Dong Dong Ting Hu 东洞庭湖

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This huge reserve, which was until recently rarely visited by western birdwatchers, supports a substantial percentage of the world’s population of Lesser White-fronted Geese in winter. South of the reserve, at Nan Ting Hu, 200 Scaly-sided Mergansers were found in 1999, representing by far the highest wintering group recorded of this species.


Key Species

Common, Hooded, White-naped and Siberian Crane. Oriental White Stork, Black Stork, Chinese Merganser, Lesser White-fronted, Bar-headed, Brent and Red-breasted Geese (the latter three species in very small numbers irregularly), Baer’s Pochard, Swinhoe’s Rail, Marsh Grassbird (Japanese Marsh Warbler). Great Bustard has also been recorded but not since 1994. The last record of Baikal Teal was in winter 1990/1 (24 birds) and of Dalmatian Pelican was in 1992/3. Two Black-faced Spoonbills were seen in March 1992 and Greater Flamingo was recorded in winter 1998/9.


Other Species

Bean Goose (2 sspp.), Greater White-fronted Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Falcated Duck, White-tailed Sea Eagle, Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Long-eared Owl, Blue-fronted Redstart, Azure-winged Magpie (introduced), Water Pipit, Buff-bellied Pipit, Dusky Thrush (winter), Mountain Bulbul, Vinous-throated Parrotbill, Black-chinned Yuhina, Yellow-bellied Tit, Black-throated Tit, Eurasian Skylark.


Other Wildlife

A species of hare, presumably Chinese Hare (Lepus sinensis), is found on the grasslands. Dead hares are for sale in the Yueyang markets.



The Hooded, Common and White-naped Cranes, along with the geese, feed in winter on the farmland to the east of Junshan island (garden) 君山公园. Siberian Crane (annual counts up to 100) is generally found in the centre of the lake, accessible only by boat. This is also a location to find Marsh Grassbird in April.
The Scaly-sided Mergansers were in the Nan Ting Hu 南庭湖 area. From Xiang Yin 湘阴, about 50km north of Changsha 长沙 take a ferry to Qinghun 青浑. Then hire a boat to take you south to Hengling Lake 横岭湖. Mergansers and duck congregate in the faster-flowing channels to the north of that promontory.


Habitat and Vegetation

Dong Ting Hu was previously the largest lake in China. In the late 1950s a significant portion of it was drained and converted to low-lying farmland. This gives it a unique character – the lake edges and sparsely populated farmland are ideal winter feeding grounds for geese and some species of crane. In contrast Po Yang lake in Jiangxi is composed of a large number of shallow lakes surrounded by grassland in winter. Most of Dong Ting Hu is poorly drained and consequently subject to higher levels of pollution. Nan Ting Hu, into which three rivers flow, is cleaner and thus more attractive to sawbills.


Getting there

The train north from Changsha takes about one hour and forty minutes to reach Yue Yang 岳阳, on the eastern shore of Dong Ting lake. A ticket costs about Rmb21 but it is impossible to book a seat. Arriving at Yue Yang turn right out of the train station and there are a series of hotels on either side of the road becoming progressively worse as you head further away. The Tian Yu (tel. (0730) 8261662, 8264494) is just about acceptable and costs Rmb110 a night after discount. Take tourist bus #15 from the train station to Junshan 君山 (one hour – Rmb5). There is a Rmb30 entrance fee for the reserve.
Getting to the other birding sites requires more planning.


General Information

County:   Yue Yang                Area: 1903sq. km
Altitude: 30-35m                    Location: 29°00’-29°37’N, 112°42-113°12E
Disturbance: undoubtedly disturbance is a problem here, just as it is at Poyang.