Winter is not the greatest time for birding in Shanghai, and this year, there was no escaping to Southeast Asia due to Covid-19. In fact, if I were to leave China right now, they would not let me back into the country. So, the onset of spring here in Shanghai, particularly at my local spot at Nanhui, was even more highly expected than usual. And in Shanghai, the situation is relatively relaxed now – a big difference from what I hear from my friends in the US and Europe. I can go out birding freely – though to be safe, I always bring a bottle of disinfectant along and take a sip every now and then.

The obvious local star of the bird world is the Reed Parrotbill. In a better world, I would get rich by selling this photo to the producer of Valentine`s day cards …

… and this one to a pornographic magazine.

The Reed Parrotbill is at Nanhui year-round, though it is much more visible in spring. Others have wintered here and are now in the process of leaving for the summer, such as the Black-faced Spoonbill – already in breeding plumage so as to not waste any time once arriving in Northern China.

But most of the exciting birds visible at Nanhui are just passing through. This includes spectacular birds such as

Bluethroat (male and female) …

Japanese Robin

… and Siberian Rubythroat.

There are even some warblers that look a bit less anonymous than the majority of the family. Witness the

Rufous-faced Warbler

… and Sulphur-bellied Warbler.

In mid-April, the flycatchers start showing up at Nanhui on their way North, such as the

Narcissus Flycatcher

Blue-and-White Flycatcher

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

Nanhui does not regularly have any woodpeckers except for the Wryneck, which can be found on migration.


A pair of Swinhoe`s White-Eyes gave me another chance to enter the world of cheesy greeting cards.

If in doubt, show owl photos – this could easily my life motto. April brought

Short-eared Owl

And Northern Boobook.

The Asian Dowitcher is rare in Nanhui.

Finally, the Marsh Grassbird can more or less only be observed (and heard) in March and April – the rest of the year, it is pretty much invisible.

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.