Monday, 2 November 2015

Amur Falcon - At Last!

Amur Falcon! A species I have desperately wanted to get on my Hong Kong list, simply because it's such a handsome raptor and I WANT IT! Females with smart streaking and a handsome mask is lovely enough, but the males have various tones of grey from dark to light and reddish vents that goes well with bright red legs, a long with black and white underwings, now that bird got some taste!

But, for years this pretty little raptor eludes me, every year I hear reports from friends or friends of friends that they have seen one here and there, always telling me "Oh, there was one here yesterday!", or "One was perching on that wire just last week!"...The birds certainly knows how to taunt me and are doing a bloody good job of it. This year's been the same as usual, I have been hearing reports from everyone, places from Tsim Bei Tsui, Mai Po, Long name it! One afternoon I waited at Long Valley and only to get sent a photo the next day by a friend saying his friend saw a male at Mai Po on the same afternoon...

Today, I had a strange urge to try Shek Kong Airfield Road, a site I don't visit enough to be honest. The cold front have just past and I thought some new migrants might have arrived. Off I went, and things were pretty quiet at first, only common birds spotted. Then, as I walked further down the road, when I suddenly saw a shadow above. I looked up, two falcons were circling right above my head. I immediately knew what they were and started snapping away.

Amur Falcon - migrating in pairs or flocks is common in this species

Two female Amur Falcons circled round a few times, at one point one seems to be eating something from it's talons, I am guessing dragonflies, as it's been a known migration diet for these little raptors, and they do prefer to eat them as they fly. These magnificent raptors migrates extreme distances,  flying from Mongolia where they breed all the way through India and down to South Africa! Each will have traveled 22,000km each year, no doubt one of the longest migration routes of any raptors in the world! They past through Hong Kong steadily from mid October all the way through mid November. No fancy photos on the wire like others, but these will do for me. After a minute or so they were gone like they were never here, leaving no trace what so ever except for my breathlessness.

Amur Falcon - a magnificent raptor!

Back to some commoner birds, a lot of White-breasted Waterhens were skulking around the gully, this likely juvenile was a bit more bold but will no doubt soon learn to become as skittish as it's parents. I guess youngsters are always more adventurous!

White-breasted Waterhen - an adventurous young bird

Sitting on the wall was not Humpty Dumpty (though it was equally rounded), but a smart and bold Daurian Redstart. It made sure he got my full attention by flying right across my path. They are such smart looking birds that it's always delightful when you get one as bold as this, where you can enjoy all it's details in broad day light. Things were pretty quiet at the Airfield Road otherwise.

Daurian Redstart - not Humpty Dumpty 

Mai Po was pretty quiet too, didn't see anything worth noting for the first half an hour or so. Took some photographs of common species to keep myself from falling asleep.

Little Egret - in flight shot

Chinese Pond Heron - all turned back to their non-breeding plumage

There's a funny thing with birdwatching, first times are always the most difficult, after that things gets easier (Rustic Bunting is a bit like that for me, I have seen 3 already!). And funnily enough, as I strolled along a footpath in Mai Po, I saw a dark silhouette quite far ahead of me high up in the sky, picked up my bins and what else could it be but a male Amur! Wow! It was miles off but what a stunner! You can just make out the contrasting underwing and reddish vents. I continued to scan the sky afterwards and counted three more very high up, all drifted westwards. More then six years this species eludes me, and only fate could have chosen this very day for me to catchup with all six of these. Hopefully I won't need to wait another 6 years for another Amur Falcon, and next time I will find one perched on the wire, I hope.

Amur Falcon - a distance male that ended the day perfectly