I should have spotted the omens…  After a weekend of pretty grotty weather (misty, smoggy and generally pretty foul), the forecast was for a cool, fresh and breezy day on Monday in Beijing.  Amazingly, I bumped into Jesper Hornskov at the opera on Sunday night (you didn’t realise we were so cultured did you?) – a Chinese production of Handel’s ‘Semele’.  And quite exquisite it was too…

Before the opera started, Jesper said he was going to go to the ridge above the Botanical Gardens in the morning for visible migration.  I knew that it would be a good day – the first clear and fresh day after the passage of a cold front in October would almost certainly be a big migration day.  The devil on my shoulder was telling me to go with him.  But the angel on my other shoulder reminded me of my workload.  The devil tempted me with thoughts of Pallas’s Rosefinches, Imperial Eagles and Upland Buzzards.  I was about to give in when the angel reminded me that I had to get a draft press article to my Chinese contacts by lunchtime (which I hadn’t even started drafting!).  Even if I went out for the morning and worked all afternoon and evening I would miss the deadline.  Having listened to both the devil and the angel make their equally persuasive cases, I (stupidly, as it turned out) went with the angel and decided I just couldn’t go…

When I hadn’t heard from Jesper by 4pm I knew he must have been having a good day and was probably still on the ridge (mysteriously, there is no mobile signal on the ridge).  Then, at 17:30, came the text message.  Now, let me just say that I was prepared for him to have seen some good stuff, and I steeled myself that I would probably have missed a few birds of prey, maybe a few Buzzards, and the odd flock of passerines but I wasn’t prepared for this:  27 Greater Spotted Eagles, 1+ Imperial Eagle, 2-3 Golden Eagles, 35 Goshawks, 81 Common and 2 Upland Buzzards, 117 Sparrowhawks, Chinese Leaf Warbler, 4 Pallas’s Rosefinches, 44 Pine Buntings and 4800 Brambling..  Gulp.

Next time, I’m with the devil…


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