Olympic Forest Park, Beijing

First thing this morning I made my first visit to the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing.  This relatively new park, as its name suggests, was created for the 2008 Olympic Games and has won awards for its design.  I was pleasantly surprised by how ‘bird-friendly’ it is.  There is some great habitat, including some large reedbeds, lakes, mature (ish) woodland and open areas, all of which are attracting birds.

Today, I explored the southern section prompted by a visiting birder, Claus Holzapfel, who had seen a Streaked Reed Warbler a few days ago.  I didn’t see any of these rare ‘acro‘ warblers but I chalked up an impressive list of species for a central Beijing location (see below).

The highlight for me was an enjoyable encounter with a confiding Yellow Bittern as it hunted in one of the lily-filled lakes.  It’s ungainly stance belied the effectiveness with which it stalked small fish and frogs.

Oriental Reed Warblers filled the air with their chattering and there were also a few Black-browed Reed Warblers competing to be heard and a few Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers skulking at the base of the reeds.  Indian and Eurasian Cuckoos were calling frequently and the song of the Black-naped Oriole was an occasional accompaniement.

In the more mature trees on the eastern side, a singing male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher was a nice sight but I failed to find the Green-backed (Elisae’s) Flycatcher that Paul Holt had seen the previous day.

The Olympic Park is situated just north of the 4th ring road, north of the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium and is served by metro stops as well as several bus routes, so it is easy to get to.  It opens at 6am and, this morning, there were relatively few people around and it was very easy to find quiet spots – not to be taken for granted in Beijing where most city parks are full of early morning exercisers for the first few hours of daylight.  For me, it’s the best birding site I’ve seen so far in Beijing city.  I’ll definitely be back!

Map of Beijing Olympic Forest Park
Yellow Bittern, Beijing Olympic Forest Park, 2 June 2011
Comical as it made its way across the lillies... would definitely qualify as a Monty Python 'silly walk'
Watching you watching me..
I enjoyed half an hour with this confiding bird today in the Olympic Forest Park, Beijing

Species List (in chronological order of first sighting):

Collared Dove (1)

Common Magpie (many)

Tree Sparrow (many)

Grey-capped Woodpecker (3)

Eastern Crowned Warbler (2)

Indian Cuckoo (4)

Chinese (Light-vented) Bulbul (7)

Oriental Reed Warbler (at least 30)

Eurasian Cuckoo (5)

Oriental Greenfinch (3)

Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler (3)

Night Heron (7)

Red-rumped Swallow (4)

Black-browed Reed Warbler (4)

Black Drongo (1)

Common Moorhen (6)

Common Swift (12)

Yellow Bittern (7)

Goldeneye (1) – a drake on the lake near the ‘underwater corridor’

Barn Swallow (3)

Little Egret (1) – flyover

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (1) – singing just north-east of Wali Lake

Marsh Tit (2)

Black-naped Oriole (3)

Dark-sided Flycatcher (1) – northeast of Wali Lake

Arctic Warbler (4)

Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)

Grey Heron (1)

Little Grebe (2)

Radde’s Warbler (2)

Azure-winged Magpie (6)

Spotted Dove (2)

Grey-headed Woodpecker (1)

Dalian – Day Seven

Today was tough going.  The wind got up almost immediately after dawn (after a still night) and just kept on increasing in strength.  By mid-morning there were white tips to the waves offshore and I estimated that the wind speed was around 25mph SSE.  After our third taxi driver picked us up from the hotel at 0430 (the first two did it once and said never again!) and dropped us at the lighthouse, we immediately made our way to the ridge for visible migration.  There were a few hirundines to keep us interested early on and, around 0645, a small flock of 5 Chinese Grosbeaks (yes, they were Chinese – we checked!) flew around the point before settling near the lighthouse.

Jesper Hornskov and his clients for the Qinghai trip arrived yesterday for a couple of days ‘pre-tour’ visit of Laotieshan but today they were going up the coast for the Black-faced Spoonbills and waders (similar to our trip on Saturday).  They were leaving at 0715 and we had spaces on the bus if we wanted to go.  At 0700, with it looking like a quiet day, Spike decided to go with Jesper but I decided to stay at Laotieshan.  As I write this, I don’t know how they got on up the coast but, for me, today was hard work…  Very little visible migration and, with the wind so strong, it was difficult to find passerines in the swaying branches…  Nevertheless, again I saw some good birds.  Highlight was a probable Claudia’s Leaf Warbler (similar to Eastern Crowned but smaller and lacking the yellow wash to the vent).  Also, I refound the (or found a new) male Russet Sparrow as he sang from a treetop near the lighthouse.  Four Daurian Starlings were new for the trip and singles of Chinese Egret, Oriental Honey Buzzard and a day-calling Oriental Scops Owl ensured there was interest throughout the day.

We really need some rain to mix things up a bit.. Although there is clearly turnover each day, the volume of birds has been decreasing daily since we arrived, almost certainly due to the clear weather and southerly winds.  The forecast for tomorrow is for some showers, so maybe that’s just what we need..  Only two more days to go so fingers crossed for the ‘big one’…!

Russet Sparrow (male), singing in the lighthouse garden, Laotieshan, 17 May 2011
This Black-naped Oriole came in off the sea, landed in the lighthouse garden and sang constantly for about 5 minutes before moving inland

Species List (in chronological order of first sighting).  Note that I am not recording Common Magpie or Tree Sparrow (too numerous to mention):

Fork-tailed Swift (9)

Japanese White-eye (2)

Dusky Warbler (2)

Barn Swallow (passing at around 60 birds per hour)

Great Tit (4)

Oriental Greenfinch (4)

Chinese Pond Heron (2)

Black-tailed Gull (150+)

Common Pheasant (4)

Red-rumped Swallow (passing at around 50 per hour)

Chinese Hill Warbler (2)

Vega Gull (1)

Chinese Grosbeak (6)

Pallas’s Warbler (1)

Chinese Egret (1) – passed the lighthouse heading east

Chinese Bulbul (4)

Eye-browed Thrush (1)

Daurian Starling (4)

Yellow-browed Warbler (8)

Amur Falcon (1)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (2)

Goshawk (1)

Vinous-throated Parrotbill (6)

Oriental Honey Buzzard (1) came in off sea at 0855

Asian Brown Flycatcher (4)

Radde’s Warbler (2)

Siberian Blue Robin (2)

Russet Sparrow (1) – singing male in lighthouse garden

White-cheeked Starling (1)

Ashy Minivet (3)

Black-naped Oriole (1) – in off sea

Oriental Turtle Dove (1)

Dark-sided Flycatcher (3)

Oriental Scops Owl (1) heard only, calling at 1230

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (2)

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler (4)

Claudia’s Leaf Warbler (1)

Grey Streaked Flycatcher (1)

Lanceolated Warbler (2)