Wednesday 26 August 2020

Birds and Herps in Early Autumn

I have not spent too much time birding recently, but seeing other people started seeing some returning migrants I thought I should try and look for some myself. Although the migrants at Tai Po Kau was slightly disappointing, with a heard only Eastern Crowned Warbler and a seen only Arctic Warbler. I did however got a nice selection of resident species, including an Asian Barred Owlet, which was being mobbed constantly by smaller birds.

Asian Barred Owlet

I encountered up to three flocks of Greater Necklaced Laughingthrushes, I kept a look out for Lesser Necklaced but with no luck. This species is in general less common than the Black-throated Laughingthrush, which to my surprise I saw none.

Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush

After breeding season most birds are now behaving 'normally', with many congregating in 'bird waves'. White-bellied Yuhina is one of the key feature of such flocks, I counted no less than three in the biggest 'wave'. 

White-bellied Erpornis

The very handsome Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler is always a welcoming sight, they often move in small flocks at this time of the year. They are very quick birds, so I was even more pleased when one decided to show well, allowing some decent photos to be taken.

Streak-breasted Scimitar Babbler

Two of the most abundant species at Tai Po Kau is the Huet's Fulvetta and Silver-eared Mesias, I encountered several large flocks. Silver-eared Mesias are especially nice to see when they show well up close.

Huet's Fulvetta

Silver-eared Mesia

Yellow-cheeked Tits are usually present in larger feeding flocks, most of them stayed higher up, but I did saw this female feeding on a large caterpillar. Its easy to forget that Mountain Bulbul used to be considered a rarity years ago, now they are a regular breeding species at Tai Po Kau.

Yellow-cheeked Tit

Mountain Bulbul

I saw up to three Hainan Blue Flycatchers, but I only managed to photograph the female. Their breeding season is now over, I expect them to be departing very soon. They don't sing their melodic song at this time of the year, more often you can detect their presence by their 'tak-tak-tak' calls.

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - female

Recently we went gorge walking along Tai Shing Stream at Shing Mun, it was a nice change from regular trail walking. Also gave me a chance to use my TG5 to photograph some local fish. One of the most common sucker belly loach is the Pseudogastromyzon myersi, despite their camouflage, the dorsal fin of adults are quite colourful. Juveniles are more clearly marked than the adults.

Tai Shing Stream

Pseudogastromyzon myersi

Rhinogobius duospilus is the most common species of freshwater goby in Hong Kong, they are incredibly curious and quite often will swim towards you if you stay still enough. Males are quite nicely marked with red dorsal fins. They are also highly territorial, males will chase away any intruders.

Rhinogobius duospilus

Another common hillstream loach is the Liniparhomaloptera disparis, they are slightly longer than the Sucker Belly Loach and have bolder markings.

Liniparhomaloptera disparis

I've had some luck with snakes of late, including two juvenile Red-necked Keelback in one morning. This species is both venomous and poisonous, although being a rear-fanged species bites from this species are rarely dangerous. Juveniles are quite colourful, with bluish grey head, yellow and red neck.

Red-necked Keelback

During the monthly night bird survey (with barely any birds) I had a very nice looking Greater Green Snake, while a big Burmese Python certainly was the bright spot of the evening. This individual was probably over 2.5m, although this one is already quite big, it still have a lot of growing to do! They can reach 5m, but largest ever caught in Hong Kong is slightly over 4.5m long.

Greater Green Snake

Burmese Python

Mock Vipers are quite charming little snakes with lots of attitude, this little guy was no exception as it posed nicely for a photo. My snake of the month however goes to a Chinese Slug Snake found by my friends, it is a species I have wanted to see for a while, same as the White-spotted Slug Snake they are extremely docile and very gentle.

Mock Viper

Chinese Slug Snake

Recently with help of my friends I was able to finally see one of my most wanted reptile in Hong Kong, the Big-headed Turtle! Wild turtles are in serious decline due to illegal trapping for the black market and pet trade, the Big-headed Turtle is one of the species heavily affected by this. In fact they are now listed as an Endangered species. Seeing this juvenile in the wild have me remaining hopeful that this species will continue to thrive in the wilderness of Hong Kong.

Big-headed Turtle