xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo Silver Feathers December 1997 oxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox Silver Feathers is a production of The Senior Group, an informal group of older netizens. Silver feathers describes journeys, pleasures, plans, and musings about birds, nature, and environmental issues. Silver feathers also has a World Wide Web edition located at http://discover-net.net/~jimo/sfeathers/sfeathers.html ********************************************** Contents From the Nest on the Chippewa (editorial) News and features Messages from Readers Webbing with Judie ***************************************** From the Nest on the Chippewa ***************************************** We missed getting out the November issue due mostly to my operation to replace an earlier knee joint replacement of left knee, but I am recovering nicely and we will get back on track. Please note that the report from the Canadian Northwest Territory by Gary Beattie has a striking photo of the area described posted in our web site. We are sorry we had to abridge Mike Houle's interesting China story but I imagine if you e-mail him, he could supply more information. ***************************************** News and Features ***************************************** Field Trip Friday, August 15, 1997 Near Campbell Lake, Inuvik, N.W.T. by "Gary Beattie" On Friday night, August 15, I wanted to get away from things so I took off about 20 miles out of Inuvik and climbed a ridge of rocks that at one time formed the banks of an ancient river system which drained water to the north. They are not too steep, until the last 60 to 80 feet, where you have to find an easy way to the top. Part way up, at the lower plateau just before you start climbing the cliffs, I rested on a rock pinnacle. I could see this place was probably visited by birds of prey because of the bones of mice and other small creatures. I was in the shadow of the ridge of the opposite side of the valley, which was across the lake that filled the lower reaches of the land. The air was cool but refreshing as the breeze and gusts of wind kept away the mosquitoes and the bugs that follow me up from the swampy ground near the road. You could hear the wind pushing itself around and up the plateau and over the cliffs. I had a quick snack and a drink of water from my canteen. My dog and I rested a while and looked at the last stretch of climb we had to make, the cliff. Finding an easy way was done with no difficulty and we continued on our way. By the time you are up on top you are about a mile away from the road. The view is great. You can see a large lake which forms a drainage system between the two ridges of rock, over a couple of miles apart. The sun had passed below the horizon on the other side, but the sky remained a clear dark blue, clear of any clods. Up top there are some flat treeless areas backed with some trees as you head inland. The cliffs pose a dramatic effect to the site and you feel like your Odin over looking the cliff where he discovered the Runes. I slept up there a few feet away from the 80+foot drop. I had just a sleeping bag, no tent and with my dog. The winds and coolness of the late August evening, along with the steep climb quickly provided the tonic for sleep. As we still had 24 hour daylight it was difficult to figure out what time it was when I was waking and when I was sleeping. I got up once in a while and walked around. I went and sat on a large rock outcropping. I kept still and just looked at the valley below me. A bird soared down from the sky and landed on tree near by. It was a young peregrine falcon. I stayed still and soon afterwards a second immature falcon came and landed close by. We respected each others space and only looked at each other, me perhaps staring more than the bird. We exchanged glances for a good ten minutes. They later flew away. Later that day a pair of ravens came by and circled over head, very curious by our presence. I think it was interested in the sandwich I had in my hand. I offered the ravens some and one almost came to my hand except for my dog which barked and ended the change of quick friendship. That evening I was awoken by my dog barking and I just had time to look out of my sleeping to see a bird diving at about two feet above cliff ridge level towards me. It was the parents of the falcons, I had seen earlier in the day. It was the first time I have ever been attacked by such precision fliers. Because of my position on the cliff plateau they flew parallel to me from out the lake direction some couple of hundred feet from the ground. till they hit the rock bluffs. It was truly awesome, and some what scary to be attacked in this way. They were obviously upset by my presence and after several dives I moved away from the cliff edge closer to the trees. That seemed to satisfy them and they left. The following morning I packed my bags, and after a couple of hours of taking in the beauty of this site, headed back home. The falcons flew high and kept their distance, checking on my departure. A wonderful experience. editors note- The web edition of SF has a photo of the spot that Gary describes here. _________________________ Birding in China (abridged) Mike Houle, Houlem@aol.com, La Crosse Wi Shanghai Thursday 09 Oct 97 80F The crisp, clear fall weather is here but the heavy haze of China's Industrial progress is omnipresent. Shanghai is like plowing and planting in the spring, sprouts by May, blossoms by June, fruit by July and August, and full grown plants by Sept & Oct. Buildings keep on springing out of the ground everywhere. Woke up to see Eurasian Tree Sparrows out of the hotel window. Also saw a B&W Wagtail? and a Long Tailed Shrike. Walked over to the Shanghai Zoo and saw large numbers of Light-vented Bulbul (Formally Chinese Bulbul), Eurasian Blackbird, Spotted Dove, Azure Winged Magpie and flocks of Great Tit (lifer). Saw a single Common Kingfisher (they operate from branches just inches above the water). Saw a pair of Black-crowned Night Heron fly in at dusk and one juvenile. Monday 13 Oct 97 80F At the Yuyuan Gardens, Shanghai. The only bird seen was a lifer, a Eurasian Siskin working in a tree above the gold fish pond. No other birds. Thursday 16 Oct 97 47F, windy, spitting snow. Harbin is the Capitol of Heilongjiang, the most North Eastern Province in China, at the 46th parallel, north of the north end of North Korea, north of Vladivostock, Russia. We walked the Riverside Park along the Songhaua Jiang River in Harbin when the river was quite low. In four hours, there were no gulls, ducks, shore birds, nothing. The lack of birds along the waterways is disturbing. We finally saw a single bird which was difficult to id. It had a russet colored crown and nape with two parallel, black lines, exactly like a horned lark, which stopped where the horns should appear. After a space, the two black lines continued down the hindneck. The single bird flew down from a tree to the bottom of the steps along the river, and secretively pecked away at the sunflower seed shells found there. We finally concluded that it was a Rufous-backed Bunting, formally the Jankowski's Bunting, a definite lifer. At dusk a flock of Eurasian Tree Sparrows flew in to the shore and six rock dove played on the island. No other birds! Monday 17 Oct 97 72F clear crisp Oct weather. The weather in Beijing was clear blue skies for the eight days I was there. We stayed at the Grand View Garden Hotel in Beijing, next to a wonderful garden with five acres of trees, ponds, plants and old homes from an ancient Chinese story. I did not get to see this garden, but could be an oasis for a short stay in Beijing. This Monday I took a cab to the Fragrant Hills, 12 Km west of the Summer Palace of Beijing, arriving at 6am. It was still dark. The cab was about one hour drive for $5.00. The park is 2000 acres and rises about 2000' to a temple. I started up the wide stone pathway, but it was crowded, so I walked up thru some gullies. The natives bellow out in a form of Congee, an exercise to clean the lungs of CO2. It is quite disturbing and can be a big surprise if you are watching a bird and someone shouts about 10' behind you. The shouting goes on until about 10am. I immediately saw large flocks of Azure-winged Magpie and small groups of Black-billed Magpie which went on all day. The Eurasian Tree Sparrow were down at the entrance in good numbers. I saw lots of Yellow-browed Warblers and Great Tit. Not one bird on the water. This is migration, where do they go? We did finally see some water birds on a brief visit to the Beijing Zoo in one of their open ponds, the clipped swans, cranes, ducks and etc. Thursday 23 Oct 97 Went to the Badaling Gate of the Great China Wall, about 70Km north of Beijing, as a group. The road is one way up at the moment, but they are completing a super highway to the spot to bring in more tourists. The wall is a great sight, but it has already seen as many people on the wall in the past ten years as had been on the wall the previous 2,200 years. We saw Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Large-billed Crow, Black Billed Magpie and Azure-winged Magpie. The sky remained clear and blue, but it was 45F with a 50mph wind which made both the climb and the birding nearly impossible. About 10 miles north of the Badaling Gate there is a fortress on the top of a large hill which the farmers made into a fortress to hold their sheep. We saw a pair of what I was certain to be Golden Eagles hovering over the fortress. We saw mules pulling stone wheels to work some of the shells off some of the grains and on several occasions, the farmers spread the grain on the highway and let the traffic do the job. You can witness the future and the past at the same moment in China today. The single, two lane road back to Beijing gets clogged with trucks and we sat in one spot for over two hours while the gridlock was untangled. Do not plan on a last minute trip into the mountains. Some of the tour missed their plane this day. In all, the Chinese are very helpful and friendly. They have few driving rules, and no one follows those rules. It is chaos, but you never see them shouting or cursing at anyone as everyone cuts in front of everyone. Saturday 25 Oct 97 I found a quiet spot for birding in China. Go north thru the Badaling Gate of the Great China Wall, and another 20 miles is the Songshan Mountain Natural Reserve, a 2000 acre mountain preserve which includes an ancient virgin forest, hot springs, hundreds of springs and waterfalls, and a 6,600' mountain peak with thousands of valleys, ravines where you can do some serious birding. On Saturday, it was 25F in the mountains and windy, warmed to 40F and dropped below freezing again by early afternoon. I was prepared and I climbed from the hotel starting at 2,200' to the 6000' level where the 100 falls springs is located, in seven hours, then two hours to return. I spent a lot of time with the Tit, seeing a lifer, the Marsh Tit (20), about 12 Great Tit including a juvenile, and Coal Tit (25), crows, only 2 Eurasian Tree Sparrows, heard then flushed two Common Pheasant (a nice experience to see these birds in their native mountain habitat), Black-billed Magpie, lots of Blue Magpie (Red-billed) with those long tails, a flock of 50 Vinous-throated Parrotbill which seemed to follow me down the mountain, and two Common Rosefinch, another lifer for me. The Rosefinch were stunning sitting in the open for a good long look. With the Rosefinch was a dull, olive green, plain finch of the same size, with the only color, a bright yellow rump. I thought it must have been the female, but by reference, it definitely was not. I would love to id that yellow rumped bird. I saw one small falcon like bird near the top of my climb and I could see two large raptors soaring above the hotel on my way down. Sunday 26 Oct 97 From the Songshan Reserve Hotel, I walked up a dirt road about two miles along a large running stream to a small village of about 20 families. It was bitter cold with the north winds roaring down the canyon walls. I was dressed for winter and needed all of it. One word of caution. I had intended to stay four days, paying for everything by credit card or change some $US dollars. These remote places in China only take Chinese money. I did not carry that much and had to leave one day early. This was a big disappointment. We drove thru the mountains on the way back to Beijing and stopped at the Ming Tomb Reservoir. These drivers are daredevils from hell. On a two lane highway, with a shoulder, jammed with trucks carrying coal, corn, rice, and little motor scooters, and mules pulling carts, it seems that there are always at least three lanes going in each direction. Everyone passes on the tightest blind curves, just ducking in at the last second, keeping all passengers in a near panic condition. Do not rent a car/interpreter/driver if you have a weak heart. They have just learned how to drive, they are always talking on the phone during these harrowing scenes, and they do not know how to drive. I just lay down in the back seat and pray. At the dam there were three Common Merganser hens diving for fish. These were the first birds seen on the water since the common sandpiper seen 16 days ago in Shanghai despite my diligent search at every opportunity. We drove along the reservoir and made several stops but did not see another water bird. This is astonishing. The surrounding woods, however, do provide a quiet, private area to bird, and is only 30 minutes north of Beijing. It was 48F in Beijing. The horrible haze in China is not the result of the fires in Indonesia. It is the result of their industrial revolution powered by coal, their traditional means of heating with coke, coal and charcoal, and their tradition of burning leaves and fields at years end to rid the fields of insects. The disappearance of birds on the waterways is due to industrial waste and pollution. But the industrial revolution also brings a mixed environmental blessing. At the moment, China has begun to dam both the Yellow and the Three Gorges of the Yangtze. This will bring a clean power equal to more than thirty nuclear power plants. It will change the sedimentation of the "River of Sorrows", as a trade off for clean power and flood control. China has closed 100 rice paper mills on the Yangtze to reduce pollution. The Crested Ibis had disappeared from the Soviet Union, Korea and Japan in the 70's. A small colony was found in Yangxian County, Shaanxi Province, a remote mountain area far from industrial spots and big cities. Japan has provided funds to China for their survival thru the Japanese Bird Protection Union. The Tibet Autonomous Region has vowed to limit environmentally destructive industries to maintain the region as one of China's cleanest places. They have placed the promotion of clean industries such as tourism and ethnic handicrafts as the top of its list. Tibet has created a green belt area which has cut the wind by one half, while creating reserves for birds and animals. In the Xingiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, a land of 50% desert and wasteland, they have planted farmland forests which now protect 80% of their farmlands, planted a 5000 acre forest to provide a renewable resource of firewood for the residents and have established 20 reserves of forests and grasslands for a total of 6% of their total area to protect rare animals and birds. The effort has slowed the relentless desertification of the region and reduced the winds by nearly 50%. This is but a small step, but quite remarkable for a developing country where professors and doctors make about $180 per month. In fact, most tour guides are professionals who make far more as guides than they do as professionals. It is nice to know that even in China, there is a recognition of the need to provide habitat for our wild friends. On the trip home we flew over the snow capped mountains of Eastern Siberia and as we crossed over Nome, Alaska, we were treated to a giant display of the Northern Lights with the big dipper lying on the horizon completely covered by the northern lights. What a memorable scene. ****************************************** Feathers (messages from Readers) ****************************************** From: HUDSONPUFF I just got back from a trip to Ireland and England. Lots of good birds at both locations, including Dusky and Radde's, Cetti's, Warblers, Bluethroat, Spoonbill, and American Wigeon. I'll be going to Ireland next March and again in June. The later trip will be with a group interested in birds, wildlife and flowers of the Irish West Islands. We will have a naturaalist from Killarney Natural Park along. Looks like it will be interesting indee., We can expect to see thousands of Gannets, Puffins, Shearwaters, Petrels and Guillemots. Any one interested in joining in will be welcome. Just get in touch with me, Rich Guthrie, P.O. Box 46 New Baltimore NY 12124 or at HudsonPuff@AOL.COM. There is still a few spaces left for a trip to Senegal and The Gambia this January. This is a trip with the author of Tbe Birds of The Gambia. As above, contact me for details. Thanks all & good birding. Rich Guthrie ***************************************** Webbing with Judie ***************************************** by Yjudie@aol.com Hello, everyone....it's been awhile; however, I'm really happy that our fearless editor, Jim Olson, has recovered from his surgery. Last issue, I told you we would visit The Baltimore Bird Club web page. Here's the address: http://www.bcpl.lib.md.us/~tross/baltbird.html. This site is chock full of links to interesting places to visit on the Web--all related to birds and wildlife. If you're from the Northeast, there are links to sites specifically for RBAs (Regional Rare Bird Alerts) in Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, etc. You can also browse back issues of the club's Chips Notes newsletters, also chock full of information about our winged friends. Further down you'll find "What Else is Out There" and I highly recommend Dennis LePage's "Birdlinks to the World", http://www.ntic.qc.ca/~nellus/links.html. This is one web site where you can spend a year and still not cover all the information LePage provides.....outstanding. Scroll all the way down this site and find links by state....just a wealth of information. There's a real sense of humor that runs through The Baltimore Bird Club's page. Just check out the title masts: "What Are Birders Talking About;" "Bird Fun and Games" (want to know about how birds steer around obstacles?; then catch, "Boids" by Craig Reynolds---fascinating and fun - http://hmt.com/cwr/boids.html); "Enough with Birds, Already;" and, "Who Dealt This Mess;" those that think birding and birdwatching is for the birds (you should pardon the pun), should only browse through this web site! Hope you enjoy visiting this site. I'd love to hear your comments and suggestions. That's me at the top of the page. Next month we'll go back to backyard birding. HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!!!