The arrival of Oriental Pratincoles in Beijing in mid-April is one of spring’s reaffirming moments. The pratincoles’ harsh tern-like calls are often heard before the birds are seen. Most of the birds I see in Beijing are simply stopping off for a break on their migration and most move on to sites further north. However, this year a small colony has taken up residence at Miyun Reservoir and, during my visit on 1st June in perfect conditions, this group provided some superb opportunities to study, photograph and record their behaviour.
This video from my Canon EOS 7D captures some of their characteristic head-bobbing behaviour and calls.
Interestingly, among the group, there was one apparent first summer bird lacking the beautiful underparts of the adults, sporting an all black bill and with white-edged juvenile wing coverts. My understanding is that most first summer birds remain on the wintering grounds, so this may be an unusual sighting. Unfortunately it was always too distant for photographs.
We enjoyed this encounter for some time in the mid- to late-afternoon light before reluctantly tearing ourselves away.