Monday 17 December 2018

Sniping Those Snipes...

Snipes, a family of long-billed and cryptic looking wader that is both fascinating and annoying at times...They are often shy and difficult to spot amongst the vegetation, the fact that most species looks superficially similar doesn't help. Long Valley is probably the best place in Hong Kong to go 'sniping' (if that's ever a thing), three regular species of Snipes can be found here (Common, Pin-tailed & Swinhoe's), although picking up all three can be a tricky task. There's been a slight influx of 'Swintail' Snipes of late, a name us birders use to call unidentified Pin-tailed or Swinhoe's Snipe, as the two are notoriously difficult to identify in the field, even with a good photo of a perched individual it is still near impossible, your only real chance will be to catch it or take a photo of the bird with it's tail completely fanned out during landing...Like with this individual...which I managed such a photo, you can just about make out the pin-like tail feathers on the outer edge if you zoom in.

Pin-tailed Snipe - one in a million photo...

A few flight shots of various 'Swintail' type snipes remains inconclusive, although leg projection was suggested as an diagnostic feature in the past, there is some overlapping between the two species. This one with quite a clear toe projection behind the tail would have been labeled as a Pin-tailed in the past, although I wouldn't be so sure now...All my photos of other landing 'Swintail' snipes came out blurry. Close views of Common Snipes is a common sight at this time of the year, when they seem to be out a lot more. While a few male Greater Painted Snipes had been playing hide and seek with me, but I got a good view in the end.

'Swintail' Snipe

Common Snipe

Greater Painted Snipe - male

A few Black-browed Reed Warblers had been frequenting the reeds at Long Valley, one of which was particularly responsive to my pishing and came out into the open briefly for a photo, they are very handsome looking when seen well.

Black-browed Reed Warbler

Citrine Wagtails had been slightly elusive of late, not always sticking to their favourite patch or just disappearing to somewhere else entirely. I spotted one in amongst a flock of Eastern Yellow Wagtails the other day, it was ringed and skittish, whether these two features are related I am not sure.

Citrine Wagtail

Bunting numbers had dropped significantly, only a few Yellow-breasted Buntings remains, while a Little Bunting had been playing it tough, hopping out into the open only for brief seconds before jumping back into the paddyfield.

Yellow-breasted Bunting - very few that's still around Long Valley

Little Bunting

A pair of Oriental Magpies frequents the harvested paddies, probably looking for worms or insects. This recently split corvid is not exactly what you call exciting, but for those living in Europe or America this is a very likely 'armchair' tick.

Oriental Magpie - Pica sericea

A female Kestrel had been coming to Long Valley regularly of late. It's been fed grasshoppers by photographers and had habituated herself as a regular visitor. Although I do have doubts on the origins of this bird, as it suffered from what seems like bumblefoot, a disease that is common in caged birds. So, my theory is that this individual was probably released or escaped from someone's private collection sometime ago. It's talons seems to have improved and was seen flying off into the distance. Eastern Buzzards are pretty regular at Long Valley in winter.

Eurasian Kestrel - female

Eastern Buzzard - Buteo japonicus

A pair of Black-faced Spoonbills had became regular visitors to a pond near Ho Sheung Heung, this is the first time I've ever seen BFS at Long Valley.

Black-faced Spoonbill - a first for me at Long Valley!

Elsewhere at Tai Sang Wai, drained fish pondd had attracted quite a lot of birds. Egrets were in good numbers, as were Black-faced Spoonbills. I counted up to two Eurasian Spoonbills amongst the Black-faced in two separate flocks.

Little Egret

Black-faced Spoonbill

Eurasian Spoonbill

I scanned for Common Starlings amongst the Silky and White-cheeked but with little luck. While it's hard to resist a good photo opportunity of a confiding Eastern Yellow Wagtails from the car, a male Eurasian Kestrel is no reason to complain either!

White-cheeked & Silky Starlings

Eastern Yellow Wagtail - race taivana

Eurasian Kestrel - male

Fish ponds near San Tin had became an unwelcoming site for birders for some reason, as fishermen now chase off any birders 'trespassing' into their ponds. Therefore I visited Tam Kon Chau Road instead, yielding a large flock of Tufted Ducks and a Yellow Bittern, both at close range.

Tufted Duck - male

Yellow Bittern

Finally, two nights of venturing up Robin's Nest ended in vain with no Oriental Scops Owls...confiding Savanna Nightjars on both nights provided some consolation, you can see the difference of plumage between the two birds, but both incredibly camouflaged.

Savanna Nightjar - master of camouflage

1 comment:

  1. Great to see the Savanna Nightjars... and still hoping for an LV "rarity" this winter.