Great spoon-billed sandpiper news from China


This video says about itself:

11 October 2011

As the tide returns, thousands of shorebirds rush to forage upon the remaining flat before setting off to roost. A Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper is found moving within this particular flock.

The other birds are mainly dunlin; others are said to be Temmincks’ stints, little stints, long-toed stints, and Kentish plovers.

From BirdLife:

Record-breaking wintering numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpipers in China

By Adrian Long, Thu, 25/02/2016 – 08:40

Record numbers of Spoon-billed Sandpiper, a Critically Endangered shorebird, have been discovered wintering in China, says conservationists from the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS, BirdLife International Partner in China).

On 30 December 2015, HKBWS volunteers Jonathan Martinez and John Allcock found at least 30 Spoon-billed Sandpipers near the Fucheng Estuary in south-west Guangdong Province, some of this land is located within the Zhanjiang Mangrove National Nature Reserve. This was the highest number ever found in China during winter, but the record did not even last a month.

At the end of January further coordinated counts in Guangdong Province, including members from the Zhanjiang Bird Watching Society and staff from the Zhanjiang Mangrove National Nature Reserve Management Bureau. Together they counted at least 45 individuals from a four locations, with Fucheng Estuary having the highest count (38 individuals).

Jonathan Martinez, commented: ”These numbers are a massive increase on just three individuals counted at Fucheng during our inaugural mid-winter survey in 2012. That year, we found long lines of mist-nets were found flanking shorebird roost sites. We counted hundreds of dead birds, and literally thousand of nets”.

Since then the Zhanjiang Bird Watching Society, and government officials from the Zhanjiang Forestry Department have taken sustained measures to clear the illegal mist nets. In addition, there were educational activities carried out by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society and Zhanjiang Bird Watching Society to help raising awareness to the local communities.

“Our work has made Fucheng mudflat an attractive place for Spoon-billed Sandpiper and other waterbirds”, says Jonathan Martinez. The estuary in Fucheng is clearly of global importance for the species”.

Seven of the Guangdong birds were marked with coloured flags or rings on their legs. One of this was tagged with white leg flag engraved “MA”, this bird was also recorded last winter in the same place. The unique markings enable individual birds to be tracked as they travel along the East Asian—Australasian Flyway.

“As most of the individual birds found here are marked in Russia it also is becoming very important for development of cooperation conservation work along the lines of bilateral agreement on migratory birds signed by both the governments of China and Russia, for which SBS is the key model species”, said the Chair of the SBS Task Force Dr Evgeny Syroechkovskiy.

The global population of Spoon-billed Sandpiper numbers fewer than 400 adult birds. A large proportion were already known to use coastal wetlands in China whilst on passage between breeding grounds in Russia and principal wintering quarters in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

“With other known sites still to be surveyed we hope that further wintering Spoon-billed Sandpipers will be discovered in Guangdong and South China”, says Jonathan.

“This newly discovered wintering location is the third known biggest one in the world. This again proves exceptional importance of China for the survival of this Critically Endangered species”, commented Evgeny.

The actions to stop the illegal trapping have been supported with a grant from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF).

BirdLife’s Spoon-billed Sandpiper work has been helped by numerous supporters. Birdfair– Global Sponsor of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme, Heritage Expeditions, WildSoundsThe Dutch Birding Association and VBN (BirdLife in the Netherlands)The David & Lucile Packard FoundationDisney Friends for ChangeThe CMS SecretariatThe MBZ FoundationSave Our Species, Ed Keeble and the many other generous individuals have all become BirdLife Species Champions or Programme Supporters under the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme helping this species.

The Conservation breeding project is supported by WWT, RSPB, the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative and SOS – Save our Species, with additional financial contributions and support from BirdLife International, the East Asian— Australasian Flyway Partnership, the Convention on Migratory Species, Heritage Expeditions, the Australasian Wader Study Group of Birds Australia, the BBC Wildlife Fund, Avios, the Olive Herbert Charitable Trust, the Oriental Bird Club, British Airways Communities & Conservation Scheme, New Zealand Department of Conservation, the Queensland Wader Study Group, New South Wales Wader Study Group, Chester Zoo and many generous individuals.

Chinese crested terns discovery in Indonesia


This 2014 video is called The Bird of Legend: Chinese Crested Tern.

From BirdLife:

Survey confirms Chinese Crested Terns in Indonesia

By Ed Parnell, Tue, 09/02/2016 – 08:45

A survey team led by Burung Indonesia (BirdLife in Indonesia) and BirdLife’s Asia Division has confirmed a wintering site of the globally threatened Chinese Crested Tern Thalasseus bernsteini in eastern Indonesia.

At least one adult and possibly one first-year Chinese Crested Tern were seen in a flock of up to 250 Greater Crested Terns T. bergii near Seram Island (approximately midway between Sulawesi and Papua). Threats to the site and the birds were assessed in detail during the one-week survey that was carried out in mid-January 2016, and the team also visited local university and government institutions to raise awareness of the nearby presence of this Critically Endangered seabird.

Despite its name, the Chinese Crested Tern was first found near Halmahera, in the Wallacea region of eastern Indonesia. However, since its discovery in 1861 the species had not subsequently been recorded in Indonesia (apart from an unverified record in Bali) until December 2010, when a lone bird was photographed near Seram. As a result of this initial sighting (and further reports in 2014/15), BirdLife and Burung Indonesia believed the area to perhaps be a regular wintering site. A survey team was formed, including local conservationists and three university students from Hong Kong.

“Although the number of Chinese Crested Terns found during the survey is low, it does confirm that the species is a regular wintering bird to the Seram Sea, and it is very likely that Wallacea is a main wintering area for this species. As the local authorities and community are starting to be aware of and feel proud of its presence, it will surely only be a matter of time before more sightings are reported from the region,” said Simba Chan, adding that more surveys and outreach work are planned by BirdLife around Seram in the future.

“The involvement of local communities in conservation actions is one of Burung’s main strategies,” added Ria Saryanthi, Head of Communication and Knowledge Center, Burung Indonesia. Burung has been focusing its work in the Wallacea region which includes Sulawesi, the Lesser Sundas and the Moluccas, since it was established in 2002.

It is also hoped that another recent project – in China itself – may help to build more knowledge of this little-known species. In August 2015 some 31 crested tern chicks (probably all Greater Crested Terns, which share the colony with their rarer relatives) were banded at Tiedun Dao, the largest Chinese Crested Tern colony. The birds were ringed with numbered red bands, the first step in a systematic study that aims to investigate the movements of the colony’s terns.

Ocean Park Conservation Foundation (OPCFHK) Foundation Director Ms. Suzanne Gendron said, “The Foundation has been supporting the conservation efforts on Chinese crested terns since 2008.  We are excited to know that after years of efforts, there is a higher hope for the recovery of this critically endangered species. I believe our sponsored students benefit from and are inspired by Mr. Simba Chan’s passion and experience.

Turtle smuggling discovered in China


This video says about itself:

12 February 2012

A total of 79 illegal alien live turtles were intercepted by inspection and quarantine authorities Saturday at an airport in Shanghai, east China.

From Xinhua news agency in China today:

Thousands of smuggled turtles seized in Shanghai

SHANGHAI, Jan. 31 — Shanghai customs said Sunday they seized more than 2,000 endangered turtles last November in what could be the city’s largest turtle smuggling case.

Customs officials said they discovered large numbers of live turtles hidden in six containers of crabs imported from Indonesia on Nov. 19. The containers were claimed by a Shanghai company.

Most of the turtles were endangered species including Amboina box turtle, pig-nosed turtle and spotted pond turtle.

The turtles are now in the care of local zoos, officials said.

The customs did not give more details, saying the investigation was still underway.

Environmentalists have warned China’s rising market for rare and exotic pets, such as turtles and snakes, has fueled smuggling.

Rare buntings discovered near Beijing, China


This video shows a rufous-backed bunting.

After Beijing birders discovered a European robin (very rare in China) …

From BirdLife:

Beijing buntings beguile birders

By Ed Parnell, Wed, 20/01/2016 – 06:01

Asia’s rarest bunting, the Rufous-backed Bunting Emberiza jankowskii, has been found wintering close to China’s capital – the first record of this globally threatened species in Beijing municipality for seventy-five years.

A single Rufous-backed Bunting was discovered at Miyun Reservoir, 80 km north-east of central Beijing, by local young birders Xing Chao and Huang Mujiao on 9 January 2016. By 13 January seven individuals had been found, with a remarkable nine buntings present on 15 January. (The municipality’s previous record was of two males seen near the Summer Palace in the winter of 1941.)

Rufous-backed Bunting Emberiza jankowskii – also known as Jankowski’s Bunting after Michel Jankowski, a nineteenth-century Polish zoologist exiled to Siberia – has declined drastically since the early 1970s, most likely as a result of the conversion of its grassland habitat to arable farmland and an increase in grazing livestock. This beautiful bunting is now known only from a restricted area of north-east China; the species formerly occurred in the far north-east of North Korea (its current status there is unknown) and the extreme south of the Russian Far East (there have been no Russian records since the 1970s). Consequently, the species is classified by BirdLife as Endangered.

Terry Townshend, a British birder living and working in Beijing, and the BirdLife Species Champion for Rufous-backed/Jankowski’s Bunting comments: “Given the relatively low density of birders in Beijing, it is possible that Jankowski’s Bunting has been overlooked in previous winters. However, I suspect that this winter is exceptional. Last year the government banned the growing of crops close to the reservoir, which provides drinking water for Beijing, so the area around the wetland has been left uncultivated. Grasses and other wild plants have produced a bumper crop of seed that is attracting large numbers of passerines – including a Beijing record flock of 5,600 Lapland Buntings at the end of November.”

The Hong Kong Birdwatching Society/BirdLife China Programme and China Bird Watching Society have been taking action for Rufous-backed Bunting on its breeding grounds in Inner Mongolia for several years, with surveys undertaken in 2014 discovering nine new breeding sites for the species. In addition, meetings have been held with the local authorities and a number of educational activities have been carried out at schools and villages close to its core breeding areas, to raise awareness of the bunting and its conservation.

Mike Crosby, BirdLife’s Senior Conservation Officer for the Asia Division, commented: “The discovery of a small flock of Rufous-backed Buntings close to Beijing is encouraging news for this little-known species, and perhaps indicates that at least part of the species’ population moves several hundred kilometres south from its breeding range during the winter. Improving our understanding of their wintering range is vital for our ongoing efforts to conserve this globally threatened songbird.”

To help with BirdLife’s work to save the species please visit our Save Jankowski’s Bunting Appeal page.

Projects on the breeding ground were aided by the Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust and Oriental Bird Club and were undertaken with the support of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

Waterbirds counted in China


This video says about itself:

2014 Balanga City Asian Water Bird Census

DENR, in coordination with the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines and the City Government of Balanga, conducted a census of migratory waterbirds in Barangays Sibacan, Tortugas, Puerto Rivas Lote, Puerto Rivas Itaas, and Puerto Rivas Ibaba, on January 18, 2014.

Terns, Plovers, Black-winged Stilt, Sandpipers and Little, Intermediate and [Great] Egret as well as a rarely-seen Chinese Egret, fleeing the cold weather of their country of origin, were among those counted.

The yearly census, which aims to determine bird population, covers all Asian countries and is conducted in January. The first census in the Philippines was conducted in 2004.

From BirdLife:

Decade-long Citizen Science project counts China’s waterbirds

By Ed Parnell, Thu, 14/01/2016 – 18:01

Since 2005, more than 150 volunteers have taken part in the China Coastal Waterbird Census, which, in November 2015, published its third report on the state of the country’s coastal waterbirds

The coastal wetlands of China constitute some of the most important migratory, passage and wintering sites along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Unfortunately, the area also faces some of the world’s most serious conservation challenges. In order to protect and manage important sites along the flyway effectively, reliable data are desperately needed, making the China Coastal Waterbird Census – and the work carried out by its volunteers – of critical conservation importance.

“We discovered at least 10 sites of international importance for birds, yet still without proper protection”, said Bai Qingquan, one of the coordinators of China Coastal Waterbird Census Team.

The latest report, which covers the period from 2010–11, presents a huge amount of information about China’s coastal avifauna. A total of 161 species were recorded during the survey, including 21 globally threatened species.

Peak counts occurred during April’s northward migration period, when almost 266,000 individual waterbirds were logged from 111 species. Twenty per cent or more of the entire population of the following globally threatened birds were recorded during the latest census: Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea (Critically Endangered: 103), Saunders’s Gull Saundersilarus saundersi (Vulnerable: 5,451), Relict Gull Larus relictus (Vulnerable: 6,005), Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor (Endangered: 561) and Siberian Crane Leucogeranus leucogeranus (Critically Endangered: 700).

“The China Coastal Waterbird Count, which is organised and implemented solely by volunteer bird watchers has lasted for 10 years and is a great example of Citizen Science”, said Vivian Fu, Assistant Manager of Hong Kong Bird Watching Society/BirdLife International China Programme. “The findings of the census not only display significant scientific value, but also contribute to the conservation of sites and species of international importance. We hope that more and more people will join us in future.”

The report, which is written in Chinese, with an English summary and annotations, can be downloaded here (PDF, 55 MB).

The China Coastal Waterbird Census has been coordfinated by the The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (BirdLife Hong Kong) and over the years has received support from the following donors: the Darwin Initiative; Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong; Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust; the Tolkien Trust; the Asian Waterbird Conservation Fund; and Ford Green Awards.

Spectacular Geminid meteor shower in China


This video says about itself:

Chinese Star Gazers Witness Peak of Geminid Meteor Shower

15 December 2015

Star gazers in some parts of China had the opportunity to witness the peak of the Geminid meteor shower on early Monday and Tuesday mornings.

As the most consistent and active annual shower, the Geminids were seen from Monday to Tuesday. As the date of its highest intensity being at dawn on Dec. 15, star gazers can see 120 meteors per hour with interference of moonlight.

Star gazers in Taiyuan, capital of north China’s Shanxi Province, went to the mountains to catch views of the Geminids.

“One student has seen more than 60 meteors….I will count the number. It is very exciting,” said Yang Jun, one star gazer.

As the Geminids are always seen in December, star gazers must keep themselves warm if they want to watch it outdoors. Although it was quite cold, they chose to lie on the ground rather than stay in their cars to enjoy a better view.

“The Geminid meteor shower is hard to witness and there are only three good chances to see them. So we should seize every opportunity. Lying on the ground will give us a wider view of the meteors unlike inside the car where it is much warmer but we can see fewer meteors,” said Yin Jian, another star gazer.

More on this is here.

From timeanddate.com:

In 2016, the Quadrantids [meteor shower] will peak on January 4. A third quarter Moon will make for good viewing conditions. Astronomers suggest that observers try their luck after midnight on January 4.

Star gazing for children on Dutch Texel island, 18 December 2015: here.

Ancient tomb discovery in China


This 9 December 2014 video says about itself:

The 2,000 Year-Old Mummified Body of Lady Xin Zhui HD – Archaeology Documentary

Mummies from various dynasties throughout China’s history have been discovered in several locations across the country. They are almost exclusively considered to be unintentional mummifications. Many areas in which mummies have been uncovered are difficult for preservation, due to their warm, moist climates. This makes the recovery of mummies a challenge, as exposure to the outside world can cause the bodies to decay in a matter of hours.

An example of a Chinese mummy that was preserved despite being buried in an environment not conducive to mummification is Xin Zhui. Also known as Lady Dai, she was discovered in the early 1970s at the Mawangdui archaeological site in Changsha. She was the wife of the marquis of Dai during the Han dynasty, who was also buried with her alongside another young man often considered to be a very close relative. However, Xin Zhui’s body was the only one of the three to be mummified. Her corpse was so well-preserved that surgeons from the Hunan Provincial Medical Institute were able to perform an autopsy. The exact reason why her body was so completely preserved has yet to be determined.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Ancient Chinese tomb dating back 2,500 years uncovered to shed light on obscure kingdom

The little-known Luhun kingdom existed between 638BC to 525BC

Matt Payton

6 December 2015

Chinese archaeologists have uncovered a 2,500-year-old- tomb thought to contain the skeletons of an ancient royal family.

The tomb in Luoyang city, Henan province, is believed to originate from the relatively-unknown Luhun Kingdom, which only lasted 113 years between 638BC and 525BC, according [to] People’s Daily Online.

Thought to be the tomb of a Luhun nobleman or royal – copper belts and ceremonial pots were discovered along with a nearby burial pit complete with chariots and whole horse skeletons.

The excavation began in 2009 after a spate of grave robbing in the area, which hosts around 200 different ancient tombs, <a href=”http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/1885832/chinas-ancient-treasures-under-siege-army-tomb-raiders&#8221; target=”_blank”>South China Morning Post reports.

Due to the tomb’s size, which is at 21 feet long, 17 feet wide and 28 feet deep, experts believe it to be the resting place of a royal family who wielded little political power.

The tomb had suffered from damage caused by water and grave robbers, but the interior coffin was protected by plaster and a coffin board.

The horse burial pit contained the skeletons of 13 horses and six chariots. The horses had been carefully arranged on their sides, with decorations placed on their carcasses.

It is hoped the tomb will help historians gain a better understanding of the movements of the migratory Rong people, an ethnic minority which made up the population of the short-lived Luhan kingdom.