Birding in Olympic Forest Park, Beijing

After a savvy lunch in Sanlitun, Beijing, we decided to head down to the Olympic Forest Park to do a bit of birding.. 🙂 It was a smoggy day with toxic air peaking at dangerous levels, but that didn’t deter us from our itinerary! >.<

The Olympic Forest Park is a huge, man-made nature park built for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games! We entered the park from the South gate where the subway line is and headed West! There were bikes for rental in the park, but we preferred to walk on foot!

Beijing Olympic forest park map

Beijing Olympic forest park map

We walked along the frozen lake, not expecting any ducks, goose or waders! But I was taken by surprise by a big, white-feathered bird standing in the open!! It stood close to the boardwalk, obviously enjoying the attention from the park goers! @_@” It’s a Bewick’s Swan, a split from the Tundra Swan (小天鹅) and definitely a lifer for me! 😛

Bewick's swan

Bewick’s swan

The swan had more than enough admirers, so we continued our way to the reeds area located on the West end of the park! As we walked along, the pecking and rustling sounds of reeds could be heard loud and clear! A huge flock of Vinous-throated Parrotbills (棕头鸦雀 ) were in that bed of reeds! They were known to be fast and furious birds- hard to photograph, but these cuties decided to hang a little while longer to have their photographs taken! 🙂

Vinous-throated Parrotbill in flocks!

Vinous-throated Parrotbill in flocks!

A pair of Bearded Tits (文须雀) were recently sighted, but there were no signs of the amorous couple! But we were soon entertained by Oriental Greenfiches, and a Black-faced Bunting who loved those reeds too.. Then out of the blue, I heard a hoarse outcry, ” Great Bittern!” How often do you get to see a Great Bittern (大麻鳽) in the open?? Quickly, we grabbed our cameras and snapped away! 😛

Great Bittern in the open!

Great Bittern in the open!

As we walked on, the male Bearded Tit popped out of nowhere and showed up nicely for us before it flew across to the opposite reed bed, and returned shortly after to pick up his partner! 🙂 It was very cool to see the couple frolicked away before they disappeared into the reeds…!! And last but not least, a Siberian ChiffChaff (叽喳柳莺) made a brief appearance! It brought a happy coda to our afternoon birding session!  

Bearded Tits- male and female!

Bearded Tits- male and female!

Male Bearded Tit

Male Bearded Tit

Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch and others 红眉朱雀

After little luck trying to track down Great Bustards, we decided to move on to find the Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch ( 红眉朱雀 ) . When streams were frozen, leaving only a small waterhole, little birds that didn’t mind the cold and windy weather gathered around the area for a quick drink and even bath! It was a very neat idea to just stay in the car and watch birds come by while we devoured our little winter picnic! 😛

Birds that came by included a flock of Yellow-bellied Tits (黄腹山雀 ), Great Tits (大山雀), Marsh Tits (沼泽山雀 ), Siberian Accentor (棕眉山岩鹨 ), Godlewski’s Bunting (戈氏岩鹀 ), and of course the long awaited Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch ( 红眉朱雀 )! What a beautiful name! Nice to see 3 females, but where is the male?!? >.<

Yellow-bellied Tit

Yellow-bellied Tit

 Siberian Accentor

Siberian Accentor

Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch lives up to its name!

Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch lives up to its name!

Birding in Heilongjiang 帽儿山观鸟

Probably a bit loony to go birding on the coldest, iciest time in Heilongjiang, but hey, life’s about adventures, right?? 🙂 🙂

On the Christmas day of 2013, joined by 2 students from Harbin Forestry University, we took an early train to Mao Er Shan! A  pre-arranged taxi was already at the station waiting for us, and soon we were on our way to the Ringing station! It was a beautiful day, and as the car forged towards the famous mountain, we were captivated by the stunning views of the snowy landscape as it undulated before us!

Mao Er Shan, Heilongjiang

Mao Er Shan, Heilongjiang

With window screens rolled up, we couldn’t hear birds sing! But compensated by sharp-eyed birders in the car, I don’t think we missed any bird when driving along! As soon as we entered the road that leads to the ringing station, we saw some very interesting birds- Hazel Sandgrouse on a tree, Ural Owl on a lamp post, some Marsh Tits etc!

When food is hard to find in cold, icy weather, dumpster sites are favorite hangouts for residents! Eurasian nuthatches, Eurasian Jays, Marsh Tits were some of the birds that frequented the area!

Marsh Tit staying close to the dumpster site

Marsh Tit staying close to the dumpster site

Eurasian Nuthatch, a fast and furious bird!

Eurasian Nuthatch, a fast and furious bird!

Long Tailed Rosefnch and Eurasian Jay outside the ringing station!

Long Tailed Rosefnch and Eurasian Jay outside the ringing station!

As we walked along the road, we also had good views Japanese waxwings mixed with a few Bohemian Waxings, Pallas Rosefinches that flew by!

During winter, the ringing station is closed, but as “VIPs” we could still go in and warm ourselves from the cold brutal weather! 🙂 Having filled our hungry tummies with packed lunchbox (sandwiches actually, and we left 1 in the car! @_@), we decided to move on to the next location…Whilst waiting for our taxi (the same one, and our missing sandwich still there!), we saw a red colored little bird! A Long-tailed Rosefinch! “What a beautiful bird!!” we all exclaimed!

Japanese waxings and Marsh tits

Japanese waxings and Marsh tits

By the time we reach the next location, it was already 3pm, and the sun sets at 4!! >.< Luckily, we saw a White-backed Woodpecker busy pecking away! As the day darkens, and we were heading towards the train station, an Eurasian Eagle Owl was spotted standing on a lamp post!! I couldn’t see the bird as I was blocked in the car…but luckily, it flew to another post, and I finally saw it! 🙂 Better than nothing!! 🙂

Other birds seen when driving along included the Rough-legged Buzzard, Meadow Buntings, and Bull-finches! And with no signs of human trekking on deep snow, animal and bird imprints were seen…a marvelous sight indeed! What’s a better way to spend Christmas? hehe!

Eurasian Eagle-Owl and Bullfinch!

Eurasian Eagle-Owl and Bullfinch!

Animal footprints- a Hare?

Animal footprints- a Hare?

Birding in Morocco / Marrakech – Merzouga, Sahara Desert 赏鸟在撒哈拉大沙漠

I could hardly spew any words when the magnificent clutch of sand dunes laid before my eyes as my car hurtled towards it! The view was more than breath-taking but on a second thought, it was very hard to imagine how birds survived in the desert! I was told that it wasn’t easy to find the desert sparrow and desert warbler in the desert, as scrubs were scarce and with the dominating population of house sparrows, these desert birds were pushed further deeper into the desert making them harder to find! :-/

To beat the blazing heat, birding started as early as 0700! Driving on sand dunes was just as challenging as walking on them with gear. For almost an hour or so, I didn’t see anything, not even a desert beetle! It was not until I sauntered towards a stone house about 20 miles away that both the Desert Sparrow and Desert Warbler were sighted!

desert sparrow in Sahara Desert

desert sparrow in Sahara Desert

desert warbler

desert warbler

At Merzouga, another must-see bird is the Egyptian Nightjar. A Berber family actually looked after these nightjars, making sure they were not disturbed. To see them, just offer a tip and they would guide you to the place they roost. 🙂 Other birds to look out for include the Little Owl, Lesser Kestrel and the Spotted Sandgrouse, where the former roosted on an old clay house with Lesser Kestrel taking a break from the blazing heat in the same building, and the Spotted Sandgrouse was found when a flock was sighted off road! 🙂

Egyptian Nightjar

Egyptian Nightjar

Lesser Kestrel

Lesser Kestrel

Little Owl

Little Owl

Spotted Sandgrouse

Spotted Sandgrouse

At the clutter of accommodation in the desert, House Sparrow, Brown Necked Raven and Bee eater were commonly seen roosting near the water tanks!

Other birding places within Merzouga, include the Merzouga lake! Perhaps I have seen flamingos at a much closer distance in West India- Little Rann of Kutch , it was a bit of a dismay to see them so far…

Even at the lake, nomads came out of nowhere and tried to sell souvenirs such as stones. I bought one, not because I find it pretty…but nomads lead a poor, basic life…a souvenir didn’t cost much, but it would support the livelihood of a nomad and his family. 😛

European Bee-Eater, House Sparrow, Brown Necked Raven

European Bee-Eater, House Sparrow, Brown Necked Raven

merzouga desert

merzouga desert

merzouga desert

merzouga desert