Thursday, 31 March 2016

Slaty-legged Crake in the Park

News of a Slaty-legged Crake at Hutchison Park near Hung Hom surfaced a few days ago. My first encounter with this species was many years ago in Kowloon Park, where one turned up and caused quite a lot of excitement amongst the birding community back then. The second time it was at Lai Chi Kok Park, another urban park. These Crakes are not particularly rare in Hong Kong, we get them annually as regular summer visitors and scarce passage migrants, you can sometimes hear them on various hill sides or country parks calling at night. However, seeing one is another matter, they are quiet and very secretive in the forest, moving along the floor without making much noise.

Slaty-legged Crake - a Crake species that seems to favour urban parks

On Tuesday upon hearing the news, I teamed up with Bee Yu to find the bird on Wednesday morning. We met at Hung Hom Station and walked to Hutchison Park, arriving at around 7:30am. A handful of other birders and photographers had already arrived, huddled up in front of the small patch of bushes the bird had been feeding around. Very soon we had our eyes upon the Crake, walking leisurely along the bushes and lawns, only a few feet away from the many passerby whom would have walked past it obliviously if not for the dozens of long lens pointing at it's direction. For the next 45 minutes, the Crake performed very well and was out and about feeding constantly.

This prehistoric looking creature truly looks like an animal straight out from the Jurassic, looking through the viewfinder I swear it could have been a dinosaur, the way it walked and stalked amongst the undergrowth really sets it apart from other "modern" birds. Slaty-legged Crakes are famous for their "tameness" amongst people, this one was no exception, it would feed from one side of the road to the other, walking right by your feet to get to the other side. We were pretty much happy with the images we had by 8:30, so we decided to head for breakfast. In good time as more people arrived to come and see this bird. This bird is likely on migration, I heard they like to travel at night in the cover of darkness, let's hope it will find it's way out of the maze that is the Kowloon Peninsular without much trouble.

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