Beijing - May/June 2011
nine days in TIBET click on Tibet!
June 2 to 10 - 2011
On top of it all: yours truly at new heights (5010m [16,437'] Mila Pass),
narrowly breaking my previous personal record at Mt Kenya/Pt. Lenana
(4985m [16,355']) in 1991 (photo: Xiao Ming).
Back in Beijing: June 11, 2011
The birds nest
last life bird of the trip: Crested Myna 八哥
Rick, Jian and I spend quite some time at this interesting place, a nice mixture of museum, theme park and garden/park. The park/museum is fairly large, many parts are of fairly recent origin. Besides having lots and lots of reconstructed, traditional houses and agricultural fields, the whole park has good tree cover, many of them old, and is therefore potentially good for urban wildlife (birds!). We saw many magpies (both species), Great Spotted Woodpecker and Common Kingfisher at the ponds. The Crested Mynas (shown above were associated with buildings at the Northeast corner of the park.
In Tibet again ...
You have not been in Beijing without having eaten a real Peking Duck!
One duck A flock of 23 ducks (at least the tongues of them)
June 1, 2011
Farewell to my urban wilderness - or Beijing at it's best: Azure-winged Magpie and Gingko
I assume this is a Brown Shrike but the head and bill looked large/strong to me: could that be a
Bull-headed Shrike?? I guess not.
One of a kind? My Urban Wilderness (and spiritual heaven?)
A few minutes before 8: the Carrefor supermarket will open soon and good sales are to have
May 31, 2011
By really crowded Subway to old Summer Palace (hint: breath in when people move into the train - otherwise you will not be able to inhale later on). Visiting the ruined places that have good forest cover (for birding) and more or less spontaneous vegetation (many potential sampling site here). Today the weather was very different: clear and windy. Bad for birding but comfortable after a week of humidity and relative heat. One bad thing (actually the worst I can think of): I left the memory card in the computer and had only space for seven pictures on the build-inn\ memory, I did not take any!!
Birding was very slow (the wind?): Only new species for the place and the trip was a Pallas's Leaf Warbler (first since (Helgoland October 2010). Back to the hotel and with Ming Zhu (Rutgers New Brunswick/CAS), Yangjian & Rick to a Japanese restaurant (too much food and drinks as documented below:
Evening crowd: Ming Zhu, Rick, Yangjian
Digging in: Miso soup
Ginko seeds Octopus
Distinctively non-exotic, carbon-based, liquid food
May 30, 2011
Nature breaks through (always)
Breakfast with Yangjian in the cafeteria
Dumplings, egg ( ate that), pita bread with vegetables and kind of spam™, fry bread , soy milk soup.
Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan Park) and CAS Botanical Garden
Yangjian put me in a taxi to go to the CAS Botanical Garden, a bit outside of the Megalopolis in the NW to meet a friend of his. After a while in traffic jam I got there and Ye Xuehua showed me around in the garden (which is smaller and adjacent to the Beijing City Botanical Garden). The garden is neat and nice and most notably has a dense growth of Metaseqouia. Later I was led to the gate of the Xiangshan Park (the famous Fragrant Hills). On my own I worked my way up on the southern slope and eventually made it to the peak (500m). Great place and once leaving the main trail (there are many transversal dirt trail that connect the main paved ways up. Good to be on a dirt trail again, good to touch real earth. Nature-wise I had a blast with 11 life birds and lots of nice plants. Photos will tell it (as usual).
Deciduous forest mid-slope: the peak temple/restaurant is in the background
Quite a shock, after a week in the really Big City I could suddenly see blue sky and actually could make out the city in the background.
This ought to be China (not the Smokey Mountains)
Tao worship: not far from here a honest man saved me from a dishonest cafeteria seller who tried to charge me 60 Yuan for a Coke (needed after a hard climb in 90ºF heat). It should have been 6 (90 US cents). Thanks!
Cotinus coggyria Spirea cf japonica
Melica spec. Duchesnea indica
Eastern Great Tit (fortunately now split from the Northern Great Tit (the one common in Europe)
Oriental Greenfinch Plain Laughingthrush: I prefer the old
金翅雀 name: Père David Laughingthrush ...
....as it commemorates Père Armand David, a 19th century French missionary and foremost naturalist who traveled extensively in China during the 1860's and brought a tremendous amount of species of animals and plants to the attention of occidental scientists (most famously the Giant Panda and the Père David Deer, but also the Laughingthrush shown above and the rock squirrel below).
Pere David blending in
Red-billed Blue Magpie ( a lousy photo that does
not do justice to this magnificent bird)
Need to be shown: European Tree Sparrow (the most common bird in Beijing) Spotted Dove
Yes, there are mammals (except a few Homo sapiens) in Beijing!
Père David Rock Squirrel Eurasian Red Squirrel
Back by taxi and welcome dinner for Rick.
Dinner with everybody
Rick Lathrop, Yangjina Zang, Xiao Ming, Marta, .... ...., and lots of food and beer (pee zhoou) indeed
Frog Duck (head) Fern fiddle necks
May 29, 2011
Morning visit to the Urban Wildland nearby (UW-B1) composing a plant list. There are not too many species and some appeared to be seeded (see photo below). Two new bird species for the local list: Oriental Greenfinch, (two-barred) Greenish Warbler.
A fellow bird enthusiast shows me his friends (Coal Tit and Tristram's Bunting)
A mix of spontaneous and seeded flora
Most of the day was spend doing editorial work at the Institute
May 28, 2011
I had time until 3 pm and decided to spend a hot half day (90ºF) in the Olympic Forest Park. Being Saturday the park was clearly more crowded compared to Monday. Most time I spend along the Delta the lake in the middle the hill and the constructed wetland. Some places were quite good bird-wise but the heat did not help. Best bird was a very likely streaked Reed Warbler (a rare endemic - description later on). In the afternoon I finally met Yangjian (my host) and we had beers and dinner.
Typical urban Beijing landscape
Lousy record shots: Eastern Spot-billed Duck and Chinese Penduline Tit
Constructed wetland: filled to the last Phragmites culm with Oriental Reed Warbler
Seeded wildflower communities near the Chinese Academy of Science: Lotus corniculata,
Melilotus, Medicago, Dianthus
May 27, 2011
Get to find another early morning birding spot. I know all the bird catchers and all the few birds by now.
This morning nothing new, a unidentified leaf warbler (medium size, pale undersides, strong wing bar, strong supercilium, harsh rasping call) could have been good, but it went away to quickly. Birds are way too scared of people.
Brown Shrike: got a bit closer this time.
Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan)
Jian took me (per taxi) to this place which is basically a huge park with may lotus-choked lakes and some ruins. Turns out that this place has quite some wildish sections and areas with old trees (mostly Sophora and Robinia) and is quite good for birds. Noteworthy were also extremely relaxed cats. As usual this place is huge and requires quite some hiking to get around. The bird list below is for Beijing quite long and I got to see and hear 8 lifebirds (best day so far).
Azure-winged Magpie, actually here a bit more numerous than the regular Common Magpie
A cats heaven: nice rock to sleep on, spare cat food in reach, a cool lake nearby
and all the purple loosestrife a cat can ever want.
"Typical" Chinese countryside within the huge city
A European-style maze, it amazes the locals.
Ruins of the old palace, we Europeans did that in 1860
Chinese Pond Heron Purple Heron
Eastern Reed Warbler White-cheeked Starling
Nymphoides peltata Nymphaea
Luch/dinner on way back to the institute. A restaurant specializing in donkey meat. Hot pot with cucumber and choice bits of donkey (lu), hollow rolls with vegetable stir-fry, egg-drop soup, Tsingtao beer.
I made the god decision to walk back from the institute along the Olympic Blv. Turns out that on Friday evenings lots of people hang our there to eat (a huge tent with maybe 50 food stalls), fly kites (some with illumination) and to take in the sights. Along the dragon shaped waterway: lots of planted purple loosestrife, 2 Bk Nightherons, 1 Oriental Reed Warbler singing.
after the Olympic Games 2008
Friday night out on the Olympic Avenue
May 26, 2011
Early morning routine: birding in UWL-B1: much slower today, very few birds (but tai chi this morning included shouting "Hai") and the bird crowd included a cage with Crested Myna and an old guy mist-netting - he caught an Asian Brown Flycatcher) .
Unidentified warbler (Pale-legged Leaf Warbler?) could have been the best ,otherwise a flyby Black Drongo, 3 possible flyby White-cheeked Starling, 1 Red-rumped Swallow, flyover Black-crowned Night Heron, the "normal 3" and a (the?) nice Olive-backed Pipit posing long enough (at a distance):
Spend most of the day at the office (dinner with Jian and Marta at a local student dining hall (how do you say "Mensa" in Chinese?), great food (green pepper with beacon bits, tofu in brown sauce, kung pao chicken - and rice first time I eat rice on this trip!).
Walked the 2-3 km to the hotel via the "water cube".
May 25, 2011
Morning excursion to UWL-B1. Birding was slower initially, more people doing tai chi and clapping their hands (annoyingly). Also several local guys with bird cages, one clearly aimed at catching more (his several-room cage had a trap conception, the other only to let his birds breath and sing (the first had several siskin-like birds and a tit) the singer guy had two beautiful Mongolian Larks. Catching songbirds is supposed to be illegal. Well, better for me than hanging out with drug dealers (in terms of personal safety that is).
one of the the traps
Gaillardia ? Dianthus spec.
Late second breakfast with Xiao Yong
(corn soup, eggs, Chinese churros, sour vegetables, the dumplings came later [with tiny grass shrimp])
Tian'anmen Square, Moa, Forbidden City (Gugong) and BenYehuda (local name Qianmen)
Xiao Yong and his wife Helen took me to the above itinerary. Again photos (and captions) tell all.
That square is huge, as almost everything (I was told a Finish tourist once crossed it alone and without
water, but nobody is sure - he never returned).
I am still a bit shocked from my meeting with the chairman himself
Finally getting there after passing three fortified gates, again: HUGE
typical scene (the lion here is a lioness with a mane problem - the sign is that she is playing with lion cub, the male has to hold a ball - go figure)
99.54 % of the tourist are Chinese, as are Helen and Xiao Yong, my guides
Typical roof edge, I saw this a million times. All is beautifully restored.
Potential concubine-elect ... and bats that bring luck
In the maze of alleys in the inner palace: the typical door threshold has been removed for the last emperor so he can ride his bike unimpeded.
The trendy Fussgäengerzone: Qianmen (Hägendasz on right, Starbucks we just passed)
Great food in a historic restaurant (Emperor endorsed). From top clockwise: deep-fried vegetables, pork strips with tofu pancakes, siu man, bamboo shoots, cabbage in sesame sauce, chicken in spicy sauce, jasmine tea
Signature sui man (these are with shrimp, we also got vegetable filled ones)
Nature notes - Forbidden City
Large-billed Crow, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Eurasian Tree Sparrow,
and these must be White-cheeked Starlings (no, they are NOT as Paul Holt (of Wings fame) points out, these are Red-billed Starlings. This species is not mentioned to occur in Beijing in Mark Brazil's book, but as Paul points out "..:was first seen in Beijing as recently as June 2002. It's bred in Beijing every year since 2004 and, after a few years of being a summer visitor only, is now present all year round". Thanks Paul, you made me a new life bird.
Notable plants: huge Sabina chinensis trees in the gardens (photo below).
May 24, 2011
Woke up too early, still dark outside. After some rummaging around (Chinese TV sleeps mostly at night) I got the intrepid idea to go out without escort. There I was on the streets navigating aided only by my wits. I went to UWL-B1 (=Urban Wildland - Beijing1) and abandoned park/lot about 500 m N of my hotel, an area I could see from my hotel window and that I scouted out on Google Earth. Bingo. Ailanthus and Ulmus parvifolia (Chinese elm), a pine and Juniperus, Populus made up the woody vegetation and some wildflowers are present (Linum, a composite, Dianthus
Birdlist: E. Tree Sparrow, Common Magpie, Barn Swallow, Brown Shrike (lifer), Asian Brown Flycatcher (lifer), Azure-winged Magpie, Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Terrible bird record shots (excuse: birds are quite): Azure-winged Magpies (I knew them from S Spain)
and Asian Brown Flycatcher
Google Earth works! & Linum spec
Back to hotel to meet the gang (Xiao Yong, Jian and now Marta). We had
steamed buns (Bolze) and corn soup. With taxi to the institute, I am set up
in Yangjian's office (Jian is cut of this photo since he requested it so).
The famous Chinese Academy of Sciences
Olympic Forest Park
Went with Marta and Jian in the afternoon to this huge, new garden (that's the one Steven Handel conceptualized but did not design at the end). First of all this place is immense, we spend about 4.5 hours wandering around and not getting everywhere of course. Most of it is in a too early state and trees small but some areas are older (or planted with older trees?) and more grown in. There water features everywhere and the wetlands were pretty impressive with nice native vegetation.
I am exhausted now in the evening so will be brief and let pictures talk.
View from the mountain we climbed (in the smog): Jian Shan
The dimensions: N to S 2.5km.
Less grown-in part of park (northern section)
The swift tower - a huge project for the ubiquitous Eurasian Tree Sparrow (yes, no House Sparrows in this part of China - go figure!
Fake desert dead wood
Way out: the monumental Beijing axis, the Olympic stadium in the background (The Birds Nest)
They've got chipmunks here? (1st mammal for the trip) Chinese Bulbul
Siberian Chipmunk (introduced to this park)
At the CAS Faculty Club (not shown: flat bread, dumpling and trout)
May 23, 2011
We cleared North America at about 6 am (or whatever the time was there at the time) and crossed the surprisingly narrow Bering Strait (see photo).
America ends here (on the right), Asia is to the left not too far off.
Arrived after 13 h of happily dozing, the easiest flight ever. Was Shanghai-ed by Yangjian's two students who whisked me into a taxi brought me to the apartment hotel and insisted of going with them to the huge supermarket (Carrefour.com.cn) downstairs. Huge supermarket indeed, they have everything, a mixture of Walmart and one of those Asian stores along route 2. After a short break alone in the room (not enough for a shower), the gang of two took me to nearby, traditional restaurant: lots of food (non vegetarian) and lukewarm beer (I like the Chinese). Back to hotel to rest for the next little adventures.
Nature log: Common Magpie, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Street Pigeon, Ailanthus altissima
View from the hotel: not only actual smog, but the result of if as deposit on windows.
Doesn't look like China (has even a tiny washing machine).
view in the evening, hardly anybody honks!!
Trees not identified yet (now I know: Sophora japonica - Chinese Scholartree).