A quiet garden

Today was the first day since arriving in Beijing that my walk around the garden produced not a single phylloscopus warbler.  Everything seems to have cleared out with the cold front that passed through at the weekend.  Just 2 Daurian Redstarts remain.  It’s beautiful weather in Beijing right now with excellent visibility and clear skies with that fresh late autumnal feel…  magic.



I should have spotted the omens…  After a weekend of pretty grotty weather (misty, smoggy and generally pretty foul), the forecast was for a cool, fresh and breezy day on Monday in Beijing.  Amazingly, I bumped into Jesper Hornskov at the opera on Sunday night (you didn’t realise we were so cultured did you?) – a Chinese production of Handel’s ‘Semele’.  And quite exquisite it was too…

Before the opera started, Jesper said he was going to go to the ridge above the Botanical Gardens in the morning for visible migration.  I knew that it would be a good day – the first clear and fresh day after the passage of a cold front in October would almost certainly be a big migration day.  The devil on my shoulder was telling me to go with him.  But the angel on my other shoulder reminded me of my workload.  The devil tempted me with thoughts of Pallas’s Rosefinches, Imperial Eagles and Upland Buzzards.  I was about to give in when the angel reminded me that I had to get a draft press article to my Chinese contacts by lunchtime (which I hadn’t even started drafting!).  Even if I went out for the morning and worked all afternoon and evening I would miss the deadline.  Having listened to both the devil and the angel make their equally persuasive cases, I (stupidly, as it turned out) went with the angel and decided I just couldn’t go…

When I hadn’t heard from Jesper by 4pm I knew he must have been having a good day and was probably still on the ridge (mysteriously, there is no mobile signal on the ridge).  Then, at 17:30, came the text message.  Now, let me just say that I was prepared for him to have seen some good stuff, and I steeled myself that I would probably have missed a few birds of prey, maybe a few Buzzards, and the odd flock of passerines but I wasn’t prepared for this:  27 Greater Spotted Eagles, 1+ Imperial Eagle, 2-3 Golden Eagles, 35 Goshawks, 81 Common and 2 Upland Buzzards, 117 Sparrowhawks, Chinese Leaf Warbler, 4 Pallas’s Rosefinches, 44 Pine Buntings and 4800 Brambling..  Gulp.

Next time, I’m with the devil…

It’s raining Pallas’s Warblers…

A walk around the garden this morning (my first for a few days) revealed a large fall of Pallas’s Warblers.  There were at least 50 with 10 in one relatively small bush!  The light was pretty poor but I was able to capture the image below, using ISO 1000.

Pallas's Warbler about to enjoy lunch

I was pretty pleased with myself and fancied myself as a bit of an Arthur Morris until I saw these.. simply stunning!

Chinese Hill Warbler

An early morning trip with Jesper to the Botanical Gardens and walk up to the ridge produced a few good birds, despite the mist and low cloud that enveloped the hills.  One of the best birds for me was Chinese Hill Warbler, often heard but a lot more difficult to see.  Jesper used his cunning Chinese Hill Warbler imitation call to lure this one out of dense cover for a few seconds as it came to investigate.

Chinese Hill Warbler, above Beijing Botanical Gardens

Other birds included Pere David’s Laughingthrush, at least 5 Pine Buntings,Eastern Rock BuntingTristram’s BuntingRustic Bunting (a pair feeding on the track), several Yellow-throated Buntings (stunning birds), many Little Buntings, some cracking Siberian Accentors, a single Water Pipit (flyover), Yellow-bellied, Great and Long-tailed TitsEurasian SiskinOriental GreenfinchChinese BlackbirdRed-flanked BluetailDaurian RedstartCommon Rosefinch,Common BuzzardEurasian Sparrowhawk, lots and lots of Pallas’s Warblersand several Naumann’s Thrushes.

Thrushes and buntings are certainly on the move now, with many small flocks of the former flying over which, unfortunately due to the poor visibility, remained unidentified (although Jesper picked out a Red-throated in one of the closer flocks).  It’s getting steadily colder with the first frost predicted for next week.  Will be interesting to see what is on the move after that…



A cold front passed Beijing today…  cold and rainy all day.  A quick 10-minute walk through the garden produced at least 5 Red-flanked Bluetails which, together with the 12 I saw in Ritan Park yesterday, almost (but not quite) equals the total number of Bluetails seen in the UK this autumn!  Alan Tilmouth posted an interesting piece about the increase in UK records this year – worth a read.

Red-flanked Bluetail, Central Park, Beijing, 19 October 2010


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!