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Where to spot feathered visitors
QINGDAO City in Shandong Province has gained itself a reputation as a much-welcomed haven for migrating birds. Every year, during winter and early spring, Qingdao's more than 730 kilometers of coastline becomes home to thousands of birds that stop off to regain their strength before continuing north.
Over the past 18 years, following efforts by local government and residents, Qingdao Bay has become a large stop-off for birds on their annual migration routes.
"In winter, the weather can be harsh and food is hard for birds to get," says birdwatcher Yu Tao. "Qingdao has many bays that help block high tides and strong winds, providing natural shelter for birds, and the ice-free bay areas are rich in small fish and shrimps.
"In addition, we should also thank Qingdao locals, who take good care of the birds each year," adds Yu.
In 1994, the city's Bureau of Forestry launched the "treat our seabird friends" campaign - the first such initiative in China - to feed migratory birds on the east of the Qingdao Bay.
Bird numbers have grown from 2,000 in 1994 to more than 100,000 today, with the number of species up from two to 15.
"Thanks to many years of effort, migrating birds have become good friends of Qingdao locals, visiting the city every year," says bird expert Wang Ximing.
Species recorded include the pewit gull, the black-tailed gull, the silver gull, the gray-mantled gull and the white-winged gull.
Some species, such as the black-tailed gull and silver gull, remain in Qingdao all year.
To best see the area's bird life, there are four observation points along the coast: Zhanqiao Pier, Badaguan wooden plank road, Qingdao International Sailing Center and the western tip of Aomen Road.
As one of the city's most attractive spots, the pier, which is 440 meters long and 10 meters wide, provides a panoramic view of the bay and the Qingdao skyline.
Huilan Pavilion, located at the south end of the pier, is a Chinese-style octagonal building that offers traditional beauty against the backdrop of the modern cityscape.
On the pier, visitors have a superb vantage point to watch flocks of gulls gliding over the waves.
Badaguan wooden plank road
Badaguan, or Eight Passes, is a historical district near the city's southeastern beach, famous for combining the architectural styles of many countries.
Home to a variety of flora and fauna, including peach, pine and gingko trees, it boasts more than 200 villas in the styles of more than 20 countries, such as Russia, Britain, the United States, Germany, Greece, Spain, Switzerland and Japan. This has earned Badaguan a reputation as a "world architecture museum."
A wooden plank road runs along the beach, allowing visitors to get close to the birds, whether in flight or resting on nearby rocks.
Qingdao International Sailing Center
The marina, located by Qingdao's Fushan Bay, was constructed for the 2008 Summer Olympics and hosted the Olympic and Paralympic sailing events.
Covering 45 hectares, it comprises a 30-hectare competition area and 15 hectares set aside for development after the Games.
From early evening until midnight there is a laser light show from the main breakwater lighthouse, and can be viewed from spectator seating facing out to the Yellow Sea. Across the bay, the famous Wusi Plaza and Qingdao's landmark seaside buildings are easily visible.
And at the northern dock of Lovers' Dike, visitors can watch flocks of gulls soaring above or landed on boats.
Western tip of Aomen Road
The western part of the road along the seashore is a favorite location for photographers because it is one of the biggest bird habitats in Qingdao. Many amateurs and professionals make the journey there before sunrise, not returning home until it's dark again. Some clamber over rocks in order to get a better shot of the wildlife.