Sunday, 19 June 2016

Birding with new friends

One great thing that had happened to me since I started this blog is that it's been connecting me to birders from all around the world, and birding indeed does not have any barrier, it's an universal passion that all birders can share with other birders. Today I was most fortunate to be joined by two friends I met through the blog, Meera and Sanal from the UAE to do a day of birding around New Territories. We arranged an early meeting time on Saturday morning and started our day at Tai Mo Shan.

Luck wans't exactly on our side, with heavy fog early on, visibility was down to 10m at one point. Birds were not so cooperative either, even the Brown-flanked Bush Warblers didn't come out, most of them staying well in the comfort of branches and twigs...When we got to the "usual" spot, Chinese Francolins called loudly, but stayed behind the hill and did not produce a view. Our first properly visible bird was in fact a Richard's Pipit, generously perched on a rock. The Parrotbills were very shy as well, jumping between trees and branches. Chinese Grassbird, none heard.

Richard's Pipit

After over an hour of searching without much luck, we headed back down. There were so little birds that I started noticing the butterflies, here is an Indian Fritillary.

Indian Fritillary

The other more visible bird was a single Blue-winged Minla, which gave fairly good views but not good enough for a decent photo.

Blue-winged Minla

It was mid morning by the time we got back to the car, we headed to Shek Kong Catchment afterwards. Fortunately, things picked up slightly, including three Crested Serpent Eagles that greeted us with their whistling calls. I got a photo with two in frame.

Crested Serpent Eagle - one of them was just out of frame

A Fork-tailed Sunbird came out briefly, there were also Grey-chinned and Scarlet Minivets, Japanese White-eyes and plenty of Bulbuls. A pair of Yellow-cheeked Tits made an appearance, an adult male with a juvenile, which gave cracking views! Best bird was an Emerald Dove which to my surprise was not that shy at all, feeding right out in the open, picking up small fruits from the ground.

Fork-tailed Sunbird

Yellow-cheeked Tit - juvenile

Emerald Dove - one of our local forest gem

Further on, a flock of Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler danced around for quite some time, giving good views for everyone to enjoy, showing all it's identification features nicely. A single Little Egret foraged in the catchment, another pleasant sight.

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler

Little Egret

Shek Kong Airfield Road was next, although there wasn't an awful lot of action we managed to find a few good species. A Koel perched right in the open to sing for quite some time before a sudden downpour came in, which had us taking shelter in the car for a short while! Things got interesting when we spotted a flock of Red-billed Blue Magpies, their impressively long tails and cheerful calls makes them very entertaining birds to look at. It was quite a large flock of at least 10 birds, a few of which were juveniles. While watching the Magpies, Meera pointed out at a silhouette on a tree, turns out it was an Asian Barred Owlet! A great find indeed as I was quite worried I might not find this species at Kam Tin later on, it wasn't the best view but we had some decent scope views.

Common Koel

Red-billed Blue Magpie

Red-billed Blue Magpie - juvenile

Asian Barred Owlet - it did not want to look at the camera...

Nam Sang Wai and Mai Po car park were business as usual, fairly quiet in the summer. Chinese Pond Herons provided plenty of entertainment, showing off their breeding plumage nicely. Indian Cuckoos were calling but never showed. At Mai Po car park, the White-shouldered Starlings were still nesting in the electric boxes, busy going in and out. The Azure-winged Magpies were forever present at the car park, even with a few juveniles, we saw at least 6 juveniles all together.

Chinese Pond Heron

White-shouldered Starling

Azure-winged Magpie - juvenile

Azure-winged Magpie

Lok Ma Chau was a little bit more exciting, first a large flock of Scaly-breasted Munias, then a Yellow Bittern near the lily pond, which flew out from a patch of tall grass close by and landed on the opposite side of the pond.

Scaly-breasted Munia

Yellow Bittern

On our way out, I spotted a Hair-crested Drongos on the wire, later I saw quite a few more, a species that seems to be breeding in the small patch of woodlands near the police station. It was near there I heard the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, which responded very well to my imitation and flew straight out! It flew around us for quite a while, giving frustratingly close but obscured views, but in the end we got some satisfactory views of the bird perched right out in the open singing! No doubt the best encounter I've had with this species so far, and most definitely our bird of the day!

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo - when they fly they do remind you of a Coucal

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo - my best encounter to date!

Finally, we checked into Long Valley for our last stop. It was pretty quiet there, but we still got some birds, including a pair of very sweet Sooty-headed Bulbuls, a few Prinias and plenty of White-rumped Munias. Although we missed on quite a few target species, it was still a pleasant day trip overall, most of all it was wonderful to share this little bit of local nature with my new friends.

Sooty-headed Bulbuls

Plain Prinia

White-rumped Munia

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