Thursday 30 November 2023

More Storks! Plus Other November Goodies

Even though we are coming to the end of November, temperature is still relatively warm, the cooler weather did not last very long, and we were back to 26 - 27°C temperature. Despite the lack of cold fronts, there's been a steady stream of wintering birds arriving. Even though the 50 odd Oriental Storks did not all stay in Hong Kong, a few did linger on, I caught up with 4 of them at Mai Po the other day, which gave brilliant views! It is always such a privilege to see this endangered species in Hong Kong.

Oriental Storks - Wonderful visitors to Mai Po

Other wintering birds now arriving at Mai Po includes numerous gulls, such as Saunder's Gulls and Black-headed Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gull (heuglin's) and Vega Gulls. A single Pallas's Gull was also present.

Saunder's Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gulls (heuglin's) & Vega Gulls

Pallas's Gull amongst the other waterbirds

Out at Deep Bay, hundreds of Dunlins can be seen on the mudflat, although the winter tide is usually not as high as spring tides, so most of the birds were quite far away. A few Common Redshanks were the only waders that came close to the bird hide. Black-capped Kingfisher is an 'easy' bird out in the mangroves, although without closer perch, they now perch much further away from the bird hide.


Common Redshank

Black-capped Kingfisher

On the scrape, up to 7 Falcated Ducks have now arrived, mingling amongst the Eurasian Wigeons. I also had a few Purple Herons around the reserve, perhaps some are wintering individuals.

Falcated Ducks - male & female

Purple Heron

Eastern Buzzards are now very common, while Greater Spotted Eagles can often be seen drifting past above, here's one directly next to a Black Kite for clear size comparison.

Eastern Buzzard

Greater Spotted Eagle & Black Kite

Over at Tai Sang Wai, a Black-winged Kite had been showing quite well, this one was quite bold and often allowed close approach, it was also fearless against the local Collared Crows, of which I saw them harassing the Kite, but it definitely made it clear to the crows that it was not to be messed with.

Collared Crow & Black-winged Kite

In the evening, Savanna Nightjars can still be seen on the road, although they are not vocal at this time of the year, they are usually not hard to find.

Savanna Nightjar

At San Tin, the most notable bird being a Daurian Jackdaw that's been frequenting the fish ponds near the MTR wetlands, however, this individual had a ring on its right leg, and not one that bird ringers uses, more like a metal ring for captive birds. So, it is highly likely that this was an ex-captive bird that ended up in suitable habitat.

Daurian Jackdaw

Other various winter visitors there being numerous Red-rumped Swallows, Red-throated Pipits, Red-billed Starlings, Oriental Turtle Doves and Eurasian Skylark.

Red-rumped Swallow

Red-throated Pipit - female

Red-billed Starling

Oriental Turtle Dove

Eurasian Skylark

Near home, a pair of White-bellied Sea-Eagles been very vocal and often seen patrolling the area, this pair had been nesting here for a long time, although I haven't really seen them with any offspring in the last few years. I counted at least 17 Kentish and 2 Greater Sand Plovers wintering at Ting Kok, but only the single Grey Plover was approachable for photos.

White-bellied Sea-Eagle

Grey Plover

Over at Wu Kau Tang, things are generally quiet with no sign of Common Rosefinches anywhere. Asian Stubtails are now frequently heard and sometimes seen along the forest path. Orange-bellied Leafbirds seems to be relatively easy there. The best birds I manage were a few Eastern Crowned Warblers and a single Radde's Warbler. I did find a Fluffy Tit there, a rare butterfly species that was first reported in Hong Kong in 2021, now relatively widespread but still rare.

Orange-bellied Leafbird - male

Eastern Crowned Warbler

Radde's Warbler

Fluffy Tit

Thursday 23 November 2023

Cooling Down - November Migrants & Winter Visitors

Upon returning from Palawan, the weather in Hong Kong seems to have cooled down somewhat, with temperature finally dropping below 20°C! Even if it was only for a few days. With a sharp drop in temperature and strong northerly winds, some more birds are coming further south. The first tour upon returning to Hong Kong, one of the very first bird we saw that morning was a Eurasian Siskin at Shek Kong Catchwater! Just this single bird feeding on the ground, no doubt just arrived and seemingly quite tired.

Eurasian Siskin

Also present were a few other winter visitors, including the shy Asian Stubtail, a few Asian Brown Flycatchers and Grey-headed Canary-Flycatchers.

Asian Stubtail

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher

The cooler weather also helps make our resident forest species more visible, as they often feed lower down and become much easier to photograph, such as numerous Scarlet Minivets, Fire-breasted Flowerpeckers and Speckled Piculet.

Scarlet Minivet - female

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker - male

Speckled Piculet

The Grey-headed Lapwings are back at their wintering site along Kam Tin River, I counted up to 16 birds there, occasionally giving quite close views.

Grey-headed Lapwing

At Lok Ma Chau Village I had my second Citrine Wagtail this season, found amongst all the other Eastern Yellow Wagtails and Red-throated Pipits.

Citrine Wagtail

The small paddyfields at Ho Sheung Heung attracted a few Buntings, including a pair of Rustic Buntings and a few Little Buntings. I didn't see any Yellow-breasted Buntings on my last visit though.

Rustic Bunting - female

Little Bunting

With clear skies you often see raptors up above, here are a few I've encountered lately, including a Japanese Sparrowhawk that came through briefly, and a friendly Black-winged Kite, both at Tai Sang Wai. Greater Spotted Eagles, Pied Harriers and Eastern Marsh Harriers can often be seen around Mai Po at this time of the year.

Japanese Sparrowhawk

Black-winged Kite

Greater Spotted Eagle

Pied Harrier

Eastern Marsh Harrier

Mai Po's been fairly good lately, with two Pheasant-tailed Jacanas still, the long staying female Baikal Teal had been showing fairly 'well', although usually quite far away. Wintering Black-faced Spoonbills numbers are still increasing steadily over the month, here is 88K with White-Red-White banding on the left leg, which should be an individual tagged in Korea this year.

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Baikal Teal - female

Black-faced Spoonbill

On 17th of November some birders saw over 50 Oriental Storks overhead, I somehow missed the 50 birds, but ended up with the two Black Storks instead. Not that I am complaining, since Black Storks are actually rarer in Hong Kong, and I had quite a brief but close encounter!

Black Stork