I have always been interested in birds, their form, color, habits, and their relationship with humans fascinate me. I also love to travel, explore different places and cultures, and experience the charm of nature. So when I learned about an opportunity to go to China’s Chao Lake Wetland Park to observe birds, I signed up without hesitation. I invited my two good friends Barry and Gemma, who are also bird enthusiasts, to join me. We are all from the UK, and this is our first time in China.
Chao Lake Wetland Park is located in Chao Hu City, Hefei City, Anhui Province, China, and is one of China’s largest freshwater lakes. It has rich aquatic plant and animal resources and is a habitat and transit station for many migratory birds. Tens of thousands of birds stop or breed here every spring and autumn. Chao Lake Wetland Park is known as a “bird paradise.”
To better observe the activities of birds, we decided to use night vision binoculars. We chose the brand WildGuarder from Shenzhen, China, and their product, the Owler1 night vision binoculars, claims to see objects clearly up to 200 meters away in the dark. We wanted to test the performance of this night vision binoculars in person, as well as learn about local customs and try the local cuisine.
This is our story of observing birds at Chao Lake Wetland Park.
We are a group of university students who love birds and nature, including Fitch Grant, Rachel Julia, and myself. We are all biology majors and have a strong interest in the ecological habits and conservation of birds. We decided to take advantage of the winter vacation to go on a bird-watching trip to Chao Lake Wetland Park in China. Chao Lake Wetland Park is located in Chao Hu City, Hefei City, Anhui Province, China. It is one of China’s largest freshwater lakes, a national-level nature reserve, and an international important wetland. It is a habitat and transit station for many birds, and tens of thousands of birds breed here every year. In order to better observe birds’ nighttime activities, we prepared a night vision binoculars that can magnify objects in the dark and display clear colored images.
We departed from Shenzhen and took the high-speed train to reach Hefei South Station, then transferred to a bus to reach Chaohu Wetland Park. Along the way, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of southern China, seeing lush forests, rippling rivers, and various architectural and cultural landscapes. We felt the charm of Chinese history and culture, as well as experiencing the speed of modernization and development in China. Upon arrival at our destination, we were amazed by the scenery before us. We saw a sparkling green lake with white clouds and rainbows floating above it, and the lakeside was covered in reeds and water grass with different colored and shaped birds flying in the air or playing in the water. We felt like we had entered a fairy tale world, full of vitality and energy.
We booked a youth hostel in the area, and the owner and staff were very welcoming and friendly. They introduced us to the basic information and precautions of Chaohu Wetland Park and connected us with a local guide named Mr. Li, a middle-aged man who was very knowledgeable about the wetland park and birds. He told us when and where to see different types of birds and provided us with many useful suggestions and information. He also took us to taste local specialties, such as Chaohu fish head soup, reed flower cake, and fruit tea. We enjoyed these delicious dishes and chatted with Mr. Li and other residents, feeling their love and respect for birds and nature.
We spent three days and two nights observing birds at Chaohu Wetland Park, conducting different observation activities during the day and night, observing many types and quantities of birds, and using night vision binoculars to enhance our visual effects. Every moment here was full of surprises and pleasures, and we encountered some challenges and difficulties, but we successfully solved or overcome them.
During the day, we walked along the wooden path by the lake, using ordinary binoculars to observe the birds on the lake. We saw many common water birds, such as cormorants, egrets, herons, as well as some rare water birds, such as black-necked cranes, white-faced spoonbills, and red-billed gulls. We also saw some land birds, such as hua mei, magpies, and skylarks. We recorded the name, characteristics, quantity, and behavior of every bird we saw, as well as their calls and songs using a camera and notebook or a recording device, which sounded very pleasant to the ear. We were very curious and admiring of these birds, living here freely and harmoniously with nature.
At night, we switched to night vision binoculars to observe the birds that were active in the dark. We saw many types of owls, such as the forest owl, eagle owl, and screech owl. They had big eyes and sharp claws, and they waited quietly on the branches for their prey to appear, then quickly pounced on them. They made some low and hoarse sounds, making us feel somewhat frightened and mysterious. We also saw some other birds that were active at night, such as night herons, nightingales, and night eagles. They had different shapes and habits and showed their unique style in the dark. With night vision binoculars, we could see their images and colors clearly without disturbing their activities. We felt this was a very novel and interesting experience.
During the observation process, we encountered some interesting or difficult situations. For example, one day during daytime observation, we found a rare red-beaked owl resting on a tree. We were very excited to take pictures, but when we approached it, it suddenly opened its mouth and made a sharp cry, which startled us. It turned out that it was warning us not to get too close, and we thought it was cute and smart, knowing how to protect itself. We didn’t disturb it anymore, but watched it from afar until it flew away. Another time, during night observation, we found a beautiful white crane drinking by the lake. We really wanted to use the night vision binoculars to see its details, but when we adjusted the focus, we found that it had disappeared. It turned out that it was attacked by an owl, and we heard a scream, and then we couldn’t see anything. We felt very sad and helpless, this is the cruelty and ruthlessness of nature. We realized how difficult and dangerous the living environment of birds is.
The bird watching activities at Chaohu Wetland Park have given us a lot of knowledge and experience, as well as a lot of joy and sadness. We have a deeper respect and love for the birds and nature here, and also have more insights and evaluations on the use of night vision binoculars.
Our bird watching trip to Chaohu Wetland Park has ended, and we returned to Shenzhen with full of memories and feelings. We have the following summary and reflection on this trip:
First of all, we have a deeper understanding and view on bird protection and ecological environment. We know that Chaohu Wetland Park is a very important bird habitat and migration station, providing abundant food and water sources for birds, as well as opportunities for people to observe and learn. We also know that birds face many threats and dangers, such as predation by natural enemies, human interference, environmental pollution, etc. We feel that we have a responsibility and obligation to protect birds and nature, and let them live safely and harmoniously. We also hope that more people can pay attention to and participate in bird protection and ecological environment construction, making our earth a better place.
Secondly, we have more evaluations and suggestions on night vision binoculars. We believe that night vision binoculars are a very useful and interesting tool, which can allow us to see the birds that we usually can’t see in the dark, and also allow us to see the image and color of birds more clearly. It can increase our observation range and effect, as well as our observation fun and interest. However, we also found some shortcomings and disadvantages of night vision binoculars, such as being relatively heavy and inconvenient to carry, requiring battery power and not being environmentally friendly, sometimes malfunctioning and affecting observation quality, and possibly disturbing bird activities or rest, causing unnecessary interference. Therefore, we suggest that night vision binoculars can be improved or optimized in the following aspects: reduce weight and increase portability; use rechargeable or recyclable batteries to increase environmental friendliness; improve stability and reliability, reduce malfunctions or failures; adjust brightness or frequency to reduce interference with birds.
Finally, we have expectations and plans for similar activities in the future. We feel that this trip is a very unforgettable and meaningful experience, which has taught us a lot of knowledge and skills, as well as emotions and values. We hope to have the opportunity to go to other places for bird watching trips in the future, such as Yamdrok Lake in Tibet, Erhai Lake in Yunnan, and the Galapagos Islands abroad. We also hope to make more like-minded friends, and share our love and awe for birds and nature together.