Saturday 4 May 2024

Ashy Woodswallow - a Worthy Spring Vagrant!

Ashy Woodswallow has been a species thats mostly deemed 'untwitchable' by birders, as they often pass through quickly or just fly through Hong Kong without stopping, with previous record in 2011, 2021 and 2022. John Allcock found the 4th in Hong Kong at Lam Tsuen on 3rd of May, and put out the news immediately. I had a full day tour that day and didn't think too much of it, as I was sure it would be just like the other previous records, a bird passing through Hong Kong. To my surprise, I got news of it still showing well at noon, and by 4pm when we finish up at Mai Po, I saw Benjamin put on the group that the bird was still there! It seemed a bit rude not to try for it, good thing the guest I was guiding never seen one either, making it a lifer for him and a Hong Kong tick for me. We arrived in good time and saw the bird perched up on the wire nicely.

Ashy Woodswallow - possibly the 4th HK record

The easterly winds the past week has finally stopped the bird draught and brought in more interesting birds, including a female Cotton Pygmy Goose at San Tin. Although not a very rare vagrant, we only get a few of these every few years or so. This one showed on and off on a pond at San Tin, occasionally swimming out to the open.

Cotton Pygmy Goose - female

The male Citrine Wagtail John and I saw stayed a couple more days afterwards, attracting quite a crowd. I went back one morning to take a few better photos of this handsome looking bird, and this individual showed extremely well while I was there.

Citrine Wagtail - male

Both San Tin and Tai Sang Wai welcomed more arrivals of Yellow-breasted Buntings, another male at San Tin showed well, the female was far more skittish and only allowed distant views. Although, the male was nowhere as pretty as the one John and I saw at Tai Sang Wai, they are still exciting birds to see in spring.

Yellow-breasted Bunting - male

Yellow-breasted Bunting - female

A few Little Terns have been frequenting the fish ponds near Lut Chau together with Whiskered and a few White-winged Black Terns, they provided excellent views and gave close views to me. I've always had a soft spot for these elegant and dainty terns, I think they are certainly one of the best looking terns out there.

Little Tern

I helped guided a seabird workshop by HKBWS on the last saturday of April, winds have yet to change to easterlies, making it a very quiet day out on the sea. Only Black-naped Terns and a few Greater Crested Terns flew past in the distant. Kenneth saw a bird he initially thought was a Black Kite in the distant, I wasn't too sure what it was either so we got a little closer, and sure enough it was a juvenile Lesser Frigatebird!

Black-naped Tern

Greater Crested Tern

Lesser Frigatebird

Tai Po Kau's been pretty quiet all spring, with not much spring migrants there. The local birds are still the star of the show there, Plain Flowerpeckers can still be heard singing, lots of birds are now nesting, with some early nesters already fledging youngs, like this Huet's Fulvetta. Yellow-cheeked Tits also seems to have had a good breeding season, I have seen two broods fledged already.

Plain Flowerpecker

Huet's Fulvetta - fledgling

Yellow-cheeked Tit - male

Out at Deep Bay, at least two Chinese Egrets have been seen feeding along the tide line, a welcoming sight as always to see this elegant species here.

Chinese Egret

The easterly winds seems to have brought in more waders as well, I was quite disappointed by the lack of waders earlier in April, but luckily it seems things are finally improving slightly, although general numbers are still way down. Two Nordmann's Greenshanks were spotted, although too far for any photos, the mudflat generally seems more lively with many spring migrant species all feeding together, including Red-necked Stints, Broad-billed Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpiper, Terek Sand Piper, Grey-tailed Tattlers, Ruddy Turnstones, Red Knots, Great Knots, Asian Dowitchers, Tibetan Sand Plovers, Siberian Sand Plovers and Greater Sand Plovers just to name a few. Most of them stay far away from the bird hide, only a few venture closer for better photos, such as Terek Sandpiper, Grey-tailed Tattler and Common Redshank.

Nordmann's Greenshank - bottom right

Terek Sandpiper

Grey-tailed Tattler

Common Redshank

There are still plenty of Black-faced Spoonbills remaining at Mai Po, although only a few of them in breeding plumage remains, the majority looks like young birds that are in no rush to fly back to their breeding grounds.

Black-faced Spoonbill

Other birds of interest around Mai Po includes a few Sooty-headed Bulbuls, a bird I don't see too often here, this one gave great views up close. Large Hawk Cuckoos and Indian Cuckoos can both be heard regularly here, but seeing them is a whole different matter, you do get lucky sometimes and see them either perched singing or flying by. There are plenty of Black-browed Reed Warblers around, although none of them really want to show and often just give fleeting views in the reedbeds. A pair of Grey-streaked Flycatchers along the access road were the first for me this spring! Surprise it took so long for me to see any this season. Collared Scops Owls do breed in Mai Po, although they are often not detected during the day, I got lucky last month and saw a few recently fledged bird up a tree with their parents well hidden among the leaves. I managed to find an opening enough to see one of the young owl and got a record photo.

Sooty-headed Bulbul

Large Hawk Cuckoo

Indian Cuckoo

Black-browed Reed Warbler

Grey-streaked Flycatcher

Collared Scops Owl

 My first better snake of the season was a rather cooperative Taiwan Kukri Snake, a lovely individual calmed down enough for me to get a few photos. Even though they are a common species, I do like seeing them.

Taiwan Kukri Snake

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