Sunday, 9 January 2022

Hong Kong Birding Highlights 2021

With another year gone past with COVID restrictions, everyone been able to focus more on local birds and rarities. I myself included been spending more time exploring more birding spots, although I was slightly lazy in chasing some of the rarities, I managed a few good birds along the way. I managed 330 species in 2021, and here are some of the highlights of the year for me.

White-spectacled Warbler

While this is a species I see almost every year, it is not always an easy bird to photograph, therefore, I was very happy to find a friendly and very good looking individual at Tai Po Kau, which allowed close and prolonged views. No doubt my best encounter to date of this species.

Crested Bunting

A species that seems to be having a comeback in recent years, as more and more rice paddies are being planted. I finally connected with a male this year at Long Valley, while not so much a rarity now, they are smart looking birds to see on any given day.

Japanese Grosbeak

A rarity that I missed in the past, so when I heard one been seen regularly at Yuen Long Park, I was desperate to get this on my Hong Kong list. It took me a few tries to finally nail it, but it was worth the wait in the end.

Ryukyu Minivet

2021 was an eruptive year for this species in the region, with numerous records of this Japanese endemic reported in Taiwan and China. Everyone was thrilled to get this 1st Hong Kong bird on their list, me included. However, connecting with this bird proved harder than it seemed, while some birders got it on their first try, it took me three times to just get a glimpse and six times to finally get some record photos.

Arctic Skua

I haven’t been on many pelagic trips in recent years, therefore I decided to change that and went on several trips, luckily for me most were quite productive. One of the highlight must have been the Arctic Skua, although this species is already in my Hong Kong list, I was particularly thrilled to see a dark morph adult, which was the first one of this morph I’ve ever seen in Hong Kong.

Short-tailed Shearwater

A species I have missed several times in past years, glad to finally get one close enough for me to see all the diagnostic feature!

Black-chinned Yuhina

The appearance of this species took most of us completely by surprise! As we don’t really see them as birds that migrate, the theory is that this one may have followed flocks of Indochinese Yuhinas down south and ended up in Hong Kong. Either way, this was an exciting addition to the Hong Kong list, and one I am glad to now have mine.

Upland Pipit

A species that seems to be in decline in recent years, as it was much easier to see in the past. Nowadays you have to work hard to find them, either a long hike up to Lantau and Sunset Peak, or as I did and hiked up Wong Leng of Pat Sin Leng to finally get a better photo record of this species.

Grey-headed Swamphen

Seems to be an increasingly regular visitor to Hong Kong, although still consider a rarity. This one at Fung Lok Wai provided plenty of excitement in the early summer months.

Black Baza

A species I did not include in my blog post for good reason, a pair was found nest building at an undisclosed site, I was lucky enough to have been able to visit them twice. This species used to be far more common during migration and a regular breeding species, unfortunately they've become rarer in recent years. Hopefully they will be able to bounce back in near future.

Rosy Starling

I’ve never seen an adult Rosy Starling in the past, when I heard one been seen at San Tin I was thrilled, and this one did not disappoint.

Brown Noddy

Another bird new to my Hong Kong list, this one was found feeding with the breeding terns near Wong May Chau. The fact that it was quite a friendly bird made it even better! Certainly the highlight this summer.

Daurian Starling

It was a good year for this species, with numerous seen throughout autumn migration. Great to see some good looking adults for a change!

Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher

While not a huge rarity, I have never been able to locate one on my own, so I was very happy when I finally find one at Ho Man Tin, what’s better than being able to enjoy this bird all by myself!

Oriental Scops Owl

While an annual visitor to Hong Kong, I've only ever seen it once before, it took me many more tries to finally get a record photo of this species.

Pechora Pipit

A usually rather shy species, and often stay well covered well seen. A few friendly ones dropped into Tai Sang Wai, allowing close and prolonged views, no doubt the best view I’ve had of this species!

Lapland Longspur

Probably the most exciting rarity this year, as the only record of this species in the past was a video recorded during news broadcast. This friendly individual at Long Valley was no doubt the top bird for me this year, and one of the only two lifers I had.

Amur Falcon

This year was probably one of the best year for Amur Falcons as far as I can remember, with hundreds passing through Hong Kong during autumn migration. It is not a common sight for us to get perched Amur Falcons, as many simply fly right through, this year we had plenty of perched sightings of both males and females.

Booted Warbler

A species I last seen in 2017, this one at Fung Lok Wai was by far the friendliest individual we have had to date! All iduna warblers are a rarity to Hong Kong, although we have been waiting for a Sykes's to turn up, a Booted for now will do just fine!

Carrion Crow

Not a species most will consider a rarity, but IT IS a rarity in Hong Kong. Its been years since I last seen one in Hong Kong, therefore this one found at Tai Sang Wai was a nice addition to the year's list. Hopefully we will get a Daurian Jackdaw next year.

Mandarin Duck

How exciting it was to get news of a full adult male! As the last one I saw was a female. This one was slightly elusive at first, appearing along Kam Tin River occasionally and disappear somewhere at random times. On my 3rd visit I finally got it, and it certainly did not disappoint!

Common Shelduck

A species we used to see hundreds of in winter, now a rarity. While the reason behind this decline at Deep Bay is not well understood, we are all very glad to have this one back for this winter.

Steppe Eagle

Another rarity that made everyone very very happy. This very confiding juvenile stayed in Lut Chau for some time before flying off with some Black Kites and not to be seen again, it was hard to believe how friendly this guy was.

Olive-backed Sunbird

A species I have been looking for and wanted on my Hong Kong list, although very common elsewhere this species is locally rare, with only a handful of records. This long staying bird in an urban park was definitely the best end of the year present for me.

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