Sunday, 7 March 2021

Ryukyu Minivet and Pelagic Birds

Not all rarities are easy to get, some just make you work extra hard for them, and no bird made it more frustrating than the Ryukyu Minivet at Mt Davis. Having failed the first two times (First in the morning, second try in the afternoon) I thought it was just a matter of wrong timing. I caught a quick glimpse on my third try (Whole day!) but it wasn't a satisfying view for this lifer. My forth attempt was a disaster as I got there no more than 5 minutes late. My fifth attempt was extremely frustrating as I knew I couldn't try again the very next day, no surprise that it showed quite well for everyone on the very next day.

On my sixth attempt, I told myself that if I didn't get to see it today, I probably will just give up altogether, as it was not particularly fun to leave home at 6am and drive all the way to Hong Kong Island every morning...Hoiling and I along with a fellow birder were the only three waiting. The bird is known to show up around 7:10 -7:45, every second past the 'prime time' diminishes my hope...It wasn't until just past 8:00am that some birds came through, first some bulbuls, than a female Verditer Flycatcher, at exactly 8:05am a minivet silhouette flew up, and there it was, perched up there preening itself! We got excellent views for a few minutes before it flew up the slope with the bulbuls, I got some fleeting views after that and heard it call a few times before it disappeared behind the trees. Although the encounter was brief, connecting with this rarity after so many attempts felt extra sweet.

Ryukyu Minivet - 1st record in Hong Kong

Of the three species of 'grey' minivets recorded in Hong Kong, Ashy is by far the most common, male have black cap and white forehead, with washed out grey back. Swinhoe's is overall less contrasty, with more white on forehead and a pale rump. Ryukyu Minivet is darkest of the three species, with 'helmet' shape similar to Swinhoe's but with a dark forehead, and darker rump. Although Ryukyu Minivet is a Ryukyu endemic, its been an eruptive year for this species elsewhere including many recorded in Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong, as well as Taiwan. Just one more rarity to keep a look out for from now on!

Three 'Grey' Minivet species in HK - Ashy, Swinhoe's and Ryukyu

Also present at Mt Davis was a Besra, Crested Goshawk seems far more common there, but this Besra caused a bit of a commotion amongst the Hair-crested Drongos.


The Coral Trees at Tai Po Kau are now in full bloom, although unfortunately no Mrs. Gould's Sunbird is present there this year, a few Orange-bellied Leafbirds as well as numerous Fork-tailed Sunbirds were making full use of this nectar source.

Orange-bellied Leafbird - male

Its been a while since I went on any pelagic trip to southern waters of Hong Kong, happy to be able to join the latest one. Weather forecast predicted light south easterly winds and fog, they got the fog bit correct but winds were certainly not light out there! It did get quite choppy at times, making photography that much more difficult. I must once again praise the animal tracking system on my EOS R6, where it was able to track the flying birds even when I couldn't get the bird in the centre of the frame, meaning that instead of firing hundreds of blurry shots, I got over 60% hit rate in suboptimal conditions!

Three species of Skuas are found in Hong Kong waters, the Long-tailed Skua, Arctic and Pomarine Skuas, all three species are regularly seen during passage. We had two Skuas on this trip, both considered quite early in spring. First individual had no visible streamer in the tail, but very broad wings and chunky body, with strong bill, this was likely a 3rd year bird. The other bird was easier to identify in the field, with diagnostic 'spoon' shaped tail streamers, likely an adult still in winter plumage. 

Pomarine Skua - 1st individual, likely 3rd year bird

Pomarine Skua - 2nd individual, likely adult winter plumage

Things were overall quiet, with very little movements of terns still, a few Black-tailed Gulls as well as a Heuglin's Gull were seen, here a 1st year bird and a sub-adult bird.

Black-tailed Gull - 1st year bird

Black-tailed Gull - sub-adult

The main attraction of the day was no doubt Streaked Shearwaters, where we encountered a total of 14 birds in small flocks. This is by far our most common Shearwater species in Hong Kong waters, and one of the largest we can encounter. It is always exciting to see Shearwaters in open waters, as they glide low above the waves. We were lucky to find a few squabbling over food as they all circled in and chased around. Overall a fun trip in midst of travel ban elsewhere.

Streaked Shearwater - squabbling over food, likely a squid or a fish

Streaked Shearwater

1 comment:

  1. Great to see the seabirds, Matt - and congratulations on “nailing” the Ryukyu Minivet.