Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Awesome Autumn!

Pallas's Reed Bunting - Definitely my BIRD OF THE DAY

Just when I thought the week of late October and early November cannot get any better, the birds once again surprised me. The weekend that followed was nearly just as productive, the rarities that I've already seen during the week just made the two days even more impressive.

I drove to Tai Sang Wai early morning once again, mainly to try for the Pallas's Reed Bunting which John Clough reported the day before, a species which I still needed on my Hong Kong list. So, off I went to the supposed location, I walked around twice but with no luck...so naturally I went back to the Rook site, a few birding friends were already there trying to get some better photos of the Rook. The crow was not so cooperative though, it was flying back and forth Mai Po and Tai Sang Wai, views were quite distant, I didn't quite mind as I already got quite decent photos from the week before. Still a nice bird to see none the less.

Rook - old news, but still a rarity...

Seeing that the Rook did not feel like being friendly, other guys decided to head to Long Valley to try for the Black Redstart. The lack of friendly birds was made up for with a Eurasian Skylark which literally blocked our way by standing in the middle of the road, what choice did we have but to get out and take some photos! I've never had Eurasian Skylarks in the open like this, so it's nice to finally get some decent photos of this species.

Eurasian Skylark - friendliest Skylark ever?

We got to the location of the Pallas's Reed Bunting and decided to try once again. Scanned the whole area without much luck, I thought the bird was gone for sure. Just as I felt defeated and was about to give up, a bird suddenly perched on top of a blade of grass, and what else could it be but my target bird! A lifer and a Hong Kong tick! This species is a rare winter visitor in Hong Kong, with only a handful of records each year. Their bills comparatively smaller then other buntings, it is also quite dainty and slim. The bird fed on the seeds on the road constantly and allowed really good views when on the ground.

Pallas's Reed Bunting - a long awaited tick!

After the bunting we went over to Long Valley, having gotten some terrible photos of the Black Redstart the other day I wanted to get a better photo, and was in luck when the bird flew close and showed really well for a good few minutes for everyone to enjoy! Having successfully gotten the shots that I wanted, I walked around Long Valley shortly.

Black Redstart - much closer this time...

A bird perched on the wire caught my attention, I initially thought it was some sort of Bunting, but a closer look reveal it to be some kind of Sparrow. I walked closer, where Henry Lui was already on the bird and photographing it. I initially thought it was a female Russet Sparrow, but the more I looked the more it felt strange, and I suddenly realise this could well be a female House Sparrow! It's back and head patterns are not as contrasty, while it's bill shape and head looked overall larger in proportion to the body. It wasn't immediately a straight forward ID, but after some discussion it was confirm that this was a female House Sparrow. For many birders from abroad, this may not sound very exciting...but this is genuinely a rare bird in Hong Kong with only a handful of records in the past! So, despite this being just a House Sparrow, it was quite a nice find.

House Sparrow - yes, it's super rare

I visited Mai Po briefly afterwards, mainly to try for a reported Barred Cuckoo-dove, although it later turned out the report to be an escaped Barred-shouldered Dove...my time there was not wasted! I managed to FINALLY get a good shot of a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler present next to the public toilet, I've always wanted to get a decent photo, and this relatively friendly individual perched just long enough for me to get a few clear shots. Also present was a male Black-naped Monarch, which was far less friendly (surprise surprise...) then the warbler, but still a nice bird to see.

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler

Black-naped Monarch - male

It's amazing to think that with the House Sparrow and Pallas's Reed Bunting, I added a total of 6 new species to my Hong Kong list! That's usually half a year worth of new species for me! This will sure remain to become one of my most memorable birding week in Hong Kong (so far).

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