Sunday, 15 November 2015

Grey Bush Chats - wild pair

A bit of nostalgia - back in winter of 2007 there was an immature male Grey Bush Chat that frequented Lai Chi Kok Park, it was quite photogenic and drew quite a bit of attention. However, everyone were dubious whether this was an escaped individual. It sure was a scruffy bird, but you sometimes get scruffy wild birds too (that was my own effort to persuade myself to believe it could be wild). It was also very bold, and at the time I thought that was a sign of escapee where it's not afraid of people. But then another bird at Long Valley in 2013 showed me that not all wild birds are naturally afraid of people, that individual was pretty bold (shame I didn't have my camera with me), so then I thought to myself maybe "approachable" is in the blood of such pretty chats, like the Siberian Stonechats we get in Hong Kong.

Grey Bush Chat - scruffy looking one back in 2007 (Taken with EOS 20D)

It's been a while since I have last seen Grey Bush Chats in Hong Kong, so I thought I really should get an update on this species. Just so happen, three individuals have been spotted at Shek Kong Catchment in recent weeks and I received news that they were spotted again this morning. So, off we went to hopefully find the trio in the afternoon. weather was exceedingly lovely after the morning shower, there were many family walkers and hikers along the catchment in the afternoon.

Views from the Catchment towards Kam Tin

It wasn't particularly birdy, but that was expected for a forested area in the afternoon, so my expectations weren't exactly high. We had a few calls from Pygmy Wren-babblers and Lesser Shortwings. Common birds were more active, a Spotted Dove flew up to some bamboo when we disturbed it feeding on the road. A flock of Masked Laughingthrush foraged noisily in some bushes before hopping up to a branch for a clear look; very energetic birds as usual.

Spotted Dove

Masked Laughingthrush

We arrived at the supposed site for the Bush Chats, a cemetery with bushes and short trees. Pretty much perfect habitat for this species. The area wasn't particularly birdy, but produced a few Olive-backed Pipits, Hair-crested Drongos, Japanese White-eyes, Yellow-browed Warblers and a huge flock of Red-whiskered Bulbuls on a fruiting tree.

Cemetery area - actually quite good habitat

Then, I spotted a small bird "flycatching" from a low perch. I immediately went after it and soon locked my bins on a smart looking male Grey Bush Chat. Their huge white brows contrast very sharply with its black mask. However, as I casually approach that bird, it immediately flew off to a further perch. I was very surprise by how skittish this one was! It never allowed me anywhere within 10m - 15m. It even flew off whenever I picked up my camera...Of course, every bird have their very own personality and I shouldn't judge a whole species from the few individuals I have observed.

Grey Bush Chat - smart looking male

Soon after, I found the female in the same area. This is actually the first time I have seen a female Grey Bush Chat, so it's sort of a lifer for me. However it was just as skittish as the male and we pretty much went on a wild goose chase around the cemetery, after a while we finally got a few clear looks and a few distant record shots. At least I can be sure that these are genuine wild birds...I only saw two individuals during my visit though. Either way, mission accomplished!

Grey Bush Chat - more modest looking female

On our way back I spotted a Red-throated Flycatcher. It was just as skittish as the Bush Chat and took off right after I took a few record shots from a distant. For whatever reason every bird in the cemetery seems to be afraid of people...

Red-throated Flycatcher

Finally, we found a very distant Ashy Drongo while walking back from the catchment. This was however the less common hopwoodi Ashy Drongo with dark face. We get salangensis, leucogenis and hopwoodi in Hong Kong, all three are winter visitors, but salangensis and leucogenis are by far more common then hopwoodi. It's actually very hard to believe that they are treated as the same species considering how utterly different they look. hopwoodi have much darker and bluish plumage.

Ashy Drongo - hopwoodi

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