First stop: Beijing

We arrived in Beijing! We spent just one day there before heading to our hometown, but it was one pleasant spring day.

(Click on each image to see the high-resolution version)

The first place we went to was Yuan Ming Yuan (圆明园), or the Old Summer Palace.

Yuan Ming Yuan (圆明园, Old Summer Palace)

The draw of Yuan Ming Yuan which was destroyed by the British and French armies, is its relics and their historical meaning. The most impressive of these relics is the Da Shui Fa (大水法), or Grand Waterworks. Just imagine how magnificent it was before it was destroyed.

Da Shui Fa (大水法)

Da Shui Fa (大水法)

The most intriguing, and amusing, is the maze, with its masonry pagoda in the middle (if you can figure out how to get there).

The Maze

There are other relics throughout the park.

Relics in Yuan Ming Yuan

Relics in Yuan Ming Yuan

But all is not somber. The flowers are blooming on this beautiful spring day.


Having an interest in birds, I inevibly snapped a few pictures of birds there. The noisy Azure-winged Magpies (灰喜鹊) greeted me before I even entered the park. They have the honor of being my first new birds of this trip (I would get a total of 20 after all is said and done).

Azure-winged Magpie(灰喜鹊)

The Eurasian Magpies (喜鹊) are also numerous (they would not be a new bird for me as I had seen them in China).

Eurasian Magpie(喜鹊)

Eurasian Magpie(喜鹊)

The most famous residents in the Old Summer Palace are a group of nesting Black Swans (黑天鹅) (they even built a monument for them).

Black Swan

Black Swan

Black Swan

Black Swan

A Bar-headed Goose (斑头雁) somehow got mixed up with the swans, offering excellent opportunity to get close-up pictures. I did get some other birds as well, although, since I left my main birding lens at home, I did not get good pictures for most of them.

Bar-headed Goose(斑头雁)

Little Grebe(小鷿鷈)

Pallas's Leaf Warbler(黄腰柳莺)

In the afternoon we took a walk around Shi Cha Hai (什刹海). This is one of my favorite places in Beijing, dating back to my college days. And one of the most photogenic places around here is the Yin Ding Qiao (银锭桥), or the Bridge of Silver Ingot. Since it is guarding the narrow bottleneck between Qian Hai (Front Sea) and Hou Hai (Rear Sea) and because of its dramatic curved structure, it is more famous than its big brother, Jin Ding Qiao (金锭桥) or the Bridge of Gold Ingot.

Yin Ding Qiao (银锭桥)

Yin Ding Qiao (银锭桥)

Hou Hai (后海)

Jin Ding Qiao (金锭桥)

The Drum Tower (鼓楼) and Bell Tower (钟楼) are not very far from Shi Cha Hai. We took a leisurely stroll toward these ancient buildings.

Street toward the Drum Tower

Drum Tower (鼓楼)

Bell Tower (钟楼)

The bell in the Bell Tower is a monstrous piece of work.


In terms of birds, I did not get any new ones, but curiously, I did see several familiar ones. The most interesting is a group of Mallard Ducks -- mom and duckling.

Mallard Ducks

A flying heron caught my attention, and I had high hopes that this would be a new bird for me, but it turned out to be a Black-crowned Night Heron (夜鹭), a bird I have seen many, many times in North America. Also flying around are many Barn Swallows, I was luck to photography one that is perched outside a house (they nest under the roof).

Black-crowned Night Heron(夜鹭)

Barn Swallow(家燕)

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