Coke & Som Smith Photography & Travelogue

Chongming Island & Dongtan Wetlands Reserve

A Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) hunting for mudskippers in the wetlands of Dongtan Wetlands Reserve on Chongming Island


Chongming Island & Dongtan Wetlands Reserve


Since our move to Shanghai, we have spent an enormous amount of time enjoying the “big city” experience. Shanghai is a phenomenal city with more to do than six lifetimes would allow.  Although we have been very much enjoying our new urban lifestyles, what we have been sorely missing in our new lives is the nature-experiences that we had become very accustomed to back in the States, where we used to be able to, at a whim, just hop in the car and drive some nearby wilderness area to experience nature.  Here in China, we have to work considerably harder.  While we’ve been exploring Shanghai, we have made attempts to see various inner-city nature hotspots such as the Shanghai Botanical Gardens (more of a glorified park that anything of botanical importance) and Gongqing National Forest Park (actually a much nicer example of the native forest system that may have existed here in Shanghai than the Botanical Gardens…). 

Although we’ve had moderate luck finding little enclaves of nature in our new urban village we have been itching to get out in the wilderness more and more.  Finally, we had the opportunity to visit two of the nearby nature hotspots situated within a few hours of Shanghai.  Our first destination was Chongming Island, situated in the heart of the Yangtze River mouth about an hour north of Shanghai.


The Spartina grass beds "reclaiming" the wetlands of Chongming.  A more invasive and destructive pest would be difficult to find.  Only a very select groups of birds can now use the areas now populated with Spartina.

Chongming Island is currently the third largest island in China and is quickly growing with the deposition of the massive amounts of Yangtze River sediments that find themselves coursing out to sea.  On the far east side of the island, one finds the Dongtan Wetlands Reserve which is a RAMSAR treaty site designated for the protection of migratory bird habitat and Yangtze River delta wetlands. 


Dongtan is a reserve that is “protecting” about 60,000 acres of wetlands at the eastern edge of the island.   The reserve is divided in to two sections – one for public use and the other for preservation.  The public portion is well used and is not really the best place to view the fauna, especially on the holidays.  Our day there was at the peak of the Mid Autumn Festival holidays, so there were hordes of people visiting the park.  Although the crowds were large, we were able to nail about 30-40 species of birds, and we had a great day biking the reserve and trekking off in to some of the adjoining scrublands. 

The “core” area of the reserve seems very appealing although you need a special permit to visit it.  I am not yet sure how to procure such a permit but I am currently making contacts that may enable us to explore deeper in to the reserve for future trips.  


Lotus & Lily beds now fill many of the ponds in Dongtan.


Water Lilies are attractive for sure...

Here are some images of some of the various critters we came across during our visit to Dongtan:


Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)


Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius shach)


White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)


Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)


Vinous-throated Parrotbill (Paradoxonris webbianus)


Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)


Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) immature


Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)


Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)


Eastern Cattle Egret (Bubulcus coromandus)




Other Critters!

Freshwater crabs were common on the mudflats of Dongtan.


Freshwater crab in his "home"!


Mud skippers were another very common critter on the mudflats.


Our bike ride around Dongtan was half the fun!



The Chongming Island bridge crossing the Yangtze - 13 km long!


(See our various image galleries for the more urban side of our China lives).


Weekend in Rudong

Shanghai Tango & Big Thumb!

Chongming Island Outing

Bike Ride through Pudong & Xintiandi Stroll

Hanging with Dr. Jane Goodall

Our First Days in Shanghai