30 Dec 2007

Poem by William Blake 1757-1827 "Tiger"

In case any members of "Generation X" have stumbled over my offering of Dec 28th, I should clarify that the references to "burning bright" and "in the forests of the night" are allusions to this poem by William Blake.

TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

So there, then !

Tiger Jam

Jemi and I visited Ranthambore, in Rajastan. India in mid-December. I last visited there nearly twenty years ago. It goes without saying that, in a fast-changing country like India, things had changed a lot. There are now many hotels built to cater for "Tiger Tourism", and 90% of the visitors are domestic tourists. So money is being made from wildlife and Indians are taking time to appreciate their natural heritage, which has got to be positive news.

However, you'll find you are sharing the reserve with a lot more people than used to be the case. They now divide Ranthambore into five circuits (Max. 8 vehicles each). When a Tiger is spotted just outside the reserve at dusk as people are leaving, as happened when we were there, everyone positions themselves along the road, hoping to be in the best viewing spot when the Tiger crosses the road.

The convoy home after the Tiger finally appeared....

And what was all the fuss about ?

28 Dec 2007

Tiger, Tiger burning bright...

We were just two more touroids at Ranthambore, Rajastan, India, earlier this month..... Thanks to the experience of our guide, though, we just managed a glimpse of this one "in the forests of the night". The camera was set at ISO 1600 and shutter speed about one sixth of a second. With film I'd have got nothing at all.

Indian Plastic Bucket

The spring sales are coming up, and if you're looking for plastic buckets, it's like - SO-O-O-O important to get only the very best...

21 Nov 2007

Garrulax sukatschewi

A good Chinese endemic, Snowy-cheeked Laughingthrush was originally collected in the 1880s by M.Beresovsky in the Min Mountains of northern Sichuan. It is named after V.P. Sukatchev, his financial supporter.

You can still see them at Wanglang National Nature Reserve, where I took this pic. last week.

We're off to India tomorrow, and my normal, patchy disservice may resume in mid-December !

Pere David's Tit

Wanglang, Ping Wu County, Nov 17th 2007.

Wanglang has a common border with Jiuzhaigou, and should have most of the same birds without the distraction of a zillion Chinese domestic tourists.... but it seems to be largely ignored by overseas birdwatchers.

This is part two of my "plug" for Wanglang....

Pere Armand David was one of the "Greats" of Chinese natural history pioneering. He spent many years in China, including a few months in 1869 near Baoxing, (in Sichuan) where the type specimen of Giant Panda was brought to him by his local hunters. David had earlier seen a panda skin in someone's house, knew it would be new to science, and sent out people to look for another one.

You might assume that "Parus davidi" was one of the many bird specimens collected Pere David. But no, it was that Russian, Berezovsky, again. Berezovsky collected specimens of P.davidi in southern Gansu in 1887 and named them after David (long departed to France) in tribute. There is no evidence that Pere David ever actually saw one.

Berezovsky also collected a rare and unusual parrotbill and named it after the greatest of the Russian explorers, Nikolai Przewalsky. But that's another story.

Here's looking at you, kid !

It's a Chinese Muntjac, of course. I walked around the nature trail at Tangjiahe in Sichuan on 12th November, and saw several of them. It really is nice to see large mammals in China.

We also saw Takin well

Tangjiahe in winter folks, it's a good place to visit !

Anything named after a "Russky" should be good...

Some of the most colourful birds on the Tibetan Plateau are named after the Russian explorers who travelled and collected there in the late 19th century.

Petr Koslov left it comparatively late, arriving in Yushu (Jyekundo to Tibetans) in the summer of 1900. He continued south to where the plateau breaks up into deep, pine-clad valleys, and there shot a few specimens of the rufous babbler now known in latin as "Babax Koslowi" - Koslov's Babax.

Of course now the trend is away from using the names of western pioneers in English bird names. In "A Field guide to the Birds of China" (2000) it is referred to as "Tibetan Babax".

But "Tibetan" is the first half of the name of some great birds, too.

And you thought YOU were having a bad day

Taken in Qinghai Province in August, a Little Owl preying on a juvenile Pika

28 Oct 2007

Birding in Hainan Island, China

We were at Jianfengling, Hainan, from 17th to 24th October. It's quite a comfortable place for the casual birder, and they've got some good birds as well.

This is the place where, in 1963, Chinese ornithologists discovered that the Yellow-billed Nuthatch, Sitta solangae, occurred in China - it was known to occur in Vietnam already.

Robert Swinhoe shot a specimen of Orange-bellied Leafbird there in 1860. It had a blueish crown, hence the race lazulina

Hainan has many distinct races - some more distinct than others.....

Black-tailed Godwit lecture

We get two different kinds of Black-tailed Godwits here, according to the ever-readable "Avifauna of Hong Kong". The wintering population are an odd long thin-billed form, while the ones that pass through in spring are noticeably thicker-billed.



It is still a mystery where the thin-billed birds that winter here breed.

Black-capped Kingfisher

Most of our Black-capped Kingfishers winter here in HK, here's one I took on 6th October at Mai Po. I'd have posted it earlier here, but I forgot my code... yes,yes, I'm hopeless.

12 Sept 2007

Urocynchramus pylzowi

Well, I don't know whether to call it a Bunting or a Rosefinch, so you'll have to settle for the scientific name. Seen in August 2007 near Qinghai Lake. A splendid Chinese endemic discovered by Nikolai Przewalski on one of his four great chinese ornithological expeditions. Old "Prezza" is not around any more, but his discovery still is -

Isn't nature wonderful? Hey, hey, yeah yeah yeah YEAH


Summer Indolence

There are lots of things more tiresome than people who don't update their blogs, but in the "blergershere" who needs a sense of proportion ?

Here are a couple of pics about a place we saw (I think) a Gentian "Gentiana sino-ornata" Discovered by George Forrest in NW Yunnan province in 1904 and described as "one of his finest introductions... exquisite beauty...late and prolonged flowering in autumn" Seen in 99 Dragon Pools, NW Yunnan in Oct 2005, this should be the one.

Here's a general view of the scenery there

Laojunshan, about four hours from Lijiang

6 May 2007

Another Po Toi Island Trip - 5th May 2007

Grey-streaked Flycatcher

Chinese Goshawk

But the seabirds performed well, with seven species of Tern, Arctic Skua, and a couple of Streaked Shearwaters

Grey Nightjar is a long-distance migrant here in HK, but we all had a surprise when we found up to three flying over the open sea.

Most of us (including me) had never seen a murrelet in HK waters before, but this rather sorry-looking individual had some characteristics of Japanese (Crested) Murrelet, including a longish blue-toned bill and the remains of a crest. Opinions have been sought from seabird experts in Japan, Korea and the UK. For now, "the Jury is out".

Very "Hit and Miss" boat trips, but this one was a "Hit". Well organised by Jemi !

6 Apr 2007

One good Tern...

Hoped to see something exotic on our Po Toi Trip on April 1st. The seabirds didn't oblige at all, so here is a Caspian Tern from a few days earlier at the boardwalk, Mai Po.

1 Apr 2007

April 1, 2007

Hong Kong Bird Watching Society Boat trip to Po Toi Island, Southern Waters and West Lamma Channel on
April 1, 2007.

Weather was good and sea was quite calm most of the time, there were some big waves when got to the bend of the west Lamma Channel.

Very quiet in the sea, basically no sea birdsat all.

We had a distant view of 4+ finless porpoises
a flock of 40+ flying Garganey *
10+ Red-necked Phalaropes
a flock 20+ unindentified flying waders,

On Po Toi Island, many birds were seen briefly, not by all the participants ..............

*and a mystery Merganser, second from the left

30 Mar 2007

Oriental Prat.

Oriental PRATINCOLE, of course. There were several on a dried pond today on the Mai Po access road. Taken at about 20metres, 600mm lens, 2x converter, ID Mk II

29 Mar 2007

Deserves Another....... !

We're going on the boat outing to Po Toi island this Sunday, April Fools that we are. Hong Kong may be one of the best places in the world to see Aleutian Tern. It was first noted by Peter Kennerley and others on a boat trip to the West Lamma channel here in August 1992. The terns breed on the Aleutian Islands which run southwest in a line across the northern pacific from Alaska. A few specimens were collected near the Phillippines in the 1980s but the pacific wintering grounds of this species have remained largely a mystery. There are more recent records from Singapore and Indonesia

They're more commonly seen in HK in Autumn (August/September) than spring, but we might get lucky this Sunday. If you don't go, you'll never know !

26 Mar 2007

Fork-tailed Sunbirds

March is the month in Hong Kong when our "Red Hot Poker" * trees are in blossom. Apart from the blossoms the trees are quite bare, so it is the best chance to see and photograph our resident sunbirds. These pictures were taken in Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve, but Fork-tailed Sunbirds are widespread.

male Forktailed Sunbird

female Forktailed Sunbird

* For any tree fans who may have dropped in : this tree is actually Erythrina speciosa , native to South America. Did you know Forktailed Sunbirds were first recorded in Hongkong in 1959 ?

25 Mar 2007

Big Bird Race 2007

Completed the 24th Hong kong WWF "Big Bird Race" yesterday as a "Jebsen Holidays Wandering Tattler".

Many Thanks to Jebsen for our Team sponsorship. They sponsored TWO teams in this years' race! The Tattlers were Gavin Cooper (Captain), Andrew Young, Tim Woodward and Roger Muscroft. And me.

We saw (or heard) 157 species, which put us third, the winners were the "Professionals" who scored 162, and won the most important prize, the one for raising the most money.

Our first birds were at 1700hrs on Friday evening on Pond 77 at Tsim Bei Tsui. We had a nice breeding plumage Saunders's Gull there, so we were off to a good start.

The 157th bird was Chinese Spotbill on pond 8 at Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Here's a picture of Saunders's Gull I took a few days ago.