Monday and Tuesday were awful in Beijing with rain, wind and relatively chilly temperatures for the time of year. So it was with relief and a sense of expectation that Wednesday dawned clear, sunny and with expansive blue skies…. Any bad weather during the migration season can cause birds to make unscheduled stops and often the first good day after rainy weather can be very productive for birders.
And so, on Wednesday morning, after a ‘birdy’ few minutes on his local patch that included finding an Eye-browed Thrush, Paul Holt knew there had been a ‘fall’ of migrants and immediately abandoned his tiny area of urban scrub for potentially more productive sites.. He was rewarded with an exceptional find – a first for Beijing no less – in the shape of an adult SLENDER-BILLED GULL (细嘴鸥, Chroicocephalus genei) at Miyun Reservoir.
The nearest known breeding grounds of this gull are in Kazakhstan, 3-4,000 kilometres to the west. And so, as one might expect, it’s a rare bird in China, with the possible exception of Xinjiang Province in the far north-west where it appears to be fairly regular since the first record there in 2008. There are a handful of records from Hong Kong and also from well-watched Hebei coast around Beidaihe/Happy Island but elsewhere in China it’s very rare.
After Paul put out the news on the Birding Beijing WeChat group, I decided to make the trip and, along with Jennifer Leung, I was on site by 1600. Fortunately, we saw it immediately. Later in the afternoon it came close enough for me to take some record photos and a short video using my iPhone and Swarovski ATX95 set-up.
This gull turned up at exactly the same spot as the recent LESSER FRIGATEBIRD (see previous post).
Given there are so few birders in Beijing and no site is well-watched, who knows what would be seen if this site was covered on a regular basis?! There is so much opportunity for discovery, and some of the sites are stunningly beautiful, which is what makes birding in Beijing so brilliant…!