Saturday 22 October 2022

Birdy Fish Ponds

While Mai Po Nature Reserve is arguably the best birding spot in Hong Kong, there are plenty of wetlands outside of Mai Po that can be very productive during the migration. Fung Lok Wai is one of the areas that I've come to really like, the overgrown fishponds in the area provides a lot of cover for reed warblers, this is likely one of the best place in Hong Kong to look for Manchurian Reed Warblers, as I found two there just one morning. One of them was relatively showy, although still incredibly difficult to get any clear photos with nothing in the way.

Manchurian Reed Warbler

Oriental Reed Warblers and Black-browed Reed Warblers can both be found here with relative ease, there's almost at least one Black-browed Reed Warbler in every patch of tall grass. Dusky Warblers were in even higher numbers, they were simply everywhere you look, with one almost every few metres, with this many of them, it gives you a lot of chances to get good photographs of at least one of them.
Oriental Reed Warbler

Black-browed Reed Warbler

Dusky Warbler

Other interesting birds in the area includes a female Plaintive Cuckoo, the Pheasant-tailed Jacana is still around, although still incredibly difficult to approach and often fly off way before you are anywhere close to it. Eurasian Coots are not that common in Hong Kong anymore, but can still be found here relatively easily. Four Amur Falcons drifted through high up, this species is often very on time when it comes to migration.

Plaintive Cuckoo

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Eurasian Coot

Amur Falcon

The tall grass also attracted plenty of buntings, I had at least two Chestnut-eared Buntings along the track, while several flocks of Yellow-breasted Buntings came through, mostly seen inflight, but quite a few came down to feed on the ground as well, including several lovely looking males.

Chestnut-eared Bunting

Yellow-breasted Bunting - male

San Tin is another good areas of fish ponds, the area also attracts a good numbers of buntings, including Black-faced Buntings, several Yellow-breasted Buntings, a few Little Buntings and Chestnut-eared Buntings. With this many buntings around, I can only imagine how good it will be to be in Long Valley!

Black-faced Bunting

Yellow-breasted Bunting - female

Little Bunting

Chestnut-eared Bunting

A half drained fish pond attracted plenty of waders, including a few Spotted Redshanks and many Common Greenshanks. A small flock of Eurasian Teals also decided to drop in here. Other than the three species of Reed Warblers (Manchurian, Black-browed and Oriental), Zitting Cisticolas can also be found in the tall grass, but often not as skulky.

Spotted Redshank

Common Greenshank
Eurasian Teal

Zitting Cisticola

The best bird for me at San Tin was a Japanese Quail, there seems to be a good number of these around at the moment, with several reported at various locations. Its been a while since I got a photographable one, so I was quite happy to catch a glimpse of this one before it ran off to the side of the road and not to be seen again!

Japanese Quail

Along Tam Kon Chau Road I had a Pied Harrier, it flew in quite close but completely caught me off guard! So I had completely wrong settings on my camera, luckily I was able to salvage a few shots from the burst of photos that I took.

Pied Harrier

Tai Sang Wai is becoming increasingly popular amongst photographers, so birding there is now much less enjoyable. That being said, there are still some good birds there, most notably a Japanese Quail, although I didn't see it while I was there as there were too many people on the road...A rather friendly Chestnut-eared Bunting though was more obliging to show.

Chestnut-eared Bunting

There were a few interesting birds around, but none were too photo friendly, including a rather distant Black-winged Kite and several species of waders on a drained fish pond. The only note worthy bird was a single Common Starling, which I think is quite an early bird, only 4 days shy of being the earliest recorded in autumn.

Common Starling

There were up to five Red Bishops along the fish ponds, being very colourful these birds naturally attracted tons of photographers...Although I am quite concerned about how these birds got there in the first place. These are no doubt released caged birds, but I suspect these may have been released on purpose by photographers rather than from mercy releases, as most mercy releases only happen during certain festivals. If this is the case, I find this a rather tasteless practice that should not be encouraged, not only does this encourage to buy birds from the bird trade which may include wild caught birds, but releasing caged birds can lead to bird flu getting spread to wild birds or even worst create invasive species that fight for resources with our native birds...'Luckily', they only seems to sell males at the bird market due to popular demand, as females are drab and not desirable, so there is very little chance that these exotics will establish themselves in Hong Kong.

Red Bishop - male

Saturday 15 October 2022

Autumn Rarities - Emei Leaf Warbler & Chinese Grey Shrike

Weather is finally cooling down somewhat, it was a very pleasant 25°C a few days ago. The cooler weather definitely brought in more birds, one of the most notable rarity being an Emei Leaf Warbler at Tai Lam. Kenneth and I went there the next morning, we saw the warbler soon after we got to the 'magic valley', its appearance was definitely 'Blyth's-type', with double wing bars, crown stripe and a completely orange lower mandible. Luckily for us the warbler was very vocal, making it easier for us to ID. Its song is a resonant trill that is very different from all the other similar looking warblers. The bird came down briefly to feed, allowing us to take some half decent photos, before going higher up again to feed with other warblers in the bird wave.

Emei Leaf Warbler - Only my second lifer for 2022

There were plenty of warblers around, other than the most common species such as Yellow-browed and Two-barred, plenty of Hartert's were around, including both race fukiensis and goodsoni. We counted at least four Sulphur-breasted Warblers throughout the trail, this species is definitely becoming much easier to find in Hong Kong. Eastern Crowned Warbler were in very good numbers, seems like we are getting an influx of them this year.

Hartert's Leaf Warbler - goodsoni
Sulphur-breasted Warbler

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Other than warblers, a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher was seen within the bird wave, feeding frantically within the flock of birds. Many Grey-chinned Minivets and other common forest species also made their rounds along magic valley.

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher

Grey-chinned Minivet - female

One of the most exciting find for me was a male White-throated Rock Thrush first spotted by Peter Wong within the bird wave! It's been many years since I last seen one of these handsome birds! It showed briefly and soon flew down the valley and out of sight. As if that wasn't brilliant enough, Kenneth and I later found TWO more females along the trail! Truly an incredible experience to see three of these rare migrants in one day!

White-throated Rock Thrush - male

White-throated Rock Thrush - female

The cherry on top was the Green-backed Flycatcher which decided to return to where I initially found it, its not been seen by any other birders since my last encounter until the day I returned to Tai Lam (relocated in the morning by John Clough)! While views were slightly more distant, I was happy to get a photo of its 'green-backed' this time round.

Green-backed Flycatcher

My local patch is also turning up some good birds, including this rather confiding Yellow-browed Warbler feeding on the lawn. This is a new species for me at Ting Kok, in the same area I also found a Yellow-breasted Bunting.

Yellow-browed Bunting

Other more common migrants in the area includes a Black-winged Cuckooshrike and a Asian Brown Flycatcher both feeding near the mangroves. Up to two Brown Shrikes were found near the BBQ sites. A Japanese Sparrowhawk also been seen terrorising the birds in the area, but it always swooped in quick and low, making it almost impossible to photograph.

Black-winged Cuckooshrike

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Brown Shrike

The most incredible bird though was no doubt a Chinese Grey Shrike! Found by Eric and Marco, I immediately rushed over after I got the news, and sure enough found this incredible looking shrike feeding on the lawns at close range! There's only ever been two accepted Chinese Grey Shrike record in Hong Kong that I know of, so this is only the 3rd record for Hong Kong (I think).

Chinese Grey Shrike

It successfully caught a few grasshoppers, often using the little hut by the mangroves as a vantage point. it was an incredibly confiding bird, often flying straight towards me and land just a few feet from me to catch insects before flying back up to the trees or the little hut to feed. After 20 minutes of it showing really well, the bird suddenly decided to fly straight out to sea and towards Yeung Chau, landing on a small yacht just off the island. 

Chinese Grey Shrike

I presume the bird left...but I decided to check again the next morning anyway. Sadly, the shrike was found dead by the road. It did not have any visible injuries, therefore it seems highly unlikely it was attacked by a cat. There were also no windows near the area it was found at, making it an unlikely victim of window strike. Therefore, I presume it could have just died of exhaustion from flying all the way down to Hong Kong. An incredibly sad end for this rarity, but I guess this is just the harsh reality that these migratory birds have to face, I just feel incredibly lucky to be able to see this beautiful bird at its best.

Chinese Grey Shrike - deceased...

It is almost the end of snake season, despite that night walks can still be productive. A walk at Lung Fu Shan provided us stellar views of a group of Malayan Porcupines feeding by the road, also two different Masked Palm Civets from two different locations, one feeding on; you guess it, Ficus variegata! Hoiling spotted a male Bamboo Pit Viper, this one photographed in-situ. 

Malayan Porcupine

Masked Palm Civet

Bamboo Pit Viper