Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Early Migrants - Amur Paradise Flycatcher

It's been a while since I ventured up Tai Po Kau during day time, weather had been incredibly hot with some days exceeding 35°C! But, recent happenings and political crisis in Hong Kong had dragged on with our government not wanting to listen or actually make a change, sometimes you just have to escape from all the news and have some alone time. Tai Po Kau provided a quiet sanctuary, with not many hikers in the midst of summer, I nearly had the whole nature reserve to myself the whole morning. The best species was no doubt a pair of Amur Paradise Flycatchers in two separate mixed flock, both showed well but not quite well enough for a good photo, I still managed record shots of both though. Amur Paradise Flycatchers are usually one of the earliest autumn migrants returning from their breeding grounds up north, we will likely get more of them coming through in September.

Amur Paradise Flycatcher

Other interesting birds seen includes a single Speckled Piculet, although it was gone by the time I wanted to get a photo. Most of the common forest birds were present, and most showed pretty well. Silver-eared Mesias were in good numbers, as were Blue-winged Minlas. Surprisingly, I only encountered one flock of Huet's Fulvettas.

Silver-eared Mesia

Blue-winged Minla

Huet's Fulvetta

A few Black-throated Laughingthrushes showed well at close range, there were also quite a few Pygmy Wren-Babblers calling by the footpath, but only one showed well enough for me to get a decent photo.

Black-throated Laughingthrush

Pygmy Wren-Babbler

Both Mountain and Chestnut Bulbuls showed well, I am still surprise by how slowly Black Bulbuls had been in colonising Hong Kong, considering breeding populations in Guangdong is fairly close.

Mountain Bulbul

Chestnut Bulbul

A pair of Velvet-fronted Nuthatches on my way down were my last species added to the morning list. With around 29 species recorded, it is not a bad count for a session in summer.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

Let's also not forget that Tai Po Kau is a wonderful place to visit even without the birds, the forest and cascading stream make the walk very scenic and well worth the effort.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Mid Summer Observations

Work and numerous things had kept me from birding during the day, the last time I went out for birding was earlier in the month at Tai Tong, I was looking for the Malayan Night Heron that had been reported there on a few occasions previously but couldn't connect. Things were pretty quiet otherwise, the only interesting bird I got was a lone Plain Flowerpecker which gave good views. A male Hainan Blue Flycatcher also showed briefly, while many common forest species were not so cooperative, a few very shy Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers allowed a photo through the trees.

Plain Flowerpecker

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - male

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler

Other than birds, I went out several times for night walks, although I couldn't say they were particularly successful. One of the most common and widespread snake is probably the Brahminy Blind Snake, most people will likely dismiss them as worms instead of snake, I chanced upon this individual on the trail at night. I also found four different Mock Vipers in one night at Tai Po Kau, they are diurnal and often curled around trees at night.

Brahminy Blind Snake

Mock Viper

It was the National Moth Week last week, so we 'celebrated' by joining one of the mothing session with Dr. Roger Kendrick with fairly good results, here are some of the moths we saw.

Ambulyx sericeipennis

Saroba pustulifera

Genus Parotis

Notarcha tigrina

Paracymoriza vagalis

Neogurelca hyas

One of the best moth was this yet to be described moth from genus Coenodomus, it's bizarre looking antenna certainly makes it an interesting moth to look at. My personal favourite though was this beautiful looking Euplocia membliaria, a very uncommon moth in Hong Kong with only a handful of previous records.

Genus Coenodomus

Euplocia membliaria

Other insects of interest of the night includes a sleeping Idionyx victor. A water beetle from the genus Cybister which constantly crashed into the lights kept us entertained, I seldomly see them out of water. While the most impressive was probably this male Xylotrupes gideon, or the Brown Rhinoceros Beetle, an impressive creature with sharp claws to help it grip on trees, but can also grip tightly on ones skin...

Idionyx victor

Genus Cybister

Xylotrupes gideon

Finally, I end my post with this impressive Oleander Hawk Moth I found at home, they are always impressive to see no matter how many times I've seen them.

Oleander Hawk Moth

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Creatures of Summer Nights

Hong Kong's summer can be unbearable, its so hot and humid that you barely want to go out during the day, therefore night walk is a great way to stay connected with nature in the hottest months. I was able to lead a few night tours in the past month or so, each tour produced something interesting and different.

Lung Fu Shan is one of the best sites for night tours, as it is easy to get to and doesn't require a lot of walking, perfect even for kids! One of the most memorable encounter during one of our outing was a very cooperative Collared Scops Owl which perched for as long as we wanted at close range, everyone got great views and enjoyed its present for over 10 minutes! We actually encountered two owls, one on the way in and another on the way out, both were seen at different locations, although comparing the plumage I suspect they might have been the same bird.

Collared Scops Owl

The same evening also produced a good selection of amphibians, including Brown Tree Frogs, Green Cascade Frogs, Lesser Spiny Frogs and Short-legged Toads, I was most surprised with the amount of Short-legged Toads around, they were extremely active and I saw no fewer than 15 along the trail, you can truly appreciate their camouflage when you see them from above, they have patterns that look just like a dead leaf.

Brown Tree Frog

Green Cascade Frog

Lesser Spiny Frog

Short-legged Toad

Short-legged Toad - they have exceptional camouflage

On another outing also at Lung Fu Shan, we saw mostly the same animals, but a lady who joined the tour spotted us a Common Wolf Snake, which I was able to get hold off and show to everyone. It wasn't particularly aggressive to begin with but got slightly pissed off when I tried to hold it and started biting, luckily I had some gloves on so its teeth couldn't go through. Hoiling was able to get a few photos while I held the snake, they are really beautiful with marbled patterns all along it's body.

Common Wolf Snake

We haven't done so much mothing lately, but we do see some moths during our tours. There are many Erebus ephesperis lately, usually seen feeding on some fruits or tree sap at night. The most impressive moth though must have been a Samia wangi seen at Wonderland Villas, it was spotted at the car park and we were able to take a few photos of this impressive creature.

Erebus ephesperis

Samia wangi

One evening after dinner with friends, Hoiling and I decided to drop by Fanling to look for Savanna Nightjars. We were not disappointed and found no fewer than 3 individuals sitting on the road. They are so much fun to look at, and no doubt one of our most interesting breeding species in Hong Kong.

Savanna Nightjar

Finally, on another evening outing at Kowloon Fitness Trail, we encountered yet another very cooperative Collared Scops Owl. Unlike the previous one, I located this by following it's call, it just so happened that it was perched right above the road and did not fly off when we spotted it. Considering how difficult they are to spot usually, I am not complaining!

Collared Scops Owl - another individual just a week later!