Asian Rosy Finches

After the snow in Beijing on Friday, my mind had been speculating as to whether new birds might turn up or, at the very least, whether the snow cover and cold snap might drive down some of the special mountain birds from the inaccessible peaks to more reachable terrain.  Lingshan was the place that I was itching to try, and so off I went…

Lingshan is Beijing’s highest mountain with its peak at 2,303 metres and, unlike many of Beijing’s mountains, it is accessible in winter by car (note: many mountain roads are closed in winter, nominally due to “fire risk”, at least so say the chain-smoking guards that throw their cigarette butts onto the grass and stop any cars driving up).   Getting to Lingshan is fairly straightforward by car – simply take the G109 west of Beijing and, after around the km105 post, take the right hand minor road signposted, not surprisingly, “Lingshan”.  It usually takes between 2 and 3 hours from central Beijing if leaving early morning before the traffic becomes too burdensome.

The access road at Lingshan, after the snow, was a little treacherous in places but passable with care.  The temperature was a nippy -6 when I left central Beijing, falling to -12 at the 6th ring road/G109 junction and falling further to -18 at Lingshan on arrival. However, with almost no wind, and stunning blue skies, it did not feel too cold.

Lingshan, on a beautiful crisp winter's morning.

Lingshan, on a beautiful crisp winter’s morning.

Another view from Lingshan.  With a dusting of snow the mountains in Beijing are stunning

Another view from Lingshan. With a dusting of snow the mountains in Beijing are stunning

On the way up the access road, I stopped several times to watch small flocks of birds, including many SIBERIAN ACCENTORS (棕眉山岩鹨), GODLEWSKI’S BUNTINGS (戈氏岩鹀) and, as I neared the top, PALLAS’S ROSEFINCHES (北朱雀). A large flock of REDPOLLS (白腰朱顶雀) was flying around but frustratingly only the odd one or two settled in view.  There must be an ARCTIC REDPOLL (极北朱顶雀) or two among them!  A handful (I counted 7) of GULDENSTADT’S REDSTARTS (红腹红尾鸲) were on their usual sea buckthorn bushes.

The first thing I wanted to do was to check the slopes just beyond the derelict buildings for ASIAN ROSY FINCHES (粉红腹岭雀).  I stopped the car and scanned the slopes. Immediately I saw birds. My heart raced but relaxed again when I realised they were ALPINE ACCENTORS (领岩鹨). Nevertheless, a good start.

ALPINE ACCENTORS (领岩鹨) are in good supply on Lingshan this winter.

ALPINE ACCENTORS (领岩鹨) are in good supply on Lingshan this winter.

As I looked, I could see more and more and suddenly I saw a bird with a pale head. Unfortunately I was looking directly towards the sun, so I slowly got out of the car and walked around to the side of the slope to give me a better angle. And there it was – an ASIAN ROSY FINCH (粉红腹岭雀) ! feeding with the accentors. As I scanned, I found another, then another.. I counted 6. I watched, captivated, as they fed on the slope, gradually making their way up until they were feeding around my car! At this point I wistfully thought about my camera sitting on the passenger seat…  Suddenly, something spooked the whole flock and they rose up, wheeled around and settled a long way down the slope… I counted almost 100 birds in flight, at least 30 of which were ASIAN ROSY FINCHES (粉红腹岭雀). I took the opportunity to quickly make my way back to the car and settled inside with camera in hand as the flock gradually made its way up the slope again and, sure enough, it wasn’t long before several were around the car and I was able to capture some photos… All too quickly they moved across the road and to the upper slope before, again, wheeling down to the lower slopes….

ASIAN ROSY FINCH (presumed male).

ASIAN ROSY FINCH (presumed male).  What a bird!

ASIAN ROSY FINCH (presumed female)

ASIAN ROSY FINCH (presumed female)

ASIAN ROSY FINCH (presumed male and female)

ASIAN ROSY FINCH (presumed male and female)

ASIAN ROSY FINCHES, Lingshan.

ASIAN ROSY FINCHES, Lingshan.

"Just landed"...

“Just landed”…

Having only seen ASIAN ROSY FINCH (粉红腹岭雀) in flight once before (last winter at Lingshan), it was brilliant to see these stunning birds so well. Their plumage is beautiful with an array of purples, browns, blacks and greys.. I hope they hang around for anyone else who might be tempted to look for them. Even without the birds, Lingshan is a beautiful place, especially in winter. Definitely one of my favourite Beijing birding sites!

One of the male PALLAS'S ROSEFINCHES at Lingshan.  At least 30 are scattered around the higher slopes, preferring the birch scrub.

One of the male PALLAS’S ROSEFINCHES at Lingshan. At least 30 are scattered around the higher slopes, preferring the birch scrub.

A female or young male PALLAS'S ROSEFINCH, Lingshan.  I am not sure how to age/sex PALLAS'S ROSEFINCHES - any advice appreciated!

A female or young male PALLAS’S ROSEFINCH, Lingshan. I am not sure how to age/sex PALLAS’S ROSEFINCHES – any advice appreciated!

 

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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10 Responses to Asian Rosy Finches

  1. Dev says:

    The temperature is bit scary, still remember my feet going numb in Taiyuan last winter but the Rosefinches are damn gorgeous. Lovely winter coverage on Lingshan.

  2. The temperature was ok as their was almost no wind. I was fine with 4 layers, gloves and a hat. But on a day with a moderate wind, I’d probably have needed double that and still been cold! The finches (both Asian Rosy and Pallas’s Rose-) are definitely worth braving the cold!

  3. Andrew says:

    Great pictures Terry. Congrats.

  4. Chris Bowie says:

    You’ve got some stunning shots there! What kind of gear did you use with regard lenses and such?

  5. Chris – I use a Canon EOS7D with a 400mm f5.6 lens (the lens is at least 15 years old!). The brilliant light helped, plus the fact that the birds were very close.

  6. Ken Tucker says:

    Rosy-finches – stunning. What beautiful birds – just reward for being adventurous.

  7. Congrats. It’s always nice to see the rosy finches.

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