24 October 2014

Birds - many with wet feet

Yes, I know I'll have to be more imaginative in my choice of attention-grabbing blog post titles.

Anyway, a "mixed bag" from the past couple of weeks. Here's one from Shek Kong Water Catchment...

Dark-sided Flycatcher - Muscicapa sibirica
At the "scrape" at Mai Po, exotic Harriers proved elusive for me, but this male and juvenile Painted Snipe provided something to look at.

Greater Painted-Snipe - Rostratula benghalensis

Black-faced Spoonbills have really started to come back to Deep Bay in the last few days, November is actually the month of Hong Kong's high counts of these.

Black-faced Spoonbill - Platalea minor

Near Mai Po's "Tower Hide", an Asian Brown Flycatcher -

Asian Brown Flycatcher - Muscicapa dauurica

And from the "Tower Hide" itself, another species now building up in numbers;

Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo

A few of the "usual suspects" in my favorite drain, taken from a portable  "Tragopan V3" hide….

Common Snipe - Gallinago gallinago

Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola

Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis

Back out at Mai Po's boardwalk hides -

Black-tailed Godwit - Limosa limosa (melanuroides)

Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
Finally, another group of birds returning for Hong Kong's winter. "Large White-headed Gulls" give me identification headaches, but someone suggested that I just call all the 1st and 2nd-winter birds "Brown Gulls".

Chances are, this is a Heuglins Gull (now held by the I.O.C. to be a race of Lesser Black-backed Gull), because most of our LWHGs are this type.  But I'm not sure.

Heuglin's Gull - Larus fuscus (heuglini) ??
Ho hum.  Looks like I've got all winter to re-acquaint myself with the gulls.

14 October 2014

Eastern Marsh Harriers at Mai Po, Hong Kong

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus
Both EMH and Pied Harriers have been around Mai Po in the last few days. Pied is usually a passage migrant here in Hong Kong, Eastern Marsh Harriers may be arriving for the whole winter.

I detect a "speciesist" tendency among the Hong Kong bird-photographing fraternity, who seem biased in favor of Pied Harrier, - especially if an adult male comes into view.

So far this autumn, no adult males, but perhaps it's only a question of time.

Meanwhile the only Pied Harriers this autumn I've seen were: -

                        1) Juvenile
                        2) Against the light
                        3) Miles away.

So you'll have to settle for these; two different first-winter Eastern Marsh Harriers.

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

And the second, rather cooler-toned individual; -

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus
Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus
Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Finally: - "John's Photo Masterclass"

The feature you've all been waiting for, no doubt.  (To give myself more gravitas, I'm going to refer to myself in the third person from here on.)

Eastern Marsh Harriers - Circus spilonotus
John says :

"If you can get both Harriers in the same frame, don't cut off the wing of one of them, like I just did !"

7 October 2014

Mostly Autumn Migrants

Mostly in the order they were taken, mostly passage migrants, mostly at Mai Po...

Purple Heron

Bar-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit - race "menzbieri"


Eurasian Curlew
Eurasian Curlew

Garganey (female)

Pacific Golden Plovers

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

Pheasant-tailed Jacana

(Western) Osprey

Common Redshank

Common Greenshank

Grey Plover
"Th - Th - That's All, folks !"


24 September 2014

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - again

Yesterday morning, I went to Mai Po with visiting birder and former colleague John Burton.

Earlier, I  had received a message to the effect that Hong Kong's Autumn migrant Spoon-billed Sandpiper was gracing Ponds 16/17 in Mai Po Nature Reserve for the third day in a row. This seemed to augur well for a good morning's birding.

We stopped along the Access Road to the Nature Reserve to look at the waders on a drained fishpond….

and there IT was, quite close, pottering around with other small waders including Long-toed Stints and Little Ringed Plovers.

Although I hadn't heard, the Spoon-billed Sandpiper had flown off Pond 16/17 about twenty minutes earlier.

And there it was, only about 25 metres away.  I had the 500mm lens and 1.4 converter in the car.

Thanks to digital and lots of cropping, here are some shots to show you.

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Spoon-billed Sandpiper
So there you have it, pure luck.

But, as Gary Player (the golfer) once said; - "The harder I practice, the luckier I get.."

21 September 2014

Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Mai Po - a September surprise

Found by Ivan TSE of the HK Birdwatching Society this morning on Ponds 16/17 Mai Po Nature Reserve.  This Critically Endangered Species is "difficult" to find here in spring, and even rarer in Autumn.

A few record shots:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus pygmeus
Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Yesterday (Sept. 20th) there were about sixty Great Knot on the outgoing tide.

Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris

Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris

Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris

Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris

And - as a useful comparison - three Red Knot were close to the hide, here is one of them

Red Knot - Calidris canutus

In the bay, though, the most noticeable Great Knot was struggling for it's life in the retreating tidal waters while a Peregrine tried to pluck it out of the sea.

The Great Knot moved closer to one of the old marker poles and this disturbed the rhythm of the swooping raptor.

And, to our surprise, eventually the Peregrine gave up and flew away.

Peregrine - Falco peregrinus

Peregrine - Falco peregrinus

Unfortunately for the Great Knot, though, it had a gash on it's chest and probably won't get much further.