Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Fairy Tales - Fairy Pitta

What bird is so beautiful that ornithologist named the bird "Fairy"? Pittas are always a birder favourite, which ever species, whatever colour, Pittas have this charm that attracts birders to be crazy about them. Their skulking nature are notorious amongst birds and are some of the most difficult to see birds in the wild. There are two species of Pittas in Hong Kong, the Fairy Pitta which is a rare passage migrant, and the Blue-winged Pitta (I have seen 1 a few years ago) which is an even rarer passage migrant. Both species are extremely difficult to see and you need luck more then anything if you want to see one in Hong Kong.

Took a day off and decided to give Tai Po Kau a try. The day started pretty warm, and things went well to begin with! A Chestnut-winged Cuckoo finally decided to show itself to me! Though it was quite far away, I was pleased I at least got a half decent record shot of this species.

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo

The hills were filled with the songs of the Hainan Blue Flycatcher, I heard and saw at least 8 individuals. A nesting pair attracted a huge crowd and I simply did not want to add more stress to those poor birds so I avoided the scene, there were plenty of other singing males for me to photograph so I didn't see the reason why EVERYONE should crowd to that pair. This male I saw sang particularly loud, which seems to have attracted a female, she seems quite interested and stayed with the male.

Hainan Blue Flycatcher

A Black Bulbul surprised me, I don't recall seeing many in Spring. This one was alone, judging by the black head it's still a young bird. The high pitched whistles of the Mountain Bulbul revealed a few birds.

Black Bulbul

Mountain Bulbul

I decided to give the Brown Walk a try, I don't recall myself having walked the whole way round, and since I got quite a lot of the time, I don't see the reason not to. Most birders are intimidated by the length of the walk, but in real life it wasn't really too bad, especially that the trail was not that steep at all. The trail elevation is a lot higher then the Red and Blue walk, which means it goes through a range of habitats including some young secondaries, bamboo and scrubland. A Mountain Tailorbird and a few Silver-eared Mesia made an appearance near the bamboos.

Mountain Tailorbird

Further on, a Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo called breifly but didn't show. A few Eye-browed Thrush were very skittish and flew away immediately after I got my bins on them. A pair of Yellow-cheeked Tits caring for their young nearby, the male came particularly close and gave some great photography opportunity! I have yet to take any good photo of this species so I am very happy to get these.

Yellow-cheeked Tit

Near the mid-point of the Brown Walk, I saw a bird that flew from the undergrowth and landed only 3m away up slope. I looked through my bins and saw a flash of blue. I immediately thought it COULD be a Pitta, but I just wasn't sure. I waited and played the call of the Fairy Pitta a few times, hoping that if it was a Pitta it maybe interested with the sound. As I scanned the slope, I suddenly saw a silhouette of blue and red. BINGO! A Fairy Pitta was standing just behind a few branches! My heart nearly stopped! The bird was clearly very intrigued by the recording, and stayed in view for whole three minutes! I admired the bird in awe, all the while muttering "Oh My God" quietly. When it finally hopped up the slope and dissapeared, my hands were shaking and my heart was pumping. I JUST SAW A PITTA! This will be another lifer for me and a new tick in Hong Kong!

Fairy Pitta

I was smiling the rest of my way down, little else were seen except a few Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers.

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler

After lunch I decided to hit Mai Po access road and see if there were any migrating terns. At the car park I saw a nest box with a few White-shouldered Starlings. This species is now a regular breeder and utilises nest boxes and electrical fuse boxes alike. A few Little Egrets were tending for their chicks at the egretry.

White-shouldered Starling

Little Egret

Out at the fishpond, a dozen of Whiskered Tern made an appearance. There weren't as many terns as I hoped but I was glad to see them again this year. It's like seeing old friends after a year! There were a few juvies with the adults.

Whiskered Tern

With the Fairy Pitta that up my spring migration season another notch, I don't think I can ask for more without sounding greedy. It just teaches you that you must be thankful when you see a rare bird, because it's not always you who finds the bird, it's the bird who finds you.

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