Beijing Schools Set Up Birding Clubs

Last Friday I visited the International School of Beijing (ISB).  On the back of their involvement with the Beijing Cuckoo Project, the three students elected as “Cuckoo Ambassadors” have set up a birding club.  Meeting on Friday afternoons, the group is planning to invite external speakers to talk about various aspects of birds and to arrange field trips to birding sites in Beijing.  I was invited to speak about the Beijing Swift.  After a short talk about the Beijing Swift Project and a great Q&A session, we discussed how ISB could help the declining population of Swifts, caused by the demolition of traditional buildings, many of which host Swift nests, and their replacement with new, shiny buildings with no nooks and crannies for Swifts.  Including ‘swift bricks’ in the designs of new buildings is one way to help and, for existing buildings, retrofitting nest boxes is another.  The students were keen to explore the idea of making nest boxes in their woodwork classes and erecting them on campus with a view to trying to attract a colony to their school and they will be discussing with their teachers this week.  If they go ahead, they’ll be the second school to commit to building and erecting swift boxes in Beijing after Harrow International School.

The first field trip, to Yeyahu, was scheduled for the following weekend.

Just two days later I was at the Olympic Forest Park helping to lead a group of students from Hepingli No4 Primary School.  This school, too, has its own birding club and even has its own badge, proudly displayed on their backpacks!  On a beautiful, but cold, morning we enjoyed good views of some of the park’s residents including Grey Herons, Little Grebes and Light-vented Bulbuls.

Watching Little Grebes in the Olympic Forest Park with students from the Hepingli No4 Primary School Birdwatching Club
This group of Grey Herons was a major hit….
….as were the autumn leaves!
Li Xiaoyang was my chief apprentice!

It’s heartening to see Beijing’s schools setting up birding clubs and hopefully these two leading lights represent just the beginning of a new trend.

Update: On Monday 6 November I was informed that Kevin O’Shea, one of the teachers at the Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB), has just set up a wildlife club for students, meeting every Wednesday.  Congratulations, CISB!  

Title image: the badge of Hepingli No4 Primary School’s Birdwatching Society.

 

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“A Bridge of Magpies”: Birds in Chinese Folklore

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been introducing the wonderful pupils at the International School of Beijing (ISB) to the birds of China’s capital city, including a field trip to Hanshiqiao (the wetland where Skybomb Bolt, the Beijing Cuckoo, was fitted with his tag).  As part of the classroom based material, Annie He, who is responsible for integrating Chinese culture into the ISB curriculum, created a brilliant document outlining how birds feature in Chinese folklore.  With Annie’s kind permission,  “Beyond The Legend”  is now available to download.  I love the story about the magpie’s role in Chinese Valentine’s Day:

“On the evening of the seventh day of the seventh month on the Chinese lunar calendar, don’t forget to look carefully at the summer sky.  You’ll find the Cowherd (a bright star in the constellation Aquila, west of the Milky Way) and the Weaving Maid (the star Vega, east of the Milky Way) appear closer together than at any other time of the year. Chinese believe the stars are lovers who are permitted to meet by the queen of Heaven once a year. That day falls on the double seventh (七⼣夕 in Chinese), which is China’s own Valentine’s Day. Most Chinese remember being told a romantic tragedy when they were children on the double seventh. In the legend, the cowherd and the Weaving Maid will meet on a bridge of magpies across the Milky Way once a year. Chinese grannies will remind children that they would not be able to see any magpies on that evening because all the magpies have left to form a bridge in the heavens with their wings.”