Last weekend I attended the AGM of the Beijing Birdwatching Society at Beijing Normal University. The coordinator, Xiaoming, invited me to speak about the 3 new birds added to the Beijing Municipality list in 2011: Little Gull, Glaucous Gull and Black Bittern. I was fortunate to have seen all three (finder of the Little Gull, co-finder of the Black Bittern and photographer of the Glaucous Gull, originally found by Swedish birder, Jan-Erik Nilsen).
On arrival at Beijing Normal University, I was escorted into the auditorium expecting maybe 10 or 20 people in a small, characterless room. How wrong I was. There were at least 200 people present with hot food, tea and high-tech audio visual equipment. It was a very well-organised event with lots of great content about birds in Beijing and the various trips the group had organised to different parts of China in 2011.
After a few introductory speeches, I was invited to take the floor and, with my trusty interpreter Leighton (who I had met in Liaoning in the autumn), I presented a few slides and described the circumstances surrounding each find:
Little Gull: a juvenile/first winter seen at Ma Chang/Wild Duck Lake on 17 September
Glaucous Gull: a first winter found by Swedish birder Jan Erik Nilsen at Yeyahu on 12 November and seen again and photographed by me on 18 November
Black Bittern: a first winter seen at Yeyahu on 25 November by Jesper Hornskov, Phil Benstead and me.
I spoke about the stunning variety of birds I had seen at Wild Duck Lake last year and the clear importance of this site for both resident and migratory birds.
At the end of my talk I was presented with some gifts including a 2012 calendar of stunning images of birds of prey, the 2011 report of the Beijing Birdwatching Society and various badges and stickers.
The presentations that followed – about visits to other Provinces in China – were illustrated with some excellent photographs of some hard to see species including Brown Eared Pheasant, Wallcreeper, Black Vulture, Siberian Crane, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and many others.
I was struck and heartened by the number of young children and students at the meeting. And despite all the habitat destruction I have witnessed over my time in China, I left the meeting with a renewed sense of optimism that China’s young people are beginning to be interested in, and excited by, their natural heritage. This development may be the key to changing attitudes in the Chinese government about conservation. Let’s hope so!