Saturday, 5 December 2015

Good Photographic Day at Tai Po Kau

Forest birds are quick and agile, they move in huge flocks and views can easily be obscured by twigs and branches. Therefore, taking photographs of these forest dwellers is not always an easy task, it requires plenty of patience and luck to get good shots you want. Today I try my luck again at Tai Po Kau, hoping the cold weather will bring in some interesting winter migrants.

The day started pretty well, I encountered a bird wave with Nuthatches, Yellow-cheeked Tits, Minivets and Blue-winged Minlas very early on. With a pair of Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers amongst the flock. Goodson's Leaf Warblers and Pallas's Leaf Warblers were amongst the flock as well, but those didn't come down from the safety of the trees, Goodson's Leaf and Pallas's Leaf are two of the easier to distinguish Phylloscopus warblers, where both having very unique style of feeding habits, Goodson's climb around branches in a Nuthatch like fashion while Pallas's Leaf likes to hover in mid-air and pick off insects from leafs. I got some cracking shots of the Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, although very common in Hong Kong it's not every day you get one coming right down to eye-level!

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

Goodson's Leaf Warbler

Numerous bird waves along the way kept me entertained. Although nothing particularly rare amongst the flock, seeing so many birds congregate to feed and being immerged in the wave is somewhat an exciting experience, you can really feel the forest coming alive! Later on I encountered a large flock of Chestnut-collared Yuhinas, they fed on a tree at eye-level, again giving some very close up views! (Closest bird was within 2m!) These are no doubt the best shots I have of this species in Hong Kong so far (the other good photos were taken at Yin Ping Shan in China).

Chestnut-collared Yuhina - one of my closest encounters!

A bit further on, another bird wave a long the red trail, a huge flock of Huet's Fulvettas. This species is a lot more common now then they used to be, now resembling the huge bird waves full of Fulvettas I have seen in Yunan! These birds are pretty fearless, they can come very close if you stay still while they feed just 2m from you. Amongst the large flock of Fulvettas I spotted a small warbler, a quick bin view shows a Seicercus warbler, it was a bit far but the photograph I quickly managed before it disappeared within the huge bird wave reveals another White-spectacled Warbler! The broken eye-ring shows well in the photo. My 2nd bird this season!

Huet's Fulvetta - they have such disproportionally large heads...

White-spectacled Warbler

Another warbler I found in this bird wave was a Two-barred Greenish, the warbler had no crown stripes, an orange lower mendible with no dark spots, two thick wing-bars, a greyish wash underparts and darkish legs.

Two-barred Greenish Warbler

Towards the end of the trail, another bird wave with commoner species waited for me. Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers zoomed around the place, continuously calling. Minivets were everywhere! Many dropped down right to eye-level for close-up views. Blue-winged Minlas were also very actively foraging. The only difference with this wave was a single Black-winged Cuckooshrike.

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

Grey-chinned Minivet

Blue-winged Minla

Black-winged Cuckooshrike

On my way down back to the car park I encountered the last few birds, a small flock of Black-throated Laughingthrush sneaked around the undergrowth, their behaviour truly resembles rats...They are pretty birds though, smart eye-mask with white cheeks and a bluish grey crown when you get to observe them closely. A pair of Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers were with them, and one also decided to show off a little and perched long enough for me to take a few good shots. I don't remember the last time I took this many photos in Tai Po Kau, but somehow this felt like a small achievement for me!

Black-throated Laughingthrush

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler


  1. Great Variety of birds at Tai po kau, Matthew .. Many of these are new to me.. Hope to meet u next year for birding together. .Have a wonderful year end ..

    1. Sure! Find me next time you are in town, will be more then happy to take you around a few spots!;)