Sunday, October 26, 2008
The only other 'migrant' was a single Common Treecreeper along honeypot lane between the Mill and the Retreat. Probably a local bird, but they are less than annual in the village.
Out at sea, no Little Auks, but a few Northern Gannets making their way north, and a stream of Common Gulls going south. Last week's GN Diver has scarpered. Nothing really happening at all, though by 11 am there was a constant trickle of Eurasian Skylarks heading south. They know what's coming.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Hi everyone. It's me. At least, I think it's me. Maybe if I hang around here for a month I might be retrospectively identified from photos. I'm moulting my underwing coverts. It's OK, you can still tick me.
So, I'm another species that was moving through Beijing when Martin was there that was vagrant in the UK at the same time.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Thursday 16th October
The day I was heading off from my holiday among the Yorkshiremen... y'know, they're like Geordies but without the brains. Martin was off work and went round Newtonhill, which was hoaching with newly arrived Goldcrests (30+) and also Coal Tits (many), both of which are signs that it's time to start looking for Pallas's Leaf Warblers. The promise of goldcrest-peeping bushes wasn't backed up with hoards of other migrants, though a Common Chiffchaff at the top of the track from St Annes counts.
Friday 17th October.
Saw the first sizable push of Redwings heading inland at dawn. And a fresh horde of Goldcrests.
The theme was continued on...
Saturday 18th October
when I was surprised to find, while I was breakfasting on dragonflies in Martin's kitchen - a tired and greasy room that need the McKinney touch, that Martin had gone out for a run. I hope he catches a cold. When Martin got back he was trying to explain breathlessly to me what he had seen in the early morning chill. And as they took him away in the ambulance he finally explained - he'd heard a small flock of Long-tailed Tits in the bushes by the A90 (less than annual in Newtonhill), and also a couple of Redpoll sp in willows at Cran Hill.
Later, Martin had a total field* day, photographing things even I wouldn't eat. I was going to say a field mouse day with my witty communist-bloc humour, until Martin pointed out they were wood mice. He wood!! Heh heh heh. Sometimes I crack myself up. Ooops, I laughed so hard I just moulted a bit.
Sunday 19th October
was my last day as Martin's guest, and frankly I'm glad. Those kids of his... I'd rather die in mysterious circumstances in Dumfries and Galloway and then be forgotten about and left in the loft. That's what happened to my great grandfather. At least, I think so. I was doing one of those 'trace my family' tv programmes, hence the trip to Yorkshire, and also I mistook Tophill for Thornhill, where grandpa died. That's why I hung around so long, waiting for Google Maps to open. I thought I wasn't going to be able to fly today though - one of those days that never quite gets light, and Martin was wandering around in the gloom and the wind with very little prospect of seeing anything. Still plenty of Goldcrests and Coal Tits everywhere, White-throated Dipper on the burn and Peregrine Falcon (I'm a bit scared of those) over Cran Hill. Offshore, Martin saw an adult and a juvvy Red-throated Diver just off the breakers, and a herring-gull-dwarfing adult Great Northern Diver (Common Loon) with them. Another sp that is less than annual here, apparently a cause of some satisfaction to Martin, the saddo.
As he was looking at that, a Merlin flew south, harrassed briefly by a Common Gull. Not scared of either of them. It all added to the wintery feel. Also offshore, a Great Skua, but little else. A tour of the village garden while I was waiting for my taxi to the airport produced the obligatory Common Chiffchaff for Martin, which surprised him by bursting into a few seconds of song!! I have that effect on all the girls!! Ha hah hahhh!!! Then Martin suggested it was probably a boy. How I hate him.
Even the allotments had nothing but Goldcrests, Dunnocks, Common Chaffinches and European Robins. Look at the place...
Sunday, October 12, 2008
It seemed like a perfect, not too cold, October morning with a hint of southerly breeze - ideal for hoovering up all those Yellow-browed Warblers that would be flycatching in the sunshine, or so I thought. Was frankly, though, a bit wintery to start with, with several hundred Pink-footed Geese heading south, and apart from the usual peeping of tit flocks, chatting European Robins and the usual residents, not a lot happening. Until I checked the path running up to the swingpark (where the Wood Warbler was last month) when I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler calling from the sycamores at the top. Ran up the slope, turning Remembird on, and saw the bird pretty well and got a few recordings - some snippets below - try and ignore the persistent rumble of the A90.
You can listen to it here and here
The first file
Note the high pitched squeaks and them the 'classic' tseooiiiu' calls. But also the variation in the calls (second file) - easy to see on the sonogram, not so easy to hear.
Compare to this bird that I recorded at Yeyahu Lake outside Beijing on 26 Sep 08
Which you can listen to here
the Y-bW headed down the slope, and so did I. It came closer when I gave it some blasts of YbW from my phone, and I saw it pretty much the best I ever saw one, down at bracken level.
Other things going on this morning... apart from generally busy tit flocks including several Coal Tits, always a sign that birds are on the move, a couple of small flocks of Mistle Thrushes heading south, a constant trickle of Meadow Pipits and Eurasian Skylarks, and also a surprising number, 20+, of Barn Swallows lingering.
At the Allotments, which really looked like it should be overrun with Red-breasted Flycatchers and Dusky Warblers, there was a single Common Chiffchaff. I reallycould not see any green or yellow in the supercilium or upperparts of this bird, and actually it looked quite Siberian, but the call was unequivocally Common.
At the Secret Garden* a Eurasian Siskin, and 2 redpoll spp flew over, calling.
*'Secret Garden' is the wrong term... it's not very secret, being right next to the path and visible through large iron gates. However although it is outside the village, walled, apparently attached to no house, and you never see anyone in there, it is always immaculately cut and groomed. Spooky. From now on I will call it the 'Enchanted Garden.' Also, there are pixies living there - that's always a bit of a giveaway.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Birds what I saw in
The list sequence follows MacKinnon and Phillips, which was based on Sibley and Monroe (oooh, bad choice!). Species level taxonomy follows my personal whim.
Daurian Partridge Perdix dauurica
A couple of coveys of 3-4 birds at Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Golden Pheasant Chrysolophus pictus
Two males at the Chengdu Panda Research Base may have been plastic.
Green Peafowl Pavo muticus
Wandering birds at the Chengdu Panda Research Base will almost certainly have been plastic.
Bewick’s Swan Cygnus columbianus bewickii
Several birds at Yeyahu Wetland reserve.
Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
Four birds in flight at Yeyahu Wetland reserve.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Flocks at Yeyahu Wetland reserve and Sahe Reservoir
Falcated Duck Anas falcata
One at Yeyahu Wetland reserve.
Rufous-bellied Woodpecker Dendrocopus hyperythrus.
One juvvy for several days in the park opposite Beijing Grand Continental Hotel.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major.
At least one for several days in the park opposite Beijing Grand Continental Hotel.
Common Hoopoe Upupa epops
One in trees at Sahe reservoir.
Feral Pigeon Columba livia
Occasional birds on rooftops in
Speckled Wood Pigeon Columba hodgsonii
Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis
Not that common, but a few birds around Sahe Reservoir and suburban
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Not uncommon in and around the outskirts of
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Individuals at Yeyahu, Sahe and
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
One bird at Sahe Reservoir.
Oriental Honey-buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus
Two birds soaring over Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Black-eared Kite Milvus migrans lineatus
2-3 birds over Yeyahu Wetland Reserve
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus
One ringtail hunting Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos
One cracking male hunting over Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
One bird over the outskirts of
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
At least three birds, all of which I think were this species, over Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Greater Spotted Eagle
One bird over Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
Bit of a surprise was an adult male over Yeyahu Wetland Reserve
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
One over the Grand Hotel,
Amur Falcon Falco amurensis
4 birds hunting at dusk at Sahe Reservoir.
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo
One bird flew through Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
One bird at Yeyahu, up to 250 at Sahe Res, and another singleton at the
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
One bird at Sahe Res.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Maybe 5 birds at Sahe Res.
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
One adult in flight at Sahe Res.
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
One bird in the park opposite the Grand Continental Hotel,
Chinese Grey Shrike Lanius sphenocercus
A cracking monster of a bird at Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus
Black-billed Magpie Pica pica
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchus
Small groups at the
Siberian Rubythroat Luscinia calliope
A cracking male in the park opposite the Grand Continental Hotel,
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola rubicula maurus/stejnegeri
Potential family groups in the park opposite the Grand Continental Hotel,
White-cheeked Starling Sturnus cineraceus
One group of around 20 birds at the
Great Tit Parus major
In scrub alongside the Great Wall, and also Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
In scrub alongside the Great Wall.
Black-throated Tit Aegithalos concinnus
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
One bird (?sp.) at Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Flocks not uncommon over
Red-whiskered Bulbul Pyconotus jocusus
One bird in Chengdu Panda Research Base.
Light-vented Bulbul Pyconotus sinensis
Very common in
Asian Stubtail Urosphena squamiceps
One bird in reedy edges and trees at
Black-browed Reed Warbler Acrocephalus bistrigiceps
One bird in the park opposite Beijing Grand Continental Hotel, and another apparently recently fledged juvvy in reeds at the
Pallas’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus progregulus
Two migrants in the park opposite Beijing Grand Continental Hotel.
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus
These were very common, and in most places when it appeared there were no birds about, eventually a Y=b W call would ring out from the treetops. In the park opposite Beijing Grand Continental Hotel every day, Ming Tombs, several birds at Yeyahu, Sahe – reliable.
Two-barred Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus trochiloides plumbeitarsus.
One bird in the park opposite Beijing Grand Continental Hotel.
Radde’s Warbler Phylloscopus schwarzi
Very common in suitable ground-based habitat, and often quite vocal. In the park opposite Beijing Grand Continental Hotel, and also several at the
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Several flying south over Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonicus
One with a flock of Black-throated Tits ina park in
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
What can I say. Absolutely everywhere throughout
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
One alboides at Chengdu Panda Research Base, and a flock of 4-5 ocularis at Sahe Reservoirs.
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus
One flew over calling at Yeyahu Wetland Reserve.
Yellow-billed Grosbeak Eophona migratoria
A small party at Longevity Hill in the
Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla
Very common at Yeyahu Wetland Reserve. Not seen elsewhere.
22nd September 2008.
Found myself in
A couple of hours at the superb panda Research Base, just to the north, would have repaid ignoring the pandas and going for bush-bashing, but casually I also got a single Red-whiskered Bulbul and a Speckled Pigeon. I’m assuming the Green Peafowl wandering about were ornamental, but I’m not sure about the 2 Golden Pheasants I flushed from a bamboo stand. The best real bird, by far was a cracking alboides White Wagtail. First drew attention to itself by giving a call that was loud and shrill – immediately different from familiar alba and yarrellii birds – then showing itself to be a personata-lookalike, though with a black back and shiny, extensively white wing coverts.
23rd September 2008.
By happy chance, there was once again another park just opposite my hotel next to the Olympic Stadium. Only this time the road was crossable without risking near-certain death. The park had a security guard and a sign saying ‘Residents – permits only’ or similar, but I assumed an air of self-confidence and walked right in. Immediately it was obvious that although
Makes you wonder about the decline of House Sparrows in British cities, and how everything we think we know about them must be wrong, Basically, if flocks of 200+ Tree Sparrows can thrive in central
24th September 2008.
I have to echo something that Keith Martin alluded to in his trip report. If you only have a couple of days in Beijing, and you waste them birding, you are a petit-bourgeouis intellectual who can and should be put to work cleaning out the public toilets in a hostel of leprous tramps for a couple of years, before you are shot. There is absolutely no excuse for it. There is so much to see here, and today was my day for
A word on Field Guides. The AC Black one is not published yet, so I was using MacKinnon and Phillips ‘A Field Guide to the Birds of China’ (OUP). Before I set off, I looked at the pictures of birds where I already knew what they looked like, and wasn’t too impressed. In fact I got the impression I’d have trouble identifying my granny using that book. In the end though, it was OK. At least, I managed to identify everything I saw well. Some of those warblers could have been trouble though, if I’d spent longer in the south.
So I spent today in
25th September 2008.
If the urban centre of
26th September 2008.
Today was my full day’s birding. Via the magic of the internet I found a company Beijing Xinhua Tours who for $120 would give you a car and a driver for the day and visit a couple of birding spots outside Beijing for the whole day. I decided to give it a go. At 6 am my guide turned up at the hotel as promised – ‘
Actually I got the impression that we were a bit early in the Fall for a wildfowl spectacular, but there was still, in the end, plenty to be looking at. There was a single Falcated Duck, and there may have been Spot-billed Ducks out there, but they were just too far away. We took a walk round the Lake, me showing
While this was happening, there was a bit of a raptor-fest going on, or at least there were a few about. Several Black-eared Kites, Oriental Honey-buzzards, some apparently japonicus Common Buzzards (on size they were not
After a visit to the
I think the specimens died of shame
Sahe Reservoirs looked good, but from the causeway the flocks of wildfowl were a bit distant – need a scope. What was within binocular distance were groups of Little Grebes, over 250 of them in total. Also a bit distant, but in the trees and on the shoreline were 5 egrets. On range, I was expecting these to be Great Egrets, but au contraire they were Little Egrets – no doubt, with the black bill, black legs and yellow feet, as well as looking small. According to MacKinnon and Phillips, these are vagrant to
Beijing Xinhua Tours then let themselves down a bit by taking me to a silk factory and outlet store where I got the opportunity to purchase duvets and ties. Not really my thing.
27th September 2008
Back at my
28th September 2008
My casual birding list was doing OK, but I was tempted by Keith Martin’s promise of Blue Magpies and Vinous-throated Parrotbills at the
... but from a birding perspective you can see the problem.
29th September 2008.
Last look round my park before heading home – nothing new. Black-browed Reedies, Yellow-browed and Radde’s Warblers. I tried to stuff a few in my bag to bring home, but it was already writhing with baby Pandas and there wasn’t room.
Overall I got the impression that