When I first arrived in Beijing, I was fooled a couple of times by high-flying kites (the manmade kind) that I thought might be raptors..  I was amazed at how high these kites were flying over the city centre and wondered who was flying them and from where..  Today, during a walk in Ritan Park, I found the answer when I spotted an unidentified swallow soaring above China’s capital city…..


Winter is coming…

It was noticeably colder this morning on my walk around Central Park in Beijing..  probably down to around 6 degrees C and I could have done with my gloves.  Good numbers of Pallas’s Warblers today (I counted 12 and there could have been more) plus a single Daurian Redstart. The forecast is for a cold front to pass through on Monday, followed by more settled weather for a few days..  the cold snap might prompt some more birds to fly south – I am hoping for Siberian Accentor and some Thrushes in the garden!

Yeyahu (Wild Duck Lake)

I made my second visit to Yeyahu (known as Wild Duck Lake) on Wednesday.  Fantastic day – almost no wind early morning and fantastic blue skies.  Highlights were undoubtedly the raptors – 2 Great Spotted Eagles that came from the east, circled a bit and then wet back east, clearly not liking what they saw…    also, 2 Short-toed Eagles, a Peregrine, at least 12 japonicus Common Buzzards, 3 Hen Harriers, 2 Japanese Sparrowhawks, 4 Eurasian Sparrowhawks, 3 Goshawks, 2 Hobby and a Kestrel.  Other sightings included c50 Bean Geese, a cracking adult male Yellow-throated Bunting, 100s of Little Buntings (I lost count when I reached 3 figures but there were clearly several hundred on site), c20 Buff-bellied Pipits, several Greater Short-toed Lark and a possible Asian Short-toed Lark (looked short-tailed and pale but not clinched).

Not too much wildfowl around – a few Spot-billed Duck, a couple of Ruddy Shelduck, some Common Teal, a few Gadwall, Mallard and Wigeon but no sign of any Baikal Teal.

Meanwhile, in the garden, one Red-flanked Bluetail remained with at least 6 Pallas’s Warblers, a single Daurian Redstart and half a dozen Yellow-bellied Tits.

Greater Spotted Eagle, Yeyahu, 13 October 2010
1 cal yr Common Buzzard ssp japonicus
Short-toed Eagle, Yeyahu, 13 October 2010
Short-toed Eagle, Yeyahu, 13 October 2010 - can you see the Great Wall in the background? Chinese birding at its best...

Red-flanked Bluetails

The garden keeps producing.  Today there were two Red-flanked Bluetails foraging low down in the shade of some small shrubs, right by a major walkway.  Stunning birds, often wagging their tails downwards as they eyed up their next insect meal.  One even began to eat a few of the berries, precariously balancing on the outer branches….  Only other birds of note were 4 Pallas’s Warblers and a single Brambling (new China bird for me) that called, perched briefly on top of one of the trees and then flew off south.

Red-flanked Bluetail, Central Park, 12 October 2010
Red-flanked Bluetail, Central Park, 12 October 2010

Invasion of the Radde’s

After seeing my first Radde’s Warbler in the garden yesterday, today I saw a minimum of 5!  Three were in the same shrub which also included a Dusky Warbler, a male Daurian Redstart and a Two-barred Greenish Warbler!  One of the Radde’s performed well, breaking the dense cover and showing quite well in the upper branches of a young tree for a few minutes.


Radde's Warbler, Central Park, Beijing, 9 October 2010. Note the shortish, stubby bill, compared with Dusky (below)



Radde's Warbler, Central Park, Beijing, 9 October 2010. This photo shows the characteristic 'peachy' undertail coverts.



This Dusky Warbler popped out briefly, called and then dived back into cover. Note the thinner, more pointed bill, the more concolourous body and the darker legs.



Two-barred Greenish Warbler, Central Park, Beijing, 9 October 2010


A Two-barred Greenish Warbler came to see what all the fuss was about and posed nicely, albeit briefly, before moving on with a small party of Pallas’s Warblers.

Finally, the male Daurian Redstart that was bombing around doing what Redstarts do…

I checked the patch where the Stubtail was yesterday.  No sign.  But there was another Radde’s in the same spot, skulking around in the grass..


As I started my morning walk around the garden this morning, I didn’t expect much.  It was pretty smoggy and fairly still and, after several days of settled weather, I didn’t expect there to be any new grounded migrants.

In some longish grass I caught a glimpse of a warbler probing around at the bases of the stems..  and it didn’t take long to realise it was a Radde’s Warbler – my first in the garden.  It hopped around, rarely fully in view – typical of a Radde’s  – before flying a short way into dense cover.  A nice start.

A bit further along I flushed a Taiga Flycatcher – the first I have seen for a while (they were pretty common in early September but most seem to have gone through by now) and a female Daurian Redstart (possibly the same bird that has been present since Tuesday) darted out and then back into cover.  Several Pallas’s Warblers foraged in the tallest shrubs but, with lots of dog walkers around and Chinese people doing their morning shouty shouty stuff, I decided to call it a morning and go back to the flat for breakfast.

A nagging feeling that there might be more birds around caused me to take another stroll around after lunch.  Almost immediately, in the same spot as the Radde’s earlier that day, I caught sight of some movement on the ground.  Probably the Radde’s, I thought…  This time I had my camera with me so I thought I would try to get an image or too..  I crept up the steps so that I was at eye-level with the bird.. suddenly it called a very sharp ‘tick’ and sat up on a stem.  The bird had plain brownish upperparts and a very marked supercilium that grew stronger behind the eye.  It turned and I could see it had a very short tail – it was clearly an Asian Stubtail!  Wow!  I grabbed my camera and it flew up onto a branch momentarily before flying off round the corner and out of sight.  I managed a few dark record images…


Asian Stubtail, Central Park, Beijing, 8 October 2010


Almost immediately, two Pallas’s Warblers came down to some low branches nearby and performed very well…  I do love these bright little gems!


Pallas's Warbler, Central Park, 8 October 2010



Pallas's Warbler, Central Park, 8 October 2010

I enjoyed watching one of the Pallas’s as it repeatedly picked off insects from an infested stem and, in so doing, I realised that I may have achieved a photographic first – a Pallas’s Warbler pooing.  He must have felt embarrassed as, no sooner had he relieved himself, he flew off in a hurry…




Pallas's Warbler pooing, Central Park, 8 October 2010


Garden Migrants

A walk around the garden today produced probably the best crop of migrants yet.  It started with two Daurian Redstarts (a pair) and several Pallas’s Warblers.  Further round I flushed a Red-flanked Bluetail and then a Dusky Warbler showed briefly from a shrub before typically diving deep into cover.  A ‘tick’ call alerted me to a flying Bunting which settled on the top of a nearby tree, revealing itself to be a first winter Yellow-browed Bunting and then a small flock of Yellow-bellied Tits came through a group of young poplars..  Not bad for a 20-minute walk around the garden!

Pallas's Warbler, Central Park, Beijing, 5 October 2010
A record image of the male Daurian Redstart, Central Park, 5 October 2010
One of the Yellow-bellied Tits foraging in the garden this morning