16 Nov 2015

Amur Falcons - slightly off-course in Hong Kong

Amur Falcon is a bird that has only been known in Hong Kong for the past umpteen years.

It's possible that some were overlooked as Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo) in the past.  They are autumn migrants, and they turn up in Hong Kong between leaving their breeding areas in northern China and Russia and their wintering grounds in southern Africa.

Amur Falcon - Falco amurensis

Don't take my word for it - Wikipedia has a lot on this species: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amur_falcon

In Hong Kong on passage they will sit on wires over fishponds and bare hillsides, - similar to the sort of habitat they may have known where they bred perhaps...

A couple of years ago, Amur Falcon was in the news recently for the wrong reasons, when it was revealed in 2013 that they were being trapped by the hundreds in the Indian State of Nagaland and sold for food. However, a big effort by Indian and overseas conservation groups seems to have turned this around by creating a festival for tourism and birders, as outlined here : http://www.easternmirrornagaland.com/the-story-of-amur-falcon-its-conservation-and-safe-passage/

Birdlife South Africa has been satellite-tracking Amur Falcons, too.  The progress of individuals can be monitored and posted on the internet within hours.

@copyright Birdlife South Africa

On leaving India, bound southwest, they'll fly across the Indian Ocean, feeding on migrating dragonflies over the sea.

Very confiding for a small raptor, they can be a photographers' favourite....they are certainly one of mine, anyway.

They can scratch their heads and wonder how they are going to get to where they need to be...but sooner or later they just need to "get on with it"...

They have a long way to go.

12 Nov 2015

November ! - autumn passage migrants, with a few residents too

There - the post title has given it all away.

October began with a Typhoon called "Mujigae".  

As often happens when it is rough at sea, more terns turn up on Mai Po's tideline. 

Gull-billed and White-winged Terns

(mostly) White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

(mostly) White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Tern - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Tern - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Tern - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

White-winged Terns - Chlidonias leucoptera

Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybrida

Red Turtle Dove is getting harder to find, generally, but on Oct 5th a few individuals pottered about a track in front of the car, giving decent views. Again, the effect of the typhoon.

They looked lost and wet. Well, they were "lost and wet"
Red Turtle Dove - Streptopelia tanquebarica

As was this Black Drongo
Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus

Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus

Now, a sunny resident black-and-white interlude, before we return to full colour migrants....

Pied Kingfisher - Ceryle rudis

Pied Kingfisher - Ceryle rudis

Collared Crow - Corvus torquatus

"Passage migrants" again.....
Asian Brown Flycatcher - Muscicapa dauurica

Oriental Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus orientalis

The local bird-ringers have been busy. (Seen here outside the Ringers Hut in Mai Po Nature Reserve). Their bird of the morning when I took these photos was a Japanese-ringed Dusky Warbler - already released.

A good variety of migrant and resident birds is not to be sniffed at...

Amur Falcon - Falco amurensis

And finally, one of those sunrise-and-silhouette shots....

At Mai Po, where else ?

31 Oct 2015

European Golden Plover - a "First" for Hong Kong

LAST Sunday things got off to a slow start.  I missed the rising tide and settled for a couple of shots of a nice male Kestrel over the hills near Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus

Eurasian Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus

Later I waited for the tide to go out. The waders circled, looking for exposed areas of mud.

Far Eastern Curlew - Numenius madagascariensis

Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus

The birding highlight (but not for the duck) was seeing an Eastern Marsh Harrier predate a Garganey in the shallow waters near the tideline.

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus
 The harrier drowned the duck in the receding waters.
Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus
Oddly, though, the harrier dropped the dead duck on the mudflat and didn't come back for it. Lunch for a Collared Crow instead, perhaps.

Collared Crow - Corvus pectoralis
Back at the Border Fence gate, my mobile coverage improved, and I saw a Whats App message by Ivan TSE about a suspiciously large Golden Plover he had found on the "scrape" (Mai Po's ponds 16 and 17).

I cycled to hide 7 (overlooking the seaward end of ponds 16/17) and met Ivan coming the other way.  Through his scope we could see two Golden Plovers, one obviously a Pacific Golden Plover (regular here in HK) and this bigger bird.

The accompanying Pacific Golden Plover provided some useful comparison with the suspect European GP.

The European Golden Plover is the lower bird - note white axillaries, Pacific Golden Plover above

European (l) and Pacific (r) Golden Plovers

A bit of a "twitch" was already brewing, and the bird stayed around until late afternoon. A number of birders and photographers saw it, as outlined on the HKBWS website here


An hour before sunset our distinguished visitor finally took off and headed out into the bay beyond the fence.
European Golden Plover - Pluvialis aricaria
This bird seems likely to be accepted by the HK Records Committee as European Golden Plover, due to the easy comparison with the Pacific Golden Plover, and the notes and number of photos taken (not just mine, obviously) during the hours the bird was in view.