Category: CHINA
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HEBEI PROVINCE (Beidaihe), (ne)

SE00o00´/00o00´ ha Coastal area with rocky outcrop, beaches, flat fields and scrub. Further WSW is the huge mudflats of the Yang Ho Estuary and inland are isolated rocky hills covered with semi-natural woodland. Happy Island is a 200km further WSW but is often included in a trip to Beidaihe.

Protected/registered status

Best Time for visit End of April and May (2nd May to 21st May 1998)


Birding Site Guide

Beidaihe is a holiday resort located on the Gulf of Bohia around 200km ESE from Beijing. The trip 2 friends and I undertook was with WildWings and the group leader was Tony Marr with David Rosair as deputy leader. Both the cost and leadership were very good. Using a tour operator for China is highly recommended, not just to help with bureaucracy, but also to deal with the language barrier, as almost no one speaks English. At this time of year other tourist are not around, so finding a hotel is easy and in China always cheap (even though prices have rocketed since our visit). We stayed at the luxury five star Jin Shan Hotel, which was less than £10 a night and the fantastic 8 course meals with beers were never more than £2 pounds wherever we ate.

The birding areas traditionally include Beidaihe coast and absolutely any area of grass, shrubs or trees that can be located and reached. There are also several important parks and hills within easy travelling distance. It is also possible to include other areas on a trip here such as some areas around Beijing and Happy Island further WSW (Happy Island will be mentioned here but also have its own account).

Needless to say the general countryside has been devastated and wiped clear of troublesome wildlife as surely as a war, over the millennia by the huge population and this is true for other Asia countries too. The real wildlife now is only seen on migration and at the very few badly degraded patches of green, such as parks and gardens, but these oases of green now have the benefit for birders of concentrating all the birds in small areas, and the birding is truly fantastic.

The trip usually starts in Beijing with a trip to the Fragrant Hills, a rocky group of hills with semi-natural vegetation, where amongst other commoner species Père David’s Laughing Thrush can be sought. There is also the possibility of visiting local urban parks such as Yuyuantan where some nice oriental species such as Siberian Rubythroat can be seen.

The Summer Palace was our next stop, and in the large gardens within earshot of the waltzing Chinese couples many interesting species could be found. From Beijing a train can be caught to Beidaihe and takes around 6hrs. Chinese trains are not late and will arrive exactly to the minute, then, finding a hotel at this time of year, preferably very close to the coast should be easy enough. No one will speak English, but not knowing another language doesn’t usually deter! Fortunately the Chinese are impeccably honest and will not rip you off (well maybe in Beijing!). I was often more frustrated waiting to get any change than being ripped off, giving the smallest Yuang note I had, less than 10p, is like giving £50 for a packet of matches and results in frantic attempts by the recipient to change it with other shop owners. I ended up doing a runner a couple of times just so I did not waste birding time waiting for change. However being so honest, one shop owner chased me down the road to give me the change (for ancient eggs, very different, do not try!) and another gave me the change for my excellent noodle soup the next day. In 2 weeks I could not spend £100, but then some of my ‘friends’ may say this is normal for me anywhere!

Birding areas within striking distance of our hotel, which was a few hundred metres from the coast were, Legation Gully- most areas are just patches of grass and roadside trees, often used as public latrines. There is also a reservoir and Radar Marsh. Along the sea wall at Fishook Point or Lighthouse Point is also worth a try, and since it is not a large town walking the entire coast in a mornings birding is no problem. Fields such as the Jin Shan Fields on the inland side of town or any with any grass or scrub can be good, especially for evening bunting roosts etc.

Further from town, it is possible to visit by taxi the Lotus Hills, usually in the largest hotels there is someone who speaks a little English, and the word taxi, as with hotel is universal. Probably the most rewarding site within short travelling distance is the Yang Ho Estuary (Yellow River), which is 3 miles WSW of here. The extensive mudflats and large grass areas are often teeming with birds, as are the nearby small and isolated woods.

The land is predominately flat and intensely cultivated, often without the use of machines, though we did see a few Case tractors! The more common sight was of the rotavator/tractor with cow-horn bars being ridden along the deserted (of traffic) roads. From this extensive plain, spread very widely apart are isolated rock mountains, and these for want of a better use have been turned into parks and attract huge numbers of visitors from the neighbouring towns who pay a small entry fee. These are the Lotus and Fragrant Hills etc.

Somewhere between Beidaihe and Old Peak is the Zu Shan Forest Park which is well worth birding. 

Happy Island is reached via the fishing port of Lao Yu Jian, which has an overpowering smell of shrimp, from the drying mounds. Do not let this deter you from the birding, because it is well worth the effort. Just before the port is a couple of isolated woods which teem with birds which seem to move so fast through that every hour sees a new turnover of birds. The ferry to Happy Island is a great place to get a chance to look at gulls, and this was the only place we saw our one and only Relic Gull. The lovely Saunders’ Gull is more readily found. Anywhere along the coast from Beidaihe to here can turn up the odd Vega Gull, Heuglin’s Gull (Siberian race) L.h. taimyrensis or Black-tailed Gull with Little Gull and Black-legged Kittiwake less common.

Species seen


Author: BSG