Two-barred Crossbill

The Spring keeps getting better.  A few days ago I got wind of a pair of Two-barred Crossbills in Jingshan Park (immediately north of the Forbidden City).  After a bit of investigating I was able to get directions and, on Monday, Libby and I popped up there to see whether we could see it..  [Jingshan Park is a great place to visit for non-birders – it’s often full of Beijingers exercising, singing, dancing, and doing all manner of other social activities – some of the best people watching to be had in the capital].   On arrival it was not difficult to find the right spot as there were about 40 photographers lined up and surrounding a hosepipe stand.  It was to here that the Two-barred Crossbills were coming down to drink.  They had not been seen all morning and, after an hour or so, I wasn’t hopeful.  I went for a walk around the park to see if I could find them feeding, to no avail.  But just as I returned to the original site, the female flew in and gradually made her way down to the water..  showing exceptionally well to the delight of the paparazzi.

Two-barred Crossbill (female), Jingshan Park, Beijing, 9 April 2012

Some of the photographers had been there several days and said that the male had not been seen since Saturday.

I believe that this is the first record of this species in Beijing for at least 25 years and comes hot on the heels of a record in Jinshitan, Dalian, Liaoning Province, found by Tom Beeke.  Two-barred Crossbill is an irruptive species but irruptions (movements outside of the normal range) usually happen in early autumn..  Maybe these are birds moving back north after irrupting south last autumn?  Who knows..?!

Other birds coming down to drink included two magnificent Red-billed Blue Magpies.  These birds, common in the Beijing area, are rarely this bold.  Often they remain hidden in the trees and shrubs with only tantalising glimpses or distant views being gained, so this was a real treat.

Red-billed Blue Magpie, Jingshan Park, Beijing, 9 April 2012
Red-billed Blue Magpie, Jingshan Park, Beijing, 9 April 2012. These magnificent birds are common in Beijing but seeing them this well isn't easy...

Finally, a pair of Red-billed Starlings, fairly recent colonists of Beijing, were prospecting a hole in one of the trees.  Not bad for a city centre park!

Red-billed Starling, Jingshan Park, Beijing, 9 April 2012