Re: Birding Beijing

Subject: Re: Birding Beijing
From: "Ray Kelly" <>
Date: Wed, 31 Oct 2001 16:03:56 +0800

Great to get your message.

I must admit, I haven't been to any of the places you mentioned yet. I have only been in Beijing for 5 months and work has kept me a virtual prisoner. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel (hopefully not just an oncoming train), as I will probably take some time over December / January to have a look around. Although it may get to minus 20 in Beijing, there are plenty of spots south of here that should yield some good results.

I too take my binoculars wherever I go and yes, the sparrows and pigeons are everywhere.

I went to the Temple of Heaven here in Beijing last weekend and saw the Black-billed and Azure-winged Magpies. I have also seen a Large Cuckoo-shrike on the outskirts of the city (about 3 months ago).

On the northern side of the city, on the way to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, we crossed a bridge over a wide but shallow river where we saw a Grey Heron. The golf course where I have played twice (also on the north side of the city)provides some good opportunities. So far I have seen another Grey Heron and heard numerous common cuckoos.

With regard to the songbirds that you saw, I can only offer a guess since I did not see them. If you want to send me a fuller description, I will make every attempt to solve the riddle for you. Based on what I have seen in my own neighbourhood, I would suggest that they were a Laughingthrush. The three that come to mind are Hwamei (Garrulax Canorus), Red-tailed Laughingthrush (Garrulax Milnei) or Red-faced Liocichla(Liocichla Phoenicea - my choice). As I said, these are only suggestions based on the birds I have seen in cages in my own neighbourhood. I will attempt to get one of my Chinese friends to find out from an owner what the birds are. When I was at the Temple of Heaven last weekend, there was an old Chinese gentleman there who had one of these birds on his hand. He was letting tourists feed the bird a small amount of seed from their own hands while pictures were taken. It was only when I moved to have a better look, that I realised the bird had a small chain around its leg which was attached to a small stick. I must admit that although this practice may seem barbaric to us, the bird did look healthy and very happy singing and eating.

I went to Hong Kong in May to pick up my Resident's Permit and stayed at The Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay. Imagine my surprise when, on the second morning, I opened the curtains to see a pair of eagles?/sea-eagles? soaring about 250-500 metres from the hotel, out over the bay. The reason for the question marks is that I did not have my binoculars and even after having studied the Field Guide to the Birds of China for what seemed like forever and having many arguments with myself, I am still not convinced of the identity. Having pored over McKinnon and Phillips, I was convinced that it was a Steppe Eagle, based on size, colour, flight, wing features until I read that, according to their guide, all reported Hong Kong sightings of this eagle are "now regarded as doubtful".

Oh well, one of life's mysteries. I plan to go back to HK next May and try again.

I did attempt to contact someone up here who advertised in a weekly magazine under the name of 'Beijing Birder' and who suggested that he was trying to get people together to go on birdwatching outings. Unfortunately, 'no answer was the stern reply.'

Jack, I hope I have been of some help and interest and if you like, I can pick you up a small book called 'Birds of China - including Hong Kong' and send it to you. It would be no trouble. it is a small photographic guide to some of the more common birds of China (about 60 pages) and is co-produced by John McKinnon (of Bird Guide fame) and Nigel Hicks.

All the best

Ray Kelly

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