To prepare for the arrival of tens of thousands of migrating birds in October, Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake, is praying for a major shower of rain.
Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, East China, is a major wintering site for ducks in Asia.
Around late October each year, migratory birds travel to Poyang from northern places like Russia’s eastern Siberia and China’s Xinjiang region. These birds include 98 percent of the world’s white cranes, 80 percent of oriental white storks, and other unique birds.
However, due to the drought in some parts of China, it has become more difficult for migrating birds to spend the winter at Poyang Lake.
This year, the dry season on Poyang Lake started in early August, which is almost three months earlier than the norm since 1951. In comparison to its highest size of almost 3,800 square kilometers, the lake’s main water body shrank by more than 90% on September 23, when the water level at the lake’s iconic Xingzi hydrological station dropped to barely 7.1 meters.
In early July, the vast, glistening lake becomes a leisurely flowing river, with long expanses of bare beach erupting into yellow sand.
About 30 kilometers from the Poyang lake bridge is a historical site known as Luoxingdun. Here, the original lake area has been transformed into a large grassland where carex, a type of grass that is supposed to sprout in November, has grown up to the knees of adults.
Yu Zude, director of the wildlife protection station of the forestry bureau in Hukou County, said, “We are doing our utmost to offer shelters for migratory birds amid these harsh weather circumstances.”
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Although the main lake area of Poyang Lake has essentially dried up, two small shallow saucer-shaped lakes along the estuary still maintain some water thanks to the water-dispatch efforts of local officials who got water from another inner lake.
Yu claims that the saucer-shaped lakes seen in the Poyang Lake shoal arise each season as the main lake region dries up.
Migratory birds find the shallow, saucer-shaped lakes excellent for foraging because the water allows for plenty of light penetration, encouraging the growth of aquatic vegetation, fish, and benthic invertebrates. Many regions around Poyang Lake have begun to restock the saucer-shaped lakes.
On the eastern shore of Poyang’s northern lake, the city of Lushan saw the arrival of several Eurasian Spoonbills last week. Migratory birds may seek food in surrounding rice and lotus root fields and ponds as their natural food sources decline.
The deputy director of the Lushan forestry bureau, Chen Chaoyang, has predicted that this year could see a significant increase in farmer-bird conflicts. To compensate farmers whose fields may be harmed in the following days, he said, the local administration is looking for financial support.
So that weary birds can rest and regain strength here, we hope that farmers would not scare them away when they notice them.
This policy has already been implemented in some areas, such as Gaoxin District of Nanchang City and Yugan County of Shangrao City, where rice paddies were not harvested in order to reserve them as “bird canteens,” and farmers will be compensated financially based on the market price of rice.
Researchers in the scientific community are also working hard to protect the “food security” of migratory birds.
A big area of knee-high, slightly yellowed carex is being cut down on the shoals of Changhu pond in Poyang Lake. This is done to help the wild geese, which can only digest grass that is 8-28 days old, as the grass will be too old by the time they arrive if the carex does not get mowed. The carex germinated almost 100 days early this year.
For this purpose, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research and the Jiangxi Poyang Lake National Nature Reserve are presently experimenting with carex.
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Scientists are doing research into the optimal “diet” for wild geese by experimenting with varied mowing intervals and frequency on an area of grassland measuring 16,000. Based on the findings, we will determine how frequently to mow the grass around the lake.
Recently, Wang Diyou, a 54-year-old patroller, has been working more than 10 hours a day with his colleagues along the 65-kilometer coastline.
They are responsible for keeping an eye out for finless porpoises, collecting trash, and discouraging visitors from visiting the lake’s main region so that migratory birds can enjoy the area in peace.
“Due to the presence of humans, the migratory birds will not visit this area. If we truly value them, we must provide them with shelter and a secure environment where they could fly “Wang looked north, hoping for the best for the bird’s visitors to come.
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