Cinnamon Bittern

I spent Monday evening at the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing, primarily to look for dragonflies but also on the off-chance that there could be an interesting crake or rail calling at dusk.  The park officially allows last entry at 8pm and everyone is required to be out by 9pm.  With sunset around 7.45pm, this offers an opportunity to check for crespuscular activity.  Unfortunately there were no crakes or rails heard (apart from the local Moorhens) but, whilst photographing a local dragonfly, I caught sight of a bittern flying from a large reedbed.  It was much richer and darker coloured than the resident Yellow Bitterns, with uniform rich brown upperparts.  As it dived into the reeds nearby, I realised it could only be one species – a Cinnamon Bittern.  A new bird for me and, I believe, a pretty scarce species in Beijing.  Unfortunately, as I had my macro lens on my camera, I couldn’t obtain any photos and, despite waiting in the same area until dusk, I did not see it again.

Anyway, I managed a few images of one the common dragonflies… I have no idea what species this is, so if anyone knows, please comment on here.  Also, I saw a ladybird sp that looked suspiciously like a Harlequin Ladybird.  Again, I have no idea what species are present in the Beijing area, so any help much appreciated..!

On the way out of the park, I rescued a toad that had got itself stuck trying to cross a newly painted cycle lane.  I was alerted to the toad’s plight by a young boy who could see it struggling but was afraid to cross the wet paint.  Fortunately, my longer reach allowed me to free it without stepping onto the horrible thick red paint and it soon walked off into the long grass, seemingly no worse for wear.

Dragonfly sp, Olympic Forest Park, Beijing
Ladybird sp, Olympic Forest Park, Beijing
Yellow Bittern at dusk. I saw at least 8 of these charismatic birds this evening.
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Olympic Forest Park, Beijing

First thing this morning I made my first visit to the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing.  This relatively new park, as its name suggests, was created for the 2008 Olympic Games and has won awards for its design.  I was pleasantly surprised by how ‘bird-friendly’ it is.  There is some great habitat, including some large reedbeds, lakes, mature (ish) woodland and open areas, all of which are attracting birds.

Today, I explored the southern section prompted by a visiting birder, Claus Holzapfel, who had seen a Streaked Reed Warbler a few days ago.  I didn’t see any of these rare ‘acro‘ warblers but I chalked up an impressive list of species for a central Beijing location (see below).

The highlight for me was an enjoyable encounter with a confiding Yellow Bittern as it hunted in one of the lily-filled lakes.  It’s ungainly stance belied the effectiveness with which it stalked small fish and frogs.

Oriental Reed Warblers filled the air with their chattering and there were also a few Black-browed Reed Warblers competing to be heard and a few Pallas’s Grasshopper Warblers skulking at the base of the reeds.  Indian and Eurasian Cuckoos were calling frequently and the song of the Black-naped Oriole was an occasional accompaniement.

In the more mature trees on the eastern side, a singing male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher was a nice sight but I failed to find the Green-backed (Elisae’s) Flycatcher that Paul Holt had seen the previous day.

The Olympic Park is situated just north of the 4th ring road, north of the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic Stadium and is served by metro stops as well as several bus routes, so it is easy to get to.  It opens at 6am and, this morning, there were relatively few people around and it was very easy to find quiet spots – not to be taken for granted in Beijing where most city parks are full of early morning exercisers for the first few hours of daylight.  For me, it’s the best birding site I’ve seen so far in Beijing city.  I’ll definitely be back!

Map of Beijing Olympic Forest Park
Yellow Bittern, Beijing Olympic Forest Park, 2 June 2011
Comical as it made its way across the lillies... would definitely qualify as a Monty Python 'silly walk'
Watching you watching me..
I enjoyed half an hour with this confiding bird today in the Olympic Forest Park, Beijing

Species List (in chronological order of first sighting):

Collared Dove (1)

Common Magpie (many)

Tree Sparrow (many)

Grey-capped Woodpecker (3)

Eastern Crowned Warbler (2)

Indian Cuckoo (4)

Chinese (Light-vented) Bulbul (7)

Oriental Reed Warbler (at least 30)

Eurasian Cuckoo (5)

Oriental Greenfinch (3)

Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler (3)

Night Heron (7)

Red-rumped Swallow (4)

Black-browed Reed Warbler (4)

Black Drongo (1)

Common Moorhen (6)

Common Swift (12)

Yellow Bittern (7)

Goldeneye (1) – a drake on the lake near the ‘underwater corridor’

Barn Swallow (3)

Little Egret (1) – flyover

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (1) – singing just north-east of Wali Lake

Marsh Tit (2)

Black-naped Oriole (3)

Dark-sided Flycatcher (1) – northeast of Wali Lake

Arctic Warbler (4)

Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)

Grey Heron (1)

Little Grebe (2)

Radde’s Warbler (2)

Azure-winged Magpie (6)

Spotted Dove (2)

Grey-headed Woodpecker (1)