Friday, 3 November 2017

The Incredible Late Autumn Run

Siberian Blue Robin - one more bogie bird down!

For whatever reason, birds this autumn came quite late in general, things were extremely quiet the first half, with not so much of a single vagrant or rarity. Coming to the second half of autumn, the northerly winds seems to have picked up, and we were suddenly getting a huge influx of interesting species, I even gained a few new ticks for my Hong Kong list.

The first interesting bird I caught up with was a juvenile Siberian Blue Robin, a species that had eluded me for years as one of my top bogie bird...News of this young bird at Ho Man Tin showing on Saturday morning had my dad and I heading there early afternoon to try for the bird. Quite a few photographers were already there, turns out the bird showed very well and foraged constantly. Good thing we went on the day it was discovered, as the bird was already gone the next day. Therefore, this bird finally freed me from the Ho Man Tin curse!

Siberian Blue Robin

On Tuesday, news of a flock of four Tundra Bean Geese and three Greater White-fronted Geese at Mai Po grabbed my attention, I was on my way to Long Valley and quickly changed course. The four showed wonderfully well at pond 16/17, close enough for some good photos. Geese are quite rare in Hong Kong, although we have been getting more and more reports of geese in recent years, they are still considered a "twitch". The last time I saw them was seven years ago, with two Tundra Bean Geese and two Taiga Bean Geese also at Mai Po.

Tundra Bean Geese

The four Bean Geese later flew off somewhere, so I decided to go look for the Greater White-fronted Geese rumoured to be around pond #22. While walking there I noticed a flock of seven geese perched on an island at pond#21, turns out the Bean Geese found the other geese and roosted together. I have never seen so many geese in Hong Kong on one single day, certainly a great view to look at.

Tundra Bean Geese in flight

Greater White-fronted Geese with Tundra Bean Geese

Having photographed the Greater White-fronted Geese last year I wasn't much interested in waiting for those to get closer, so I decided to go look for other birds elsewhere. A single Chinese Spot-billed Duck at one of the water channel provided a fairly close look before it got flushed. Pied Kingfishers were extremely active and three constantly hovered in front of hide #1, allowing some great photography opportunities. There weren't that many raptors around as I've hoped for, only a lot of Black Kites and a single Peregrine Falcon came by and flushed some ducks and waders.

Chinese Spot-billed Duck

Pied Kingfisher

Black Kite

Peregrine Falcon

Outside the bird hides, Dusky Warblers were everywhere, I totally lost count when I got to around 15, there were definitely a lot more then that. Daurian Redstarts were also showing up in decent numbers now, I got both male and female along the same stretch of footpath, both very photogenic.

Daurian Redstarts - the show offs...

Right outside hide #3, I spotted a small black and white bird, a closer look confirms it to be a male Mugimaki Flycatcher! They are such beautiful birds that everytime I see a male it's like the first. Their smart looking white brow, white wing patch, and most of all the bright orange throat and breast combines together for one great looking creature! I went inside the hide and informed Peter who was photographing the Bean Geese at that moment, though he couldn't repeat the luck, but he did manage to find me a Styan's (AKA Pleske's) Grasshopper Warbler, which I heard and briefly saw but could not photograph, either way a new bird for me!

Mugimaki Flycatcher - male

I went back into hide #3 to hopefully wait for some raptors, although there weren't even a Harrier in sight, later some birders commented the harriers caught a few ducks the day before, so it could be that they won't feed again in the next few days. There were however a pair of Northern Lapwings present, one being an adult while the other probably a younger bird. Both provided great views from the hide. A single Grey-headed Lapwing was also present.

Northern Lapwing

Grey-headed Lapwing

After a pretty great day at Mai Po, I headed to Tai Po Kau with Long on Thursday morning. Things weren't exactly exciting, a Black-throated Laughingthrush gave great views as we walked up, rarely do I get one so photogenic. There weren't that many large bird waves, so things were quite slow. Asian Stubtails seems to be in quite good numbers now, we encountered a few. A female Orange-bellied Leafbird was found along the end of the red trail. We finally got a good bird wave with some warblers, including an Eastern Crowned Warbler plus a Goodson's Leaf Warbler. We also spotted an Orange-headed Thrush hopping next to the trail but was too quick for any photos.

Black-throated Laughingthrush

Asian Stubtail

Orange-bellied Leafbird

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Goodson's Leaf Warbler

I checked on the bird news and saw that a few had spotted a Rook at Tai Sang Wai just outside Mai Po! This is a mega rarity in Hong Kong, there had not been any confirmed records. So we decided to cut our walk short and quickly drove to Tai Sang Wai. When we got to the supposed location, a few other friends were already on site and quickly put us onto the bird which was perched right on top of a metal pole. The eastern race does not have a bare face like those in Europe, so at first glance it could be mistaken for a Carrion Crow, but closer look you will notice the much pointier bill and much smaller size.

Rook - mega rarity!

Around the same area there were also a lot of Collared Crows, which the Rook happily followed. A drained fish pond also attracted a few Black-faced Spoonbills which showed well at close range.

Collared Crow

Black-faced Spoonbill

The other guys told me that the Black Redstarts that had been seen at Long Valley last Sunday was showing again, surely an opportunity not to miss! Long and I drove straight there and once again my friends got there earlier then we did and had already got onto the bird. This is likely just the 3rd Hong Kong record, and the 1st autumn record, so definitely another huge rarity! Finally, a spotted a Cinnamon Bittern from afar, this shy bird was kind enough to perch right out in the open for us to look at briefly. Getting two lifers and four checklist birds within one week, birding can't get much better then this.

Black Redstart - another mega rarity!

Cinnamon Bittern

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