Sunday, 16 July 2017

More Landscape - Less Birds

A walk on Tai Mo Shan on Saturday morning produced very little. With the usuals up there and again no luck with the Grassbird, not even a single Francolin called that morning. Both Parrotbills and Brown-flanked Bush Warblers made it photography difficult, and a Pygmy Wren Babbler came extremely close without revealing itself. The heavy mist and a few heavy showers didn't really help much either.

The only bird that came out of the tall grass to generously meet me was a very curious immature Plain Prinia, which was obviously interested with my pishing - a trick that doesn't normally work very well in Hong Kong.

Plain Prinia - immature

A skulker in form of a Chinese Hwamei decided to let me get a half decent view, as it sang constantly within a low tree, I managed to find a small opening and managed a record shot. These prolific songsters are popular caged birds in much of China and Hong Kong, where people keep them for their beautiful song. Their song is powerful and varied and is a signature sound of the hill side of Hong Kong.

Chinese Hwamei

I counted over 40 Large-billed Crows near the car park, congregating in good numbers. You will often see them perched above the roads and coming down onto the tarmac to pick up the road kills.

Large-billed Crow

Much lower down, I got a male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker that decided to come down lower for me to take a few photos. Nothing brilliant, as half of it's signature "scarlet back" is still missing, but these colourful little guys are still a joy to look at every time.

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker - male

The mist lifted slightly as I descended, and I was rewarded with some pretty spectacular views, with a rainbow bowing over the hills overlooking New Territories. My 500mm lens allowed me to snap some landscape at an interesting angle. Yup, Hong Kong is a beautiful place indeed.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Hok Tau - Piculets and A Bit More

Busy work schedule had limited my time birding outside, but a few friends who visited Hok Tau and yielded some interesting birds such as Speckled Piculets and Indochinese Green Magpies, this got me off my ass to pickup my paces. Hok Tau is a place I rarely visited, it is part of Pat Sin Leng Country Park, opposite to Robin's Nest. The habitat is not considered prime, with mainly secondary forests and tall scrubs with patches of more mature woodlands along rivers and streams.

I picked up Hoiling early on Monday morning and drove towards Hok Tau. things were better then expected as we encountered a small flock of birds at the carpark, mainly Scarlet Minivets, Bulbuls and Velvet-fronted Nuthatches. The Minivets had obviously been busy breeding, as there were quite a few juveniles around.

Scarlet Minivet - male

Scarlet Minivet - juvenile

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

We continued along the main road, on the way we saw a single Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker feeding on a low bush, it's orange bill indicate this as a juvenile, but probably still too early to sex. A small flock of Masked Laughingthrush made an appearance, while a single Lesser Coucal perched out in the open to sing.

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker - juvenile

Masked Laughingthrush

Lesser Coucal

We walked to a picnic area to look for some birds but found very little except Red-whiskered Bulbuls and a pair of Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers which showed briefly. There were quite a few juvenile Long-tailed Skinks as well.

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler

Long-tailed Skink

After a bit of shower, we backtracked to the spot where a pair of Speckled Piculets had been seen lately, sure enough I heard the call of the Piculet and soon we both locked our bins onto this tiny woodpecker. It however stayed pretty high up near the canopy making photographing it difficult. This species had been increasing in Hong Kong steadily, and had became a stable resident in many country parks, although it's still not an easy bird to see by all means!

Speckled Piculet - a spreading resident

We walked towards the reservoir afterwards, on the way we spotted a pair of Hainan Blue Flycatchers. More juvenile birds came in form of Rufous-capped Babblers, as a small flock greeted us by the the roadside, a few pretty much fully grown youngsters continued to beg for food from their parents...a few juvenile Cinerous Tits were also spotted. Greater-necklaced Laughingthrushes also made an appearance.

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - male

Rufous-capped Babbler

Cinerous Tit - juvenile

Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush

It started pouring down hard just as we reached the reservoir, so we decided to turn around. As rain subsided slightly, I saw a Greater Green Snake sitting right on the tarmac road, a medium sized diurnal snake that is non-venomous. They are possibly one of the prettiest snakes we have, a beautiful light green across the whole length of it's body and a yellow underside. This particular one allowed me to get pretty close before slithering out of sight. Certainly interesting enough to be the highlight of the day! The Indochinese Green Magpies never showed in the end, but at least we got something else green that day.

Greater Green Snake

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Summer - Quiet Happenings

The long summer months are here and we birders pretty much keep a very low birding activity, although rarities could turn up from time to time (Black Noddy offshore of Tap Mun for instance, but I got no time for that...), but things pretty much settles for a few months of slow and quiet. 

I did visit Mai Po earlier at the beginning of the month, not much excitement, a few Far Eastern Curlews were still hanging around with a flock of Eurasian Curlews. 

Far Eastern Curlew and Eurasian Curlew

Perhaps a bird of interest for this time of the year, a Great Cormorant had decided to hang around just outside the education centre, not a common sight at all in the summer months! The Asian Barred Owlets outside tower hide are back again for breeding, and now can be found perched along the access road with relative ease.

Great Cormorant

Asian Barred Owlet

A strangely confiding White-breasted Waterhen that didn't seemed quite bothered by me was a welcoming sight on a quiet summer day. I saw another attending to a few chicks not too far away but didn't allow any photos to be taken. Azure-winged Magpies were of course now a long term resident at Mai Po and plenty signs of breeding.

White-breasted Waterhen

Azure-winged Magpie

Talking about breeding birds, I found a Chinese Bulbul nest at work late last month. The nest was built a mere metre off the ground, you could say that it provided best viewing access for everyone...Three chicks were observed, an they grew fast! The first photo shows probably second day of hatching, while the second photo was only a day apart!

Chinese Bulbul chicks at nest from 17th May - 25th May

I observed them for just over a week, when suddenly one day I found the nest empty. At first I thought they might have fledged, but they really were still very young to go far, and a quick look around the area confirmed my worst fear, they clutch had fallen victim to a feral cat. I have left out the most gruesome photo, but the cat seems to have taken all the chicks out of the nest but only ate one of them. It was devastating for me, and it really shows much big a problem feral cats can be. Although, you can't blame the cats for what their instincts tells them to do, ultimately the true criminals are the people that abandon their pet cats. Without whom, cats would never have ran wild in the first place.

Raided nest and a dead chick nearby...

The pair made a second attempt in an older nest nearby a few days later. I would have loved to tell you that the new clutch hatched successfully and three chicks grew big and strong before fledging...but as the story goes it wasn't a happy ending either...the eggs never hatched and disappeared all of a sudden one day, it just shows how much risk and hardship wild birds faces when they are nesting, nature is not always fun and games.

Second clutch, unsuccessful unfortunately...