This is a series of journals recording my days in the Yangtze River Headwaters volunteering project. I will try to update every day but there might be delays in the days I work in the wild without the internet. I’m also trying to write bilingual if time allows. Like it? Follow my Instagram (@anar.chica.yichenguo) for updates!
Finally, I’m on my way to Bende Lake Wildlife Observation Station where I’ve been thinking of all the time. The view was awesome along the way with the road half mud half-wild. There were some tourists visiting the post office when I was there saying that they had tried several times to drive to Bende Lake but failed every time. That was reasonable because unless it’s the local herdsman or staff from the observation station, it is too difficult to arrive at the lake without driving into mud or river.
The grassland here is very weak. Every 100mu (66667sqm) grass can only feed one sheep. Therefore even though every family has hundreds of thousands mu grassland, they can only herd thousands of sheep. Plus the wild animals also consume a part of it. The further we are from the town, the more wildlife we see on the sides, including agile Tibetan gazelles, groups of kiangs, pikas and mice all over the ground, extremely fat marmots, and when we’re close to the station, we saw a huge Eurasian eagle-owl standing right on one of the outdoor cameras.
My work here is super busy. Those days that I could find free time like in the conservation center is gone for good. And even my journals can only be written irregularly whenever I have time. Since I arrived early in the morning I started to do the handover work with the previous photographer. After lunch when they left, only Mr. Yang and I worked in the control room, well, most of the time only I was there. The work content is not to be publicized just yet, so I only record the interesting things while observing the animal world.
The world of Pallas’s gull and brown-headed gull is very cruel. Chicks without parents around would be attacked easily, and even lost their lives. Dead chicks will be eaten by either the same type of birds or another type or used to build their nest. When they feed their own chicks they throw up the swallowed dead birds, if the chick couldn’t finish it, the parent would swallow the remaining again. Besides other birds, the Pallas’s gull may also throw up mice… well… anyway, I’ve never really seen them eating fish (in Chinese Pallas’s gull literally is fish gull). Brown-headed gull’s world is filled with thieves and vagabonds. Any bird may steal branches from another family’s nest, even the chicks not born for long could do this as well. Some gulls without partners would gather together to wander around the whole area and especially attack those chicks whose parents are not home.
Meanwhile, the one on top of the food chain here, the black-necked cranes, is even more brutal. They don’t eat dead eggs or birds, they would peck the birds that are brooding the eggs away to eat the unhatched chicks inside the eggs. All their food must be fresh. Their high standard for living qualities is in line with their elegance. Their nests are usually at the most beautiful and quiet places in the area. They also breed their chicks carefully. There are normally two eggs per family and both parents take turns to brood. When the first chick comes out, one of them take care of the chick, another continue brooding, and then take turns. What a wonderful life. Black-necked cranes are famous for their faithfulness. Each of them has only one lifetime partner. If one of them dies, the other would either die of depression or they live on without ever mating with another one. However, what we observed is not so in accordance with their image. There are two black-necked crane families here and they’ve nested far away from each other. Both families are brooding. Once the male of one family and the female of another were brooding, their partners then fly away to another island to play together. Their actions seem romantic. This reminds me of something I read in <The Selfish Gene>. Many monogamy birds actually cheat on their partners in a high ratio, no different from humans.
Evolution is amazing. I’m not sure about all birds, but at least all of them here know to turn the eggs from time to time while they brood to make sure the warmth is even.
When I finally finished work it was already eleven at night. I saw Mr. Yang making his folded bed in the glass room so I asked if he just sleeps there. And then I got the answer, ‘Yes, I’m on duty here. In case the bear comes.’