#409 in the Forbidden City

I was repeatedly warned that there were no birds in Beijing. The city was too polluted, and the Chinese had killed them all 50 years ago anyway. I suspected that was false, and I was right. Friday morning we’d barely started acting like tourists when I spotted my first life bird of the trip: Common Swift (Apus apus) flittering over the Forbidden City:

Common Swift flying over Chinese Building

In fact, I saw several of them, and then dozens. They’re quite loud, very fast, rather large compared to our Chimney Swifts, and completely regardless of people. I’ve continued to see them everywhere since then even at Tian’anmen Square in the rain today. I suspect there are thousands, maybe more, in the city.

I also saw two crows flying over. Crows are tricky. There are multiple species around the world, and they all look like big black birds. They’re mostly distinguished by size and call. I figured these were carrion Crows, but when I got home and checked the field guide I saw that was only one of two possible species round here. The other was a potential life bird: Corvus macrorhynchos, the Thick-billed Crow. There was no easy way to tell which I’d seen, but I decided to keep a closer eye on any crows I saw over the rest o the trip.

After exploring the Forbidden City, I put Beth in a cab to return to the conference, and then went across the street to Jianshan Park. This is a very pretty park, almost completely empty of Westerners. Lots of gorgeous Cypress trees and a few butterflies, ants, and bumblebees. It also had numerous Common Swifts and European Tree Sparrows. Otherwise, though, the fauna was relatively absent.

I left Jianshan Park from the north side and proceeded to get lost in various Hutongs and the Sicha Hai district. I wandered around Hou Hai lake, but it was one of the most devoid of ducks I’ve ever seen. Not even a domestic Mallard or goose, much less anything interesting avian wise. People were another story. The fence and “No Swimming” signs must have been English only, but the locals were certainly ignoring them. Rickshaw drivers accost you every five meters, and as soon as one has given up, another starts trying. At night this is also a major bar district, and beer signs were everywhere. In the hutongs off the East side of the lake I found some of the best food I’ve eaten all trip.

I eventually found my way out, and stumbled into Behai Park without much planning too. More on that soon.

2 Responses to “#409 in the Forbidden City”

  1. Mokka mit Schlag » #410 Mandarin Duck Says:

    […] leaving Sicha Hai on Friday, I stumbled into Behai Park. It looked pleasant so I paid the 10 yuan admission and […]

  2. Liora Says:

    hi, maybe this is not the right place but I am sort of desperate. I found a very young duckling in my apartment compound, with no mother. (there were 3 babies, I later heard from a neighbor, I have no idea where they came from, and two I suppose died from exposure since they were in/near water and out for several nights…there are also cats around). The lil one seems OK in our house, eating and drinking and such but I am anxious to get him to a duck mother (not a population of ducks with clipped wings…a natural duck population). Would you know of one in or around Beijing????? I found your site searching for Beijing duck wildlife reserves. thanks.

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