Trip Report: Po Yang (Jiangxi Province), P.R.China, December 21-24, 2000

Graham Talbot, 2 Brandreth Road, London E6 5QB, UK, and Volker Schmidt;


Po Yang in Jiangxi Province is a huge lake surrounded by a number of smaller lakes. In the summer the lakes are filled by the flooding of the Jangzi River, however in the autumn as the waters subside vast areas of shallow water and extensive muddy banks are created producing ideal habitat for cranes ducks and geese. The area is the main wintering ground for 95% of the worlds Siberian Crane population as well as a major wintering ground for White-naped and Hooded Cranes.

Only a fraction of the area is designated a reserve, which is centred around the village of Wu Cheng where the reserve Head Quarters is located, and basically incorporates the smaller lakes of Dahu Chi, Sha Hu, and Bang Hu. Surrounding these lakes are extensive areas of low lying grass which are idea feeding areas for geese and ducks with the longer grass being the wintering areas of Great Bustard and Japanese Marsh warbler.

The village of Wu Cheng is located on higher ground at the confluence of the river Xiu and the river Gan and is surrounded by large areas of cultivated fields, paddies and small areas of woodland. Access to the village from Nanchang is by either a rough dirt track or by a twice-daily riverboat.


As with many places in the remoter parts of China, access is not easy mainly due to the language barrier. Because of this and due the short duration of our visit we made all the arrangements through a travel company recommended to us by some Hong Kong birders. This was not cheap but we encountered no problems, and we had a guide who spoke English throughout the trip, and at the reserve the warden took us out the two days we were there. If time were no problem then it would be possible to find your own way to the reserve.

We stayed at the Head Quarters which was basic and had obviously seen better days. There was no heating, and the only hot water was the provision of a large jug for washing each day. All food was provided by the reserve HQ. It was typical Chinese fare with a strong emphasis on fish.

During our stay the weather proved our greatest enemy. On the drive into the reserve on the first day the sun was shining, and it was perfect conditions for birdwatching. At night a frost appeared, and to our dismay in the morning we woke to thick fog which only cleared for about 4hours in the late afternoon. This was repeated on the second day, and fog was still present as we left on the last day. Although mist often occurs first thing apparently the presence of fog for the majority of the day is unusual. I think we were just unlucky


Thursday 21st December 2000

Crossed the boarder from Hong Kong into China at Lo Wu and took a taxi to Shenzhen airport where we caught the late morning flight to Nanchang arriving one hour latter. As we had already cleared immigration at Lo Wu we collected our bags and were met by a Mr He and his niece Mary. Both of them spoke very good English and although not birdwatchers had in the past acted as guides for other birdwatching groups.

A mini bus was waiting to take us to the reserve HQ along the dirt road, which passes close to Dahu Lake. En route we stopped a number of times and saw Oriental White Stork, Black-shouldered Kite and Ring-necked Pheasant. About half way along the track the condition deteriorated to such an extent that it was not possible to go any further. Luckily a mini bus with much higher ground clearance approached us from Wu Chen, and after a heated debate between the two drivers a deal was struck, and we transferred to the other mini bus, which turned around and took us to Wu Chen.

Friday 22nd December 2000

Woke up to thick fog with visibility down to about 30m. Hoping that it would clear as soon as the sun rose we set off in a barge along the river Xiu. However very soon it became obvious that the captain of the barge was unhappy at having to travel in the fog and was not quite sure where we were. We landed on the riverbank and discovered a large area of reeds, which quickly produced Japanese Marsh Warbler. Although many birds could be heard calling as they flew overhead the thick fog prevailed. Returned to the barge and travelled back towards Wu Chen stopping on the opposite bank to the village. We walked for about 4km along a raised embankment which overlooked a small section of Bang Hu, and as the fog slowly cleared we could see across large areas of grassland and shallow pools. Still there was no sign of any cranes so we returned to the barge and headed up the Xiu river for about an hour to the lake of Sha Hu. By now it was about 15.00; the fog had cleared and eventually we found a party of 15 Siberian Cranes and about 450 White-naped Cranes as well as a large selection of other water birds. Left the area at dusk after a quick look at Dahu Chi where more water birds were seen.

Saturday 23rd December 2000

Woke again to even thicker fog and decided it was pointless taking the barge out to the lakes so spent the morning birding the fields, paddies and small woods around Wu Chen. By about 13.00 the fog started to clear so we took a barge to the large lake of Bang Hu but again no sign of the large flocks of cranes, although we managed to find Pallas's Reed Bunting in the surrounding grassland. Had a brief look at Mei Xi on the way back but by now dusk was approaching so we returned to Wu Chen disappointed.

Sunday 24th December 2000

Awoke to thick fog yet again, and due to the fog the river ferry back to Nanchang was not operating. As there were no buses leaving the village that morning it was decided following a heated debate between our guide and the captain of the barge that the only way out was by barge, and so we headed upriver towards Nanchang in thick fog. I was not quite sure if the captain really knew where he was going, however after two hours we eventually arrived at a small village much to the Captain's and our relief. Our mini bus was waiting for us, and as we left the village three Brown Crakes were seen feeding on the road.

Arrived at Nanchang airport only to find our flight was delayed due to the fog. Eventually left late afternoon arriving at Shenzhen an hour latter from where we got a taxi to the boarder crossing back into Hong Kong early evening.

All in all a disappointing trip. Although we saw most of the key birds, we were unable to take advantage of the full potential of the area due to the weather.

Systematic List

  1. Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
    2 seen from the mini bus in the fields around Wu Chen 21st December

  2. Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus)
    150 at Sha Hu 22nd December, 300 at Bang Hu 22nd December, 300 Bang Hu 23rd December and 300 Mei Xi 23rd December

  3. Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides)
    300 Sha Hu 22nd December, 50 Bang Hu 23rd December, 300 Mei Xi 23rd December

  4. Bean Goose (Anser fabalis)
    10 flying over entrance road 21st December

  5. Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
    1500 Sha Hu 22nd December, 100 Mei Xi 23rd December

  6. Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)
    2 Bang Hu 22nd December

  7. Spot-billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha)
    50 Sha Hu 22nd December

  8. Pintail (Anas acuta)
    10 Sha Hu 22nd December

  9. Common Teal (Anas crecca)
    25 Sha Hu 22nd December

  10. Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
    3 on the river 22nd December, 7 River Gan 23rd December

  11. Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
    2 on 22nd December

  12. Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis)
    Common along the river max of 10 seen daily

  13. Spotted Dove (Strreptopelia chinensis)
    8 Wu Chen Village 22nd December, 10 Wu Chen village and sorrounding fields 23rd December

  14. Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus)
    15 Sha Hu 22nd December

  15. White-naped Crane (Grus vipo)
    450 Sha Hu 22nd December, 5 Bang Hu 23rd December

  16. Comman Crane (Grus grus)
    3 Bang Hu 23rd December

  17. Japanese Quail (Coturnix japonica)
    A total of 6 seen in reserve 22nd December

  18. Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
    2 Bang Hu 22nd December

  19. Brown Crake (Amaurornis akool)
    3 on road by ferry terminal near Nanchang 24 December

  20. Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
    1 Sha Hu 22nd December

  21. Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
    Common grassland bird seen in good numbers every day

  22. Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
    500 Sha Hu 22nd December

  23. Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
    1 Mei Xi 23rd December

  24. Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)
    7 Xia river 22nd December 5 Xia river 23rd December

  25. Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)
    4 along the entrance 21st December, 2 Bang Hu 23rd December

  26. Eastern Marsh Harrier (Cirus spilonotus)
    1 entrance road 21st December

  27. Hen Harrier (Cirus cyaneus)
    2 Bang Hu 22nd December, 1 Bang Hu 23rd December

  28. Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
    2 Bang Hu 22nd December, 2 Bang Hu 23rd December

  29. Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
    Singles seen on 22nd and 23rd December

  30. Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
    Small numbers seen in suitable habitat

  31. Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
    1 Bang Hu 22nd December

  32. Great White Egret (Casmerodius albus)
    1 Bang Hu 22nd December, 2 Bang Hu 23rd December

  33. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
    Fairly common throughout the reserve

  34. Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
    600 Sha Hu 22nd December

  35. Oriental White Stork (Ciconia boyciana)
    30 Dahu Hu 21st December, 80 Sha Hu 22nd December, 1 near Dahu Chi 23rd December

  36. Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach)
    Fairly common in suitable habitat

  37. Chinese Grey Shrike (Lanius sphenocercus)
    1 Bang Hu 22nd December

  38. Blackbird (Turdus merula)
    1 Wu Chen 22nd December

  39. Dusky Thrush (Turdus naumanni)
    1 Sha Hu 22nd December, 1 Wu Chen 23rd December

  40. Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus)
    1 Wu Chen 22nd December, 3 Wu Chen 23rd December

  41. Black-collared Starling (Sturnus nigricollis) Up to 40 Wu Chen 22/23rd December

  42. Crested Myna (Acridotheres cristatellus)
    20 Wu Chen 23rd December

  43. Yellow-bellied Tit (Parus venustulus)
    20 Wu Chen 23rd December

  44. Great Tit ( Parus Major)
    1 Wu Chen 23rd December

  45. Black-throated Tit (Aegithalos concinnus)
    15 Wu Chen 23rd December, 10 Wu Chen 24th December

  46. Zitting Cisticola (Cisticola juncidis)
    Common in long Grass

  47. Japanese Marsh Warbler (Locustella pryeri)
    10 in reeds by Bang Hu 22nd December, 2 Mei Xi 23rd December

  48. Oriental Skylark (Aauda gulgula)
    Seen in good numbers both days with a max of 10 on 22nd December

  49. White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata)
    10 Wu Chen 23rd December

  50. Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
    Common in in suitable habitat

  51. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
    1 Wu Chen 23rd December

  52. Richards Pipit (Anthus richardi)
    1 opposite Wu Chen 22nd December, 1 Wu Chen 23rd December

  53. Olive-backed Pipit ( Anthus hodgsoni)
    5 Head Quarters 22/23rd December

  54. Buff-bellied Pipit (Anthus rubescens)
    Common total of up to 100 22nd December

  55. Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)
    2 near Bang Hu 22nd December

  56. Grey-capped Greenfinch (Carduelis sinica)
    7 Wu Chen 23rd December

  57. Yellow-billed Grosbeak (Eophona migratoria)
    15 Whu Chen 22nd December, 20 Wu Chen 23rd December

  58. Little Bunting (Emberiza pusilla)
    2 Bang Hu 2nd December, 6 Wu Chen 23rd December

  59. Black-faced Bunting (Emberiza spodocephala)
    10 Wu Chen 23rd December

  60. Chestnut-eared Bunting (Eberiza fucata)
    1 Bang Hu 22nd December

  61. Pallas's Reed Bunting (Emberiza pallasi)
    2 Bang Hu 23rd December

Return to trip reports.

This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; March 12, 2001