Our ship eventually passed through the gigantic locks of the Three Gorges Dam, and berthed beside the little village of Sundaoping - our first stop along a bank of the Yangtze that really was a bank, as opposed to the floodwater limit of an artificial lake. After a string of hastily-erected "relocation cities" it was a relief to come to a village that looked like it had been lived in for generations.
(Spizixos semitorques). There are only two finchbills; I had seen the other, the Crested Finchbill (S. canifrons), in northern Thailand in 2004. Aside from their heavy-set beaks they appear to be quite typical bulbuls in actions and behaviour; what they do with their bills I cannot say.
In the bushes around a village vegetable patch I found an active party of this delightful little bird. It is a Vinous-throated Parrotbill (Paradoxornis webbianus), a common bird through much of central China. Parrotbills, which are tit-like relatives of the babblers, include some remarkably large-billed birds (one of which you will meet in a later posting), but this one only carries a little nubbin of a beak (a major contributor, though, to its cuteness factor).
I saw this species again several times in eastern China, but there the birds are considerably darker overall. These western birds look more like some of the closely-related species from further west, in the mountains of Sichuan, and I wonder if they really are only a subspecies of the birds I saw near Shanghai. Perhaps the taxonomy of this population needs looking at?
I was very surprised to get a close look at a Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) sitting on a post in the village - I usually think of this species as a bird one sees from a distance, if at all!