Friday 30 April 2021

Late Spring Push

Po Toi Island been quite the talking point for birders the past week or so, due to a Ruddy Kingfisher which was seen very briefly by Akki and Roman on the 27th. This was only the 2nd record for Hong Kong and a very attractive species that is surely a dream bird for any Hong Kong birder. A group organized a boat to Po Toi on the 28th to hopefully get a chance for this rarity. Naturally, the Kingfisher never showed and quite likely already moved on the very same day, but the island was active with many bird activity, the main attraction of the day being a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher in breeding plumage, plus another without the long tail, likely a 1st summer bird? Both showed quite nicely, although I didn't manage the best photo, I was still very happy to see them in action.

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - breeding male

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - likely 1st summer male?

Other birds present were a 1st year male Mugimaki Flycatcher, at least two male Blue-and-White Flycatchers plus a female near the helipad. A few Streaked Flycatchers were also seen. Other birders also saw Narcissus Flycatcher, although I couldn't relocate the bird while on the island.

Mugimaki Flycatcher

Blue-and-White Flycatcher

Grey-streaked Flycatcher

Other birds throughout the day include a few Chinese Sparrowhawks, Black-naped Oriole, Dollarbird, and numerous Hair-crested Drongos. Other birders had luck with Japanese Sparrowhawk and Chestnut Bunting. All in all, a pretty decent day on Po Toi despite dipping on the main target.

Chinese Sparrowhawk

Hair-crested Drongo

Closer to home along Tai Mei Tuk Catchment, there were not a lot of movements, best was a Two-barred Warbler and a pair of Hainan Blue Flycatcher which showed fairly well. At Wu Kau Tang, Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker evidently already had their first brood of the season, and a few Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo calling and flying around before dusk was more than entertaining.

Two-barred Warbler

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - male

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - female

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker - juvenile

Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo

I missed the Pectoral Sandpiper at San Tin, but had a few Whiskered and White-winged Tern instead, both a common sight during spring migration. While two Oriental Cuckoos were found at Mai Po car park, although by the time I got there they were not showing well at all, and kept flitting about towards the far back, where I managed a very poor record shot.

Whiskered Tern

White-winged Tern

Oriental Cuckoo

At Long Valley, I went three times hoping to find Yellow-breasted Buntings in breeding plumage. Failed miserably the first two times, only moderate success with a few migrants of interest, including a very shy Brown Shrike, flock of Eastern Yellow Wagtail had me scanning for Citrine Wagtail, and successfully connected with one.

Brown Shrike

Eastern Yellow Wagtail

Citrine Wagtail

Red-rumped Swallows were still visiting the shallow ponds looking for nest building materials, carrying beakful of mud away. Quite a few Richard's Pipits were around the fields. The long staying Chestnut-eared Bunting was still around, although not being particularly cooperative.

Red-rumped Swallow

Richard's Pipit

Chestnut-eared Bunting

Finally, on my 3rd try I finally connected with the Yellow-breasted Bunting, although not as friendly as I hoped, 3 were seen together, 2 males and 1 female. One of the male came down the feed on the ground, I managed to get one shot of it through a small gap before it flew off. This critically endangered species is getting increasingly rare, so I certainly feel very privilege that we can still find them with relative ease in Hong Kong every year.

Yellow-breasted Bunting - male

Monday 26 April 2021

Hong Kong Southern Waters - Late April Pelagic

Hong Kong is not well known for its pelagic birds, mainly because where we are situated in the south China coast is a bit off course from most of the truly pelagic species, but with the right conditions and a bit of luck we occasionally get a good haul of species out at sea. 25th was such a day, in terms of bird movement it was one of the most exciting pelagic trips I've been on for a long while in Hong Kong, with an almost constant stream of various terns and phalaropes. As usual, Red-necked Phalaropes were in no short supply, with over 60 individuals seen throughout the day.

Red-necked Phalarope

Our first tern species were a few Little Terns, of which we ended with a good count of 24 individuals, other species we saw were numerous Common, a few Bridled and a single Black-naped Terns. Additional species I didn't get a photograph of were Caspian and Gull-billed terns.

Little Tern

Common Tern

Bridled Tern

Black-naped Tern

The most numerous Tern species of the day was the Aleutian Tern, with at least 70 individuals counted. This is a species that up until 1980s ornithologists had no clue where they wintered outside of their breeding range in Alaska and Russia, not until some birders found them along the coast of Hong Kong during migration. Now, we know they winter throughout the warm tropical waters near Malaysia and Indonesia, and is a regular migrant through Hong Kong waters.

Aleutian Tern

Another tern species that often passes through our waters during migration is the Great Crested Tern, we had at least 18 of these large long winged terns, two were found resting on floating polystyrene boards, a well known 'habitat' for migrating terns.

Great Crested Tern

We had up to 6 Arctic Skuas throughout the trip, with an addition of 2 unidentified Skua species. The best one for me was a dark morph adult, which came quite close to our boat. There was also a single adult pale morph in breeding plumage.

Arctic Skua - adult dark morph

Arctic Skua - adult pale morph

There were other individuals with various plumage variety, I am clueless at aging Skuas, so I presume most of them as adult still in winter plumage, or 3rd year birds. Anyone willing to shine a light on this subject matter I will be most grateful!

Arctic Skua

The highlight for me though was no doubt 6 Short-tailed Shearwaters, a species I have yet to photograph in Hong Kong before. They weren't particularly close, but were close enough to see all the diagnostic features. This is a species that up until 2008 we had no knowledge that it was a regular migrant through Hong Kong.

Short-tailed Shearwater