Sunday 27 November 2022

My 500th Hong Kong Bird - Brown Crake

Over the years I have missed several major rarities for various reasons, most notably between 2003 and 2009 I was mostly away from Hong Kong. Brown Crake was one of those rare birds that eluded my Hong Kong list for years, since the relatively easy one at Nam Chung back in 2009, theres not been any twitchable ones. So, when one was reported in Lam Tsuen it was an opportunity I dare not miss. I am not sure why this species is so difficult in Hong Kong, as it is a relatively common species in China, I've seen them several times in Jiangxi and Guangxi. This rather shy individual only show up in the morning and often while it's still quite dark. Luckily for us, this bird seems to appear like clockwork and appear briefly each morning.

Brown Crake

With this bird, I have officially reached 500 species on my Hong Kong list. This had been a target for me for quite some time. Glad that my 500th species was a great one! 

Brown Crake - my 500th bird in Hong Kong

I visited Wu Kau Tang one morning, walking towards Sheung Miu Tin, it was drizzling slightly and later turned to actual rain. Before the rain came in I managed a rather confiding Radde's Warbler, although the light conditions was horrendous for photos. Rufous-tailed Robins are now back and saw quite a few of these along the trail. Theres been a large influx of Indochinese Yuhinas of late, I've been seeing them everywhere including urban areas! So, I wasn't surprise to find quite a few flocks here. A Lesser Shortwing decided to show itself on this dim morning, while a relatively common species, I don't get to see them often enough.

Radde's Warbler

Rufous-tailed Robin

Indochinese Yuhina

Lesser Shortwing

I led a half day outing to San Tin and Tai Sang Wai recently, a rather enjoyable morning with a flushed Yellow-legged Buttonquail being the best bird, although it was too quick and there was no way I could have gotten a photo. A rather nice looking Eastern Yellow Wagtail amongst other more drab looking ones was quite unusual given the time of the year, but every so often we get some birds retaining some of the breeding plumage through the winter months. An Osprey circling above was one of the several raptor species we had that morning. Several Yellow-breasted Buntings were seen, two of which allowed relatively good views. Black-faced Buntings and Little Buntings both showed well.

Eastern Yellow Wagtail - race taivana


Yellow-breasted Bunting - female

Black-faced Bunting - male

After the tour I returned to Tai Sang Wai briefly to hopefully relocate the Buttonquail, which obviously was not seen again. But, I did find a very confiding male Yellow-breasted Bunting feeding on the road, probably the closest I've ever been to this species! It was hard to resist taking more photos of this awesome bird, I ended up with hundreds of photos of it feeding, thought I shouldn't miss the chance of an up close experience with a critically endangered species.

Yellow-breasted Bunting - friendly individual

Thursday 17 November 2022

Still Busy...But Some Birds!

Still really busy lately, though I haven't got much birding time, I did went out a few times in between work to take a break and got a few easy birds. One of the better birds lately is a juvenile Von Schrenck's Bittern at Jordan Valley, a stretch of concrete channel is now naturalized and certainly created great habitat for migrants! This bittern showed very well and likely one of the most showy individual I have seen in Hong Kong. 

Von Schrenck's Bittern - juvenile

Other than migrants, the channel now provide plenty of shelter and feeding spaces for common resident species, such as Long-tailed Shrikes and White-breasted Waterhen. To my surprise the channel even attracted an Eastern Water Rail! The best bird there however was a heard only Baikal Bush Warbler, which I heard deep in cover, but unfortunately didn't show itself.

Long-tailed Shrike

White-breasted Waterhen

Eastern Water Rail

A brief morning at San Tin was quite productive, with common winter visitors such as Amur Stonechats and Chinese Penduline Tits now everywhere. A few Little Buntings were feeding a long the road, as confiding as they can possibly be! A few Red-throated Pipits were also seen, a male still with breeding plumage was quite eye-catching in the morning light. While a Taiga Flycatcher was seen calling, we should see a lot more of these very soon.

Amur Stonechat

Chinese Penduline Tit

Little Bunting

Red-throated Pipit

Taiga Flycatcher

A very showy Bailon's Crake been spotted at San Tin lately, this one attracted by the wet bread thrown into the water for the fish. Light wasn't particularly good in the morning, I managed a few better photos when it clouded over for a few minutes.

Bailon's Crake

Plenty of ducks now returned to the fishponds, including numerous common species such as Eurasian Wigeons, Eurasian Teals and Northern Pintails. A few Tufted Ducks were also present. I saw three Mallards, two males and one female, with one of the male in eclipse.

Northern Pintail

Tufted Duck


The best duck though were a pair of Ferruginous Ducks, the female showed briefly before disappearing somewhere, likely flew off when I wasn't looking. 

Ferruginous Duck - female

The male was far more cooperative and showed exceedingly well, it allowed me to get into a good position for some decent photos. Other people also reported Common Pochards, but those were nowhere to be seen.

Ferruginous Duck - male

My recent night time ventures yielded a Savanna Nightjar, sitting in the middle of the road as always. While out filming Hong Kong Newts, I got a Striped Stream Snake, this one was very red and very unlike any Striped Stream Snakes I've seen before! So, I consider it a cool observation.

Savanna Nightjar

Striped Stream Snake

Sunday 6 November 2022

Busy Times

While this year's autumn migration seems to be very birdy, there is simply nothing I could do to prevent the piles of work that was coming my way. I simply didn't have much time for birds, which is annoying somewhat given that there seems to be good birds everywhere! With Greylag and Greater White-fronted Geese at Mai Po and a lot more other goodies dotted around...those were simply out of question for me for now, hopefully normal birding will resume later this month...

I did manage to snuck out a few times before the end of October, one of those rarities I simply could not resist was a Green-backed Flycatcher at Ho Man Tin, which stayed a few days, I just managed to see it before it disappeared the next day. It was one of the tamest individuals we've seen in Hong Kong. This was yet another 1st year male, with very yellow underparts, which makes identification a bit more straight forward. 

Green-backed Flycatcher - 1st year male

The other place I snuck out before work late last month was Mount Davis, I was mainly there for the Chestnut Buntings that were supposedly showing well, I counted no less than 16 individuals, plus at least two dozens of other unidentified buntings! I never seen so many buntings in one place outside of Long Valley. The Chestnut Buntings showed relatively well, although not as 'fearless' as other people have seen them, likely because they already been there a few days and already very well fed at that point and not as hungry as before. Other buntings present were Chestnut-eared Buntings, several Little Buntings and numerous Black-faced Buntings.

Chestnut Bunting - male & female

Little Bunting

The service reservoir playground also hosted a few other birds, including one of the first Daurian Redstarts for me this autumn, a few Asian Brown Flycatchers, a very distant Dark-sided Flycatcher which I didn't bother with a photo and a Taiga Flycatcher.

Daurian Redstart - female

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Taiga Flycatcher

On the same day I visited the nearby Kennedy Town Service Reservoir, which not a lot of birders visited before I wouldn't think. Other than the much expected Yellow-crested Cockatoo that is resident in the area, I was greeted by two buntings at the playground, a Little and a yet another Chestnut-eared Bunting, just shows the potential these areas can hold for migrants.

Yellow-crested Cockatoo

Little & Chestnut-eared Bunting

Night time ventures yielded no Oriental Scops Owls unfortunately, only two Collared Scops Owl which showed well but didn't stay long enough for a good photo, not that I am very bothered having photographed them many times, its still nice to see them at night. A fairly confiding Eurasian Woodcock was a welcoming sight, of which I managed a decent photo.

Eurasian Woodcock

Hopefully I can resume normal birding by the end of this month, and hoping some of the birds will stay on.