Finding Kamchatka Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus examinandus) in Beijing in June 2021

On 1 June 2021, Beijing resident, Colm Moore, found Beijing’s first Kamchatka Warbler (Phylloscopus examinandus, 堪察加柳莺 Kān chá jiā liǔ yīng) at the Ming Tombs Reservoir in Beijing.  It is the latest in a series of excellent records from Colm, crowned by the astonishing record of a Streak-throated Swallow (Petrochelidon fluvicola 彩石燕 Cǎi shíyàn) at Shahe Reservoir in May 2014 which was not only a first record for Beijing but also for the whole of China!

Colm is one of the best birders I know and also one of the most genuine guys around.  This is his account of the incredible find on 1 June.

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By Colm Moore.

More than half a decade ago, on Professor Per Alström’s advice, I began the slow, laborious process of recording Beijing warbler songs in some systematic manner. This was solely to further my own meagre knowledge and in order to make sense of the plethora of spring song from that myriad of phylloscopid taxa we hear and see each year. Per’s breakthrough work (Alstrom, P, et al., Ibis (2011), 153, 395–410) on the three “borealis” sibling species, Arctic Warbler P. borealis, Kamchatka Leaf Warbler P. examinandus and Japanese Leaf Warbler P. xanthodryas was on my desktop but surely an academic exercise, and not for the field….. surely.

Six years later, almost to the day, I crept into the woodland of pollarded Salix at Ming Tombs Reservoir’s Flower Garden to record Arctic Warbler P. borealis and compare it with some earlier recordings. I carried a lightweight Sony PCM D100 digital recorder and enough water to last an eight hour vigil. Six years has taught me infinite patience.

Four days of light easterly breezes, a drier than usual Meiyu Low Pressure System and a waning gibbous moon meant that on 1st June, there were very few nocturnal migrant warblers present, but a mellifluous fall of Black-naped Orioles Oriolus chinensis also guaranteed that the trees were alive with an orchestra of sound.  Against this background I could hear the ‘dzrt’ calls of a few Arctic Warblers and an occasional burst of song from the same species, transcribed here as ‘zezezezezezezezezezezezezeze’, increasing in strength mid-way and fading somewhat at the end. All other warblers had indeed vacated the area, apparently. Every phylloscopid sound was borealis-like in nature, all my photographs showed borealis-type birds apparently and so I settled down to listen and perhaps make a few decent recordings.

About two hours into the vigil, listening with too little deep attention to the ‘dzrt‘ and the high mechanical ‘zezezeze‘, like a dreamer awakening from a drowsy woodland sleep, I began to hear a distant stuttering call, ‘drt‘..’drrt‘, audibly underneath and beyond the rest.  It had probably been present for hours. Still stupefied, I slowly rummaged for my recorder, with all the time in the world, apparently.  Meanwhile the bird or the sound had moved to my right and a short strophe of pumping action phylloscopid song leaked out from behind an Oriole’s chortle. Galvanized, I swung around wildly to catch some precious phrase, stumbled upon the correction direction and there, 10s into the recording, was that unique harsh pumping action of an examinandus song, electronically captured, and transcribed in the field as: ‘zeze-zeh zeze-zeh zeze-zeh zeze-zeh zeze-zeh zeze-zeh zeze-zeh’.  It was a rather rough, rapid, short series of notes with a regular pumping, pulsing rhythm.  The pumping rhythm seemed to be caused by two different syllables ‘zeze’ and ‘zeh’ being repeated.

Minutes passed in exquisite breathless panic as I waited for the bird to sing again. But the shadow of a Black Stork Cigonia nigra, flying low over the wood now threw the place into silence and though the Orioles were undisturbed, the bird with that unique examinandus sound had departed or rendered silent. Hours and hours later I stumbled into the light, exhausted from combing the wood, leaf by warbler-shaped leaf, frequency by dizzy frequency.  I had dozens of photographs of borealis-types, but I could not definitively match call with image. I even noted wing-flick behaviour in some, but again was unable to match behaviour with call.

Terry Townshend, to whom I sent the recording, was able to support my tentative identification as examinandus, and with his encouragement I sent the recording and all my photographs to Per Alström, who confirmed the song, saying:

…. I note that there’s a Kamchatka Leaf Warbler on your recording. First there’s a call which sounds like borealis, shortly afterwards is a call that sounds like examinandus (though I’ve heard birds which I thought were borealis on migration in SE China calling pretty examinandus-like, though I couldn’t be absolutely sure they were indeed borealis). However, at c. 10 s, behind an oriole is a very faint song strophe of a definite examinandus….. I see the odd wing flicking behaviour in one or two of your photos. I haven’t noted this in any ”Arctic Warbler”….. Something to check.

Colm’s original recording, with the call of Arctic Warbler (Phylloscopus borealis), followed by a two-note call that could be Kamchatka Warbler (P. examinandus), then the diagnostic strophe of song from Kamchatka Warbler (P. examinandus), with background Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis).

 

The taxon examinandus was first described by Professor E. Stresemann in 1913 but the morphological similarity to xanthodryas and borealis meant that it took a century to fully untangle the phylogenetic complexity of what are now considered three unambiguous clades, based on mitochondrial DNA, an analysis of songs and detailed morphometrics.  But it became clear that for field workers, calls and songs were essentially the field evidence and recordings the tools by which to map the distribution of these sibling species.  It has been established that examinandus breeds in south Kamchatka, Sakhalin and north-east Hokkaido. Likewise, among two-hundred sound-recordings in Xeno-canto (Xeno-canto Foundation and Naturalis Biodiversity Center 2005-2021: accessed September 13, 2021), winter-time records concentrate in S.S.E. Asia, specifically Indonesia. Passage migrants have been recorded in Japan, Nansei-Shoto, S.Korea and China. Remarkably, it has been recorded in Australia and in Finland (www.birdguides.com/articles/western-palearctic/kamchatka-leaf-warbler-in-finland-a-new-western-palearctic-species/).

Some records of the species on presumed passage, have come from as near to Beijing as Dandong, in Liaoning (Birding Beijing: accessed September 13, 2021), Tianjin (eBird Explore: Cornell Lab of Ornithology: accessed September 13, 2021) and coastal Hebei, with one recorded by Matt Slaymaker on 26 May 2013 and 1 June 2013 at the ‘prison trees’ at Nanpu, Tangshan (see https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Phylloscopus-examinandus?pg=1). Thus the Beijing record is probably not wholly unexpected, given the geographical location of the capital, just west of the mapped migratory trajectory.

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Big thanks to Colm for writing up his extraordinary find and for helping to raise awareness about this poorly-known species and its occurrence in Beijing.  With greater awareness among birders, we can expect more records from the capital in future.

 

Title image: a ‘wing-flicking’ Phylloscopus, possibly the P. examinandus, from 1 June 2021 at Ming Tombs Reservoir (Colm Moore) 

Leopard Cat in Beijing 北京豹猫

Not many capital cities can boast populations of wild cats and some may be surprised to learn that Beijing is one.  I am delighted to publish a new page dedicated to Leopard Cats in Beijing.  This page provides information and updates from an exciting new project about this poorly known species, led by Peking University’s Professor Luo Shu-Jin in collaboration with the China Felid Conservation Alliance (CFCA).  The project has already made some exciting discoveries, revealing just how little we know about biodiversity, even in one of the world’s major capital cities.  The page can be found here and includes some fantastic images of Leopard Cat from Beijing.  Check back regularly for updates!

Huge credit to Luo Shu-Jin and her team for her work on what must be one of the jewels in the crown of Beijing’s biodiversity.  

“Wild China with Ray Mears” to be broadcast on ITV this summer

Back in 2019, which almost seems a lifetime ago, I had the honour of working with a hero of mine – Ray Mears – and his team as part of a new series on China’s wild places.  Entitled “Wild China with Ray Mears”, the seven-episode ITV series chronicles his journey across this vast and diverse country, exploring some of its special wildernesses. 

The previous year, two of his researchers contacted me when they were scouting for locations.  They were keen to visit the Valley of the Cats, the location of the community-based wildlife watching tourism project.  I arranged for them to stay with a local family in one of the most spectacular locations and met them there on arrival.  The idea was that we would have two days to explore potential filming opportunities and locations.  The following morning, the local ShanShui staff and I drove to meet them at their homestay and there was quite a commotion.  Several members of the family were chatting loudly and gesturing towards one of the rooms of their house which looked as if a bomb had hit it.  The two researchers had been woken with a bang at 1am when the family started banging pots and pans, and were startled to learn that a brown bear had broken into the room adjacent to their sleeping quarters! Huge paw prints around the house and some muddy prints on the walls betrayed the bear’s shenanigans.

Inspecting the evidence of the bear’s visit in the Valley of the Cats.

Unfazed by their experience, the first thing the researchers said to me when I arrived was “ok, we know already this is a good place for Ray!”

I won’t reveal how Ray fared in the Valley, except to say that this episode is not to be missed.

The series will be broadcast on ITV in the UK this summer,  beginning with episode 1 from a very cold Beijing on Tuesday 13 July from 1930-2000.  With visits to the country’s tropical rainforest, the bamboo forest home of giant pandas, bat caves in karst landscapes as well as the Tibetan Plateau, this series is a must-watch for anyone with an interest in China and its wild places.  

The Butterflies of Beijing

Of the 2,153 species of butterfly recorded throughout China (壽 等, 2006), more than 170 have been recorded in Beijing.  That is a large number by any standards, and indeed many more than the whole of the UK (59)*. 

In keeping with the aim of producing English language resources for Beijing’s wildlife, a dedicated page for the butterflies of Beijing has now been added to this site.  

It includes the official list of species recorded in Beijing, including scientific names, Chinese names (with pinyin) and English names where given.  Species are illustrated with images where available and contributions are welcome, especially for species not yet illustrated.  Over time, it is hoped that this page can become a helpful resource for any visitor to Beijing interested in these beautiful insects.

*See URL: https://butterfly-conservation.org/butterflies

Header image: Melitaea didymoides, 斑网蛱蝶,  Bān wǎng jiá dié, Shunyi District, 28 July 2020 (Terry Townshend)

The Dawn Chorus at Lingshan

For some time I have been wanting to record the dawn chorus at Lingshan, a fantastic wooded mountain on the western boundary of Beijing.  In late Spring, when the breeding birds have arrived, the woodland comes alive and it’s a cacophony of birdsong.  

On the morning of 31 May I set out to record at a series of elevations and stitch them together to provide a 30-minute compilation.  The recording begins with the haunting whistle of a White’s Thrush at 0200am before moving to the dawn chorus proper at 0415am at an elevation of 1100m.   From there, the recordings move up the mountain, some of which were recorded during light rain, until the final cut at 1550m.  Each location provides a different mix of species and includes some of the signature birds of Beijing’s mountains such as Green-backed Flycatcher, Grey-sided Thrush, Himalayan Cuckoo, Large Hawk Cuckoo and many many more.  At some point I will make a list of all the species involved but, in the meantime, I hope you enjoy listening!

 

Local communities in Beijing write to government to promote nature in new park design

Nearly 400 individuals, along with three schools representing more than 2,500 students have written a letter to the Beijing government to ask for a new park to be designed not only for people, but also for nature.  A wonderful initiative that has the potential to change attitudes about the design, and purpose, of urban parks.

What do people want from a park?  The conventional wisdom in Beijing is that local residents want somewhere “beautiful to look at, neat and tidy”.  Anyone who has enjoyed one or more of the city’s parks will have noticed that they are certainly neat, tidy and well-maintained, with an army of workers collecting litter, tidying up dropped leaves, spraying insecticide and strimming any vegetation more than a few centimetres high.  But what does this meticulous management mean for wildlife?  In most cases, although many parks provide temporary shelter for migrant birds during spring and autumn, Beijing’s parks are generally wildlife-deprived.  There are signs that this may be about to change.

As reported earlier, the government is planning to pilot the idea of leaving “10% wild” in some existing parks.  If successful, this pilot could be expanded to cover more of the capital’s green spaces.

And, as part of Beijing’s ‘greening’, the government is planning  a series of new parks on the outskirts of Beijing.  One such park is being planned along part of the Wenyu River, a well-known birding spot, an important habitat for wintering waterbirds, and a corridor for migrants in spring and autumn.  In total, more than 300 species of bird have been recorded along the river, including endangered species with Class I protection in China, such as Scaly-sided Merganser and Yellow-breasted Bunting.   Parks in the capital are traditionally designed by landscaping companies with little understanding of the needs of wildlife.  Fortunately, in the case of the Wenyu River park, the local government has invited Peking University and Beijing Forestry University to provide advice on how to make the new park better for wildlife.  Several suggestions have been made, including using a ‘zoning’ system for activities such as fishing and recreation in order to ensure some areas are relatively undisturbed. 

The academics working on these proposals suggested that a letter from local residents to make it known that they would like their park to be designed not only for human leisure but also for wildlife, would strengthen their case. 

A few weeks later, the letter below has been submitted to the Director General of the Beijing Forest and Parks Bureau and the local governments of Shunyi and Chaoyang Districts (the river marks the border of these two districts and the park will include land on both sides of the river).  The letter has been signed by three local schools, representing more than 2,500 students, and nearly 400 individuals.

2021-03-30 Letter to Beijing Municipal Goverrnment

The hope is that the letter will demonstrate to government that the traditional view that people want parks to be places solely for human recreation is out of date and that, in a modern global city, people want their parks to deliver multiple benefits, including supporting and nurturing wildlife.  

Changing attitudes takes time but, with 190 countries due to meet in Kunming, Yunnan Province, in October to thrash out a new international framework to tackle the global biodiversity crisis (the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, commonly known as COP15), it is clear that governments – both national and subnational – business, and indeed all of society will need to integrate biodiversity considerations into their operations if the world is to be successful in slowing and halting biodiversity loss.  The role of cities, home to more than 50% of the world population (expected to increase to 66% by 2050), is vital not only in terms of supporting urban wildlife and providing safe spaces for migrant birds to navigate large urban areas, but also to allow the increasingly disconnected urban population to connect with nature.  

We await the response of the Beijing Municipal government with interest. A huge thank you to everyone who signed and promoted the letter.  It is wonderful to see the overwhelming support from local residents for Beijing’s public parks to put the interests of wildlife at the heart of their design and management.

 

Title image: a river providing space for people and wildlife by Madeleine Donahue

A possible Steppe Buzzard in Beijing

Anyone who has studied Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) in Europe will know they can be hugely variable, with colouration from almost white to uniformly dark and almost everything in between.  In East Asia, the Eastern Buzzard (Buteo japonicus) is, in my experience, less variable and perhaps that is why unusual Buteos stand out.

On Saturday 30 January 2021 I began my latest winter survey of my local stretch of the Wenyu River at 0800 and, at around 1100, reached the end of my transect at the so-called “upper weir”. As I scanned the area to count Grey Herons roosting in the trees, I picked up two Buteos in a tree at about 200m distance on the opposite (northern side) of the river. One was a typical japonicus Eastern Buzzard but the other was clearly smaller, more rufous overall and with barring on the underparts.  I had never seen an Eastern that small, sporting those colours or with that underpart pattern, including a dark hood and barring on the breast. It got my attention and I recorded a short video and took a few record photos of the two together. The smaller bird then flew from its perch, with purpose, across the river to the southern side, where I was standing, caught a rat from the river bank and flew back up to the trees on the other side of the river.

Eastern Buzzard (Buteo japonicus) and the possible Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus), Wenyu River, 30 January 2021 (Terry Townshend)

 

Shortly after, an Upland Buzzard (Buteo hemilasius) drifted over, and both of the buzzards I had been watching flew up to intercept it and, over the next five minutes or so, the three Buteos interacted, with the Upland being mobbed until it drifted NE. This gave me an opportunity to capture some images in flight and I did my best to record both the underparts and upperparts. In flight, and in direct comparison with the Eastern Buzzard, the rufous bird was clearly smaller and with a more compact structure.

The possible Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus), Wenyu River, 30 January 2021 (Terry Townshend)
The upperparts of the possible Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus), Wenyu River, 30 January 2021 (Terry Townshend)
The possible Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus), Wenyu River, 30 January 2021 (Terry Townshend)

The images show the underparts, including the underwing, pretty well, and show:

– a lack of the usual strong, dark carpal patch of japonicus, with a more broken, speckled and muted carpal patch
– dark lesser underwing coverts
– striking pale bases to the primaries
– conspicuously pale crescent breast band
– lack of a dark upper belly band
– a prominent dark trailing edge to the underwing
– a pale tail, finely barred and with an obvious (more so on the upperparts) sub-terminal band

I have certainly never seen a japonicus with these features, and I began to think of the possibility of Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) and the subspecies that was most likely to occur in Beijing – vulpinus (Steppe Buzzard). 

For context, although there have been a couple of candidates, Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) has never been reliably recorded in Beijing, so it was important to document this bird as well as possible.

Back home, having looked at Forsman’s excellent “Flight Identification of Raptors”, the Beijing bird fits well the adult ‘fox-red’ vulpinus, as depicted in plates 605-609 on pages 323 and 324.

One unusual feature highlighted by Paul Holt is the dark area on the face and forehead.  Is this within the range of variability for vulpinus or is it a sign of japonicus?

I had a look online at Eastern Buzzards, including from Beijing, and there is a photo of a very similar-looking bird, almost certainly the same, taken on 2 November at the same site by Yu Kuang-Ping.  So it seems as if this bird has been overwintering.

Having alerted local birders, a few people visited the site and more photos were taken, including these excellent series by 没着落 (Méi zhuóluò).

The Eastern Buzzard (Buteo japonicus), left, with the possible Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus), Wenyu River, 2 February 2021 (Photo by 没着落, Mei Zhuoluo).
The possible Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus), Wenyu River, 2 February 2021 (Photo by 没着落, Mei Zhuoluo).
The possible Steppe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus), Wenyu River, 2 February 2021 (Photo by 没着落, Mei Zhuoluo).

And yesterday I spent the last hour of daylight at the site and captured a little more and better quality video showing the upperparts and underparts.

Given the variability of Buteos, I am not sure whether this bird can be identified with certainty.  With thanks to Colm Moore, the “file” is now with Dick Forsman and we hope to receive an opinion from him in due course.  Any comments, especially from people with experience of vulpinus (Steppe Buzzard) very welcome.  I’d like to thank Colm Moore, Paul Holt, Igor Felefov in Russia and Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok in Thailand for their helpful and instructive comments and 没着落 (Mei Zhuoluo) for the wonderful images of the Wenyu bird taken on 2 February.

Whatever this bird’s identity, it’s been a great learning curve and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending time watching this beautiful bird so close to my apartment in Beijing.

 

Update 22 February 2021:

I have received a reply from Dick Forsman.  The bottom line is that he does not think it’s a vulpinus Common Buzzard, or at least not a pure one. He cites the dark malar stripe, dark forehead/face, rather uniform breast and flanks and the rather uniform uppertail as features not so consistent with vulpinus. He says despite the plumage differences, he would put more emphasis on structural differences, with japonicus (Eastern) having shorter and broader wings than vulpinus with a broader blunter wingtip. He says the size difference could be explained by the size difference between the sexes, the males being smaller than the females. Interestingly, he goes on to say that genetic studies have shown the genus Buteo to be fairly young and its species are poorly defined. One of the results of this poor differentiation is widespread interbreeding between the taxa. Hybridization is known to take place between Common x Rough-legged, Common x Long-legged and Long-legged x Upland. He says it appears that nobody knows what happens when vulpinus meets japonicus, which is very likely to happen. He recalls a trip to Mongolia where he found a breeding pair of buzzard including a male with mixed japonicus and vulpinus features paired with a female japonicus. He suspects that mixed pairs are likely to be quite common where the two taxa meet and that maybe the Wenyu bird was one of these, a bird with some vulpinus genes combined with a migratory habit inherited from japonicus. He hopes people will pay more attention to buzzards in the future and document them wherever possible, especially during the breeding season as this is the only way to tackle the issue.

A key lesson is that we cannot identify everything we see, no matter how well-documented, and sometimes it’s good to just enjoy watching birds for what they are and not try to label them.. 

Update: 3 March 2021

Two superb new images of the Wenyu buzzard have been submitted by Wang Yibin and reproduced here with permission.

The Wenyu buzzard, Wenyu River, 5 February 2021 (Wang Yibin)
Another superb image of the Wenyu buzzard, Wenyu River, 5 February 2021 (Wang Yibin)

Header image: Eastern Buzzard (Buteo japonicus) with the possible (Steppe) Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus), Wenyu River.  Photo by 没着落 (Méi zhuóluò).

Beijing and Biodiversity: China Dialogue article

A few weeks ago I was invited to contribute an article to China Dialogue, one of the most respected platforms on China issues relating to the environment.  In the build up to what will be arguably the most important meeting ever on nature, due to take place in Kunming, Yunnan Province, in 2021, biodiversity is climbing the political agenda.  However, it would be a mistake to think that national governments alone can solve the nature crisis.  Home to the majority of the world’s population, cities have a vital role to play.  My article focuses on how Beijing could help to show the way in designing and managing a city that is good for people and for nature.  You can read it here (available in English and Chinese).

 

Featured image: an artist’s impression of the “wild ring road” that could help link habitats around Beijing, whilst at the same time providing a place for leisure and environmental education for Beijingers. By Madeleine Donahue.

The Status of the Birds of Beijing

The most recent published information about the status of the birds of Beijing was the 1987 book “Birds of Beijing” written by Cai Qikan and published by the Beijing Natural History Museum.  Written in Chinese, it’s an important reference, providing information about the status of species found in the capital, including specific details about the occurrence of rarities and specimens collected for the museum.

       

A lot has happened since 1987, not least a significant increase in the number of birders and thus the number of birds recorded, all of which means that this book, although a hugely important historical record, is now out of date.  

The lockdown of early 2020 and subsequent reduction in travel, has meant much more time spent at home, providing an opportunity to research the current status of the birds of Beijing.  The result is a new page on this website providing a basic status of those species reliably recorded in the capital, including maximum counts where available.  The intention is to maintain this page as “live” and it will be updated as and when new species or notable records are discovered, or when there is a greater understanding of a species’ status. 

As of October 2020, the official list of species recorded in Beijing, last published in 2014, is under review by a team led by Professor Zhao Xinru of Beijing Normal University.  We expect the revised list to be published later this year and the new page will be updated to reflect the latest list as soon as it is available.

Birding Beijing welcomes corrections, additions and updates in order to ensure the new page is, and remains, as accurate as possible.  A big shout out to all the birders who have submitted records to the publicly available sources from which this new page was produced.

I hope this new resource will assist both visiting and resident birders alike.

The Status of the Birds of Beijing.

 

Title image: Birding in Beijing by Madeleine Donahue.

Keeping “10% wild” to be piloted in Beijing parks

Title image: a walk in the park by Madeleine Donahue.

Back in 2018 the Beijing government partnered with Peking University to develop ideas for how to Beijing better for wildlife.  I was honoured to be invited to be an advisor and delivered a lecture to government officials with some specific ideas to enhance biodiversity in Beijing, as detailed in this post from December 2018.

Just last week I participated in a meeting to discuss one of the ideas – the potential for Miyun Reservoir to be managed for wildlife as well as water quality.  Three days later, I was informed by the government that another suggestion – to leave 10% of parks “wild” – was to be piloted in a new park in Tongzhou District.  Wonderful news!

This is a summary of the concept idea submitted in 2019:

“10% Wild”

Beijing’s parks are impressive and a huge positive feature of the city landscape, attracting millions of visitors each year.  They are also important refuges for wildlife.  However, almost all could be significantly better for wildlife if they were managed differently.  Currently, nearly all undergrowth is cleared away.  Fallen leaves are swept up.  Trees are sprayed with insecticide.  Very few areas are allowed to be wild, meaning that wildlife is restricted. 

One suggestion is to leave 10% of each park to be ‘wild’, meaning that the grass and other plants would be allowed to grow without being cut, leaves allowed to drop and decompose, providing shelter for insects and a basis for other wildlife to thrive.  This 10% would not affect the overall look of the parks and, if signs and other information were erected, the initiative would serve as a positive addition by educating the public about nature.  Each park could partner with a local school or schools – citizen scientists – who could be responsible for monitoring the wildlife in the parks and comparing the ‘wild’ areas with those managed in the traditional way.  Subject to the results, consideration could be given to expanding the percentage allowed to be “wild”.

Potential benefits:

– More and better habitat for wildlife in urban Beijing

– Students at local schools become citizen scientists

– Public engagement on the role of parks in providing homes for wildlife in cities

– Fewer resources needed for park management

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It’s an idea that gained traction very quickly and I am delighted that the Beijing government has now decided to pilot it.  I can’t wait to see how it works out. After the mid-autumn holiday we’ll be discussing the details with the park management authorities to help identify a suitable area and to develop a plan of engagement with a local school.  

Combined with the ongoing discussions around Miyun Reservoir, these are positive developments and could help to form the basis for a “Blueprint on Biodiversity” in Beijing. 

Next year will see governments meet in Kunming, China to agree on a “new deal for nature” aimed at slowing and halting the staggering global biodiversity loss we are witnessing.  However it is clear that national governments, although arguably the most critical part of the jigsaw, cannot solve the biodiversity crisis alone.  It’s vital that cities, communities, business and NGOs all step up.  And it’s clear that cities that provide space for wildlife will be better places for people, too.  

There’s a long way to go in Beijing but these developments offer genuine hope.