11 November 2018

Here today.....gone tomorrow ?

Eastern Buzzard - Buteo japonicus

Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
Out and about, it seems like autumn passage birds are giving way to winter visitors.

But even the winter birds may not linger, and it seems like we can’t take seeing them two days in a row for granted.

Chestnut-eared Bunting - Emberiza fucata

Peregrine - Falco peregrinus

Peregrine - Falco peregrinus

Peregrine - Falco peregrinus

Peregrine - Falco peregrinus

Mai Po boardwalk hide, with Shenzhen high rise behind
Buff-bellied Pipit - Anthus rubescens

Yellowknib - Anas poecilorhyncha
Yellowknib - Anas poecilorhyncha

The woodland stuff, like minlas and minivets are mostly resident, but the Ashy Drongo is distinctly seasonal. 
Grey-chinned Minivet - Pericrocotus solaris

Blue-winged Minla - Minla cyanouroptera

Blue-winged Minla - Minla cyanouroptera

Ashy Drongo - Dicrurus leucophaeus

Grey-chinned Minivet - Pericrocotus solaris

Finally, thanks to Mike Kilburn for this season’s probably one-and-only Pallas’s Reed Bunting !
Pallas's Bunting - Emberiza pallasi

Pallas's Bunting - Emberiza pallasi

Pallas's Bunting - Emberiza pallasi

And I finally got one of these in the open...... 

Dusky Warbler - Phylloscopus fuscatus

I shall ignore them for the rest of the winter now.

1 November 2018

End of October

Blue-and-White Flycatcher - Cyanoptila cyanomelana
A stroll around Mai Po on “World Migratory Bird Day” (Oct 13th) revealed a variety of migrants, from a female blue and White Flycatcher in a grove of banyan trees to six or seven Purple Herons that popped out of reedbeds here and there.


Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea

Dusky Warbler - Phylloscopus fuscatus
But it was Dusky Warblers that stood out, their "tuck-tucking" call seemed to be coming from every pile of brushwood brought down by Typhoon Mangkhut four weeks earlier.


The bird ringers caught 83 Duskies in just a couple of hours. This, though, is Oriental Reed Warbler.



At Long Valley more recently I bumped into Matt KWAN and he showed me where LV’s star Wryneck has been appearing.

Eurasian Wryneck - Jynx torquilla
A pleasant surprise was an influx of Russet Sparrows, still a rarity here.

Russet Sparrow - Passer rutilans
There was other stuff, too, such as this “Swintail” (Swinhoe’s or Pintail) Snipe that flew by. This one is showing the “pot belly” as described in “The Birds of East Asia” (by Mark Brazil).

"Swintail" Snipe - Gallinago sp.

Red-throated Pipit - Anthus cervinus

And another Himalayan Swiftlet appeared - in better weather conditions that the one I posted here earlier.

Himalayan Swiftlet - Collocalia brevirostris

Himalayan Swiftlet - Collocalia brevirostris
After the sun had actually set I found a male and female Yellow-breasted Bunting sitting quietly feeding about ten metres inside a rice paddy.  The HK Birdwatching Society - with other “Green Groups” has grown this rice specially to attract and nurture this Critically Endangered species.

Yellow-breasted Bunting - Emberiza aureola (f)

Yellow-breasted Bunting - Emberiza aureola (m)
It was nice to sit quietly with them for a few minutes.  

We’ve had a run of wetter autumns than there were, say, twenty or thirty years ago.  (It’s Climate Change, sports fans !) The Chung Yeung Grave-Sweeping Festival was on Oct 17th this year, but rain in the days before kept hillside fires to a minimum.

Some Ancestor-worshippers clean the family graves a week or two later, which this year meant that the hills had dried just enough to become flammable, as was so common in years past.


Hillfires can be frightening sights.




HK Government Flying Services uses big buckets, strung from helicopters to fight hill fires. Expensive, but it seems to work.  The GFS crews were flying until sunset, though.


The hillfire shots were were taken Sunday 28th October.

18 October 2018

Just passing through

I imagine that big raindrops must be quite a hazard for insects, they are no fun for humans generally, either.
Sand Martin - Riparia riparia

But when the rain is hard enough, the insects are beaten down and make a flying feast for  swifts and swallows.  There was a high proportion of Sand Martins with a group of mostly Barn Swallows, and I mused on the various names we humans have for these. “Sand Martin” in HK became “Pale Martin” and has now become “Sand Martin” again.  If you record your birding using E-bird, they are “Bank Swallows”. It all keeps the researchers busy.

Himalayan Swiftlet - Aerodroma brevirostris


Himalayan Swiftlet - Aerodroma brevirostris

Himalayan Swiftlet - Aerodroma brevirostris

I met Koel KO by chance in Tai Sang Wai and it was he who alerted me to a single Himalayan Swiftlet among the dozens of hirundines. The swiftlet appeared and disappeared from sight as if by magic.

Himalayan Swiftlet - Aerodroma brevirostris

Himalayan Swiftlet - Aerodroma brevirostris

Himalayan Swiftlet - Aerodroma brevirostris

There are usually ten or fewer records of Himalayan Swiftlet in HK annually, and they are difficult to see well, so  I made an effort to get a few shots, hoping it might be something even more exotic….but it wasn’t.

Due to the rain and clouds, it seemed like “Bee-eater weather” and so it proved on Mai Po Access Road, where about 35 Blue-tailed Bee-eaters caught bees (mostly) and ate them !

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Merops philippinus

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Merops philippinus

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Merops philippinus

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Merops philippinus

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Merops philippinus

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Merops philippinus


Raindrops in almost every shot, it was that kind of day......


12 October 2018

Po Toi Island, Hong Kong - 11th October 2018


Dark-sided Flycatcher - Muscicapa sibirica
Po Toi Island is Hong Kong’s southernmost island, and a migration hotspot. Nine or ten birders/photographers, including ourselves, caught the 10:00 ferry from the Aberdeen promenade.

Tin Hau Temple, Po Toi

Migrant birds have limited pockets of habitat on Po Toi, and even fewer places to hide there since Typhoon “Mangkhut” in mid-September.

Areas of brown vegetation, hillside scrub killed off by the typhoon’s salt spray, could be seen everywhere above the shoreline along our ferry journey from Aberdeen. 

White-bellied Sea Eagles - Haliaeetus leucogaster

On Stanley peninsula a pair of resident White-bellied Sea Eagles surveyed us as we passed. 

Here are a few shots of some of the birds seen, as usual, some birds are seen by some birders and not others. A mid-week ferry gives only a three-hour window for birding.

Red Turtle-Dove - Streptopelia tranquebarica

Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus

Yellow-browed Warbler - Phylloscopus inornatus
Dark-sided Flycatcher - Muscicapa sibirica

Dark-sided Flycatcher - Muscicapa sibirica

(Asian) Brown Flycatcher - Muscicapa latirostris

(Asian) Brown Flycatcher - Muscicapa latirostris


Bird of the Po Toi day was probably a Spectacled Warbler (Seicercus sp.) - photographed by someone else and not seen by yours truly at all !