Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Double Rarities - Chinese Grey Shrike & Water Pipit

After a really busy week, I was finally able to catchup on a few rarities that had appeared last week. Including a very handsome Chinese Grey Shrike at Tam Kon Chau Road, if accepted this will be the 1st record for Hong Kong. This species had been recorded in the past, however all of them had been treated as escaped caged birds. This individual was in very good condition and overall behaved very naturally, keeping a good distance away from people.

Chinese Grey Shrike - possibly 1st record for Hong Kong

The main diagnostic feature of Chinese Grey Shrike with Great Grey is more white on the wing and having no white rump. Both features can be seen when the bird is in flight.

Chinese Grey Shrike - showing large white wing patch in flight

A female Ferruginous Duck was also present in a fish pond nearby, it stayed with a female Tufted Duck. I caught only a glimpse of the male Ferruginous Duck last month, so it was nice to be able to get good views of this one early morning. While at the drained pond next to Tam Kon Chau Road I spotted a few Temmink's Stints.

Ferruginous Duck (right) with Tufted Duck (left)

Temmink's Stint

Rice fields at Long Valley have ripened, attracting dozens of Buntings. The most numerous were Yellow-breasted Buntings, which in one day I counted over 15 individuals! A brilliant count for this critically endangered species.

Yellow-breasted Bunting - male

Yellow-breasted Bunting - female

Another bunting species we used to get as a rarity and now regularly visiting Long Valley is the Black-headed Bunting, it's large size usually give it away in amongst the smaller Yellow-breasted Buntings. I managed to photograph it while it rested on the banana trees nearby.

Black-headed Bunting

Other buntings includes the common Black-faced Bunting, which prefers low scrubs to the paddy fields. There were plenty of Little Buntings feeding around the fields. I also found a single Chestnut-eared Bunting which showed briefly.

Black-faced Bunting

Little Bunting

Chestnut-eared Bunting

Common Snipe numbers had increased steadily, here is one preening, showing off the diagnostic tail. A fly-over Grey-headed Lapwing is a good record for Long Valley. Dusky Warblers are now everywhere, it's impossible not to hear one calling nearby. There are also more ocularis White Wagtails around at this time of the year. Other than the eye-stripe, I also find them to be slightly larger than our local leucopsis White Wagtails.

Common Snipe

Grey-headed Lapwing

Dusky Warbler

White Wagtail - ocularis

I received news of a Water Pipit at Long Valley on Sunday morning (the weird angle of the photos on the whatsapp group nearly had me thinking it was a Richard's Pipit, oops!). I didn't have time on Sunday so I waited till Monday and visited with Hoiling, the bird showed exceedingly well at the same location, in the field there was little question of it's identity, a long-billed, quite small, faintly marked breast and faint eye-brows were all good features, dark legs is also a good feature to look for when identifying Water Pipit. The call was also very different from all the other pipit we usually get in Hong Kong, a very sharp and short flight call that even resembles that of a Bunting!

Water Pipit - second rarity within one week!

Other than the Water Pipit, there were plenty of other pipits in the area for comparison. The most similar looking pipit was the Buff-bellied Pipit, it was overall slightly darker with more heavily marked breast and darker malar stripe. I couldn't manage a better photo before it flew off.

Buff-bellied Pipit

Red-throated Pipits were everywhere, a few retained some red on the throat. While the largest of the pipits are Richard's Pipit, a very long-legged species that usually prefers drier fields.

Red-throated Pipit

Richard's Pipit

Birding elsewhere, having now moved to Tai Po area, it opens up a good selection of sites near home for exploring. We visited Robin's Nest at night in hope to see Oriental Scops Owl, unfortunately the owl was not found, but we did have a single Eurasian Woodcock on the road. While Brides Pool area is likely to get better in the upcoming winter months, I only managed a few birds late in the afternoon, but a beautiful male Fire-breasted Flowerpecker at close range can brighten up any birders day no matter how many years you have been birding!

Eurasian Woodcock

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker - brilliant looking male

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