Friday 29 October 2021

Mega Rarity - Lapland Longspur!

The Lapland Longspur's presence on the Hong Kong list is a peculiar story. A few years back, a local television station was on site reporting a fire at Nam Sang Wai, the camera man saw a small bird feeding on the burnt ground and started filming, little did he realized he was the filming an incredibly rare vagrant! Birders saw the footage and a few went looking for the bird, unfortunately the bird was never relocated. We all know this species is capable of reaching Hong Kong, it was just a matter of when. 

Luckily for us, research group trapped one at Long Valley and the bird was later relocated in nearby fields. When I arrived, a few of my friends just saw the bird flew off, we searched frantically around the fields, to my relief the bird came back and we were soon enjoying brilliant views of this bird at close range!

Lapland Longspur - 2nd ever record in Hong Kong!

Its been a while since I last got a lifer! Making this one of the best bird of 2021 for me. Lapland Longspur is a very rare vagrant to this part of the world, as most winter very far north, with very few reaching this far south, Hong Kong is likely as far south as they have been reported. The bird showed off all its cool features while it was in view, including the extra long hind claw and the way they walk like a lark.

Lapland Longspur - very friendly, showing off all its features

Late October had been quite a good time for birds, with plenty of birds moving through, although I have been too busy to bird elsewhere, birding around my local patch seemed a good way to fit some birding in my busy schedule. Other than the Grey-backed Shrike I found earlier, some other good birds were found along Tai Mei Tuk Catchment, including a single Swinhoe's Minivet in amongst a flock of Scarlet, Grey-chinned and single Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike.

How many species can you find here?

Swinhoe's Minivet

A Dark-sided Flycatcher was also found along the catchment, a fairly regular autumn migrant in Hong Kong, they are always fun to watch. Asian Brown Flycatchers are far more common and I regularly find them around where I live.

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Asian Brown Flycatcher

I have been enjoying productive raptor watching sessions on my rooftop, with likes of Peregrine Falcons, Ospreys, Crested Honey Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk, numerous Eurasian Hobby and finally a healthy count of Amur Falcons. Autumn is always a good time to look for these long distance migrants, and this year we have been getting incredible counts of these graceful raptors.

Peregrine Falcon

Western Osprey

Crested Honey Buzzard

Eurasian Hobby

Amur Falcon

Now is also a good time for Eurasian Woodcocks, got lucky one night and found this particularly confiding individual feeding by the side of the road, this is by far the closest I've ever been to one, instead of just flushing them out during the day.

Eurasian Woodcock

The best bird around my local patch this week got to be a Manchurian Reed Warbler found along the Ting Kok East Coast, I usually find Oriental Reed Warblers here therefore it was nice to have something different for a change! This is a rare autumn migrant which I don't see every year. Along there I also had Yellow-breasted Bunting and Little Buntings, although most just flew past without stopping.

Manchurian Reed Warbler - quality local patch tick!

Monday 18 October 2021

Quality Migrants - Pechora Pipit & Other Rarities

The past week or so had been a slight improvement in terms of rarer autumn migrants coming through, most notably a pair of long staying Pechora Pipits thats been showing well at Tai Sang Wai, I've never seen Pechora Pipits this well, they are usually quite shy and go into cover as soon as you see them. This pair was however more than happy to stroll along the side of the road, picking off insects in the long grass. For a pipit they certainly are quite smart looking birds, with well defined mantle markings that is quite distinctive.

Pechora Pipit - second bird in the background

Other notable migrants present at Tai Sang Wai includes a distant Pheasant-tailed Jacana, numerous White-winged Terns foraged around the fish ponds for small fish and prawns. I also saw Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler along the road but they gave 'typical' views, that is flying away and dropping into the tall grass.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

White-winged Tern

Great Cormorants are now returning, soon they will fill our sky and trees. Black Drongos are passing through in good numbers, easily find 10 of them around the fish ponds.

Great Cormorant

Black Drongo

No luck with Oriental Scops Owl just yet, but good views of our local Collared Scops Owl is more than welcomed. I am sure some Collared Scops Owl migrate through as well, as they have been spotted on Po Toi Island before.

Collared Scops Owl

Around Tai Mei Tuk area, I had a great view of a pair of Swinhoe's Minivet, shame I did not have my camera with me at the time! By the time I went back with my camera they were long gone. I often see Crested Serpent Eagles perched during my morning walks, I love a good photo of these lovely looking raptors whenever I get the chance! Grey Treepies were far more friendly than our local Indochinese Green Magpies, which I see regularly now but are almost impossible to photograph.

Crested Serpent Eagle

Grey Treepie

Two rarities turned up at Tai Mei Tuk Catchment, both were seen on the 16th. First a Greenish Warbler which first picked up on the call, later found it flitting about near the top of the tree, I was unable to get a good photograph of it but had a pretty good look of all the diagnostic features; single wing-bar, pale lower mandible and dark legs. The second rarity on the day came in form of a Grey-backed Shrike, of which I had terrible views of it on the top of a tree, I first noted it as a Brown Shrike, but the heavily marked breast had a Grey-backed Shrike jiz to it. Unfortunately for me, I never got a good view of the back of its tail or a proper view of its mantle in good light, so I was unable to confirm my speculations. The next day I saw a photo of the same bird by Roman, who went after the Greenish Warbler the same afternoon. His photos were much better and showed all the right features for a first year Grey-backed Shrike. Weather now much cooler, and hopefully this will bring in more birds in coming weeks!

Greenish Warbler - terrible photo...

Grey-backed Shrike - 1st year bird

Thursday 7 October 2021

Starlings & Harriers - Deep Bay Day Out

Still no major rarity yet this autumn, the best birds I managed lately was a juvenile Rosy Starling at Tai Sang Wai, Yuen saw an adult male a few days ago, making it the second bird this month. Among the same flock of starlings was a single Daurian Starling, which seems to be in no short supply this year! I am not complaining, as they are quite good looking birds. They were feeding on the Chinaberry trees, which often attracts lots of starlings.

Rosy Starling - juvenile

Daurian Starling - nice looking adult

The fish ponds around San Tin and Tai Sang Wai are always worth a look during passage, I was hoping for Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, but was disappointed to find the overhead wires empty. A distant Black-winged Kite was probably the best bird I managed other than the starlings. A few extremely confiding Little Ringed Plovers provided plenty of photo opportunity, while a few returning dabbling ducks was a pleasant sight, I saw both Eurasian Wigeons and Northern Shovelers swimming around the fish ponds.

Black-winged Kite

Little Ringed Plover

Eurasian Wigeon

Mai Po was a little bit quiet, although two Eastern Marsh Harriers gave quite a wonderful show in front of hide 3. Both birds were juvenile, but one showed conspicuous white rump. 

Eastern Marsh Harrier

The other bird with barely any white rump. For some reason, most wintering birds in Hong Kong are of juveniles, adult male or female are rather uncommon. A Pied Harrier been seen lately, but didn't show up while I was there.

Eastern Marsh Harrier

The only other bird of interest on the scrape was a single Ruff that was very far away. Wader numbers now in higher numbers, although mostly just common species, such as numerous Eurasian Curlews, I scanned for Far Eastern Curlew with no luck. I found a flock of Pacific Golden Plovers along the fenced road, now in their modest looking winter plumage.

Ruff - amongst other common waders

Eurasian Curlew

Pacific Golden Plover

A Fairy Pitta was reported at Ho Man Tin on 6th, I managed to go there after work in the afternoon, managed a good look of this incredible species, despite this individual being very shy. It is always a thrill to see this spectacular looking bird, and even more incredible to think that they come through urban areas every year! 

Fairy Pitta