Saturday, 26 March 2016

A Very Good Friday

Spring is upon us, although the weather was not typically what we would expect it to be at this time of the year. It was however quite pleasant, not too humid with a hint of wintery chills that have lingered for longer then expected. But, as I always say, birds don't lie. Koels and Large Hawk Cuckoos have all started calling, while our glorious spring migrants have started to descend upon our humble city. Flycatchers are very typical migrants, and the Narcissus Flycatcher is one of them. A beauty as it's name suggest that always attracts the attention of birders and photographers alike, I never quite know whether the name suggests it's personality or that it's colour is similar to the Narcissus plant, but I guess if I look as good as they are I would constantly look at my own reflection too.

Narcissus Flycatcher - when you see them you know it's Spring

While I was pondering about where to go after the Good Friday church service, I received a message from Benjiman Li that he was photographing a male Narcissus at Ho Man Tin Service Reservoir Playground. My Father and I were there as quickly as we could. We arrived in good time, the bird was showing well and we had a blast of a time enjoying this stunner!


Narcissus Flycatcher - you can just glimpse the patch of greenish feather on it's head

Soon more arrived and a stake out point was setup by the photographers, the bird reacted immediately and went for all the meal worms he saw, even those on the ground...migrants have big appetites. The small patch of greenish feather on it's head indicate that this is a young male.


Narcissus Flyatcher

Birds are extremely opportunistic when given the chance...joining in with the feast provided were some long staying winter visitors, including a Taiga Flycatcher, could be the one that I saw at approximately the same location a few months ago. A female Daurian Redstart also came around for some easy pickings, she was most unpleased to find so many other birds feeding on "it's premises". Ho Man Tin Service Reservoir Playground is an incredible location, although surrounded by urban landscape, this oasis is a refuge for many migrants. It's likely that birds flying into Kowloon Peninsular see this large green "island" as an ideal place to land, being a very compact site, birds that cluster here are relatively easy to find, which may explain the large amount of rare sightings from this location.

Taiga Flycatcher

Daurian Redstart - bossing everyone around constantly

After that, we hit up Long Valley in hope that some migrants had dropped in. We were not disappointed. First up was a Red-necked Phalarope that swam around the flooded paddies, their feeding behaviour can be describe as "cute", where they do little circles while picking on the surface. You see most of them migrating out at sea, while a few get blown inland into places like Long Valley.

Red-necked Phalarope

Red-throated Pipits were everywhere, their faces now blushing as they get ready for their breeding season. You can pick them out much more easily from the fields now that they have changed colours. Amongst a flock I saw a single Buff-bellied Pipit, also starting to moult into breeding plumage. Note the fresh buffish colours on it's belly, hence the name.

Red-throated Pipit - blushing

Buff-bellied Pipit - moulting into breeding plumage

A very big surprise and no doubt our star bird of the day was not one, but TWO Japanese Yellow Buntings! They were found near Yin Kong Village, where they were found foraging with the Red-throated Pipits. This scarce Bunting is largely a spring migrant in Hong Kong, with a few reports each year. Their breeding range is limited to central and southern Japan, wintering as far south as the Philippines. Listed as vulnerable, the population trend of this species is on decline in recent years. This is a fairly early spring record, their numbers should peak around early April. It had been a good few years since I last saw this species, so it was nice to refresh my memory!


Japanese Yellow Bunting - our birds of the day!

Shortly after we found another Bunting, this time a Chestnut-eared Bunting. This one probably had been around all winter. It's also moulting into breeding plumage, getting more brightly coloured by the day!


Chestnut-eared Bunting

Last but not least, we saw more then a dozen Oriental Pratincoles towards the Ho Sheung Heung side. All lined up on the field, resting their wings from their long journey from South East Asia. We regularly see these strong flyers while out at sea during migration season. It's good to see one of my favourite bird again, their graceful elegance is always delighting.


Oriental Pratincole - very abundant at the moment

I got work tomorrow, so I probably won't be out again until Sunday afternoon. Hopefully I won't miss too much.

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