Of these local sites “the Reservoir” was probably the most productive in terms of the number of species seen. It is actually a wetland park used for recreation by ‘China’s leaders’ and as a result not always open for visits by mere birders. Amongst the birds seen there were Vinous-throated Parrotbills, Falcated Ducks, Amur Falcons, Eastern Spot-billed Ducks, Taiga Flycatcher, Brown Shrike, Olive-backed Pipits, Black-faced Buntings, Chinese Penduline Tits, Yellow-browed, Radde’s & Dusky Warblers and a selection of herons that included Chinese Pond Heron and Yellow Bittern.
We also had day trips out from Beidaihe to the Jiaoshan Great Wall and to the Qinglong River and an excursion with an overnight stay to Old Peak. All of these were enjoyable and reasonably successful.
We were at the Jiaoshan Great Wall on a particularly windy day which wasn’t at all good for birding but we did manage to find a Plain Laughingthrush, Godlewski’s Bunting and Large-billed Crows that we initially mis-identified as Ravens. It was interesting to see the Great Wall even though much of what we saw was a repaired or re-built section. We were actually very lucky to be there at all as the whole site was officially closed to tourists and we had to have a special permit to enter. This meant that we had the Great Wall to ourselves without having to contend with any other visitors.
Part of the Jiaoshan Great Wall
Our stop at “Stone River” on the way back from the Great Wall to Beidaihe was also badly wind-affected but Grey-tailed Tattlers, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Pacific Golden Plovers were especially pleasing to see for the wader enthusiasts amongst us. A flock of Yellow-bellied Tits were also fun to see at very close range, seemingly oblivious to our presence. Another visit there on a better day would have been nice.
Pacific Golden Plover
Our day trip to the Qinglong River had two main targets: Ibisbill and Long-billed Plover. I must say that I had no great expectations about seeing either of these birds but after some searching we managed to find both species. First we came across a pair of Long-billed Plovers, a comparatively little-known wader of freshwater rivers. Later, in similar habitat, when some of our group seemed ready to give up the search, we found a pair of Ibisbills with young. The Ibisbills were probably the birds of the entire trip for me. It’s a species that is sufficiently distinctive to merit its own family, Ibidorhynchidae. They aren’t rare but their habitat and range do make them somewhat difficult to see; they were high on my list of reasons to sign up for this trip.
Other birds along the Qinglong River included Rosy Pipits, Eastern Yellow Wagtails of the race macronyx, White Wagtails of the race leucopsis, Amur Falcons, Meadow Buntings and White-cheeked Starlings.
We were also successful in finding our main target species at Old Peak where an early morning start brought us a good but rather brief look at a pair of Koklass Pheasants. There was no chance to think about a photograph! These are elusive birds of high altitude forests so we were very lucky to see them as well as we did! Koklass is apparently a word that is onomatopœically derived from the bird's territorial call, although it requires some imagination! Also at Old Peak we saw Pale Thrush, Grey-sided Thrush, Claudia’s Leaf Warbler, Hume’s Leaf Warbler, Chinese Nuthatch, Yellow-throated & Tristram’s Buntings and Daurian Redstarts. The hotel there was a bit funky and surrounded by building work in progress but then, much of China appears to be a building site!
Early morning on Old Peak
Happy Island, our next destination for a four-night stay, was certainly a building site. More on China follows soon…