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)*.
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.
A few days ago I accompanied visiting birder, Claus Holzapfel, and his wife to Yeyahu. After an early start and navigating the broken down trucks on the hill past Badaling Great Wall, we arrived on site around 0730. It was a very pleasant temperature early morning and visibility gradually improved throughout the morning. Passerine migration was in evidence with singles of Two-barred Greenish and Arctic Warbler along the entrance track in the company of Grey-streaked and Asian Brown Flycatchers and local breeding was also in evidence with three young Grey-headed Woodpeckers crossing our path on the way to the lake. As we made our way along the boardwalk, a Common Kingfisher perched ahead of us and we encountered a family of Yellow Bitterns, including 4 juveniles looking like sulking teenagers as their parents hurried backwards and forwards with food.
A few Night Herons and Chinese Pond Herons flopped over the lake and several juvenile Purple Herons commuted back and forth to the reservoir.
The first of what turned out to be many Black Drongos appeared from the gloom and headed north and a few Oriental Reed Warblers revealed themselves with their chattering. It was good to see the nests of Chinese Penduline Tit at the north-west corner of the lake and we heard a couple of these birds calling from the reeds. Terns were present in the form of at least 4 Common (ssp longipennis) and 4 Whiskered.
We took a short break at a gap in the trees to overlook the grassland and shrubs towards Ma Chang and it was here that we enjoyed a magic couple of minutes. First, a juvenile Pied Harrier floated in from the west, soon followed by a male Eastern Marsh Harrier (both new birds for Claus). Then, almost immediately, a Chinese Grey Shrike (another new bird for Claus) alighted on the top of a poplar and a female Pied Harrier flew in from the north. Brilliant stuff.. and, as happens frequently in birding, two minutes later all of the birds had gone…!
We slowly made our way along the wooded edge of the lake picking up at least 4 Wood Sandpipers, both Barn and Red-rumped Swallow and a stunning male Black-naped Oriole. But the highlight along here was a lovely encounter with a mammal, which we first suspected was a Yellow-throated Marten. However, I have been reliably informed that it is not this species (EDIT: after a bit of detective work – Claus visited the Zoological Museum of Beijing – we believe it is a Siberian Weasel. These are the elusive creatures that inhabit the hutongs of Beijing and are believed by locals to hold the power to capture and return human souls…! We gave it a wide berth just in case…)
After enjoying this lovely animal as it made its way along the path towards us before scurrying into the vegetation, we made our way down to the viewing tower overlooking the reservoir. Again, as on my most recent visit, hundreds of blue butterflies were congregating on the path and I couldn’t resist taking a few more photos of this spectacle.
Claus captured me getting up close and personal with these butterflies.. not the most flattering photo!
At the reservoir we added more species to our day list including Mandarin Duck, Eastern Spot-billed Duck, Caspian Tern, Little Egret, White-winged Tern, Great Spotted Woodpecker and, best of all, a Eurasian Crag Martin that passed south in the company of some Barn Swallows. Picked up by its size, lack of breast band and white spots on the tail, this was my first record of this species at Yeyahu.
After enjoying our packed lunches we slowly made our way back, where we flushed a Snipe sp for the second time (it was in exactly the same place on the way out to the tower). It was clearly not a Common Snipe, lacking an obvious white trailing edge to the secondaries and with a call that was harsher than Common Snipe (almost Corncrake-like in quality). Photos below. Comments welcome!
Claus and his wife are both interested in botany and I thoroughly enjoyed them pointing out interesting plants, including various grasses, flowers and shrubs. Perhaps the most surprising was the discovery of the plant below growing ‘wild’ on the edge of the marsh… there must have been at least 20-30 of these plants, of various ages, growing among the other vegetation and it certainly didn’t look like manmade cultivation.
A thoroughly enjoyable day and many thanks to Claus and his wife for their company and for adding a new dimension to my knowledge of the natural environment at Yeyahu.
It’s not very often I have pictures of myself to post on this blog, so here is one more from Claus, taken on the boardwalk at Yeyahu. You can see more of Claus’s photos here.
Full Species List (in chronological order of first sighting):