Monday, 27 November 2017

Here & There of November

Nearing the end of November, which started really great, things slowed down slightly soon after. Here's a bit of a roundup of things I've seen during this month at different places. Earlier in the month I visited Kowloon Hills Fitness Trail, an area that my dad and I used to visit a lot. We've had some great birds there in the past, including a wintering Forest Wagtail many years ago, but somehow we slowly stopped visiting, perhaps due to the high numbers of monkeys...I went there with Hoiling one afternoon and turned out to be quite productive. Other then a more then friendly Dark-sided Flycatcher which we managed to get as close as 3m, a bird wave with many Rufous-capped Babblers, Blue-winged Minlas, Velvet-fronted Nuthatches and Two-barred Warbler kept us entertained. I even managed a male Mugimaki Flycatcher in the end, although it was just a brief view.

Dark-sided Flycatcher - friendliest little guy ever

Rufous-capped Babbler

A pair of friendly Wild Boars were fun to watch, they foraged next to the road and one of them obviously used to free handouts from humans. The best find of the day though was a near 2m long King Cobra which Hoiling found basking in the afternoon sun! I've never seen an adult King Cobra before, and to see the largest venomous snake in the world was more then exciting enough! The snake was composed and unbothered by our presence (it was safely on the other side of the catchment), it only slithered away slowly when it had enough of our talking.

Wild Boar

King Cobra

At Ho Man Tin, while other people had some exciting birds such as our third Slaty-backed Flycatcher for Hong Kong, I only managed the friendly Rufous-tailed Robin. A species usually very shy, this particular one was more then happy to perch right out in the open to feast the eyes!

Rufous-tailed Robin

While at Tai Po Kau, a pair of Bay Woodpeckers gave very good views, although not quite enough for good photos. Other birds were active, a few Yellow-cheeked Tits were very photogenic. I also managed a male Blue-and-White Flycatcher plus an Eastern Crowned Warbler. A possible Small Niltava was spotted very briefly, although the view was way too short for any substantial conclusion to be made.

Bay Woodpecker

Yellow-cheeked Tit

While on the same day at Tai Sang Wai, some fairly good birds were seen despite the heavy showers. Including a Eurasian Spoonbill at one of the drained fishponds. Although the Black-faced Spoonbill is the rarer species globally, we get far fewer Eurasian Spoonbills wintering. It was also great to be able to view them side by side for a comparison.

Black-faced & Eurasian Spoonbills

I returned to Tai Sang Wai a few days later when the weather had cleared up. The Rook which attracted a slight twitch was still present, the crowd had gone so I was able to enjoy the bird all by myself, at close range too! As it seems to be quite happy with where it was, getting a steady supply of expired bread used as fish feed. The local Collared Crows were in good numbers here, a species that new studies shows could be far rarer then once thought, new global estimation of this species maybe as low as 2,000 individuals left in the wild. They have experienced a huge drop in numbers especially in mainland China in the last decade. Hong Kong is the only place in the world where we still get roosting numbers over a hundred birds. I certainly hope they hang on, as they've really grown on me and became one of my favourite birds to watch.

Rook - revisited

Collared Crow

Over to Long Valley, Buntings are still the main attraction, although nothing new had turned up. Greater Painted Snipes are slightly easier to find now the vegetation had thinned. A congregation of hirundines over the fields consists of mainly Red-rumped Swallows, with a lonesome Northern House Martin mixed in there. Other then the Buntings and Munias which certainly benefitted from the extra food source of the harvested fields, a pair of Eurasian Magpies were also seen there feeding on the dropped grains. Although a common species, I don't usually get to see them up close in Hong Kong, people often think Magpies are black and white birds when in fact they have very beautiful iridescent blue wings. 

Greater Painted Snipe

Red-rumped Swallow

Northern House Martin

Eurasian Magpie


  1. I am very happy that the King Cobra was on the other side of the road! I just returned from Cuba last night, Matt, where I almost stepped on two snakes, one a boa (I think Cuban Boa but I am not sufficiently versed in snakes to be sure) and the other a Cuban Racer. Both are harmless and there are no venomous snakes on Cuba; had either of these so been it might have been a different outcome for me.

    1. Indeed, I would not dare to get close to a full grown King Cobra! I guess that's when my tele lens comes in handy!