Tough science

Updated: 2014-06-13 07:32

By Chen Liang (China Daily)

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Tough science

A herd of takins rest on the rocky bank of the Dulong River. Dong Lei/China Daily

Still fruitful

Surprisingly, the fields in front of the guesthouse were filled with birds over the four days. Many migrant birds were delayed by the rains and stopped to rest on the fields.

"There were different migrant birds showing up almost every day," Dong says.

"This includes the mainland's third or fourth record of black-headed bunting (a sparrow-like bird with black head and yellow breast and belly). The findings in the field will certainly enrich the reserve's checklist of birds."

When the rain stopped on the morning of May 12, the team could finally drive across the road to the spectacular Moon Waterfall. Before that, it was too dangerous to get across the cataract with a drop of more than 100 meters, even in cars.

Finally working without an umbrella, Lei found a stick insect on the fern-and lichen-covered trunk of a tree, which looked exactly like a green fern leaf. Ji thought that it might be a species never before described by researchers. Both of them became excited at the appearance of a variety of butterflies.

Wang Jian found frogs and toads in water holes scattered through the forests. A tree frog is as small as a 1-yuan coin and a toad is bright and golden. He caught dozens of them that night. After measuring and taking photos, he set most of them free.

"I only keep specimens that might lead to new scientific discoveries," says the researcher, 28. Near the village, he found a tree frog that's "a candidate for discovery".

Zuo, Guo and Dong took photos of nearly 100 species of birds in and around the village. "Considering the limited distance and altitude range we have covered, the number is quite good," Dong says. "It reveals the area's rich avian life."

On May 10, team members from the forestry bureau sent a messenger from the local Derung people to inform Xu Jian of their predicament. On May 15, Cheng Bin, IBE exhibition director and a professional photographer who had arrived in Gongshan directly from a 40-day IBE survey in southeastern Tibet, decided that it was time to go by foot to assess the road conditions in Mapo, a settlement at the starting point of the 7-km dirt road.