is worth fighting, trying to raise awareness and stimulate better law enforcement, and encourage reserve creation.
The autumn migration is like a mirror image of the spring, with the birds of late spring typically appearing earliest in autumn, the early spring birds not passing until the end of autumn. The image is far from exact: not all birds fit into this reverse order of appearance, and the abundances of different species often differ between the seasons (when they do, the numbers are invariably higher in autumn). Also, the autumn is more protracted. Whereas the passage in spring lasts perhaps four months at most, the autumn passage stretches over five months.
Even as the last of the spring migrants are heading north, the first southbound birds of autumn may occur. On 17 June 1991 — the latest I have been at the town in `spring’ — I saw 17 White-winged Chlidonias leucoptera and six Whiskered C. hybrida terns flying south over the reservoir. Wilder and Hemmingsen also saw White-winged Terns flying south in June. In 1944, Hemmingsen’s June records were the prelude to great numbers in July: between 9am and 10:30am on 11 July, `flocks came continuously from Qinhuangdao bay … Many hundreds must have passed. The same was seen in the evening again and on many other days. Many thousands must have passed if the hours are allowed for in which no observations were made.’ These may have been failed breeders.
Grey Starlings Sturnus cineraceus may also pass in numbers during July: `On the 4th of July, 1914,’ wrote La Touche, `thousands came from the north-east, flying south-west.’ Shorebirds start heading south — Hemmingsen recorded curlews from late June — and Common Black-headed Gulls return to the coast. But overall, July is relatively unproductive. And, with the flood of summer tourists, it is hardly the best time to visit Beidaihe.
In July 1987, two Danish birders spent four days at Beidaihe. One morning, they were up before dawn, and arrived at one of the prime shorebird localities, the Sandflats, to find it swarming not with birds, but with people, 1375 in all (the Danes did, however, see a Relict Gull fly by).
Late August is better; the earliest I have arrived is the 20th, which roughly marks the start of the Beidaihe autumn for birders. There are shorebirds in numbers — on one morning, 2000 shorebirds of 34 species were recorded at the Sandflats. White-winged Terns, which may be more regular at this time, are passing. Fork-tailed Swifts are abundant: on the afternoon of 30 August 1986 over 4000 streamed south. In the woods, there is a sprinkling of migrant songbirds. Arctic and Thick-billed warblers, Asian Paradise-, Yellow-rumped, Grey-streaked Muscicapa griseisticta, Dark-sided M. sibirica, and Asian Brown M. latirostris flycatchers seek insects among the dense summer foliage. Forest Wagtails Dendronanthus indicus, summer birds that swivel on disco hips, begin their withdrawal from the woods.
At the beginning of September, the sultry summer weather is almost over, and with it, thankfully, the flood of summer tourists. The variety and numbers of shorebirds are already declining, though still good; they may include one or two Nordmann’s Greenshanks. Relict Gulls — overwhelmingly young birds that strut busily about in search of crabs — can be expected from the middle of the month onwards.
Visit the Sandflats early on almost any September morning and you will notice songbirds heading south. Often they arrive from over the sea, cut across the Sandflats, and head over the town — rather than fly around the triangle of land Beidaihe sits on, they take the short cut. There are flocks of Yellow Wagtails, parties of Richard’s Pipits Anthus richardi, Olive-Tree Pipits Anthus hodgsoni, and buntings, and clusters of bounding Chestnut-flanked White-eyes Zosterops erythropleura. While calls help you identity and find the birds, many pass unseen. White-eyes seem to be masters of invisibility — the stealth migrants of Beidaihe. All too often, I have heard calls a-plenty, but looked up to see only blue sky.
Songbird flights like this are far less evident in spring, when the only consistent reports are from Eagle Rock, a rocky headland that overlooks the Sandflats. No matter where you are at Beidaihe in autumn, you may see and hear passing songbirds. In addition to passing over the Sandflats, songbirds travel along the south coast of town and head over the Lotus Hills — from where you can see distant flocks moving south over the plain. Even as you cycle the streets through town, or walk through the grounds of your hotel, you might notice songbirds passing over. There may also be terns, gulls, shorebirds, and raptors.
White-winged and Whiskered terns often take the short cut over the Sandflats and across the town. So do many shorebirds — some of which might arrive from the north, touch down on the Sandflats, then continue their journeys. Outstanding among the flights of September shorebirds are Grey-headed Lapwings Vanellus cinereus. Rather drab on the ground, yet bold black and white in flight, they might travel in flocks of 200 or more, with a good morning’s passage totalling perhaps two or three thousand. On such mornings, up to several hundred Pied Avocets 反蝽 might also fly south. And, almost certainly, there will be Pied Harriers, which fly low in the early hours, their numbers often dwindling by mid-morning, but occasionally building as they take advantage of thermals to fly high above the plain.
Beidaihe’s best place for watching the Pied Harriers, and many of the other birds that overfly the area, is the Lotus Hills. From 20 August to 20 November 1986, our survey team spent 854 hours monitoring visible migration from the hills. Including unidentified pipits, buntings, and the like, we recorded a grand total of 262,970 birds of 160 species — an average passage rate of a little over 300 birds an hour (there were, though, some long, long, near-birdless hours).
In September, the Lotus Hills are especially good for watching raptors including Pied Harriers, as well as Oriental Pratincoles, and White-throated Needletails Hirundapus caudacuta. The needletails can seem drawn to the hills as if by a magnet; on good days, flocks arrive from the north, glide and circle around, then, with a few flaps of their wings, whoosh overhead like speeding bullets, and vanish to the south.
As in the spring, the intensity of visible migration fluctuates. Days at the Lotus Hills can be slack, with the skies seeming deserted by all but the resident swallows and, very likely, Northern Hobbies Falco subbuteo swooping after dragonflies. More usually, there is some passage to be seen. And, occasionally, there are wave days.
Days like 12 September 1986. We arrived at the watchpoint as dawn was breaking. Already, there were songbirds heading over. There were also Pied Harriers, gliding low over the ridges and across the fields below. With the sky clear, and the west wind light, the day warmed, and the harriers climbed higher. Their numbers increased, and soon they were streaming overhead in squadrons, or soaring in kettles above the hills and plain. Eastern Marsh-Harriers (Striped Harriers) 螺螄, Black Kites, Crested Honey-Buzzards Pernis ptilorhyncus, and Japanese Sparrowhawks Accipiter gularis were among the other raptors that joined the kettles, then, high above us, glided southwards. [Several raptors we’ve seen passing Beidaihe had chunks of flight feathers missing, like the Crested Honey-Buzzard in the photo – as they had been shot at?] Oriental Pratincole calls, harsh and urgent, resounded; alerted to them, we scanned the sky in search of their flocks, which might be swirling in the rising air and sometimes went unseen — like white-eyes, they could be hard to find.
With the passage slower from mid-afternoon, but continuing until dusk, the day’s watch lasted over 12 hours. Tallies of birds that passed south included one Osprey Pandion haliaeetus; 15 Black Kites; 170 Crested Honey-Buzzards; 4 Eastern Marsh-Harriers; 10 Eurasian Kestrels 紅隼; 9 Northern Hobbies; 34 Amur Falcons 山隼; 152 Japanese and 27 Northern Accipiter nisus sparrowhawks; 791 Oriental Pratincoles; 1015 Barn Swallows 燕雀; 45 Yellow, 121 White Moticilla alba and two Grey 灰黴病菌 wagtails; 174 Richard’s, 31 Olive-Tree and 15 Red-throated Anthus cervinus pipits; 9 Ashy Minivets Pericrocotus divaricatus; 14 Black-naped Orioles; 18 Black Drongos Dicrurus macrocercus; 11 Common Rosefinches; and, most outstanding, 2957 Pied Harriers.
Helped by this day, our autumn 1986 survey produced a staggering total of 14,534 Pied Harriers. Quite possibly, this figure represents a high proportion of the world population of this species.
By the beginning of October, autumn is well underway; leaves are turning from green to brown, and only the hardiest bathers swim at beaches that thronged with tourists just a few weeks earlier. The variety of migrants perhaps peaks around this time, though not so sharply as it does in spring, and with a different mix of birds.
The first of the season’s cold fronts may arrive early in the month, sweeping down from Siberia on its way to south China.
Ahead of these fronts, there may be falls of songbirds. They arrive on fine, still days when the air is hazy, and becoming hazier, and visible migration may have ground to a standstill — and festoon the woods and coastal gullies.
I remember walking down Lighthouse Point on one of these fall days, following the path to the tip of the headland that might take only ten minutes at a brisk pace. It was alive with birds, especially Pallas’s Leaf-Warblers, which seemed to be in every tree, often in small, active parties. By my estimate, there were at least 60 of them; other birds included 13 Red-flanked Bluetails, seven Dusky, four Radde’s, and six Black-browed Reed-Warblers, and a Bluethroat Erithacus svecicus.
Pooling everyone’s records for the day’s birding at Beidaihe, there were 395 Pallas’s Leaf-Warblers; among the other songbirds in the influx were 68 Red-flanked Bluetails, 28 Yellow-browed, 45 Dusky and 18 Radde’s warblers, 5 Pallas’s Grasshopper-Warblers, 35 Black-browed Reed-Warblers, 42 Pallas’s Reed-Buntings Emberiza pallasi, 43 Little E. pusilla, and 5 Yellow-browed E. chrysophrys buntings.
Later that same month, during another influx as another cold front approached, I watched thirty Red-flanked Bluetails feeding in and around just six trees. In all, we recorded 210 bluetails at the town that day; there were also 21 Dusky Warblers, 285 Pallas’s Reed-Buntings, and 216 Rustic and 86 Yellow-throated buntings.
I am not sure why the birds should arrive in this fine weather. Maybe the insectivores, especially, gather to take advantage of the mild conditions, and fatten up before continuing the migration. Maybe they gather at the coast in readiness for the weather to come.
The fronts bring migration weather. Often, they are followed by classic autumn migration conditions, with brisk northerly or north-westerly winds and clear skies. And once the fronts have moved through, the teeming songbirds are gone.
Clouds roll in as a front arrives. The air is usually still. Then, the wind starts to blow, and the temperature drops. It may rain, or even snow if it is late in the autumn. I remember mornings spent in hotel rooms, waiting for the weather to improve so we could go out and watch for visible migration; and one day when it rained from morning to late afternoon, and we stood on a sheltered hotel balcony, watching thousands of Bean Geese and Northern Lapwings 瓦內魯斯 as they rushed south, down the wind.
Once the rain has stopped, it is time to head for a watchpoint, and quickly. The front that swept through after the Pallas’s Leaf-Warbler fall brought rain. The front arrived during the night, and the rain was still falling after daybreak. Once the rain had died away, we left the hotel.
Even as we stepped out of the lobby, we looked up to see a flock of 70 Grey Herons 灰鷺 passing over. More flocks swept down the east coast, often arriving from low over the sea to the northeast, and scattering like leaves tossed on a breeze as they met the low cliffs, and the air currents swirling in the buffeting wind. For two hours they passed almost non-stop: we recorded 1417 Grey Herons, also 135 Great Cormorants 碳鸕鶿, and two White Spoonbills 白樺. Then, there was a lull. The sky cleared around midday, and the migration surged again — most of the day’s 21 Black Storks Ciconia nigra, 26 Northern Sparrowhawks, 21 Northern Goshawks, 427 Common Buzzards Buteo buteo, 1167 Daurian Jackdaws, and 2693 Rooks or Carrion Crows Corvus corone were seen from the Lotus Hills during the chilly afternoon.
Even though, with the passage of a cold front, a `wave’ of passing migrants seems almost guaranteed, we have not yet been able to predict just what the principal species will be. Except, perhaps, on one wave day during autumn 1986.
On 21 October, Tao Yu, a young Chinese ornithologist who joined us for much of the autumn, arrived at the Lotus Hills watchpoint and said, `Yesterday, I had a dream — many crows.’ We had already logged passing flocks of Carrion Crows, Rooks, and Daurian Jackdaws. More followed; they streamed south in the afternoon, and the day became the best crow day in recent years, with totals of 3175 Daurian Jackdaws and 9243 Rooks or Carrion Crows. We waited for Tao to have another dream — preferably of great rarities such as Crested Ibis Nipponia nippon or Crested Shelduck Tadorna cristata. But to no avail.
The waves do not always immediately follow the fronts. Once, three of us spent hours scanning the skies, and sheltering as best we could, as a cruel west wind blew in from across the plain. We saw hardly anything: three Northern Goshawks and thirty-one songbirds in eight hours. The next day, with a northeasterly, was better — there were 777 Northern Lapwings and 713 Rooks or Carrion Crows. But it was on the third day that we saw the sort of wave we had been hoping for. It wasn’t a huge wave, but it was memorable.
The winds were light on 2 November 1990, mostly northeasterly in the morning, southerly in the afternoon. The morning was slack. From lunchtime, cranes began passing. There were Red-crowneds, Commons, and Hoodeds, all in modest numbers. And there were Siberians, which were swirling, distant white birds as we found them, soaring on thermals north of the town. With height gained, they arranged themselves into chevrons and flew, unhurried but purposeful, into the light breeze. Many passed close to the hills, which again rang to their strident calls; the sights and sounds were magical. In all, the day produced 389 Siberians — more than the seasonal total in each of the past four years, and the most in a day at Beidaihe since Hemmingsen recorded 545-645 on 28 March 1945.
With each cold front, winter is a step closer. The fresh winds tug leaves from trees, the air chills, and the mix of birds changes — some of the species present before a front arrived may not be seen again during the year; with the passage of the front, there may be other species making their first appearance of the autumn.
By early November, winter visitors are returning, and the birding is somewhat as it was in March. But, for the most part, it is more varied and interesting than in March. Notable among the birds that are commoner at this time is Oriental White Stork.
Until I first read Hemmingsen’s report on Beidaihe, I was unaware that there was a white stork in the Far East. From the description he gave, it differed from the bird I knew from visits to Israel — the European White Stork Ciconia ciconia. For instance, its bill was longer, and blackish, not red. Hemmingsen had seen only a few in spring, but they could be abundant in late autumn: a flock of 1000-1500 once stayed near the town for two days, probably held up by a fog; during another autumn, he estimated that he saw 1000-4000 birds one day.
By autumn 1986, when the Oriental White Stork was increasingly recognised as a distinct species from its European cousin — besides its long black bill, it is larger, and behaves differently — surveys on its winter grounds and breeding areas suggested the world population was, at most, just 1200. Because of hunting and poisoning by agricultural chemicals, it had been extirpated as a breeding bird in Japan, where it was common last century. Korea, where it was `locally common’ in the 1940s, had lost its breeding birds by the late 1980s. Only southeast Siberia and neighbouring parts of China near the Amur River Valley still held breeding birds, which mostly wintered along the Yangzi valley, sharing the haunts of the Siberian Cranes.
We had recorded only 12 in spring 1985 — but, because of Hemmingsen’s records, I was hopeful we might see good numbers passing in the 1986 autumn. My hopes were more than realised.
The storks began appearing in October, huge birds that rivaled the cranes for majesty but glided past in silence and were not in chevrons, but in random flocks. At dusk on 29 October, a large flock glided out of the gloom, and passed low over the plain to our west: we estimated there were 280 birds, about a quarter of the known world population. In November, we saw more giant flocks, and we soon overhauled the 1200 mark, eventually finishing with 2729 Oriental White Storks — perhaps most of the birds that were alive at that time.
But while our count had more than doubled the estimated world population — to around 3000 — we hadn’t seen any flocks approaching 1500 birds, nor any days with over 1000 birds, as had Hemmingsen. And we have since failed to log more than 2000 Oriental White Storks in an autumn. Despite protection measures — on paper at least — for the species, hunting, habitat destruction, disturbance and poisoning continue; they may have caused the population to fall since 1986, and numbers will probably fall further as more wetlands are `reclaimed’.
In November, the overall migration goes into a decline. There may be interesting birds around the town — perhaps flocks of Bohemian Bombycilla garrulus or Japanese B. japonica waxwings, and one or two handsome Güldenstädt’s Redstarts Phoenicurus erythrogaster. Visits to the Luanhe and Daqinghe can be productive, with a good chance of seeing cranes, geese, and Great Bustards on the ground, as well as Chinese Grey Shrikes Lanius excubitor, late Saunders’s Gulls, and, maybe, Relict Gulls.
Strictly, the autumn migration will continue until late November; regular passage will then halt, and new arrivals are only likely if hard-weather movements push birds down from the frozen north.
But the passage does not just fizzle out. In November, the stage is set for the grand finale of the Beidaihe bird year: the peak of the autumn crane migration. Only after experiencing this do I feel content to leave the town in late autumn.
The largest crane wave recorded since Hemmingsen’s time was on 10 November 1990: there were five crane species in all, with totals of 2728 Commons, 328 Hoodeds, 135 Red-crowneds, 6 White-napeds, and 111 Siberians, and 396 unidentified. It was another wave which did not immediately follow a cold front.
With a front already through, three of us arrived early at the Lotus Hills watchpoint on 9 November, hoping for a good day. The wind was brisk, north-north-easterly, becoming north-westerly by mid-morning, and westerly by mid-afternoon. The sky was clear, the air cold — where it was shaded from the sun, ice in a granite hollow remained frozen all day. Raptors were the day’s stars: there were 13 species, including 190 Upland Buteo hemilasius and four Rough-legged B. lagopus buzzards, six Eurasian Black Vultures Aegypius monachus, three White-tailed Eagles, and one each of Greater Spotted 天鷹, Steppe A. nipalensis and Imperial A. heliaca eagles. There were also 135 Oriental White and four Black Storks, 14 Great Bustards, ten Red-crowned Cranes, and 491 Common Cranes, most of which passed in the late afternoon — the forerunners of the wave.
The next day, the sky was again clear, and the early wind was moderate, north-northeast. But the wind soon became light, swinging to southerly in the late morning — not so promising. By midday, numbers of migrants logged were low.
But, soon after 28 Commons flew north, a flock of 85 Common Cranes flying south marked the start of the passage.
We recorded a succession of small, medium and, occasionally, huge flocks. Just one hour, from 3pm to 4pm, produced 1504 cranes of four species. Most were traveling to the east of us, perhaps well out over the sea, and cutting southwest; this seems typical of the big autumn flocks. A few smaller flocks passed close to our watchpoint.
After 4pm, the passage ebbed, with only 26 cranes in 30 minutes. But then, in the gathering gloom, the wave gathered pace again, with more flocks over the sea. They became harder to see, and near impossible to identify; just lines of black dots against the murky grey of sea and sky. At 5:15pm, with night falling, we left the watchpoint.
It took us maybe 20 minutes to walk down from the hills. As we walked, the darkening sky resounded to those haunting, timeless sounds; the choruses of cranes, calling themselves on southwards.
If you’re interested in visiting Beidaihe, you could contact Jean Wang of the town’s Sky and Ocean Travel Service, which has often handled birding groups/individuals – can arrange excursions to Happy Island etc. Email: bits [at] 0335.net or bsots [at] 263.net
北戴河秋季鳥類遷徙報告（1986-1990）：系統處理的物種 Table of Contents[打開][關閉]系統處理的物種Bitterns, egrets and herronsSpoonbills, Ibises, StorksSwans, Geese, Shelducks and DucksRaptorsPartridges, 野雞……