Another First for Beijing!

When Jan-Erik Nilsen contacted me to say he had seen a first winter Glaucous Gull at Yeyahu last Saturday, I knew it was an excellent inland record.  What I didn’t know – before consulting Paul Holt – was that it was a first for Beijing.  Congratulations Jan-Erik!  This record represents the second new gull for Beijing this year, following my first winter Little Gull at the same site in September.

I did not expect the GG to still be there on Friday – the first day I could make it to Wild Duck Lake – but fortunately, after scanning the gulls and duck and just before I decided to walk away, the Gluacous Gull flew in and settled in the middle of the lake.  Fantastic.  A real brute of a gull sporting classic uniformly pale ground colour plumage and the typical pinkish bill with an obvious black tip.  Nice.  There can’t be many images of Glaucous Gulls with poplar trees and a smoking chimney stack in the background!  Yeyahu is never a great site for gulls but it does occasionally pull in the odd unlikely individual.  The most common gull by far is Black-headed but Common Gull, Mongolian Gull, Relict Gull, Brown-headed Gull, Heuglin’s Gull, Little Gull and now Glaucous Gull have all been recorded.

First winter Glaucous Gull, Yeyahu Lake, Beijing, 18 November 2011

First winter Glaucous Gull, Yeyahu Lake, Beijing, 18 November 2011

Another highlight was my first Crested Lark in China.  I found this bird along a track that I don’t usually inspect.  It’s a little further west than I usually walk and, subsequently, the site could possibly be in Hebei Province rather than Beijing Municipality.  A close look at Google Earth required..!  In any case, it’s now a quality bird in the Beijing area..  formerly quite common, its numbers have crashed in the last 20 years and it’s now a difficult bird to find.

Crested Lark, Wild Duck Lake, 18 November 2011

Coming third in my list of highlights (usually these would be much higher but there was stiff competition this week!) included two flocks of Baikal Teal totalling 73 birds, including some stunning drakes, and a roost of 3 Long-eared Owls.

Baikal Teal, Yeyahu, Beijing, 18 November 2011

Long-eared Owl, Yeyahu, 18 November 2011

Long-eared Owl, Yeyahu, 18 November 2011. LEOs' camouflage is very effective. If it wasn't for the orange eyes, they would be very difficult to pick up against the branches....

Full species list:

Common Pheasant (18)

Bean Goose (246)

Whooper Swan (12)

Mandarin (1)

Gadwall (72)

Falcated Duck (2)

Wigeon (4)

Mallard (18)

Chinese Spot-billed Duck (6)

Baikal Teal (67)

Goldeneye (3)

Smew (12)

Goosander (57)

Little Grebe (8)

Grey Heron (8)

Kestrel (2)

Peregrine (1)

Hen Harrier (2)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (2)

Common (Eastern) Buzzard (1)

Upland Buzzard (2)

Coot (2)

Common Crane (267)

Common Greenshank (1)

Common Gull (3) – two first winters and one second winter

Glaucous Gull (1) – a first winter, probably for its 7th day (first reported by Jan-Erik Nilson on Saturday 12 November

Mongolian Gull (2) – both first winters

Black-headed Gull (75)

Collared Dove (6)

Long-eared Owl (3) – roosting together at Yeyahu

Great Spotted Woodpecker (2)

Grey-headed Woodpecker (1)

Chinese Grey Shrike (2)

Azure-winged Magpie – 12

Common Magpie – lots

Carrion Crow (5)

Great Tit (3)

Chinese Penduline Tit (2) – both presumed first winters (very pale and washed out)

Asian Short-toed Lark (4)

Crested Lark (1) – along the track west of Ma Chang

Eurasian Skylark (8)

Vinous-throated Parrotbill (40)

Tree Sparrow – lots

Siberian Accentor (1)

Pine Bunting (4)

Pallas’s Bunting (46)

Japanese Reed Bunting (1 possible) – not seen well enough to be sure.

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About Terry Townshend

I am a British birder living and birding in Beijing from August 2010 until 2015. Through this blog I hope I can convey a sense of what it is like to live in this thriving, confident and contrasting city and the birdlife that can be found in its environs. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it! Terry Townshend, Beijing September 2010
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17 Responses to Another First for Beijing!

  1. Spike says:

    Another great day, Terry. I’ve always wondered about Crested Lark at Yeyahu. I’ve seen the old records and the habitat looks great. I’ve explored the area west of Ma Chang and Brian covered that area a lot, but no Cresteds. Do you have any thoughts on why the species has declined ? I’ve always thought of it as a pretty adaptable species. Spike

  2. Hi Spike, the Crested Lark was quite a way west of Ma Chang (south-west of the yurts). As you can tell from the photo, it was quite confiding! Not sure about the reasons for the decline.. I guess habitat loss has played a part but there must be other reasons as it is not present in seemingly suitable habitat on other parts of Beijing. T

  3. Gretchen says:

    Very successful day out I would say! It’s great that you saw a crested lark – hopefully that’s good news that there are more out there. The pictures of the owls are quite interesting – I always wonder why I don’t see them, but that gives a great picture of why they are hard to see: they really look just like the trees they are in. They also looked thinner than I expected. I read this the other day about owls minimizing their profile (at http://www.besgroup.org/2011/11/18/the-concealing-behavior-in-owls/) and wonder if something like that was going on at all.

    • Hi Gretchen. Thanks for the comment and for the link. Very interesting. I have often seen Long-eared Owls make themselves appear thinner when they see a human. I always thought it was an ‘alert’ posture but there may also be an element of the logic described in your link – reducing their profile to minimise the chances of being detected by a larger threat.

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