Sunday, 14 June 2015

Forest Birds Research - Luo Fu Shan, Huizhou

My 3rd research trip with Captain Wong. This time we travelled to Luo Fu Shan (羅浮山) near Huizhou, approximately 100km from Hong Kong. Brother Kei, a friend of Captain was kind enough to be our driver of the trip. We left Hong Kong from Huanggang Port at around 6:30pm, and walked to the carpark where Brother Kei kept his car in Shenzhen. After dinner we set off for the two hour drive towards Luo Fu Shan.

Forests at Luo Fu Shan

Luo Fu Shan is one of the ten sacred Taoism mountain in China. Standing at 1296m is the summit Fei Yun Ding. The climate is quite typical of sub tropical ever green forest of South China, where it is wet and humid all year round. It is now a major tourist attraction near Huizhou, which no doubt causes some disturbance to the forest. Though it is reputed as a good birding site close to Hong Kong, this mountain is no doubt extremely under birded, with very little local birders or visiting birders going, many potential species may still be lurking somewhere waiting to be added onto the list! A few key species make this place worth going, including Silver Pheasants, Chinese Bamboo Partridges and Spot-breasted Scimitar-babblers which have been recorded here before.

Though we encountered some heavy traffic at Shenzhen, it was quite smooth rest of the way. We chose a nearby hotel that was reasonably priced and stayed the night there. Upon arrival we heard an Oriental Scops Owl calling outside, a species rare in Hong Kong.

We got up at 6am and headed to the park entrance around 6:30am. Unfortunately, the park gate doesn't open until 7am! We could not find any information about the opening hours beforehand, the lack of information can be quite frustrating. Many Barn Swallows were seen nesting near the park entrance. The entrance fee set us back 60RMB each! Which we thought was overpriced.

Barn Swallow

We quickly got the tickets when the ticket booth opened and started our ascend up the mountain. We don't plan to go all the way up top, but were more interested with the forest near the lower to middle slopes. Upon one of the first interesting bird we saw was a Drongo Cuckoo, a species that actually breeds here in the summer, but only recorded as a vagrant during migration season in Hong Kong. It's distinctive "I'm a Drongo Cuckoo" call is hard to miss. A juvenile Scarlet Minivet caught my sight, it carries the pattern of a female and reddish tint from the male.

Roads going up the mountain were quite well built

Drongo Cuckoo

Scarlet Minivet juvenile

Chinese Barbets kept calling constantly, another species that was not recorded in Hong Kong until this year, but is very common here. Chestnut Bulbuls and Mountain Bulbuls were moderately common.

Chestnut Bulbul

Mountain Bulbul

We finally got a good look at a Chinese Barbet further up, one individual responded well to playbacks and gave fairly good views, though not good enough for any proper good photographs. This beautifully coloured Barbet seems to be increasing in numbers and no doubt have the potential to spread and colonise Hong Kong. The recent record from Tai Po Kau is still under review, but I am surprise this species have not been recorded earlier considering how common they are up here just 100km away from Hong Kong.

Chinese Barbet

Bird activities were a bit slow, we didn't see much else except a flock of Striated Yuhinas and Blue-winged Minlas. A pair of Minlas were showing nesting behaviours, they no doubt are breeding residents here. interestingly, the Blue-winged Minlas in Hong Kong have been long considered to have came from a captive origin. Finding wild populations towards the North may help us understand further whether some species could have been part of the original avifauna in Hong Kong.

Blue-winged Minla

We reached to a platform near the upper cable car station, but we heard thunder brewing up in the clouds above and decided against going up any further. We saw a Changable Lizard basking on top of a dead trunk. On our way down, a sudden downpour came in a flash and soaked us through! Nothing could shelter us from the heavy rain so we just tried our best not to get our equipments and bags too wet. We finally reached a small shop and took shelter there, the rain didn't last long and soon the sun came back out again. But the rain have left us completely soaked from head to toe.

Changable Lizard

After the rain, bird activities picked up slightly, we got quite a few Black Bulbuls but they stayed quite far away. A male Orange-bellied Leafbird basked in the sun to dry itself off after the downpour. Just around the same area we found yet another Drongo Cuckoo.

Black Bulbul

Orange-bellied Leafbird

Drongo Cuckoo

Further down we saw a few Grey Treepies, a juvenile was kind enough to show itself to us in full view. This is quite a shy species and good views are not always easy. Scarlet Minivets were very common. A very large Ground Beetle was seen feeding on a dead earthworm, I am no insect expert but it looks to be one of the calosoma sp.

Grey Treepie

Scarlet Minivet

calosoma Beetle sp.

Back down near the entrance, a pair of Great Barbet called from a tall tree. It took us a while to locate them. I haven't seen this species in Hong Kong for quite a long while, surprisingly this is one of the declining forest bird species in Hong Kong at the moment. I only managed a record shot of this species, but this is only my first photo record!

Great Barbet

Though we didn't encounter anything particularly exciting, Luo Fu Shan proof to be a site that is well worth visiting. The forest seems to be holding up quite well with some fairly mature patches. The fact that many ground and undergrowth dwelling birds can be found suggest that stretches of more primitive forest have survived. Certainly a perfect weekend destination from Hong Kong for getting the few species we don't usually see.

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