Friday 28 May 2021

Grey-headed Swamphen & Other Early Summer Birds

A Grey-headed Swamphen found by Bart earlier in the week at Fung Lok Wai finally got me to head back out in the field after nearly two weeks without any proper birding. It took my third try to finally see this bird, where it came out briefly just before sunset. Grey-headed Swamphen is not a particularly common species in the region, but they are found regularly at certain locations in Guangdong, so the odd ones often wanders to Hong Kong occasionally.

Grey-headed Swamphen

On the same pond a pair of Common Moorhens were rearing a few chicks, often coming out to the edge of the long grass to feed. One of the better species in the area were at least two Cinnamon Bitterns, the male perched briefly and flew through for great views, this species was found breeding in Wetland Park a few years back, so quite likely they will be breeding the area.

Common Moorhen with chick

Cinnamon Bittern - male

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo is easily my favourite cuckoo species in Hong Kong, with their outrageous crest and colourful wings. I was delighted to find a very confiding individual near home, where I was able to observe it up close.

Chestnut-winged Cuckoo

Things certainly quietened down at Tai Po Kau, with no Chinese Barbets or Collared Owlet calling. Other resident and breeding species still fairly active, although many now much harder to see as they are well into breeding. Plain Flowerpeckers are still fairly easily heard around the reserve, while Hainan Blue Flycatchers are not as vocal as before, but with a little effort you often still get rewarded by a singing male.

Plain Flowerpecker

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - male

The best species around was no doubt a pair of Brown-breasted Flycatcher, now with nest that housed four chicks. Despite being next to the main footpath, the nest sits above the stream, so hopefully it will be enough to protect the chicks until they fledge. The parents were busy hawking for insects along the stream and bringing them back to the chicks.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher

Brown-breasted Flycatcher - nest with chicks

Tuesday 11 May 2021

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Late Spring, Early Summer

Spring migration is slowly trailing off after the first week of May, although all eyes were on the scrape at Mai Po as a critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper made an appearance, this species although still regularly recorded in Hong Kong annually, is becoming a rare sight these days. Upon hearing the news of this one found on the scrape, I hurried over to Mai Po, and was delighted to find it feeding amongst Red-necked Stints. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper wasn't particularly close to the hide, but just seeing this globally rare bird is a treat on any given day. This individual was apparently tagged last year in Russia, hopefully it will make its way safely back to the breeding grounds.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper amongst Red-necked Stints

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Other waders on the scrape includes numerous Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and a few other common species, two Pacific Golden Plovers assuming breeding plumage were quite eye-catching. A female Greater Painted Snipe also made an appearance into the open, Mai Po is easily the second best place to look for this species outside of Long Valley.

Pacific Golden Plover - assuming breeding plumage

Greater Painted Snipe - female

The Black-winged Stilts started breeding on the scrape again, they were especially aggressive towards any possible intruders or threat near their nests, a young Black-winged Kite came through and got chased off by them. It made a few rounds around the scrape and gave great views, provided plenty of photo opportunities.

Black-winged Stilt mobbing the Black-winged Kite

Black-winged Kite - juvenile

Tai Po Kau is home to increasing numbers of resident species, with Collared Owlet and Chinese Barbet now regularly seen or heard. Chinese Barbet has gotten much easier to see in the last two years, views are often rewarded if you are persistent enough to locate the bird through its distinctive call.

Chinese Barbet

Lesser Shortwing used to be quite rare to uncommon in Hong Kong, but now a widespread resident. However, it doesn't make them any easier to see or photograph. Was lucky to find this very vocal individual singing in the undergrowth, where I was able to get a few photos through gaps between the branches.

Lesser Shortwing

Brown-breasted Flycatcher is another species that was once a rarity, but now a regular summer visitor in Hong Kong, although I still consider them to be a scarce breeding species in the forests of Hong Kong. I successfully located this one along the forest stream at Tai Po Kau, the preferred habitat of this species.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher

Now is also the time to start our night walks again, we were very lucky to find a pair of Masked Palm Civets engaging in copulation at Lung Fu Shan, they were not at all bothered by our presence and we were able to observe this interesting behaviour for at least 10 minutes! We decided to let them get on with it and moved on, copulation of Masked Palm Civet is known to be able to last as long as thirty minutes.

Masked Palm Civet