PACIFIC SWIFTS breeding in Beijing!

During a 2-day visit to Lingshan in late June, we decided to explore a nearby valley along the Yongding River (Yongdinghe).  It’s a spectacularly pretty gorge with quality birds such as Chukar, Red-billed Chough, Koklass Pheasant and Golden Eagle, and was also the site of the BROWN ACCENTOR a couple of winters ago.

The Yongding Valley. One of Beijing's hidden treasures.

The Yongding Valley. One of Beijing’s hidden treasures.

BLUE ROCK THRUSHES (of the orange/chestnut-bellied philippensis race) were a nice surprise along with super views of Red-billed Chough, Crag Martins and a pair of Golden Eagles.  But the biggest surprise was catching sight of what I instinctively thought was a swift…  Unfortunately, as soon as I trained my binoculars on it, it disappeared behind a ridge and was gone.  For several minutes, I scanned in vain and I began to doubt myself…  had I really seen a swift?  Was it just a Crag Martin seen very poorly at a strange angle?  Then, as suddenly as it disappeared, it reappeared, this time in good light and, even better, in the company of 5 other swifts…  And, with gleaming white rumps, they were clearly all PACIFIC SWIFTS.

A record photo of one of the PACIFIC SWIFTS breeding in the mountains to the west of Beijing.

A record photo of one of the PACIFIC SWIFTS breeding in the mountains to the west of Beijing.

I hadn’t heard of PACIFIC SWIFTS breeding in Beijing.  I have seen them on passage in spring and autumn but never in mid-summer.  I watched them for several minutes and they occasionally engaged in ‘screaming’ and, several times, flew up to some ledges on a sheer cliff face…  it appeared as though they were breeding…

On return, I discussed the swifts with Paul Holt who told me that breeding has never been proved in Beijing before, although there have been several mid-summer reports from the mountains.  The big question is whether the Yongdinghe birds are of the usually more southerly distributed subspecies kanoi or the usually more northerly distributed pacificus.

It will take much better photos than the one above to determine that!

 

 

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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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6 Responses to PACIFIC SWIFTS breeding in Beijing!

  1. thbeeke@yahoo.ca says:

    You are a machine Terry! Well done on the Swifts and Grey-sided Thrushes.
    Tom Beeke

  2. Haha.. thanks Tom. Enjoy your summer break in Canada before you turn back into a machine in the autumn… :)

  3. Gracen Duffield says:

    Can you recommend a good Hong Kong birding blog?

  4. John Holmes says:

    It just shows that it pays to get out and “cover the ground”. Nice to see blue skies, too !

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