Siberian Crane still at Miyun!

On Sunday I visited Miyun Reservoir with a few friends from the embassy, a language student and a Dutch birder visiting Beijing.  We enjoyed a good day and recorded 71 species.  The most significant record was the immature SIBERIAN CRANE that is still on site in company with a dwindling group of White-naped and Common Cranes.  It is now over a month since Paul Holt and I first discovered this bird, originally in the company of 2 adults.

A single Short-toed Eagle, a stunning male Pied Harrier, a fishing Osprey and excellent views of Japanese Quail were other highlights of another good day at this site.  With sunny weather and very light winds, it was a lovely day to be out and about… and great fun to be in the company of such a wonderful group of people!!

They will all become birders – it’s inevitable.  Resistance is futile.

Aron, John and Sarah behaving completely naturally...
John, Sarah, Eva and Aron taking the 'chilled approach' to birding.. while Nick wonders if his count of Great Crested Grebe is statistically significant.
Ben and the girls scanning for cranes at Miyun Reservoir as Nick looks on.
Full species list:
1. Japanese Quail – 3
2. Common Pheasant – 7
3. Swan Goose – 1
4. Bean Goose – 5
5. Ruddy Shelduck – 29
6. Gadwall – 8
7. Mallard – 12
8. Chinese Spot-billed Duck – 14
9. Shoveler – 18
10. Eurasian Teal – 12
11. Common Pochard – 2
12. Little Grebe – 4
13. Great Crested Grebe – 10
14. Black Stork – 1
15. Spoonbill sp – 7
16. Eurasian Bittern (heard only)
17. Grey Heron – 8
18. Great Egret – 6
19. Little Egret – 7
20. Kestrel – 2
21. Merlin – 1 adult male whizzed past us at the second site
22. Osprey – seen very well; hovered and caught a fish
23. Short-toed Eagle – 1
24. Eastern Marsh Harrier – 3
25. Pied Harrier – 2 (including one adult male)
26. Eurasian Sparrowhawk – 1
27. Goshawk – 1
28. Coot – 12
29. SIBERIAN CRANE – 1 (immature)
30. White-naped Crane – 4
31. Common Crane – 3
32. Black-winged Stilt – 78
33. Avocet – 2
34. Northern Lapwing – 34
35. Little Ringed Plover – 22 (including some spectacular close views of 3 birds interacting)
36. Common Snipe – 8 (using their characteristic ‘drilling’ feeding technique)
37. Black-tailed Godwit – 7
38. Common Redshank – 4
39. Wood Sandpiper – 12
40. Oriental Pratincole – 42
41. Mongolian Gull – 1 2cy probably this species
42. Black-headed Gull – 57
43. Common Tern – 4
44. Little Tern – 2
45. Oriental Turtle Dove – 4
46. Collared Dove – 3
47. Common Kingfisher – 2
48. Hoopoe – 1
49. Great Spotted Woodpecker – 1 seen from the car between the first and second sites
50. Grey-headed Woodpecker – 2 heard from the car
51. Azure-winged Magpie – several seen from the car
52. Red-billed Blue Magpie – 5 (including two that flew right overhead calling near the parking spot at the first site)
53. Common Magpie – too many
54. Carrion Crow – 2
55. Large-billed Crow – 1
56. Great Tit – several heard from the car
57. Barn Swallow – 6
58. Red-rumped Swallow – 4 seen from the car
59. Zitting Cisticola – 1 heard
60. Chinese Bulbul – 1 heard near the parking spot at the first site
61. Vinous-throated Parrotbill – several heard at the first and second sites
62. White-cheeked Starling – c10 seen from the car
63. Daurian Redstart – 3
64. Tree Sparrow – lots
65. Eastern Yellow Wagtail – 3
66. White Wagtail – 3 (subspecies ‘leucopsis’)
67. Olive-backed Pipit – 1
68. Red-throated Pipit – 1 possible heard
69. Buff-bellied Pipit – c100 (in a mixed flock that included some Water Pipits)
70. Water Pipit – c20
71. Pallas’s Reed Bunting – 8


Just back from my second trip to Shidu.  Highlight has to be the Wallcreeper.

Wallcreeper, Shidu, Beijing, 11 February 2012

Shidu looks made for Wallcreepers and I am sure there are more of these incredible gravity-defying birds along the gorge.  But this individual is a bit of a star of the Beijing birding scene.  It comes down to eye level, encouraged by the meal worms put out for it by bird photographers.  Consequently it shows extremely well, albeit intermittently.

On Saturday I took friends Nick Douse, John Gallagher and Hui Ying, a Beijing-based birder I met at the AGM of the Beijing Birdwatching Society, to Shidu.  Shidu literally means “10 river crossings” and this site, along the Juma river, is a good winter birding destination as, in addition to Wallcreeper, it hosts wintering Black Storks, Black Vultures, Crested Kingfishers and, occasionally, Long-billed Plover and Ibisbill.  We didn’t see the last two but we had a great day in cold but still conditions.

The bridges across the Juma river are numbered from south-east to north-west.  We arrived at the southern end of the gorge just under 2 hours after leaving Beijing and made our way slowly to the north-west, stopping occasionally to scan.  Our first stop, between bridges 2 and 3, produced over 100 Mallard on an ice-free section of the river plus a handful of Common Merganser (Goosander) and, our first surprise, a drake Mandarin.  Just as we were about to leave, 4 Black Storks came flying along the river and almost overhead, providing us with a great chance to study these majestic birds as they made their way downstream.

Black Stork, Shidu, Beijing


Black Stork coming in to land against the backdrop of Shidu gorge.

Our next stop was at Bridge number 6, a well-known ‘hot-spot’.  We immediately saw a line of bird photographers on the eastern side of the gorge with their heavy artillery trained on an area of rock face.  This had to be the Wallcreeper site.  After parking the car and taking a short walk, we were greeted by the big lens boys and began the wait for the Wallcreeper to show.  In just a few minutes it appeared and gradually made its way down the face of the rock to an area immediately in front of the photographers to feed on the meal worms.  Its stay here probably amounted to no more than 2 minutes but in that time I suspect the number of times a shutter was fired was several thousand..!

Some of the bird photographers waiting for the Wallcreeper. Check out those lenses!

After about half an hour at this site, during which time we also recorded Marsh Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Daurian Redstart, Red-billed Blue Magpie and Dusky Thrush, we moved on to bridge number 10.  This was an excellent site.  Two male Plumbeous Redstarts were singing and displaying, clearly establishing territories for the forthcoming breeding season, but the real stars were the Crested Kingfishers that made several passes, calling loudly.

Crested Kingfisher, Shidu, Beijing, 11 February 2012

Bizarrely, two Crested Kingfishers flew up to a new house on the edge of the river and perched on the balconies.. one upstairs and one downstairs..

Upstairs Downstairs. These Crested Kingfishers seemed to like looking at their reflection in the window of this new house on the banks of the river Juma.

A drive further north produced a Hen Harrier, several Godlewski’s Buntings, 1 Little Bunting, 8 Hill Pigeons, 18 Daurian Jackdaws and a Wren.

The journey back down the gorge produced 2 Common Kingfishers side by side near bridge 6 and, after enjoying these 2 birds we headed off back to Beijing in time for dinner.

Friends Nick Douse, John Gallagher and Hui Ying at bridge number 10, Shidu.

Full Species list (37 in total):

Mandarin (1)
Mallard (120)
Goosander (65)
Little Grebe (12)
Black Stork (10)
Grey Heron (2)
Great Cormorant (1)
Kestrel (1)
White-tailed Eagle (1) – sub-adult
Black Vulture (1)
Hen Harrier (1) – ringtail
Sparrowhawk (1)
Hill Pigeon (8)
Spotted Dove (2)
Common Kingfisher (2)
Crested Kingfisher (2)
Red-billed Blue Magpie (7)
Common Magpie (34)
Daurian Jackdaw (18) – 2 adults, 16 immatures
Carrion Crow (12)
Large-billed Crow (6)
Marsh Tit (1)
Long-tailed Tit (3)

Chinese Hill Warbler (1)
Wren (1)
Wallcreeper (1)
Naumann’s Thrush (5)
Dusky Thrush (2)
Eurasian Blackbird (1)
Daurian Redstart (2)
Plumbeous Redstart (4)
Tree Sparrow – lots
Water Pipit (5)
Oriental Greenfinch (6)
Godlewski’s Bunting (5)
Little Bunting (1)
Yellow-throated Bunting (12)