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Beijing, Beidaihe and Happy Island

8–23 May 2024

Enjoy spring at one of the world’s great migration hotspots. Many species are difficult to see on their remote breeding grounds but Siberian Blue Robin and Siberian Rubythroat are more easily seen on migration, together with numerous thrushes, warblers and buntings. Globally-threatened species include Chinese Egret, Asiatic Dowitcher, Little Curlew and Saunders’s Gulls. This tour also includes visits to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.

Day 1 Overnight flight from London to Beijing.

Day 2 After transferring to our hotel to freshen up we will visit Tiananmen Square and the spectacular Forbidden City with their resident Azure-winged Magpies before taking lunch. In the afternoon we will visit a park to look for resident birds and migrants, which may include Spotted Dove, Grey-capped Pygmy, Grey-headed and Rufous-bellied Woodpeckers, White-cheeked Starling, Olive-backed Pipit, Oriental Greenfinch, Black-faced and Little Buntings and Chinese Grosbeak. Two nights in Beijing.

Day 3 Early in the morning we will head northeast for about two hours to a huge reservoir, taking packed lunches with us. We will stop at several locations around the reservoir where we will view the open water, mudflats, reed beds and adjacent farmland. Large numbers of birds migrate through the area and some of the species are more reliable here than at the coast. We will have a good chance of finding such sought-after species as Oriental Pratincole, Little Curlew, Long-toed Stint, Hill Pigeon, Beijing Babbler and Pallas’s Reed Bunting.

Day 4 The five-hour journey by coach to Beidaihe will require an early start. Beidaihe is 282 kilometres east of Beijing on the Gulf of Bohai at the northern end of the Yellow Sea and is a popular seaside resort for both the Chinese and the Russians. Over 400 species have been recorded in the varied habitats of the Beidaihe area. After lunch we will make our way up to one of two nearby hotel grounds, sites we will visit several times during our stay and where we will probably see our first beautiful Red-billed Blue Magpies. Depending on the fall conditions, we may find stunning Siberian Blue Robins amongst Bluethroats, Red-flanked Bluetails, Asian Brown, Yellow-rumped, Mugimaki and Taiga Flycatchers, Eastern Crowned Warbler and Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, Black-naped Orioles and Yellow-browed Buntings. The grounds are also excellent for thrushes with Chinese, Eye-browed, Grey-backed, Siberian and White’s Thrushes all occurring regularly. Sometimes Grey Nightjars, Oriental Scops Owls or Northern Boobooks can be found at roost. Many scarce and rare birds have been found here by us over the years including Lesser Coucal, Red-throated Thrush, Red-billed Starling, Collared Finchbill and Japanese Waxwing. Four nights in Beidaihe.

Days 5–7 Over the course of these three full days we will visit a number of sites around Beidaihe, some on several occasions, plus other sites further afield. Most days we will take a pre-breakfast bird walk and also return to the hotel for lunch. The sites may include:

Lighthouse Point This is a good early-morning site where the tall tree cover stands out as a welcoming beacon to tired, hungry migrants coming in off the sea as well as a seawatching point where migrating ducks, waders, gulls and terns may be seen. Migrant land birds still arriving in daylight are sometimes forced down into the sea and picked from the surface by marauding Eurasian Hobbies. Species we may find here include Japanese Quail, Siberian Rubythroat, Chestnut-flanked and Swinhoe's White-eyes and Arctic, Dusky, Radde’s, Two-barred and Yellow-browed Warblers, whilst rarities have included Baikal Bush Warbler.

Jinshan Field This is a historical site close to our hotel that has restricted access but we will arrange permits for us to gain entry. In the long grass and small bushes buntings and chats can be plentiful whilst the open landscape gives us a great chance to see migrants flying over. Amur Stonechats and Chestnut-eared Buntings are regular here.

Sandflats Situated east of Beidaihe, this is an excellent area for herons, egrets, waders, terns and gulls, and we may find Chinese Egret, Lesser Sand Plover, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Black-tailed Gull and a variety of Citrine, Eastern Yellow and White Wagtails, whilst the belts of trees along the adjacent boardwalk can be full of migrants.

Reservoir Close to the sandflats, this area is another restricted access site for which we will arrange permits to enter. With its woodland paths, pools and marshes, it provides cover and food for both tired migrants and breeding birds. Schrenk's and Yellow Bitterns, Eastern Spot-billed, Falcated and Mandarin Ducks, Amur Falcon, Baillon's Crake, Whiskered Tern, Oriental Cuckoo, Chinese Penduline Tit, Oriental Reed Warbler and Lanceolated Warbler are just some of the birds that may be seen here and past rarities have included Cotton Pygmy Goose, White-breasted Waterhen, Collared Crow and Amur Paradise Flycatcher.

Yang He Estuary A few kilometres south of Beidaihe, this area of pools and woods is another good spot for migrants whilst the estuary itself can hold waders, terns and gulls.

Great Wall at Jiaoshan Mountain About an hour north of Beidaihe, west of Quinhuangdao, the famous Great Wall of China comes down from the mountains. Here we will have a chance to walk on the Great Wall and for those with enough energy, climb up the steep steps to a watch tower for spectacular views. If conditions are right, we may see some visible migration and we shall also look for some local birds including Grey-faced Buzzard, Crested Honey Buzzard, Pere David's Laughingthrush and Godlewski’s and Meadow Buntings. If time allows, it may be possible to visit the Great Wall at Shanghaiguan where the wall meets the sea – known as the 'Lion's Head' – or visit the next site after taking lunch at a local restaurant.

Stone River North of Quinhuangdao, this site has a huge variety of habitats from river estuary to sand pits with reed beds and pine woods making it an absolute magnet for tired migrants. The numbers of birds here on ‘fall’ days can be almost overwhelming with literally thousands of warblers, thrushes and flycatchers. Both Black and Hair-crested Drongos are regular here and this is also another excellent wader site with Pacific Golden Plover and Grey-headed Lapwing being regular and Brown-cheeked Rail, Yellow-legged Buttonquail and Swinhoe’s Snipe all being seen well in the past. Anything and everything can and does turn up here.

Day 8 Today we will head south to Jin Tang for a three-night stay, stopping at various sites en route. Da Pu He is an area of mature trees, open grassland and marshy pools that can attract a good variety of birds whilst Chi Li Hi is a large tidal lagoon that can give good views of waders, including the Sakhalin race of Dunlin, plus Terek Sandpiper, and gulls if the tide is right.

Days 9–10 On both days we will either make the short 20-minute boat trip across the shallow estuary to the famous Happy Island or, if the man-made causeway hasn’t been removed, drive across in our bus. The island is a magnet to tired migrants like Dark-sided and Grey-streaked Flycatchers that have just crossed the Gulf of Bohai. If conditions are right for a fall, the number of downed migrants can be truly spectacular and uncommon migrants have included Ashy and Long-tailed Minivets, Blue-and-white Flycatcher and Grey-crowned Warbler. Both Eastern Marsh and Pied Harriers can be watched hunting over the marshes and grassland, and, by quietly walking the board-walks in Temple Wood, we can get excellent views of many of the migrants. We shall also search the surrounding mudflats for Relict and Saunders's Gulls and may find some superb waders, possibly including Great Knot, Grey-tailed Tattler, Far Eastern Curlew and Asian Dowitcher, whilst the nearby failed attempt at a golf driving-range attracts both Blyth’s and Richard’s Pipits. We should also always keep our eyes open overhead as White-throated Needletails can sometimes be seen streaking across the sky, often in the company of the much commoner Pacific Swifts. Additionally, back on the mainland, we will visit both ‘Big’ and 'Magic' woods, oases of trees and bushes in an otherwise flat and featureless expanse of fishponds and paddies in this increasingly industrialised landscape. Again, these woods are a magnet for tired migrants seeking food and shelter before continuing their northward journey. Anything can turn up here with Oriental Dollarbird, Forest Wagtail, Rufous-tailed Robin, White-throated Rock Thrush, Daurian Starling, Black-winged Cuckooshrike, Brown and Tiger Shrikes, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Lanceolated and Thick-billed Warblers, Black-browed Reed Warbler, Chestnut, Tristram’s, Yellow-breasted and Yellow-browed Buntings and Japanese Grosbeak all possible.

Day 11 After checking ‘Big’ or 'Magic’ Wood again, we will head back to Beidaihe, birding en route. The day will be entirely flexible depending on migration conditions and birds present and we may arrive back in Beidaihe in time to return to some of our favourite sites later in the day. Three nights in Beidaihe.

Days 12–13 We will revisit some of our previously-visited sites based on our local knowledge and the up-to-date news. Some species are later migrants so we will have a better chance of seeing them during our second stay in Beidaihe.

Day 14 Today we will drive north for two hours to a relatively undisturbed mountain river where Ibisbill, Long-billed Plover and Crested Kingfisher all breed. Continuing on up into the mountains, we will arrive at ‘Old Peak’, a mountain forest reserve rising to over 1200 metres, where we stay overnight. Here we will look for some of China's more elusive and rarer breeding species. Koklass Pheasant, White-bellied Redstart and Asian Stubtail are shy and difficult to see; much easier to find are Large Hawk-cuckoo, Common, Indian and Oriental Cuckoos (identifiable on call), Claudia's and Chinese Leaf Warblers, Blunt-winged, Hume’s and Yellow-streaked Warblers, Manchurian Bush Warbler, Green-backed Flycatcher, Grey-sided and Pale Thrushes, Snowy-browed Nuthatch, Silver-throated and Yellow-bellied Tits and Bull-headed Shrike. Here, too, we will have distant views of the Great Wall as it snakes its way across the hills – a classic photo opportunity.

Day 15 We will spend the whole morning at ‘Old Peak’ and, after an early lunch, will start the long journey back to Beijing where we will spend the last night.

Day 16 Early in in the morning we will return to the airport to catch our flight home, arriving in London the same day.

General Information The weather in China can be quite variable at this time of year with some rain likely. The pace of the tour is easy but some long days will be spent in the field. There are a number of health requirements and you must consult your GP in this respect. Visas are required and the supporting documentation to obtain them is included in the tour price. Accommodation is in medium-standard hotels, all with private facilities. A mixture of Western and Chinese food will be available.

Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 8; maximum group size: 16 with 2 leaders.

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

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