We arrived in Harbin in the afternoon and, as usual, made our way to an outdoor market. There were swallows everywhere, but we couldn’t find any nests- the birds weren’t flying in any windows, they weren’t visiting nests on the outsides of buildings, and they weren’t picking up mud to build new nests. After a few hours of wandering and spotting dozens and dozens of birds, we had only found 3 nests that were definitely active. I was frustrated- this was our last stop, and I really wanted to end the field season on a good note. We decided we would return at night to visit the few nests we had found, and come up with a new plan the next morning- we had three nights to get our samples before heading home.
On our last evening in Harbin we had a big celebratory dinner before returning to the market one last time. We finished up with 43 birds in total, our biggest sample from anywhere in China. The birds looked exciting too- they had been getting progressively darker in color as we moved north from Qinghuangdao, and the Harbin birds had the darkest bellies yet. Liu Yu is going to have lots of exciting data to work with as he redraws subspecies boundaries in the region.