Beijing Swifts are back!

In the last few days, birders from across the capital have been reporting the return of the Beijing Swift (Apus apus pekinensis).  The first record seems to have been one at the TongHuiHe  by 岳小鸮 (Yuè xiǎo xiāo) on 1st April.  This was followed by another single at Peking University on 9th April (Yang Hua) and then nine at Baiwangshan, a traditional migration watchpoint in the northwest of the city (小隼仙人) on 10th.  Yesterday, 11th April, the staff at ZhengYangMen (正阳门), a traditional breeding site at the southern end of Tiananmen Square, reported sightings, too.

It is only a few weeks ago that these birds could have been circling over Table Mountain in Cape Town in South Africa having almost certainly spent the entire northern winter on the wing – an incredible feat of endurance and stamina that is hard to comprehend.

With several Beijing schools having built and erected nest boxes for the Beijing Swift over the last few months, we are keeping everything crossed that some of the birds arriving in the capital will find and choose to breed in these newly-built homes.  We’re hopeful, too, that students from these schools will be able to meet with the CEOs of some of China’s largest building companies to tell the story of the Beijing Swift, outline what their schools are doing to help and to ask the CEOs to trial ‘swift-friendly’ buildings in Beijing.  Watch this space!

 

Title image showing the autumn migration route of the Beijing Swift to southern Africa courtesy of Lyndon Kearsley.

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Beijing Cuckoos inspire new educational book for schools

When we conceived the concept of the Beijing Cuckoo Project back in 2015, we had two aims.  First, to discover the wintering grounds, and migration route, of Common Cuckoos from East Asia.  And second, to inspire the public, especially people who wouldn’t ordinarily care about migratory birds.

When a project like this begins, it’s impossible to know what sort if impact it may have, and whilst the results – discovering that Beijing’s Cuckoos spend the winter in Mozambique and cross the Arabian Sea from India to East Africa and back again – and the associated media coverage were way beyond our expectations, there are sometimes additional benefits that cannot be foreseen.

A few months ago I was contacted by an environmental education organisation who asked if I’d mind if they developed a pop-out educational book for students about the Beijing Cuckoos.  Of course, I was delighted!

Over the weekend, I received some photos showing the prototype book being tested with a class of students.

I understand the book will soon be available as a PDF and will be circulated to a network of schools across Beijing and, we hope, across the country.  A wonderful legacy for the Beijing Cuckoo Project!