Last Friday I visited the International School of Beijing (ISB). On the back of their involvement with the Beijing Cuckoo Project, the three students elected as “Cuckoo Ambassadors” have set up a birding club. Meeting on Friday afternoons, the group is planning to invite external speakers to talk about various aspects of birds and to arrange field trips to birding sites in Beijing. I was invited to speak about the Beijing Swift. After a short talk about the Beijing Swift Project and a great Q&A session, we discussed how ISB could help the declining population of Swifts, caused by the demolition of traditional buildings, many of which host Swift nests, and their replacement with new, shiny buildings with no nooks and crannies for Swifts. Including ‘swift bricks’ in the designs of new buildings is one way to help and, for existing buildings, retrofitting nest boxes is another. The students were keen to explore the idea of making nest boxes in their woodwork classes and erecting them on campus with a view to trying to attract a colony to their school and they will be discussing with their teachers this week. If they go ahead, they’ll be the second school to commit to building and erecting swift boxes in Beijing after Harrow International School.
The first field trip, to Yeyahu, was scheduled for the following weekend.
Just two days later I was at the Olympic Forest Park helping to lead a group of students from Hepingli No4 Primary School. This school, too, has its own birding club and even has its own badge, proudly displayed on their backpacks! On a beautiful, but cold, morning we enjoyed good views of some of the park’s residents including Grey Herons, Little Grebes and Light-vented Bulbuls.
It’s heartening to see Beijing’s schools setting up birding clubs and hopefully these two leading lights represent just the beginning of a new trend.
Update: On Monday 6 November I was informed that Kevin O’Shea, one of the teachers at the Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB), has just set up a wildlife club for students, meeting every Wednesday. Congratulations, CISB!
Title image: the badge of Hepingli No4 Primary School’s Birdwatching Society.