A new perspective on winter at Poyang Lakes

Nearly all of the world’s 4,000 Siberian Cranes, hanging grimly onto an Anthropocene survival ticket, escape northeastern Siberia to winter down on the huge Poyang Lakes, 700 kilometers southwest of Shanghai. Winter at Poyang Lakes is right now. When I last hypothesized a post-Covid timetable to travel and “witness” these magnificent birds, I gave up on seeing them breed in remote Russia (too onerous, plus we shouldn’t disturb them) and earmarked January 2023 or January 2024 for a China trip.

This morning, stuck inside waiting for an undoubtedly negative Coronavirus test result, I read a fascinating article (“Siberian Cranes face an uncertain winter after record floods in China“) by ICF’s head, Spike Millington. Apparently terrible floods hit the Poyang area in late summer this year (did I even hear about that?) and the usual tuber foods were awash and died. “The birds face an uncertain winter,” Millington writes. Fortunately, a local woman has spearheaded planting lotus ponds nearby. Already, 2,000 Siberian Cranes have flown in and are crammed into the ponds (I’ve used that image from the article), begging the question: will the remaining 2,000 or so be able to eat? I shudder.

More prosaically, do I need to check out water levels before I visit Poyang Lakes? Am I keen to get the “best” views, that is, when water levels are more normal? Or should I just take whatever is thrown my way? Surely the latter approach might get me thinking more widely.