Dongfang is a smallish coastal city on the west coast of Hainan – with one or two main roads, some massive and apparently empty apartment blocks right next to the beach – and some strange swampy area pretty close to the main road. Apart from the birds, to which I will get in a moment, the most interesting aspect of this place for a cynic like me is that it has not one but two Playboy brand stores as well as two different fake Playboy stores, one with the marginally sensible name “Pianoboy” and the other with the puzzling name of “Pinllr boy” (both with fitting, slightly modified versions of the Playboy rabbit as brand logo). In Shanghai, such fake brands more or less vanished more than 10 years ago, but it seems that on Hainan, there still is a space for them.

Playboy is a brand of unexciting clothes – not sure whether there is any connection to Hefner’s empire or whether this brand even exists in the western world. In any case, I find the idea of voluntarily sporting clothes carrying a logo announcing one’s status as a playboy somewhat bizarre. The idea of wearing fake Playboy clothes is even more strange. It is unfortunate to have herpes, but to pretend to have herpes is truly weird.

Anyway, the strange swampy area close to Dongfangs main drag and its associated real and fake Playboy stores has a number of interesting birds – fortunately, none of them displaying any embarrassing brand names. The main reason to come here as a birder is to see White-browed Crake, something which my guide Bella from Alpinebirding (again, no alps anywhere here but who is complaining) fortunately knew.

The HBW reports that until recently several subspecies were commonly recognized, notably brevipesocularismicronesiaeminimaleucophrysmeeki and tannensis, but that the differences are slight and the species is now treated as monotypic. Fine with me – I am always for reducing complexity, whether it makes sense or not.

While rails are generally described as secretive, the Common Moorhen – also a member of the rail family – certainly is not. I guess the red bill is the bird’s equivalent of wearing Playboy branded clothes.

A Little Egret watching over these different rails looked somewhat disillusioned.

Possibly the egret is not happy with the rather provocative hairstyle of its relative, a Yellow Bittern.

Sensing the disapproval, the Yellow Bittern sneaked away.

And so did we, after buying some food (but no branded clothes) for our stay at Jianfengling, the subject of another post. The closest we got to habitat similar to Dongfang was on the last day of the trip, close to Haikou airport, at Dongzhai. This is an area of narrow, slightly elevated roads passing muddy fields and the occasional fishpond.

Here, nervous Cattle Egrets trying to quit smoking pace restlessly on buffalos.

Crested Myna spend time feeding on plants …

… and then take a Didi (the local version of Uber) to get to the next feeding station.

If the Common Kingfishers of Dongzhai are too colorful for you …

… you can take photos of the Pied Kingfisher as well. Particularly recommended for black and white photography.

Red-billed Starlings are common here as well as in many lowland areas of Hainan. Given the coloration of the bird shown, this is probably a female.

Hainan seems to be pretty much the easternmost region to find the rather widespread Shikra. As it seems to be the custom for birds of prey, its name has been taken by an Indian Navy helicopter base (INS Shikra) and adopted as a mascot by 149 Squadron of the Singaporean Air Force (Wikipedia). Bird information does not get much more irrelevant than this.



Written by Kai Pflug
Kai Pflug has been living in Shanghai for 20 years. He only became interested in birds in China – so he is much more familiar with birds in China than with those in Germany. While he will only ever be an average birder, he aims to be a good bird photographer and has created a website with bird photos as proof. He hopes not too many clients of his consulting company read this blog, as they will doubt his dedication to providing consulting services related to China`s chemical industry. Whenever he wants to shock other birders, he tells them his (indoor) cats can distinguish several warblers by taste.