Beijing Zoo

Allmänt / 2015-02-25 / 10:51:26
It was just as bad as I had expected.

It's an old zoo with many of the old cages still in use. These are small, dirty and often without any type of enrichment or place to hide.
The newer enclosures are larger and better, for example for the Bears and the Giant Pandas.
Many enclosures didn't have any signs at all and a lot of the signs, where they existed, were incorrect. For example there were Wolves where the signs said Black-backed Jackal and Tigers where there should be Lions, the Gorilla House didn't have any Gorillas and I even found a sleeping Arctic Fox in a cage in the Nocturnal House! 
For a zoo that claims that education is one of their missions, they sure make it hard for someone to learn anything from them.

I was not surprised, but still horrified, to see how the Chinese visitors treated the animals. Especially in the Nocturnal House where it for obvious reasons was dark, every other person shone flashlights in the faces of the animals and took pictures with flash, not caring for a second about the well-being of the poor creatures. 
I saw a mother shining a laser pointer at a marmoset, then handing it over to her son, encouraging him to do the same.
No one seemed to notice the millions of signs announcing that it was forbidden to feed or touch the animals.
I suddenly felt very grateful about working at a zoo with such few visitors as Nordens Ark!

The Giant Pandas are the main attraction of the zoo, and my main reason for visiting.

This young Bear is waiting for people to throw food over the glas, what I could see it was sugarcane that they fed it with.

The Polar Bears didn't even have water in their pool.

This elephant had just enough room to turn around.

This Gorilla Passageway, with a picture of an orangutan, is used by the chimpanzees to move between the different enclosures. Confusing?

On my way out I stumbled upon a group of aviary houses that were not shown on any map of the zoo. In one of these houses I found the strangest walk-in-aviary I've ever seen! 
It had Black Storks, Black-faced Spoonbills, three species of Ibis and two species of Heron (with only one representative of each species), Mandarin Ducks, Black-tailed Gulls (one which landed on a woman's head), Spotted Doves, Pekin Robins and, to top it all off, a group of Rose-faced Lovebirds (small African parrots)! I'm sure I would have found more if I'd had stayed there longer, it was crazy! Of course, the signs were hopelessly incorrect.

To sum it all up - Beijing Zoo is the worst zoo I've ever visited.

Some of the birds pt 2

Allmänt / 2015-02-23 / 09:24:34
After a few days of grey clouds, strong winds and even some snowfall, the sun has finally returned to Beijing!
I went to the Olympic Park two days ago to see some birds and nearly froze my toes and fingers off. It's a large park and it took me a long time to find the wetland area where I had been advised to go and look for buntings and two Manchurian Bush Warbler (Cettia canturians) that have been seen there throughout the winter. Fortunately I didn't have to search for long to find the birds, a group of Chinese photographers had set up some perches next to the reeds and lured the Bush Warblers out with mealworms.

Edward flew home to England last Friday and I'm now staying by myself until Saturday when a new volunteer arrives. I don't know yet if we will take the train to Xinyang on the same day or not. I spend the days trying to get completely free from my cold before going back to the Chen house. Before Ed left I copied a collection of BBC documentaries from his harddrive, including Planet Earth, Nature's Great Events and Attenborough in Paradise. I saw the first episode of the latter this morning, it was about Birds of Paradise and I couldn't help but to think back to my time in Qatar. I wouldn't mind the warmth of the desert right now, sitting here with a runny nose and sore throat!

Tomorrow I'm planning on going to Beijing Zoo, I've never seen a Giant Panda in real life and look forward to doing so. But I'm a bit hesitant about the rest, I suspect that the husbandry standards might leave a lot to wish for.

Since I don't have any new pictures from the last few days to show, I'll just toss in a few photos of birds we've caught previously in the season.

Collared Finchbill (Spizixos semitorques).

Chinese Bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis), these two species form large, noisy mixed flocks

Male Black-faced Bunting (Emberiza spodocephala), one of the most common buntings in the area where we live.

The female looks similar but with less contrasting colors.

Great Wall Birding

Allmänt / 2015-02-17 / 12:21:43
I've managed to catch a bad cold and spent the last two days in bed, drinking tea and feeling sorry for myself. This meant Ed had to do some touristing on his own if he wanted to see everything on his list before going home on friday. I have no rush with these things since I will be staying here for at least another week after he's gone and I'm also coming back to Beijing with my dad in a months time.
This morning I felt a bit better so we took the bus to Badaling, one of the tourist places along the Great Wall. Badaling is often referred to as a tourist-trap, but if you just ignore all the people trying to sell you shit you don't need and just focus on the scenery, it's truly AWESOME! 

We were pleasantly surprised by the surrounding area, I had not expected the slopes to be covered with trees nor that I would see 4 new bird species while walking along the wall. We found one Siberian Accentor (Prunella montanella), plenty of Chinese Hill Warblers (Rhopophilus pekinesis) and Plain Laughingthrushes (Garrulax davidi), and the highlight of the day - a Godlewski's Bunting (Emberiza godlewskii). We also caught a glimpse of a large falcon far away, it disappeared behind one of the hilltops before we managed to get a good enough look at it, but Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) is a safe bet.

Instead of paying a lot of money for a tour to take us to the wall and most likely get taken to a teahouse or some other place to spend money along the way, we decided to try to get there on our own using public transportation. It worked out unexpectedly well and instead of spending 300 yuan and having to stick to the schedule of a tour, we payed 67 yuan each (subway, bus and Great Wall ticket) and managed to avoid most of the other tourists (Chinese people and their selfie-sticks... Jesus..) and be back home before 15:00. It was a really good day! :)

China is full of funny signs, often with English nonsense on them. It's a bit embarrassing that they haven't bothered to ask an English speaking person before filling the streets and subways with faulty signs!
The citizens of Beijing are no better, wherever I go I see people with sweaters or bags printed with complete gibberish, often just random letters put together. I guess it's a bit like westerners getting tattoos with Chinese letters, thinking that they have some cute love statement on their arm but really it just says blue fat horse.

At Badaling I found this cool store! I hadn't really expected to be able to buy äkta kaffe in China, nor Fjällräven and Haglöfs clothing - though I have a feeling these weren't authentic. Kind of when I bought a bottle of juice in Mexico which had 1kr pant (recycling pawn) on it.

Tomorrow is the start of the Spring Festival and we are not really sure what to expect, except for unbearable amounts of fireworks and a lot of closed stores. Even the Starbucks that I've found close to where we live will be closed for three days!
Our plan for tomorrow is to go to the Olympic Forest Park early in the morning to do some birding and then see what happens! 

Spring Break in Beijing

Allmänt / 2015-02-14 / 11:35:46
Me and Ed arrived in Beijing on Thursday and have settled into a small apartment belonging to the professor who runs the project we're working on. It's a tiny little apartment but it has a kitchen, AC, shower and flushing toilet, which feels godsent after a month in the Chen's house! 

Back at the Chen's house everyone is busy preparing for the Spring Festival, which means the homecoming of family members working in other parts of China. 

The meat from the pig is hanging outside to dry, together with the newly washed clothes...

It will be very interesting to return to Segang in two weeks, some flowers had already started to appear when we left and I think the study area might look quite different.

Today we went to the Forbidden City. It's huuuuge! We spent half of the day in there and still only saw a fraction of it. Now I'm exhausted from both the walking and the breathing of the horrible polluted air! 
I found a really nice little café across the streat from our house, they have wifi and good coffe but will unfortunately close during the Spring Festival, so I'm going to have to find a different place.

Now I'm going to go "home" and crash on the bed. It's nice with some vacation :)

Dongzhai National Nature Reserve

Allmänt / 2015-02-08 / 13:20:00
I've finally been to the nature reserve!
For three whole days!

I've been helping another student who is studying the Yellow-bellied Tit. He keeps them in cages and makes different feeding experiments of them, recording how they eat mealworms for example.
My responsibility was to check the mist-nets, which were empty most of the time, leaving me loads of time to explore the surrounding area. 

The Reeve's Pheasant (Syrmaticus reevsii) is AMAZING! The second morning I saw a male bird casually making its way away from me, no more than 30 meters from where I stood. It has the longest tail of all the pheasants in the world and it's definitely not difficult to see why it's been persued so intensely for its feathers.
Some other favorites were the White-crowned Forktail (Enicurus leschenaulti), Mountain Bulbul (Ixos mcclellandii) and Speckled Piculet (Picumnus innominatus).

It was nice to finally experience the biotop that I expected to be working in when I first came to China, dense mountain forest with plenty of small streams.

This is the lodge, the beds were nice but the food horrible, so I'm grateful to be living with the Chens after all.

This here is a young Yellow-bellied Tit (Periparus venustulus) male, he's got a nice mix of both juvenile and adult feathers, giving him this cool spangled look.

In addition to the playback we kept a male tit in a cage next to the nets, hoping that he would lure the other birds there. Yesterday the bird was left there from 7:30 in the morning until 17:00 in the afternoon, something that would never happen back home! It's hard for me to come to terms with the ethics over here, the treatment of not only the birds but also the dogs and bunnies...

The second day the student went to Xinyang to buy more mealworms, leaving me alone for the most part if the day. When he came back he had this adorable little bunny with him. He's going to use the excrement to try to figure out whether the tits can smell it or not.
I can't help but to wonder what will happen to the poor creature after it's purpose has been fulfilled...

I didn't catch a lot of birds at all and very few species. There were big mixed flocks of Naumann's (Turdus Naumanni) and Dusky Thrushes (Turdus eunomus), and more than a few hybrids, foraging in the area. This morning I caught three Dusky, including this young female and the young male on the next picture.

Now I'm back in my rock hard bed in the Chen's house, until Thursday when Ed and I go to Beijing for the Spring Festival. I will spend a minimum of 16 days in Beijing! Ed is flying back to England on the 21st and then I have about a week to myself until the next volunteer arrives and we head back here. Exciting times indeed...

Spring is on it's way back!

Allmänt / 2015-02-05 / 14:14:10
The weather is finally improving and with it my mood. Almost all the snow is gone and we have finally been able to get back to work! The next few days will be spent trying to figure out wether the birds are going back to their old nests or if these are too damaged after the snow and they need to start over with a new one.

Looks pretty good, doesn't it?

Last weekend a new volunteer arrived, an English guy named Edward. It's great to finally have someone to talk to! For the last few years he's been traveling the world working on different field projects.  
We will go to Beijing for about a week during the Spring Festival, which will be really nice. I had planned to go home during the festival, but there were no flights. Two more months feels like a long time to spend in this place! But in the middle of March my dad will arrive and we'll do some touristing, which will be nice.
If I'm lucky Beidaihe Bird Observatory will start their spring season already in March. It would be lovely to visit them before heading home, see some new birds perhaps :)

Yesterday we caught this amazing Red-billed Blue Magpie (Urocissa erythrorhyncha), it's a very noisy but totally awesome bird. We don't catch that many birds besides the tits, and this was by far the most exciting one!
Only fifteen minutes later I found a White's Thrush (Zoothera dauma), another gorgeous bird, turning that cold damp morning into the best one since I got here.
Today wasn't that bad either, we didn't catch any tits but it was at least warm and sunny and birds were singing in every other tree. One bird, the Chinese Hwamei (Garrulax canorus), has a beautiful song similar to that of our Blackbird back home.
Before lunch I was wandering around on my own a little bit when I found an adult male Red-flanked Bluetail (Luscinia cyanura). I've been searching for this bird for weeks but only been able to find females and immature males (which look like females). It was foraging on the sunlit leafbed, the sunlight just making the brightly blue bird even more striking! It was without doubt one of my top bird encounters, I had brought a thermos with coffee (bad fake instant shit, but somehow still amazing) and just stood there for several minutes, enjoying the moment.

We've been walking to town almost every day for the last week, and I've made a new friend! The little guy has even let me scratch his head once, though Big Momma didn't seem so happy about it. 
Makes me miss "my" cows back home!

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