Saturday 26 February 2022

Barred Cuckoo-dove continued...

Wu Kau Tang continues to be very birdy of late, with the now confirmed three Barred Cuckoo-dove staying on. It took me many more tries, but finally I had the shot that I wanted. I was walking down hill when I saw a large bird flew into a tree up ahead, I walked very slowly towards that tree and was soon greeted by one of the Cuckoo-dove perched out on a horizontal branch under the morning sun! I scrambled for my camera and was very fortunate that it stayed long enough for me to get some good photographs before the three of them flew off. It was only when I checked the photos back home that I realized I actually had two birds in view all along! But, I was so focused on the one out in the open that I completely ignored the one behind a few branches on its right hand side! The hard work definitely paid off and I was over the moon with these photos.

Barred Cuckoo-dove - one dove...

Barred Cuckoo-dove - two doves!

While the Fujian Niltava seems to have moved on somewhere, the male Small Niltava however stayed on, and showed well on one of my visit, as its now becoming more vocal as spring is closing in on us. A male Mugimaki Flycatcher was also seen in the area, but remained very shy.

Small Niltava - male

Though Red-flanked Bluetail numbers are on the lower side of the spectrum this year, there were at least one male and one female in the area, although both were not particularly bold.

Red-flanked Bluetail - female

Red-flanked Bluetail - male

There were quite a few warblers in the bird waves, most obvious of which were the Hartert's Leaf Warblers. I also seen Kloss's and Two-barred Warblers in the area, although none of them allowed any photos to be taken. The best one of all was a Chestnut-crowned Warbler, which quietly followed the flock of Swinhoe's White-eyes and other small birds, another very nice addition to the great list of birds at Wu Kau Tang.

Hartert's Leaf Warbler

Chestnut-crowned Warbler

Closer to the village, the numerous Little Buntings continued to show well, feeding on the side of the footpath. I also found a few Eyebrowed Thrush feeding next to the road, although as always they were quite shy. The area also host a good selection of resident species, and is now a stronghold for Speckled Piculet, which I almost see or hear everytime I visit.

Little Bunting

Eyebrowed Thrush

Speckled Piculet

I don't visit Tai Po Kau as often as I wish, but that is also partly because I've had so little luck there this winter, the bird waves been very scattered and difficult to locate. That being said, it can still provide some good birds on any visit, such as a very showy male Bay Woodpecker. With the coral tree now in bloom, a female Mrs. Gould's Sunbird took up position there, although it doesn't always go onto the flower as those were mainly dominated by the Fork-tailed Sunbirds.

Bay Woodpecker - male

Mrs. Gould's Sunbird - female

Fork-tailed Sunbird - male

Closer to home, the Cinnamon Bittern continue to occasionally show for lucky birders, the area also welcomed another guest in form of a lovely male Verditer Flycatcher, not shy at all in showing off its brilliant colours. It's been a very good year for Verditer Flycatcher, with reports of them from everywhere!

Verditer Flycatcher - male

I paid a visit to North District Park, a nice urban park in Sheung Shui area that I've never been to before. The most prominent bird there was a very bold Asian Brown Flycatcher, one of the most confiding individual I have ever seen.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

The park offered lots of more common birds that I so often neglect, but we should feel very fortunate to have such a good variety of common species in Hong Kong. Both Light-vented and Red-whiskered Bulbuls are hard to miss on any birding day.

Light-vented Bulbul

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Japanese Tits and Oriental Magpie Robins are a staple for urban birders, and provide endless entertainment. There were quite a few Giant Crepe-Myrtles planted in the park, and that attracted a few Oriental Greenfinches, although views were hard to compare to the Long Valley birds, they are nice birds to see nonetheless.

Japanese Tit

Oriental Magpie Robin - male

Oriental Greenfinch

But, the main reason for my visit to this very park was a long staying Pale Thrush. I found it residing in a quiet corner in the park, away from the crowd. Some years we can find them easily, but this winter's been particularly difficult to locate this species, so I was very glad to get this on my annual list.

Pale Thrush

Saturday 12 February 2022

Red-breasted Merganser - a Hong Kong tick

Since I started birding in Hong Kong years ago, Red-breasted Merganser had always been one of those birds that was supposed to be a regular wintering species in the Deep Bay area, their numbers dropped slowly until when I started birding seriously, there weren't really any around anymore. So, its been a species thats eluded my Hong Kong list for quite some time, adding to that I missed the only twitchable one at Lut Chau a few years back, so this was one of the species on my 'wanted list'. News of one found floating along with Greater Crested Grebes at Deep Bay was encouraging, I managed a distance scope view on Sunday, but when Captain suggested to get a boat to try get a closer view on Monday I thought it was an interesting proposition.

It was the first time I've ever been out to Deep Bay, it was an interesting experience to get close to the oyster farms. Weather was not particularly good, with darker clouds looming in the distance. It took us a while to finally locate the merganser amongst the Great Crested Grebes, and views were much better than that from ashore. To our surprise, it was extremely skittish, we were over 100m away when it took off and landed back onto the water much further away. We managed a few closer fly-by views and that was it, as the rain came in we knew this was as close as we could get to this bird. It was still a very satisfying experience to see this species in Hong Kong.

Red-breasted Merganser - female

Red-breasted Merganser - female

Great Crested Grebes were in no short supply, we saw plenty floating around. I didn't take a lot of photos of other birds seen out there, but we also saw lots of Black-headed Gulls, Grey Plovers, Kentish Plovers and hundreds of Cormorants.

Great Crested Grebe

Fung Lok Wai is probably still the most productive area of late, with a good range of species for birders to find. It is a large area, so you may not see all the species in one visit. Many Great Cormorants are now moulting into their breeding plumage, like this one which is starting to get white specs on its head and neck. There were a good numbers of Barn Swallow around, I scanned for anything more interesting but had little luck, though being able to see them perched at closer range is still a wonderful experience.

Great Cormorant

Barn Swallow

The drake Greater Scaup been quite elusive, I managed a fly-by view of it though I never managed to see where it went in the end. Bluethroats are regularly sighted here, and quite a few inhabits the little tracks covered in tall grass. An Eastern Water Rail been frequenting the filthy gully just past the village houses, obviously the most perfect type of habitat for these reclusive birds! You can often find Chinese Penduline Tits around the reeds along the abandoned fish ponds.

Greater Scaup - male


Eastern Water Rail

Chinese Penduline Tit

Fung Lok Wai is all about warblers this season, and most of them continue to show well, including the long staying Booted Warbler. At least two Manchurian Reed Warblers showed well, although not always easy to photograph. Some birders had luck with the Chiffchaffs again, but I've only been seeing Dusky Warblers since my last encounter with it. Finally, at least two Manchurian Bush Warblers often come out to the gutter to feed.

Booted Warbler

Manchurian Reed Warbler

Dusky Warbler

Manchurian Bush Warbler

Continuing with theme on warblers, I found a Pale-footed Bush Warbler singing at Liu Pok, I was actually looking for Golden-headed Cisticola that I have heard before in that area, but got this much rarer warbler instead! I've never been able to photograph this species in my previous encounters, and I missed the best chance to photograph one at Telford Gardens last year...So, I was particularly happy to get these respectable record shots of this skulker.

Pale-footed Bush Warbler

I've not been able to connect properly with the Oriental Greenfinches at Long Valley since last month, now after all the photographers are bored with them, I finally got around to see these charming little finches. These feeding on Crepe Myrtle seeds were not at all afraid of people, you can walk right past them and they would not fly off. 

Oriental Greenfinch

Over at Tai Mei Tuk Catchment, I didn't turn up anything new, but a very confiding juvenile Crested Goshawk was a nice encounter on a casual morning walk. The Grey-backed Shrike eluded me again recently but the Brown Shrike was more obliging to show itself.

Crested Goshawk - juvenile

Brown Shrike

Over at Wu Kau Tang, the Barred Cuckoo-doves continues to be the focal point for many visiting birders, although views were often difficult if not almost impossible! I was extremely fortunate to find this one perched on a few low branches of a tree on the opposite side of the valley, though far they were actually pretty good prolonged views.

Barred Cuckoo-dove

The Fujian Niltavas and Small Niltavas both continued to show on and off, the Fujian Niltava was particularly elusive. I also found another Mugimaki Flycatcher in the area, this time a female, but again had been very difficult to even see clearly. I even had a singing Japanese Robin along the valley! But, it never showed and kept within the very thick undergrowth.

Fujian Niltava - male

Small Niltava - male

Wu Kau Tang is hosting a good collection of wintering warblers, including Pale-legged Leaf Warblers and Kloss's Leaf Warblers, though both of which I was unable to get a photo. The Greenish Warbler finally showed long enough for me to grab a record photo, while the Hartert's Leaf Warbler is often found in amongst the bird waves.

Greenish Warbler

Hartert's Leaf Warbler

The mistletoes outside the village attracted a few Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers, the male was particularly showy and very confiding. I managed to get a few photos that I was very happy about, as I never seemed to be able to get a photo of the male with its signature back towards me. 

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker - male