Monday 27 March 2023

Waders Incoming!

Spring is a good time to scan for migratory waders, and it seems wader season is now underway! With an increase in many species compared to earlier in the month. At Mai Po, Bar-tailed Godwits are now turning up to join most of the wintering Black-tailed Godwits. Curlew Sandpipers are also returning, some starting to moult into their breeding plumage. A few wintering Dunlins remain, but I expect them to be gone pretty soon. Great Knots are now also returning, this young bird showed well as it came relatively close.

Bar-tailed Godwit & Grey Plovers

Black-tailed Godwit

Curlew Sandpiper


Great Knot & Common Redshanks

Caspian Tern is a regular spring migrant in Hong Kong, this large tern is always a welcoming sight at Mai Po, their large red bills often make them stand out from the rest of the birds.

Caspian Tern

Many large gulls lingers on, mostly Lesser Black-backed Gulls (heuglini), here are many examples of our most common large gulls. A single Pallas's Gull mixed in with them was the only more interesting gull left.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (heuglini)

Pallas's Gull

San Tin is providing many excellent birding opportunities at the moment, including a drained pond which attracted over 50 spoonbills! Most of which were Black-faced Spoonbills in their glorious breeding plumage, but also over a dozen Eurasian Spoonbills. A couple of Oriental Pratincoles were seen on the dried pond, a few Common Snipes were also seen on the edge of fish ponds. Many Chinese Penduline Tits were still around, while many Zitting Cisticolas were present, there was a Golden-headed Cisticola around but I didn't get a photo.

Black-faced Spoonbill

Eurasian Spoonbill

Oriental Pratincole

Common Snipe

Chinese Penduline Tit

Zitting Cisticola

Not a lot happening at Tai Po Kau, a distant Chinese Barbet was the best I managed, while a pair of Bay Woodpeckers were quite vocal and active near the entrance. Most of the common resident species are now starting to pair up, we are seeing fewer large bird waves. A very vocal Chinese Hwamei on the grassy slope showed relatively well.

Chinese Barbet

Bay Woodpecker - male

Silver-eared Mesia

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch

Mountain Bulbul

Chinese Hwamei

A bit of rain this week may help to bring in some migrants, I am counting on it!

Sunday 19 March 2023

Quiet March with Signs of Hope

March is always a bit of a quiet month, not a lot is happening at the moment, spring migrants are arriving at a very slow rate, and a lot of our wintering birds are starting to depart. A Yellow-browed Bunting at Ho Sheung Heung seems to have stayed on through the winter, it was seen feeding with a few Little Buntings. Around the same area were three White's Thrushes, its been an exceptional winter for this species, and I can hardly get bored of them. A Peregrine Falcon was observed on one of the electricity pylon.

Yellow-browed Bunting

Little Bunting
White's Thrush

Peregrine Falcon

Asian Koels are now a constant background noise, here is one found singing on top of a tree at Shek Kong Airfield Road. Common Rosefinches are still around, and I finally located one male there and lots of females, these should be departing very soon. Yellow-billed Grosbeaks are of course another species we most expect to find there, feeding together with the Rosefinches. Asian Barred Owlets have been showing relatively well along the road here, although locating them can still be tricky sometimes. Another species that should be departing very soon is a Daurian Redstarts, we are seeing a lot less of them this month, and most wintering individuals should be gone by next month.

Asian Koel - male

Common Rosefinch - male & female

Yellow-billed Grosbeak - male

Asian Barred Owlet

Daurian Redstart - male

Some wintering species are lingering on at Tai Po Kau, including a nice looking male Red-flanked Bluetail and several very friendly Tristram's Buntings. Both showed well on my last visit. A few Hartert's Leaf Warblers are still present.

Red-flanked Bluetail - male

Tristram's Bunting - female

Hartert's Leaf Warbler

Not a lot of spring waders arriving yet, but the Black-faced Spoonbills are now moulting into their beautiful breeding plumage, always lovely to see as always. Lots of large gulls are still present, other than the two (or three) common species such as Vega and Lesser Black-backed Gulls still lingering on, two Slaty-backed Gulls were also observed, one very bleached individual, plus a much darker looking but smaller individual, the bi-coloured bill threw me off slightly, but the rather light and unicoloured primaries plus deep red legs kind of leave very little choice in terms of large gulls in this region. I only saw one Pallas's Gull there. Other than the still lingering Oriental Stork (was too far away so I didn't bother to photograph it), a Javan Mongoose was a nice sighting along the border fence. 48 Falcated Ducks were also a lovely sight to behold.

Black-faced Spoonbill - in glorious breeding plumage

Slaty-backed Gull (middle)

Slaty-backed Gull - another 1st winter

Pallas's Gull

Javan Mongoose

Falcated Duck - 48 of these fine looking ducks!

San Tin's been relatively productive lately, I had a few Eurasian Spoonbills feeding on one of the fish pond, together with some Black-faced Spoonbills as well, these provided very close views and were very fun to watch.

Eurasian Spoonbill

Black-faced Spoonbill
Pipits numbers seems to be up, many Red-throated Pipits were seen, plus a few Buff-bellied Pipits around the place. The Buff-bellied Pipits are now moulting into their breeding plumage.

Red-throated Pipit - male

Buff-bellied Pipit

A Yellow Bittern was spotted along some reed, while the long staying female Pied Harrier is still around the area, although I still fail to get any decent photos of it flying close by, as it always seems to drift away from me when I was there.

Yellow Bittern

Pied Harrier - female

Finally, some clear signs of spring migration! At least two Oriental Pratincoles, and a single Pacific Swift amongst the Barn and Red-rumped Swallows. Both giving me hope that something IS happening and we will finally get some new arrivals in the next couple of weeks.

Oriental Pratincole

Pacific Swift