Dr Stephen Moss, Global Consultant, NETVUE Birdfy

In late February I had the pleasure of visiting the Netvue Technologies headquarters in Shenzhen, China’s fastest-growing and most dynamic city. Here is my account of the city and its very special birds.

Shenzhen is a truly incredible city. While Hong Kong feels to me very much like a different version of my home city, London, Shenzhen is like a trip to the future!

What really impressed me was how green it was: not just the electric vehicles on the streets, with their distinctive green registration plates – all the taxis and buses and the majority of the cars are all-electric – but also the many parks.


I had already had a guided tour of sites in Hong Kong, with expert local birder Matthew Kwan (who writes an excellent blog on Hong Kong’s birds), so I wasn’t expecting to find new birds in Shenzhen.

Of course, because Hong Kong and Shenzhen are so close to one another, many species are the same – my hotel gardens were home to familiar (and noisy!) Red-whiskered Bulbuls and the very dark-backed race of the White Wagtail. Tree Sparrows and Crested Mynas were all over the city – the sparrows chirping happily outside the Netvue HQ, as well as outside the museum and concert hall.

But I did still find new and exciting birds. On my second day, after a very useful meeting with the Netvue team, I visited Guangdong Shenzhen OCT Wetland Reserve with my colleagues Prima and Estelle. This is a really special place: a lovely oasis of peace near the heart of the city, and packed with birds.

The wetland itself is home to many familiar species: around the main lake we saw Great and Little Egrets, Grey Heron, Great Cormorant, and several wintering ducks including Pintail, Wigeon and Shoveler – all of which I can also see back home in Britain!

More exotic species included Black-winged Stilt, on its impossibly long, bubblegum-pink legs; and a single Collared Crow, one of the rarest birds in Guangdong Province.

Red-whiskered Bulbuls

But it was the woodland path that runs through the reserve that brought the real surprises. Along with Chinese and Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Masked Laughingthrushes, and Spotted Dove, there were two species of starling I had failed to see in Hong Kong: Red-billed and White-cheeked. Tiny and very active flocks of Swinhoe’s White-eyes were joined by Yellow-browed and Dusky Warblers and Japanese Tits, all foraging for food in the dense vegetation along the path.

Best of all, I caught a glimpse of a Chinese Blackbird (looking very like our European version) and also got good views of two splendid male Chinese Grosbeaks – showing off their black and yellow plumage and huge bills, which they use to crack open large seeds.

That afternoon, two more colleagues, Qingyuan and Lucy, joined me for a lovely walk around Lian Hua Shan Park. Despite the crowds – this is a very popular and beautiful site – we saw lots of exciting birds. There were male and female Oriental Magpie-robins, Black-collared Starlings, Rufous-capped Babbler, and a pair of Red-billed Blue Magpies – one of China’s most striking and beautiful birds – as well as two cheeky mammals: a Pallas’s Squirrel and a smaller, chipmunk-like Maritime Striped Squirrel.

Best of all, my colleagues spotted a small flock of Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes by the path – which I might have missed if they hadn’t been so sharp-eyed!

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes

My visit to Shenzhen was wonderful but far too brief – next time, I hope to have time to explore the area around the city, and see even more wonderful Chinese birds.

If you are visiting China to watch birds, check out the new and authoritative field guide: Birds of China, by Liu Yang and Chen Shuihua (Princeton University Press).


Matthew Kwan’s blog can be found here: https://matthewkwanbirding.blogspot.com/

March 13, 2024 — Stephen Moss

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