The West Lake sees four species of migratory birds every winter: cormorants, mandarin ducks, vega gulls, and common mergansers in the order of their arrivals.
Every year cormorants are the first migratory birds coming from the north. A flock of some 100 to 200 cormorants spend their winter here. Mandarin ducks come in second. Yet, some of them has become regular residents. They seem to have settled down in the lake area.
The first flock of vega gulls arrived on Nov. 15th. They are similar to herring gulls but the gray color on their top is slightly darker. Known for their fishing skills, they often swim or hover over the water to hunt fish and shrimps. They would breed in Xinjiang or Inner Mongolia from April to August and fly to the coast or south of the Yangtze River for the winter.
Dong Si, deputy director of the Zhejiang Wild Bird Association, says that this year the vega gulls arrived two days later than they did last year.
The common mergansers usually come at the end of November or the beginning of December. Yet, they are the earliest ones to leave in the spring, somewhere around the beginning of March.
Besides these four major species that stay for several months, some passengers are spotted this year, including common teals, great crested grebes, and Caspian terns, which were incredibly rare before.
These birds, who might be tired in their migration, land in Hangzhou to take a break and replenish themselves. They do not stay long, sometimes for just a few hours or days. Their visits could be an indication that the water quality and environment of the West Lake has been improved.
According to the Zhejiang Wild Bird Association, the West Lake water birds reserve close to Liuzhuang with an area of over 20,000 square meters is the best place to watch wild birds. With plenty of stumps yet no boat, the site is open and quiet.
Besides, Su Causeway, Breeze-ruffled Lotus at Quyuan Garden, Viewing Fish at Flower Pond, Xixi Wetland, and some areas along the Qiantang River are great choices for birdwatching, too. Some migratory birds may temporarily live in the woods in the Hangzhou Botanical Garden. May you be lucky enough finding them.