Sunday 30 December 2018

Yellow-streaked Warbler - a 'Year Ender'

This late autumn and early winter period was far less impressive than last year, with a lot less rarities available, admittedly I was also more occupied with other things which meant less time for birds. A previously recorded Yellow-streaked Warbler at Mount Davis had been tempting me for a week or two, so I finally made the effort to go over there to check it out. It wasn't a difficult bird to locate, it was however an extremely difficult bird to identify correctly. As Yellow-streaked Warbler is notoriously similar to Radde's Warbler. I was attracted by it's 'tzic' like call which is reminiscence of a Bunting, it is most unlike the 'quip' calls that Radde's Warblers usually make.

Yellow-streaked Warbler - bird of the month for me

I observed the bird for a few hours, other than call, other features that is said to be the main criteria for identifying Yellow-streaked includes : darker breast band that is brownish, pale throat more demarcated, slightly pointier bill shape, browner upperparts, supercilium whitish behind eye and more distinct in the front. Comparing with photos of a Radde's Warbler I saw last year, all criteria seemed to be fit for this individual. I even managed a photo which shows the faint yellow-streaks on it's belly which give this species it's name.

Yellow-streaked Warbler

Radde's Warbler from 2017

Yellow-streaked Warbler - showing it's least prominent feature the 'yellow streaks'!

Despite all this, there's still been some uncertainty of this bird's identification, while it sounded nothing like Radde's Warbler, it's call was not exactly typical of Yellow-streaked either. Yellow-streaked Warbler have a call that begin at around 5.5kHz, while Radde's Warbler typically at 2kHz or lower. This bird however made a call that began at around 4.5kHz, as shown in this sonogram from my recording. Arguably it is far closer to Yellow-streaked than Radde's, but this variation had us baffled, although it could simply be a variation within the Yellow-streaked spectrum, just that nobody had recorded it so far.

The second remotely interesting bird that I encountered of late was a single Common Starling in Long Valley while leading a group of primary school students from Kau Yan School. I've not photographed one in Hong Kong for years, while a common sight in the UK and many parts of the world, it is far from being common in Hong Kong, being a scarce winter visitor.

Common Starling - a rare sight in Hong Kong

Chung Mei and Brides Pool produced far less interesting species than I expected. the annual Plumbeous Redstarts had returned, although I only caught sight of a female this time. A female Daurian Redstart proclaimed the car park it's territory. The only other note worthy species was a large flock of Indochinese Yuhinas.

Plumbeous Redstart - female

Daurian Redstart - female

Indochinese Yuhina

Tai Po Kau had been productive for most birders, with several highly sought after warblers being seen regularly, I however had not been so lucky on my previous visit, ended up with none! A few large groups of Rhesus Macaques had been actively feeding in the open, I am personally not a huge fan of these primates, as quite often they just scare the birds away.

Rhesus Macaque

Flock of Red-billed Leiothrix was very actively near picnic area 3, a species that is not encountered on every visit. Unlike the closely related Silver-eared Mesia, they quite often move in a flock of their own.

Red-billed Leiothrix

I ended up with a Two-barred Warbler which was too high up for photos and an Eastern Crowned Warbler which showed well, this species used to be just a passage migrant but had started wintering in Hong Kong in recent years. The bird that showed the best however was none other than a Rufous-tailed Robin.

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Rufous-tailed Robin

My year list stands at 304 at the moment, two less than last year's. Although a few birding trips had bumped my life list up to 1,470 species, I haven't scheduled as many trips next year but I expect it to surpass 1,500 on my next trip to Thailand in February 2019! I don't expect to add anymore species in the last two days of 2018, but I certainly look forward to more birds in 2019!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You are planning on going to Thailand at the same time as I am. I won't be there strictly birding as I'll be there with my girlfriend, but I've scheduled a few half day trips to some of the better spots namely khao yai, khao nor chuchi and khao phanom bencha. I'm going to try to stop in at doi suthep, suan rot fai and Sri Nakhon kuen khan? See you the field hopefully.