Thursday, 26 October 2017

Shing Mun Reservoir and Slightly Off Grid

Radde's Warbler

I seldom visited Shing Mun Reservoir these days, and thinking about that I couldn't really think of a reason why that is, it is close to where I live, trail there is easy to walk, it is connected to the same patch of forest to Tai Mo Shan and Tai Po Kau...

Arriving at the start of the reservoir trail kind of reminded me why I have slowly neglected this site; monkeys! In small numbers they are fun to watch and kind of cute, but once you get hundreds of them in one place they really starts to get on your nerves. The Rhesus Macaques we get in Hong Kong are not a native species, they were likely introduced many years ago. To be fair they never really done anything to me, although past experiences had told me usually the more monkeys the less birds. Or is it?

Rhesus Macaque - the baby ones sure looks cute...

For the first half hour or so I got very little birds, slowly picking up pace I managed to get great views of a Pygmy Wren Babbler which is always a treat. Further along I even got an eye-level view of a Mountain Tailorbird which perched long enough for me to get a good photo. Getting such good views of these two major skulkers requires a lot of luck, so I consider myself quite lucky. I spotted a Dark-sided Flycatcher above the trail, so views weren't great but was still happy to get this passage migrant.

Pygmy Wren Babbler

Mountain Tailorbird

Dark-sided Flylcatcher

Things really picked up when I got to picnic area no.5, where I encountered a bird wave. All the common birds showed well, including Grey-chinned Minivets, Blue-winged Minlas, Yellow-cheeked Tits and Velvet-fronted Nuthatches. I also spotted an Eastern Crowned Warbler and a female Verditer Flycatcher, although both were too quick for any photos.

Grey-chinned Minivet - male (above) & female (below)

Blue-winged Minla

Yellow-cheeked Tit - female

The best bird in the flock was a female Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, this species is scarcer in autumn. It's the first for me this autumn and certainly an exciting species to see at all times! There was also a male recorded at Ho Man Tin earlier this month, the males lack the long tails that is the trade mark for all Paradise Flycatchers after the breeding season.

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - female

I ran into another bird wave just before the public toilet, this time there were a few White-bellied Epornis actively feeding. I even managed yet another Japanese Paradise Flycatcher! This time it seems to be a juvenile due to the lack of eye-rings. A few Ashy Drongos were around but only one leucogensis showed reasonably well.

White-bellied Epornis

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - immature

Ashy Drongo - leucogenis

I saw a warbler feeding quite low down, olive brown with no wing bars, thick eye brows that is yellowish to the front, pale legs and pale lower mendible...surely a Radde's Warbler! This is a scarce autumn migrant, with a few recorded every year. They look slightly similar to a Dusky Warbler, but you can easily tell them apart from the eye brows, where the dusky is paler to the front and buffish to the back, the Radde's is the other way round. Their overall structure and bill shape is also very different. The most different thing with those two are behaviour, whereas most Duskies are quick and skittish, the Radde's are usually much more friendly, it was the case for this bird, which gave excellent views for as long as I wanted.

Radde's Warbler - very friendly

I continued on, adding a few commoner species here and there including the Asian Brown Flycatcher and a single Taiga Flycatcher. I later saw a Dusky Warbler plus a Goodson's Leaf Warbler as well. At picnic area no.12 I saw two warblers on the trees, first a Yellow-browed Warbler, but there was another that had much darker legs and paler lower mendible. A closer look revealed faint first and thicker second wing bars, yellowish wash to the underside surely make this a good candidate for a Two-barred Warbler, and soon it gave a pipit like "tiss-yip" call, which confirms it's identity.

Two-barred Warbler

In the afternoon, Hoiling said she wanted to visit the Dragon Trail at Cape Collinson, a place I have never visited before. This location is fairly "off the grid", being very under birded. A quick change of bus from Hung Hom cross harbour tunnel and we were there. The trail walking up the hill seemed like a popular hiking spot and we saw plenty of hikers. We soon encountered what seems to be one of the local speciality there, a family of Wild Boars, they certainly did not fear men, my 500mm was WAY too close to fit the whole animal in frame. Boar numbers certainly had been on the rise in recent years, and without the South China Tigers that once preyed on these animals, their numbers will surely continue to grow.

Wild Boar

The second specialty here seems to be Chinese Hwamei, a species that is common but usually extremely shy. Here, they were foraging in broad daylight and out in the open, certainly quite a nice experience to be able to view this species so well.

Chinese Hwamei

The other species that was also oblivious to men here was the Blue Whistling Thrush, we saw a few here, one of them was so bold that it actually jumped towards me as I was trying to photograph it, and I ended up having to walk backwards to the other side of the road. A magnificent bird to look at as always. Further along the trail Hoiling spotted a snake inside a water outlet pipe, which turned out to be a Red-necked Keelback, a common diurnal snake in Hong Kong.

Blue Whistling Thrush

Red-necked Keelback

Finally, I spotted a juvenile male Blue Rock Thrush on the way down, which I felt was a great bird to end the day with. Certainly an afternoon well spent!

Blue Rock Thrush - philippensis

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