Thursday, 2 January 2020

Tai Po Kau - Ending & Beginning

White-spectacled Warbler - last addition of the many quality birds of 2019

2019 had finally ended, what a year it had been, with all the ups and downs and all the madness in our city. Tai Lam Country Park had been remarkable in 2019, and I am hoping this trend will continue through to 2020! On my last visit, it was still delivering plenty of surprises. One of my most remarkable find there were no doubt the pair of Brown Wood Owls along the trail, which had became a bit of a star there for local birders. Although they are not showing as well as before, they are still relatively easy to see there compare to everywhere else in Hong Kong.

Brown Wood Owl - still a special bird to see after seeing it so many times

I found this Grey Nightjar in broad daylight by complete chance, where a few Swinhoe's White-eyes surrounded it. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me at first, but a second look revealed my suspicion to be correct!

Grey Nightjar - incredible camouflage!

My other contribution to the many incredible birds at Tai Lam Country Park were the Japanese Robins, no one had ever seen so many of these usually rare winter visitors in one place! One male showed well again on my last visit.

Japanese Robin - male

I spent an hour at Yuen Long Park after I heard there were a few confiding thrushes inside the park. I missed the White's Thrush and the male Japanese Thrush, but there were many Chinese Blackbirds around, feeding on the ground.

Chinese Blackbird

I only saw a female Japanese Thrush along with a male Grey-backed Thrush. The Japanese Thrush was particularly photogenic and foraged on the ground at close range.

Japanese Thrush - female

Grey-backed Thrush - male

Other than the thrushes the park also seemed to be a good spot for Red-billed Blue Magpies, where a small flock of them showed exceptionally well.

Red-billed Blue Magpie

I didn't spend too much time birding during the last week of the year, although a White-spectacled Warbler reported at Tai Po Kau was quite tempting for me to try get a better photo. The day started off slowly, with very few birds seen, a few small bird waves containing common species like Velvet-fronted Nuthatch kept me entertained.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

The Rhodoleia is coming into flower, and once again Orange-bellied Leafbirds were first there to mark their territory. A male was constantly chasing away other birds and mimicking the call of a Besra, trying to fend off the many Swinhoe's White-eyes that were also trying to feed on the nectar.

Orange-bellied Leafbird - male

The Red-billed Leiothrix at picnic area 3 had became quite accustomed to bird photographers feeding them that they remain in the area almost all the time, other than a steady supply of mealworms, I also saw them picking up leftovers and crumbs of bread left by hikers.

Red-billed Leiothrix

I met Kwan and he generously pointed me towards the direction of the White-spectacled Warbler he saw earlier, I walked to the supposed location and waited, while I was looking out for the warbler I heard a loud wood pecking noise and thought there was a piculet feeding nearby, I followed the sound to it's source and found out it was a Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler feeding on termites!

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler

I waited a short while and finally struck gold when a small bird wave came through and within the numerous Pallas's Leaf Warbler was this single green crowned White-spectacled Warbler. I was able to take a few photos I was happy with before it moved away again. This is the best encounter I've had with this species so far, with the birds often being quite far away on previous encounters.

White-spectacled Warbler

I was also delighted to find the Forest Wagtail was still around when I returned to the car park. It was again casually walking around on the ground and later flew to the other side of the road and fed along the slope there.

Forest Wagtail

I spent the first morning of 2020 guiding a half day tour around Tai Po Kau and Tai Sang Wai. The morning started off with some common birds around the gardens, including a confiding Fork-tailed Sunbird, stable cast of Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Blue-winged Minla, Hair-crested Drongo, Scarlet Minivet, Grey-chinned Minivet etc.

Fork-tailed Sunbird - male

Things were slightly quieter in the reserve at first, a confiding Asian Brown Flycatcher showed well, we got very few birds other than Orange-bellied Leafbirds and Streak-breasted Scimitar Babblers.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

On our way back down we finally struck gold with a large bird wave, where we got good views of the White-spectacled Warbler, a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher at close range, plus a good selection of forest birds such as Rufous-capped Babbler, Huet's Fulvetta, Yellow-cheeked Tit, Black-winged Cuckooshrike and so on...

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

Rufous-capped Babbler

The best bird of the morning were up to two Rufous-faced Warblers! A species which had exploded in Hong Kong this winter, but somehow I've completely missed in 2019. Good thing I finally caught up with them and started 2020 with a pair of these very pretty warblers.

Rufous-faced Warbler - first quality bird of 2020!

Tai Sang Wai was pleasant but nothing particularly interesting to note, except for a pair of Chinese Penduline Tits, which showed well feeding on the top of the reed grass. A Black-faced Spoonbill feeding in one of the fish pond was perhaps the best end to our pleasant morning.

Chinese Penduline Tit - female (left) & male (right)


  1. Great post Matt - I've downloaded the photos you took during our trip to help illustrate my journal. Thanks again for a wonderful morning!
    - Matt T

  2. A great collection of birds! I keep making comparisons of the similarities and differences among the Asian and familiar North American species. Such as the Grey-backed Thrush and the American Robin.