On Saturday I visited Lingshan again (it’s become my favourite winter birding site!) with Wu Lan. On arrival, we were of course keen to see whether the male PRZEVALSKI’S REDSTART (贺兰山红尾鸲) was still on site. We were greeted by a family who told us that it had moved on.. it had apparently been seen on Tuesday but a photographer had visited the site every day from Wednesday to Friday without success….
We decided (of course) to have a look anyway. But after half an hour of staring at the sea buckthorn bushes in its favoured gully, we decided to move up to the peak and check for ASIAN ROSY FINCHES… (粉红腹岭雀). We drove up, enjoying a large group of PALLAS’S ROSEFINCHES (北朱雀) on the way (at least 50 were present) but, again, the top was birdless… no sign of any Rosy Finches…
We decided to walk down the old road, an open south-facing valley, scattered with sea buckthorn bushes. We soon spotted our first GULDENSTADT’S REDSTARTS (红腹红尾鸲) and encountered the usual RED-THROATED THRUSHES (赤颈鸫) competing for the still significant stock of sea buckthorn berries. We thought to ourselves that, if the GULDENSTADT’S REDSTARTS were still here, there must be a good chance that the PRZEVALSKI’S was still around, too..
As we made it to the bottom of the valley we stumbled across a stunning male CHINESE BEAUTIFUL ROSEFINCH (红眉朱雀) and it showed spectacularly well for several minutes, allowing prolonged views through the telescope to examine its wonderful pink plumage.
We hit the new road at the bottom of the valley and instead of walking back up along the new road (the usual routine), for some reason we decided to walk back up the valley to the car. Now with the sun behind us, we followed the shrub-lined dyke as we headed north. We soon encountered a female redstart and, with white-edged tertials and secondaries, this bird was not the expected female GULDENSTADT’S…. We stood still and it gradually showed itself. I knew we had something good… I suspected it was a female PRZEVALSKI’S REDSTART and I took some photos as it fed amongst some birch scrub.
It was cool to watch this bird catching insects and it was interesting to see that it was smaller and daintier than the more powerful female GULDENSTADT’S. I knew I had photos that would make this bird identifiable and so, after a few minutes, we moved on, now more confident that the male (which Wu Lan had yet to see) was probably still around.
We drove back to the site of the male bird but, again, its favoured sea buckthorn bush was empty… I decided to take a walk up the gully and around some scrub to check out the wider area.. and no sooner had I walked 5 metres, there it was – the male PRZEVALSKI’S REDSTART.. ! I gestured to Wu Lan and she hurried over. We enjoyed splendid views and we immediately called the Wang family (who had driven up to the top to look for the ASIAN ROSY FINCHES)…
A few minutes later the Wangs arrived and we enjoyed superb views as the redstart posed on prominent perches as it caught the first insects of the spring… high-fives all round!
On my return to Beijing I immediately sent the photos of the female redstart to Paul Holt (currently in Yunnan), who has experience of female PRZEVALSKI’S and he quickly confirmed what we suspected – it was indeed a female PRZEVALSKI’S (thanks Paul!). Amazingly, the second record of this species in Beijing this winter, the fourth ever and, we think, the first ever female. Lingshan continues to surprise…. and if that wasn’t enough, we also heard (distantly) BROWN EARED PHEASANT (褐马鸡)… another very tough bird to see (or hear) in the capital.