27 Nov 2012

Dark-sided Flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica)

The flycatcher formerly known as "Sooty Flycatcher" is a passage migrant through Hong Kong, "uncommon in autumn" and "rare in spring".

I came across one in some wet woodland this morning, associating with an active group of Japanese White-eyes.  First impressions of an upright, small brown flycatcher called to mind Asian Brown, Grey-streaked or Dark-sided.  

Once I decided that there really was some streaking on the flanks, not just due to the bedraggled appearance of the bird, I was able to dismiss Asian Brown Flycatcher.  My personal prejudice is that Grey-streaked always seems to pop up along the waterside on Po Toi Island, and Dark-sided is the one I've usually encountered in woods in the New Territories.  Not very scientific, I know.

Dark-sided Flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica)

Mark Brazil's "Birds of East Asia" is useful for differentiating this trio of flycatchers, but even he noted in relation to Dark-sided that.."Underparts darker than Asian Brown or Grey-streaked, but variable and confusing."

Grey-streaked has "more clearly defined streaks" according to Clive Viney in "The Birds of Hong Kong and South China" …"and the wing tip of adults almost reaches the tip of the tail."

The posture of the bird can affect the position of the wing tips relative to the tail....but I think it is the DEFINITION of the streaks that nails it for me.

Here are pics of Grey-streaked Flycatcher from Po Toi; -

Grey-streaked Flycatcher (Muscicapa griseisticta)

A big drop in temperature over the last couple of days has distressed many insects, and when this happens they tend to drop to the ground. On my way back to where I'd left the car, I came across two more flycatchers, both down on the stone path. Only the one on the right of this picture hung around long enough to give me a decent view.

He really WAS more "Sooty" than the other Dark-sided I had seen earlier.

And finally, a female Daurian Redstart in the "also snapped" category.

Daurian Redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus)

Looks like the waterproof camera cover is working okay !

22 Nov 2012

Nam Sang Wai, Hong Kong, 22nd Nov. 2012

The tide didn't drop to a "good" height for photography until about 10:00hrs, but the prospect of a bit of sunshine led me to decide to get down there and see what might be possible.

A couple of dozen Tufted Duck drifted in the creek and there was enough light for a few inflight shots.

Inevitably, a few Great Cormorants were moving about, too.

Once the mud next to the slipway was exposed, a Spotted Redshank came obligingly close…

followed by a Black-winged Stilt

A Black-faced Spoonbill landed only twenty metres away..

This is a rather grubby young bird; - only the more mature ones have a black bill pattern like scorched wood.

The view of the Nam Sang Wai slipway as I left ( The high rise buildings are in Shenzhen ).

Not the most beautiful of sites for photography, but there always seems to be something around.

14 Nov 2012

Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides) at Mai Po, Hong Kong

"I didn't get where I am today …  "(as "CJ" used to say on "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin") … by being topical and up-to-date……  

But the interweb-thingy sometimes demands this, so I've got some shots from Mai Po this afternoon of a Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides) consorting with cormorants on the Deep Bay mudflats.

If accepted as a wild bird, Swan Goose would be a "First" for Hong Kong.  Several Records Committee members bashed out to the boardwalk hides before me, so we'll see what happens. They  will have seen it first-hand, and there will be plenty of photos to consider. There is a thread on the HKBWS website here:-

Swan Geese winter along the Yangtse River - I've seen them at Po Yang - so a first winter bird is a good candidate for "overshooting" vagrancy.   See pic 3 here:-

But relatives of Swan Geese are the basic domestic goose here in south China, so it's hard to tell for sure.  

When we left the boardwalk at 17:35hrs, the light was mostly gone and the lone bird was still wandering about, after nearly all the cormorants had gone… still there tomorrow ?

Who knows ?

13 Nov 2012

Brown Eared Pheasants in Shanxi Province

The Brown Eared Pheasant Crossoptilon mantchurium is a spectacular Chinese endemic with a limited range to the north and west of Beijing, including the mountains of Shanxi Province.

It used to be considered difficult to find, but in the last couple of years word has got about among birders that Brown Eared Pheasants regularly appear near Xuanzhong Temple, near Jiaocheng, an hours' drive from the Shanxi provincial capital of Taiyuan. 

The Temple, famous as a centre of Zen Buddhism, lies in the dusty foothills of the Luliang Mountains. The pheasants are regular there because the monks and other staff regularly feed them with sweetcorn.

There's a discussion about this site on Birdforum here: -

So for the pheasants, for a "Province Tick" and for a bit of general sightseeing Jemi and I flew from Shenzhen to Taiyuan for a few days from Nov. 2nd.  

Brown Eared Pheasant  (Crossoptilon mantchurium)

To cut a long story short, we visited the temple on two evenings and one morning, and saw the pheasants two times out of three.

Brown Eared Pheasant  (Crossoptilon mantchurium)

On our third visit we found the pheasants approaching the temple from a ridge to the north and managed to get some natural-looking photos.  Later, the same group glided down in front of the temple and were called up to the platform in front of the temple by the guys from the ticket office, who then fed them.

Brown Eared Pheasant  (Crossoptilon mantchurium)

There was a small but distinguished "supporting cast" of birds, including these:-

Red-billed Blue Magpie  (Urocissa erythrorhyncha)

Coal Tit (Parus ater)  race "pekinensis"

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) race "vinaceus"

After about twenty minutes someone came through the temple archway with a small dog at his heels.  The pheasants were unsettled by the dog, and glided back to the hillside opposite, where they remained until we left.

Obviously, we had great views of Brown Eared Pheasants at the temple. But it was not quite the same as looking for our own in the wild hills of Shanxi, so we also visited the National Nature Reserve at Pangquangou.  More about that site later. 

9 Nov 2012

The "Official" Hong Kong winter has arrived

Black-faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor)

The Chung Yeung Festival fell this year on 23rd October, heralding winter, according to the lunar calendar.  And who is to argue with thousands of years of south China tradition ?

What the Hong Kong Observatory called "a surge of the northeast monsoon" arrived on Monday 29th October.  the effect of this was to push some Pearl Delta pollution our way, and the air at Mai Po was quite murky.

Great Cormorants (Phalacrocorax sinensis) returning to Deep Bay.

This is the best time of the year to see Black-capped Kingfishers (Halcyon pileata)

Two birds in the lower shot, among some of the brush cut back by WWF staff in the last few weeks.  (Without this kind of habitat management, the boardwalk hides would soon vanish into a forest of mangrove.)

A few "decent" waders were viewable in the gloom.

Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)

Far-eastern Curlew (N.madagascariensis) -Right- with Eurasian Curlew (N.arquata)

A boat trip had been arranged to go to Po Toi on Wednesday morning, Oct 31st.  As the public ferry doesn't run on Wednesdays, the prospect of some undisturbed birding looked too good to miss.  And it was a bit of a desperate attempt to see the Varied Tit sighted on and off at Po Toi over the past few weeks.

link to HKBWS website - October 2012 on Po Toi

It rained on and off all morning,  but there were some noteworthy birds around. 

Asian Brown Flycatcher (Muscicapa dauurica) is both a common passage migrant and winter visitor.

More unusual is the status of Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla).  There were two on Po Toi that day, perhaps "overshooting" birds that should have been wintering further north.

Who knows where the Bramblings think they are going ?  Will they add to the few records in the Philllippines or SE Asia, or perish in the ocean ? 

Pacific Reef Egret (Egretta sacra) - Po Toi resident

The sun was out by the time we got back to Aberdeen in mid-afternoon.  To "seize the day" we headed to the other end of Hong Kong for views of HK's third Rosy Pipit at Long Valley.

Rosy Pipit (Anthus roseus )

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) - not a rarity, I just like them !

The "Rosy Pipit" pond

" Turned out nice again ! "   (George Formby)

We've been away.... more of which later...