Winter along the Wenyu

On Saturday I went for a walk.  A long walk.  Actually a little longer than I had anticipated.  I estimate that I walked around 13km along the Wenyu River, situated between the 5th and 6th ring roads on the northeast side of Beijing.  It’s a favourite haunt of local birder, Shi Jin, and I have visited several times, particularly in late Spring, as the area of rice paddies can be superb for locustella and acrocephalus warblers, as well as small bitterns.

In winter the birdlife is different.  Huge flocks of tree sparrows, numbering almost 1,000 in total, and good numbers of buntings, including Yellow-throated, Pallas’s Reed and Pine inhabit the banks of the river at this season.  And on the slow-moving water and the muddy fringes, wintering Long-billed Plover, Green Sandpiper and a few winter duck can be found.

This river was also the site where Shi Jin found a putative Whistling Swan in November, discussion about which can be found on Birding Frontiers.  My walk on Saturday revealed that this aberrant swan is still there, and still in the company of a ‘normal’ Bewick’s.  But it also revealed much more – a real sense of the wealth of species that can be seen on a winter’s day in Beijing.

Here’s what I saw…

Weather: sunny, relatively clear but pollution worsening as the day went on; still; cool first thing (around freezing) but rising to 11 degrees C during the day.
The Wenyu He was remarkably ice-free all the way along.
Full Species List:
Japanese Quail – 2 in the weedy field just east of the riding stables
Common Pheasant – 2 east of riding stables
Bewick’s Swan – 1 with the probable aberrant Bewick’s Swan just north of Picun (near brick building with chimney on northeast shore)
Ruddy Shelduck – 26
Gadwall – 18 (9 pairs)
Falcated Duck – 6 (4 males and 2 females)
Mallard – 395
Spot-billed Duck – 5
Northern Shoveler – 3 (females)
Eurasian Teal – 41
Tufted Duck/Greater Scaup – one female type seen in flight twice but both times distantly.  Looked chunky with relatively dark underwing.  Worth looking out for if you are in the area.
Goldeneye – 4 (all male)
Smew – 1 redhead
Goosander – 14
Little Grebe – 44
Eurasian Kestrel – 3
Merlin – 1 near golf course east of Jingmi Lu
Eurasian Sparrowhawk – 1
Eastern Buzzard – 3
Long-billed Plover – 7
Green Sandpiper – 6
Oriental Turtle Dove – 6
Spotted Dove – 1
Collared Dove – 1
Crested Kingfisher – 1
Hoopoe – 1
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker – 3
Great Spotted Woodpecker – 1
Grey-headed Woodpecker – 3
Azure-winged Magpie – 39
Common Magpie – lots
Daurian Jackdaw – 350+ in pre-roost flock
Carrion Crow – 6
Large-billed Crow – 2
Eurasian Skylark – 6
Chinese Bulbul – 3
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – 2
Goldcrest – 6 in juniper-type trees just east of Jingmi Lu.
Wren – 1
Naumann’s Thrush – 3
Tree Sparrow – 900+ several flocks of several hundred each
Siberian Accentor – 6
Olive-backed Pipit – 9 together
Brambling – 5
Pine Bunting – 50+ in one pre-roost flock just north-west of Picun
Meadow Bunting – 7
Little Bunting – 2
Yellow-throated Bunting – 11 (including 2 singing males)
Pallas’s Reed Bunting – 14 – in fields east of riding stables
Japanese Reed Bunting – 3 in fields east of riding stables
Siberian Weasel – 1 in scrubby field a little east of riding stables.