Spring Migration - Shanghai China 2017 images:

Updated: Monday June 19, 2017

Enjoy the birds and photos below...I certainly did while I was taking them!

Erik Breden
Weslaco, Texas

Birding Top 1000 Counter

A Spring trip to China to photograph birds? During April and May the China coast provides a pathway for hundreds of thousands of migrants heading north to their breeding grounds in northern China, Japan, Mongolia, and Russia. Among these are over 35 species of Shorebirds or Waders (Sandpipers, Plovers, Curlews, Godwits, etc.), a few of which are quite rare. Shorebirds have been my passion for many years.

Most birdwatching tours will allow some time for participant photography, but the tour (including me) would eventually have to move on. This would not allow me to spend time with a particular bird or at a particular place if a good photographic opportunity presented itself.

I checked on the InterNet for alternatives to standard tours and found the China Wild Tour company, founded by a small group of dedicated Chinese birders. They offer standard and customized tours for birdwatching and photography, and also tours for other animals, and wilderness experiences in general. In addition, several of the founding members and guides are part of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force, which is working to save this endangered shorebird.

Who better to put together a custom photographic tour focusing on shorebirds (and Spring Migrants in general)? I contacted China Wild Tour and worked with them to plan a two week trip in the beginning of May. The itinerary was straightforward with two major locations: China Wild Tour provides local guides with spotting scopes, translators (if necessary), and local drivers. All food (good food, too!), lodging, and transportation within China is included in the tour price.

We live in the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas, USA. We flew from Brownsville to Dallas, where we caught our flight to Shanghai. After spending a night at an airport hotel in Shanghai, China Wild Tour picked us up the next morning and we drove to the Nanhui Refuge. Then on to Dongtai, Dafeng, and finally back to the Shanghai airport hotel, where we caught our flight home the next day.

The trip involved three days of travel to and from China (two days going over because of that pesky International Dateline, and one day coming back). The tour was fourteen days, making for a total of seventeen days.

Finally, here is a summary of the numbers of species seen and photographed: See a brief discussion below of the different cameras (Nikon D7100 and Nikon 1 V3 Mirrorless) and lenses I used.

So, how to organize the photos to tell the story? We divided them into the major categories of interest below. Scroll down until you see something you like.

Enjoy the trip...we sure did!

Erik and Mary Breden
Weslaco, Texas

The Trip - We have divided the non-bird photos into Sightseeing, Birding, and Dining

China Sightseeing

Click here to view images one-at-a-time, if you have a slow InterNet connection. Non-Avian and Birding Trip Highlights

Click here to view images one-at-a-time, if you have a slow InterNet connection. Our Dining Experience in China

Click here to view images one-at-a-time, if you have a slow InterNet connection.
The Birds - I have divided the birds I photographed into the following non-scientific categories based on the habitats where one can expect to see them:

Birds of the Forest and Fields Birds of the Ponds and Waterways Shorebirds (aka Waders)

Birds of the the Forests and Fields

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The Nanhui Refuge has small wooded areas along the roads in between the ponds and fields. These are great migrant traps, and we spent lots of time searching them. There were new birds to be found each day. Some arrived the night before and were resting and foraging when we got started in the morning, and others were often found after apparently arriving in the late afternoon.

While we waited for high tide on the mudflats at Dafeng (which occurred in the afternoons while we were there), we drove around through wooded areas. We stopped whenever we saw a bird, to look and take photos.

These are the birds I photographed:

  • Eurasian Blackbird
  • Chinese (Light-vented) Bulbul
  • Black-faced Bunting
  • Chestnut Bunting
  • Lesser Coucal
  • Eurasian Cuckoo
  • Oriental Cuckoo
  • Black-winged Cuckoo-Shrike
  • Spotted Dove
  • Oriental (Rufous) Turtle Dove
  • Black Drongo
  • Hair-crested (Spangled) Drongo
  • Asian Brown Flycatcher
  • Blue-and-White Flycatcher
  • Dark-sided Flycatcher
  • Gray-streaked Flycatcher
  • Japanese Paradise Flycatcher
  • Mugimaki Flycatcher
  • Narcissus Flycatcher
  • Yellow-rumped Flycatcher
  • Chinese (Yellow-billed) Grosbeak
  • Hoopoe
  • Azure-winged Magpie
  • Common (Eurasian) Magpie
  • Crested Myna
  • Reed Parrotbill
  • Vinous-throated Parrotbill
  • Pechora Pipit
  • Richard's Pipit
  • Plain Prinia
  • Brown Shrike
  • Long-tailed Shrike
  • Oriental Skylark
  • Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  • White-cheeked Starling
  • Siberian Stonechat
  • Blue Rock Thrush
  • Eyebrowed Thrush
  • Eastern Great Tit
  • Forest Wagtail
  • Gray Wagtail
  • White Wagtail
  • Eastern Yellow Wagtail
  • Korean (Manchurian) Bush Warbler
  • Oriental Reed Warbler
  • Eastern Crowned Warbler
  • Pale-legged Leaf Warbler
  • Yellow-browed Warbler
  • Arctic Warbler

Birds of the Ponds and Waterways

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The Nanhui Refuge has large areas of open fields interspersed with fish ponds. We drove around these during the middle of the day.

In Dongtai and Dafeng we split our time between the wooded areas and areas of open fields and fishponds when we weren't out on the tidal mudflats.

These are the birds I photographed:

  • Eastern Cattle Egret
  • Intermediate Egret
  • Little egret
  • Swinhoe's (Chinese) Egret
  • Great Crested Grebe
  • Little Grebe
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Saunders's Gull
  • Chinese Pond Heron
  • Black-capped Kingfisher
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron
  • Osprey
  • Black-faced Spoonbill
  • Caspian Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Gull-billed Tern
  • Little Tern
  • Whiskered Tern
  • White-winged Tern

Shorebirds (aka Waders)

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The highlight of the trip (for me at least) was finding, observing, and photographing all the various shorebirds migrating north to their breeding grounds. We saw 34 species, and I managed to photograph 32 of them, thanks to the tireless efforts of our guides and translators.

The tidal mudflats at Dafeng had the potential for the rarest birds (Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann's (Spotted) Greenshank, and Asian Dowitcher), but the multitude of fish ponds provided the best close-up photographic opportunities. We visited the tidal mudflats at Dafeng almost every afternoon at high tide, and birded the woods, fields, and the many fishponds at other times.

These are the birds I photographed:

  • Bar-tailed Godwit
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Eurasian Oystercatcher
  • Swinhoe's Snipe
  • Gray-headed Lapwing
  • Black-bellied (Gray) Plover
  • Pacific Golden-Plover
  • Kentish Plover
  • Lesser Sand (Mongolian) Plover
  • Little Ringed Plover
  • Common Greenshank
  • Nordmann's (Spotted) Greenshank
  • Common Redshank
  • Spotted Redshank
  • Marsh Sandpiper
  • Wood Sandpiper
  • Common Sandpiper
  • Terek Sandpiper
  • Dunlin
  • Great Knot
  • Red Knot
  • Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
  • Spoon-billed Sandpiper
  • Long-toed Stint
  • Sanderling
  • Red-necked Stint
  • Broad-billed Sandpiper
  • Gray-tailed Tattler
  • Ruddy Turnstone
  • Black-winged Stilt
  • Far Eastern Curlew
  • Whimbrel

Cameras and Lenses

This is the equipment I took: The Nikon 1 V3 Mirrorless camera was of interest to me because it offered a 2.7 magnification factor versus the 1.5 factor of my Nikon D7100s. This is like adding a 1.8x teleconverter without degrading the lens optics. I tested it a little before the trip with mixed results. This uneven performance was also seen during the trip, but I did get some exceptional photos from it. Here are my observations: Below are sample photos taken with each lens. Please contact me if you have any comments or questions:

Nikon 1 V3 Mirrorless photos taken with the Nikon AFS 80-400mm f4.5-f5.6 ED VR zoom lens with no teleconverter (EFL 1080mm). All except the Spoon-billed Sandpiper were taken from our vehicle using a bean bag window support.
Nikon 1 V3 Mirrorless photos taken with the Nikon AFS 300mm f2.8G ED VR fixed lens with no teleconverter (EFL 810mm). All were taken using a tripod, or from our vehicle using a bean bag window support.

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