First thing this morning I made my first visit to the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing. This relatively new park, as its name suggests, was created for the 2008 Olympic Games and has won awards for its design. I was pleasantly surprised by how ‘bird-friendly’ it is. There is some great habitat, including some large reedbeds, lakes, mature (ish) woodland and open areas, all of which are attracting birds.
Today, I explored the southern section prompted by a visiting birder, Claus Holzapfel, who had seen a Streaked Reed Warbler a few days ago. I didn’t see any of these rare ‘acro‘ warblers but I chalked up an impressive list of species for a central Beijing location (see below).
The highlight for me was an enjoyable encounter with a confiding Yellow Bittern as it hunted in one of the lily-filled lakes. It’s ungainly stance belied the effectiveness with which it stalked small fish and frogs.
Oriental Reed Warblers filled the air with their chattering and there were also a few Black-browed Reed Warblers competing to be heard and a few Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers skulking at the base of the reeds. Indian and Eurasian Cuckoos were calling frequently and the song of the Black-naped Oriole was an occasional accompaniement.
In the more mature trees on the eastern side, a singing male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher was a nice sight but I failed to find the Green-backed (Elisae’s) Flycatcher that Paul Holt had seen the previous day.
The Olympic Park is situated just north of the 4th ring road, north of the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium and is served by metro stops as well as several bus routes, so it is easy to get to. It opens at 6am and, this morning, there were relatively few people around and it was very easy to find quiet spots – not to be taken for granted in Beijing where most city parks are full of early morning exercisers for the first few hours of daylight. For me, it’s the best birding site I’ve seen so far in Beijing city. I’ll definitely be back!
Species List (in chronological order of first sighting):
Collared Dove (1)
Common Magpie (many)
Tree Sparrow (many)
Grey-capped Woodpecker (3)
Eastern Crowned Warbler (2)
Indian Cuckoo (4)
Chinese (Light-vented) Bulbul (7)
Oriental Reed Warbler (at least 30)
Eurasian Cuckoo (5)
Oriental Greenfinch (3)
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler (3)
Night Heron (7)
Red-rumped Swallow (4)
Black-browed Reed Warbler (4)
Black Drongo (1)
Common Moorhen (6)
Common Swift (12)
Yellow Bittern (7)
Goldeneye (1) – a drake on the lake near the ‘underwater corridor’
Barn Swallow (3)
Little Egret (1) – flyover
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (1) – singing just north-east of Wali Lake
Marsh Tit (2)
Black-naped Oriole (3)
Dark-sided Flycatcher (1) – northeast of Wali Lake
Arctic Warbler (4)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)
Grey Heron (1)
Little Grebe (2)
Radde’s Warbler (2)
Azure-winged Magpie (6)
Spotted Dove (2)
Grey-headed Woodpecker (1)
8 thoughts on “Olympic Forest Park, Beijing”
Exciting and fun to think one could see so much in the middle of Beijing, but I guess the park’s being there amid so much uncongenial to birds makes it all the more attractive – especially with people numbers being as low as you found them. For me, this sort of thing close to (your) home is actually even more interesting than the amazing and unusual things you find on your trips (far) afield.
May a Streaked Reed Warbler be absolutely the only thing you see your next time there!
Thanks Norm! I would settle for that…
The Olympic Park looks like a “must visit” in Beijing. Nice Yellow Bittern shots, too. They turned up in some urban parks here in HK during May, and were much appreciated !
I will never tire of seeing Yellow Bitterns!
Thanks for sharing your explorations. When in BJ I’m sometimes up in that part of the city, so this is a great tip! Looks nice on the map. Any particular areas you suggest?
The north-west part of the largest lake is good – some reedbeds and shallow areas. Also, the area to the north-west of that (including the ‘underwater corridor’ – a sunken pathway that offers views underwater) is also productive for reed warblers and bitterns. The mature wooded area to the east/northeast of the most northerly lake is very good for woodland birds. I saw Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Indian Cuckoo, Black-naped Oriole, Radde’s Warbler and Eastern Crowned Warbler here. I should say that I haven’t explored the whole park, so there could be some very good areas to the south-east that I have not discovered. Wherever you go, you will enjoy it!
Last summer the area north of the ring road (I can’t recall which ring road divides the park into two approximately equal parts) was largely planted with a mix of flowers grown in a wildflower meadow style of planting. Most urban parks in Beijing are overly manicured, so this wildflower area created a nice habitat for buntings, finches, and who knows what else? The ‘wildflowers’ weren’t native to China – mostly Cosmos – but good habitat nonetheless. There are also a bunch of canals, ponds, and lakes in the north section. Definitely worth the hike across the ‘habitat corridor’ which is a bridge over the ring road and possibly the only way from the south side to the north side of the ring road. For those of you not familiar with Beijing, the ring roads are 5 major freeways that circle the city.
This park is easier to reach on the metro than the Summer Palace, so it is one of my favorite places to go when I have a couple of hours free in Beijing. The metro stop is ‘south gate of Forest park’ I believe, just north of the Olympic Green.
Finally, there are Pheasants in the park. Does anyone have an opinion regarding whether these are likely to be released birds or bona fide wild Pheasants?
Thanks for the comment. I haven’t yet explored the northern part of the Olympic Forest Park but definitely will do so after your advice. On the pheasants, I am sure they have been introduced. I can’t see them finding their own way there…