Monday, 18 October 2021

Quality Migrants - Pechora Pipit & Other Rarities

The past week or so had been a slight improvement in terms of rarer autumn migrants coming through, most notably a pair of long staying Pechora Pipits thats been showing well at Tai Sang Wai, I've never seen Pechora Pipits this well, they are usually quite shy and go into cover as soon as you see them. This pair was however more than happy to stroll along the side of the road, picking off insects in the long grass. For a pipit they certainly are quite smart looking birds, with well defined mantle markings that is quite distinctive.

Pechora Pipit - second bird in the background

Other notable migrants present at Tai Sang Wai includes a distant Pheasant-tailed Jacana, numerous White-winged Terns foraged around the fish ponds for small fish and prawns. I also saw Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler along the road but they gave 'typical' views, that is flying away and dropping into the tall grass.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

White-winged Tern

Great Cormorants are now returning, soon they will fill our sky and trees. Black Drongos are passing through in good numbers, easily find 10 of them around the fish ponds.

Great Cormorant

Black Drongo

No luck with Oriental Scops Owl just yet, but good views of our local Collared Scops Owl is more than welcomed. I am sure some Collared Scops Owl migrate through as well, as they have been spotted on Po Toi Island before.

Collared Scops Owl

Around Tai Mei Tuk area, I had a great view of a pair of Swinhoe's Minivet, shame I did not have my camera with me at the time! By the time I went back with my camera they were long gone. I often see Crested Serpent Eagles perched during my morning walks, I love a good photo of these lovely looking raptors whenever I get the chance! Grey Treepies were far more friendly than our local Indochinese Green Magpies, which I see regularly now but are almost impossible to photograph.

Crested Serpent Eagle

Grey Treepie

Two rarities turned up at Tai Mei Tuk Catchment, both were seen on the 16th. First a Greenish Warbler which first picked up on the call, later found it flitting about near the top of the tree, I was unable to get a good photograph of it but had a pretty good look of all the diagnostic features; single wing-bar, pale lower mandible and dark legs. The second rarity on the day came in form of a Grey-backed Shrike, of which I had terrible views of it on the top of a tree, I first noted it as a Brown Shrike, but the heavily marked breast had a Grey-backed Shrike jiz to it. Unfortunately for me, I never got a good view of the back of its tail or a proper view of its mantle in good light, so I was unable to confirm my speculations. The next day I saw a photo of the same bird by Roman, who went after the Greenish Warbler the same afternoon. His photos were much better and showed all the right features for a first year Grey-backed Shrike. Weather now much cooler, and hopefully this will bring in more birds in coming weeks!

Greenish Warbler - terrible photo...

Grey-backed Shrike - 1st year bird

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Starlings & Harriers - Deep Bay Day Out

Still no major rarity yet this autumn, the best birds I managed lately was a juvenile Rosy Starling at Tai Sang Wai, Yuen saw an adult male a few days ago, making it the second bird this month. Among the same flock of starlings was a single Daurian Starling, which seems to be in no short supply this year! I am not complaining, as they are quite good looking birds. They were feeding on the Chinaberry trees, which often attracts lots of starlings.

Rosy Starling - juvenile

Daurian Starling - nice looking adult

The fish ponds around San Tin and Tai Sang Wai are always worth a look during passage, I was hoping for Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, but was disappointed to find the overhead wires empty. A distant Black-winged Kite was probably the best bird I managed other than the starlings. A few extremely confiding Little Ringed Plovers provided plenty of photo opportunity, while a few returning dabbling ducks was a pleasant sight, I saw both Eurasian Wigeons and Northern Shovelers swimming around the fish ponds.

Black-winged Kite

Little Ringed Plover

Eurasian Wigeon

Mai Po was a little bit quiet, although two Eastern Marsh Harriers gave quite a wonderful show in front of hide 3. Both birds were juvenile, but one showed conspicuous white rump. 

Eastern Marsh Harrier

The other bird with barely any white rump. For some reason, most wintering birds in Hong Kong are of juveniles, adult male or female are rather uncommon. A Pied Harrier been seen lately, but didn't show up while I was there.

Eastern Marsh Harrier

The only other bird of interest on the scrape was a single Ruff that was very far away. Wader numbers now in higher numbers, although mostly just common species, such as numerous Eurasian Curlews, I scanned for Far Eastern Curlew with no luck. I found a flock of Pacific Golden Plovers along the fenced road, now in their modest looking winter plumage.

Ruff - amongst other common waders

Eurasian Curlew

Pacific Golden Plover

A Fairy Pitta was reported at Ho Man Tin on 6th, I managed to go there after work in the afternoon, managed a good look of this incredible species, despite this individual being very shy. It is always a thrill to see this spectacular looking bird, and even more incredible to think that they come through urban areas every year! 

Fairy Pitta

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Slight Improvement - Late September Urban Migrants

Having stayed mainly in the 'countryside' for most of autumn migration and not having much luck, I finally decided to visit some of our urban birding hotspots. First being the now famous Telford Gardens, its became a bit of a regular birding spot to look for Grasshopper Warblers. I was not disappointed while I was there, on the two days I visited I had at least two Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, a single Lanceolated Warbler plus a Black-browed Reed Warbler. All of which were extremely elusive and terribly photo shy, maybe another week before they get used to people. Here are two horrible record shots I took, that being said it is still a wonderful experience to see these migrants in action, I was lucky enough to actually see this Lanceolated Warbler coming down from above and landing right into the flowerbed.

Lanceolated Warbler

Black-browed Reed Warbler

I felt luck haven't been on my side lately, turning up very little interesting birds despite some effort. Luckily for me, I struck some luck on my first visit to Ho Man Tin this year with this Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher. It was actively foraging in the dense thickets of what we call the 'Pitta spot', named after the two appearances of Fairy Pittas in the past. The Flycatcher 'performed' fairly well for me while I was there, although it wasn't particularly photogenic, it was still a very nice bird to see. This species is now listed as vulnerable due to ongoing habitat loss throughout its range.

Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher

In the same area were two female Hainan Blue Flycatchers, which seemed to be getting along with the Jungle Flycatcher, these were evidently migrating through and decidedly to stop in this urban oasis. Another species that we regularly see at Ho Man Tin during passage is the Orange-headed Thrush, this one was not particularly photogenic but showed a few times while I was there.

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - female

Orange-headed Thrush - male

There were plenty of Arctic Warblers present, although none were photographable. A vocal Sakhalin Leaf Warbler was however a little more cooperative. This species and the closely related Pale-legged Leaf Warbler are almost unidentifiable in the field, the only way to confidently identify them is by their call, where Sakhalin's pitch is lower than that of Pale-legged Leaf Warblers.

Sakhalin Leaf Warbler

It's not quite the end of autumn migration yet, still plenty of room for improvement!