Sunday, 21 February 2016

Forest Birds Research - Yinpingshan Forest Park #3 + Long Valley

I had my third visit of Yinpingshan Forest Park with Captain Wong, a big gap in-between our two visits because it had been difficult to find time that fits everyone's timetable. We finally found time and off we went for another visit. We again stayed a night at Zhang Mu Tou and headed out at 6:30am in our pre-arranged taxi with the driver Mr. Choi whom we met last time, it's always handy to keep a contact of the local drivers! We got there by 7:00am, just when the sky started to brighten, the weather was fine with little clouds. Soon after we got off and got our gears out, we heard the Bay Woodpecker calling close-by, a burst of call back and a pair responded quickly, showing itself just at the public toilet next to the car park. We were quite surprise that they will show up in such degraded habitat, but it seems they are not actually that fussy about where they find food...I think the main concern for them is that they need good habitat for breeding purposes. I couldn't manage any decent photos, so a record shot is all I got.

Bay Woodpecker - by far the most common Woodpecker we have encountered.

There were plenty of Thrushes on the way up, notably a Grey-backed Thrush and a White's Thrush by the road side. I also saw a Blue Whistling Thrush later on. White's Thrush is new on our site list, likely a regular winter visitor to this site. The bird stayed a fair distant away from us however.

Grey-backed Thrush

White's Thrush - record shot...

Red-flanked Bluetails were EVERYWHERE, you literally would find one every few minutes. We saw at least 15 individuals in total. Most were females, but we also got a few males but none were close enough to have a clear shot taken. To our surprise, there were very little visitors compare to our last two visits, the rain from the day before might have put off some early hikers.

Red-flanked Bluetail

Things went very quiet after the first round...We were not sure what were the reasons behind, but strong wind is likely to be one factor. The trees were swaying and we could hardly hear anything. Even when we encountered small bird waves they remained fairly silent. Bird waves consisted mainly of Minivets, Cinerous Tits, Yellow-browed and Pallas's Leaf Warblers. We found a more interesting warbler in a Goodson's Leaf Warbler, also new addition to our site list.

Goodson's Leaf Warbler

Bird were not particularly active, when we finally reached the third public toilet, we saw little else. A pair of Slaty-backed Forktail flashed very briefly and were out of sight. We found one flock of Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush, a species that seems to be scarce at this site. Going back down the the main road, a single Tristram's Bunting was observe, a fine male. I managed a half decent record shot, only to have the bird cut in half by a branch in front...

Tristram's Bunting - the branch cut right through the middle!

Back at lower elevations, we followed the river downhill, the path running alongside the river seems to have been opened again after being closed for repair the last two times we visited. By that time people were starting to hike up, songs had also started playing on the loud speakers fitted by the park authorities...a decision that still baffles me, why would anyone in their right mind put loud speakers that plays music in a tranquil forest park?! I hope this trend will not extend to Hong Kong...We looked for Plumbeous Redstarts but found none, only a male Daurian Redstart along the river.

Daurian Redstart - would have been nicer if it was a Plumbeous Redstart...

On the same path, we saw a small bird wave with a few Red-billed Leiothrix and White-bellied Epornis. Conditions weren't the best for photography, plus I was using my 100-400mm lens which is a lot slower at focusing, making things more difficult. I did managed a half decent record shot of the Epornis. We soon got to the car park and Mr. Choi picked us up at around 12:15pm, the trip back to train station and back to Hong Kong was very straight forward, we were across the border by 1:30pm!

Red-billed Leiothrix

White-bellied Epornis

Later in the afternoon, I met my parents at Fanling. It was my Father's day off, so he decided to spend a few hours at Long Valley in the afternoon, which I gladly followed. Not carrying around my 500mm means that birds seemed a lot further away...Nonetheless, we found some decent birds. Five Buff-bellied Pipits in total, one gave some decent views.

Buff-bellied Pipit

The Greater Painted Snipes were still at the same location, always half obscured. Things were actually quite good at that location, we saw a single Black-browed Reed Warbler skulking about the tall grass, occasionally giving us distant but decent views. A Plain Prinia was however more then happy to show off to us, it was right by my feet when I took this photo! I even saw a male Buethroat that perched on a wire there, but was too far away that I didn't even bother to take a photo.

Greater Painted Snipe - along with Common Snipe on the left

Black-browed Reed Warbler

Plain Prinia

Just around the corner looking from the other side, a Zitting Cisticola decided to show itself to us, giving quite good views. It perched for a minute or two before melting back into the tall grass, never to appear again. A few steps ahead an Eastern Water Rail walked across the pond, I later found it hid amongst the thick grass preening, giving some obscured views. Views were nothing compare to last year's, but it's still nice to see this shy species. Finally, a Daurian Redstart perched on some very man-made structures just by the car park at Ho Sheung Heung before we left.

Zitting Cisticola

Eastern Water Rail

Daurian Redstart - somehow the colours goes quite nicely with it...

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