Pensioner records rare birds in Heilongjiang

A pair of Chinese mergansers swim in the river. CHINA DAILY

During the early spring days of late March, when temperatures were still low, photographer Sun Qianglie pitched his tent on the banks of the Hailang River in Heilongjiang Province.

Over the years, Sun, a 65-year-old retiree who worked at the Dahailin Forestry Bureau of state-owned China Longjiang Forest Industry Group, has taken countless photos of Chinese mergansers near the river and witnessed the increase in the number of rare birds. in the region.

Chinese mergansers are listed as a national first-class protected animal and are classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. They are also called ‘living fossils’.

“While taking photos at the river in the spring of 2014, I happened to find a group of white ducks,” he said. “After doing some research and getting confirmation from the local resource management department, I found out that it was rare Chinese merganser, but at that time there were very few.”

After retiring in 2019, Sun began devoting himself to photographing Chinese mergansers.

To this end, he has consulted a large number of books and information to understand the habits of Chinese mergansers, often spending entire days waiting in areas where the birds were active on the banks of the Hailang.

As of April 1, 2014, the China Longjiang Forest Industry Group has banned commercial logging to contribute to the country’s green development efforts.

“Since then, the ecological environment in our forest area has improved and the number of Chinese mergansers has increased year after year,” Sun said.

The retiree admits that the quality of his photos is not always as good as he would like, but he said he feels fortunate to have been able to observe the rare birds in person and to promote his hometown with the images.

“I hope my photos can encourage more people to learn more about the forest environment and how it has been vastly improved, attracting more wildlife,” he said.

With the continuous improvement of the environment in recent years, parts of the forest managed by the Longjiang Group have become an ideal habitat for numerous migratory birds.

These areas have welcomed large flocks of returning migratory birds, including white-headed cranes, Chinese mergansers, herons and wild geese.

Birds have been seen congregating and chasing each other in the sky, or circling and landing to rest and forage along the rivers, creating a unique scene as spring unfolds.

“At the end of March, before the snow melted, the migratory birds had already returned,” said Gu Yanchang, an employee of the Dazhanhe National Wetland Nature Reserve under the Zhanhe Forestry Bureau in the province. “To create a comfortable, peaceful habitat for migratory birds, in addition to our daily patrols and monitoring, we have also provided some food for them in their activity areas.

“The biodiversity here has steadily increased and more bird species have come to the reserve,” he said. “To date we have monitored 103 species of birds, with more than 240,000 bird sightings.”