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Summer Palace

Beihei Park

The Summer Palace

Beihei Park

Almost four days were spent in the Beijing area, all bar one being within the city itself. The third day was spent on the Great Wall at Jinshanling, which is about two hours drive from our hotel. It offered the chance of some magnificent countryside, scenery, and smog free clean air. All that is said about Beijing in terms of the pollution haze that seems to envelope the city most of the time is indeed true. The roads choked with traffic and the sheer size of the place is indisputable. This also results in most of the city, and certainly the parts which we saw, being generally concrete and road.

Predictably, most of the time here was spent with our guide seeing the immense and imposing cultural sites such as The Summer Palace and Forbidden City, etc – all wonderful spectacles and profusely populated with copious tourists. Within the vicinity of our hotel, and only about 20 minutes walk away, was what appeared to be the hub of leisurely Beijing life, set around the three lakes of Beihei, Houhai, and Qianhai. The usual suspects of Tree Sparrow and Black-billed Magpie were found here (as well as throughout the metropolis). Treats during lunch next to Qianhai Lake were a small group of perched and fishing Black-crowned Night Herons, and a sole male Mandarin Duck swimming by (interesting to see one that wasn’t originally a cage bird – or main course!).

The palaces were easily the best locations to spot Azure-winged Magpies, with marauding bands in both the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, as well as obvious Large-billed Crows around the buildings. In my limited experience of these “lusher” parts of Beijing, this more or less wrapped up the variety that was seen.

Large-billed Crow

Quinhei Lake

Large-billed Crow

Quinhai Lake

NIght Heron

Mandarin

Black-crowned Night Heron

Mandarin Duck

The trip to Jinshanling was a different kettle of fish. The haze from Beijing seemed to last most of the journey, which was a little worrying, since we were hoping for clear skies for the wall itself. With these fears unfounded, we boarded the cable car to elevate us to the wall itself, which was impressive both for the feat of building and the magnificent surroundings. A variety of species were singing tantalisingly from the fairly dense low tree cover which carpeted the whole of the surrounding hills. As in the city, Black-billed Magpies were the most obvious resident, and it was perturbing to hear the familiar call of the Common Pheasant in its natural surroundings. While walking the wall, some of the vocalisations revealed small numbers of Daurian Redstarts, and a separate brace of Godlewski’s Buntings. The washed out subspecies of grey Great Tits were almost ubiquitous, although one or two birds a little lower down towards the cable car entrance showed the yellow and green wash of the more northerly race. One treasure seen from the wall, and repeated on the cable car descent, was Red-billed Blue Magpie. Perhaps even more of a surprise was a Chinese Nuthatch perched at the top of one of the conifers at eye level from our carriage as we neared the station below. Among the copious Tree Sparrows around the restaurant in the village was a single Grey-capped Greenfinch, which added to the small groups seen from the wall. Final bird was a single singing Meadow Bunting next to the car park.
 

Great Wall

Godlewski's Bunting

Great Wall, Jinshanling

Godlewski's Bunting

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