Thursday 27 September 2018

Post Typhoon Mangkut Birding

Tiger Shrike - probably my top bird this month so far

Over a week after Typhoon Mangkut hit Hong Kong, we are still experiencing the aftermath of it's destruction. We received sustained winds of well over 150km/hr and gusts over 200km/hr where I live. The Super Typhoon caused a breakdown of infrastructure in the city for the first two days, roads were blocked by trees and debris, public transport were a total chaos. I didn't dare venture out but when I did the damage were very visible, concrete walls were blown down, cars crushed by trees and too many fallen trees to count. We were lucky that our city received no casualty during the typhoon, although the typhoon caused quite a lot more damage in the Philippines before it headed our way.

Concrete wall that encase the pipes got destroyed...

This booth was blown over 200m from it's original place.

Cars crushed by trees.

Trees and concrete encasement ripped apart.

Too many fallen trees to count...

Glass shattered, street lamps got blown away.

Many birding spots had been blocked and access near impossible. Both Mai Po and Tai Po Kau are closed and probably will take a while before they reopen. Therefore, I've once again put more effort into visiting urban parks, including Lai Chi Kok Park, where I only found a single juvenile Asian Brown Flycatcher. A Red-necked Phalarope had been recorded there after the typhoon, but I could not relocate it.

Asian Brown Flycatcher - juvenile

While back at home, there's been quite a lot of bird movements, not of migrants but a bunch of local forest species, including Blue-winged Minlas, Silver-eared Mesias and Mountain Bulbuls, all three species are not usually common here but have been quite regular for the past week or two after the typhoon. I was also greeted by a flock of Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes, which are quite regularly seen here, but to my surprise within that flock were up to nine Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrushes! I've only seen this species at Tai Po Kau in the past, so it's interesting to see how they've started dispersing, whether this have anything to do with the typhoon I am not sure, but I sure am very happy with this new local patch tick.

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush

Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush

The other site I visited regularly is Ho Man Tin, Arctic Warblers are still in good numbers there, some of them can be extremely approachable, such as this one which came within a few meters to me. Other warblers that had stuck around were Pale-legged Leaf Warblers, Eastern Crowned Warblers and the odd Yellow-browed Warbler.

Arctic Warbler

A pair of Scarlet Minivets made an appearance the other day, they are not a resident species at Ho Man Tin, certainly dispersing birds from elsewhere. The male showed particularly well on a few occasions. Other resident species that were active after the typhoon includes Masked Laughingthrushes and Red-whiskered Bulbuls.

Scarlet Minivet - male

Masked Laughingthrush

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Red Collared Dove is not a common sight in urban areas, so this lone male is likely a migrant passing through. While I also saw an adult male Orange-headed Thrush, this is already the second bird I've sen at Ho Man Tin after the juvenile.

Red Collared Dove - male

Orange-headed Thrush - male

Asian Brown Flycatchers had became a regular species at Ho Man Tin that you can hardly miss. While a single Black-winged Cuckooshrike was my first for the season, it's always nice to see a newly arrived species for the winter.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Black-winged Cuckooshrike

There had been plenty of Brown Shrikes around at Ho Man Tin, I counted up to three individuals, but could have been more! All the Shrikes I've been seeing at Ho Man Tin were Brown, until Tuesday when I finally struck luck and caught sight of the Tiger Shrike! It had stuck around Ho Man Tin for so long but had evaded me (and many others) since early September, always hiding somewhere...It amazes me how well these birds can hide considering what a small area Ho Man Tin is, a got a very good view for up to thirty seconds before it disappeared again, I heard that it showed a few more times after I left, but I was more than happy with the view I had.

Brown Shrike

Tiger Shrike - star bird at Ho Man Tin

Weather finally cooling off, with cooler evenings that certainly feel a lot more 'autumny'.

Saturday 15 September 2018

Migrant Magnet - autumn action day & night

Haven't gotten much time after our trip to Fraser's Hill for birding even though autumn migration was well underway. I finally managed to get three free mornings this week and decided to head to Ho Man Tin, elsewhere seems quiet though Ho Man Tin had been getting a steady stream of migrants reported. My first day there was not particularly successful with other birders connecting with Tiger Shrikes, Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher and Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, I however only got an Eastern Crowned Warbler, a few Pale-legged Leaf Warblers, a Brown Shrike and an Orange-headed Thrush...

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler

Brown Shrike

Orange-headed Thrush

My second day was an improvement, I didn't stay long, but two juvenile Siberian Blue Robins totally made my day. They showed well along with the Orange-headed Thrush, which actually chased the pair around, obviously didn't want them in it's territory. Other birds I didn't care to photograph much were a Grey-streaked Flycatcher that stayed high up and an Asian Brown Flycatcher.

Siberian Blue Robin - juvenile

Orange-headed Thrush

My third day started with a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, but it didn't make it easy for me to photograph, it stayed high up in a Banyan Tree, occasionally flying out but remained in quite dense cover. But I guess a few good views were better than none!

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher - female

Arctic Warblers were everywhere, a few newly arrived individuals were not shy and foraged on low branches, allowing plenty of photography opportunities, although they are common, not everyday you get to see them this up close! It is still remarkable to me how such a small area within an urban area can support this much migrating birds! This migrant magnet had surprised us year after year, and I am sure it will continue to bring us more good birds.

Arctic Warbler

As Typhoon Mangkhut approaches South China Sea, this super typhoon is supposed to be the strongest typhoon in the region this year. It is sometimes said that animals are more active before bad weather, as they have to take in as much energy as possible, whether this is true I am not sure but it certainly felt this way on Friday evening, as we decided to head to Shek Kong Catchment for a night walk. Brown Wood Owls were calling from up the slope, I took that as a good sign. Hoiling spotted a White-lipped Pit Viper, also sometimes known as Bamboo Pit Viper. It was feeding on a Chinese Gecko when we found it, the poor Gecko still had it's head sticking out of it's mouth, as if trying to crawl out using it's last breath...

White-lipped Pit Viper - wonder what the gecko was thinking at this point...

I also spotted a Common Wolf Snake, a species I've seen dead so many times, I am so glad to finally find one alive! It was a fairly young snake, and no longer than 30cm. Hoiling also very nearly stepped onto a Many-banded Krait! I think her shoes brushed it...I am glad she didn't actually step on it, as they are highly curled up shortly for a photo before slithering off down the slope.

Common Wolf Snake

Many-banded Krait

There were plenty of common amphibian species around, Asiatic Painted Frogs and Brown Tree Frogs were often seen along the road, our best amphibian species was most definitely a Spotted Narrow-mouthed Frog, an absolutely adorable little ground dwelling frog.

Asiatic Painted Frog

Brown Tree Frog

Spotted Narrow-mouthed Frog

We didn't spot any large mammals, but we were rewarded with prolonged views of a pair of Indochinese Forest Rats foraging, one of which just stood there without moving for so long before running up the tree trunk and disappeared.

Indochinese Forest Rat

A Nanhaipotamon hongkongense was found along the road, these colourful forest crabs can wander quite far away from water, they are also endemic to Hong Kong.

Nanhaipotamon hongkongense

Plenty of interesting spiders were found throughout the night, the small but colourful Tetragnatha squamata, a Paraplectana sp. that resembles a ladybird, and the finally a Tarantula right in the middle of the road! Don't be fooled by the photo, it was actually really small...but it was still very exciting to finally see a Phlogiellus sp. in Hong Kong, I am not sure whether this is P. xinping that is endemic to Hong Kong, or P. bogadeki which is recently suggested also present in Hong Kong, they are nearly impossible to identify in the field.

Tetragnatha squamata

Paraplectana sp.

Phlogiellus sp.

Finally, a Collared Scops Owl was found perched on a tree by the road side, it stayed very still for everyone to get a good look for as long as we wanted! It finally flew off after a minute or two. Couldn't have asked for a better way to end the night!

Collared Scops Owl - a very calm individual