Thursday, 10 December 2020

Tai Po Kau Warbler Mania - Alstrom's Warbler & More

Tai Po Kau had been quite productive of late, with a good range of warblers on offer, the most notable being an Alstrom's Warbler, a species I have missed several times. On my second try at Tai Po Kau I finally connected with this bird, it was a ringed individual, ringed by HKBWS on 12th of November. It was actively calling, making its presense known. Seicercus warblers are notoriously difficult to ID, key features of Alstrom's includes less prominent crown pattern, complete eye-ring and no wing bars.

Alstrom's Warbler - a long awaited lifer

Other Phylloscopus warblers present includes numerous Yellow-browed, Pallas's, Two-barred and Eastern Crowned. At least two Sulphur-breasted Warblers were seen amongst the large bird wave, their completely yellow underparts can be mistaken for a Seicercus warbler at first glance. There were plenty of Hartert's Warblers, including many of race fokiensis with pale underparts. 

Sulphur-breasted Warbler

Hartert's Leaf Warbler - fokiensis

Other interesting birds present in the bird waves includes a female Verditer Flycatcher, this one was particularly confiding. Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers were in no short supply, there were often more than one in each bird wave. Black-winged Cuckooshrikes were also very noticable, as they are usually the biggest bird moving in the flock.

Verditer Flycatcher - female

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

Black-winged Cuckooshrike

I also tried my luck at Brides Pool one morning, and was fairly productive. I scanned the numerous Swinhoe's White-eyes hoping to get a Chestnut-flanked White-eye but with little luck. The resident Velvet-fronted Nuthatches were very photogenic, while Chestnut Bulbuls came down quite low to feed.

Swinhoe's White-eye

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

Chestnut Bulbul

I spotted a strange bird within the bird wave, turns out it was a Rufous-tailed Robin, it was strange to see this usually solitary ground dwelling bird following the bird waves in the trees. An Amur Paradise Flycatcher was a delightful surprise, as they are quite rare during winter months. Speckled Piculets were showing particularly well and came down to eyelevels.

Rufous-tailed Robin

Amur Paradise Flycatcher

Speckled Piculet

I spotted an interesting leaf warbler within the bird wave, it was obviously a Hartert's type that was not particularly pale on the underside, usually I would label this as a Goodson's and move on, but it did not 'nuthatch' like they usually do...Hartert's Leaf Warblers are well known for their nuthatch like behaviour, it is a trademark that I have observed time and time again, so this unusual behaviour baffled me. At that time other similar looking warblers went through my head...Kloss's, Claudia's, Emei etc...

Hartert's Leaf Warbler

After observing it for prolonged period of time, nothing other than behaviour was suggesting otherwise, plus the undertail pattern looked to be fairly typical of Hartert's. It wasn't a particularly vocal individual, I managed to pretty terrible recording, and after asking around it was most likely just a Hartert's Leaf Warbler just as I initially thought. The question is, why did this one behaved differently? I guess we will never really know, but it does show in warbler ID you can't often determine the true identity of a warbler with one single factor, it is usually combined factors that will lead you to the correct identification.

Hartert's Leaf Warbler

At Tai Mei Tuk Catchwater, not a huge amount of new birds were seen, I finally connected with a long staying male Black-naped Oriole, it was being quite elusive and didn't make it easy for photographs. It was seen following the large flock of Scarlet Minivets, where it blends in well with the female Minivets, although its bigger size does give it away. It was quite the stunner and probably the best looking Black-naped Oriole I have seen in Hong Kong for years. The Grey Bush Chats were still present, often show well if you give it a little time.

Black-naped Oriole - male

Scarlet Minivet - female

Grey Bush Chat - female

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