Chinese Crested Tern
30 April–8 May 2017
This ground-breaking new short tour combines looking for two of the world’s rarest birds, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Chinese Crested Tern, on the coast with forest and mountain specialities including Cabot’s Tragopan, Elliott’s Pheasant, White-necklaced Partridge, Fujian Niltava, Kloss’s Leaf Warbler and Spotted Elachura, which is now in a family of its own. The tour can be combined with our Beidaihe and Happy Island tour.
Combine this tour with our tour to Beidahie and Happy Island and save £200 on the combined total.
Day 1 Overnight flight from London via Beijing to Fuzhou.
Day 2 We will arrive at Changle Airport, 32 kilometres east of Fuzhou. Changle is a city in its own right but, with a population of just under 1 million, it is small in terms of Chinese cities! We will then transfer to a hotel for the night.
Day 3 We will take an early breakfast followed by a short drive to the coast north of the city where we will either board a punt to cross a tidal creek or don waders to walk across, depending on the state of the tide. Chinese Crested Tern was presumed extinct until the beginning of the century, when a small population was found breeding in colonies of other terns between the mainland and Taiwan. Although seen occasionally at other sites in south-east Asia, unless you actually visit the island there is no other reliable site to see them except the Minjiang Estuary. There should be many other terns present but identification won’t be a problem except for the closely related and far commoner Great Crested Tern. We will therefore spend some time watching terns patrolling the incoming tide and hopefully pick out individuals by their paler plumage. We will also scan the mudflats for resting terns, which, at this time of year, should be in pristine breeding plumage. Like Spoon-billed Sandpiper, this is one of those very special species on Earth that is high up on the ‘want’ list of most birders. As well as terns, the mudflats will be full of migrant waders at this time of year, many of them in beautiful breeding plumage. Many of these waders have a declining world population and are either recorded as vagrants in western Europe or have never been recorded at all and so are, again, highly sought-after. The most numerous wader will be Red-necked Stint but this should be supplemented by Great Knot, Sharp-tailed and Terek Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Sand-plovers, Far Eastern Curlew and Pacific Golden-plover amongst the common European waders such as Kentish Plover, Sanderling, Dunlin, Red Knot, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Eurasian Curlew and Whimbrel. Spoon-billed Sandpipers have wintered here in small numbers in the past, and birds wintering farther south pass along the coast, so there is an opportunity to see this highly enigmatic bird in fine breeding plumage. There is also the possibility of a surprise in the form of Asiatic Dowitcher or even Nordmann’s Greenshank, but we will have to be extremely lucky to see the latter. All the time we will keep a close eye on the gulls as, in addition to the omni-present Black-tailed and Black-headed Gulls, there is a good possibility of both Relict and Saunders’s Gulls. We will be taking packed lunches with us so we will stay in the area all day, only returning to the mainland late in the afternoon when we will make the short journey to Fuzhou, our base for the next two nights.
Day 4 Our hotel is close to Fuzhou Forest Park and, after an early breakfast, we will make the short journey to this beautiful place. The park is packed with day visitors from the two million plus inhabitants of Fuzhou at weekends, but by being here midweek it will be a lot quieter. The park should be full of resident, recently arrived migrant and passage birds, so, once again, we will have a picnic lunch here so as not to waste valuable birding time. Largely unseen Great Barbets will be heard calling from the tops of trees on both sides of the valley but in the early morning we must concentrate our efforts on one particular species: White-necklaced Partridge. It is a shy and highly elusive bird of deep forest but we will make every effort to tempt one into view. We will then spend the day exploring the numerous trails around the park, adding new birds to our lists on a regular basis. Bay, Grey-capped, Grey-headed, Rufous, Pale-headed and Bamboo Woodpeckers can all be found here, although the latter is rather elusive and shy. Slaty-backed Forktail and Blue Whistling-thrush both breed by the river and Grey-sided and Streak-breasted Scimitar-babblers in the scrub in the forest. Many other species can be found in these forests including Black Eagle, Mountain Hawk-eagle, House Swift, Grey-headed Parrotbill, Grey-chinned, Scarlet and Swinhoe’s Minivets, Orange-bellied Leafbird, Chestnut and Light-vented Bulbuls, Indochinese Yuhina, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, Spotted Elachura, Oriental Magpie-robin, Greater and Lesser Necklaced and Masked Laughingthrushes, Collared Finchbill, Common Tailorbird, White-bellied Erpornis, Japanese White-eye, Japanese Tit, Huet’s Fulvetta, Black-winged and Large Cuckooshrikes, Large Woodshrike, Chinese Hwamei, Black-naped Oriole, Grey Treepie and Red-billed Blue-magpie. Additionally, migrants will be passing through so, depending on the weather, the trees could be alive with Pallas’s and Yellow-browed Warblers.
Day 5 This morning, after an early breakfast, we will start the journey west to Emeifeng along the motorway. The journey will take us around 5–6 hours and we will make a stop at a service area en route for lunch. On the rivers in the valleys at the foot of the mountains, we will look for Brown Dipper, Plumbeous Redstart and Little and White-crowned Forktails whilst Black-capped and White-throated Kingfishers, Long-tailed Shrikes and White-shouldered Starlings should be a feature on the telephone wires. As we start the journey up to Emeifeng we will start to look for pheasants. Although mid-afternoon isn’t the best time, there is still a chance of any of them. As we wind our way up the steep hill, the pheasants can be found in different altitude zones, with Common Pheasant and Chinese Bamboo-partridge at the bottom followed by Elliott’s and Koklass Pheasants then Silver Pheasants in the bamboo zone and finally Cabot’s Tragopan at the top. After checking into our mountain-top hotel, we will follow trails across the meadows and make our first foray into the forest. Cabot’s Tragopan is one of the rarest tragopans with a fragmented population in the southeast of China and Emeifeng is one of the most reliable places to see it. Nevertheless, we will have to work hard as it is a generally elusive and shy bird. After dark, we will also make a nocturnal foray to look for the notoriously elusive Mountain Scops-owl. Hearing one is relatively easy as they are common, but seeing one is another matter! Two nights in Emeifeng.
Day 6 We will have the whole day to explore the mountain and we will start with an early search for pheasants by driving at first light to the bottom of the mountain then driving back up for breakfast. At different altitudes and in different vegetation types in the mountains many species can be found and, during the day, we may see Barred Cuckoo-dove, Greater and Lesser Yellownapes, Speckled Piculet, Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Blue-throated and Ferruginous Flycatchers, Fujian and Small Niltavas, Lesser Shortwing, Chestnut-bellied Rock-thrush, Black and Mountain Bulbuls, Blyth’s and Green Shrike-babblers, Daurian Redstart, Golden, Spot-breasted and Vinous-throated Parrotbills, Fujian Fulvetta, Striated, Indochinese and Black-chinned Yuhinas, Black-throated, Sultan, Yellow-bellied, Yellow-browed and Yellow-cheeked Tits, Brown, Brownish-flanked and Yellowish-bellied Bush-warblers, Rufous-faced Warbler, Alstrom’s, Bianchi’s and White-spectacled Warblers of the Seicercus genus, Buff-throated, Hartert’s Leaf, Kloss’s Leaf and Sulphur-breasted Warblers of the Phylloscopus genus, Rufous-capped babbler, Chinese Babax, Red-billed Leiothrix, Buffy Laughingthrush, Pygmy Wren-babbler, Brown Bullfinch and Oriental Greenfinch.
Day 7 We will spend the morning again searching for pheasants and other specialities here before making the 5–6 hour return journey to Changle, arriving in time for dinner. Two nights in Changle.
Day 8 Today will be a ‘day with options’: we can either return to the Minjiang Estuary if we still need either Chinese Crested Tern or Spoon-billed Sandpiper or we can return to Fuzhou Forest Park. As it is a Sunday, however, and Fuzhou Forest Park is likely to be crowded, the Minjiang Estuary may be a better bet and there are also other good birding sites around Changle where migrants can be found. Either way, we will take a packed lunch and enjoy a full day in the field. At this time of year, buntings will be passing through in good numbers and Black-faced, Chestnut, Chestnut-eared, Yellow-throated, Little and Yellow-browed Buntings are all possible. Brown Shrikes, Black and Hair-crested Drongos can be seen on utility lines and migrant Richard’s Pipits and Eastern Yellow Wagtails and resident Plain and Yellow-bellied Prinias can be found around the rice paddies and fish ponds.
Day 9 Sadly it is time to leave eastern China and, after breakfast, we will transfer to Changle Airport for the internal flight to Beijing. Those joining the Beidaihe and Happy Island tour will spend the night in Beijing whilst those returning to the UK will connect with the international flight arriving back in London mid/late evening.
General Information The weather will be warm with the exception of the mountains, but rain is possible. The pace of the tour is moderate, with only a moderate level of fitness required for walking, but some long days will be spent in the field. There are a number of health requirements and you must consult your GP in this respect. Visas are required. Accommodation will vary from medium-standard hotels to more basic, but all will have private facilities. Food will be mostly ethnic Chinese.
Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 12 with 3 leaders.