Thursday, 21 April 2016

Take a Break - Tai Po Kau

April had been a busy month, there wasn't much time for any birding. Birds had been plentiful everywhere, but when you have no time on your hand then it doesn't matter even if a Dodo turns up. A day off finally gave me time to rest (in rest I mean waking up at 6am), and to spend some time alone in the forest of Tai Po Kau. It was quite cloudy and when I got to the car park it was very foggy; not ideal conditions for birdwatching but I pushed on. It wasn't too hot, but the air was extremely humid. On my way up, I heard a familiar call at a fair distant from the access road. The call of a Drongo Cuckoo, ascending in pitch on each of it's seven notes, they are quite rare in Hong Kong so I took this as a good omen.

I reached the AFCD warden's mass shortly, it was so foggy that it was impossible to see anything. I waited at the rain shelter for the mist to clear. It wasn't until around 8:30am that the fog started to lift, then I spotted a small bird pecking at a bamboo. It could only be a Speckled Piculet. They are now regularly seen in Hong Kong and Tai Po Kau is now one of their strong holds, but this doesn't make them any easier to photograph...Some half decent record shots in such terrible lighting was all I managed.

Speckled Piculet

I waited for a little longer for the Piculet to come out again, but it never did again. So, I went up to do a loop around the trails. A Blue Whistling Thrush flicked it's tail around the base of the dam, although I see them often I still think they are one of my favourite bird in Hong Kong (Yes I do have a lot of favourites). Just past the public toilet I heard the song of a Plain Flowerpecker, a scarce species that is seldom recorded nowadays. A burst of playback brought one down from the canopy and gave me some cracking views! This is our smallest bird species in Hong Kong, measuring at mere 8cm, I am not surprise that this species is not recorded more often, their size and behaviour can be easily missed. It had been a long time since I last saw this species in Hong Kong, so a very pleasant record for me personally, no doubt stole the "bird of the day" prize from the Piculet.

Blue Whistling Thrush

Plain Flowerpecker - the humble looking star of the day

The Blue walk was fairly quiet, there wasn't that many interesting birds to be seen. Silver-eared Mesias were very active, many of them weren't in flocks but in pairs, a sign that they have started breeding. Along the way I saw a few White-bellied Epornis, managed to take some better photos today, my previous photographs of this species had all been pretty blurry, so I was glad I got some decent shots finally. A flock of Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush came through, they were strangely quiet. A few Black-throated Laughingthrushes were with them.

Silver-eared Mesia

White-bellied Epornis

Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush

Tai Po Kau in April cannot be completed without seeing the beautiful Hainan Blue Flycatcher, which have returned to breed. I heard at least 5 pairs along the trail. Their melodious songs already echoing through the hills, announcing their presence to everyone. One of them gave particularly good views, this male was not shy at showing off it's song and it's plumage.

Hainan Blue Flycatcher

The rest of the way was pretty quiet, I was a bit disappointed that the Chinese Barbet did not call once. Another pair of Silver-eared Mesias saw me off at the access road, rounding up my visit nicely.

Silver-eared Mesia

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