Thursday, 23 March 2017

Taste of Migrants - Mallard?

Mallard - uncommon winter visitor and migrant in Hong Kong

Spring marks a much larger turnover of birds, with new birds coming and going everyday. Things changes quickly and a day could make all the difference! Interesting birds can be found anywhere at anytime, at Shek Kong Catchment late last week I found a large flock of around sixty Silver-backed Needletails, a species scarce in Hong Kong but passes through on a regular basis during migration. They provided some interesting views despite being a bit far, there were enough of these quick birds for me to capture a shot with seven birds in one frame!

Silver-backed Needletail - seven out of the sixty odd birds

Hirundines numbers had also increased, many of them congregated at fish ponds in northern New Territories, most of them being Barn Swallows with the odd Red-rumped Swallows or Pale Martins. The below shots taken from the fishpond while on an outing for work.

Barn Swallow - good target practice

Also at the fishponds were the increasingly common Eurasian Collared Dove, they are now everywhere in the Deep Bay area, mainly at fish ponds and surrounding areas. There was again a Bombax tree near the fishpond I was at which attracted a lot of birds, including numerous White-shouldered Starlings and Azure-winged Magpies.

Eurasian Collared Dove

White-shouldered Starling

Azure-winged Magpie

Eastern Yellow Wagtails are still very common around fishponds, this one was found in Tai Sang Wai, kind of at the "in-between" stage of moulting.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail - taivana

The most interesting find at Tai Sang Wai though was a single drake Mallard. This is a species that is not particularly rare in Hong Kong, but very uncommon throughout, even in Deep Bay area. I don't see them very often, a handsome drake even more so! Who would have thought my most interesting spring migrant this week came in form of a dabbling duck?

Mallard - this guy proved to me it was a wild bird by taking to the sky...

Out at Deep Bay a large numbers of Large Gulls were present, including a few rarer varieties, other then our common Heuglin's, Mongolian and Vegas, a single 1st winter Slaty-backed Gull was present on the day I visited. A very handsome Pallas's Gull in breeding plumage was also there, easily picked out from the rest of the gulls with it's conspicuous black head.

Slaty-backed Gull - 1st winter

Pallas's Gull - adult breeding plumage

I visited Tai Mo Shan the other day, hoping to find the Chinese Grassbird as they should now be quite vocal and active. I heard two birds but none of them showed. Chinese Francolins were again very shy and I simply could not locate it despite immense effort. I did however connected with a nice Lesser Shortwing which showed very well by Shortwing standard, but that little bit of twig that blocked it's throat 'ruined' this photo for me...Rufous-capped Babblers called constantly and a few showed well for me. Richard's Pipits were in song near the summit, strangely this one does not look like the local sinensis subspecies, I wonder if they breed up here as well?

Lesser Shortwing - if only the twig wasn't there...

Rufous-capped Babbler

Richard's Pipit

Finally, more night walks with Hoi Ling produced quite a lot of interesting creatures. We were leading a group from CUHK for a night outing on Monday and yielded many emerging frogs, many of them were absent just two weeks ago! We found two Hong Kong Newts, both juveniles strolling along the roadside. Brown Tree Frogs are now active and calling, as are Gunther's Frogs. We found a nice Silver Leucauge (a spider) which have two emerald green stripes on it's lower abdomen. Finally, we found two Mock Vipers on the night, which we were able to show the students closely! Too close perhaps as Hoi Ling was trying to point out it's head shape but mis-judged the snake's movement and got a nice little nibble from the snake...Glad this little guy was non-venomous!

Hong Kong Newt

Brown Tree Frog

Gunther's Frog

Silver Leucauge

Mock Viper - the very same snake that bit Hoi Ling...


  1. Great post, Matt. Seems hard to believe that a Mallard could be classified as a rarity. But that's part of the fun isn't it? What's common to one is rare to another.

    1. Well it's not so much of a real rarity, just a very uncommon bird that we don't get to see everyday! ;)

  2. I wouldn't dare go anywhere near most of the snakes !

    1. They are all fun! I do try to becareful of the venomous ones though...