Just back from my second trip to Shidu. Highlight has to be the Wallcreeper.
Shidu looks made for Wallcreepers and I am sure there are more of these incredible gravity-defying birds along the gorge. But this individual is a bit of a star of the Beijing birding scene. It comes down to eye level, encouraged by the meal worms put out for it by bird photographers. Consequently it shows extremely well, albeit intermittently.
On Saturday I took friends Nick Douse, John Gallagher and Hui Ying, a Beijing-based birder I met at the AGM of the Beijing Birdwatching Society, to Shidu. Shidu literally means “10 river crossings” and this site, along the Juma river, is a good winter birding destination as, in addition to Wallcreeper, it hosts wintering Black Storks, Black Vultures, Crested Kingfishers and, occasionally, Long-billed Plover and Ibisbill. We didn’t see the last two but we had a great day in cold but still conditions.
The bridges across the Juma river are numbered from south-east to north-west. We arrived at the southern end of the gorge just under 2 hours after leaving Beijing and made our way slowly to the north-west, stopping occasionally to scan. Our first stop, between bridges 2 and 3, produced over 100 Mallard on an ice-free section of the river plus a handful of Common Merganser (Goosander) and, our first surprise, a drake Mandarin. Just as we were about to leave, 4 Black Storks came flying along the river and almost overhead, providing us with a great chance to study these majestic birds as they made their way downstream.
Our next stop was at Bridge number 6, a well-known ‘hot-spot’. We immediately saw a line of bird photographers on the eastern side of the gorge with their heavy artillery trained on an area of rock face. This had to be the Wallcreeper site. After parking the car and taking a short walk, we were greeted by the big lens boys and began the wait for the Wallcreeper to show. In just a few minutes it appeared and gradually made its way down the face of the rock to an area immediately in front of the photographers to feed on the meal worms. Its stay here probably amounted to no more than 2 minutes but in that time I suspect the number of times a shutter was fired was several thousand..!
After about half an hour at this site, during which time we also recorded Marsh Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Daurian Redstart, Red-billed Blue Magpie and Dusky Thrush, we moved on to bridge number 10. This was an excellent site. Two male Plumbeous Redstarts were singing and displaying, clearly establishing territories for the forthcoming breeding season, but the real stars were the Crested Kingfishers that made several passes, calling loudly.
Bizarrely, two Crested Kingfishers flew up to a new house on the edge of the river and perched on the balconies.. one upstairs and one downstairs..
A drive further north produced a Hen Harrier, several Godlewski’s Buntings, 1 Little Bunting, 8 Hill Pigeons, 18 Daurian Jackdaws and a Wren.
The journey back down the gorge produced 2 Common Kingfishers side by side near bridge 6 and, after enjoying these 2 birds we headed off back to Beijing in time for dinner.
Full Species list (37 in total):