19 Jun 2010

A life on the ocean waves..

News of rarities in HK can be a roundabout process, despite the best efforts of the rarity finders themselves, and the volunteer keepers of the free-local-call birdlines in English and Cantonese.

When we re-found George Ho's Blue-throated Bee-eater on the last Sunday in May, I phoned one or two people in case they hadn't heard…. including Graham T. , - who was actually in Dubai where it must have been around 04:00hrs. He was much more restrained than I would have been if I'd been woken at that hour.

Fast forward a fortnight or so. A photo of a Red-footed Booby (HK's sixth or seventh) was taken from the Ma Liu Shui - Tap Mun public ferry by Yau on Friday 18th June and posted late Friday evening on the HKBWS website. None of HK's previous Red-footed Boobies have been "twitchable", and as the car was off-road for maintenance I gave it little further thought.

However, the peripatetic Graham was back in HK last weekend, and demonstrated his "HK-350-year-list" * enthusiasm by re-finding the Booby near the shoreline at Ma On Shan. Being a forgiving soul (or perhaps thinking I'd be "sleeping in" after England v. Algeria at the World Cup) he phoned at about 08:00hrs Saturday morning with directions.

A taxi was summoned, and - after some false turns - we saw the Red-footed Booby too. Later we joined people in a hired boat for better views.

Red-footed Booby

Thanks to Yau and Graham respectively, for finding and re-finding the Booby. Red-footed Booby has become a rare summer vagrant in Hong Kong. With at least one breeding colony in the South China sea, odd birds have drifted our way in June, July and August.

*Graham's "Big Year" was 2006 - story in HKBWS bulletin 207.

More photos here: (link to HKBWS website)

16 Jun 2010

"Hung Fa Leng" - northeast New Territories

Overcast skies and light rain brought a bit of relief from the summer sunshine.

Off to the hills for a short stroll, then.

Starling Inlet - not named after a bird, but after a ship that was named after a bird - "HMS Starling"

near Au Ha Tsuen
Built in 1933 ? - a minor miracle this place hasn't already been converted into peach-tiled village houses.

Rose Myrtle
- the fruit should be edible in a couple of months.

Chinese Lily
- with a beetle !

Crested Serpent Eagle - the lighter feathers on the wing coverts mean this is a young bird.

10 Jun 2010

"Panda Bird" - What's in a name ?

Here's a photo of a Black-throated Tit, taken in Yunnan Province, China, in October last year.

Does the name really matter ? It looks like a panda to me, although I admit that it's a LOT smaller than a panda.

I first saw this species in Fujian Province, China, in 1986. The more experienced birders on the trip - everyone else, basically - used the English name "Red-headed Tit", after Prof. Cheng's "Synopsis of the Avifauna of China" and various editions of "Birds of Hong Kong" by Viney and Phillipps.

Even then, though, according to the other books we were using; - "The Birds of China" by R. Meyer De Schaunsee, and Ben King's "Field Guide to the Birds of SE Asia" it was "Black-throated Tit". As the more southerly SE Asian sub-species of this Tit have grayish caps, not red, King's position made sense. But on Chinese birds, the most prominent feature was the redness of the head.

I didn't study latin at school, but this experience taught me to pay attention to the scientific names of birds. The main reason was that Asian bird books used a confusing variety of English names, but at least the scientific names were consistent.

Another photo:

This one is Aegithalos (family) concinnus (species) talifuensis (subspecies).

The name means "Tit" - "beautiful" - "from Dali".

That's fine with me !

4 Jun 2010

"Brain Fever" bird

The "Brain-fever Bird" gets a mention in one of Rudyard Kipling's Indian poems about freemasonry, written in the 1890s : -

"So man on man got talkin'
An' not a Brother stirred
Till morning waked the parrots
An that damn brain fever bird…"

Heirococcyx sparverioides - the Large Hawk Cuckoo is still alive and well both in India and south China and the places in between.

Here's one I photographed last week:

Large Hawk Cuckoo

"Brain FEVER ! ....Brain FEVER !"