Spooners

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.

Hello from Beijing!

Hello from Beijing!

The hot news is that I have already seen Ibisbill!  More on that in a minute….

“Wow!” just about sums up my first impressions..  we have a great flat in a modern high-rise development called “Central Park”.  Not quite the same as its namesake in New York but, nevertheless, it’s a cool area right in the centre..  With a Metro station on our doorstep (and each journey costing just 2 Yuan  – that’s about 20 pence in UK money and less than 2 Kroner in Danish) – we have easy access to the city’s hotspots, and there is a lovely traditional Chinese restaurant just 10 minutes walk away where we enjoyed a 2-course meal and a beer for just GBP 4 (DKK 32).  Did you hear that, Copenhagen???

I think we are going to enjoy our year here…

Anyway, the birds..  As expected, there doesn’t seem to be much about in the city itself, although I haven’t visited any of the major parks yet.  The best I have seen in the vicinity of the flat is Tree Sparrow, Common Magpie and Azure-winged Magpie plus a single Hobby that zipped between the high-rise buildings yesterday afternoon (would have made a great photo if I had had my camera!).

But you don’t have to go far to start to see some good birds.  On Sunday I met up with Jesper Hornskov, legendary Danish birder who has been living in China for the last 20 years or so..  Together with an Australian based English guy we visited a site just 90 minutes north of Beijing.  The terrain soon begins to get hilly not far outside Beijing and there are many valleys with fast-running streams and rivers.  We headed for a particular site on the Bai River, a reliable site for the magnificent Ibisbill.  After the 0515 start, we arrived at 0645 and our driver dropped us at the beginning of the riverside track.  Immediately we heard and then saw two Crested Kingfishers (monsters!) and it wasn’t long before we caught sight of our main target – the Ibisbill.  We were lucky enough to enjoy good views of at least 2 birds (probably 3) as they fed among the stones and rocks.  Fantastic birds.  After enjoying these birds for about half an hour we began to explore further along the track.  The whole area, despite the new development and obvious disturbance (there was one guy wading through the river using electrocution to try to catch fish!), is good for birds.  The full list seen included (in order of appearance):

Crested Kingfisher, Blue Hill Pigeon, Magpie, Tree Sparrow, Red-billed Blue Magpie, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Large-billed Crow, Stonechat (ssp maura), Grey Heron, Pere David’s Laughing Thrush, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail (ssp leucopsis), Hobby, Yellow-browed Bunting, Common Kingfisher, Mallard, Ibisbill, Black-capped Kingfisher, Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Songar Tit, Taiga Flycatcher, Mandarin, Common Sandpiper, Grey-headed Woodpecker (heard only), White-throated Needletail (25+), Vineous-throated Parrotbill, Oriental Turtle Dove, Chinese Spot-billed Duck, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied Tit, Spotted Dove, Black Drongo, Barn Swallow and Yellow-browed Warbler.

Not a bad start to my Chinese birding experience…

More soon.

Ibisbill, Bai River, north of Beijing 29 August 2010
Blue Hill Pigeons, Bai River, north of Beijing, 29 August 2010