Sunday 28 February 2021

One Out of Two Rarities - Japanese Grosbeak & Ryukyu Minivet

Recent rarities proves difficult to track down, where they have been consistently showing but have a tendency to not show up when I am there. My luck finally improves with the long staying Japanese Grosbeak at Yuen Long Park, on my third visit it finally came in with other Chinese Grosbeaks in the afternoon, and kept in view for over an hour. I first saw it feeding on a flowering Bombax tree, it later flew closer before finally landed on the ground to feed. This is a Hong Kong tick for me, with my only previously encounter in Jiangxi China many years ago.

Japanese Grosbeak

The Chinese Grosbeaks were far friendlier, coming in quite close while they actively feed on the ground. Males sporting their smart plumage with black heads and white wing-tips. I counted at least 7 birds in the area. 

Chinese Grosbeak - male

Chinese Grosbeak - female

The flowering Bombax trees in the area also attracted other birds, including numerous Crested Mynas and Red-whiskered Bulbuls. These trees are a main food source for birds at this time of the year and always provide wonderful photographic opportunities.

Crested Myna - on Bombax tree
Red-whiskered Bulbul - on Bombax tree

Other common birds around the lawns includes Japanese Tit, our 'Great Tit' in Hong Kong had gone through several name changes in the past few years, first changed to Cinereous Tit due to its all grey back, but it is now assigned as Japanese Tit race commixtus. Spotted Dove is our most common dove species in Hong Kong, they are actually quite pretty if you give them a good look. Chinese Blackbirds were numerous around the park.

Japanese Tit (commixtus)

Spotted Dove

Chinese Blackbird

I visited Mount Davis three times for the reported Ryukyu Minivet, a first record for Hong Kong. I have been extremely unlucky with this bird, it have been showing up either in the morning or in the afternoon, I somehow always seems to pick the wrong time to visit. On my third visit I decided to stay for the whole day to maximize my chances, but on this very day it decided to only show up briefly in the morning where I got a quick glimpse through my bins from afar, before it flew off into the distance and not to be seen again all day. While I would count this lifer as I got an identifiable view, I didn't get a satisfactory look at this rarity. Other birds in the area includes a young Crested Goshawk which patrols the area frequently, Emerald Doves are also quite numerous in the area.

Crested Goshawk

Emerald Dove

One of the better bird in the area other than the minivet is a scruffy looking Hume's Leaf Warbler, where it actively feeds around the pavilion. Without hearing it call it will be difficult to determine its identity, luckily for us this is quite a vocal individual. A few Common Tailorbirds also feed amongst the mango tree, often causing much confusion when you are trying to photograph a tiny bird in the thick foliage.

Hume's Leaf Warbler

Common Tailorbird

The closest I got to photographing anything that resembles a minivet there was a Black-winged Cuckooshrike...shame the minivet doesn't always stay with it. Hopefully some better luck next month!

Black-winged Cuckooshrike

Saturday 20 February 2021

February - Quiet Month So Far...

February have been a tough month for birding for me, after countless birdless outings and failed twitches, I half gave up looking for particular bird and just looked at whatever came my way. Quite a few rarities been spotted by other birders, just not been able to connect with most of them...Grey Bushchats at my local patch stayed on early in the month, but nothing else interesting of note nearby.

Grey Bushchat - female

Tai Po Kau had not been particularly kind to me, only common birds were seen on my previous visit. Rufous-capped Babbler is always a challenge for photographs, as they jump endlessly around the undergrowth. The flowering coral trees attracted plenty of Fork-tailed Sunbirds, but no Mrs. Gould's Sunbird visited the flowers this year, although a few had been seen elsewhere. Asian Stubtail continues to skulk around the undergrowth in most forested sites.

Rufous-capped Babbler

Fork-tailed Sunbird

Asian Stubtail

My only visit to Mai Po earlier in the month was not particular note worthy, although it was still a pleasant few hours spent around the reserve. Black-faced Spoonbills rare disappoints, as this one foraged quite close to me.
Black-faced Spoonbill

I had a very poor outing out at Deep Bay hide, despite being a good tide, many birds did not come in, including most of the gulls and ducks that I was interested about...Great Cormorants were by far the most numerous out there, taking up most of the roosting space. Only common wader species were seen.

Only a handful of waders with thousands of Cormorants in the back...

Deep Bay

Common Redshank

Wu Kau Tang was a little more interesting, with a high count of over 40 Common Rosefinches! Here is a photo of 21 Rosefinches in a single tree, where another flock was out of sight to my back. 

Common Rosefinch - 21 birds here!

Common Rosefinch - male

A Crested Goshawk seen at close range at Sai Kung was about the only interesting thing I saw at Yan Yee Road, no luck with any other birds there.

Crested Goshawk

A very elusive Japanese Grosbeak had been seen sparingly at Yuen Long Park, it was a no show for me with only a single Yellow-billed Grosbeak came in. Asian Koels are now in full song, truly a sign that spring is here.

Yellow-billed Grosbeak - female

Asian Koel

I was lucky to find two Chestnut-flanked White-eyes at Tai Lam, where they were feeding with a flock of Swinhoe's White-eyes, making this my second sighting this year. A fairly showy Pygmy Cupwing was seen singing in the undergrowth, its been a while since I've gotten a good view of this species.

Chestnut-flanked White-eye

Pygmy Cupwing

San Tin produced a Buff-bellied Pipit, although it was quite skittish, whereas a Red-throated Pipit posed nicely for a photo, now moulting into breeding plumage. I found two Whiskered Tern amongst the flock of Black-headed Gulls, which seems to be a regular sight now around the fishponds of Tai Sang Wai and San Tin.

Buff-bellied Pipit

Red-throated Pipit

Whiskered Tern with Black-headed Gulls

Whiskered Tern

Black-headed Gull

Black-faced Spoonbills are often found around the fishponds at San Tin, you can often get very close views from the car, a single Eurasian Spoonbill was spotted.

Black-faced Spoonbill

Eurasian Spoonbill

My last visit to Shing Mun was not particularly birdy, even the Slaty-backed Forktail was no show, it was mostly just common birds along the forest track. The only notable bird was the long staying Alstrom's Warbler which FINALLY showed for me, after hearing it several times, it finally gave decent views for me, although I did miss the perfect shot, this record shot is what I have to live with for now.

Huet's Fulvetta

Alstrom's Warbler