Just north of the Forbidden City lies a very popular park with an artificial hill (sometimes known as Coal Hill). The hill was constructed in the Ming Dynasty entirely from soil excavated in forming the moats of the Imperial Palace and nearby canals. Why was it built? According to the dictates of Feng Shui, it is favourable to site a residence to the south of a nearby hill (and it is also practical, gaining protection from chilly northern winds). The imperial palaces in the other capitals of previous dynasties were situated to the south of a hill. When the capital was moved to Beijing, no such hill existed north of the Forbidden City, so one was constructed. Typical China!
The hill is especially impressive when one considers that all of this material was moved only by manual labour and animal power. Apparently, in 1644, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty hanged himself here…
Anyway, on that cheery note, about the birds. Earlier this week I received a tip-off that there was a ‘very large’ flock of Waxwings present. So on Friday morning I spent an hour there. As usual in any Chinese public park, there were lots of people – shouting, singing, dancing, exercising, doing Tai Chi, running backwards, playing musical instruments and playing “keepy-uppy” with a sort of large shuttlecock. After wandering around the perimeter I stumbled across the Waxwing flock feeding on junipers and regularly going down to drink from a leaky hosepipe. Given the hosepipes were spraying water everywhere, there was, unusually, a small area without people. I risked a drenching to get a closer look and it soon became apparent that there were at least 50 Waxwings in the group, including some Japanese. Twice a Sparrowhawk wreaked havoc by appearing out of nowhere in its attempts to catch one (unsuccessfully) and each time this happened, the whole flock took to the air, where it became apparent that my estimate was most definitely an underestimate! In the air, I guessed at around 250 birds. Soon they returned and I enjoyed good views as these very vocal birds began to feed again.
The water also attracted other birds in the park including a nice Dusky Thrush, several Naumann’s Thrushes and a Red-throated Thrush as well as Oriental Greenfinches and a couple of Large-billed Crows. A pleasant, if slightly wet, hour…
6 thoughts on “Jingshan Park”
Nice sighting! I’m sure I would have been asking myself… now where would a flock of birds like to be in this crowded place. It is a destination we often take visiting friends – but would not have expected to find over 200 waxwings! Thankfully birds are adaptable.
I like your formation flight – it seems to show that most of the waxwings were doing synchronized flapping since it looks like they are about at the same place in their wing movement, right?
Hi Gretchen. Yes, I noticed the wing position in the photos.. not sure I was aware at the time. There is a lot of watering going on in Beijing’s parks at the moment, and any leaks or puddles are proving popular with the local birds. I really enjoyed the close view of the Large-billed Crow – a species I see frequently but usually at distance. I have the water to thank for that, too! T
Glad the waterworks ensured you of a good day! Do you think maybe the waxwings were copying the tai chi people below? Actually, in the one picture at first glance it looks like a school of fish … Bohemian Waxfins ?
Hi Norm..! Love the Waxfins.. made me look at the image in a whole new light!
It’s too late this year, I suppose – but next winter send some Waxwings down to us in HK !
Hi John.. It’s been an exceptional year for both Waxwings in Beijing. I guess both are pretty rare in HK? T