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Whooper swans paint pretty picture on lake

Updated: 2012-12-05 08:08
By Li Yao ( China Daily)

Biodiversity efforts boost birds' numbers

Thousands of whooper swans have descended on Qinghai Lake, creating a pastoral picture on the misty water under the glow of a winter sunrise.

The migratory birds usually arrive at the end of September. About 4,000 of the birds have been landing at the lake since 2008, a sharp rise from the 1,000 that would spend winter at the lake before 2008.

Whooper swans paint pretty picture on lake

Migratory whooper swans bask in the morning sunshine at Qinghai Lake in northeastern Qinghai province on Nov 27. [Photo/Xinhua]

The increase in population is largely thanks to the region's improved ecological environment, including expanded wetlands, rising water levels and more aquatic animals, said Wu Yonglin, who is in charge of biodiversity protection for the Qinghai Lake Natural Reserve.

Whooper swans paint pretty picture on lake

Wu's team monitors the birds every two months during winter. In October, they spotted 1,772 whooper swans and 28 other bird species, totaling 41,177.

When the lake freezes in January, the swans will live around ice-free springs with abundant food, while all other migratory birds will leave.

About 30 volunteers, including herdsmen, Buddhist monks and nuns, have helped protect the birds and other wildlife since 2009. Experts offer training on how to distinguish between different birds, record their numbers and report abnormalities.

A seminar was held in 2010 to encourage the volunteers to use cameras to record the wildlife they see in daily life, Wu said.

The whooper swan, a second-class State-protected bird, breeds in North China and Russia's Siberia in spring and autumn.

Qinghai Lake has expanded for eight years in a row to 4,402 square kilometers. At an elevation of more than 3,000 meters, it is the largest inland saltwater lake in China and received 1 million visitors this year.

The swans are now the crown jewel of the lake's famous Bird Island, a habitat for varied bird species, which is most plentiful in May.


To boost tourism over the winter, on Nov 24 authorities opened a railway link between the provincial capital, Xining, and Bird Island. Every Saturday, people can take a day trip for 120 yuan ($19) a person, including transportation, the ticket to the island and lunch.

Travel agent Xiao Qihe, said people need to book the trip early, as each train can take only 45 people, and it operates on a first-come first-served basis. Visitors are mostly photographers, outdoor enthusiasts and parents with children.

People can learn more about the habits of swans and are taught not to disturb the birds or litter on the island, Xiao said.

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