Only seeing storks and night herons flying from afar, Nguyen Dang Cham can accurately tell their names, characteristics, calls, flying habits, etc. like a biologist.
Like a biologist, Cham can tell from successfully hatched or addled eggs from shells to the name and habit of each bird species living in Dao Co
Born and raised in An Duong hamlet, Chi Lang Nam commune, Hai Duong province’s Thanh Mien district, which is home to the scenic Dao Co (Stork Island), Nguyen Dang Cham has taken great pains for years to protect and take care of storks and night herons with villagers, contributing to turning the site into a diverse nature reserve.
This season, only a few storks and night herons still breed, but from March to May, islets are like kindergartens due to birds’ simultaneous laying.
Cham has lived close to Dao Co for the entire 63 years of his life. Attached to and protecting storks regardless of time, Cham was previously scolded by his wife for neglecting family matters, caring for birds in the sky better than chickens in the yard.
Cham did not explain since he knew that birds only alight on good land. Not every place is gifted with such a unique landscape by nature.
Then, one day, she understood that chickens can be bred any time; however, storks do not come for trees and forests but for some certain fate.
Dao Co is very precious, if you can retain storks, you can preserve the islets, and if you can preserve the islets, you will have storks.
Only seeing storks and night herons flying from afar, Cham can accurately tell their names, characteristics, calls, flying habits, etc. like a biologist.
"The bird perching on that cotton candy berry tree is called snail stork because it eats snails but Asian openbill in books. This stork species lives in South and Southeast Asia, often flies here from Ninh Binh, and is a rare and precious migratory species in the Red Book of Vietnam. After many years of monitoring, it is not clear why snail storks have not spawned here. They only consider Dao Co as lodging,” Cham explained.
The site is also home to Chinese pond herons as gray as night herons but all white when spreading their wings. Nghenh and ngang storks were named based on their gait. Fly storks are seemingly slow but peck flies in a flash. Fire storks, black-beak white storks, and black bitterns are the smallest birds. All of them are familiar species.
There are many kinds of night herons there, such as gray and blue ones originating in India, Nepal, and China and taking Dao Co as their home.
Great efforts in islet preservation
Dao Co has become a diverse nature reserve with a large number of rare and precious bird species
There is an extremely rich flora and fauna ecosystem with more than 170 species on the islets.
Apart from storks and night herons, the islets are also the gathering places of many other kinds of birds like kingfishers, water hens, red-whiskered bulbuls, etc.
Under An Duong lake, many rare and precious animals such as otters, carp, tench, etc. live together in a diverse nature reserve.
Near the shore is islet 2. Islet 1 is further, a short distance from which is Hung Yen. The two islets are stable habitats of storks and night herons. Islet 3 has been formed but storks and night herons have not arrived because one household is still living there.
The deepest point of An Duong lake is about 18 m under water but was even lower in the past.
Cham said islet 1 was an ancient one that dated back several hundred years. Islet 2 is larger, only about 10 m from the shore, and was formerly Bo Vuc hamlet.
Previously, there were seven families on the islet with luxuriant trees which were favorite shelters of birds. To prevent the birds from stepping on rice, people used all sorts of ways to drive them away like making noises, building straw scarecrows, lighting fires, etc.
“Someone attached explosives to trees. After a loud blast, smoke, dust, and stork feathers fluttered, and dead storks were scattered around tree foots. Nonetheless, storks and night herons have not left. They are still attached to this land like it is their native soil,” Cham emotionally said.
At that time, the family of teacher E, daughter of Quat, who was very interested in protecting storks, lived in Bo Vuc hamlet. Later, after Que, daughter of teacher E, had written an article about the destruction of Dao Co and a need to protect birds, it was known, and scientists came.
Dao Co was officially preserved in 1997, and the seven families in Bo Vuc hamlet resettled near the current location of the People’s Committee of Chi Lang Nam commune to make room for storks and night herons.
More attention has been paid to protecting storks. There used to be groups of hunters coming but being chased by villagers, and now no one comes near.
Meanwhile, people in the neighborhood live in harmony with storks and night herons and consider them members having land use right certificates there.
According to Cham, in recent years, Dao Co has been constantly improved. Layers of stone embankment wrapped in iron gabions were dropped around to prevent soil on the islets from drifting into the lake.
More trees have also been planted though it is very difficult since there are more and more storks and night herons, causing the number of dead trees to increase.
To help storks and night herons have nesting materials to prepare for the breeding season, around the beginning of every March, tourists come across dozens of men in An Duong village buried in chopping and then taking bamboo to the islets by boat.
The epidemic is making ordinary things difficult. These days, members of the Dao Co Service Team cannot regularly row to the islets for checking.
However, to Cham, nature and wildlife will rise strongly in the absence of humans just like the way they have stayed and grown in this land for hundreds of years!