Thursday, 30 November 2017

Grand Finale - November

Rosy Pipit - non-breeding bird, my final surprise of the month!

I can barely recall a month in recent personal birding history that I got more then three new birds for my Hong Kong list, so to think that I got three times that in less then a month is simply mind boggling! I totaled 7 new birds for my Hong Kong list before this week, including two which I did not manage any photo records. Starting with the Siberian Blue Robin, Styan's Grasshopper Warbler, Rook, Black Redstart, Pallas's Reed Bunting, House Sparrow, Oriental Scops Owl...I was already very chuff about this list, little did I know I was in for even more surprises.

One of my better find (although not a new one on the list) was a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Shek Kong Airfield, I've never had much luck with them despite my efforts to look for them. They are considered rare, but we do get them annually. It was nice that one materialised in a small garden by the roadside, just as I was heading for the public toilet! They look similar to the closely related Taiga Flycatchers, but with a few obvious differences, such as the orange lower mandible, as well as lighter upper tail coverts, they also make a different call to the Taiga Flycatcher. This individual was rather well behaved and allowed some close views.

Red-breasted Flycatcher - wonderfully confiding individual

With a drop of temperature, my local patch that is Wonderland Villas is coming to life once again. Most notably more thrushes up at the jogging trail. Eye-browed Thrush were in good numbers, I think I had up to 5 individuals on one day. Although they were all pretty camera shy...Japanese Thrush were also increasing in numbers, they were just if not even shyer then the Eye-browed. The only thrush that was not shy was the resident Blue Whistling Thrush.

Eye-browed Thrush

Japanese Thrush - male

Blue Whistling Thrush

I had up to 3 Mugimaki Flycatchers recorded this autumn, one female and two males. They were all pretty difficult to photograph, being rather skittish and stayed high up the tree tops, although still very nice to see them at my local patch. Other bird activities had also increase, including more Silver-eared Mesias and Greater-necklaced Laughingthrushes, the latter I manage to grab a photo. The gully had also been a stable haven for Eurasian Woodcocks, I flushed them nearly every time I went down there, although I wouldn't know if they are the same birds or not, but I had at least two on a single day. Two Grey Treepies that passed through was also most unexpected and is a new addition to my Wonderland Villas list, which now stands at 104.

Mugimaki Flycatcher - male

Greater-necklaced Laughingthrush

Long Valley continues to be quite good for buntings, with Rustic reported on Saturday 25th, I went there on the 26th and successfully found the Rustic with relative ease. Although I must say I was hoping to get a few more photographic opportunities for this species...the last photo attached here is one from 27th November 2010, it just shows how bang on time these migrants can be!

Rustic Bunting - 2017 bird

Rustic Bunting - 2010 bird

The Yellow-breasted Buntings were still showing well, with quite a few feeding on the harvested rice paddies. There were evidently much less Chestnut-eared Buntings around. While the two Black-headed Buntings had been very stable and showing well, although having taken quite enough photos of them this season I didn't quite bother to get closer for a better shot.

Yellow-breasted Bunting

Chestnut-eared Bunting

Black-headed Bunting

With this amount of birds around, it will sure attracts some raptors. A Peregrine Falcon had been regularly flying over, the darker face indicates this as a resident peregrinator. An adult male Japanese Sparrowhawk had also been giving regular flyovers at great speed, probably trying to catch the munias or buntings off guard. Although the most unexpected "raptor" of all was a Chinese Pond Heron that was seen preying on Sparrows! I've seen them take munias before, with birds in such numerous numbers I am sure they would not pass on an easy meal. I think even the Sparrow didn't saw this coming...It's a pretty horrific death as the Heron does not kill it's prey as quickly as a hawk does...this poor bird struggled for over fifteen minutes before the Heron managed to swallow it whole.

Peregrine Falcon - peregrinator

Japanese Sparrowhawk - male

Chinese Pond Heron - with Tree Sparrow...wasn't a pretty sight

I've learnt that by scanning the huge flocks of sparrows, you may occasionally find a surprise or two. I was not disappointed, when I noticed a female Russet Sparrow amongst the Tree Sparrows. Although I have seen this species before numerous times, I've never connected with them in Hong Kong, so it was yet another new addition to my Hong Kong list! It was not shy at all either, allowing some pretty good views.

Russet Sparrow - female

There were plenty of Red-throated Pipits around, I flushed a pipit that made a different call, which caught my attention. The bird looked overall very greenish, back patterns not as well defined as you would expect on a Red-throated, it's tertiaries and primaries also had olive green edges which to me was a bit strange. My initial thought was a young Buff-bellied Pipit? However that felt kind of wrong...Other pipits also went through my mind such as Tree and Meadow...but this bird looked nothing like them, I simply couldn't connect the dots. I observed it for a few minutes before it flew off and was not able to relocate it. I left it IDed as a strange looking Buff-bellied just so that my mind won't be so occupied (I still had to find the Rustic Bunting then!), it wasn't until I got home and uploaded the photos onto my computer did my brain suddenly worked again...Rosy Pipit! I searched for some non-breeding birds photos and surely it matches! I felt terribly dumb that I did not manage to connect the clues earlier in the field, but was still extremely glad that I managed to get such a good view and grab a few good photos.

How did I not recognise this as a Rosy Pipit you may ask? My previous experience with this species had been on Wuyishan in Jiangxi China, and all those birds up there were in breeding plumage, so in my mind they had always been a lovely pink bellied pipit (I know I am terrible)...This is yet another species I've missed the last few times round, my dad had already seen the first bird in 2006. This will be the 4th record in Hong Kong, and only the 2nd autumn record. As far as I am aware of, no one else managed to relocate the bird, so it does show how birding is sometimes just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. So there you are, 9 new additions to my Hong Kong list in one month, I am pretty ready for the wintering birds!

Rosy Pipit - got to be find of the month!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, What a month that you will remember forever