Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Lianghua National Forest Park - December 2018

Lianghua National Forest Park located near Huidong had became one of my favourite weekend birding destination in southern Guangdong ever since I first visited in October last year. The site forms a large patch of forested area east of Huidong along with the better known Gutian Natural Reserves. This site is just shy of 90km from HK, making it a perfect weekend getaway. Over the last few visits good birds such as Red-headed Trogon, Collared Owlet, Silver Pheasant, Small Niltava, Hill Prinia and Brown-breasted Flycatchers had kept our interest high.

The site is a popular tourist attraction during plum blossom season, otherwise it is fairly undisturbed throughout the year. Captain initially wanted to visit Dinghu Shan, but news of the site being closed off had us changing plans, and the thought of visiting Lianghua before the touristy season begin was tempting. So, Captain, Kei and I decided to give the site another try. We met on Friday evening and drove up to Huidong where we stayed a night before driving to the forest park early in the morning.

We woke up at 5:45am, bought breakfast at a 24 hours KFC next door and off we went. We arrived at the forest park before 7am. Cool morning breeze felt very 'autumny', and the red leaves looked the part as well. A flock of Black Bulbuls made an appearance near the main entrance, a few of them had handsome white heads, while a few were still in transition.

Views of Lianghua National Forest Park

Black Bulbul

A large bird wave went past, with Huet's Fulvetta being the predominant species, Scarlet Minivets were also frequently encountered throughout the day. Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers were also found amongst the flock, although in much lower density.

Huet's Fulvetta

Scarlet Minivet - male

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler

A single Verditer Flycatcher was seen, this seems to be quite a regular species here, we saw a juvenile during our summer visit which indicates the possibility of breeding at this site. A Speckled Piculet was seen in the bird wave, we encountered up to 7 birds throughout the day, a clear demonstration of how common it is at Lianghua.

Verditer Flycatcher - male

Speckled Piculet

A few Buntings along the roadside made it tough for us, with a bit of patience we were able to get good views of one bird which turned out to be a Black-faced Bunting. Not quite what we were hoping for, but still not a bad record.

Black-faced Bunting - female

Things quietened down around mid-morning, but a flock of Black-throated Tits certainly kept it entertaining for us. We've not recorded this species at this site before, making this a nice addition to our site list. Orange-bellied Leafbirds were quite active throughout the day, making weird calls that confused us time after time...

Black-throated Tit - a new species to this site

Orange-bellied Leafbird - male

Small Niltava was recorded on our previous visit, so it wasn't a surprise when I heard several along the forest track. A male showed particularly well, posing front and back. This species is currently a rare winter visitor to Hong Kong, but seeing that it's status here at Lianghua is likely to be a fairly common resident, it seems logical that this species may colonise Hong Kong in the near future.

Small Niltava - male

We had an early lunch at a nearby restaurant and rested. After lunch, I suggested that we visit the area where we first saw a pair of Red-headed Trogons last year. Everything was quiet, but I noticed a previously hidden trail that goes up the river valley which looked promising. The trail went through some good habitat along the stream, looking like perfect Trogon territory!

Trogon territory...

Sure enough, Captain noticed a Trogon like bird in the distance. The bird later called which confirmed his suspicion, however it remained out of view. A burst of playback brought it closer, and with a little patience the bird finally showed! A female Red-headed Trogon gave nice perched views, although it was very shy, fluttering off in the slightest movements. We've recorded this species on nearly every trip, which indicates a healthy population at this site.

Red-headed Trogon - female

We drove further uphill, but things were generally quiet. Kei was feeling slightly drowsy so Captain and I strolled along the main road as he napped. As we were walking along I noticed two white birds upslope, it was pretty clear what they were, Silver Pheasants! I grabbed my camera and began taking photographs, Captain soon realised what I was looking at and soon joined in. There were at least 3 males and 4 females in that flock, all obscured by branches. Suddenly, an adult male hopped up onto a rock and looked at us! It's silvery white tail cascade down the rock, we were both in awe. The flock soon scuttered upslope. Just as they disappeared behind the thick foliages, Kei appeared in the car, as Captain and I laughed our heads off...Kei was not at all pleased that he dipped on this encounter.

Silver Pheasant - one of the stunning looking male

The drive back to Shenzhen was not particularly eventful, it took longer than expected as we hit some weekend traffic. With a list of some high quality birds, Lianghua always seems to deliver. There was some construction works being done along the lower sections of the park, whether that quiet status of this park will change in the near future remains to be seen. At the mean time, I can't wait until I return again!


  1. Fabulous group of birds, Matt. If ever I have the good fortune to return to Hong Kong I have to get in on one of these little jaunts.

    1. Cheers David! The site is really quite good, and adds a lot more excitement to know that such brilliant birds are not too far away!

  2. beautiful series of photos.
    have a great weekend

  3. It's always fascinating to know what is is the woods close to us in Guangdong.

    Brilliant Silver Pheasant shot !

    1. Thanks John, yes I am still dreaming about a Trogon in HK...