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Black-headed gulls flock to Piliao Bay

By Zhang Qiong and Cao Yinan Updated: 2016-02-02

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Piliao Bay is located just south of Piliao village, Dongshan town in Donghai Island of Zhanjiang, Guangdong province. It boasts a vibrant and diverse ecosystem full of natural beauty and shimmering water stretching endlessly to the horizon.

Chen Kaijie, a reporter with Zhanjiang Evening News visited Piliao Bay in late January.

Black-headed gulls hover over the returning fishing boats in Piliao Bay, Zhanjiang. [Photo / Zhanjiang Evening News]

The bay in winter has a unique charm. Fishing boats return in triumph laden to bursting with all kinds of fish flapping about on deck. The vigorous signs of life predict the upcoming return of a group of special guests from the North. Every November, black-headed gulls migrate from the cold northern part of China to spend the winter months in the milder climes of Piliao Bay.

Lin is a native villager here. In fisherman's cap and galoshes, she sits on the edge of her and her husband's boat and empties her fishing net skillfully. A palm-sized fish fails to escape the netting and falls, flopping on deck. "The black-headed gulls like it," she says and raises her arm to point at the migrant birds flying overhead.

At this time of year, the sky is filled with small waves of black-headed gulls, whirring and fluttering between heaven and earth. The glistening sea seems happy to embrace the sporadic but precious sunlight and glitters in an ethereal way, which lures the gulls to pause at fishing boats to admire the view.

A flock of black-headed gulls skim the sea. [Photo by Zheng Feng / Zhanjiang Evening News]

"We often feed them with the little fish," Lin adds while clearing another net. When her husband casts a net at the bow of the boat, she stays on deck to help out. Far or near, a few blacked-headed gulls linger above their heads. "These gulls are very clever, they know we can lead them to a large quantity of fish. What natural born hunters they are! Plunging like an arrow into the sea and blasting out of the water again, their trophies in their beaks."

Another fisherman named Lin Anshen, in his twenties, says, "They come here every winter as long as I could remember. When we go fishing on the sea, they follow us from the port to the fishing areas. Sometimes we just feed them with little fish."

The majority of migrant birds in the bay are black-headed gulls and sea gulls, according to Lin Anshen. "We enjoy their company and treat them like our families. It is easy to feel bored and alone when fishing on the sea but their companionship brings us much happiness."

A fisherwoman admires the black-headed gulls. [Photo by Zheng Feng / Zhanjiang Evening News]

Thousands of migrant birds gather in Piliao Bay for fish every year. Fishermen in this place often marvel at the magnificent sight when countless birds take flight at the same time. So beloved are they that regulations have been issued by local government to prohibit hunting and killing migrant birds. Local fishermen also take the initiative to protect these lovely birds.

Black-headed gulls share their winter home with local birds. [Photo by Zheng Feng / Zhanjiang Evening News]

Edited by Owen Fishwick