First for Beijing: Grey-tailed Tattler

On Wednesday morning I met up with Shi Jin and Per Alström for a spot of birding before work.  We decided to visit Wenyu He (Wenyu River) on the north-east boundary of central Beijing (in Chaoyang District for those of you who know China’s capital city).  It had rained hard overnight but the morning was fresh and clear with unusually fantastic visibility.

We did rather well with several migrating Oriental Honey Buzzards (never common over the city centre), several Black-naped Orioles and a good count of egrets, including at least 28 Great  and 16 Little.  But the highlight of the morning was Beijing’s first confirmed record of GREY-TAILED TATTLER.  Found by Per feeding on the river edge (that’s the tattler feeding, not Per), it soon flew from the far side of the river (outside central Beijing) to the nearside (definitely central Beijing!).  It did not need to do so to be the first documented record from Beijing Municipality but, in so doing, it also became the first for central Beijing city proper!  Shi Jin could not hide his excitement at adding this bird to his local patch list and managed some great images viewable on his Chinese Currents website.  A couple of my efforts are below.

Grey-tailed Tattler is predominantly a coastal bird in China and any inland record is a good one.  To see one in the capital was most unexpected.  Well done Per – we look forward to more finds of this quality during your stay in Beijing!

Grey-tailed Tattler, Wenyu He, Beijing, 12 September 2012. A great find by Per Alström.
Grey-tailed Tattler, Wenyu He, Beijing. Showing the relatvely uniform upperparts in flight.

Observing this bird, I wasn’t sure I could separate juvenile Grey-tailed from Wandering Tattler. I asked the experts and this is what they said (with apologies for quoting their off the cuff comments!):

“Separate the two tattlers with great care.  Calls are by far the best way with Grey-tailed resembling a Ringed Plover & Wandering sounding reminiscent of a Whimbrel.  Juv. Grey-tailed have obvious white fringes on wing coverts – these are much narrower & less contrasting on Wandering.  Wandering also has a longer primary projection with often 5, not 4, pps visible beyond the longest tertial.

You need to be really close (or have a big lens) to see whether the scaling on the back of the upper legs is ladder-like as in Grey-tailed or irregularly shaped & scaly as in Wandering.  Similarly close to see that Wandering has a long nasal groove (more than half the length of its bill); Grey-tailed’s nasal groove is shorter.”

and

” juv Wandering has much more extensively dark flanks than juv Grey-tailed, if I remember correctly also darker breast contrasting more with the belly and darker upperside.  “

So, there you go.  Always learning!  As it happens, we did hear this bird call and it was reminiscent of Common Ringed Plover, so that’s a clincher even without the images showing the nasal groove (sounds a bit like a new trend in Indie music – can you do the nasal groove?)

 

Full Species List:

Japanese Quail – 1 flushed by Per and Steve in the scrubby area to the east of the riding stables.
Mallard – 120+
Spot-billed Duck – 4
Garganey – 1
Eurasian Teal – 2
Little Grebe – 9
Night Heron – 4
Chinese Pond Heron – 12 (7 adults and 5 juveniles)
Grey Heron – 5
Great Egret – 28
Little Egret – 16
Great Cormorant – 16
Eurasian Kestrel – 1
Oriental Honey Buzzard – 17 drifted south-east (9 @ 0904, 2 @ 0917 and 6 @ 1030)
Japanese Sparrowhawk – 1 probably this species SE
Grey-headed Lapwing – 3
Common Snipe – 11
Spotted Redshank – 4
Marsh Sandpiper – 1
Common Greenshank – 8
Green Sandpiper – 12
Wood Sandpiper – 6
GREY-TAILED TATTLER – 1 juvenile (a rare inland record and possibly the first confirmed record for Beijing)
Common Sandpiper – 3
Black-headed Gull – 1 juvenile/first-winter
Oriental Turtle Dove – 4
Spotted Dove – 2
Cuckoo sp – 1
Hoopoe – 3
Wryneck – 1
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker – 1
Brown Shrike – 3
Black-naped Oriole – 5
Black Drongo – 1
Azure-winged Magpie – 15+
Common Magpie – 15+ feeding along the river
Barn Swallow – 30+
Red-rumped Swallow – 4+
Lanceolated Warbler – 1
Pallas’s Grashopper Warbler – 1 probable
Oriental Reed Warbler – 1
Dusky Warbler – 1 probable
Yellow-browed Warbler – 4
White-cheeked Starling – 4
Siberian Stonechat – 9
Taiga Flycatcher – 2
Tree Sparrow – lots
Eastern Yellow Wagtail – 2
White Wagtail – 4
Richard’s Pipit – 2
Olive-backed Pipit – 2

5 thoughts on “First for Beijing: Grey-tailed Tattler”

  1. Terry, tattlers are uncommon enough along the Chinese coast, but to find one inland (and in Beijing to boot) is a real event. Appreciate also your not concluding immediately that your tattler was a grey-tailed; wandering tattler was also a possibility, though more remote.

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