The wetland in Chongming, called Dongtan, is the city's biggest avian nature reserve under national conservation. It is a major nesting habitat for migrant birds. This is a place where visitors can get close to nature.
Gone are the days when the waves and tide ruled people's lives. The rich resources make Chongming a unique pearl, within easy reach of downtown Shanghai.
Classified as a first-class wild life monitoring point, the Dongtan Nature Reserve is located at the east end of Chongming Island, a district of Shanghai in the mouth of Yangtze River. Dongtan is a mudflat wetland and an important habitat for migrants. About 300,000 migrants land at Dongtan each spring.
Ecologists call wetlands transitional areas between terrestrial ecosystems and aquatic systems; the two systems are inherently different from each other, yet dependent on each other. They meet in the wetlands that are places of great biodiversity. Many water birds only reproduce in wetlands.
Wetland, forest and ocean are considered the three great ecosystems.
Wetland not only provides a friendly habitat for many creatures but also protects water resources on the land. Polluting substances in water will naturally precipitate when a river or stream flows slowly through a wetland; toxins will break down while nutrients will nourish plants.
Wetlands can help prevent drought and flood through its exchange between underground water and surface runoff. They also can prevent seawater from invading the land and freshwater.
Chongming Dongtan Natural Reserve on Chongming Island (County) in Shanghai is among the the authoritative Ramsar (after a small town in Iran where the convention was signed) List of Wetlands of International Importance.
China joined the International Convention on Wetlands in 1992 and started its work on wetland protection. So far, 30 wetlands in China are on the list.
Each year Shanghai's Chongming Island becomes home to millions of migratory birds, some taking a well-earned rest on their arduous journey from Australia to Siberia.
Among them are white spoonbills, black-faced spoonbills, hooded cranes, tufted ducks and pied avocets.
They settle on the tidal flats to enjoy the peace, and the inescapable natural beauty of the world's largest alluvial island at the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta which also serves to record the region's past and present.
Everywhere on the 1,200-square-kilometer island there are traces of geological transformation, endangered migrant birds, extraordinary plants and uniquegeological phenomena, including tidal flat morphology, tidal creeks and ripple marked marshlands.
With its coastal wetland and tidal flats, the Dongtan Wetland in the eastern part of Chongming County, offers the ideal stopover for shorebirds on the East Asian-Australian migratory bird flyway.
Every year, starting in Australia, about 3 million migrant birds made up of over 110 species make themselves comfortable on Dongtan Wetland before heading on to Siberia.
The hooded crane is one of the most common birds in the wetland during the winter season. The hooded crane has a gray body and a white neck and head.
The bird observation conditions change with the weather conditions. Generally speaking, visitors can see the birds more clearly during the period when the tide goes out and the birds are forced to stay on dry land. However, it's the opposite for the cranes as they move with the tides, making it easier for visitors to spot them at high tide.
The population of birds who rest in Chongming during their migration over the Pacific Ocean has grown to one million and now includes 290 species, according to latest estimates by the Dongtan administrative department.
As the reputation of Shanghai's biggest wetland and avian nature reserve grows, tourists from around the world are flocking to see the birds with their own eyes. Most of them visit Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve with excitement, however, some leave disappointed.
In order to overcome this problem, Chongming Dongtan Nature Reserve launched a host of bird-watching information on its Website (www.dongtan.cn) (all the information in Chinese). Information on the birds' and the best time of year to actually see them is listed.
With the telescopes provided by the park, visitors can still clearly see the birds.
More information about the reserve can be got by calling the reserve office (5947-2291).