Sunday, 17 July 2016

Tai Mo Shan - an afternoon stroll in mid July

Chinese Francolin

A few weeks ago, I got an email from UK birder Dave Bickerton who was passing through the city for a business trip, I saw that I had the Sunday afternoon free so I offered to take him around for a short bit of birding. With the heat we have been experiencing of late (38 °C) last week caused by the nearby Typhoon in Taiwan, weather's been quite unstable. I was up one night photographing lightning bolts from our living room window, quite a sight to behold...I naturally wanted to find the coolest place in our city to bird in the afternoon, therefore suggesting an outing at Tai Mo Shan.

A huge bolt from our window, one of the many that night!

My father and I met up Dave on Sunday afternoon at his hotel. I was a little doubtful in the beginning about the conditions near the summit, as I saw that the summit was clouded over. My father however insisted that we should go up and just take a look first (we later credited him for his perseverance!). So, up we went all the way to the car park. Turned out the cloud wasn't as low as I have expected, so we decided to pushed on. We were certainly made more willing to walk by the considerably cooler temperatures.

Things began okay, with a pair of Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers that showed briefly (not the best views), a Black-throated Laughingthrush sang it's melodic and beautiful song from the thickets nearby but never showed, we also heard Mountain Tailorbirds, Brown-flanked Bush Warblers and Lesser Shortwings but none of them wanted to show. The rest of the way up was pretty much the same, with birds teasing us constantly with their calls!

We got to our usual birding spot and very soon heard a series of harsh calls from below the ridge, the call of the Chinese Grassbird for sure! We quickly got up to the ridge and played a burst of playback, but by that time a bit of mist came in and we heard the bird moving further down the slope away from us, we waited for a few more minutes but heard nothing more. Moving on, we walked towards the southern slope and soon heard a Chinese Francolin calling not far off, we got the bird on our binoculars soon after scanning the rocks! The bird was calling away and didn't really move as we snuck even closer, we were taking advantage of the mist that came through, hiding us from the bird! This was by far the closest encounter I have had with this species, we were so close that we could even hear it usually inaudible clucking noises!

Chinese Francolin - what a bird!

After enjoying this prolonged and excellent views of the Francolin, we moved further down hoping to get another Grassbiird. It wasn't an easy walk as the bamboos had really started to grow over the footpath and moss were growing on the rocks, making the path very slippery! We managed to get to the open grassland where I played the recording of the Grassbird once again, but nothing replied. We waited for a little bit and decided to walk back up and see what else we could find.

Me and Dave at the Grassbird spot, me scratching my head wondering where all the birds are...

Up to the bit where I usually find a dozen of Parrotbills, but they were not there today. Dave however picked out a small bird hopping about in a bush. We all managed to get our bins on the bird and confirms it to be a juvenile Russet Bush Warbler! What a find! It's the first time I have seen a juvenile and the first time for my father to actually see the bird! (He only heard it before) It showed quite well for a few minutes (by bush warblers standard) and hopped out of sight into the bamboo thickets.

The rest of the way wasn't that exciting, a single Long-tailed Shrike made an appearance, not the most regular visitor up to this elevation. A few Mountain Tailorbirds continued to taunt us in the thickets and a Blue-winged Minla passed through briefly for Dave to have a better look.

Russet Bush Warbler - juvenile, a tick for David and my Father!

Long-tailed Shrike - the unusual visitor to the area I suppose?

We were going to head down to Shek Kong Catchment for a brief visit, but the road was blocked by what looked to be an accident, so we drove Dave straight to the airport afterwards. All in all, a very pleasant and enjoyable afternoon stroll with a few great birds! Most importantly making a new friend on the way!


  1. TMS would not be so beguiling if we saw everything, every time !

  2. I will be visiting Hong Kong in February. Any tips or information you can give would be greatly appreciated. David Gascoigne, Waterloo, ON, Canada.