Saturday 31 January 2015

Roses are FINALLY Red!


Finally, something to update about. Haven't been able to do much birding the past two weeks since the Big Bird Race. Today, got together with Long Long for a full day of birding around New Territories, truly a luxury nowadays when you have to work most of the time. We were really looking to catchup on things that's been around the past week.

Tai Po Kau

This, as usual was our first location. Gloomy was the word to describe the weather while we were there, constant drizzle and very low clouds meant poor visibility and extremely dark environment! Birds were not particularly active, we didn't see any large bird waves, however some quite interesting species turned up...

First of all, it was a day for Tristram's Bunting, we saw at least 5 individuals, dotted around TPK. They were however not cooperative at all, giving very difficult views behind heavy vegetation...what a contrast with those we get at Wonderland Villas a few years back, where they just hop in front of you on the trail!

Tristram's Bunting

The other interesting bird to note was a probable Bar-tailed Cuckoo-dove, which flew past us as we were looking at a bird wave containing hundreds of Red-whiskered Bulbuls, a Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike and the resident escapee Blue-winged Leafbird. It was very large compared with Spotted Dove, and flew in a very cuckoo like manner indeed! We could not locate it, therefore we simply couldn't nail the ID, however with past experience with this species in Jiangxi, I wil give it a 75%...not quite a new tick, YET!

Bay Woodpecker was calling but did not show, other birds of interest includes the Fork-tailed Sunbirds that are back at their usual flowering trees outside warden's dorm. We saw a flock of 20 Striated Yuhina near middle of the Red Walk. Other common birds were seen, but stayed fairly high up. Huge crowd of photographers gathered at the flowering Rhodoleia to photograph a pair of Orange-bellied Leafbirds. large numbers of Japanese White-eyes were also present at the tree.

Fork-tailed Sunbird

Silver-eared Mesia

Japanese White-eye

The last interesting bird we saw was a Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, which was a surprise for me, since I never seen this species at TPK before, but it's not unheard of for this scarce winter visitor to turn up here. It took me quite a while to get a half decent record shot of it.

Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler

Shek Kong

We went to Shek Kong afterwards around noon. Common birds around includes Asian Brown Flycatcher, Red-throated Flycatcher, Daurian Redstart, Grey-backed Thrush, Cinerous Tit, Grey Wagtails and Green Sandpiper. An Ocularis White Wagtail was seen, this is a rarer form of White Wagtail we get during winter.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Red-throated Flycatcher

Daurian Redstart

Grey-backed Thrush

Cinerous Tit

Green Sandpiper

Grey Wagtail

White Wagtail (Ocularis)

The star species here were five Common Rosefinches, found along the drainage ditch. I first spotted a female on a tree, I have seen this species several times before, but never males! A rare winter visitor, Common Rosefinches are always a treat to see.

"This one looks a bit red." Long Long said to me, after spotting another one close by, I got my bins on it, and it WAS red! How could you say you have seen a Rosefinch without seeing a red one. We enjoyed them for a good ten minutes before they flew off to a distant.

Common Rosefinch (male and female)

Kam Tin

Since our car went past the junction going past Kam Tin River, it seems silly not to pop in for a look at the Grey-headed Lapwings. They were right where they should be when we got out of our cars, and managed some cracking views of a group of 6. They are definitely one of my favourite birds in Hong Kong, have so much character for a wader.

Grey-headed Lapwing (with Black-winged Stilt)

Long Valley

Our main target was the Eastern Water Rail, as we both wanted to get a decent shot of the bird. It's been showing well for so long that it seems wrong not to try our best to get at least a few good photograph of this usually shy species! Frustratingly, the bird was a bit shy today and showed very sparingly, allowing only a half decent view for a brief moment.

Eastern Water Rail

Zitting Cisticolas and Yellow-bellied Prinia kept us entertained while we waited for the rail.

Zitting Cisticola

Yellow-bellied Prinia

Just around the corner, we saw a crowd waiting by the water side, turns out they were photographing a male Bluethroat. This must be the same bird I saw a few weeks back, it was a particularly mature male, with a very beautifully marked throat pattern! No surprise the photographers were all eager to get some good shots. They were feeding the bird with meal worms as usual, enticing this shy species out to the open. A practice I don't completely agree on, but you cannot question the effectiveness of this technique, especially with shy species like this one...


The wet weather sure feels a bit "Springy", maybe the warm weather this year will bring our migrants early.

Monday 12 January 2015

Looking for "Chickens"


The family of Crakes and Rails in Chinese translates as "Paddy Chickens", which I feel describes these birds very well. Back in the days when farmers were working on the paddies I am sure they would've seen a lot of these "Chicken" like birds, which was probably how they got their names from.

Got news from HKBWS that a Purple Swamphen was seen yesterday at Long Valley. Accepted in Hong Kong only as Cat E, this species was treated as escape back in the days. It was recorded from 1988 to 1998 at Mai Po. But, there are no reasons why this species could not appear in Hong Kong through natural causes.

I went in the afternoon and straight to the place where it was reportedly seen yesterday. It have not been seen the entire morning, a bunch of exceedingly bored photographers were staking out the bird without much success. I waited around for a while and decided to move on. Not far away at another pond with clumps of reeds, a few were photographing another "Chicken", the Eastern Water Rail. A bird I have not seen for some time, at one point it did run from one clump of grass to the other, that's when I took a few shots of the bird. There was also a male Bluethroat at the location, however was too quick for me to take any photographs.

Eastern Water Rail

The other "Chicken" in the area was the Ruddy-breasted Crake, the same bird that's been sticking the the same patch of reeds for nearly two months!

Ruddy-breasted Crake

Other birds includes a rather cooperative Red-throated Pipit, a Wood Sandpiper that came very close when we were waiting for the Water Rail.

Red-throated Pipit

Wood Sandpiper

At the other side of Long Valley, a flock of 7 Greater Painted Snipe were hiding in the vegetations as usual, barely visible to the naked eye.

Greater Painted Snipe

A female Bluethroat was flushed not far away, strangely it chose a stock of reed to roost. A pose I am certainly not accustomed to, as Bluethroats are usually very shy in Hong Kong, this is a behaviour only observed mainly during Summer at their breeding grounds up North. Looking through the view finder it felt I landed myself in Hokaido! Only thing that was lacking was a Spring song from the bird.


Maybe the Swamphen left to Mai Po?

Saturday 3 January 2015

Bay Woodpeckered!!!


My first day of birding in 2015. After hearing news online about a Black-browed Barbet in Tai Po Kau, I just felt like going there for a walk. I wasn't really hopeful in finding it, nor was I really looking for it, the bird was all the way up at Brown and Yellow walk, in other words; a bloody long way away. Plus, I guess the bird wouldn't stick around one place, as most Barbets do fly around looking for fruiting trees.

I woke up quite late, and arrived Tai Po Kau near 9:00am. It was mostly quiet, with very little activity except for hikers and walkers. I met Kwan and Francis sitting on a bench near the end of Red walk, so decided to sit for a while and wait it out.

After a while they headed back down while I continued on, not far from the bench though I heard the call of the Bay Woodpecker from a distance. I did a few playback and waited. It wasn't long until I got a reply and soon a bird flew past! The second bird followed and stopped on a branch near the top of a tree near me. That's when I reached for my camera and fired a few shots.

Bay Woodpecker

It wasn't any good, but I finally have a photograph of the Bay Woodpecker in Hong Kong. You must start somewhere don't you? Other birds are as follows...

Grey-chinned Minivet

Chestnut Bulbul

A short visit to Mui Shu Hang Park in Tai Wo only yielded a Red-throated Flycatcher, the lawn on the drainage ditch is usually good for thrushes...I saw none. The lack of bird had me turned to even the commonest of birds, a male Magpie Robin, which looks very bluish under the bright sunlight.

Red-throated Flycatcher

Yellow-browed Warbler

Magpie Robin