21 July 2014

Black Bazas - summer visitors to Hong Kong


Black Baza is a species that expanded it's breeding range from far southwest China (and Vietnam, Laos, Thailand) to Hong Kong and other parts of south-east China through the 1970s and 1980s.

But from a high point during the 1990s, numbers have fallen back again.

Unlike some more recent additions to the Hong Kong "list", it's hardly the sort of bird that would be overlooked or misidentified, so it seems that there is no doubting the changes in status of this species. 



Black Baza has never taken up full-time Hong Kong residence.  They usually arrive in late April, and depart through the month of October. (There's one February record, but that's just birds for you !)

The first confirmed breeding record involved a nest with two young near Sha Tau Kok Police Station in mid-July 1989, found by Nigel Croft.  I remember banging off about four rolls of slide film from the roof of the station with my old manual-focus Pentax ME, but all the results looked pretty same-ish.

All the shots in this blog post were taken a few days ago, with a Canon 1D MkIV, 800mm lens and sometimes a 1.4 converter. The birds were quite distant, but at least they seemed unconcerned at my presence and behaved naturally.

Juvenile (left), adult (right)

In the 1990s -and I'm quoting from The Avifauna of Hong Kong - "the total number of birds reported annually was in the range of 39(1993) to 131(1996), with an average of 78."

But in the past few years Bazas have become rarer again with, for example, just single-figure totals for 2011 and 2012, according to the two most recent (annual) Hong Kong Bird Reports.



So it was nice to find this species within walking distance of the flat where we live a few days ago.

A family party of five; - two adults and three young.  The juveniles sunned themselves on a bare tree during the first couple of hours of daylight, while their parents foraged for insects - mostly praying mantises - in the canopies of nearby trees.



Sometimes the adults would land beside the young….





...and sometimes they would land a few metres away and call the young across for their food.




The juveniles lumbered on the bare branches, exploiting good opportunities for a wing-stretch or practice flap…




Or even some old-fashioned sun-bathing...



I don't know if this group actually nested where I saw them, but the young were quite clumsy and they obviously hadn't come very far. Nonetheless, they seem to have moved on now.

Time to go !

So, proof that we can have some birding fun in tropical south China in mid-summer. The lesson is to keep getting out there and to keep looking, I suppose.

Note to self: "Must try harder !"

12 comments:

  1. More great photos of a very fascinating species. I saw a few at Angkor Wat but they were too far away for photos.

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    1. Thanks, John ! Angkor is a great place for culture AND birding.

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  2. What a great documentary of the Black Bazas. I really like the shot which the adult is feeding a grasshopper to the chick. Has there been a discussion on the subspecies of these birds? I guess they're 'syama' but the ones in the first photo seem to have much white on the wing coverts.

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    1. The race here is 'syama', according to "The Avifauna of HK". It's hard, even on the best of views to separate adults and juveniles,though. Behaviour was the main identifier in this encounter.

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  3. Very interesting looking bird.....................

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    1. One of my all-time favourites; big crest, banded waistcoat...

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  4. Brilliant pictures, John. I love Bazas in Australia and these Black ones look amazing. The patterns on the front look almost bee-like. It'd be interesting to study the causes of their populations changes. The Pentax ME was much posher than my K1000.

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  5. Thanks Russell, I've seen Pacific Bazas in Queensland - same family, of course.

    My first SLR (early 1970s) was a Praktica Super-TL - fine lens but a clunky bit of kit...

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  6. Great documentation, John. I find them to be difficult to approach when they winter here. Birding is certainly a year-round affair. Like you said, just have to try harder.

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    1. Thanks, Mun ! My problem is that I just have to be disciplined to go out in the summer heat !

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  7. John, I am most impressed. I've always thought it's possible to see this species in HK. People I know went to Singapore for it. Big congrats!

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    1. Thanks, Ah Kei. I got lucky with these !

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