Sunday 31 December 2023

End of Year Cold Snap

We saw a steep temperature dropped from almost 30°C on 19th, all the way down to 8°C on 20th, and a couple of days later it got down to 6°C at home. Naturally, we expected more birds to turn up during a cold snap like this...However, things turned out to be slightly disappointing, with very minimal bird movements. Birding at Tai Po Kau did improve somewhat, with bird waves more visible. Other than the two White-spectacled Warblers, numerous Eastern Crowned Warblers, Hartert's Leaf Warblers and Kloss's can both be seen amongst the bird waves. My best bird there is perhaps two Chestnut-flanked White-eyes, which I failed to photograph.

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Hartert's Leaf Warbler - race goodsoni

All the other common forest birds have been showing relatively well, here are a sample of things you will most likely see when you go birding at Tai Po Kau. That being said, views are by no means guarantee, and more often than not you will miss one or two species.

Silver-eared Mesia

Chestnut Bulbul

Huet's Fulvetta

Yellow-cheeked Tit - male

Grey-chinned Minivet - male

Grey-chinned Minivet - female

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

A Striated Heron been frequenting the stream at Tai Po Kau, although its not always there. Down at Tai Po Kau Park, things are also looking quite good with a flock of birds that frequents there early morning, most of the time I had quite a lot of success connecting with most of the common species, including Ashy Drongo, Black-winged Cuckooshrike and Scarlet Minivets, Yellow-cheeked Tits have been showing quite well there as well, occasionally feeding low down.

Striated Heron

Ashy Drongo & Black-winged Cuckooshrike

Scarlet Minivet - male

Scarlet Minivet - female

Yellow-cheeked Tit - male

Yellow-cheeked Tit - female

Up to two Speckled Piculets were seen at Tai Po Kau Park as well, both showed incredibly well. We are now so used to seeing them that the days that these were still a rarity seems another lifetime ago.

Speckled Piculet

Nothing much changed at Shek Kong Catchwater, while it remains pretty birdy there, there have been very few surprises or new additions. The numerous Grey-headed Canary Flycatchers are still the star bird there at the moment, attracting many photographers. The 'friendly' Rufous-tailed Robin I found is luckily still around the same area, although now not as showy as before.

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

Rufous-tailed Robin

Shing Mun Reservoir on the other hand have been extremely poor, there were barely any interesting birds the last time I visited, the only bird worth noting was an Ashy Drongo of race salangensis.

Ashy Drongo - race salangensis

I've been visiting the area from Kam Tin to Nam Sang Wai quite often the past two weeks, with a bit of relative success. Along the river, Oriental Magpies sometimes feed close to the road, a species all too often overlooked, I've always enjoyed seeing them and I find them to be more likeable than Red-billed Blue Magpies. A few Eastern Spot-billed Ducks have been spotted along Kam Tin River, although they are not always present, only appearing occasionally. Grey-headed Lapwings however are far more stable and rarely disappoints.

Oriental Magpie

Eastern Spot-billed Duck

Grey-headed Lapwing

Nam Sang Wai can be quite productive if you go during the right time of the day and with the right tide. I had a single Lesser Black-backed Gull (Heuglin's) along the bank, and Black-faced Spoonbills can be seen quite easily here during low tide. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Heuglin's)

Black-faced Spoonbill

I had quite a close encounter with a female Greater Scaup there, mixed in with a few Tufted Ducks, a few Garganeys have also been seen. Great Cormorants can be excellent subjects for photos, I found this one perched on some kind of metal frame in the water to be quite a nice composition. A Taiga Flycatcher was  seen feeding close to the ground on one of the coldest days, it went back to being 'normal' as soon as it got warmer.

Greater Scaup - female


Great Cormorant

Taiga Flycatcher

Over at Tai Sang Wai, things have been relatively quiet in general. The best bird I had was a single Oriental Stork that flew past. Hundreds of Black-headed Gulls have been feeding on the ponds near Lut Chau, their numbers wintering here seems to have increased in the last few years.

Oriental Stork & Black Kites

Black-headed Gull

Amur Stonechats are always excellent subjects to photograph, especially if you find a friendly one, here is a confiding male that posed nicely for a photo. Daurian Redstart numbers have been way down from normal winters, one handsome male have been seen along the road.

Amur Stonechat - male

Daurian Redstart - male

The Great Crested Grebe seems to have finally moved on, at another pond with many Tufted Ducks I found a single male Greater Scaup. Eurasian Coots are again in good numbers this year, a lot of them allow very close approach. I had a confiding Common Kingfisher one day, which is always something worth photographing! A few Yellow-fronted Canaries have also been seen feeding by the roadside.

Greater Scaup - male

Eurasian Coot

Common Kingfisher - female

Yellow-fronted Canary

Two 'star bird' often found around the fish ponds here are Black-faced Spoonbills and Collared Crows, both can be encountered here often, and sometimes at quite close range.

Black-faced Spoonbill

Collared Crow

San Tin is another fish pond area we often find Black-faced Spoonbills feeding on the fish ponds, together with numerous Black-winged Stilts and occasionally a few Common Snipes along the edge, there are a few wintering Pin-tailed Snipe present as well. The Daurian Jackdaw is still present, although being quite elusive most of the time. However, plans to develop San Tin is well underway, therefore this maybe our last winter to be birding at this birding paradise...

Black-faced Spoonbill

Black-winged Stilt

Common Snipe

Pin-tailed Snipe

Daurian Jackdaw

During winter we often find Imperial Eagles drifting through, like this one that flew past at Lok Ma Chau. The long staying Citrine Wagtail at Lok Ma Chau is still present, showing ever so well. The only bird of interest at Ma Tso Lung is perhaps a Golden-headed Cisticola which decided to show briefly.

Imperial Eagle

Citrine Wagtail

Golden-headed Cisticola

At my local patch at Ting Kok, there's not been that much interesting birds around, a male Verditer Flycatcher was perhaps one of the very few highlights this winter so far. A Richard's Pipit was found foraging on the grass by the mangroves, while two friendly Greater Sand Plovers provided close views.

Verditer Flycatcher - male

Richard's Pipit

Greater Sand Plover

All in all, a rather mediocre end to 2023, and temperature already warming back up again! Hopefully we will have more interesting birds in early 2024.