Wednesday 31 August 2022

Commencing Autumn Migration

 It really know it is autumn when you start seeing Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, they are one of our most typical autumn migrants passing through Hong Kong. Being a small and rather inconspicuous flycatcher, they can be difficult to locate in the forest, luckily for us, the urban gem of Ho Man Tin provides this perfect migrant trap and we get to see them there almost every year with relative ease. A male was spotted by my friends, but unfortunately I was about an hour too late, by the time I got there only the female showed. Funnily enough, I already got this species on my year list this year, as I found one at Jordan Valley in spring, still they are great birds to start the season with.

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher - female

I paid Tai Po Kau a visit, hoping to find an Amur Paradise Flycatcher or two, to my disappointment none showed for me. A good selection of resident birds were present, including a relatively friendly Bay Woodpecker which I suspect maybe the same ringed individual I got months ago. 

Bay Woodpecker - male

A very friendly Pygmy Cupwing made its rounds, this skulking species can sometimes be tough to see well, so to get one perched in the open for so long is always a treat. It took a while to locate any bird waves, I checked for Amur Paradise Flycatchers constantly but got nothing, only a few Yellow-cheeked Tits were friendly enough to allow for any decent photos.

Pygmy Cupwing

Yellow-cheeked Tit - female

Yellow-cheeked Tit - male

An immature Slaty-backed Forktail been seen along the stream at Tai Po Kau lately, its been well over 20 years since I last seen a Slaty-backed Forktail at this site, they used to be a regular visitor to the stream here, although they can still be regularly found and likely breeding at Shing Mun. My guess is that this young bird is an offspring of the Shing Mun birds and dispersing to suitable habitat, hopefully they will take root here again.

Slaty-backed Forktail - immature

An interesting non-bird observation of late was this Carrion Beetle, Diamesus osculans. It was found near a Burmese Python carcass, we took so e photos of it away from the carcass first, but what strikes me was its stench! The beetle itself smelled extremely unpleasant, with a strong odour of ammonia. It was later found feeding on the carcass on our way out. Carrion Beetles are not that common in Hong Kong, probably due to the fact that ants and flies are much more dominant in warmer climates, therefore relatively slow growing beetles probably have a harder time competing with them.

Diamesus osculans

Diamesus osculans feeding on Burmese Python carcass

Also took sometime to photograph an interesting species of plant, the Common Swamp Pitcher-plant, Nepenthes mirabilis. This is our only pitcher-plant species found in Hong Kong, and a relatively widespread species globally. They can be found along small stream or swampy areas with little shade. As a carnivorous plant, its modified leaf act as a trap with sweet scent lined along the opening to attract insects to it, once the insects fallen in there is no escape, and the digestive liquid within the pitcher will provide nutrients for the plant, allowing it to grow even in poor soil.

Common Swamp Pitcher-plant - Nepenthes mirabilis

Friday 26 August 2022

Herping, No Birding

My telephoto lens all been sitting in my dry cabinet during these relatively birdless months, we are starting to get a few migrants coming through, with an exceptional record of an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher at someone's patio on Lantau, but nothing twitchable yet. So, I've been focusing more on herping and practicing my macrophotography. This approximately 2.5m long Burmese Python at Nam Chung though certainly did not require the use of macro, it was not the largest Burmese Pythons I've seen, but certainly the most thrilling to be able to photograph this up close. Trust me, it was NOT a happy bunny.

Burmese Python - adult

On the same evening we found a Burmese Python hatchling, I've been trying to find a hatchling for a few years with little luck, so I was very pleased to be able to get a nice look on this little beauty, its smaller size also make photographing it much less of a hazard...Burmese Python is an important part of our ecosystem, as we have been lacking any top predator for the last hundred years, these snakes are pretty much the only animal out there capable of controlling the growing Wild Boar population to some extent. Though these snakes are protected by law in Hong Kong, they are still threatened by interacting with humans, I've often seen dead Burmeses Pythons killed by car or simply beaten to death by hikers.

Burmese Python - hatchling

Unfortunately, I haven't had much luck with any other snakes of late, other than numerous Bamboo Pit Vipers. That being said, I still enjoy seeing them, this particular one had some blood stains by its lips, I wonder whether these were from its previous meal?

Bamboo Pit Viper

Of the three species of Microhyla frogs in Hong Kong, two species look fairly similar. The Ornate Pygmy Frog and the Butler's Pygmy Frog, both species share slightly similar habitats and is similar in size. I met both species of late, and was able to get good photos on both occasions.

Ornate Pygmy Frog

Butler's Pygmy Frog

The best way to tell them apart is by looking at them from above, where Ornate Pygmy Frogs usually look brighter, with a central dark patch near its spine, the Butler's Pygmy Frog looks darker and have a jagged patch on its back, it also look more warty when you look close enough. Here's a top shot comparison of the two species.

Ornate Pygmy Frog

Butler's Pygmy Frog

Snakes and frogs are not the only animals we look for at night, you also get a chance to see all sorts of cool beetles and insects, here are a few fine examples.

Glycyphana horsfieldi

Subgenus Palmar

Asiophrida scaphoides

Heterotarsus inflatus

Rhynocoris fuscipes

Pseudotheopea smaragdina

Genus Orthopagus

Sipyloidea sipylus

Acanthaspis geniculata

The range of arthropods we see at night often exceed just insects, you will be amazed by the range of little critters you can find in Hong Kong if you care to look. Dwarf Wood Scorpions can sometimes be found patrolling the forest floor at night, Pill Millepedes will roll up into a ball when disturbed. Finally, what appears to be a dull looking millipede may in fact be a rather unusual find, this I believe maybe a Litostrophus scaber, which is apparently not a particularly common species of millipede found in Hong Kong.

Dwarf Wood Scorpion

Zephronia profuga

Litostrophus scaber

Hopefully this birding blog will resume its original function in the coming a BIRDING BLOG.

Monday 15 August 2022

Late Summer Observations - Wildlife & Birds

Autumn migration is just around the corner, I am hoping to get out more often having just finished up a major project for work. One bird I ended up 'twitching' was a recently fledged Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo at Kadorie Farm, although that ended with us finding that particular chick on the ground with a broken wing, we suspected that a raptor probably tried taking it out but it narrowly escaped. We called the animal rescue unit at Kadorie Farm immediately and the bird was taken into their care. Unfortunately, the bird did not survive with its severely broken wing.

Hodgson's Hawk Cuckoo - juvenile

Only a few Blue-winged Minlas came close enough for any decent photos that day at KFBG, this one caught what appears to be a Camel Cricket. Closer to home, Emerald Doves are calling non-stop, this photo was taken a few months back at Nam Chung where I found this young bird feeding out by the road. Speckled Piculets have been calling daily at home, and this one I spotted on my rooftop, though a bit far it feels great to be able to see them right at home! Some early autumn migrants have now returned to Hong Kong, I am hoping to find a few of them in the next couple of weeks.

Blue-winged Minla

Emerald Dove

Speckled Picuet

I've not been having much luck with snakes, only been seeing Bamboo Pit Vipers and very little else. The best being a Futsing Wolf Snake one evening, this one was particularly docile and is the first one that did not even attempt a single bite! The recent rain brought out plenty of Brahminy Blind Snakes, while always fun to see, they are far from being exciting.

Bamboo Pit Viper

Futsing Wolf Snake

Brahminy Blind Snake

On a snakeless evening, we took some time admiring this usually ignored Slender Forest Skink, it was relatively cooperative and allowed some nice portraits to be taken. The other lizard we see a lot at night is the Changeable Lizard, where you often find them sleeping on a blade of grass.

Slender Forest Skink

Changeable Lizard

You can expect to find plenty of frogs after the rain, Hong Kong Cascade Frogs and Green Cascade Frogs can be found with ease by fast flowing streams.

Hong Kong Cascade Frog

Green Cascade Frog

Seeing mammals during night walks are added bonus and a real treat. While out with a group at Lung Fu Shan, Hoiling spotted this very lovely Masked Palm Civet, feeding on Ficus variegata, one of their favourite food! It gave everyone really good views, even dropped a few figs by our feet.

Masked Palm Civet