Craining day II – Dawn Of the Red-crowned Crane

05/12/2014 – Yancheng

 

The much wanted Baer’s Pochard was in the bag so now we could focus on completing the list of possible Crane species for this trip. Today we were gonna look for the most beautiful of them all: the endangered Red-crowned Crane

 

The Red-crowned Crane is a majestic 1.75 meter high black-and-white crane with a contrasting red crown; hence the name. It breeds in increasingly low numbers in the East-Siberian taiga – where its famous dancing display is revered in local cultures – and winters mainly in Japan and nowadays in low numbers – up to a mere 200 birds in 2013 – in the Yancheng region in eastern China.

 

Cotton farmers by Garry Bakker

Cotton farmers by Garry Bakker

 

At dawn we drove to the fields where the cranes usually feed on leftovers from the harvest and upon arrival we immediately found up to 18 Red-crowned Cranes, standing in small family groups among large numbers of Common Cranes and a few Hooded Cranes. The Common Cranes – already very large birds – were dwarfed by the Red-crowneds that stood like snowy white giants among them.  As the birds gave their characteristic trumpeting calls you could see the vapor coming out of their nostrils; making this truly an unforgettable experience.

 

Red-crowned Crane juvenile by Garry Bakker

Red-crowned Cranes family by Garry Bakker

 

Red-crowned Crane family by Garry Bakker

Red-crowned Crane family by Garry Bakker

 

Red-crowned Cranes adult & juvenile Garry Bakker

Red-crowned Cranes adult & juvenile Garry Bakker

 

After enjoying this spectacle we started checking the Common Cranes for the much smaller Sandhill Crane; a vagrant from far northeast Siberia – or maybe even North America – that is sometimes reported from this region. To our own amazement we found one within half an hour, thereby completing the list of 6 possible cranes this trip. With 6 species of Crane and 7 species of Pheasant in one trip we can say for sure that this China trip is indeed ‘EPIC’!

 

Sandhill Crane with Common Cranes by Garry Bakker

Sandhill Crane with Common Cranes by Garry Bakker

 

The rest of the day was spend sorting through large numbers of Pallas’s Bunting for the localized Ochre-rumped Bunting. It took some time but eventually we found an adult female and a first winter. Other quality birds today were: 2 Eurasian Bitterns, several Reed Parrotbills and Chinese Penduline Tits and 2 Chestnut-eared Buntings. We searched the fishponds one more time but yesterdays Baer’s was nowhere to be found…

 

Pallas's Reed Bunting by Garry Bakker

Pallas’s Reed Bunting by Garry Bakker

 

Vega Gull by Garry Bakker

Vega Gull by Garry Bakker

 

Around 9 PM we board the night-train back to Beijing; the trip comes almost to an end…

 

Species list day 15 (underlined are LIFERS)

 

  1. Common Pheasant
  2. Eurasian Coot
  3. Common Moorhen
  4. Bean Goose sp.
  5. Swan Goose 32
  6. Common Shelduck
  7. Eurasian Teal
  8. Northern Pintail
  9. Northern Shoveler
  10. Gadwall
  11. Mallard
  12. Smew
  13. Common Merganser
  14. Red-breasted Merganser 1
  15. Ferruginous Duck 1 male
  16. Tufted Duck
  17. Common Pochard
  18. Eastern Spot-billed Duck
  19. Little Grebe
  20. Great Crested Grebe
  21. Common Kingfisher
  22. Pied Kingfisher
  23. Eurasian Hoopoe
  24. Spotted Dove
  25. Oriental Turtle Dove
  26. Common Crane 1000
  27. Hooded Crane 10
  28. Sandhill Crane 1 adult
  29. Japanese Crane 29
  30. Avocet
  31. Eurasian Curlew
  32. Spotted Redshank
  33. Common Sandpiper
  34. Green Sandpiper
  35. Dunlin
  36. Grey Plover
  37. Kentish Plover
  38. Common Kestrel
  39. Peregrine 1
  40. Mongolian Gull
  41. Vega Gull
  42. Black-headed Gull
  43. Whiskered Tern
  44. White-winged Black Tern 1
  45. Great Cormorant
  46. Eurasian Spoonbill
  47. Oriental Stork 35
  48. Black-crowned Night-heron
  49. Great Bittern 2
  50. Chinese Pond Heron
  51. Grey Heron
  52. Little Egret
  53. Great Egret
  54. Long-tailed Shrike
  55. (Oriental) Magpie
  56. Azure-winged Magpie
  57. Oriental Blackbird
  58. Dusky Thrush
  59. Daurian Redstart
  60. Bluethroat
  61. White-cheeked Starling
  62. Crested Myna
  63. Chinese Bulbul
  64. Vinous-throated Parrotbill
  65. Reed Parrotbill 10
  66. Plain Prinia
  67. Tree Sparrow
  68. Oriental Skylark
  69. White Wagtail (Leucopsis)
  70. Eastern Yellow Wagtail 1
  71. Buff-bellied Pipit
  72. Richard’s Pipit
  73. Little Bunting
  74. Black-faced Bunting
  75. Rustic Bunting 5
  76. Chestnut-eared Bunting 2
  77. Pallas’s Bunting very common
  78. Japanese Reed Bunting 1 1st winter, 1 spec., 1 ad female (Bas)
  79. Reed Bunting

 

Swan Geese by Garry Bakker

Swan Geese by Garry Bakker

 

Red-crowned Cranes by Garry Bakker

Red-crowned Cranes by Garry Bakker

 

 

Common cranes by Garry Bakker

Common cranes by Garry Bakker

 

Happy birding!

 

Arjan Dwarshuis
Arjan Dwarshuis
birding@arjandwarshuis.com