run! dance! fighting!

  As a bird chaser, I am obsessed with Xinjiang’s birds. Someone once asked: Why choose Xinjiang?
  You must know that there are about 1,458 species of wild birds recorded in my country, and there are more than 480 species in Xinjiang. Among them, there are about 180 species of “Xinjiang characteristic birds” that are only distributed in Xinjiang, or have Xinjiang as an important distribution area. Here, no matter how difficult and extreme the environment is, there are birds to survive. I walked the Jedi, through the heat, the wind and the blizzard, just to chase their tough and beautiful figures.
The desert life of the little bird crow who is good at running

  Among the four species of ground crows in the world, two are distributed in China, they are white-tailed crows and black-tailed crows. Xinjiang is their birthplace.
  Along the world’s longest desert road, the Tarim Desert Road, to the hinterland of the Taklimakan Desert, visit the “home” of the White-tailed Ground Crow and the Black-tailed Ground Crow. It is arid, windy, and high in temperature. The highest temperature can reach about 67°C, and the temperature difference between day and night is over 40°C; the lowest temperature in January can reach minus 30°C; 1/3 is a sandstorm day, and the wind speed is 300 meters per second.
  The ground crow survives in this “jedi of life”.
  White-tailed jays are legendary birds here. Although they are not the most colorful and tallest birds, they must be the strongest and most industrious birds. They are always running in the desert, in a hurry. I tried to track and photograph the ground crows, they were running around in the desert looking for food, and I was out of breath and ran after the 30 cm long bird. Ten minutes later, they disappeared without a trace, leaving me alone in the desert to look around.
  Water is precious and important to any creature that wants to survive in the desert. The same is true for the White-tailed Ground Crow. On both sides of the desert road, there are typical drought-tolerant plants such as Populus euphratica, red willow, and Haloxylon syringae. Due to the low natural survival rate, the green belts are all irrigated with drip water—water dripping from the pipes will instantly seep into the sand. Therefore, the irrigation water has become the “spring of life” for the ground crow. White-tailed ground crows know exactly when and where to release water in the green belt. They seem to be able to smell water, which is something other birds can’t match.
  In addition to water, food is also indispensable. The domestic garbage pond, people can’t avoid it, but it is the favorite place of the white-tailed ground crow. As long as they find food in it, after eating a few bites, they start to carry it one after another, and bring the food to the “secret base” for storage in case of emergency. For the convenience of observation, we threw the shredded naan on the side of the road to attract the attention of the white-tailed ground crow. After a while, a pair of white-tailed crows discovered the naan pieces. After confirming that there was no danger around, the couple went into battle, transported the naan pieces in an orderly manner, quietly buried them, and finally flew back to the place to eat the remaining naan slag. , leaving no chance for other animals.

  Just like the name “ground crow”, because they live on the ground all the year round, their running ability far exceeds that of other birds, while their flying ability is gradually degraded. Today, they can only fly short distances, and their range of activities is mostly near the Tarim Desert Highway. I was sitting on the curb to shoot, and I was terrified by the speed of cars, big and small, not to mention such a tiny bird. If they are not careful, they will die under the wheel. If a warning sign “protecting endangered wild animals” can be erected every few kilometers on the highway, I believe that passing vehicles will surely perceive this cute bird living in the “jedi of life”, so slow down and pay attention Avoid, the ground crows can better survive here, and their legends will be passed down from generation to generation in the Taklimakan Desert.

  In this desert Jedi, there is another kind of ground crow, the black-tailed crow. They live in a similar way to the white-tailed crow, but their tail color, black pattern on the head, and body size are different from those of the white-tailed crow. , and has a wider distribution.
  I ran several times in the living area of ​​ground crows, and only saw small fragments of their lives. However, the shock that brought me was long-lasting and profound. Their tenacity and perseverance made me extremely admire. They are miracles of life in a desert desperation.
Dancing horned grebes and “spontaneous” brown turtledoves

  The horned grebe is rare in my country and mostly distributed in Xinjiang. They have a pair of golden crown feathers on their heads, and their bodies are compact; their living habits are secretive, and they usually breed in small waters full of reeds and alpine lakes; their diving ability is stronger than that of ducks, they like to eat cold-water fish, and their coats are shiny.
  My experience of photographing them can be described as twists and turns. In May 2016, I came to Xinjiang and went straight to the Altay region to photograph the Horned Grebe. I waited for two afternoons by a small reed pond, but I didn’t see any of them. Although I failed to wait many times, I was unwilling to wait and search tirelessly. One day, when I was just walking to the reeds, and before the camera was set, the horned grebe swam towards me in pairs and aggressively.

  The breeding season of the horned grebe is from May to August every year. In addition to courting and mating during the day, this romantic bird will also meet in the dark and have a date and play when the moon is hazy. When the female bird and the male bird “express their hearts to each other”, the movements shown are also colorful and very complex. Of these, shaking their heads is the most common, and they also pick up reeds, groom their feathers, or spread their wings. The male bird and the female bird stared at each other, sometimes plunged into the water together, then surfaced after a while, holding a pinch of water plants in their mouths, shaking their heads and gesturing to each other, just like a dazzling tango; Move your feet, dance on the calm water, and perform an elegant and soft water ballet.
  After the dance, the male and female birds will go to love together and give birth to new life. Horned grebes are also very fond of their chicks, and they often carry the chicks on their backs and wander around for food. The chicks lay leisurely on their parents’ backs, closed their eyes and dozed off safely.
  Unlike the horned grebe, which dances in uninhabited places, some birds of the dove family, the brown turtledove, are “spontaneously familiar” with humans.
  In China, brown turtledoves are also very rare, and they are only distributed in Xinjiang. They mostly appear in the main settlements of the Uyghur people, and they are completely integrated into the lives of the locals. In any Uyghur village in Turpan, brown turtledoves can be seen leisurely pecking at the mulberries that fell to the ground. Its brown-yellow feathers almost blend in with the earth wall.

  When the brown turtledove is thirsty, it will naturally enter a household, stand on the wash pot, and sip the water in it, not afraid of people coming and going in the courtyard. When foraging for food, they come to the chicken pen, take people without paying attention, and steal chicken feed. Seeing the pitiful turkey in the cage, the brown turtledove couldn’t help but stop and look at it with sympathy, perhaps sighing in his heart that “freedom is priceless”.
  In fact, for those of us who love to photograph birds, we go over mountains and rivers, not just to take pictures of a bird, but to record the harmonious moments between humans and birds, and between humans and nature.
Blue-breasted Buddhist monks dare to compete with birds of prey

  Among the characteristic birds in Xinjiang, some birds are not only large in number, but also widely distributed, and the blue-breasted Buddhist monk is one of them. They are colorful and light in appearance, and they are also master insect catchers. They fly in groups from Europe and Africa across tens of thousands of kilometers from May to June every year.
  They like to eat caterpillars, spiders, small snakes, lizards, etc. on the ground, and often dive down from the branches to hunt their prey; they also chase beetles, flies, etc. in the air, flying up and down, as if to show off their superb flying skills. The whereabouts of the blue-breasted Buddhist monk are mysterious and unpredictable, and in the dense forest, you can usually only see its twin feathers flashing blue metallic luster.

  Blue-breasted Buddhist monks (hereinafter referred to as blue-breasted monks) are relatively docile in temperament. Although they are not birds of prey, they show no weakness when encountering problems of survival, and even dare to confront the birds of prey.
  When we observed the blue-breasted Buddhist monks, we found that a blue-breasted couple and a western red-footed falcon (hereinafter referred to as Xihong) had a fierce conflict. The western red-footed falcon is a small bird of prey that flies faster and is slightly better than the blue-breasted. The war between them is to snatch an excellent breeding ground with trees, water and abundant food. In order to drive away the Xihong couple, the blue-breasted couple took turns to attack Xihong day and night. In our hearts, several photographers believed that the war between Blue Breast and Xihong was no suspense: Xihong should have acquired the ownership of this site, otherwise the name of “Bird of Prey” would be in vain.
  However, through 8 days of observation, I was impressed by the blue chest’s bravery, strong flying ability and perseverance. In this battle, Xihong retreated steadily, and finally had to leave the “golden area”. As a bystander, I think that Xihong flies faster, blue chest dives faster, and most importantly, blue chest is brave and courageous, and has the spirit of never giving up. And the fledgling Xihong, precisely lacks this point.

  The defeated Xihong couple also worries me. During the two years I observed them, their breeding process was particularly bumpy. The chicks hatched in the first year were eaten by snakes; in the second year, they were chased away by blue-breasted Buddhist monks. However, the Xihong couple remained affectionately together after experiencing “ups and downs”, and they both lived together.
  Chasing birds, for me, is no longer a simple observation behavior. The meaning is not what “birds” we have found, but our cognition, understanding and tolerance of all things in the process of searching.
  Bird observation activities in China started very late, and we still do not know enough about birds and their living environment. And when I observed the birds in Xinjiang, I just stood on the shoulders of my predecessors and walked the road they walked many years ago. Regarding the stories of these “sky spirits”, there are more places in Xinjiang worth looking for and exploring.

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