Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Mid Autumn Birding

An extended weekend for Mid-Autumn Festival saw me finally getting some proper time off to do some birding. It's a good long weekend for many, crowds congregate at night to enjoy the full moon and show off their wide range of modern day lanterns which consists of cartoon characters or even those that flashes and "sings". The Friday after Mid-Autumn Festival was a public holiday, good time for my parents and I to spend some time at Mai Po.

It's my first visit since autumn started, and some returning birds were a good sign. A large flock of Garganey were an extremely pleasant sight to behold after months of absent of the ducks. The return of these dabbling ducks brought along an Eastern Marsh Harrier, another returning species that we should see plenty of throughout the winter. The flooded scrapes did not produce anything particularly interesting, mainly Black-tailed Godwits and other common waders.


Eastern Marsh Harrier

Black-tailed Godwit

Since we arrived quite late to Mai Po, we decided to catch the receding tide. The tide was still very high when we arrived at the gate, it even flooded the concrete footpath just behind the metal fence. The magical views of the flooded mangroves was amazing as always.

The flooded footpath, surely they should have made it higher when they built it...

Flooded mangrove forest

When we arrived at the bird hide, it was all about waiting. A single Terek Sandpiper was also waiting for the tide to subside enough before it can feed on the mudflats, mean while it seems to have found itself a comfortable bamboo to rest on. Weather was extremely pleasant and clear looking towards Shenzhen.

Terek Sandpiper

Deep Bay overlooking Shenzhen

The first birds to return as the tide gradually receded were Egrets, both Great and Little Egrets were actively hunting in the flooded grass to catch any small fish trapped amongst the thick vegetation. Black-winged Stilts also took advantage of their height to feed before other waders. Whimbrels were also amongst the first waders to arrive at the mudflat, however they were too early that many perched on the mangroves or even the roof of our bird hide to wait for the water to recede.

Little Egret

Great Egret

Black-winged Stilt

Whimbrel - first time I saw one perched on a tree

A few large gulls were present, although we get most gulls as winter visitors, some non-breeding birds had decided to stay through the summer, usually young birds. Here, I proposed both as Heuglin's Gulls, a third year and a second year bird. Although there's been some comments that the third year bird could be a Mongolian Gull due to the paler mantle and upper wings. However the overall size and shape for me did not quite match completely, plus in good light the legs looked to be changing colours to a more yellowish wash. I am open to suggestions though.

Heuglin's / Mongolian Gull - 3rd winter

Heuglin's Gull - 2nd winter

Most waders present were the common species, I did manage to spot a single Red-necked Stint, a Ruddy Turnstone, a few Far-Eastern Curlew plus a single Long-billed Dowitcher, but all of which were way too far out for any decent photos. Bar-tailed Godwits were in quite good numbers.

Common Redshank

Common Sandpiper


Bar-tailed Godwit

Greater Sand Plover

Mai Po was pretty quiet in terms of other migrants, no flycatchers or warblers were spotted on the day. A Common Kingfisher saw us out as we exit the reserve.

Common Kingfisher

Saturday morning saw me and Long hike up the steep tarmac road at Tai Po Kau. It was an extremely bright day, not a cloud in sight! The hills were overall extremely quiet even for resident species, we hardly encountered birds except for one remotely interesting bird wave which contained a single Amur Paradise Flycatcher and an Eastern Crowned Warbler. The only other interesting find were a few Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrushes amongst a flock of Greater necklaced, they seems to be getting increasingly common at Tai Po Kau, I only managed a record shot of it though. Even the usually noisy Chestnut Bulbuls were strangely quiet. An Arctic Warbler and Dark-sided Flycatcher at picnic area 1 provided the only photographic opportunity of the day. We both agreed that the weather was probably too good that many passing migrants simply passed through without stopping.

Lesser-necklaced Laughingthrush - note the pale eyes

Arctic Warbler

Dark-sided Flycatcher

We both decided to give Tai Po Kau a second run on Tuesday. It was a wet morning, with rain quite heavy at times. Things were a bit quiet going up, a single Hong Kong Newt found by the road side kept things interesting.

Hong Kong Newt

The Striated Heron was present at the stream near picnic area 1, a usual spot for this species. Although a common species in Hong Kong, they are not always easy to see due to their secretive nature.

Striated Heron

There were not that many birds around, bird waves were few and far between. We managed to spot another Amur Paradise Flycatcher but again no luck with any photographs. The Dark-sided Flycatcher and the Arctic Warbler were still at the same area, they looked to be the same birds by the look of their feathers. A few Pygmy Wren Babblers gave half decent views by the footpaths, all of them being a little bit shy.

Pygmy Wren Babbler

The best bird of the morning came in form of a single Orange-headed Thrush. It was right on the path just past picnic area 3, foraging in the leaf litter at first. It was a little misty so I only managed some record shots at first, but the bird later flew up to a branch just a few meters away from us, giving excellent views for the next few minutes! Although this species is very widespread in Hong Kong, seeing them still requires plenty of luck, and to see one in full view at close range is always a treat. Tai Po Kau is probably one of the best places to look for this species in Hong Kong, but they have also been recorded in many places including urban parks.

Orange-headed Thrush

On our way back to the car park, a flock of Black-throated Laughingthrushes awaits. They showed quite well today, including a few Lugens morph which I unfortunately could not get any photographs of. Autumn passage is already half gone, hopefully I will have more time in the coming weeks...Time is something we never seem to have enough of!

Black-throated Laughingthrush

No comments:

Post a Comment