Years ago in China, in a shallow valley below me, I saw this enormous blue pheasant with a long tail flying through the air like a feathered dragon, at some distance away. I never knew what it was and no one could tell me. Then Yang happened to show me these pictures and I realized what I’d seen. Wow!
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One of my favorite places on our trip to China in November ’14 was the Beijing Arboretum next to Xiang Shan (Fragrant Hill, 香山). We arrived there after a long, traffic-packed drive from the city and got a second dose of autumn colors.
There were plenty of paths to hike amongst the trees and plenty of critters and birds about, including the ever-present magpies and azure winged magpies. There were also many Great Tits (like our Chickadees) and sparrows – is there ANY place that isn’t over-run with sparrows? Unfortunately, they were all too quick to allow any picture taking. However, here’s a picture of Yang, who as just as charming to behold as any of our feathered friends.
The trails wended through wonderful pine and willow forests and up slopes of jagged rocks, at times past pavilions and monuments to students who had camped out and trained here to prepare to fight the Japanese during WWII. Yang and I weren’t quite so tough. Here, I’m giving my knee a rest (gardening injury), well-pleased with the scenery and the hiking. Aren’t the seats made from old red wood trees interesting?
There was also some unexpected forms of “wild life” in the park. We came across well-fed dogs and cats, just chilling in the forest, part of the families of people who worked and lived at the park. Here is a cat with a surprising resemblance to Winston Churchill. He even miaowed gruffly! Dig that expression. Could it be a reincarnation?
A young Chinese girl and I had a laugh over how unique he appeared, and how nonchalant, in a gruff way, he was with humans. When she said in English to me, “It’s a cat!” I meant to say “Dui” In Chinese, but my default mode slipped and I concurred, “Oui!” We both had a chuckle. I actually managed to converse a little with her in Chinese, saying that I liked cats and we had two at home. That was as far as I could go in Chinese at that point, so we switched to English. She and her boyfriend were a cute couple, so we took a picture of them with their camera and they took a picture of us with ours!
Surprisingly, though there was lots of traffic coming out here, most people were visiting the nearby Xiang Shan parks.
This little guy is called a Little Grebe (if you click on the picture, you can see him much better).
Here’s one more neat shot of the wonderful fall colors. I understand that when there hasn’t been a drought, the colors are really gorgeous.
Finally, I have to insert a picture of a creature we saw which really knocked Yang and I for a loop. Like dopes, we didn’t take the camera out until he had scampered away. So, this creature climbed out of the tangle of a twisted pine. At first, I thought I was seeing a big black crow. Then he settled on the ground and sat up. I was flabbergasted! It took a moment to figure out we were seeing a squirrel. He poked around, looking for food, then sat eating for a bit, and finally scampered away by the time I realized we had a camera. When we got back to the hotel, we checked him out on line. I knew I’d seen pictures of this critter before, and discovered he was a Eurasian Red Squirrel – except he’s black. Go figure. Interestingly enough, I read that the black variety of squirrel thrives in pine forests better than its red brethren. There’s plenty of pine in this place! Also, in China, the name for this type of guy is “Satan’s Squirrel.” He is rather demonic looking, isn’t he? Apparently, they are also bred commercially and sold as pets.
Getting home was almost as much of an adventure as the hike, what with overpacked buses – when they finally came. What the heck! When you have great company and beautiful weather and everyone’s in the same boat, er, bus, who cares!
No copyright infringement intended, noncommercial use of photosTree Squirrel Photo 1: http://cutterlight.com/tag/hiking-near-ulaanbaatar/