Thursday, 15 February 2018

Warming Up

White's Thrush - a classic winter species in Hong Kong

Chinese New Year is just around the corner and the weather had been gradually warming up again. It's quite a stark difference when you compare to the coldest days, where you won't see so much as a single insect, now bees are buzzing around the flowering trees and even the odd butterfly had emerged. I even encountered a singing Rufous-tailed Robin, certainly triggered by the warmer weather, getting itself ready for breeding.

Rufous-tailed Robin

Reptiles are making use of this warmer weather to bask in the sun, however making them easy prey for Crested Serpent Eagle, I saw this one at Lok Ma Chau, chowing down what looks like a Checkered Keelback. I do sometimes wonder whether the Crested Serpent Eagles goes hungry during winter months, when the snakes are not so active? Do they resolve to hunting other prey items? I don't have the answer to that but this one certainly seemed to enjoyed it's big lunch before it took to the air again.

Crested Serpent Eagle - looks like it had a decent meal!

At Mai Po, Black-faced Spoonbills numbers are still good, you will easily encounter flocks dotted around the reserve. Great Cormorants are still abundant, although we will start to see a drop in their numbers from March to April onwards. Northern Shovelers seems to be the most abundant dabbling duck species in Mai Po, here's one taking a bath.

Black-faced Spoonbill

Great Cormorant

Northern Shoveler

I finally managed to caught up with the long staying Smew, this female had been showing well around pond 6, although on the day I visited it was with a flock of Tufted Ducks at pond 3. It swam quite close to the bird hide for a good look, the best views I've had of a Smew in Hong Kong! Although a vagrant, Smew seems to have became much more regular at Mai Po in recent years.

Smew - female

At Tai Tong, I caught up with a few wintering Thrushes, these were much more photogenic and regularly fed on the ground, with a few even allowing fairly close views. The most dominant species were Grey-backed Thrush, I counted at least five or six individuals, here a photo of the male and female.

Grey-backed Thrush - male & female

A single Pale Thrush was also present, although much shyer than the Grey-backs, this male still showed fairly well and I managed a half decent photo of this handsome Thrush. A fairly photogenic Eyebrowed Thrush also made an appearance, for a species that is usually very shy this bird was the most obliging I have seen.

Pale Thrush - male

Eyebrowed Thrush - 1st winter

A pair of White's Thrush was probably the star bird there, the first individual had a weird looking face and had no eye-rings of any sort, just looking overall very scruffy. The second bird was much brighter and overall cleaner. The taxon of the Scaly Thrush (Z. dauma) complex had been in flux for years, although White's Thrush (Z. aurea) is now considered a full species on it's own, the actual differences between Z. dauma and Z. aurea is still unclear and identification in the field is near impossible.

White's Thrush - Z. aurea

I got news that an immature Mrs. Gould's Sunbird had been seen at Shing Mun Valley lately, there were already a small crowed congregating below a few flowering Hong Kong Orchid Tree, there were a few Fork-tailed Sunbirds and Japanese White-eyes feeding nearby. It took a while for me to locate the Mrs. Gould's amongst the smaller birds, but once you locked on, it's red breast and wings are quite easy to pick out. It was feeding quite high up but gave fairly good views. Having missed the adult at Kadorie Farm a few years ago this immature male will have to do for now.

Japanese White-eye

Mrs. Gould's Sunbird - immature male

Someone spotted a Crested Goshawk nearby, this one actually caught something and was plucking what I believe to be a Spotted Dove. A flock of Red-billed Blue Magpies were not happy with it's presence and later chased it away.

Crested Goshawk - with prey

Finally, on Valentine's day I got a message from Kenneth that he got up to 30 Eurasian Siskins at Shek Kong Catchment! I looked at my watch and saw that I had an hour to spare before I had other things to attend to, so I quickly rushed there and luckily a dozen were still feeding on a Chinese Sweet Gum. Siskins are pretty rare in Hong Kong, and a fairly eruptive species, where one year we may get none and other year we get a decent size flock like this one! These had likely been pushed southwards by the strong northerly winds a week ago.

Eurasian Siskin - female

Eurasian Siskin - male

Hoiling heard a Koel calling near her home, spring is no doubt just around the corner now!

1 comment:

  1. A nice bunch of winter birds, and I'm glad to see the Crested Serpent Eagle feeding well.
    I've a feeling that our White's/Scaly Thrushes are White's, that is because they are long distance migrants. Scaly (post White's/Scaly "split") is the Himalayan altitudinal migrant.
    Don't tell me if White's and Scaly have been "lumped" again.....