The WALLCREEPER (Tichodroma muraria, 红翅旋壁雀) has always been a special bird for me. I remember, as a young boy, looking longingly at the plate in my Hamlyn Guide To The Birds of Britain and Europe and wondering if I would ever see one. So rare in the UK, I knew I’d probably need to go overseas to have a chance. I remember my first encounter – at Les Baux in the south of France – and being surprised at just how small and delicate is this bird as it fluttered and probed on the town walls.
In Beijing, Wallcreeper is a scarce bird. Although almost all records are in winter from one site, it probably breeds somewhere in the mountains. Up to 3 can be seen reliably from November to March at Shidu, Fangshan District. The most reliable spot is the cliff just to the northeast of bridge 6. Here, photographers put out meal worms and it’s astonishing to see these birds gradually make their way down the vertical cliff face to eye-level as they grab one of the irresistible snacks on offer.
On my most recent visit to Shidu this winter with Marie, we were lucky to see one of the two Wallcreepers present fly down to the ice on the nearby river… Although the sun was behind, making the light far from ideal, I was able to capture it on video.. Now that is something – a Wallcreeper on ice!