Wednesday 24 November 2021

Hong Kong Rarity...Carrion Crow?!

One man's trash is another man's treasure, this is very true in birding, where one species maybe very common in one country, but consider a rarity in another. Roman found two Rooks near Lut Chau and posted a few photos up to instagram, I noticed that one of the 'rook' looked slightly weird, with heavier and thicker bill. Turns out he found a Carrion Crow along with the Rooks! Its been many years since I last seen a Carrion Crow in Hong Kong, although it was something I used to see almost daily when I was in the UK, but it is no doubt a rarity in Hong Kong! It took my third try to locate it at Lut Chau, where after scanning for 30 minutes in the cold I finally caught sight of it with Large-billed Crows and Collared Crows.

Carrion Crow - a twitchable bird for us none the less

Carrion Crows maybe mixed up with juvenile Rooks, the bill of Rooks are thinner and pointier, with less curved on the upper mandible. This particular individual was frequenting in between Lut Chau and Mai Po, often coming out to the fish ponds to feed and roosting on trees in Mai Po.

Carrion Crow

Occasionally some Large-billed Crows may also have less 'stepped' forehead, which may be mistaken for Carrion Crows, but Large-billed Crows have a much thicker bill, and slightly longer as well. I've always thought the shape of the bill of Carrion Crows is similar to that of Collared Crows.

Carrion Crow (below) and Large-billed Crow (above)

Collared Crow

Olive-backed Pipits are now returning and not difficult to find along well vegetated tracks along Tai Sang Wai. Daurian Redstarts continues to be in great numbers this year, some extremely confiding such as this female.

Olive-backed Pipit
Daurian Redstart - female

Whiskered Terns are mainly passage migrants in Hong Kong, but we occasionally get a few wintering in Hong Kong. A long staying Pheasant-tailed Jacana at Tai Sang Wai will occasionally pop its head out for birders to see.

Whiskered Tern

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

The Booted Warbler at Fung Lok Wai continued to show well for any birders looking for it, often confiding and at close range. The fish ponds in the area is probably the best area for reed warblers at the moment, with more Black-browed Reed Warblers I can count, I managed to find one more Manchurian Reed Warbler still lingering, while a few Oriental Reed Warblers were also present.

Booted Warbler

Manchurian Reed Warbler

Oriental Reed Warbler

The shrubs and bushes around the fish ponds also provided plenty of shelter for birds such as Black-faced Buntings, I counted no less than five Siberian Rubythroats in one morning, with one male showing particularly well. At least two Eurasian Wrynecks also been present, although not always easy to photograph.

Black-faced Bunting - male

Black-faced Bunting - female

Siberian Rubythroat - male

Eurasian Wryneck

Other wetland species easily found here includes Eastern Marsh Harriers, which often patrols the area in early morning. Eurasian Coots are not as common as they used to be in Hong Kong, I am glad to find them in good numbers here still at Fung Lok Wai. A single Yellow Bittern was spotted along the reed beds, while Common Kingfishers can be found here with relative ease.

Eastern Marsh Harrier

Eurasian Coot

Yellow Bittern

Common Kingfisher

Over at Mai Po, Black-faced Spoonbills have now returned, we are lucky in Hong Kong that getting close views of this iconic species is a regular occurrence. If you sit around long enough in the bird hide, you often find raptors coming around, such as this Western Osprey. Numerous ducks have returned, I managed to grab a few shots of a pair of Eastern Spot-billed Duck flying across.

Black-faced Spoonbill

Western Osprey

Eastern Spot-billed Duck

Bunting season is right about now, unfortunately Long Valley is now out of bounds due to the construction of the nature park. With the limited access I only managed a pair of Rustic Buntings and a few Little Buntings. I have been seeing Yellow-breasted Buntings here and there, but not quite as easy to photograph outside of Long Valley.

Rustic Bunting - female

Little Bunting

Monday 15 November 2021

Fung Lok Wai - Booted Warbler

An interesting looking warbler was spotted by a birder at Fung Lok Wai, initial photos gave impression of Blunt-winged Warbler, some suggested Paddyfield, Booted and Sykes's were later suggested as well...Given all those species are rarity in Hong Kong, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at it myself! The bird showed extremely well from the moment I arrived on site, immediately it gave an impression of an iduna warbler, the only member of this genus that I have seen is the Booted Warbler, and somehow this one didn't quite give me the impression of a Booted. It's bill seemed long and supercelium was quite short, which suggested Sykes's.

Booted Warbler

Even after looking at it for over an hour and very good photos taken, I am still not entirely sure what I was looking at. Head shape was perhaps leaning more towards Booted, with a more rounded head instead of a sloping forehead of Sykes's. Some suggested the dark tipped lower mandible is a feature of Booted, but after searching through hundreds of photos of both species, it seems there is some overlapping in this feature...

Booted Warbler

Thanks to Koel Ko who let me use his excellent photo of the Booted Warbler seen at San Tin back in 2017, it clearly shows that the bill on this bird is clearly longer. Some also suggested there is some overlapping of this feature in both species. The general verdict for this bird seems to be Booted Warbler, though the bill length for this bird may well be on the long end of the spectrum for Booted. Either way, it was still an interesting bird to study and hopefully to shed more light on future identification for both species.

Booted Warbler - above (2017) & below (present)

Although I didn't spend to much time birding around Fung Lok Wai, there were evidently quite a lot of birds around. An Eastern Marsh Harrier drifted past, while at least two Black-winged Kites patrolled the area repeatedly.

Eastern Marsh Harrier

Black-winged Kite

Closer to home at Tai Mei Tuk Catchment, the Grey-backed Shrike was spotted again, although it remains a slightly elusive bird, only turning up sparingly. I got lucky and found it hunting at the same location as last time, hopefully it will stay over winter and perhaps even moult to adult plumage!

Grey-backed Shrike

Other species returning again for winter include a single female Grey Bushchat, after two wintering here last year it seems this location is a favourable spot for this species. Although this one was less friendly then the one seen last year. Daurian Redstarts are also back, a sign that we are now truly in the winter months!

Grey Bushchat - female

Daurian Redstart - female

Dark-sided Flycatchers can still be found in small numbers, I got a fairly confiding one which gave brilliant views. Amongst the three Muscicapa flycatchers found in Hong Kong, this is by far my favourite. Crested Serpent Eagle is a resident in my area, and quite often I find them perched in early morning.

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Crested Serpent Eagle

Down towards the coast of Ting Kok East, a Brown Shrike took up post near the farm. While a single Oriental Turtle Dove was found feeding on the lawn, I suspect this maybe a recent arrival as it was unusually confiding.

Brown Shrike

Oriental Turtle Dove

The best find was however a Chinese Egret amongst the numerous Little Egrets feeding along the mudflat, this is apparently the latest autumn record to date by 11 days!

Chinese Egret

Early November is a good time for night birding, my main goal is the Oriental Scops Owl which I have seen but not yet got a photo of. Finally after numerous tries, we got lucky and found one feeding by the road one evening. While a regular migrant in Hong Kong, Oriental Scops Owls remain quite scarce in Hong Kong.

Oriental Scops Owl