Sunday, 19 April 2015

Forest Birds Research - Yinpingshan Forest Park

This is my second research trip to China with Captain, this time we went to Yinpingshan Forest Park 銀瓶山森林公園 (40km from Hong Kong), a site close to the large town of Zhang Mu Tou, the forest park is another 8km from the town. We met up on Saturday night and took a train to Zhang Mu Tou, which only took 20 minutes. We found a hotel immediately after we got there, at around 260RMB/night the room was very luxurious and very comfortable. There was even a 24hour KFC right next to the hotel, just tells you how much mainland have advanced in these two decades...

We started early, a quick local KFC breakfast (soya milk and fried Chinese cruller!) got us ready for the hike later. We found a taxi with ease and was at the entrance gate of Yinpingshan Forest Park in no time. There aren't many trails to choose from like many other forest parks in China, but we decided to take a trail call Guan Yin Zuo Lian Gu Dao (觀音坐蓮古道), which is a trail that runs through the lower forest of the park. Habitats here are secondary forest, with original forests likely deforested many decades ago, these forests seems to be maturing well at the age of 30 to 40 years old.

Entrance Gate

Site Map

We headed towards the trail, immediately seeing a couple of Cinerous Tits, few of them were young fledglings, likely the first brood this season. A Chestnut-winged Cuckoo called nearby, I imitated it's two-note whistles and quickly got a response, though the bird flew close it never came out of the cover, as is the case of many encounters with this species.

Cinerous Tit juv.

A few hundred meters up, we encountered a very small bird wave, we were first attracted by the unexpected call of a few Silver-eared Mesia, though very common in Hong Kong, they have always been thought to be escaped exotics as their natural range lies further west. They have never been recorded at Yinpingshan, and seeing them here makes me wonder whether there are possibilities of wild populations existing in Guangdong. Though there are also the possibility that these have been decedents of escapees as well, more research must be done to get a clearer picture on this matter!

While we looked for the Mesias, I saw a tiny bird flew up and perched on a branch close by, I picked up my bins to find myself staring at a Speckled Piculet! Another real surprise! A recent coloniser into Hong Kong's forests, this species likely expanded it's range from forests like these. We saw and heard a total of at least 6 individuals on the trip, indicating that this species is doing fairly well here.

Speckled Piculet

A Besra also flew into sight, making ariel displays in the area.


As we continued, we found the forest trail here quite productive, we got birds including Chestnut Bulbul, Mountain Bulbul, Emerald Dove, Grey Treepie, Grey-throated Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Hainan Blue Flycatcher, Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Pygmy Wren Babbler, Mountain Tailorbird, Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush, White-bellied Epornis and Japanese White-eye. Another surprise was a Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo, it was calling nearby, with a little taping it flew right towards us but didn't stop and flew on. A Slaty-legged Crake was heard as well, but it didn't showed.

Over looking the forested valleys

Chestnut Bulbul

Scarlet Minivet

At the end of the trail, we reached a stream, where numerous Green Cascade Frogs were found calling and mating, they are far less common in Hong Kong and I found them a welcoming sight! At the same stream, Captain spotted a Slaty-backed Forktail at a distance, another bird that is rare in Hong Kong but remains quite abundant in mainland China.

Green Cascade Frog

Slaty-backed Forktail

We hit the main road and decided to follow it down back to the entrance gate. On the way down, we encountered a small flock of Chestnut-collared Yuhinas, foraging together along the road. They gave great eye-level views and one particular bird caught a stick insect and gave us quite a show! As you can see, it took the bird quite a while to swallow the stick insect, but it certainly looked satisfied! A likely breeder here, Chestnut-collared Yuhinas have long been recognised as a winter visitor in Hong Kong, but with colonies at such close proximity to Hong Kong it seems likely they will become a resident species very soon. I have only recently realise about their split from Striated Yuhinas.

Chestnut-collared Yuhina

Just incase you wonder how people in China build trails up a mountain...we saw many Mules along the main road, looks like they are using them to carry rocks and bricks up the mountain. Tough life.


All in all, a very successful research trip, especially on finding a good number of Silver-eared Mesias here. Also good to know the numbers of Speckled Piculets seems to be stable and likely increasing, which means we will likely see more of this species in Hong Kong's forest very soon. An interesting observation though, I don't recall seeing many Crested Mynas on both my research trips, a bird which I immediately saw when we crossed the boarder. Maybe we should be more grateful about these common birds, we do take many of these species for granted...

A bird we take for granted - Crested Myna

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