Wednesday 28 June 2023

Late Spring Pelagic & Wildlife

Just before the end of spring I got invited to be the guide for a pelagic trip to southern Hong Kong waters by the HKBWS, hard to say no to this wonderful opportunity to look for some pelagic species! We first started with a brief visit to one of the breeding tern colony, this island is just off Po Toi and a stronghold for Bridled Terns. It is now illegal to land on the island during the summer months when these terns return to breed, although occasionally we still see some people landing on the island and causing huge disturbance to the terns...We saw numerous Bridled Terns in courtship and a few resting on floating rubbish out at sea.

Bridled Tern colony

Bridled Tern

White-bellied Sea Eagles were back at their usual spot, Hong Kong is one of the stronghold for this species on the southern coast of China, as their eggs are collected elsewhere, apparently brings good luck or something? Still, we don't have that many breeding pairs in Hong Kong, therefore each pair that breeds here is essential to the population of the region.

White-bellied Sea Eagle

It was already well past the peak tern migration season, still we managed to find a few other species of migrating terns, including a few White-winged Terns, a few Common Terns and at least one Aleutian Tern in the distance. Flying Fish are often seen out at sea, and we saw plenty during our outing, although they are always a challenging subject to photograph!

White-winged Tern

Common and Aleutian Tern

Flying Fish

Fortunately, we had a few true pelagic birds during the trip, including two Short-tailed Shearwaters, they were quite far away but we enjoyed the brief encounter as it glides low over the surface. The best bird of the day was saved for last, on our return journey towards Aberdeen I noticed a large bird flying towards us from the distance, it had very long wings. I immediately called out "Friatebird!", and everyone scrambled for views, in the end this majestic juvenile Lesser Frigatebird simply flew straight towards our boat and right over our heads! 

Short-tailed Shearwater

Lesser Frigatebird -  juvenile

I haven't been out birding much, the hot weather really puts off any thoughts of going out during the day. While night time is still hot and humid, it is at least manageable without the sun constantly beating down on you. A short walk close to home produced a nice Collared Scops Owl, incidentally I didn't bring my telephoto lens with me, as i only had my 100mm macro with me, this was the best I managed of this rather confiding owl. I also had a brief view of a Brown Fish Owl flying over.

Collared Scops Owl

Catchwaters are known to be death traps for many smaller animals, snakes included. I found two snakes in the catchwater the other night, first a Many-banded Krait, which ended up slithering into a hole in the wall before I could get it out. The other a young Common Wolf Snake which had no chance climbing up those smooth concrete walls, I 'fished' it out and took a few photos before it slither off into the undergrowth.

Many-banded Krait

Common Wolf Snake

The wet weather lately means the frogs are happy, Asian Painted Frogs are of course calling away each night after the rain. Here a juvenile and an adult snuggled in a drain.

Asian Painted Frog

Other smaller Microhyla or Pygmy Frogs are also most active after the rain, these tiny frogs can be easily missed as many are smaller than large crickets. Here are a couple of Ornate Pygmy Frogs, their back patterns can vary greatly between different individuals.

Ornate Pygmy Frog

Brown Tree Frogs can be found in a wide range of habitat, from forest to farmland, they utilizes any stagnant pool of water for breeding, for example this water filled bucket, you can see the many tadpoles swimming around next to this adult.

Brown Tree Frog

Pleny of moths while out walking, such as this Common Hunter Moth, there were a lot of Asota around, including Asota heliconia and Asota theratra. Of course, you can never miss the huge Lyssa zampa, which often end up flying towards your torch.

Common Hunter Moth - Theretra clotho

Asota heliconia

Asota theratra

Lyssa zampa