The same applies to birdwatching, of course. You miss 100% of the birds you don’t get out to see. New Years Day 2016 was calm, clear, and bitingly cold. The weather report said -9C | 15F but you can always knock a few more degrees off for my side of town which doesn’t suffer from the Urban Heat Island effect.
Rather than do the sane thing and sleep-in on such a frigid morning, I made a thermos of coffee and staggered out of the house and into the SUV with loyal Spider to pop down to the riverbank for some scoping.
There’s very little open water remaining this late in winter, and once the river ices up completely the ducks will move on. This was one of my last chances to look for lost or (very) late migrants. My efforts were not to be in vain! Continue reading On Luck and Sea Eagles→
I went birding at Huanzidong Reservoir a couple of weeks ago and found the water level way, way down. Hundreds of meters of mudflats were exposed. This attracts all sorts of birdlife, but leaves the hopeful birder no place to hide. Even with a spotting scope, trying to identify sandpipers at 300m totally sucks.
Rubbing salt in the wound, over the summer some local government genius spent who knows how much money building this fucking awesome bird-watching tower:
But they forget to put it anywhere remotely near the reservoir so now it’s a fucking awesome corn-watching tower.
Looking ahead to the upcoming arrival of the Siberian Cranes, I decided to take drastic action: I would build a duck blind.
I spent last weekend in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam. While an all-around awesome trip, it proved to be the last dying breath of my trusty Nikon Monarch binoculars. With the threads on both eyepieces jammed solid and the focus differential knob out of sync, they were done. Saturday morning I dropped them off at the Nikon Shenyang Authorized Service office (“We don’t really do binoculars, we’ll have to ask Shanghai next week…”) and this morning took Spider down to the Hun River to do some scoping.
It was only 15C when Spider and I set out. Shenyang embraces Autumn without hesitation! Migratory species are already beginning to pass through Liaoning province in fits and starts, within another two weeks they will become a torrent.
Contrary to popular perception, China has modern and strict environmental laws. What is lacking, and I mean seriously lacking, is enforcement. A most vivid example was on display during my most recent visit to Huanzidong.
Surrounded by rolling cornfields, Huanzidong (“Badger Hole”) Reservoir is located nearly two hours NNW of Shenyang and would be just another unremarkable impoundment if not for one very remarkable fact: it is the premier migratory corridor rest stop in NE China for the critically endangered Siberian Crane.
One morning this past October I returned to Grebe Lake for some much needed serenity. With my binoculars on my chest, new scope and tripod over my right shoulder, folding stool hanging on my left shoulder, and thermos full of fresh black coffee tucked under my left arm I happily strolled down the path to the best scoping spot. The weather was perfect – a crisp, clear, sunny Autumn morning.
Arriving at the scope spot, I quickly scanned the lake with my binoculars (as expected, lots of grebes!) and then busied myself with getting the scope and stool situated at a comfortable height and mutual distance.
Throughout these short few minutes I was dimly aware of noise in the background but it wasn’t until I had finished setting up and poured myself a cup of coffee that I stopped to properly consider the source.
A few moments’ focus revealed the tell-tale bangs, clangs, and whirrrrrs of a dump truck… a DUMP TRUCK!
It’s become a tradition of sorts that each time we visit my parents in Florida over Christmas I set out to add one particular species to my birding life list. Last year Dad took me to check off the Florida Scrub Jay. This year I wanted to see my first Northern Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway).
In June we moved from the far western side of Shenyang in the Technological Development Zone to the far eastern side of Shenyang in the Scenic Forest Zone. Even though doing so means my total work commute has skyrocketed from 10 minutes a day to 120, the new location is a huge quality of life net positive for our family. Whereas our old apartment was surrounded by factories, our new house is surrounded by forests. Though we suffer from the same general air quality problems as the rest of China, the air on this side of Shenyang is measurably cleaner than back at our old place. The neighborhood is also much safer and more pleasant to live in.
Poking around on Google Earth one day I noticed a small lake only a few kilometers from our house. I say noticed because though I had driven down the road running past the lake many times, due to the thickness of the surrounding woodlands I had no idea there was a lake located only meters away.
September was another multi-country business trip – over the course of three weeks I would be barnstorming through Canada, the United States, and South Africa. Seeking to make the most of my first trip to the African continent, I set aside an entire Saturday for a guided birding trip. I say “entire” because as busy as I am it is unheard of for me to carve out a full day to myself during a business trip, weekend or not.
After some internet research I contacted several companies that offered tours basing out of Johannesburg, which is where I would be staying for the duration of my South African visit. A flurry of emails later and I had reserved a full-day tour with Birding Eco-tours, ordered a copy of the field guide they recommended, ordered another pocket guide for ease of use, and informed my staff accompanying me to South Africa that September 20th was “Boss Goes Birding Day” and not to plan any events with me for that date under pain of death.
On October 18th I logged my 100th eBird checklist in China. Truly, this puts me in rare company – there are only four of us with 100 or more lists. Among them my friend Tom Beeke over in Dalian towers above all of us as he steadily closes in on 300. In celebration of my “Chinese Century” I took some time to analyze all 103 of my China lists to date.