In the great tradition of authors reporting on and from global hotspots (think Hemingway or Orwell during the Spanish Civil War), this post is written on day 9 of being locked down in my Shanghai apartment compound.

After the first 7 days dominated by daily compound-wide Covid tests and being locked down inside the compound, I went outside on the compound grounds on days 8 and 9. Admittedly, the area to watch birds is fairly limited – the whole compound measures maybe 200 by 100 meters, and a fair share of it is occupied by apartment blocks and parking spaces. Still, seeing a few birds is better than seeing no birds, even though this Shanghai suburb can hardly make a claim to be a hotspot of biodiversity.

I had already seen a pair of Oriental Magpie Robins wintering in the compound. Of course, now that I wanted to get a photo, I only found the female.

Even Spotted Doves can be a target for a bird photographer, particularly when there are almost no other birds around. (There is a German saying “In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen”, which the Google translation engine translates as “Beggars cannot be choosers” but which literally – and more interestingly – translates as “In a crisis, the devil will eat flies”)

On the other hand, I would have taken a photo of a male Daurian Redstart anywhere.

If I remember correctly, I once read something by a British birder spotting a rare Olive-backed Pipit somewhere in the UK. He marveled at the exquisite beauty of the bird. Hard for me to understand, to be honest, but then the bird is very common here in winter.

Some sorely needed comic relief came via a Japanese Tit. When I showed my wife the photo below, she asked me for the Chinese name of the bird. So I googled – usually, typing in the bird name plus “Mandarin Chinese” leads to some decent online dictionaries that include bird names.

However, not in this case. The Google search leads straight to something I honestly was not looking for.

It seems Google has a built-in smut preference. Please remind me never to look up Boobies on Google.

Fortunately, not all was lost during the lockdown. There is a saying among birders – not very well known – that if life gives you lemonade, you should take photos of Chinese Blackbird chicks. So that is what I did.

While occasionally singing, most of the time …

… the adult blackbirds are working hard …

… because the chicks are always hungry.

These blackbirds actually share the building with me, though they live outside the main walls while I live inside. Also, they live about 30 meters below me. Finally, I guess they contribute less to the upkeep of the building than me. On the other hand, they do not use the elevator.

My other function at the compound – apart from documenting the blackbird – presumably is to entertain the other residents. The compound has about 1500 residents, and to my knowledge, I am the only Western-looking person. Add to that walking around with a largish camera on a tripod, and you have all the ingredients to attract curiosity.

However, one older lady surprised me. After asking me to show her some of the blackbird photos on the camera screen, it turned out what she really wanted was to pose behind my camera, and for me to document this with her mobile phone.

She also showed me a video that she had taken of me the day before. Not much happening here, I guess.

The lockdown was announced to be for two days. Now that we are on day number 9 of the lockdown, I have sort of stopped believing any announcements about when it will end.

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.