Friday, 22 May 2020

Going Cuckoo : Common Cuckoo in Hong Kong

May is no doubt the season of cuckoos, with Lesser Cuckoo, Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo, Indian Cuckoo, Large Hawk Cuckoo, Plaintive Cuckoo and Chestnut-winged Cuckoos often heard around various places, it was therefore a very nice surprise that the list of cuckoos just got longer, as someone reported a Common Cuckoo at Mai Po, a mega rarity much needed this May!

Common Cuckoo - a real treat for early summer!

Upon hearing the news I immediately rushed to the scene, where dozen of serious birders were already there looking for the bird. We soon all got brief views of the bird, as it hawked for insects high up in the tree, although it was not making life easy for us, always staying out of sight or within cover.

Common Cuckoo - always behind something...

It took me a few hours to finally get a half decent record photo. This bird was calling on and off, making the classic 'cuckoo, cuckoo' call that we hear more often from cuckoo clocks. The barring in the front doesn't really strike me as that different from Oriental Cuckoos, although its large size was perhaps the first noticeable difference, as it felt almost as big as a Large Hawk Cuckoo. There were some discussions on the race of this individual, and it is believed this is probably race bakeri from western China. This is only the 2nd confirmed record of a Common Cuckoo in Hong Kong, a very nice addition to the Hong Kong list for many happy birders.

Common Cuckoo - likely to be race bakeri

Other than the cuckoo I have not seen too many interesting birds of late, I spent a morning looking at Indochinese Green Magpies at Wu Kau Tang, where a small flock were actively feeding in the dense forest. This group wasn't particularly shy, but as is the case with this species in general, they were unwilling to perch out in the open for a clear view, usually obscured by layers of branches and leaves. After an hour of trying I got a few clear photos, half of the time they were so close that I couldn't fit the whole bird in frame...This species have established a stronghold around Pat Sin Leng and now apparently also recorded as far as Yuen Long. Rather they have an impact on local fauna is unknown, but they certainly fills an ecological niche of large forest birds that is largely absent from Hong Kong.

Indochinese Green Magpie - an active bunch

I also spent some time near home to look for other critters, one of the more interesting find this week was perhaps a Macromidia rapida, a scarce dragonfly that inhabits hill streams. We were fortunate enough to find this one perched at night.

Macromidia rapida

The top spider species for me was a Hamadruas hieroglyphica, a species I have looked for a while but never found, turns out we got some right near home! Other exciting spiders includes Paraplectana coccinella, also known as the Ladybird Spider, was lucky enough to see a male attempting to mate with a female! Their size difference was simply incredible to witness.

Hamadruas hieroglyphica

Paraplectana coccinella

Eriovixia laglaizei was also a nice addition to our local list, a species that I find to be uncommon. While on our rooftop I also found a Phintella vittata hunting on our citrus tree, a very colourful little jumper which is always a delight to see.

Eriovixia laglaizei

Phintella vittata

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