It was only in May last year that I wrote about Miyun Reservoir, describing it as a world-class birding site little known by birders. Sadly, as of last week, it appears the government has decided to prohibit access and birders have been turned away by officials.
Ever since I came to Beijing, visting Miyun Reservoir has always felt a little like trespassing.. There is an old, rusting fence that runs alongside the northern boundary of the reservoir, through which one must traverse in order to view the water. Many panels of the fence are missing, probably the work of local fishermen and goat herders, allowing easy entry to the reservoir and the whole area is criss-crossed with vehicle tracks, testament to the traffic it has seen over the years.
Since terrorism has become a global risk, it’s always felt a little strange to be able to walk, or even drive, to the edge of Beijing’s main source of drinking water. For anyone with evil intentions, it would be relatively easy to cause havoc through contamination. There aren’t many capital cities in the world that would allow such open access.
Birders in Beijing have been spoiled. We have become used to visiting the shores of this vast reservoir and the top quality birding it has to offer. Highlights in the last 3 years have included Beijing’s first Sandhill Crane, Slender-billed Gull, Bar-tailed Godwit, Blyth’s Reed Warbler and the second record of Red-throated Diver, to name a few.. And then, of course, there is the flock of JANKOWSKI’S BUNTINGS that have graced the northern shores of the reservoir this winter. With regular migrants such as Baer’s Pochard, Baikal Teal, Relict Gull, Great Bustard, White-naped Crane, Saker, Greater Spotted Eagle and Yellow-breasted Bunting, it is undoubtedly a world-class birding site.
Given that decision-making in China is opaque, it is unclear at this time whether the prohibition of access is temporary or permanent. Time will tell. One thing is for sure: a lack of human access to the reservoir, whilst a blow to local birders, is great news for the birds!