Friday, 11 November 2016

It's Amour! - Amur Falcons and a bit more

"What did you saw today?" My Father casually asked me while he was taking off his shoes as he arrived home. I didn't say a word, but grinned from ear to ear. I think at the moment he knew what I saw.

Amur Falcon - adult male

My day started early at Tai Sang Wai, it was quite a chilly day and I was hoping to catch a few Amur Falcons waking up. The road into the fish ponds were forever bumpy, I stopped at a fish pond with a lot of hawking hirundines. A falcon caught my eye, and I thought that was it! And looking through my bins had me cursing loudly...yet another Kestrel! I later saw the same bird on the way out and it raised my hopes up again...fooled me once shame on you, fooled me twice shame on me...

Eurasian Kestrel - male

It was too early to work my heavy lens to take any flying shots of the many hirundines present, but I found a rope where they were roosting so I settled with that instead. Barn Swallows were obviously the most common one. Red-rumped Swallows were in good numbers as well. A few Pale Martins also joined in, but only a few out of over a hundred birds perched with the other swallows. I failed to locate any Northern House Martins that John Holmes reported the day before, but there were quite a few Asian House Martins present.

Barn Swallow

Red-rumped Swallow

Pale Martin & Barn Swallows

Commoner birds such as White-breasted Waterhen were actively doing their favourite activity; road crossing. A confiding Richard's Pipit posed well for a decent photo.

White-breasted Waterhen

Richard's Pipit

Tai Sang Wai was not producing anything new, so I decided to move on and headed to Lok Ma Chau. The lily pond where I saw the Pheasant-tailed Jacana had been dug up. Bad news for the Jacanas and Watercocks but good news for the Egrets, a few dozens congregated there. All of our common egrets were there, which yielded a shot with Little, Intermediate and Great Egret standing together. With this many egrets congregating there were bound to be some arguments, two Intermediate Egrets got into a proper fight, the loser was easy enough to identify. To my surprise, three Black-faced Spoonbills landed and roosted with the egrets, one of them was clearly a young bird, probably a first year?

One shot with three egret species - Intermediate, Little and Great

Intermediate Egret - fights can get quite messy...

A young Black-faced Spoonbill amongst Little Egrets

There wasn't a lot of birds at Lok Ma Chau, I saw a single Lesser Coucal as well as a few Blue Magpies but none of them stayed long enough for a photo. A large bird perched on a telephone pole caught my attention, a quick look revealed it to be a Crested Serpent Eagle! Although not rare, to see one perched at close range is still not an everyday thing! I enjoyed excellent view for the next 10 minutes or so, really appreciating it's majestic stance. On my way out I saw another juvenile circling above, which didn't look like the same bird.

Crested Serpent Eagle - majestically perched

Crested Serpent Eagle - juvenile in flight

Long Valley was up next. Teals were in good numbers, all the males are in eclipse at the moment. There were quite a lot of Yellow-breasted Buntings, but again they were quite shy. The mythical Black-headed Buntings were again a no show for me. Tree Sparrows were in good numbers as well, but I couldn't locate any other sparrows amongst the flocks. I spotted a single Eurasian Skylark which fed quietly and nearly avoided any kind of attention.

Eurasian Teal

Tree Sparrow

Eurasian Skylark

Right at where I was watching the skylark, I spotted four falcons circling high above. They were surely Amur Falcons, they were miles off but still managed to pick up the diagnostic features of pale underwings and darker trailing tertiaries. I was happy to have spotted them but was feeling kind of unsatisfied with such distant views.

Amur Falcons - passing through high up

The other bird that I couldn't get any satisfied views or photos of were the many Black-browed Reed Warblers that skulked the tall grass. I knew how many were in there by their calls, you see glimpses of fleeting views of a part of the bird every so often, but you can never see the whole bird. After at least thirty minutes of trying I at least managed a record shot of one. I bumped into Yuen at Long Valley and chatted with him shortly, congratulating him of his amazing juvenile Amur Falcon shots the day before, those made me real envious! A single Red-rumped Swallow perched on the wire saw me off. While I was having lunch I also bumped into David Chan while eating lunch at the Tofu factory, whom also managed to catch up with the high flying Amurs.

Black-browed Reed Warbler

Red-rumped Swallow

For the afternoon, I spent a good few hours guiding a large group from two primary schools to Shek Kong Airfield Road. Unfortunately there wasn't much seen during the tour, possibly because there were too many students at one time, but in general the birds (especially common ones) did not want to show! This was however made up for with a few Amur Falcons drifting pass, which allowed me to share with them the stories of their amazing migration route from North East China all the way to South Africa. So, all in all it wasn't too bad.

Observing an Amur Falcon with the birding group

It was already 4:15pm when the tour was over. The remaining day light should not be wasted! So, I decided to try my luck at Wo Sang Wai, the flat area with fish ponds and many overhead wires provides a great roosting spots for Amur Falcons, or so I hoped...I arrived at around 5:00pm, and scanned the wires and sky constantly, but had little luck at first.

By 5:15pm it was getting darker, so I thought my luck had ran out and was ready to leave, when I suddenly spotted a falcon flying towards me! I quickly got out of my car but the falcon never stopped, I saw it landed too far away for any real chance to relocate it. Just as I groaned and thought I blew my only chance, I spotted a silhouette of a bird smaller then a dove perched on an overhead wire nearby. An Amur Falcon indeed! I got even more excited when I saw that it was an adult male!

Amur Falcon - looking rather tired out when it first landed

Completely overjoyed I quickly got back in the car and snuck up to the bird, it was probably too tired to care for a crazy guy snapping away his camera at it. I enjoyed excellent close-up views for up to 10 minutes before it finally had enough of me and flew to a wire a little further away. A dream come true for me that at last I had one sitting on the wire!

the red bill and feet showing well at close range

As I left, I looked at this little raptor one last time, simply amazing to think that this little fella is able to fly all the way to South Africa on it's own and back every single year of it's life. What an incredible journey that must be and that it had probably seen way more in a single journey then I possibly would in my entire life time. I was suddenly more envious of the bird itself.

1 comment:

  1. Great to get the perched Amur Falcons, especially away from more-birded sites like LV. I've only ever seen an adult male AF perched once !