Friday, 20 November 2015

Signs of Winter

A walk in Tai Po Kau this morning finally had me convince that winter is here, although the weather felt anything but, it was rather humid and still pretty warm. If it wasn't for the arrival of our wintering thrushes and wintering flycatchers I would swear it felt more like mid-spring! I had plenty of Grey-backed and Japanese Thrushes today but none gave good views, a Rufous-tailed Robin frolicked in the undergrowth, I heard and saw numerous Asian Stubtail, all these were very typical wintering species. I had a single Verditer Flycatcher amongst the first bird wave, a regular wintering species in Hong Kong and one of my all time favourite flycatchers in Hong Kong.

Verditer Flycatcher - our regular wintering flycatcher

A few Scarlet Minivets were present, I have found them increasingly scarce in more core areas within Tai Po Kau, but more common found in urban parks and forest edges. On the contrary, Mountain Bulbuls are increasingly common in wooded areas, especially in Tai Po Kau.

Scarlet Minivet

Mountain Bulbul

The only bird that was particularly photogenic was this Dark-sided Flycatcher. Like any typical flycatchers, they hawk from a single perch and are always a good subject for a portrait. This one was particularly bold and fearless, it flew right towards me to catch a flying insect at one point.

Dark-sided Flycatcher - very photogenic

Another wintering flycatcher is the Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, a very energetic species that doesn't like to stay still as it's distant cousin. There were quite a few around Tai Po Kau today, most of them followed bird waves, calling "silly billy" constantly. I am not sure who came up with the phrase "silly billy" to represent it's call, most likely not Billy.

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

It is a general rule while birding in Hong Kong that if you find a warbler with yellow underparts, it's likely to be something good. Today I found two of those "good" species, first was the more common Goodson's Leaf Warbler, another returning winter visitor that we regularly get.

Goodson's Leaf Warbler

The second warbler with yellow underparts was around picnic area 1, Mei Ling kindly noted it to me that a Seicercus warbler was around, though the bird was not present at the time. I waited a further thirty minutes after they left and finally got the pretty little warbler in view! A White-spectacled Warbler. Seicercus warbler's taxonomy have long been complex and very confusing, only in recent years have one species been split into six! In the past it was easy as any Seicerus warbler with an eye-ring were identified as "Golden-spectacled Warbler". Now you have to get a much clearer view to get the ID down to species level. White-spectacled Warbler is one of the easier ones, as the broken eye-ring is usually diagnostic, however to be sure the eye-rings are broken you need a very good view, and that's not easy in wooded areas. These warblers are lightning quick and rarely stay stationary for a long time. To make matters worst you get bad lighting in the forest and the bird may not always be close to you. I was lucky that the bird decided to give a few fairly good views (though bad for photographs). I also saw another Seicercus warbler in another bird wave, however that one did not stay for me, but I had a feeling it was more likely to be a Bianchi's Warbler, but since I could not nail the ID, it will have to remain a mystery...

White-spectacled Warbler - broken eye-ring is diagnostic

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