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April 11, 2011

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Watch the birdie

THE sky above Shanghai once flourished with birds but the city's never-ending construction has caused them, quite literally, to take flight. Chen Ye finds out where winged wonders can continue to be seen.

The rapid urban expansion of Shanghai and air pollution have taken their toll on the environment causing many birds to lose their natural places of refuge. As a result, one of the only times local can see birds flying in the sky is during the migrating season.

But with Bird Week taking place this week, people are encouraged to grab their cameras and a pair of binoculars and visit some of the following bird hot spots in and around Shanghai to appreciate the winged wildlife.

Dongtan Wetland

A charming countryside environment with plenty of fresh air and clean water, Shanghai's Chongming Island offers a lot for tourists, especially birdwatchers.

Dongtan Wetland covers an area of 326 square kilometers and features the famous Chongming Dongtan Birds Nature Reserve located in the eastern part of the Island.

The area is home to an abundance of wildlife and more than 130 types of migratory birds. Visitors can expect to see bird species including mallard, spot-billed duck, pintail and common pochard.

During winter, 3,000 to 3,500 swans can be found occupying Dongtan Wetland.


How to get there: Take Sightseeing Bus No.5 from Shanghai Stadium to Baoyang Pier, then transfer a ferry to Chongming Island. At the island's Nanmen Pier take the local Nandong bus or Nanjiang bus to the wetland.

Ticket: 80 yuan (US$12) per person

Jiuduansha Wetland

Located on the coast to the east of Shanghai, Jiuduansha is an estuary sand island that has the reputation of being Shanghai's nearest island to the sea.

The island is home to a reserve with a total area of 420 square kilometers.

Jiuduansha Wetland is an intertidal wetland, so it is exposed to air at low tide and submerged during high tide.

It was first built in 2000, and in 2005 the local reserve was upgraded to a National class reserve, in recognition of it being a very important wintering place for geese and ducks in Shanghai.

Two kinds of national first-class protected birds, the white-head crane and relict gull, along with black-face aigret and cygnets (baby swans) can also be seen there.

According to locals there have been more than 170 kinds of birds sighted in Jiuduansha since 2007.

Jiuduansha Wetland is not only a great place to watch birds but because it is situated in the mouth of the Yangtze River, there is a wealth of marine biology living there too.

Bulrushes, reeds and other aquatic plants flourish, providing a habitat for blue crabs, yellow mud snails, clams and many other marine creatures.


How to get there: So far there is no public transport reaching Jiuduansha where is uninhabited by residents. But bird watchers may hire a boat from local fishermen to reach the wetland.

Binjiang Forest Park

Binjiang Forest Park is the largest suburban forest park in Shanghai covering an area of 3 square kilometers.

It is situated along the coast of Pudong where the Huangpu River, Yangtze River and East China Sea merge into one muddy wetland.

At present the area has more than 200,000 trees and plants, including an azalea garden, a magnolia garden and an area for aquatic plants.

Visitors can find various kinds of birds in Binjiang Forest Park, including red-abdomen eagle, red hawk, white swift, green aigret, trochilus, cuckoo and goldfinch.

Since 2004, more than 124 types of birds have been found in the park. The park is also home to woodpeckers responsible for eating more than 1,500 vermin everyday, which helps to maintain the forest's balanced ecological environment.

According to one birdwatching pro, to capture a photo of the woodpecker, it is better to patiently wait for them to start flying and follow its flying route rather than find one perching in a tree. One thing that most parents and children like about the Binjiang Forest Park is the feeding project, where people can feed birds and get closer to them in 19 designated spots.

Besides bird watching, an annual azalea exhibition takes place in the spring where tourists can appreciate more than 6,000 outdoor azalea shrubs.


How to get there: Take Metro Line 6 to Gangcheng Rd Station and change to Waigaoqiao No.1 bus to the park.

Ticket: 20 yuan

Bird Watching Dos & Don'ts:

Never use your own food to feed the birds.

Do not drop litter.

Don't cause stress to the birds with artificial lighting or camera flashes.

Don't get too close to nests as birds may feel threatened.

Never attack birds.

How to watch birds:

Dress appropriately and bring food and drinks.

Bring a pair of binoculars, as they are the essential tool for spotting birds.

Carry a bird guide book to help identify the various birds you see.

It is safer to go bird watching with a partner or friend.

The best time for bird watching is in the morning.


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