China is a good place to see bitterns.  In addition to the Great Bittern (the one familiar to European readers), it is also possible to see Black Bittern, Cinnamon Bittern, Von Schrenck’s Bittern and Yellow Bittern.  Of the smaller bitterns, the Yellow Bittern is most numerous in Beijing with Von Schrenck’s also breeding in small numbers.  Cinnamon is an occasional (and increasing?) late Spring visitor (and possible breeder?) and there is just one record of Black Bittern.

Below are some images of Cinnamon, Von Schrenck’s and Yellow Bitterns, all taken in Beijing or neighbouring Hebei Province.

First, the beautiful richly coloured Cinnamon Bittern.

Cinnamon Bittern (male). No mistaking this species!
Cinnamon Bittern (presumed female with streaking below and pale spotting on the upperparts).

Next up, Von Schrenck’s Bittern.  The males and females look quite different.

Von Schrenck’s Bittern (male). Note the dark back, dark face and wing pattern (compared with Yellow Bittern below).
Von Schrenck’s Bittern (male).
Von Schrenck’s Bittern (female). Note the heavy and dark streaking.
Von Schrenck’s Bittern (female). Note the white-spotted upperparts combined with the dark back and face.

Finally, the Yellow Bittern.  A common breeder, including in the Olympic Forest Park and Yeyahu NR.

Yellow Bittern (male). The contrasting underwing is a good feature of Yellow Bittern).
Yellow Bittern showing uppewing pattern.  This individual has a particularly dark back.
Yellow Bittern.
Yellow Bittern from below.

Cinnamon Bittern

I spent Monday evening at the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing, primarily to look for dragonflies but also on the off-chance that there could be an interesting crake or rail calling at dusk.  The park officially allows last entry at 8pm and everyone is required to be out by 9pm.  With sunset around 7.45pm, this offers an opportunity to check for crespuscular activity.  Unfortunately there were no crakes or rails heard (apart from the local Moorhens) but, whilst photographing a local dragonfly, I caught sight of a bittern flying from a large reedbed.  It was much richer and darker coloured than the resident Yellow Bitterns, with uniform rich brown upperparts.  As it dived into the reeds nearby, I realised it could only be one species – a Cinnamon Bittern.  A new bird for me and, I believe, a pretty scarce species in Beijing.  Unfortunately, as I had my macro lens on my camera, I couldn’t obtain any photos and, despite waiting in the same area until dusk, I did not see it again.

Anyway, I managed a few images of one the common dragonflies… I have no idea what species this is, so if anyone knows, please comment on here.  Also, I saw a ladybird sp that looked suspiciously like a Harlequin Ladybird.  Again, I have no idea what species are present in the Beijing area, so any help much appreciated..!

On the way out of the park, I rescued a toad that had got itself stuck trying to cross a newly painted cycle lane.  I was alerted to the toad’s plight by a young boy who could see it struggling but was afraid to cross the wet paint.  Fortunately, my longer reach allowed me to free it without stepping onto the horrible thick red paint and it soon walked off into the long grass, seemingly no worse for wear.

Dragonfly sp, Olympic Forest Park, Beijing
Ladybird sp, Olympic Forest Park, Beijing
Yellow Bittern at dusk. I saw at least 8 of these charismatic birds this evening.