Longing for the Return of the Cranes

Siberian Crane family
A Siberian Crane family at Poyang Lake. Zhou Haiyan

This article originally appeared in the Forests and People magazine, a popular science magazine that focuses on the beauty and conservation of nature. View the original article here.

The International Crane Foundation has a long history of working at Poyang Lake in southeastern China, beginning with the re-discovery of the Siberian Cranes’ wintering area in the 1980s and the subsequent founding of the Poyang Lake Nature Reserve by the Chinese Government. Our work today continues through the support of scientific monitoring and environmental education within and surrounding the reserve.

Forty Years of Extraordinary History

It is said that the distribution of Siberian Cranes in Jiangxi Province in southeastern China can be traced back to ancient times, but the specific year cannot be verified.

You can see the White Dragon Gate right ahead, with the Siberian Crane Pavilion beside it.

Liu Jun (463-521 AD), Return to Shitou from Jiangzhou

The above poem shows that more than 1,500 years ago, Siberian Cranes were distributed in Jiangzhou (now Jiujiang) of the Poyang Lake area. According to folk legend, the former site of Yuxianchi (the bathing pool where the crane girls descend to take a bath) is the present-day Ximachi (the horse pond in downtown Nanchang). The legend, first read in the choreography Yuzhang Vocational Records written by Hong Chu in Northern Song Dynasty, recorded, “After bathing, all the women turned into Siberian Cranes and went away, only the girl who lost her clothes stayed there.” Only the ancients know when and where this legend began to circulate.

There are also many places whose names relate to cranes in Jiangxi. There is a village named Heyuan (meaning the origin of cranes) in Wuning County of Northern Jiangxi, a village called Hezi (meaning the chicks of cranes) in Anyuan County of Southern Jiangxi, a town named Hecheng (meaning crane town) in Zixi County of Eastern Jiangxi, a village named Hetuan (meaning crane flock) in Yongxin County of Southwest Jiangxi, and a village also named Heyuan (meaning the origin of cranes) in Yugan County of the Poyang Lake area. This means the ancient Jiangxi people saw cranes elegantly soaring in the blue sky and heard the holy singing of cranes with worship, whether in the mountain or lake areas, from south to north and east to west of Jiangxi.

Siberian Crane range map
The current range of Siberian Cranes in East Asia. The wintering area in southeastern China is Poyang Lake.

However, since the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China, there had been no news of cranes, especially Siberian Cranes, in Jiangxi for about 70 years.

In 1980, experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences explored southward. Finally, they rediscovered the distribution of Siberian Cranes in Poyang Lake of Jiangxi with the help of the International Crane Foundation, which provided color photos of Siberian Cranes. It struck the world’s attention when the Xinhua News Agency broadcasted this discovery. Since then, Jiangxi has owned the second most brilliant card in the world, apart from Jingdezhen porcelain. It is known as the “Kingdom of Siberian Cranes, Paradise of Migratory Birds.” At one time, it was said that many people only knew Poyang Lake rather than Jiangxi.

In Jiangxi, it is a popular trend for people to show their love, attention and protection of cranes. Cranes and other migratory birds are also continuously returning to Jiangxi, with the population increasing yearly. The synchronous surveys of migratory birds around Poyang Lake have been carried out for many years. It shows that the number of wintering migratory birds in Poyang Lake is generally 600,000-700,000.

There were only 91 Siberian Cranes when they were rediscovered in 1980. In January 1985, George Archibald, the Co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, visited Poyang Lake and monitored 1,350 Siberian Cranes. After that, the population of Siberian Cranes in Poyang Lake increased to 2000, 2,500 and eventually 3,000. By 2010, the number stabilized at about 4,000; by December 2022, it was about 4,456.

Poyang Lake, China
An aerial view of the complex system at Poyang Lake. Zhu Yingpei

To escape the bitter cold in Siberia, most Siberian Cranes fly to Poyang Lake in late October every year, and the rest arrive at the beginning of November. They find habitat mainly in Poyang Lake National Nature Reserve, followed by Poyang Lake Nanji Wetland National Nature Reserve, Duchang Migratory Bird Provincial Nature Reserve, Yugan Kangshan County Nature Reserve, etc. Flying thousands of miles from Siberia to Poyang Lake, Siberian Cranes winter in Poyang Lake for five months and basically take the lake as home and scarcely leave the lake. They depend on each other, respect the old and care for the young, get along with each other, and enjoy the joy of family. The phenomenon of running away from home or elopement is rare.

Prosperous Family With a Harmonious Relationship

Siberian Cranes become sexually mature after two years when they leave their parents, find a mate to breed, and live in a separate small family. The water surface of Poyang Lake is more than 4,000 square kilometers in the flood period, while it is about 1,000 square kilometers in the dry period. There is a pattern of water level changes during the flood and dry periods. Siberian Cranes prefer food such as the aquatic plants Potamogeton wrightii Morong, Vallisneria natans (Lour.) H. Hara, Eleocharis dulcis (Burm. f.) Trin. Ex Hensch, etc., that grow rhythmically and have a large distribution area. The tubers are large, plump, and rich in starch.

For over 40 years, the Siberian Crane families (mostly three family members with parents and one chick, rarely single parent-chick families or a pair without chicks) have gathered in the 102 dish lakes to live a leisurely life with abundant food. The main task of Siberian Cranes wintering in Poyang Lake is “eating and sleeping,” occasionally playing and being alert. Siberian cranes are monogamous. During the winter, they have no mating and nesting behavior, but the juveniles can enjoy friendship and relationships.

In some years of extreme hydrological conditions, the once well-fed Siberian Cranes live a tight life of food shortages because of shrinking grasslands and mudflats. Every year in late autumn and early winter, when Siberian Cranes fly for more than 50 days and about 5,300 kilometers to reach Poyang Lake, they become hungry and exhausted and cannot fly southward anymore. The first reason is that the supply system simply cannot guarantee the further travel of the huge crane flock. Secondly, most Siberian Cranes do not have a genetically programmed navigation system for additional southward flight. Thirdly, there are mountains and unpredictable and uncountable natural enemies ahead. Luckily, with a wingspan of 2.4 meters, Siberian Cranes can find new habitats in Jiangxi because of their gifted flying skills.

Siberian Crane adult feeding a juvenile lotus
A Siberian Crane adult feeds a juvenile a lotus. Liu Qi

One early morning in 2012, the warm winter sun warmed everything through the thin clouds and mist. There were 20 Siberian Cranes and 200 Eurasian Cranes in the Beijia, Xiashen and Changhu lakes in Nanji Wetland National Nature Reserve of Poyang Lake. Coincidentally, they took off in a southwest direction, and flew over the southern branch of the Gan River and the Liyuzhou embankment, then hovered in the sky above the Wuxing Comprehensive Reclamation Farm in Nanchang County. They were alert because it was their first time flying out of Poyang Lake and entering an unfamiliar area. After circling several times above, they detected that the lotus root farmers were still asleep, so they quickly dived and scattered to the small ponds in groups of three or five.

The cranes had strict discipline and a clear division of labor: the strong female stuck her long beak into the mud to pull the long and thick lotus roots out of the water; the cranes, with moderate strength, patiently cut the long lotus roots into small pieces with their tooth-like gap at the front of the beak; the older male cranes squatted in the corner of the lotus root pond near the shed for safeguard. Half an hour later, hundreds of pounds of lotus root pieces floating on the surface of various small ponds, the cranes enjoyed a big meal in peace. Although not as sweet as water chestnuts, lotus root alleviates the hunger of the cranes. After they were full, the cranes flew away from the lotus root pond with happy singing, leaving the lotus root farmers who just got up to face the damage.

After returning to the base camp, the small group of cranes who had eaten lotus roots were complacent and rushed to tell how exciting and surprising life was “outside the lake,” which excited the big flock of hungry cranes. Finally, cranes in protected areas such as Poyang Lake National Nature Reserve, East Poyang Lake National Wetland Park, etc., and the whole Poyang Lake area shared joyful news.

With the first time in 2012, the second time in 2013 and the third time in 2014, Siberian Cranes’ flock became bolder and even more unscrupulous. At first, there were dozens of cranes, and then there were more than a hundred. In 2016, Poyang Lake suffered from a summer flood; most traditional submerged plants couldn’t photosynthesize, and the cranes’ food was dramatically reduced. In mid-November of this year, the number of Siberian Cranes stealing lotus roots from the pond was 800. The Anhui couple who came to the outskirts of Nanchang to rent and operate the lotus root pond far from home couldn’t afford such significant damage or stop it because Siberian Cranes are protected species, so they requested a refund of rent or replanting other crops.

Siberian Cranes foraging in lotus pond
Siberian Cranes and other waterfowl forage in the lotus ponds at the Wuxing Comprehensive Reclamation Form beside Poyang Lake. Zhang Rongfeng

On November 23, 2016, Ms. Zhou, who worked at Jiangxi TV station, and her photographer companions carried telephoto lenses and patrolled the lake to take pictures of birds in previous years, happened to find the following spectacular scene: Many Siberian Cranes flying high or hovering low, foraging with their heads deep in the water or singing with their heads up in the lotus root pond of Wuxing Comprehensive Reclamation Farm beside Poyang Lake. When she knew that the owner of the lotus pond wanted to withdraw, she hoped to do something. In January 2017, Ms. Zhou and a group of photographers proposed to rent the lotus root pond abandoned by the Anhui farmers and continue to grow lotus roots to feed the cranes by crowdfunding. This is the first new home of Siberian Cranes outside Poyang Lake and the closest place to view them worldwide.

Since then, Ms. Zhou has become the “Mother of Crane, ” nicknamed “Yaya.” As winter passed and spring came, Ms. Zhou ate and lived in the ponds of the Wuxing Comprehensive Reclamation Farm. She devoted herself to growing lotus roots and caring for the cranes. The number of cranes wintering in the lotus root pond has been stable for several years, from more than 1,000 to 2,500. The total number of birds was about 40,000, including Eurasian Cranes, Tundra Swans, geese, ducks, etc. This lotus root pond rewrote the history of more than 4,000 cranes gathering in Poyang Lake for more than 40 years without separating from each other from generation to generation. Later, with the support of the Nanchang Municipal Government and people from all walks of life, Wuxing Comprehensive Reclamation Farm was renamed Five Stars Siberian Crane Sanctuary.

Following the plateau glaciers and Arctic and Antarctic ice caps, wetlands such as rivers and lakes are the second most sensitive area to global warming and frequent extreme weather events.

Since June 2020, the rivers and lakes in Poyang Lake have been hit by continuous torrential rain, and the water level in the region has been rising continuously. At 0:00 on July 12, the water level of Xingzi Station, the landmark hydrological station of Poyang Lake, reached 22.53 meters, breaking the historic maximum since the hydrological record began, and the aquatic plants were damaged. From the end of October to the beginning of November, the flock of more than 4,000 cranes came to Poyang Lake following the Siberian cold current and were divided into three groups.

About 2,000 cranes, including the old or the weak, or the juveniles that lost both parents, continued to stay in the traditional habitats, such as Poyang Lake Reserve, Nanji Reserve, Duchang Migratory Bird Reserve, Yugan Kangshan Reserve, East Poyang Lake Wetland Park, etc. These areas of Poyang Lake were vast enough for them to find food.

More than 1,000 cranes lived independently for eight years outside the lake and continued to fly to Five Stars Siberian Crane Sanctuary.

Siberian and Eurasian Cranes foraging on rice field
Siberian and Eurasian Cranes foraging on rice fields at the Kangshan Reclamation Farm in Yugan County on the east bank of Poyang Lake. Zhang Rongfeng

About 1,000 cranes, mainly including young couples with chicks, flew to Chaqizhou of Kangshan Reclamation Farm in Yugan County, the lakeside farmland of Kangshan Dyke on the east bank of Poyang Lake, and ate the rice that farmers had no time to harvest. For Siberian Cranes, the rice had a slightly dusty taste, mixing with a little fragrance of land plants, and the cranes made a crunchy sound by chewing. Rice is difficult for cranes to swallow hastily because the chaff might get stuck in their long beak and esophagus, but it is better than no food to eat. It became another home for Siberian Cranes in Poyang Lake, which the netizens called the “Home of Cranes in Chaqizhou.”

According to Yugan County Wild Protection Station staff, Siberian Cranes were monitored by infrared cameras in Chaqizhou in 2015, and some of them were saved and released in 2016. Local fishermen said they had seen Siberian Cranes living and staying overnight in Chaqizhou before 2020, when the cranes rarely ate rice in the field and were out of the social and media spotlight. This means the Siberian Cranes have used the Chaqizhou area as an alternate habitat long before we knew it.

Cranes and geese feed in rice fields
Siberian, Eurasian and White-naped Cranes and geese flock on the rice fields at the Kangshan Reclamation Farm. Zhang Rongfeng

In 2022, the precipitation of the whole Yangtze River basin was about 50 percent less than that of the same period. Poyang Lake has suffered from continuous drought in the summer and autumn since 1961. How could grass grow if water did not flow (exist)? It caused a food shortage for the cranes. In late autumn and early winter, the cranes arrived at Poyang Lake, where they matured, fed and were protected as usual. To cope with the new situation, they flew to Poyang Lake Dyke in Chaqizhou and ate rice to alleviate hunger as soon as possible and compensate for the energy consumption caused by long-distance flights. The cranes were smart enough to know it was better not to overeat because the rice could inflate and ferment by heat after reaching the stomach (the basic body temperature of birds is 38.6-42℃), which was easy to cause diarrhea.

After their physical recovery, the cranes flew to Five Stars Siberian Crane Sanctuary to eat snow-white glutinous lotus roots to improve their lives slightly. In mid-winter, after the five-river areas of Jiangxi got rainfall, the water level of Poyang Lake slowly rose, and the grasslands and mudflats reappeared; they returned to the traditional Poyang Lake wetland to eat fresh leaves, tender shoots, and animal food (protein) such as fish and shrimp, snail, mussel shells, insects, etc. for a protein supplement. Initially, the wintering Siberian Cranes were vegetarians, but they became omnivorous when it was hard to get enough food.

The cranes in Five Stars Siberian Crane Sanctuary and Chaqizhou rice field are of the same origin as those in the Poyang Lake wetland. Under the influence of loving and helping each other, they successfully coped with the severe impact of floods and droughts rarely seen in history and stabilized the harmonious and prosperous Siberian Crane population. In the daytime, 4,000 cranes scattered among three areas to feed. Poyang Lake wetland is the ideal habitat, where the cranes in Five Stars Siberian Crane Sanctuary and Chaqizhou rice field can go back at any time; if Poyang Lake is frozen, the cranes can also go to Chaqizhou rice field for emergency shelter. At night, only a small group of cranes are left on duty in Five Stars Siberian Crane Sanctuary (the main task is to guard the position), and most of the rest of the cranes, together with part of the cranes from Chaqizhou, go back to Poyang Lake area for the night in a cluster. “There is strength in numbers”; the gathering crane flock can exchange the foraging experience, and it is the instinctive need of collective defense.

Siberian Crane in flight
A Siberian Crane adult in flight. Zhou Haiyan

Longing for the Return of the Cranes

Siberian Cranes are tall, with long beaks, necks, legs and feet. Having slim white bodies and black-sleeved wings, they are beautiful in standing, flying and dancing. They are really cute and humane. They are the indicator species of the ecological environment and flagship species of Poyang Lake, which have attracted many people to love them and long for their return.

First, people in the traditional habitat of Siberian Cranes are longing for the return of the cranes. The primary mission of nature reserves like Poyang Lake National Nature Reserve is to protect rare wintering migrants such as the Siberian Cranes, wildlife and wetland ecosystems. The managers of protected areas will be relieved if the cranes return in time. If not, they may need a good reason to explain to the public. Year after year, secret competition exists within these protected areas. Through various media, the competition is about the first arrival site of cranes, the maximum population of cranes, and the abundant species and number of migratory birds. Poyang Lake Reserve is northwest of Poyang Lake, and Nanji Reserve is southeast of Poyang Lake. The former is the dish lake formed by the falling water levels of the Gan River and the Xiu River, while the latter is the delta formed by the impact of more than 50 rivers and the main lake of Poyang. Poyang Lake Reserve is earlier than Nanji Reserve when the water level recedes, and the beach emerges, so there is a natural time difference in the peak of the distribution of migratory birds such as Siberian Cranes. In addition to the dominant species of Siberian Cranes, Swan Geese, Tundra Swans, Oriental Storks and White Spoonbills are frequently monitored in the Poyang Lake Reserve. In contrast, plovers, Oriental Storks and Tundra Swans are commonly monitored in Nanji Reserve.

Second, people in Chaqizhou are longing for the return of the cranes. In the past, people and birds used to compete for food which caused many contradictions. In the new era, people and birds are living in harmony. With cranes coming to eat rice, farmers in Chaqizhou rice fields received ecological compensation fees from the government. In 2020, the compensation per acre was 1400 yuan; in 2021 and 2022, it was 1100 yuan and 1150 yuan, respectively. The cost of harvesting late rice can also be saved. In Chaqizhou, rice farmers who have compensation for the loss caused by birds’ eating are more satisfied than those who have cultivated rice normally without loss and compensation. The action of migratory birds such as Siberian Cranes eating rice in the field is equivalent to plowing and drying the soil in the winter, and the birds’ manure is a rare organic fertilizer that facilitates the sowing and harvest of early rice in the spring and summer the following year.

Third, the staff of Five Stars Siberian Crane Sanctuary longs for the cranes’ return. Over the past six years, Ms. Zhou has become so obsessed with cranes that she quit her stable job, and eats and lives in the lake area, like a “lotus root farmer.” In spring, she jumps into the mud to plant lotus roots despite the cold pond water; in summer, she weeds despite the rampant mosquitoes; in autumn, she is on guard against uninvited visitors picking lotus flowers and lotus seedpods; in winter, she often watches over her crane children, sometimes in front of her residence, sometimes on the embankment, despite the bitter north wind. She is concerned about her crane children’s situation, whether the crane families return one by one or together, whether the crane families have chicks or not. At the same time, she tells the story of Siberian Cranes to thousands of visitors. Once, she had a stomach ache and had an operation. But she refused to follow the doctor’s advice to rest for a few days. She pulled out the drip and couldn’t wait to return to the root pond, where there were the cranes she cared for. She takes the adult cranes as her children and the yellow cranes (juveniles) as her most beloved grandchildren.

Fourth, bird lovers, especially “enthusiasts,” long for the cranes’ return. Although You Lao, who first photographed the Siberian Crane in Poyang Lake, has passed away, his spirit has inspired generations of Jiangxi people to photograph birds, write about birds, do public education on birds, and mobilize the public to love and protect birds.

Lao Zeng is one of the many “enthusiasts” who have invested heavily in the most advanced photographic equipment and off-road vehicles to capture high-definition pictures of bird feathers and bird shapes and the exciting moments of Siberian Cranes taking off and landing, physical conflicts, long screams in the sky, group dance, crossing the sun and moon, and flying over clouds and trees. Lao Zheng has been following and photographing Siberian Cranes for 22 years. He knows the crane’s ecological habits and living habits so well that he can almost make eye contact with them. In the summer of 2012, Lao Zheng went to Siberia, walked for half a month, and entered the no-man’s land and lived on the crane breeding grounds to photograph the Siberian Cranes’ life processes such as mating, nesting, laying eggs, hatching eggs, brooding, driving away natural enemies, etc. at the risk of “being engulfed by swamps at any moment, bitten by big mosquitoes during the day and surrounded by freezing cold at night, and watched closely by Russian experts for fear of losing Siberian Crane eggs.” He is the world’s first photographer to document Siberian Crane breeding video data. In 2016, the International Crane Foundation held a personal lecture and photography exhibition for him in the United States. It raised the five-star red flag for a week at the headquarter. In Jiangxi, many “enthusiasts” like Lao Zheng, such as Ye Lao, Lao Wang, Lao Yu, Xiaolong, etc. Even if the winter is cold and long with hungry, they are willing to “stay together” with the cranes and other migratory birds.

Siberian Crane with leg bands
A Siberian Crane banded on its summering grounds in Mongolia settles into the flock at Poyang Lake. Zhou Haiyan

Fifth, scientific researchers long for the return of the Siberian Cranes with trackers or rings. On December 12, 2021, during the activity of Poyang Lake International Birdwatching Week, Guo Yumin, a professor at Beijing Forestry University, went to the inspection in Chaqizhou. When he just set up a tripod and telescope for birdwatching, his first view was three Siberian Cranes, among which a male crane had a 950-number ring with white letters on a red background on the left leg and a metal color ring on the right leg. This crane was ringed on January 29, 2013, with ring number y00-0669, and was an injured adult at the time of ringing at Bejia Lake, Jiangxi Nanji National Nature Reserve.

Poyang Lake restaurant owners
Mrs. Fan and her daughter own the successful Pohu Ecological Fish Restaurant in Wucheng Migratory Bird Town. Wang Xiaolong

Sixth, staff of the ecotourism industry are longing for the return of the cranes. The success of Poyang Lake International Bird Watching Week in 2019 and 2021, with the slogan “Cranes Dancing Poyang Lake, Holding Hands With the World,” greatly drove the rise of ecological tourism around Poyang Lake. The Pohu Ecological Fish Restaurant, whose owners are the mother and daughter surnamed Fan, is in the center of Wucheng Migratory Bird Town (Ancient Town) in Yongxiu County, an international birdwatching destination. It is often hard to book seats in the restaurant during the season of cranes dancing and Polygonum (Knotweed) blossom. The annual net income of the restaurant is about 150,000 yuan. More cranes, birdwatchers and more popularity bring booming business to restaurants and hotels. The “Siberian Crane Economy” explains the transformation of migratory birds from an economic burden into ecological wealth.

Siberian Crane sunset
Siberian Cranes settle down to roost for the night. Zhou Haiyan

Different Characteristics of Various Habitats

Urban construction can follow the same pattern, but the habitats of Siberian Cranes in the Poyang Lake area vary from each other and have their characteristics and features.

The traditional habitat, with advantaged natural conditions and rising awareness of bird protection, is home to 170 species of 600,000 to 700,000 wintering birds, including the four crane species such as Siberian Cranes, White-naped Cranes, Hooded Cranes, Eurasian Cranes and Swan Geese, Tundra Swans, Ruddy Shelducks, Oriental Storks, White Spoonbills and plovers. Siberian Cranes set out early and return late. They forage on grasslands and mudflats and stay on sand beaches at night. Their activity space is particularly large, and they can get along well with other species. The ecological environment here is composed of water, grasslands and mudflats. There are a variety of foods for birds, with over a hundred species of plants, such as various aquatic plants and dozens of species of animals, such as fishes, shrimp, benthic animals and mollusks. In normal years, with the development of landforms and a steady decline in water levels, migratory birds such as Siberian Cranes leisurely forage in 102 dish lakes in rotation. When the water level drops to a new level, it will start all over again and repeat. The difficulty here is that it is in the core area of Poyang Lake, which is a natural wetland ecosystem and vulnerable to climate environment, and it is not easy to live in drought and flood. In recent years, Poyang Lake has suffered from frequent droughts, and the distribution area of submerged plants is shrinking. It is difficult to reverse the decrease in food such as tubers and bitter grasses, so people hope that migratory birds like Siberian Cranes have good luck.

Siberian Crane preening
Zhou Haiyan

The situation of Five Stars Siberian Crane Sanctuary is that Ms. Zhou and other crowdfunding groups raise over a thousand Siberian Cranes, a small number of Tundra Swans, and occasionally Eurasian Cranes and Eastern Spot-billed Ducks. The leading food for birds is lotus root. The space in the lotus root pond is so small that it is easy to cause conflicts within the crane flock. In a two-chick crane family, the elder chick often beats the little one because the mother crane favors the little one, and sometimes the little one’s head bleeds and feathers fall off, which makes the mother crane angry. The relationship between mother and father cranes is getting worse. The lotus root pond is a flat pond ecosystem with a simple eco-environment. The water level is artificially controlled and not affected by floods and droughts. Lotus root Pond has the difficulty that with a mono food source and no natural enemies or moderate human interference, cranes tend to gain weight when well nourished, which may affect their long-distance flight ability. And the high population density may easily lead to infection of diseases. Ms. Zhou is also worried that she will eventually retire and whether there will be another volunteer to take over her task.

Finally, I would like to talk about Chaqizhou. The cranes here eat at sunrise and return at sunset. The rice fields around Chaqizhou are so large that the cranes can easily feed themselves with their family members. They are more relaxed, eating from one field to another and living a romantic life in the countryside without conflicts. After they are full, the cranes return to rest near the island. Whether in sunny autumn or snowy winter, they are used to standing in the shallows near the island and enjoying a sound sleep. To reduce the loss of body heat or physical exertion, the cranes here still retain the habit of standing on one foot, even on windy days. In the social circle of the Siberian Cranes, there are dozens of winter migratory birds such as Eurasian Cranes, White-naped Cranes, Hooded cranes, Oriental Storks, Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-faced Spoonbills, Eastern Buzzards, Hen Harriers, Common Kestrels, Swan Geese, Greylag Geese, Bean Geese, Tundra Bean Geese, White-fronted Geese, Green-winged Teals, Northern Pintails, Eastern Spot-billed Ducks, Great Cormorants, Grey Herons, Pied Avocets, Dunlins, Black-tailed Godwits, Spotted Redshanks, Green Sandpipers, Kentish Plovers, Little Ringed Plovers, etc. In addition, Demoiselle Cranes, Sandhill Cranes, and Purple Swamphens were

At the end of February and beginning of March, the water level in the lake area rises as the temperature rises, and lotus root ponds and Chaqizhou rice fields start a new sowing cycle. Cranes will cluster, circle, and travel northward to their Siberia breeding grounds. As the saying goes, “Children travel thousands of miles, and mothers worry about them,” crane lovers such as Ms. Zhou, Mother of Cranes, long for the cranes to return. The Poyang Lake area will always be a warm harbor and a lovely home for migratory birds such as Siberian Cranes.

Authors: Yingrong Guo, Yinxia Chen, Ziyi Zhu and Jianjun Lei

English translation: Min Cao and Jiang Huang