After accompanying the Conservative Minister, Rt Hon Ken Clarke MP, on a birding trip during his visit to Beijing last winter, it seemed only right to balance Birding Beijing’s political affiliation! And so, on Sunday, I took visiting (Labour) Baroness Bryony Worthington on a trip to Yeyahu Nature Reserve as part of her visit to China.
Bryony is Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change and, if the elections go Labour’s way in May 2015, she could be part of the ministerial team in charge of the UK’s energy and climate change policies.
Among her many talents, Bryony is an expert in emissions trading and the main purpose of her visit was to engage with officials from the seven pilot emissions trading schemes in China to help develop advice to the Chinese government about the design of their national emissions trading scheme, due to be implemented sometime before 2020 and a key pillar of China’s climate change policy.
Her busy programme involved meetings in Beijing and Shanghai and, with just one ‘free’ day on Sunday and knowing I was a keen birder, she asked if I would take her birding… Of course, I was only too happy to say yes! The obvious choice of location was Yeyahu Nature Reserve – one of my favourite Beijing birding sites and, in Spring, host to a diverse range of China’s birds. In the company of friend and colleague Wu Qian and her husband, Calvin, we set off at 0600 from central Beijing and arrived at a sunny, warm and clear Yeyahu just before 0800.
To add a bit of extra fun to the day we had a sweepstake on the number of species we would see.. Guesses ranged from a conservative 40 (Wu Qian) to an over-optimistic 65 (Terry) with Bryony guessing 49 and Calvin 60.
On a beautiful spring morning we started off well with several Chinese Penduline Tits, Pallas’s Reed Buntings and displaying Eastern Marsh Harriers. A booming Bittern and a flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills provided more entertainment as we made our way around the reserve…. After the 3,000 (!) visitors present the last time I was there (during Qing Ming Festival), the reserve seemed strangely quiet for a sunday but that was no bad thing!
We made our way to the new watchtower and, as the day warmed up, we enjoyed more raptors including 2 Greater Spotted Eagles, a single Short-toed Eagle, Eastern Buzzard, Goshawk and several Black Kites before we tucked into our picnic..
Bryony was impressed with the reserve and the number of birds it was possible to see in the capital.
By the time we made it back to the car, it was time to count up the species seen. The final total was 54 so, rather embarrassingly for me, the Baroness as a first-time China birder, won the sweepstake..!
On Tuesday morning I accompanied the Baroness to a meeting with Lu Hao, Chairman of the Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee in the National Peoples Congress.. This is the committee responsible for drafting and passing China’s environmental legislation. It’s a busy time for the committee, with much environmental legislation under development. See here for analysis of the strengthening of China’s Environment Protection Law just last week. Included in their legislative programme for this year is a review of the protected species list.. The current list is more than 20 years old and woefully out of date. For example, it doesn’t include Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Jankowski’s Bunting or Baer’s Pochard, species that are in desperate trouble and at risk of extinction.
I took the opportunity to brief Lu Hao on the work being carried out by BirdLife, the Beijing Birdwatching Society and local groups to try to save Jankowski’s Bunting and presented him with the BirdLife special edition newsletter. He confirmed that Jankowski’s Bunting would be added to the revised list and invited me to submit views on which other species should be on the list.
Extra legal protection by itself will not save Jankowski’s Bunting from extinction. However, it’s an important step and, as China works to strengthen enforcement of its environmental legislation (the amendments last week to China’s environmental law made huge progress in that regard), ensuring that the legal protection of China’s birds is as strong and unambiguous as possible will help to create the foundation for a stronger conservation movement in China.
Many thanks to Baroness Worthington for her support for the Jankowski’s Bunting campaign and also to Chairman Lu Hao for his work to strengthen China’s environmental laws and their enforcement. He is a very important man!
Birding in Beijing is brilliant at any time of year but, during spring migration, it’s hard to beat and there are so many highlights from Sunday’s trip to Yeyahu Nature Reserve with Per Alström and Zhao Min that it’s hard to know where to begin.
Birding with Per has many advantages, one of which is his encyclopaedic knowledge of China’s birds, especially pipits and wagtails. So perhaps it should not be a surprise that an encounter with a mixed flock of more than 70 pipits and wagtails at Ma Chang produced Beijing’s second ever MEADOW PIPIT (草地鹨). Initially found by Min and identified by Per, this bird was the undoubted rarity highlight but there were so many other great moments – the 21 ORIENTAL PLOVERS (东方鴴), displaying EASTERN MARSH HARRIERS (白腹鹞), GREATER SPOTTED (乌雕) and SHORT-TOED EAGLES (短趾雕), SAKER (猎隼), a flock of 90+ BAIKAL TEAL (花脸鸭), displaying ASIAN SHORT-TOED LARK ((亚洲) 短趾百灵), a flock of 52 WHITE WAGTAILS (白鹡鸰) that included 3 subspecies – leucopsis, ocularis and baicalensis – and a flock of ‘eastern’ ROOKS (秃鼻乌鸦) – a possible future new species?
We started at Ma Chang, a reliable spot for ORIENTAL PLOVER (东方鴴) in early April. It’s important to arrive here early as this site is extremely popular with horse-riders, motorised buggies and even people driving imitation tanks, so it’s hopeless as a birding destination at the weekend after around 0800. We were fortunate to find a single ORIENTAL PLOVER (东方鴴) with a flock of 30+ KENTISH PLOVERS (环颈鴴) and, later, we found a flock of 21 OPs in agricultural fields just east of the main site. These birds – that winter in Australia – are special and one of the signs that Spring has arrived in Beijing.
After enjoying the pipits, wagtails and plovers, as well as a beautiful male MERLIN (灰背隼) that buzzed us before sitting up on a stand of maize, we headed off to Yeyahu Nature Reserve.
At Yeyahu we enjoyed the spectacular sight of displaying EASTERN MARSH HARRIERS (白腹鹞), newly arrived and preparing to breed. These are stunning raptors, the males in particular, and this adult male made a close pass when were in one of the tower hides.. awesome!
Two GREATER SPOTTED EAGLES (乌雕) added to our raptor list which, by the end of the day, had reached 10 species and bizarrely missing COMMON KESTREL (红隼)!
In stunning spring weather (and clean air!) we enjoyed so many other highlights on a day that produced a total of 81 species. Just before dusk we were treated to a magnificent flight of ducks that included MALLARD (綠頭鴨), SPOT-BILLED DUCK (斑嘴鴨), PINTAIL (针尾鸭), COMMON POCHARD (红头潜鸭), FERRUGINOUS DUCK (白眼潜鸭), SHOVELER (琵嘴鸭), GARGANEY (白眉鸭), COMMON TEAL (绿翅鸭) and, just as we had hoped, BAIKAL TEAL (花脸鸭). A flock of at least 90 of the latter wheeled around in the fading light – a magnificent sight and a fitting end to a wonderful day at this world-class birding site.
Big thanks to Per and Min for their company on a day that will live long in the memory…!
Full species list below:
JAPANESE QUAIL Coturnix japonica 鵪鶉 1
COMMON PHEASANT Phasianus colchicus 雉雞 4
SWAN GOOSE Anser cygnoides VU 鴻雁 1
GREYLAG GOOSE Anser anser 3
RUDDY SHELDUCK Tadorna ferruginea 赤麻鴨 6
MANDARIN DUCK Aix galericulata 鴛鴦 9
GADWALL Anas strepera 赤膀鴨 94
FALCATED DUCK Anas falcata 罗纹鸭 14
MALLARD Anas platyrhynchos 綠頭鴨 500
CHINESE SPOT-BILLED DUCK Anas zonorhyncha 斑嘴鴨 38
NORTHERN SHOVELER Anas clypeata 琵嘴鸭 13
NORTHERN PINTAIL Anas acuta 针尾鸭 6
GARGANEY Anas querquedula 白眉鸭 4
BAIKAL TEAL Anas formosa 花脸鸭 a flock of 90 plus a separate flock of 70, which could have been different birds.
Last September I spent a day filming at Yeyahu Nature Reserve with a TV crew from Phoenix TV, a Hong Kong-based TV channel with over 300 million viewers in China. The result of the day was a 5-minute programme about birdwatching in Beijing that was broadcast at 7.55pm on 1 and 2 January. You can see the programme by clicking this link.
Can you identify the species of raptor towards the end?
It was great fun to do and I want to send a big thank you to Phoenix TV for giving me the opportunity to promote birdwatching in China. And Swarovski, that free advertising must be worth a new pair of binoculars and a ‘scope…??😉
Many of my friends will know that one of my most-wanted birds in Beijing has been the Pallas’s Sandgrouse. This is a species that breeds as close as Inner Mongolia and, just occasionally, irrupts in large numbers beyond its normal range.
It’s a bird that has been on my mind since my childhood when I first heard about major irruptions in the late 19th century that resulted in them being “everywhere” in winter 1889 at my original local patch of Winterton-on-Sea in Norfolk, England. Sadly, irruptions on that scale appear to be a thing of the past and it is now a very rare species in the UK and Europe. However, in Beijing, its appearance is a little more regular and in 2009-2010, the winter before I moved to China, there was a decent irruption in the capital with flocks of 100+ reported from Wild Duck Lake and even good numbers at sites inside the 6th ring road. Unfortunately, since then, they have been very few and far between – I am aware of just one record of a small flock at Miyun last winter (Jan-Erik Nilsen) that was never seen again.
I have been secretly (and openly!) hoping that this winter might prove to be THE winter and yesterday, Sunday 3 November, that hope turned to reality.
Having returned from Inner Mongolia on Saturday, where I had been attending a workshop with local government officials, nature reserve managers and local groups about JANKOWSKI’S BUNTING (a post about that will come soon!), I had arranged to go birding on Sunday with Ben Wielstra, visiting Catalan, Eugeni Capella Roca, and 吴岚 from the Beijing Birdwatching Society. I left central Beijing at 0445, collecting the team on the way, and we arrived at a chilly Ma Chang at around 0645.
Two first year RELICT GULLS represented a superb beginning to the day. These two young gulls were almost certainly the same two individuals that had been seen the weekend before and they were remarkably tame.
Unfortunately the water levels at Ma Chang are now so high that the best vantage points from which to view the wildfowl are now inaccessible, so after checking the ‘desert area’ for anything interesting, we were soon on our way to Yeyahu Nature Reserve to focus most of our day at this superb Beijing site.
On arrival there was a nice mixed flock of GADWALL and FALCATED DUCK on the lake with a lone BEWICK’S SWAN and we secured our first sightings of PALLAS’S REED BUNTING, CHINESE GREY SHRIKE and CHINESE PENDULINE TIT.
A scan of the grassland produced a ringtail HEN HARRIER and one of the tractors cutting the grass flushed a SHORT-EARED OWL. Then a distant SAKER and an adult PEREGRINE passed by. Pretty good! We made our way to the new tower hide and spent some time there scanning for raptors and checking the flocks of duck that were occasionally flushed by the HEN HARRIER. A single COMMON (EASTERN) BUZZARD and a flock of BEAN GEESE kept the interest going and soon we began to hear the sound of CRANES… a sound that was almost omnipresent all day as more and more groups seemed to arrive high from the west… a wonderful sight and sound.
From the hide we caught sight of several very distant flocks of birds, the identification of which we couldn’t quite put our finger on.. they looked to have pointed wings, almost wader-like, and yet their size meant that the only species that came to mind was PACIFIC GOLDEN PLOVER.. but that identification didn’t fit – these birds didn’t fly like plovers – they were in an irregular, and reasonably tight, formation flying strongly north.. what were they??
They went down in the notebook as “possible plover sp” but we weren’t happy. Several minutes later, Eugeni suddenly shouted out “SANDGROUSE!” and we all quickly got onto two birds streaming very fast past our vantage point, heading north. Plump birds with a dark belly patch and a pointed tail… Wow! PALLAS’S SANDGROUSE – my most wanted Beijing bird!!! They disappeared out of sight almost as soon as they had arrived and we looked at each other with broad smiles.. we might even have done a couple of “high-fives”!
Little did we know that we would soon see some more… and as we made our way around the flooded fields towards the smaller observation tower, we saw another… then another.. and from the tower itself we saw another 3. The same or different? Not sure but they were definitely PALLAS’S SANDGROUSE. Suddenly the penny dropped on the flocks we had seen earlier – surely they must have been PALLAS’S SANDGROUSE too…! And we had even more reason to believe they were sandgrouse when we heard from a Chinese friend that over 200 had been seen around the same time over central Beijing..! At the rate they flew, it would only have taken them a few minutes to reach the mountains at Badaling from central Beijing and the birds we saw could easily have been the same flocks. Something is clearly going on with PALLAS’S SANDGROUSE this winter!
Another nice encounter involved this SIBERIAN WEASEL, a reasonably common mammal in Beijing but rarely seen well in daylight. This individual ran towards us, stopping occasionally to check us out, before disappearing into the reedbed.. a very cool animal…
We decided to make a return visit to Ma Chang before heading home. That was the place that held large flocks of sandgrouse during the 2009-2010 winter and we thought that maybe, just maybe, some had dropped in during the day. We didn’t see any on our afternoon visit but we did stumble across a nice flock of HORNED LARKS, another scarce and irruptive visitor to Beijing. A group of 3 was soon followed by a much larger group consisting of at least 53 birds.. wow.
These beautiful larks wheeled around uttering their ‘tinkly’ call in the late afternoon sun… a magnificent sight to end the day. After a quick cup of coffee we headed back to Beijing, tired but elated… what a day!
Big thanks to Ben, Eugeni and Wu Lan for their excellent company on this special day…
Full species list:
TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE Anser serrirostris 74 (Apparently 300 in the area, according to Yeyahu NR staff).
TUNDRA SWAN Cygnus columbianus 小天鹅 1 at Yeyahu NR
RUDDY SHELDUCK Tadorna ferruginea 赤麻鴨 8
GADWALL Anas strepera 赤膀鴨 108
FALCATED DUCK Anas falcata 罗纹鸭 14
MALLARD Anas platyrhynchos 綠頭鴨 122
CHINESE SPOT-BILLED DUCK Anas zonorhyncha 斑嘴鴨 29
NORTHERN SHOVELER Anas clypeata 琵嘴鸭 1
NORTHERN PINTAIL Anas acuta 针尾鸭 5
EURASIAN TEAL Anas crecca 绿翅鸭 14
COMMON GOLDENEYE Bucephala clangula 鹊鸭 1
SMEW Mergellus albellus 白秋沙鸭 83
LITTLE GREBE Tachybaptus ruficollis 小鸊鷉 4
GREAT CRESTED GREBE Podiceps cristatus 凤头鸊鷉 5
GREAT BITTERN Botaurus stellaris 大麻鳽 2
HEN HARRIER Circus cyaneus 白尾鹞 4 (3 ‘ringtails’ and one adult male)
EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK Accipiter nisus 雀鹰 1
NORTHERN GOSHAWK Accipiter gentilis 苍鹰 2
EASTERN BUZZARD Buteo japonicus 普通鵟 1
MERLIN Falco columbarius 灰背隼 1 adult male
SAKER FALCON Falco cherrug EN 猎隼 1 one distant bird, probably this species
PEREGRINE FALCON Falco peregrinus 游隼 1
COMMON COOT Fulica atra 骨顶鸡(白骨顶) 17
COMMON CRANE Grus grus 灰鹤 109 We could hear cranes almost all day. Many seemed to be arriving. Very difficult to count but the biggest count at any one time consisted of a single group of 109 birds
RELICT GULL Ichthyaetus relictus VU 遗鸥 2 First calendar-year birds. Almost certainly the same as seen the previous weekend by multiple observers.
PALLAS’S SANDGROUSE Syrrhaptes paradoxus 毛腿沙鸡 5 The first picked up in flight by Eugeni at Yeyahu NR @c1130. Followed by 3 @c1315 and 2 singles later in the afternoon. Four distant large flocks totalling over 150 birds seen c1100 and c1230 were probably this species.
EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE Streptopelia decaocto 灰斑鸠 18
SHORT-EARED OWL Asio flammeus 短耳鸮 1 Flushed by one of the bailers on the Kangxi Grassland
On Saturday 12 October I visited Wild Duck Lake (both Ma Chang and Yeyahu NR) with Jesper Hornskov and Ben Wielstra. As usual with this site in October, expectations were high as I set off at 0445 to pick up Ben, then Jesper, before heading over the mountains past Badaling Great Wall and on to Ma Chang.
On arrival, the water level at Guanting Reservoir was the highest I have ever seen. Consequently most of the viewing points that I have used in the past to observe the reservoir are no longer accessible, meaning that we had no opportunity to view the duck on the open water. A couple of CHINESE GREY SHRIKES, a MERLIN, a few lingering juvenile AMUR FALCONS, some early BEAN GEESE and a flock of 23 MONGOLIAN LARKS kept us entertained at Ma Chang before we decided to hot-foot it over to Yeyahu Nature Reserve to spend some time at the new viewing tower.
As we made our way out of Ma Chang along the unpaved access track I caught sight of a raptor to the north of us, gliding west. I slammed on the brakes (not as dramatic as it sounds when you are only moving at about 5mph) and glanced through my binoculars. It was big. An eagle. I should say at this point that, only a few minutes before, I was chatting to Jesper and Ben about the potential for a STEPPE EAGLE. I had seen GREATER SPOTTED EAGLE and IMPERIAL EAGLE at Wild Duck Lake before but never STEPPE. As I looked through my binoculars, I could see a pale bar on the underwing and my heart raced – it looked like a first calendar year STEPPE EAGLE! We all jumped out of the car and it began to circle, offering us superb views with the sun behind us. I grabbed my camera and reeled off a few shots before just enjoying the bird as it gained height and eventually drifted off west. Wow! A new bird for me in Beijing.
Elated, and buoyed by our seemingly potent ability to talk up species at will, we began to chat about all sorts of obviously impossible targets for the day such as SWINHOE’S RAIL, STREAKED REED WARBLER, CRESTED SHELDUCK and, of course, BAER’S POCHARD.
A few minutes later we arrived at Yeyahu NR and, after a celebratory cup of coffee, made our way into the reserve and headed for the new watchtower. On the way we experienced a modest passage of raptors with NORTHERN GOSHAWK, EURASIAN SPARROWHAWK, COMMON (EASTERN) BUZZARD and, again after talking about a likely species, SHORT-TOED EAGLE. It was turning into a very good day.
We reached the tower after about 20 minutes and set up stall, hoping that the early promise might continue. A few more NORTHERN GOSHAWKS, COMMON (EASTERN) BUZZARDS, a HEN HARRIER and an additional SHORT-TOED EAGLE kept us interested and then another large eagle came into view from the east… As it drifted closer, we could see it wasn’t the expected GREATER SPOTTED EAGLE (regular at this time of year) but a STEPPE EAGLE! Given the direction and timing, almost certainly a second individual.
As the day wore on, cloud cover increased and the raptor passage seemed to stop, so we decided to head for the newly flooded area in the hope of sighting some duck, including a target for Ben – BAIKAL TEAL.
We didn’t see any BAIKAL TEAL but we did see good numbers of MALLARD, SPOT-BILLED DUCK, GADWALL, FALCATED DUCK, RED-CRESTED POCHARD and a handful of FERRUGINOUS DUCK. As we made our way along a track through the flooded area, we encountered some COMMON REED BUNTINGS. I don’t see many COMMON REED BUNTINGS in Beijing (it’s a case of picking out a COMMON among all the PALLAS’S REED and LITTLE BUNTINGS – I can feel your sympathy) so I decided to hang back to take some photographs as Jesper and Ben headed to a small viewing area overlooking one of the ponds.
I had a frustrating time with the buntings but did manage some record photos.
Just as I was about to leave the buntings to catch up with Jesper and Ben, a pair of Ferruginous Duck/Baer’s Pochards flew past and, as I had my camera set up, I reeled off a couple of photos as they plunged down onto one of the small pools in the reedbed. I didn’t even look at the camera to check the images as I already felt I had been too long trying to photograph the buntings – and they would almost certainly be Ferruginous. However, as I caught up with Jesper and Ben, I mentioned that I had seen two Ferruginous/Baer’s-type ducks to which Jesper replied that they had seen three definite Ferruginous.. I (erroneously, as it turned out) assumed that I had seen two of the three birds they had seen, so I didn’t think any more of it….. ***LESSON HERE***
From the watchpoint, we viewed a small area of the pool on which ‘my’ birds alighted and it was busy – lots of Gadwall, Falcated Duck and Mallard were moving around and flying in and out. But no sign of the ‘Ferruginous/Baer’s types’. As the light began to fade, we left and headed back to Beijing.
At home, as I uploaded my photos from the day, I had a double-take when I saw the two images of the Ferruginous/Baer’s type duck I had seen. One appeared to have a green tinge to the head and, structurally, they looked wrong for Ferruginous. They were BAER’S POCHARDS!
Having known that Ben was particularly keen to see BAER’S POCHARD, I felt terrible. If only I had looked at the photos at the time, I would have realised that there was a pair of BAER’S POCHARDS on that pool and we could have stayed longer in the hope that they reappeared. But as it was, we left in ignorance and it was only when I got home that I realised. Sorry Ben!
The silver lining is that I will almost certainly take Ben to Wild Duck Lake again while he is in Beijing and I have even offered to take him to the breeding site in Hebei Province to hopefully see them there… It’s a lesson learned.
In any case, it was another superb day at this brilliant site. Is there a capital city in the world with birding as good as this? If so, I want to know about it!
Full species list below. Thanks to Jesper and Ben for their company on the day.
Common PheasantPhasanius colchicus – 6+
Bean GooseAnser fabalis serrirostris – 15
Ruddy ShelduckTadorna ferruginea – one (plus a couple of possibly captive ones…)
Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri – a pair photographed [TT]
Ferruginous DuckAythya nyroca – three
Smew Mergellus albellus – four brownheads
Little GrebeTachybaptus ruficollis – nine
Great Crested GrebePodiceps cristatus – three
Eurasian BitternBotaurus stellaris – one (in flight, giving ‘pao!’ call)
Chinese Pond HeronArdeola bacchus – one
Grey HeronArdea cinerea – six
Little EgretEgretta garzetta – three
Great CormorantPhalacrocorax carbo – two
Common KestrelFalco tinnunculus – one
Amur FalconFalco amurensis – 12+ (excellent views of several 1st c-y birds)
Merlin Falco columbarius – two (adult male; unaged female)
Eurasian HobbyFalco subbuteo – one
Short-toed EagleCircaetus gallicus – two
Eastern Marsh HarrierCircus spilonotus – one 1st c-y (an unusually dark individual, with hardly any pale on crown, no noticeable pale rump, effectively no pale on forewing & an at most very faint breast band)
Hen HarrierCircus cyaneus – four 1st c-y
Eurasian SparrowhawkAccipiter nisus – eight
Northern GoshawkAccipiter gentilis – two
Common BuzzardButeo buteo japonicus – 7+
Steppe EagleAquila nipalensis – 1-2 (a 1st c-y circling & gliding 10h42 as we were leaving Machang & probably another – in identical plumage, as far as we could tell – over YYH reserve at 12h20…)
Common MoorhenGallinula chloropus – two
Common CootFulica atra – 16
Northern LapwingVanellus vanellus – 70
Pacific Golden PloverPluvialis fulva – eight 1st c-y
Common SnipeGallinago gallinago – one
Common Black-headed GullLarus ridibundus – 15+
Oriental Turtle DoveStreptopelia orientalis – three
Eurasian Collared DoveStreptopelia decaocto – four
Great Spotted WoodpeckerDendrocopos major – five
Chinese Grey ShrikeLanius sphenocercus – four (mostly showing very well…)
Azure-winged MagpieCyanopica cyanus – two
Common MagpiePica pica – 60+ (not counting birds en route!)
Daurian JackdawCorvus dauuricus – c390 (main event a flock of c325)
Rook Corvus frugilegus – one (up close, feeding in a field)
Eastern Great TitParus minor – three
Yellow-bellied TitParus venustulus – nine
Marsh TitParus palustris
Chinese Penduline TitRemiz (pendulinus) consobrinus – five (incl a juvenile sitting up nicely)
On Saturday 24 August I visited Yeyahu NR with visiting Professor Steven Marsh. I collected Steve from his hotel at 0530 on a beautiful clear, sunny morning and, after a pretty clear run over the mountains past Badaling, we were at the entrance to the reserve by 0645. A juvenile TIGER SHRIKE (Lanius tigrinus, 虎纹伯劳) was a nice surprise along the entrance track, the first time I have seen this species in the capital. Other highlights included a BLUNT-WINGED WARBLER (Acrocephalus concinens, 钝翅 (稻田) 苇莺), 2 SCHRENCK’S BITTERNS (Ixobrychus eurhythmus, 紫背苇鳽), an adult RELICT GULL (Ichthyaetus relictus, 遗鸥) and a juvenile PIEDHARRIER (Circus melanoleucos, 鹊鹞). Unfortunately there was no sign of any STREAKED REED WARBLERS (Acrocephalus sorghophilus, 细纹苇莺), the autumn passage of which peaked between 22 August and 7 September in the 1920s, according to La Touche. I shall keep looking!
Full species list below.
Common Pheasant – 1
Mandarin – 3
Mallard – 1
Chinese Spot-billed Duck – 3
Little Grebe – 7
Great Crested Grebe – 8
Yellow Bittern – 3 (2 adults and one juvenile)
SCHRENCK’S BITTERN – 2 (a pair) – seen in the same place as the male seen in early June – possibly a breeding pair?
Night Heron – 4
Chinese Pond Heron – 12
Grey Heron – 2
Purple Heron – 6
Little Egret – 2
Great Cormorant – 1
Amur Falcon – 5
Hobby – 2
Peregrine – 1 juvenile
Black-eared Kite – 1 juvenile
Eastern Marsh Harrier – 3 (one adult male, two juveniles)
Pied Harrier – 1 juvenile
Eurasian Sparrowhawk – 1
Moorhen – 5
Coot – 9
Swinhoe’s/Pin-tailed Snipe – 2
RELICT GULL – 1 moulting adult. My first autumn sighting in Beijing.
Gull sp – 1 juvenile/first winter not seen well enough to id
White-winged Tern – 4 juveniles
Oriental Turtle Dove – 1
Spotted Dove – 5
Common Cuckoo – 1 juvenile
Common Kingfisher – 1
Hoopoe – 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker – 3
TIGER SHRIKE – 1 juvenile. My first in Beijing.
Brown Shrike – 12
Black Drongo – 62
Azure-winged Magpie – one seen from car on return journey
Common Magpie – 12
Eastern Great (Japanese) Tit – 7
Marsh Tit – 4
Chinese Penduline Tit – 9, including at least 3 juveniles
Barn Swallow – c80
Red-rumped Swallow – c20
Zitting Cisticola – 11
Chinese Bulbul – 9
Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler – 1
Thick-billed Warbler – 3
Black-browed Reed Warbler – 15
BLUNT-WINGED WARBLER – 1, possibly 2.
Yellow-browed Warbler – 2
Arctic Warbler – 4
Vinous-throated Parrotbill – c35
Siberian Stonechat – 4
Taiga Flycatcher – 2
Tree Sparrow – lots
Yellow Wagtail – 4
White Wagtail – 2
This morning I received an email from An Yi, a Denmark-based birder who has been in Beijing visiting family. Yi visited Yeyahu NR on Wednesday 27 March and was lucky enough to see some cranes… but not just any cranes.. she saw 2 SIBERIAN CRANES together with some WHITE-NAPED CRANES. On top of that, she secured some fantastic images…. With her kind permission, I am reproducing them below. As far as I know, this is only the 2nd record of SIBERIAN CRANE at Yeyahu NR and the 4th in Beijing (following one at Yeyahu NR in March 2008, between 1 and 8 at Miyun in March/April 2012 and one at Miyun in March 2013). Congratulations to Yi and many thanks for allowing me to reproduce the images here. A fantastic record.