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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Eight SPOON-BILLED SANDPIPERS return to SE China

On Monday 21 December 2009, along with Wang Qingyu of Chinabirdtours.com, local birder Lin Chen and our Sunbird South China tour group visited Shanyutan in the Minjiang Estuary, Changle, Fujian, Se China (26°01.7'N., 119°38.7'E.). We spent almost eight hours on the 'island' during which time we saw eight SPOON-BILLED SANDPIPERS - down slightly from the ten birds Qingyu, Shanghai birder Zhang Lin & I saw there in early November 2008.

Although there have been several previous postings on Oriental Birding over the years regarding this rapidly declining species and Chinese Crested Tern in the Minjiang Estuary the site remains poorly known and rarely visited by foreign birders. 'Spooner' is still dependably present from mid-October through to mid-April with the occasional straggler remaining until the third week of May while up to perhaps eight Chinese Crested Terns are equally reliable from mid-May until mid-August when the typhoon season kicks in and sightings become more sporadic though there have been sightings up to late September.

The site is easy to access and is only a 30 minute drive from Fuzhou International airport - an airport that is served with multiple daily flights from Beijing, Shanghai & Hong Kong among others. Foreigners (& Chinese as of 1 January 2010) need permission to visit - a formality and way of earning money (hopefully a proportion of which is spent on the small reserve).

Permission should be obtained in advance of a visit and can be done either via Lin Chen on + 86 13999370883 or Qingyu at wangqingy@yahoo.com.cn. Other birds yesterday included a first-winter Black-faced Spoonbill; two Relict, 25 Saunders's and a single Pallas's Gull.

According to Gill Bunting of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper recovery team there have been reports of eight birds in Myanmar and several more in Bangladesh earlier in December 2009 (contributed by Paul Holt)