Two new garden birds

The last two days have seen two new birds in the ‘garden’ – a Japanese Quail flushed from a gravel path and a stunning adult male Siberian Rubythroat that appeared at the foot of a stand of bamboo for a brief moment before slipping deep into cover.

Tonight I take the train to Shanghai on my quest to see Spoon-billed Sandpiper!  Watch this space…



I spent half an hour this afternoon looking for migrants around Central Park.  Again, there were plenty of birds to be seen in this tiny oasis in the Central Business District of China’s capital city of 20 million plus residents.  First up, at least 3 calling Yellow-browed Warblers caught my attention, closely followed by 2 probable Arctic Warblers.  Next up, at what I have already realised is the favoured haunt of migrants, a small clump of dense bamboo with some young trees in a relatively quiet south-east corner, a juvenile Taiga Flycatcher was flitting between the trees, revealing itself by its soft trill, in the company of two more Arctic Warblers.  Then, just as I sat down to watch, a real surprise appeared on top of the tree just a few metres away – a juvenile Brown Shrike!  It seemed an unlikely setting for any shrike and I managed to take a short video clip with Beijing’s highest building – the World Trade Center – as a backdrop..

As if this wasn’t enough, a Stonechat flew in and settled briefly on the top of a nearby shrub before taking flight again and continuing towards the south and then a very large ‘acro’ warbler appeared briefly before disappearing again into a clump of bamboo..  I didn’t get much on it except for the fact it was large (at least Great Reed Warbler size), fairly plain warm brown upperparts with slightly paler underparts and no obvious supercilium.  I am thinking it might have been a Thick-billed Warbler or possibly Oriental Great Reed Warbler but it will have to go down as one that got away as I didn’t see it again in the 30 minutes.

I am sure my observations are nothing out of the ordinary, so I guess the migrants on view here in the city reflect the still enormous numbers of the breeding bird populations to the north in the vast expanse of the Siberian taiga.  It is difficult to imagine a Shrike of any sort in a major central London green space such as Hyde Park or Green Park, let alone in a very artificial and tiny green space around a modern tower block development.  And it’s amazing for me to see these birds just a few yards from my flat.

Photos below, video to follow.

1st winter Taiga Flycatcher, Central Park, Beijing, 7 Sep 2010 (check out those uppertail coverts!)
1st winter Taiga Flycatcher, Central Park, Beijing, 7 Sep 2010
1st winter Brown Shrike, Central Park, Beijing, 7 Sep 2010 (note the brown crown, dark lores, relatively plain mantle and very short primary projection)

Arctic Warbler

This morning I spent a couple of hours in our local green space – Ritan Park.  It’s about 5-10 minutes walk from the flat and is a focal point for just about any and every activity you can think of.  During my time there, I saw Chinese exercising, dancing, jogging (including backwards!), playing music, reciting poetry, walking dogs, sleeping, reading and flying kites…  Needless to say, I was the only birdwatcher and I attracted several puzzled looks as I focused my binoculars on, to most people, seemingly random trees and bushes.

I was pleasantly surprised that, among all this activity, there was much birdlife.  Dominated by the troupes of Azure-winged Magpies and Tree Sparrows, there were also Common Magpies, Spotted Doves, lots of Yellow-browed Warblers (their calls were a constant companion during my walk), a few Arctic Warblers, a probable Eastern-crowned Warbler (just didn’t see enough of it to be sure), a Great Spotted Woodpecker and, perhaps most surprisingly, a Rufous-bellied Woodpecker!

One of the Arctic Warblers favoured some low saplings in a relatively quiet area of the park and posed nicely for photographs.

Later, after returning to the flat to do a few hours work, I thought I’d try a local cafe for lunch (eating out is seriously cheaper than cooking yourself!) and was delighted to see on the menu a page with the wonderful title “Global Treasures”.  Included in this list was that age-old Chinese favourite – Fish and Chips.  Result!

Arctic Warbler, Ritan Park, Beijing, 6 September 2010
Arctic Warbler, Ritan Park, Beijing, 6 September 2010
Arctic Warbler, Ritan Park, Beijing, 6 September 2010
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker, Ritan Park, 6 September 2010

Garden Birds

Our flat is in a very modern development with a few ornamental trees planted in between the tower blocks.  So, on a walk around the area this morning, I was very pleasantly surprised to see Arctic Warbler (3), Yellow-browed Warbler (2) and a single Taiga Flycatcher foraging in the shrubs and among the tops of the trees.  I did not have my camera to hand but I will go out early tomorrow to see whether they are still around and, hopefully, grab a few images…


Today I have been trying to arrange a trip down to Shanghai to see migrating Spoon-billed Sandpipers at Rudong.  There have been 8 of these critically endangered waders on site in the last few days and September is a reliable month to see them at this estuary site.  I am hoping to go next weekend, catching the overnight train from Beijing to Shanghai (around 9 hours) and then meeting up with local birder Zhang Lin for the 3-hour drive to Rudong…  exciting stuff!

By the way, I have a short video of the Ibisbill in flight but, with no access to Youtube or Vimeo, I haven’t been able to upload it..  I know there are Chinese ‘Youtube’ equivalents which I will try to work out (they are in Chinese only) but if anyone out there has any tips on uploading videos to the web from China, let me know!

Big thunderstorms overnight – spectacular from our large flat window on the 17th floor.