Autumn Migration Begins in Beijing

After a superb juvenile Little Curlew was seen and photographed at the Old Summer Palace in Beijing last week, and a report of a male Narcissus Flycatcher in the grounds of the Xiyuan Hotel, I was motivated to get out this weekend to check a local park for early migrants.  And so on Sunday, in the excellent company of Paul Holt and Wang Qingyu, I headed for the Olympic Forest Park, one of the best parks in Beijing for birds.  After cycling up to the park, I met Paul and Qingyu at the southern gate at around 0645 and spent the next 7-8 hours birding both the southern and northern sections on a gorgeous sunny (but hot and humid) day.

In total we logged 35 species, not a bad haul in August in central Beijing.

Full species list (courtesy of Paul):

Mallard 22 in Olympic FP on 19/8/2012. 19 of these (86%) were adult males with just one definite female

Yellow Bittern 7, including two juveniles being fed by a parent

Black-crowned Night Heron 6, including at least three juveniles & one adult

Chinese Pond Heron 5, including at least two juveniles and one second calendar year

Grey Heron 1 juvenile

Great Egret 4, at least one of which was an adult.

Little Egret 5

Amur Falcon 1 adult female flew south.  Apparently a record early date for a bird in the process of migrating. Migrants are often difficult to distinguish from breeding birds but the location, well away from known breeding sites, and the bird’s behaviour are both strongly indicative of this bird being a migrant. Note that another bird, suspected at the time to have been an early autumn migrant was seen at Wild Duck Lake on this same date in 2003 (an unattributed record in the 2003 CBR). Note however that WDL is now known to hold breeding birds – and possibly did so back in 2003.

Common Moorhen 3 adults

Green Sandpiper 1 adult.

Common Sandpiper 1 was heard

Spotted Dove 4 singles

Large Hawk-cuckoo 1.  Known predominantly as an uncommon, rather local breeding summer visitor in Beijing it’s always scarce away from breeding sites. What’s more this often unobtrusive species apparently stops singing before the middle of July and there are remarkably few encounters in Beijing after then. Note however that specimens were procured at Liangxiang on 5 September 1961 & Baihua Shan on 23 September 1976 (both Cai 1987) and an exceptionally late bird was reported at Baiwang Shan on 17/10/2009. (aiyuanyang wanggangge via BirdTalker)

cuckoo sp. 1 bird, probably either a Common or Indian Cuckoo, was seen briefly & in flight.

Common Kingfisher 1

[Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker 1 bird, possibly this species, was seen poorly]

Great Spotted Woodpecker 3, including an adult female

Grey-headed Woodpecker 1

Brown Shrike 8, including one presumed family group of five birds

Black-naped Oriole 1.

Black Drongo 5

Azure-winged Magpie 20, including several locally fledged juveniles

Common Magpie 25, including several locally fledged juveniles

Light-vented (Chinese) Bulbul 32, including several locally fledged juveniles

Barn Swallow 40, including several presumably locally fledged juveniles

Red-rumped Swallow 5

Yellow-browed Warbler 2 singles (one seen & the other only heard).  These are apparently the earliest of the very few August reports from Beijing.

Oriental Reed Warbler 11, including several locally fledged juveniles

Vinous-throated Parrotbill 12 together

Crested Myna 3, two adults and a juvenile together

Eurasian Tree Sparrow 50

Yellow Wagtail 2 separate juveniles, one apparently macronyx & the other apparently simillima.

Grey Wagtail 1

[White Wagtail 1 bird, possibly this species, was glimpsed in flight]

Richard’s Pipit 1 was heard flying high to the south.  Richard’s Pipit is one of the first passerine migrants of the autumn in Beijing with birds that are definite migrants i.e. birds away from breeding sites starting to be seen towards the end of the the first week of August (the earliest autumn records involve one near Hou Ba Jia Zhuang, Miyun reservoir on the 6/8/2009 & two singles that flew south there on the 7/8/2010 [both PIH]). However it’s at least towards the end of the third week of August before sightings become anything close to being regular.

Olive-backed Pipit 1 was heard over. There is perhaps only one other August record of this species from Beijing – an exceptionally early bird near the Xin Zhuang bridge over the Chaohe, Miyun on the 7/8/2010 (PIH).

Grey-capped Greenfinch 5, including at least one presumably locally fledged juvenile

Bunting sp. 1 was heard.

[Escape: Scaly-breasted Munia 2 in the reed bed just to the north of the ‘Underground Corridor’.]

It is clear that autumn migration is underway.  And whilst passerines are only just beginning to move, shorebird migration is now in full swing.  Next weekend, Paul and I will be heading for the coast to check out a site in the north of the Bohai Bay.  Watch this space!


4 thoughts on “Autumn Migration Begins in Beijing”

  1. Terry, nice post again. This place in the north of the Bohai Bay would be Panjin? I’ll be back in China in 48 hours and can’t wait to get out.


    1. Hi Tom. Looking forward to having you back in China. Not Panjin but Nanpu, near Tangshan. Hoping for some good numbers. Will report here when we are back. Also looking forward to Lao Tie Shan! T

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