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Rare Birds Find Yellow River Paradise
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The Yellow River estuary has become a paradise for birds over the past three years where over 20 rare species have been spotted by experts. This is due in part to the Yellow River basin remaining water-filled since the unified Yellow River water resources project began in 1999.

With the summer coming and the water and vegetation resources of the Yellow River estuary abundant, the area has something of a paradise for birds. However, what is unusual this year is that black storks, under first-level state protection, have been seen in the area for the first time this year, along with snow geese and white cranes who are returning after a very long absence.

According to sources from the Yellow River Delta Nature Reserve Administration in Dongying City, east China's Shandong Province, over 20 rare bird species have appeared at the estuary over the past three years since the state reinforced water controlling along the Yellow River valley to stop the river from drying out.

The Yellow River Delta has China's most completely preserved wetland eco-system, covering 153,000 hectares. Being a "transfer station" for Asian birds during migration, the area has 256 bird species with a total of 4 million birds perched all year round.

From the 1970s, the Yellow River estuary suffered from an increased worsening of its eco-environment with fresh water wetlands decreasing and saline wetland enlarging. This was due to successive years of natural droughts along the Yellow River valley. The worst effect was on bird species structure which changed dramatically with some rare birds disappearing from the estuary all together.

Relevant water resource authorities, especially the Yellow River Water Resource Committee, implemented unified controlling of water resources of Yellow River in 1999. Up to now, the whole river basin has not been allowed to run dry for three consecutive years.

The flowing river seems to be a prime living area for birds. Around the Yellow River estuary, there are vast stretches of reeds, where clear sea water pours into terrestrial furrows; birds footprints can be seen everywhere on beaches; flocks of red-crowned cranes walk leisurely or hunt for food on lower beaches further away, while some of them just flutter in a refreshing breeze.

"It was the three consecutive years' water flow that enlarged the freshwater wetland and shrunk the saline wetland area in the lower reaches of the Yellow River, which has improved the local eco-environment gradually," said Lu Juanzhang, head of the scientific research station of the Yellow River Delta Nature Reserve Administration.

Although some birds have disappeared for many years such as the snow goose and white crane, the good news is that they have now begun to reappear at the estuary over the past three years, with some birds, which have never been seen there such as the black stork, have made it their home. According to observational statistics, the bird species structure of the estuary has been added to with over 20 extra species having arrived in the past three years.

(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, May 14, 2003)

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