Swamps, surveys and endangered species: the barefoot bird-watchers of Hainan

February 06, 2021 Photo News
After driving practically 800 km over three days, 35-year-old Cheng Cheng, who had tirelessly trenched in the swamp all night, finally found a perfect spot to observe an endangered waterbird.

Cheng is not only a separate lover of nature but a specialist on wetlands and waterbirds, as well as the founder of the Hainan Bird-Watching Society, a bird-watching organization found in south China's Hainan Province since 2015.

In just two hours, Cheng's team had spotted and recorded over 1,800 birds of different kinds during this year's twelve-monthly bird-watching study from Jan. 15 to 17 across the island province abundant with aquatic habitats.

Thousands of migratory birds spend cold months in Hainan annually as it is located along their migration way from East Asia to Australia.

The team, comprising over 50 experts, enthusiasts and volunteers, had to stand barefoot in the swamp beneath the scorching sun for hours at the same time to collect as much information as possible on the several species of migratory birds, Cheng said.

"However, it really is worthwhile doing whatever we are able to to safeguard the birds throughout their extended and risky migration," she added.

The most rewarding connection with the trip was spotting seven black-faced spoonbills in Ledong Li Autonomous County, said Li Fei, a specialist of the team, who observed the endangered species through his monocular telescope that can magnify images up to 30 times.

His teammates soon crowded around him, cheering out, and by recognizing the crimson label on the bird's leg that read "Y66," they confirmed the identification of the long-legged wading bird through a quick online search: a bird born last summer found in the Republic of Korea.

"This was the very first time that it had been spotted in China," Li recalled.

He soon after uploaded the record to a site that allows observers such as for example Li to talk about their latest findings in birds to greatly help complete the picture of their migration routes and facts on their health conditions.

"Birds will be sensitive to the environment and their well-being can reflect environmentally friendly conditions," said Cheng.

The data of the survey may also provide crucial references for regional governments and research institutes to protect the birds and increase the environment, Cheng added.

In addition, an increasing number of local persons are becoming involved the efforts as their knowing of environmental safeguard grows. "Several years ago, less than twelve would volunteer for our gross annual survey, but the number has risen to dozens recently, including some from exterior Hainan," she said.

In addition to the Hainan Bird-Watching Contemporary society, another six investigation clubs also participated within an extensive study that Hainan launches each year across it has the 50 waterfowl habitats.

"We hope people all over the world can unite to see and protect waterbirds, guaranteeing there will be no more hunting by individuals," Cheng said.

Since the survey, Cheng has begun a good schedule training volunteers, conducting study, and promoting the value of guarding birds to more people.

Cheng believes that protecting wildlife shouldn't only be left to gurus, and she hopes well-trained volunteers can be the backbone of the survey and protection initiatives someday.