Monday 30 March 2015

A Day of Pratincole

Spring, spring, spring! It sure felt more like summer today though, high temperature at Long Valley does scare off some people. There weren't too many people there today, more cyclist then birders.

A spring migrant have returned! In the form of an Oriental Pratincole, Captain told me yesterday about his encounter with 70 individuals passing through his work place, and I thought there must be at least one here at Long Valley; I wasn't disappointed.

This one showed very well, my Dad spotted it from afar and we crept slowly towards it. Pratincoles are usually quite daring and bold, allowing you to creep right up to it, this one was no exception. It eyed us cautiously for a very long time. These birds have such great charisma, and are so much fun to look at. It wasn't until another group of photographers decided to approach it at the opposite side that it became quite uneasy and finally took flight. Here are some of my photographs, different photographs of the same pose! They don't move much.

Oriental Pratincole

Oriental Pratincoles are passage migrants in Hong Kong, passing through every Spring and Autumn. They are commonly found in open country farmland or dried ponds, such as those in Long Valley and Mai Po.

As Ching Ming Festival approaches (tomb sweeping festival), many people head up to their ancestral burial grounds to pay tributes to their ancestors, however, burning incense also lead to many bush of those were on a hill not far from Sheung Shui. Helicopters flew back and forth constantly.

Not much were present today, the Painted Snipes were very secluded as usual, but both males and a female showed "well" at the pond near Ho Sheung Heung, in well I meant "identifiable". Black-winged Stlits in good light always makes a great photograph though! A great observation was the starling "bathing party", where a flock of Silky Starling, Black-collard Starling and Crested Myna took turns washing themselves at a shallow puddle, very entertaining!

Black-winged Stilit

Starling Bathing Party!

Aim to get to Po Toi sometime next week...I hope!

Saturday 28 March 2015

Forest Birds Research - Qiniang Mountain, Nan Au

A weekend spent with Captain Wong at Qiniang Mountain(七娘山)near Nan Au, a National Geology Park located at Mirs Bay peninsular in Shenzhen. The purpose of the trip is a forest bird research around Southern Guangdong near Hong Kong, where we will like to survey the species recorded and the habitat status of various sites. This may give us an insight into understanding the spreading and colonisation of species back into forests in Hong Kong or vice-versa.

Young secondary forest of Qiniang Mountain

We took the 6pm bus from Kowloon Tong to Nan Au on Friday night, spent a night at a local hotel there. Rooms were fortunately very tidy, however the town of Nan Au really don't have much charms to it...It's a sea side town that supposedly popular amongst local tourists for it's sea food; which we opted not to try to be safe.

Over looking Mirs Bay towards Tung Ping Chau in Hong Kong

We woke up at 6am, after some light breakfast we headed out to Qiniang Mountain, a small mountain standing at 870m high. The hiking trail was located quickly, it was a short trail that runs from the bottom to the top of the mountain, so it was extremely steep, a vertical climb of nearly 700m in only 2km of trail! I guess the government didn't really give the trail much thought when they built it. It was an exhausting climb with steep steps, our heavy gear did not help much.

Habitats were not great, mostly very young secondary forest, there were very little big trees, which explains to absent of several tree depending species. There were also very little understory birds, which suggest a period of near complete deforestation in the past.

We travelled from near bushland to young secondary forest, the forest disappears again near the 750m mark, where grassland take over at the top. As the trail travelled in a straight line, the area we were able to survey was very limited, hence we saw very little birds, most of our records were heard...

A common bird here, the Fork-tailed Sunbird were everywhere.

Scarlet Minivets were also very common, not surprising as they do thrive in secondary forests in Hong Kong as well.

An interesting record, we heard a few Rufous-tailed Robin in Spring song! A first time for me.

Sooty-headed Bulbul were recorded lower down, they are open country birds.

Other interesting birds recorded as heard or seen only were Mountain Tailorbirds, Pygmy Wren Babblers, Asian Stubtails, Brownish-flanked Warblers, Red-billed Leothrix and Lesser Shortwing. Pygmy Wren Babblers and Lesser Shortwings were both interesting, as they only started to be recorded in Hong Kong just over a decade ago. The present of Red-billed Leothrix was also interesting, this species was suggested to be of ex-captive origin in Hong Kong, but Captain have found they were present in nearly all locations outside Hong Kong, making this a possible candidate of the original avifauna! More studies will help us understand this.

All in all, a successful trip of research!

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Getting warmer...

It's been nearly a month since I last went out for any birding, work have been keeping me away from going anywhere. I was busy working on the "Choose Life! Harvest Festival" at Sangwoodgoon in Kam Tin for the past month, it was an art exhibition for our agriculture and photography workshop this year. I've of course been observing the birds in the area, and noticed many White-shouldered Starling starting to nest, as well as Plaintive Cuckoos and Large Hawk Cuckoos calling constantly. Working outside in the sun all day gave me a nice sun burn, the temperature is soaring up to the high 20s now...

Today I finally got a day off and decided to do some light birding at Tai Po Kau with Hoiling, I didn't get up particularly early so it was already 9am when we arrived. Signs of Spring is very apparent, with many Pallas's Leaf Warblers singing it's spring song, various species are also in song and are much more vocal then before.

Another sign of Spring were raptors displays, a few Crested Goshawk were giving their distinctive ariel displays, beating their wings very quickly while soaring in the hot air current. A few Besra joined in and gave them a fight, might be territorial behaviour, they gave a few calls, which always reminds me of the Bay Woodpeckers (In fact I have confused their calls in the past).

Crested Goshawk

Grey-chinned Minivets are now pairing up, some are busy gathering nesting materials. Sights of Minivets are always welcoming, a pair of them gave great views.

Grey-chinned Minivet

Blue-winged Minlas were very active today, they were accompanied by Huet's Fulvettas, Silver-eared Mesias and Rufous-capped Babblers.

Blue-winged Minla

We managed to encounter a nice bird wave, with a nice selection of Yellow-browed and Pallas's Leaf Warblers, all the different babblers, Mountain Tailorbirds calling away, a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher which should be heading off very soon, also a male Blue-and-White Flycatcher which I is the first sign of Spring migration. I couldn't manage a good shot, just a very rough record shot, but was happy to see it for the first time this year.

Mountain Tailorbird

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

Blue-and-White Flycatcher

On our way down the shortcut from Red Walk, a few trees attracted many birds, including Velvet-fronted Nuthatches and Yellow-cheeked Tits, I am not sure what tree species it was but whatever it was attracted the birds enough that the Nuthatches were actually feeding on the ground! A behaviour I rarely see.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

Yellow-cheeked Tit

In the afternoon I visited Long Valley alone. Nothing particularly interesting, but Snipe numbers were back up, with a few Pintailed Snipes along with many Common Snipes. The Painted Snipes have moved their location to the pond near entrance of Ho Sheung Heung, they were much further then before and most were hiding deep inside the tall grass, I thought it wasn't worth taking any photographs.

Common Snipe

I saw the first Chinese Pond Heron in breeding plumage, their head turn to this lovely reddish brown while their bills turn to blue and green, a complete transformation from their dull winter plumage.

Chiense Pond Heron

Black-winged Stilts should be getting ready for their breeding season as well, hopefully we will see some hatchlings this year!

Black-winged Stilt

A bird of moderate interest was this tschutschensis Yellow Wagtail, a subspecies of the ever complex Yellow Wagtail family. We do get them every year, but in much smaller numbers then our regular winter visitor talvana Yellow Wagtails from Taiwan.

tschutschensis Yellow Wagtail

Red-throated Pipits are also changing into breeding plumage, much more easily recognise this time of the year.
Red-throated Pipit

What Spring migrant will be next? Exciting times!