Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Owls and the Last of Spring Migrants

Collared Scops Owl

The pair of Collared Scops Owls that nested in an urban park in Kowloon last year were back again, they have once again became a hot topic among the locals that frequents the park, many non-birders were intrigued and enjoyed the company of such wonderful birds. Collared Scops Owl is stated as 'widespread and common' in 'The Birds of Hong Kong and South China', but it doesn't make them easy to see, while you may hear them quite often in Hong Kong, actually seeing them in the field requires luck.

The chicks had already fledged when I visited, I found two perched high up in a tree sleeping. Collared Scops Owls are not fuzzy eaters, and they have been observed to feed their young with a wide range of prey items, including cockroaches, insects, geckos as well as rodents. These all seems to be in good supplies around the park judging by the size of the chicks!

Collared Scops Owl - chicks dozing off...

One of the adult remained nearby to watch over the chicks. Having chosen an urban park as their nesting site, the owls seems pretty well acclimated to disturbance around their roosting tree, as the park is used by many locals and many of them play loud music during early morning. It perched right underneath a Chinese Fan Palm leaf, a perfect place as a day roost to keep out of the wind and rain.

Collared Scops Owl - you can tell parenting is hard...

White-breasted Waterhens are also breeding right now, and I've seen a few broods already, including these cute fledglings I found near Ma Tso Lung. It always amazes me how different the chicks waterhens look from their parents.

White-breasted Waterhen - a family portrait

I also went past Kowloon Peak the other day, hoping to find a Chinese Grassbird but came up empty, I did however found a very vocal and confiding Hainan Blue Flycatcher in the forest, it posed and provided some of the best views I've had this year, which translated to a very good portrait to represent this beauty,

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - male

Back tracking a little, before my trip to Sabah I guided two birders from the UK for a half day at Mai Po. We had a good range of birds on the day, including most of the waders at Deep Bay. The best birds however were a pair of Yellow-breasted Buntings along the access road. Despite being a bit far for my camera, we had great scope views. Yellow-breasted Bunting is now a critically endangered species, although they are quite regular in autumn, I seldom see them in spring.

Yellow-breasted Bunting

After the tour I visited Long Valley with Hoiling before dusk, where a Large Hawk Cuckoo gave good views at Ho Sheung Heung. Greater Painted Snipes are also more active at dusk, coming out to feed in the fields.

Large Hawk Cuckoo

Greater Painted Snipe - female

A reddish brown bird flew out which turns out to be an adult Cinnamon Bittern, of which I managed record flight shots under the dimming lights. An even better bird turned up a minute later in form of a Pheasant-tailed Jacana! We had great views but by that time it was getting too dark for any real chance of a good photograph, so I settled with this 'creative' shot of it flying past us.

Cinnamon Bittern

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

The best of spring is no doubt behind us with most migrants gone, time for a few night walks perhaps?

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