Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Late Spring, Early Summer

Spring migration is slowly trailing off after the first week of May, although all eyes were on the scrape at Mai Po as a critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper made an appearance, this species although still regularly recorded in Hong Kong annually, is becoming a rare sight these days. Upon hearing the news of this one found on the scrape, I hurried over to Mai Po, and was delighted to find it feeding amongst Red-necked Stints. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper wasn't particularly close to the hide, but just seeing this globally rare bird is a treat on any given day. This individual was apparently tagged last year in Russia, hopefully it will make its way safely back to the breeding grounds.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper amongst Red-necked Stints

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Other waders on the scrape includes numerous Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a few other common species, two Pacific Golden Plovers assuming breeding plumage were quite eye-catching. A female Greater Painted Snipe also made an appearance into the open, Mai Po is easily the second best place to look for this species outside of Long Valley.

Pacific Golden Plover - assuming breeding plumage

Greater Painted Snipe - female

The Black-winged Stilts started breeding on the scrape again, they were especially aggressive towards any possible intruders or threat near their nests, a young Black-winged Kite came through and got chased off by them. It made a few rounds around the scrape and gave great views, provided plenty of photo opportunities.

Black-winged Stilt mobbing the Black-winged Kite

Black-winged Kite - juvenile

Tai Po Kau is home to increasing numbers of resident species, with Collared Owlet and Chinese Barbet now regularly seen or heard. Chinese Barbet has gotten much easier to see in the last two years, views are often rewarded if you are persistent enough to locate the bird through its distinctive call.

Chinese Barbet

Lesser Shortwing used to be quite rare to uncommon in Hong Kong, but now a widespread resident. However, it doesn't make them any easier to see or photograph. Was lucky to find this very vocal individual singing in the undergrowth, where I was able to get a few photos through gaps between the branches.

Lesser Shortwing

Brown-breasted Flycatcher is another species that was once a rarity, but now a regular summer visitor in Hong Kong, although I still consider them to be a scarce breeding species in the forests of Hong Kong. I successfully located this one along the forest stream at Tai Po Kau, the preferred habitat of this species.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher

Now is also the time to start our night walks again, we were very lucky to find a pair of Masked Palm Civets engaging in copulation at Lung Fu Shan, they were not at all bothered by our presence and we were able to observe this interesting behaviour for at least 10 minutes! We decided to let them get on with it and moved on, copulation of Masked Palm Civet is known to be able to last as long as thirty minutes.

Masked Palm Civet

Friday, 30 April 2021

Late Spring Push

Po Toi Island been quite the talking point for birders the past week or so, due to a Ruddy Kingfisher which was seen very briefly by Akki and Roman on the 27th. This was only the 2nd record for Hong Kong and a very attractive species that is surely a dream bird for any Hong Kong birder. A group organized a boat to Po Toi on the 28th to hopefully get a chance for this rarity. Naturally, the Kingfisher never showed and quite likely already moved on the very same day, but the island was active with many bird activity, the main attraction of the day being a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher in breeding plumage, plus another without the long tail, likely a 1st summer bird? Both showed quite nicely, although I didn't manage the best photo, I was still very happy to see them in action.

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - breeding male

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - likely 1st summer male?

Other birds present were a 1st year male Mugimaki Flycatcher, at least two male Blue-and-White Flycatchers plus a female near the helipad. A few Streaked Flycatchers were also seen. Other birders also saw Narcissus Flycatcher, although I couldn't relocate the bird while on the island.

Mugimaki Flycatcher

Blue-and-White Flycatcher

Grey-streaked Flycatcher

Other birds throughout the day include a few Chinese Sparrowhawks, Black-naped Oriole, Dollarbird, and numerous Hair-crested Drongos. Other birders had luck with Japanese Sparrowhawk and Chestnut Bunting. All in all, a pretty decent day on Po Toi despite dipping on the main target.

Chinese Sparrowhawk

Hair-crested Drongo

Closer to home along Tai Mei Tuk Catchment, there were not a lot of movements, best was a Two-barred Warbler and a pair of Hainan Blue Flycatcher which showed fairly well. At Wu Kau Tang, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker evidently already had their first brood of the season, and a few Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo calling and flying around before dusk was more than entertaining.

Two-barred Warbler

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - male

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - female

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker - juvenile

Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo

I missed the Pectoral Sandpiper at San Tin, but had a few Whiskered and White-winged Tern instead, both a common sight during spring migration. While two Oriental Cuckoos were found at Mai Po car park, although by the time I got there they were not showing well at all, and kept flitting about towards the far back, where I managed a very poor record shot.

Whiskered Tern

White-winged Tern

Oriental Cuckoo

At Long Valley, I went three times hoping to find Yellow-breasted Buntings in breeding plumage. Failed miserably the first two times, only moderate success with a few migrants of interest, including a very shy Brown Shrike, flock of Eastern Yellow Wagtail had me scanning for Citrine Wagtail, and successfully connected with one.

Brown Shrike

Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

Red-rumped Swallows were still visiting the shallow ponds looking for nest building materials, carrying beakful of mud away. Quite a few Richard's Pipits were around the fields. The long staying Chestnut-eared Bunting was still around, although not being particularly cooperative.

Red-rumped Swallow

Richard's Pipit

Chestnut-eared Bunting

Finally, on my 3rd try I finally connected with the Yellow-breasted Bunting, although not as friendly as I hoped, 3 were seen together, 2 males and 1 female. One of the male came down the feed on the ground, I managed to get one shot of it through a small gap before it flew off. This critically endangered species is getting increasingly rare, so I certainly feel very privilege that we can still find them with relative ease in Hong Kong every year.

Yellow-breasted Bunting - male