China snowstorms n bird movements and deaths

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    With the severe weather experienced by much of south-central China this winter, can expect many birds to have fled forests there – or perished, with only hardiest able to survive the conditions. At such times, can be influxes of some birds to Hong Kong – especially species such as thrushes, which are migrants, with many normally spending winter further north, but ready to move if the weather turns bad, making it hard to find food. Here’s post I’ve made to Hong Kong Birdwatching Society forum; hopefully of some interest: Taken a while, but at last getting reports of thrushes, red-tailed robins, bluetails, rubythroats in good numbers, esp Pak Sha O, and Shing Mun [smattering too on Cheung Chau, where I live]. But still doesn’t seem massive influx, given the scale of the ice and snow storms, and the length of this cold spell, which seems to have brought the Arctic to south-central China. Also, here on Cheung Chau, seems birds such as yellow-browed warbler have moved out (or died). Seen birds such as common tailorbird foraging on ground, down to very close range: getting pretty desperate I think. Images from China showing thick ice on foliage; SCM Post yesterday had report re 90 percent of China’s forests being damaged in hardest hit areas. – see also AFP report, Beijing says snow storms destroy one tenth of China’s forests So, surely many birds had to flee the impacted areas, or die. Perhaps many went southwest, helped by [predominantly northeasterly winds]. As to those that stayed, even residents: I wonder if tried moving lower down hills, and important that lowlands mostly deforested, so places birds might seek refuge during such winters are no longer useful to them. Added to which: read of even food becoming scarce in some places, so maybe rural people turned to wildlife more than normal? Just guessing, here; but surely a dire situation. [perhaps there’s already a fair amount of info on the snowstorms and birdlife in China: if so, hopefully someone can post a little here] Also guessing: if some birds have moved from normal areas, perhaps will mean some oddities to occur here in spring? (Po Toi even busier than usual!?)


    I’m not a birder myself, though I got a little bit into it when living / working in Tung Tze, Tai Po. I stick mainly to animals, but it seemed a waste when in the mornings / afternoons I would sit on the veranda and see all kinds of birds using the mature trees that surrounded the house. The long days at the computer would only be broken by the call of a raptor which would send me outside with my binoculars. The dead tree across the valley took 2 years to become ivy covered, but that tree was a goldmine being clearly visible from a comfy seat with a cup of coffee and a pair of bino’s. Learned a lot about raptors during my time there.
    I only moved round the corner, but I’m out of the valley and I lost my view. But Plover Cove is still a haven for raptors especially during the winter months.
    Now it may just be me, being better able to identify raptors at distance. So all those black-eared kites became 30% something else. But I could swear that the severe winter monsoon this year has created an unusually abundant diversity (and sightings) of some unusual birds of prey.
    Especially interesting are my occasionally trips to Central. I get the bus which passes Kai Tak on the Kowloon Eastern Corridor. Of course I sit at top, front right, eager for the 10mins through Kowloon Bay. Not very good for a beginner like myself, but this winter there are plenty of sightings of the ‘that is not a black-eared kite’ type (too self-concious to use bino’s on the bus – sorry).


    Hi Simon:

    Haven’t heard re influx of birds of prey during the cold spell; though on Cheung Chau did see couple of Common Buzzards, which not too common on the island.

    Just posted this to HK Birdwatching Soc forum:

    Last Friday – shortly before the long cold spell at last ended – walked Chi Ma Wan to Pui O. Plenty of thrushes, red-tailed robins, bluetails. But only four Yellow-browed Warblers (no Pallas’s Leaf) – one of these in saplings above a ditch w water, the other three foraging at ground level in small patch of Pui O marsh.
    During cold spell, I also saw Great Tits foraging on ground (a pair in woods on Cheung Chau memorable to me). So, surely desperate times, even for some of birds typically with us in winter.

    S China Morning Post has had some more reports on winter storm damage in China; inc one village where woman reported hearing bamboo cracking “like firecrackers” under weight of ice and snow; another village had all fruit trees wrecked. Today, there’s mention of “great losses to the forestry resources in the southern part of China” (cost at 57.3b yuan); “the destruction would also alter the local ecology … About 30,000 nationally protected wild animals were killed or injured”
    Latter seems an odd statistic, as China is wont to produce.
    But again, must wonder re scale of destruction to birdlife, inc some restricted range species.

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