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Elegant migratory birds make Yellow River Delta home
China Daily    2021-10-22 16:46  


Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, inspects the estuary of the Yellow River in the city of Dongying, East China's Shandong province, Oct 20, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Crouching in the cool of the quiet wetlands, Yang Bin patiently awaits his prey. His intentions are peaceful: All the shooting he's done for the past 20 years has involved a camera.

Yang wants to welcome the elegant annual guests he has photographed in the past-migratory waterfowl, such as Oriental storks, which come in large groups to dance in the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve in Dongying, Shandong province. The reserve provides a feast for the eyes as well as food for the birds.

A few days ago, 48-year-old Yang, a native of Dongying, observed some of the storks, along with red-crowned cranes and some other birds. They were the first to arrive.

"It's like an annual greeting. I wait for them and record their life here," he said, adding that the birds come because the living environment in the reserve is better than other places.

"From the middle of November to March the next year, the reserve will be home to countless birds. It's very common to see thousands of them in one photo," Yang said.

The nature reserve, situated where the Yellow River flows into the Bohai Sea, was established in 1992. It covers about 153,000 hectares, with the wetland making up 70 percent of the total, according to the reserve's management committee.

It is an important stop for millions of migratory birds on their global journey. Last year, attracted by the quality ecological environment, more than 6 million migratory birds stopped at the reserve-three birds for every one of the 2 million human residents of the city.

President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, inspected the estuary of the Yellow River in Dongying, including the nature reserve, on Wednesday.

He checked the river's waterways and the ecological environment of the wetlands in the river delta, and learned about the ecological protection and high-quality development of the Yellow River basin.

An outline for the basin's protection and development through 2030, which was released in early October by the central government, calls for protection and restoration of wetlands at the lower reaches of the Yellow River Delta.


Flocks of migratory birds gather at the Yellow River Delta National Nature Reserve in Dongying, Shandong province, in November. [Photo by Zhou Guangxue/for China Daily]

In recent years, local governments have been putting protection of the reserve at the top of their priorities and released detailed action plans.

"We are taking water bodies, forests, farmland, lakes, grasslands, wetlands, coastlines and beaches into consideration in building a wetland-themed ecosystem," Chen Bichang, mayor of Dongying, said on Oct 9 at a news conference explaining the effort.

Since 2017, more than 18,800 hectares of wetlands have been restored. The sound environment has enriched biodiversity, Chen said. "Before the improvements, some of the ponds were separated, and water couldn't flow. We called them dead water."

Yang, the photographer, said,"Tremendous changes have taken place in recent years with all of the water systems including ponds being connected to each other so water flows naturally, providing safe food and a living environment for birds."

The wetland is now home to 1,630 animal species and 685 species of plants. Bird species have increased from 187 to 371, according to the management committee of the reserve.

Xu Mingde, the committee's director, said 306 Oriental storks, an endangered species, were born in 2019 alone, a major jump from 2005, when only seven were born there.

The wetland has become the largest breeding ground in the world for Oriental storks and the second-largest for Saunders's gulls, Xu said.

When photographer Yang noticed five eggs in one nest of Oriental storks in May, he couldn't constrain his delight.

"Most chicks can survive," he said. "So more have decided to stay at the reserve."

Protection of the environment and birds has become common sense for residents of Dongying, Yang said, adding that if a photographer encounters an injured bird, he will send it to the city's forestry office for treatment.

"From kids to adults, everybody has a strong sense of protecting the birds," he said.

Source: China Daily