A NOTE ON THE WINTERING BIRDS OF THE VALLEYS OF DESINHO AND YALURO NEAR NIENGTZESHAN STATION ON THE CHINESE EASTERN RAILWAY.
During the winter of 1928 I twice visited the valleys of Desinho and Yaluho near Nientzeshan Station on the Chinese Eastern Railway, and had an opportunity of observing the winter birds of that locality.
The game birds of the order of Galliformes occupy the first place from the point of few of quantity as follows: the bearded partridge (Perdix daurica daurica Pallas), the North Manchurian pheasant Phasianus colchicus pallasi Rothschild) and the Eastern black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix ussuriensis Lorenz).
The two former species are residents of this locality, the last only wintering here. The black grouse comes down from the sources of the rivers of the main range of the Great Hingan Mountains. Further I may mention as very uncommon the Ussurian quail (Coturnix japonica ussuriensis Bogdanow). Certain representatives of the order Passeriformes were noted. Near human dwellings might be found the Japanese tree sparrow (Passer montanus saturatus Stejneger) and the Chinese magpie, both of which feed in these places. The latter is not as numerous here as in the eastern part of Manchuria (valleys of Mu-lin Ho, Mu-tan Kiang). Its close relative the azure-winged magpie (Cyanopica cyana cyana Pallas, on the other hand, occurs far from the populated areas. It was met by me in the willow bushes still growing in places along the river banks. These bushes served also as a shelter for the Siberian long-tailed rose finch (Uragus sibiricus subsp.).
Chinese meadow buntings (Emberiza cioides castaneiceps Moore) and mealy redpolls (Acanthis linaria linaria L.) occurred in flocks in the thick high grass near the cultivated fields and at the foot of the hills while solitary Specimens of the Siberian and the Chinese grey shrikes (Lanius excubitor borealis Vieill and Lanius sphenocercus sphenocercus Cab.) hunted after mice in the cultivated fields themselves.
The Picidae were represented by the grey-headed green woodpecker (Gecinus canus perpallidus Stejneger). Two birds were found in an elm grove. They were stragglers which had moved down from the Great Hingan forests into the low-lying valleys. The grey-headed green woodpecker occurs in winter on the plain formed by the Nonni Ho valley, where it was observed near Tsitsihar Station. When it moves down from the mountains it meets the telegraph line along the Chinese Eastern Railway, and, apparently attracted by the sound of telegraph wires, it flies from one pole to another and thus reaches the woodless plains region.
In the Yaluho valley were noted two Species of owls, namely, the long-eared owl (Asio otus otus L.) and Tengmalm's owl (Aegolius tengmalmi sibiricus Buturlin), both wintering there. Undoubtedly the wild gorges and ravines of the mountain spurs surrounding Desinho and Yaluho valleys are inhabited by the eagle owl (Bubo bubo subsp.) which is widely distributed throughout the Hingan Mountains. Although I did not meet with this species I mention it because the region described abounds with hares (Lepus tolai subsp.), which are, according to my many years' observations, the main food of the Manchurian eagle owls. Where the hares are, there, as a rule, the eagle owl may be found.
The diurnal birds-of-prey were represented by the Ussurian peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus ussuriensis Buturlin), the Eastern merlin (Falco columbaris insignia Clark), the Siberian goshawk (Astur gentilis schvedowi Menzbier), the Eastern marsh harrier (Circus spilonotus Kaup.) and the hen harrier (Circus cyaneus taissiae Buturlin). Both the falcons and the harriers are birds of the Great Hingan region, partially migrating southward. The rough-legged buzzard (Archibuteo pallidus Menzbier) was noted as a wintering species. It comes to us from the northern parts of Siberia. The harriers and buzzards feed mainly upon mice and voles, and also catch pheasants and partridges wounded by hunters. The Orotchons and Solons* net falcons and hawks alive for hunting purposes. The prices for well trained birds reach as much as $40.00 and even more.
The rocky cliffs near Kesinho Station are inhabited by a pair or two of Eastern golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetus daphanea Sev. ex Hedys.).
The solitary snipe (Capella solitaria japonica Swinhoe) was the last species observed in Desinho valley. It was found along the river in unfrozen places. I met it twice only.
This ends the list of representatives of the winter avifauna in the region adjacent to the Hingan Mountains; not very rich as regards the variety of species, it must be admitted.
Amongst the above mentioned birds very interesting discoveries are the two harriers, the shrikes and Tengmalm's owl.
According to ornithological literature up to the present the Eastern marsh harrier has been recorded from Southern and Western Manchuria only, without any indications as to its winter resorts. Now the limit of its winter range in Manchuria has been extended considerably northward.
The winter resorts of both the shrikes were previously known, that of the Siberian grey shrike, which breeds in the northern parts of Siberia, being southward to Mongolia and Manchuria, and that of the Chinese shrike, which breeds in the Manchurian Region, being in China. We see now that both these shrikes winter in North Manchuria.
As regards Buturlin's subspecies of the hen harrier, described in 1908 on specimens from Yakutsk, I here introduce it into the list of Manchurian birds for the first time.
With respect to Tengmalm's owl, which was described from South Ussuriland, it is known that no ornithologist has so far secured actual specimens of this owl from Manchuria. It had been placed in the lists of Manchurian birds by certain authors only on the basis of its distribution in the south-western parts of the Altai Mountains and Dzungaria as well as in Ussuriland. Thanks to this discovery, North Manchuria may now be included, without any doubt, in the limits of distribution of Tengmalm's owl.
TABLE OF MEASUREMENTS OF THE BIRDS OF DESINHO AND
YALUHO VALLEYS. (Measurements taken in the flesh).
* Native tribes of these regions.
1. S. A. Buturlin, " The Key to the Species of the Russian Birds, their Distribution, Benefit and Harm for Agriculture," Moskow, 1928 (in Russian).
2. G. Gee, L. I. Moffett and G. D. Wilder, " A Tentative List of Chinese Birds," Peking, 1926-1927.
3. Tamezo Mori. " A hand-List of the Manchurian and Eastern Mongolian Vertebrata," 1927.
4. Arthur de C. Sowerby, " The Naturalist in Manchuria," Vols. I and III, Tientsin, 1923.
B. P. Yakovlev, " The Manchurian Birds in the Collections of the Museum of the Manchuria Research Society," Harbin, 1929 (in Russian) .
Contents first published in The China Journal, Vol. XIX, No. 6, December 1933, pp. 326-329.
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