I call it my garden but, as you can see from the photo below taken from our apartment on the 17th floor, it’s more of a communal green space. Nevertheless, until the relatively recent arrival of Jennifer Leung, I am pretty sure I was the only birder covering it on a regular basis and, by regular, I mean maybe once a week during migration season.
Anyway, the reason for posting a photo of my ‘garden’ is that yesterday, Wednesday 25th September 2013, I awoke early – too early – and thought I’d have a walk around before breakfast. Late September in Beijing is a pretty special time for bird migration and, after a cold front passed a few days before the temperature had dropped significantly, particularly noticeable at night. Of course this had prompted many birds to move and I was pretty confident of seeing some good birds on my early morning walk. A few YELLOW-BELLIED TITS (黄腹山雀) were a nice start, soon followed by my first PALLAS’S WARBLER (黄腰柳莺) of the autumn (these little gems usually pass through around a month later than the similar YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER (黄眉柳莺) which has been a regular sight and sound in the garden since late August). An ARCTIC WARBLER (极北柳莺), an OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT (树鹨) and the seemingly omnipresent TAIGA FLYCATCHERS (红喉姬鹟) kept the interest going. I sat quietly on my favourite slope from where I can see the base of a small area of bamboo and, almost immediately, a bird flew in and landed less than 5 metres away in the canopy above my head.. Unfortunately it was mostly obscured but I could see a white flash on the closed wing. I immediately thought it could be a DAURIAN REDSTART (北红尾鸲) , a relatively common migrant in central Beijing in late autumn, but something didn’t seem right. I slowly moved to one side in an effort to view more of the bird and suddenly I could see this beautiful bird in full view..
…wow, a WHITE-THROATED ROCK THRUSH (白喉矶鸫)! No sooner had I registered that I was looking at my 50th species in this small green oasis in the middle of this city of 20 million-plus people, it began to sing! Over the next half an hour or so, in between being flushed by, in chronological order, a litter picker, a dog-walker and a man ‘exercising’ by shouting at the top of his voice, I was able to take a series of photos, including one with a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (大斑啄木鸟) with which it seemed to be loosely associating.
The parks in Beijing, in fact not just the parks but any green space, can turn up some real surprises in spring and autumn. It’s not that these places are particularly maintained in any way to attract birds – in fact one could argue that with all the ‘grooming’, it’s the opposite – but a reflection of the fact that there are so many birds migrating through Beijing that even if a teeny weeny percentage of them choose to stop in the city, species that are ordinarily quite difficult to see appear in unexpected places.
The WHITE-THROATED ROCK THRUSH (白喉矶鸫) joins a stellar cast for this tiny green space including JAPANESE QUAIL (鵪鶉), BLYTH’S PIPIT (布莱氏鹨), EYEBROWED THRUSH (白眉鸫), SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT (红喉歌鸲), SIBERIAN BLUE ROBIN (蓝歌鸲), ASIAN STUBTAIL (鳞头树莺), BROWN SHRIKE (红尾伯劳), THICK-BILLED WARBLER (厚嘴苇莺) and YELLOW-THROATED BUNTING (黄喉鹀) to name a few.
Not for the first time, I thanked my lucky stars that I live in such a great place for birds!