Rare and Scarce Birds in Beijing 2020

In many ways, for many people, 2020 will be a year to forget.  The pandemic has caused immense physical, psychological and economic harm across the world.  During this difficult time, for many the outdoors and the surrounding wildlife has been a much-needed refuge and comfort, with some connecting with nature for the first time.   We have been extremely fortunate in Beijing to have relatively few cases of COVID-19 and only a brief lockdown, after which we have been able to get out birding, provided enjoyed responsibly, wearing masks when with others and not forming large groups.  With a growing number of active birders in Beijing, the number of reported sightings of all birds – common, scarce and rare – is increasing exponentially year on year. Given the greater coverage, it is not surprising that more unusual birds have been found.  2020 continued that trend with well over 400 species being recorded for the first time in a calendar year, of which five were recorded for the first time.  In addition, at least four species were recorded for only the second time.

New records included:

  • 5 March: a drake American Wigeon (绿眉鸭 Lǜ méi yā), for one day only at Ming Tombs Reservoir, a brilliant find by Wang Xue
  • 25 March: an adult Saunders’s Gull ((黑嘴鸥, Hēi zuǐ ōu), picked out amongst a large flock of Black-headed Gulls at Miyun Reservoir and also seen the following day, was a great find by Guan Xiangyu, Jian Song, Su Liang et al.
  • 13 April: a single Eurasian Jackdaw (寒鸦 Hán-yā) amongst a flock of Daurian Jackdaw at Ming Tombs Reservoir was an exceptional find by Colm Moore
  • 3 May: a single male House Sparrow (家麻雀 Jiā máquè) at Chaoyang Park was found and well-described by Zhong Jia
  • 11 July: A Grey-backed Shrike (灰背伯劳 Huī-bèi bóláo) at Lingshan was a superb find by Ren Lipeng, amal amer and dahe.

Second records included Western Water Rail (西方秧鸡 Xīfāng yāng jī), Desert Wheatear (漠䳭 Mò jí), Northern Wheatear (穗䳭 Suì jí), Ashy Drongo (灰卷尾 Huī juàn wěi) and Chestnut Thrush (灰头鸫 Huī tóu dōng).

Other significant records included Beijing’s third Redwing (白眉歌鸫, Báiméi gē dōng) at Huairou on 7 and 14 January, a long-staying Red-necked Grebe (赤颈䴙䴘, Chì jǐng pì tī) at the Summer Palace, apparently present from 13th March until at least 17 April, Beijing’s 3rd and 4th reports of Crested Goshawk on 2 October at Baiwangshan 17 October also at Baiwangshan, and a 2cy Himalayan Griffon Vulture (高山兀鹫 Gāoshān wùjiù) at Baihuashan on 21 June.

It was an incredible year for records of Black-winged Kite (黑翅鸢 Hēi chì yuān), a species first recorded in the capital as recently as 2007.  Over the last decade, and especially since 2014, records have increased and, in 2020, there were at least 20 records from a wide range of sites across the capital, and even a report of possible breeding from Fangshan District.  The increase in records may indicate an expansion of its range in East Asia, potentially mirroring a similar range expansion in Europe and the Middle East.

It was also an exceptional year for Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥 Yú ōu) with more than ten records, including the first in winter.  This increase in records could be at least partly due to greater observer awareness of non-adult plumages in addition to greater coverage.

A pair of Pied Wheatear (白顶䳭 Bái dǐng jí) reared young in Fangshan District, a rare breeding record for the capital and, at the end of the year, a small group of Jankowski’s Bunting (栗斑腹鹀 Lì bān fù wú) was discovered at Ming Tombs Reservoir, only the fifth record of this endangered, and possibly overlooked, species in the capital.

Although the number of species recorded was high, this is not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the environment, given most species are migrants that spend only a fraction of their time in Beijing.  The increase can most likely be attributed to a greater number of observers and, as a result, greater coverage.  A better indicator of the state of the environment is the abundance of resident species.  It is here that there remains some concern, particularly with species associated with grassland and scrub – for example Daurian Partridge (斑翅山鹑 Bān chì shān chún), Asian Short-toed Lark (亚洲短趾百灵 (Yàzhōu) duǎn zhǐ bǎilíng) and Crested Lark (凤头百灵 Fèng tóu bǎilíng), all of which are experiencing serious declines.  There is an urgent need to protect and restore grassland and shrub habitat to prevent the loss of these species as breeding birds in the capital and to provide suitable wintering habitat for threatened migrant species such as Great Bustard.

A month by month summary of the birding highlights from Beijing in 2020 is below, in chronological order. Although I have included all information to which I have access, it is certainly not comprehensive. If you know of any errors or additions, please comment at the end of this post or contact me directly via email/WeChat.  It is worth noting that Beijing does not yet have a committee to assess records, and some of the reports outlined in this summary without photos, audio or descriptions, are taken at face value. It’s possible that some may be reviewed if and when a committee is created.

I’d like to take the opportunity to say THANK YOU to the hundreds of birders who have shared news of sightings throughout the year, whether via WeChat, email, eBird, Birdreport.cn or any other means. There is no doubt that sharing bird news has helped many people to see new and unusual species for the first time, building the knowledge base among birders in Beijing and, importantly, enthusing more people about the natural world.  A special thanks to Paul Holt who commented on a draft of this post and provided additional information.

Here’s wishing everyone a cheerier, healthier and happier, bird-filled 2021!

Birding Highlights of 2020 Month by Month

January

This Eurasian Treecreeper, first reported in late 2019, remained in Chaoyang Park into January 2020 (Terry Townshend).

The year began with a few rare and scarce visitors remaining from 2019, including four Brown-eared Bulbul (栗耳短脚鹎, Lì ěr duǎn jiǎo bēi) at Nanhaizi (Chen Wenjia and Zong Zhuang), at least one of which remained into February, and an unseasonal Barn Swallow (家燕, Jiāyàn) along the Wenyu River (Steve Bale). On 3rd, seven+ Chaffinch (苍头燕雀, Cāng tóu yànquè) at Ming Tombs Reservoir (Colm Moore) was the highest ever count in Beijing of this scarce winter visitor.  On 4th, four Pallas’s Sandgrouse (毛腿沙鸡, Máo tuǐ shā jī) were a great find along the Wenyu River (Steve Bale).  On 7th, Beijing’s third Redwing (白眉歌鸫, Báiméi gē dōng) was found at Huairou along with three Baer’s Pochard (青头潜鸭 Qīng tóu qián yā) on the reservoir (Terry Townshend and Steve Bale).  A Solitary Snipe (孤沙锥 Gū shā zhuī) was photographed on 13th along the Qingshui River near Taishitun, Miyun District (Su Liang, “te te” et al), and on 18th there was a rare winter record of Bull-headed Shrike (牛头伯劳 Niútóu bóláo) from Xibangezhuang (XiaoPT) and the first ever winter record of Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥 Yú ōu), when two were found at Ming Tombs Reservoir (Colm Moore).  Also on 18th, the Eurasian Treecreeper (旋木雀 Xuán mù què), first reported in late 2019, was still in Chaoyang Park (Paul Holt), with news of a second individual photographed in the Temple of Heaven Park, present from 15 January 2020 at least (WeChat name: Vianvivian).  On 24th, a Common Chiffchaff (叽喳柳莺, Jī chā liǔ yīng), only the 4th or 5th record for the capital, was discovered at Shahe Reservoir (DaHe).  A pair of Scaly-sided Merganser (中华秋沙鸭 Zhōnghuá qiū shā yā) was photographed on 25 January along the Wenyu River by 航空母舰舰载机 (Birdnet.cn username) and the next day a Western Water Rail (西方秧鸡 Xīfāng yāng jī), possibly only Beijing’s second, was discovered at Shahe Reservoir on 26th (张旻昊), both of which remained into February.

February

The adult Pallas’s Gull at Ming Tombs Reservoir on 23 February 2020 (Terry Townshend).

A Scaly-sided Merganser (中华秋沙鸭, Zhōnghuá qiū shā yā), presumably one of the pair seen on 25th January, was photographed along the Wenyu River on 9th (Zhen Niu).  Also on 9th, a male Yellowhammer (黄鹀 Huáng wú) – possibly only Beijing’s 14th – was seen with the Pine Bunting (白头鹀 Báitóu wú) flock at Ming Tombs Reservoir (Zhen Niu and DaHao), originally found by an unknown photographer on 8th.  On 10th an immature Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥 Yú ōu) and an unseasonal Common Sandpiper (矶鹬, Jī yù) were at Shahe Reservoir (Steve Bale and Terry Townshend). On 23rd an adult Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥 Yú ōu) and three Siberian Gull (乌灰银鸥, Wū huī yín ōu) were at Ming Tombs Reservoir (Steve Bale and Terry Townshend). On 26th at Shahe Reservoir there were 13 Mute Swan (疣鼻天鹅, Yóu bí tiān’é), eight adults and five immatures (Wang Xue et al.) and five Greylag Geese (灰雁 Huī yàn), a rare winter record (Chen Yanxin).  Also at the same site on the same day there was a Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥 Yú ōu) (amal amer) and a Siberian Gull (乌灰银鸥, Wū huī yín ōu) (Steve Bale).  The earliest ever Beijing record of Grey-headed Lapwing (灰头麦鸡 Huī tóu mài jī) was one at Shahe Reservoir on 28th (DaHe).

March

The drake American Wigeon at Ming Tombs Reservoir on 5 April, the first record for Beijing. An excellent find by Wang Xue. Photo by Wang Xue.

The month began with the remaining, or a new, adult Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥 Yú ōu) at Ming Tombs Reservoir on 1st.  On 5th a drake AMERICAN WIGEON (绿眉鸭 Lǜ méi yā) was discovered at Ming Tombs Reservoir by Wang Xue.  Arguably the bird of the year, this was the first record of this species in Beijing and is a very rare bird in all of China.  Two Baer’s Pochard (青头潜鸭 Qīng tóu qián yā) were at DaShiHe on 6th (Liu Aitao et al.), increasing to three on 11th (amal amer).  An adult Siberian Gull (乌灰银鸥, Wū huī yín ōu) was at Shahe Reservoir on 9th (Liu Aitao).  Three Mute Swan (疣鼻天鹅, Yóu bí tiān’é), two adults and a 2cy, were at Yeyahu on the same day (DaHe) and five, two adults and three 2cy, were at Ma Chang on 12th (Steve Bale et al.).  Another Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥, Yú ōu), this time an immature, was at Shahe Reservoir on 14th (Zhen Niu) and, on 15th, news broke about one of the the most popular birds of the year – a Red-necked Grebe (赤颈䴙䴘, Chì jǐng pì tī) at the Summer Palace, apparently present since 13th and staying until at least 17 April (first found by “冬天里的童话”).  There are fewer than ten records of this species in Beijing.  A single Lesser White-fronted Goose (小白额雁, Xiǎo bái é yàn) was at Shahe Reservoir on 16th (Colm Moore) with another single on 20th at Taishitun (DaHao).  On 23rd a Jack Snipe (姬鹬, Jī yù) was at Shahe Reservoir (Colm Moore) with two Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥, Yú ōu).  A Dalmatian Pelican (卷羽鹈鹕, Juǎn yǔ tí hú卷羽鹈鹕 Juǎn yǔ tí hú), the first of only two recorded in 2020, was at the unusual location of Yuanmingyuan on 24th (Xiaomin).  The month’s second new Beijing bird was an adult SAUNDERS’S GULL (黑嘴鸥, Hēi zuǐ ōu) in breeding plumage on 25-26 March 2020 at least at Miyun Reservoir (Guan Xiangyu, Jian Song, Su Liang et al.).  Also on 26th at the same site, Beijing’s 7th record of the personata subspecies of White Wagtail (白鹡鸰 Bái jí líng) was photographed (Terry Townshend).  On 27th a 2cy Black-legged Kittiwake (三趾鸥, Sān zhǐ ōu) was at the Guishui River, Yanqing (Wang Xue, Lou Fangzhou et al.), possibly only the 14th record for Beijing and only the third in Spring.  On 28th a Lesser Sand Plover (蒙古沙鸻, Ménggǔ shā héng) was reported from Yeyahu (niaotu).  The month ended with two (Greater) Canada Goose (加拿大黑雁, jiānádà hēi-yàn) of suspect origin, along the Wenyu River (Richard Liu).

April

Beijing’s first Western Jackdaw was an excellent find at Ming Tombs Reservoir on 13 April (Colm Moore).

On 10th, possibly only Beijing’s 12th Meadow Pipit (草地鹨 Cǎodì liù) was found on the small marsh opposite Luoma Hu, Shunyi District (Terry Townshend).  On 12th, Beijing’s eighth, and the year’s second, personata White Wagtail (白鹡鸰 Bái jí líng) was found at Niantan Park (Zhong Zhenyu).  On 13th, a Beijing first in the form of a WESTERN JACKDAW (寒鸦 Hán-yā) was photographed at Ming Tombs Reservoir, a superb find by Colm Moore.  On 15th a Ruff (流苏鹬 Liúsū yù)  was a nice find at Shahe Reservoir (Chen Jingyun).  On 16th Colm Moore struck again with a cracking male Desert Wheatear (漠䳭 Mò jí) at Ming Tombs Reservoir, only the second record of this species in Beijing and almost exactly ten years after the first, when one was at Ma Chang on 15 April 2010 (Brian Jones et al.). 

The Desert Wheatear at Ming Tombs Reservoir on 16 April, only the second record for Beijing (Photo by Colm Moore)

On the same day, a Rufous-faced Warbler (棕脸鹟莺 Zōng-liǎn wēng-yīng) was at the Temple of Heaven Park (via Wang Xue), staying until 17th at least.  This bird followed a report of one from Dinghui Bridge, Haidian in “the first week of April”. An adult Brown-headed Gull (棕头鸥 Zōng tóu ōu) was photographed at Shahe Reservoir on 17th (Li Bo via Jun Yang).  On 21st an Asian House Martin (烟腹毛脚燕 Yān fù máo jiǎo yàn) was at the Wenyu River (Steve Bale) and, on 23rd, a Northern Wheatear (穗䳭 Suì jí), possibly only the second documented record for the capital, was at Kangxi Grasslands (Vincent Wang). Also on 23rd, Northern House Martins (白腹毛脚燕 Bái fù máo jiǎo yàn) were seen at the Wenyu River (Steve Bale) and Shahe Reservoir (Wang Xiaobo), the latter with an Asian House Martin.  On the same day a Black-winged Cuckooshrike (暗灰鹃鵙 Àn huī juān jú) the first of a remarkable six records this spring, was at Liangshui He (DaHao). On 26th a Slavonian Grebe (角䴙䴘 Jiǎo pì tī) was at the Summer Palace (Ge Sun et al.) and a possible Beijing record 59 Ferruginous Duck (白眼潜鸭 Báiyǎn qián yā) were at Ma Chang (Steve Bale and Terry Townshend) with Beijing’s third personata White Wagtail (白鹡鸰 Bái jí líng) of the year at the same site (DaHao).  The latter was still present the next day.  The month ended with a fantastic shorebird day at Ma Chang for Vincent Wang, spotting a Ruddy Turnstone (翻石鹬 Fān shí yù), Beijing’s first spring record of Broad-billed Sandpiper (阔嘴鹬 Kuò zuǐ yù) and a Red Knot (红腹滨鹬 Hóng fù bīn yù).

May

The Ashy Drongo in Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace) on 18 May 2020. Photo by amal amer.

May’s highlights began with possibly only Beijing’s sixth Isabelline Wheatear (沙䳭 Shā jí) at Lingshan (YiLiang – WeChat name) and the year’s second Dalmatian Pelican (卷羽鹈鹕 Juǎn yǔ tí hú) at Shahe Reservoir (Zhen Niu et al.) on 1st.    A Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler (强脚树莺 Qiáng-jiǎo shù-yīng) was reported from Lingshan on 2nd, where a late White-winged Redstart (红腹红尾鸲 Hóng fù hóng wěi qú) was also reported (Zhen Niu).  A Greater Painted Snipe (彩鹬 Cǎi yù) was at the ChaoBaiHe on 3rd (via Steve Bale).  On 4th there was a convincing report of a male HOUSE SPARROW (家麻雀 Jiā máquè) near the north gate of Chaoyang Park (Zhong Jia via Lei Jinyu), perhaps surprisingly the first record of this species in Beijing.  Also on 4th a Little Curlew (小杓鹬 Xiǎo biāo yù) was at Kangxi Grassland (Liu Aitao et al.) and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (尖尾滨鹬 Jiān wěi bīn yù) was at Shahe Reservoir (Stefan Andrew et al.).  On 6th another Little Curlew (小杓鹬 Xiǎo biāo yù) was at Ming Tombs Reservoir (Colm Moore) with two at Kangxi Grassland on 7th (大牙齿 458).  Also on 7th a Grey-sided Thrush (褐头鸫 Hè tóu dōng) at the Temple of Heaven Park (Wang Xue) was a notable central Beijing record, and an early Common Cuckoo (大杜鹃 Dà dùjuān) was at Ma Chang (Vincent Wang).  A pair of Pied Wheatear (白顶䳭 Bái dǐng jí) was discovered at Houshimen in Fangshan District on 8th (via Wang Xiaobo) and stayed to breed.  On 10th May there were three Northern Boobook (鹰鸮 Yīng xiāo) in Temple of Heaven Park (张 佳依).  Five Rosy Pipit (粉红胸鹨 Fěnhóng xiōng liù) and a lugens White Wagtail (白鹡鸰 Bái jí líng) were at Ming Tombs Reservoir on 11th (Colm Moore and Zhao Qi).  A singing Asian Koel (噪鹃 Zào juān) was recorded at the British Embassy on 12th (Chris Boobier), a nice central Beijing record in what was an exceptional year for this increasing species.  A Ruddy Turnstone (翻石鹬 Fān shí yù) was at Ma Chang on the same day (大牙齿 458 and Wang Xiaobo).  On 13th May a singing Oriental Cuckoo (北方中杜鹃 Zhōng dùjuān) was near ID City in Shunyi (Terry Townshend), one of at least four recorded this spring.  Although likely a common migrant in Beijing, few are positively identified due to the difficulty in separating Oriental from Common Cuckoo on sight alone.  On the same day the third Rufous-faced Warbler (棕脸鹟莺 Zōng-liǎn wēng-yīng) of the year was at Xiaolongmen (Su Liang and te te).  On 14th, the second Oriental Cuckoo (北方中杜鹃 Zhōng dùjuān) of the year was recorded singing in Yuanmingyuan (Zhang Dongyan) and a Blunt-winged Warbler (钝翅苇莺 Dùn chì wěi yīng) was in Yuanmingyuan (Lou Fangzhou).  On 15th in the Temple of Heaven Park there were two Rufous-tailed Robin (红尾歌鸲 Hóng wěi gē qú) (Lou Fangzhou) and a Siberian Thrush (白眉地鸫 Báiméi de dōng) (via Wang Xue), the latter remaining until 19th at least. On 16th there was another Lesser Sand Plover (蒙古沙鸻 Ménggǔ shā héng) at Miyun Reservoir (Lou Fangzhou).  From 16th-18th an Ashy Drongo (灰卷尾 Huī juàn wěi), very rare in Beijing and possibly only the second record, was in Yuanmingyuan (alice168149) and photographed on the latter date by amal amer.  On 19th another Rufous-tailed Robin (红尾歌鸲 Hóng wěi gē qú) was found along the Wenyu River (Steve Bale).  On 20th a Yellow-legged Buttonquail (黄脚三趾鹑 Huáng jiǎo sān zhǐ chún) and a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (淡脚柳莺 Dàn jiǎo liǔ yīng) were in Temple of Heaven Park (Yu Junfeng and Wang Xiaobo respectively).  A second Yellow-legged Buttonquail (黄脚三趾鹑 Huáng jiǎo sān zhǐ chún) was at the Wenyu River on 21st (Terry Townshend).  On 22nd a Narcissus Flycatcher (黄眉姬鹟 Huángméijī wēng), possibly only Beijing’s third record, was at Temple of Heaven Park (健 宋, amal amer et al.). On 23rd the third Oriental Cuckoo (北方中杜鹃 Zhōng dùjuān) of the spring was recorded singing in Temple of Heaven Park (Wang Xiaobo).  At the same site on the same day, Stefan Andrew reported a Lesser Whitethroat (白喉林莺 Báihóu lín yīng), a Rufous-tailed Robin (红尾歌鸲 Hóng wěi gē qú), a Grey-sided Thrush (褐头鸫 Hè tóu dōng) and a Northern Boobook (鹰鸮 Yīng xiāo). Also on 23rd a singing Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (淡脚柳莺 Dàn jiǎo liǔ yīng) was along the Wenyu River (Terry Townshend).  On 26th Colm Moore recorded a remarkable trio – a singing Oriental Cuckoo (北方中杜鹃 Zhōng dùjuān), a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (淡脚柳莺 Dàn jiǎo liǔ yīng) and a Manchurian Reed Warbler (远东苇莺 Yuǎndōng wěi yīng), all at Ming Tombs Reservoir.  On 28th there were two separate records of Black-winged Cuckooshrike (暗灰鹃鵙 Àn huī juān jú), at Temple of Heaven Park (Chenhong via BirdingBeijing WeChat group) and at Yuanmingyuan (Wang Xiaobo, Zhen Niu, amal amer et al.), the latter staying until at least 1 June.  On 29th there was a report of a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (红翅凤头鹃 Hóng chì fèng tóu juān) from Nanhaizi, apparently present “for the last few days” (Zhong Zhenyu).  On 31st a singing Chinese Bush Warbler (中华短翅莺 Zhōnghuá duǎn chì yīng), one of only three records this year, was at the Wenyu River (Terry Townshend).  

June

The 2cy Himalayan Griffon Vulture at Baihuashan on 21st June (Li Siqi “Crazy Birdy”)

A singing Black-winged Cuckooshrike (暗灰鹃鵙 Àn huī juān jú) was at the Wenyu River on 1st (Terry Townshend), seen again on 2nd, and also on 1st a Chinese Bush Warbler (中华短翅莺 Zhōnghuá duǎn chì yīng) was near Lishutai (Zhang Shen and XiaoPT).  On 6th a Marsh Grassbird (斑背大尾莺 Bān bèi dà wěi yīng) was at Shahe Reservoir, remaining until 8th at least (Wang Xiaobo) and on 7th another Black-winged Cuckooshrike (暗灰鹃鵙 Àn huī juān jú) was at Pinggu (Shen Jing).  A Steppe Eagle (草原雕 Cǎoyuán diāo) at Baihuashan on 16th was the first summer record for Beijing (Xiao Hong).  On 18th a singing Blunt-winged Warbler (钝翅苇莺 Dùn chì wěi yīng) was found holding territory in the Olympic Forest Park, remaining until 26th at least.  On 21st a remarkable record of a 2cy Himalayan Griffon Vulture (高山兀鹫 Gāoshān wùjiù), possibly only the third Beijing record, was photographed at Baihuashan by Li Siqi (“CrazyBirdy”) and on 22nd a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (红翅凤头鹃 Hóng chì fèng tóu juān) was in Temple of Heaven Park, remaining until 23rd at least (Li Zhaonan, Wang Xiaobo, amal amer et al.).  Two Greater Painted Snipe (彩鹬 Cǎi yù) were at the ChaoBai River on 28th (amal amer, Zhen Niu et al.).

July

This Grey-backed Shrike was found and photographed at Lingshan on 11th July (Ren Lipeng, amal amer and dahe). This photo by Ren Lipeng.

On 5th a singing Japanese Quail (鹌鹑 Ānchún) was near ID City in Shunyi (Terry Townshend), was a rare July record in Beijing.  On 7th there was a Yellow-legged Buttonquail (黄脚三趾鹑 Huáng jiǎo sān zhǐ chún) south of Lishutai in Mentougou District (XiaoPT and Zhang Shen).  On 11th July a GREY-BACKED SHRIKE (灰背伯劳 Huī-bèi bóláo) was found and photographed at Lingshan (Ren Lipeng, amal amer and dahe), the first record of this species in Beijing.  On 13th another Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (红翅凤头鹃 Hóng chì fèng tóu juān) in the Botanical Gardens (Wang Xiaobo) continued the good run for this species in 2020.  On 21st a Pheasant-tailed Jacana (水雉 Shuǐ zhì) was at Beixiaohe Park, Wangjing (Wang Hongjie et al.).

August

The moulting adult Sanderling at Ma Chang, first found on 3rd August by Wang Xiaobo. This photo on 5th by Terry Townshend.

Three Broad-billed Sandpiper (阔嘴鹬 Kuò zuǐ yù) were a nice find at Ma Chang on 1st (amal amer) with three Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (尖尾滨鹬 Jiān wěi bīn yù) at Shahe on the same day (anonymous). A Cinnamon Bittern (栗苇鳽 Lì wěi jiān) was at Liangshui River on 2nd (Wang Xiaobo).  Possibly only Beijing’s 4th Sanderling (三趾滨鹬 Sān zhǐ bīn yù), a moulting adult, was at Ma Chang on 3rd (Wang Xiaobo) and was joined on 5th by a Terek Sandpiper (翘嘴鹬 Qiào zuǐ yù) (Terry Townshend) and stayed until at least 2nd September.  A Lesser Coucal (小鸦鹃 Xiǎo yā juān), possibly only the fifth Beijing record, was at Shahe Reservoir on 9th (Wang Xiaobo).  A juvenile Broad-billed Sandpiper (阔嘴鹬 Kuò zuǐ yù) was at Ma Chang on 14th. A Terek Sandpiper (翘嘴鹬 Qiào zuǐ yù) was along the ChaoBai River (amal amer et al.) on 14th and 15th.  On 20th an Asian Dowitcher (半蹼鹬 Bàn pǔ yù) was found along the ChaoBai River (finder unknown).  The next day a Red Collared Dove (火斑鸠 Huǒ bānjiū) was also at ChaiBai River (Zhen Niu) and a juvenile Peregrine (游隼 Yóu sǔn) of the more southerly distributed ssp peregrinator and a Terek Sandpiper (翘嘴鹬 Qiào zuǐ yù) were at Ma Chang (Colm Moore). A Far Eastern Curlew (大杓鹬 Dà biāo yù大杓鹬 Dà biāo yù) was at Ma Chang on 24th (Wang Xiaobo).  A Baer’s Pochard (青头潜鸭 Qīng tóu qián yā) was at the ChaoBai River on 29th (大牙齿 458).  On 30th there was a male Siberian Thrush (白眉地鸫 Báiméi de dōng) in the Temple of Heaven Park (Wang Yirong), an Amur Paradise Flycatcher (寿带 Shòu dài) at the same site (Zhou Minzheng) and a Broad-billed Sandpiper (阔嘴鹬 Kuò zuǐ yù) at Ma Chang (amal amer et. al.).  The month ended with a Little Curlew (小杓鹬 Xiǎo biāo yù) at Ma Chang on 31st.  

September

The Intermediate Egret at the Wenyu River on 17 September (Terry Townshend).

A remarkable six Sanderling (三趾滨鹬 Sān zhǐ bīn yù), all juveniles, were at Shahe Reservoir on 11th (苏蓬 and David Mou via amal amer), staying until 15th at least.  Five Northern House Martin (白腹毛脚燕 Bái fù máo jiǎo yàn) were reported from Baiwangshan on 13th (鹪鹩 via birdreport.cn) and a Little Gull (小鸥 Xiǎo ōu) was reported from Shahe Reservoir on the same day (Stefan Andrew).  An Intermediate Egret (中白鹭 Zhōng báilù) was along the Wenyu River on 17th (Terry Townshend).  An Ashy Minivet (灰山椒鸟 Huī shānjiāo niǎo灰山椒鸟 Huī shānjiāo niǎo) was at the Olympic Forest Park on 19th (XiaoPT) and the autumn’s first Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥, Yú ōu), a 1cy, was at Ma Chang on 19th (Terry Townshend).  An exceptional count of 70+ Eurasian Jay (松鸦 Sōng yā) was observed flying west at Ming Tombs Reservoir on 22nd with a Pechora Pipit (北鹨 Běi liù) at the same site (Com Moore).  

October

The 1cy Northern Hawk Cuckoo in the Olympic Forest Park (苏蓬)

A Rufous-tailed Robin (红尾歌鸲 Hóng wěi gē qú) was at the Agricultural Exhibition Center Park on 1st (David Consineo).  The 3rd and 4th records of Crested Goshawk were reported on 2 October 2020 at Baiwangshan (Kevin 盛) and on 17 October 2020 also at Baiwangshan (Ashy-Mimivet).  A 1cy Northern Hawk Cuckoo (北鹰鹃 Běi yīng juān) was in the Olympic Forest Park on 5th (apparently for its 4th day), originally found by Gao Yuan. A rare bird in Beijing, with fewer than ten records, it stayed until at least 11th October.  A 1cy Pallas’s Gull (渔鸥, Yú ōu) was at Ming Tombs Reservoir on the same day (Colm Moore) and a Little Stint (小滨鹬 Xiǎo bīn yù) was reported from Yeyahu (瑞Redstart).  On 7th another Sanderling (三趾滨鹬 Sān zhǐ bīn yù) was at Ma Chang (候鸟spring).  On 15th a possible Beijing record count of 2,000 Gadwall (赤膀鸭 Chì bǎng yā) at Yeyahu, along with another possible Beijing record count of 100 Silver-throated Tit (银喉长尾山雀 Yín hóu cháng wěi shān què银喉长尾山雀 Yín hóu cháng wěi shān què) (Hu Ruocheng).  On 16th there was a Lesser Whitethroat (白喉林莺 Báihóu lín yīng) in the Agricultural Exhibition Center Park (via Zhang Xiaoling).  On 17th a Wallcreeper (红翅旋壁雀 Hóng chì xuán bì què) was at Yanhecheng, a rare sighting away from the usual wintering site at Shidu.  On 18th there was a Rufous-tailed Robin (红尾歌鸲 Hóng wěi gē qú) at the Agricultural Exhibition Center Park (amal amer et al.). On 28th a Northern Grey Shrike ssp sibiricus (灰伯劳 Huī bóláo) was at Miaofengshan (Colm Moore and Zhao Qi), increasing to two on 15th November (Zhen Niu).

November

The Demoiselle Crane on 20 November over the Agricultural Exhibition Center (苏蓬).

On 1st there were 4 Mute Swan (疣鼻天鹅, Yóu bí tiān’é), two adults and two 1cy) at Yeyahu, with a single Baer’s Pochard (青头潜鸭 Qīng tóu qián yā) at Huairou Reservoir (天书).  On 4th there was an unseasonal Manchurian Bush Warbler (远东树莺 Yuǎndōng shù yīng) in the Olympic Forest Park (“david” via WeChat) and two Red-breasted Flycatcher (红胸姬鹟 Hóng xiōng jī wēng) reported from the same site (果茶2020), with one of the latter remaining until 6th (Liu Zongzhuang).  On 5th a late Chinese Pond Heron (池鹭 Chí lù) was at HuoYing (Wang Xiaobo), a Rough-legged Buzzard (毛脚鵟 Máo jiǎo kuáng) was in Tongzhou (D逍遥法外) and a Slavonian (Horned) Grebe (角䴙䴘 Jiǎo pì tī) was a Shahe Reservoir (Fqr123456), the latter reported on and off until 15th at least.  Also on On 6th two Baer’s Pochard (青头潜鸭 Qīng tóu qián yā) were at Huairou Reservoir (anonymous), remaining until 8th at least.  On 12th there was a 1cy Black-legged Kittiwake (三趾鸥, Sān zhǐ ōu) at Shahe Reservoir,  remaining until 15th at least.  A late Eurasian Wryneck (蚁鴷 Yǐ liè), the first to be recorded in November, was at Shahe Reservoir on 13th (anonymous).  On 14th a Long-tailed Duck (长尾鸭 Cháng wěi yā) was found at Shahe Reservoir (Oriental Stork et al.) and a Baer’s Pochard (青头潜鸭 Qīng tóu qián yā) was at Yeyahu (麦克曹). On 16th there were four Greater Scaup (斑背潜鸭 Bān bèi qián yā) at Qinglong Lake (amal amer et al.) and on 19th there were six Baer’s Pochard (青头潜鸭 Qīng tóu qián yā) at Huairou Reservoir (Jun Shuai).  On 20th a remarkable record of a Demoiselle Crane (蓑羽鹤 Suō yǔ hè), possibly only Beijing’s sixth record, photographed as it flew over the Agricultural Exhibition Center Park (amal amer and Su Peng).  Also on 20th, a Long-tailed Duck (长尾鸭 Cháng wěi yā) was at Ming Tombs Reservoir (Colm Moore), increasing to two birds on 26th, with one remaining until 5 December at least.  On 22nd a Black-throated Diver (黑喉潜鸟 Hēi hóu qián niǎo) was seen at Shahe Reservoir (Wang Xiaobo et al.), apparently present for at least its third day.  On 26th the Long-tailed Duck (长尾鸭 Cháng wěi yā) at Ming Tombs Reservoir were joined by a single Baer’s Pochard (青头潜鸭 Qīng tóu qián yā) and two Greater Scaup (斑背潜鸭 Bān bèi qián yā) (Colm Moore).  On 27th a Verditer Flycatcher (铜蓝鹟 Tóng lán wēng), of unknown origin, was close to Huairou Reservoir (Song Xu via Zhang Xiaoling).  There are at least two previous records (one in spring and one in late autumn – 29 October 2014 in the Botanical Gardens).  Also on 27th a caudatus Long-tailed Tit (北长尾山雀 Běi cháng wěi shān què) was in Yuanmingyuan (孟帅 葛 et al.), staying into December.  The month ended with a very late Intermediate Egret (中白鹭 Zhōng báilù) reported from Shahe Reservoir (麦克曹) and the discovery of Beijing’s 4th European Robin (欧亚鸲 Ōu yà qú) in the Temple of Heaven Park on 30th (via Wang Xue), the latter staying until 16th December at least.  

December

The Chestnut Thrush in the Olympic Forest Park on 25 December (Ren Tianyi and Liu Garbo)

A Lesser White-fronted Goose (小白额雁, Xiǎo bái é yàn) was at Ming Tombs Reservoir on 1st (Colm Moore).  Five Baer’s Pochard (青头潜鸭 Qīng tóu qián yā) were at Huairou Reservoir on 5th (麦克曹). On 6th a female Chaffinch (苍头燕雀, Cāng tóu yànquè) was at Lingshan (Mint Ren, 大牙齿 458 and Zhang Shen).  On 7th there was a very late Chinese Pond Heron (池鹭 Chí lù) in the Olympic Forest Park (Wang Xiaobo) and two Bluethroat (蓝喉歌鸲 Lán hóu gē qú) were reported from Liuyin Park (小小小小鱼), with one remaining until 12th at least.  On 9th at least one Jankowski’s Bunting (栗斑腹鹀 Lì bān fù wú) was found amongst Meadow Buntings (三道眉草鹀 Sān dào méi cǎo wú) at Ming Tombs Reservoir (Colm Moore), with up to five seen in the following days, just the fifth record of this declining species in the capital.  On 10th four Daurian Partridge (斑翅山鹑 Bān chì shān chún) were photographed at Lingshan (Wang Xiaobo), the first record in Beijing of this declining species since December 2014.  Remarkably, 11 were seen on 14th at the same site (大牙齿 458).  On 12th three Chaffinch (苍头燕雀, Cāng tóu yànquè) were at Ming Tombs Reservoir (Wang Xiaobo) and on 15th, Beijing’s 13th Meadow Pipit (草地鹨 Cǎodì liù) was found at the same site (amal amer, Su Peng and Dahe). On 21st a Plumbeous Redstart (红尾水鸲 Hóng wěi shuǐ qú) in the Agricultural Exhibition Center Park (Xu Liang) was a rare inner city record.  On 22nd two Brown-eared Bulbul (栗耳短脚鹎, Lì ěr duǎn jiǎo bēi) were in Yuyuantan Park (Wang Xiaobo, 世界公民 et al.).  There was a wonderful Christmas present for Ren Tianyi and Liu Garbo when they found Beijing’s 2nd Chestnut Thrush (灰头鸫 Huī tóu dōng) in the Olympic Forest Park on 25th.  Colm Moore capped an outstanding year by finding possibly only Beijing’s 15th Yellowhammer (黄鹀 Huáng wú) at Miaofengshan on 27th.  And finally, Wang Xiaobo capped his excellent year by finding a female Scaly-sided Merganser (中华秋沙鸭 Zhōnghuá qiū shā yā) at the Tongzhou-Dayunhe Forest Park.

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For summaries of rare and scarce birds in Beijing in previous years, click on the links below:

Rare and Scarce Birds in 2019

Rare and Scarce Birds in 2018

Rare and Scarce Birds in 2017

Rare and Scarce Birds in 2016

To keep up to date with the latest bird and wildlife news in Beijing, check the Latest Sightings page and to find out the status of every species recorded in the capital, click here for the Status of the Birds of Beijing.

Title photo: American Wigeon by Wang Xue

4 thoughts on “Rare and Scarce Birds in Beijing 2020”

    1. Thank you, Ian. I am not aware of any similar summaries for south China.. but there is a local birdwatching society, so maybe they produce something. If you need a contact, I can find one for you. Thanks again, Terry

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