15 Dec 2014

Getting the hang of things

In my last posting I mentioned that I had been loitering near a certain clump of reeds in the hope of a photo opportunity with Chinese Penduline Tits.

The tits did show briefly, and here are two out of the six in the small party that appeared.

Chinese Penduline Tit - Remiz consobrinus

Chinese Penduline Tit - Remiz consobrinus

Near Tai Sang wai, at a fishpond edge, a chance encounter with a Eurasian Hoopoe led to these photos.  Rather a scruffy individual, but it's about a year since I last saw one in Hong Kong.

Eurasian Hoopoe - Upupa epops

Near Gei Wai 19 at Mai Po there is a small patch of banyan trees that can be quite good for migrating flycatchers (and, now I think of it - Fairy Pitta was seen there once).

On 29th and 30th November we got glimpses of a furtive "blue" flycatcher, which we identified as Chinese Blue Flycatcher. This will be about a fifth record for Hong Kong if accepted. The problem with all these blueish flycatchers is that they are popular cage birds, and it's funny how it seems to be usually males that turn up.

This one - and I'm not biased, honestly - was behaving in a naturally furtive manner.

Chinese Blue Flycatcher - Cyornis glaucicomans

More photos of the flycatcher here - http://www.hkbws.org.hk/BBS/viewthread.php?tid=22276&extra=page%3D1

One of my Field Guides (a book - you must remember books) introduced a species as "nondescript" - and then proceeded to describe it.  I can't recall the species in question now, but the bird Ben King called "Inornate Warbler" in his otherwise impeccable "Collins Guide to the Birds of SE Asia" (1975) suffers from the same human imposition of blandness.

They're common but I like them -

Yellow-browed Warbler - Phylloscopus inornatus
Well I'd better go and post my Christmas Cards before it's too late.  

1 Dec 2014

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus) is an East Asian species that breeds in eastern Russia and eastern China. 

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

It winters in the Phillippines, SE Asia and Indonesia.  It is strictly a passage migrant here in Hong Kong, with a latest autumn date (Hong Kong Bird Report 2012) of 19th November.

Last Monday (Nov 24th) I set myself and the long lens up at a pond with a small patch of phragmites reeds, with the aim of getting shots of Chinese Penduline Tits. 

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

I had heard that a Schrenck's Bittern had been seen in the area a few days earlier, but was still taken by surprise when one stuck its' head out of the reeds in the early morning sunshine.  After half an hour or so, it strode across the remains of the cress crop in the paddy field and went off to feed in similar weedy habitat nearby.

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

I returned in late afternoon and - at just around sunset - this individual demonstrated what "crepuscular" meant by coming out and poking around the edges of it's chosen pond.  I sat quietly and it came to within ten metres, providing the best views I've ever had of this species.

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

According to "The Herons Handbook" (Hancock and Kushlan) Croon Helm, 1984, Schrenck's Bittern eats small fish, shrimps, crickets and the larvae of dragonflies and other insects.  Here are three shots with prey items…

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

I won't attempt to identify the insects...

It seems that Leopold Ivanovich von Schrenck (1826-1894) - Director of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg - originally thought this bittern was a hybrid of the already better-known Yellow Bittern (Ixobrychus sinensis) and Cinnamon Bittern (I.cinnamomeus)

Schrenck's bittern (Ixobrychus eurhythmus)

It was that pioneer of Chinese Ornithology, Robert Swinhoe, who determined that "Schrenck's" Bittern was a proper species in it's own right.

For anyone who has read this far; - for brief biographies of Schrenck and Swinhoe, and many others, I recommend "Whose Bird ?" (Beolens and Watkins) Helm, 2003.

I promise I'm not being paid to plug books for any particular publisher, I'm just suggesting a couple of possible Christmas reads !