21 March 2015

Purple Swamphen



I recall seeing Purple Swamphen about twenty years ago at Mai Po, but the possibility of escapes in HK long clouded their status.

Up to the beginning of 2015 it was determined that there were only three acceptable records of truly wild birds in Hong Kong.

Purple Swamphen is distributed from Africa across much of tropical Asia, with about a dozen recognised races. The Yunnan province race is poliocephalus, split by some now as Grey-headed Swamphen. Here's a shot of one of those: -

http://johnjemi.blogspot.hk/2012/03/yunnan-janfeb-2012-part-four-road-to.html

Hong Kong has swamphens to the east (at Haifeng in Guangdong) and the race of these is unclear. There's a suggestion that these may be race viridis of "Black-backed Swamphen", but I haven't seen them well enough to cast any light on the subject.

It would seem reasonable that any wild Swamphens in HK would be the same as the Haifeng ones.  Recently a Purple Swamphen was seen at Long Valley, (HK's possible fourth record) but I missed it.

http://www.hkbws.org.hk/BBS/viewthread.php?tid=22608&extra=page%3D1

On Monday 16th March there was a report by Richard Lewthwaite of Purple Swamphen on a pond in the Northeast New Territories, HK's fifth record. Having missed the LV bird, I had to go....

First thing, there was no sign of the Swamphen, but a posing Eurasian Bittern was welcome.



Eurasian Bittern
After an hour or so, the "star" bird made his (or her) entrance. "Grey-headed" or "Black-backed" ? Plate 29 of Craig Robson's "A Field Guide to the Birds of South East Asia" illustrates both, but but I just don't know which this is.

Hong Kong's Bird Records Committee will be looking into this one !

Purple Swamphen


Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen

Down the road, two different species of South American trees - but both with spectacular flowers were attracting Fork-tailed Sunbirds.

Tabebuia caraiba (Yellow flowers) and Erythrina speciosa (Red "corals")

Fork-tailed Sunbird

Fork-tailed Sunbird

Fork-tailed Sunbird

Fork-tailed Sunbird

Fork-tailed Sunbird

And at Mai Po, a variety of plovers paraded in front of the "New" boardwalk hide...
Grey Plover

Greater Sand Plover

Kentish Plover (with crab)
 I don't pay much attention to Gull-billed Terns, usually.  On Wednesday, 18th March there were only three around, but they gave a brilliant flying display as they tried to pluck crabs from the surface of the mud.

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

 The light was pretty dull by the time this flashed past the hide..

Black-capped Kingfisher
The terns and the Greater Sand Plover are spring migrants, and just a taste, I hope of what we'll be seeing in the next few weeks.

9 comments:

  1. Great pics of the GB Terns fishing......................

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    1. Thanks, Stu - they really looked like "Sea Swallows"

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  2. There is a bird of similar appearance to the swamphen, called, Purple Gallinule. Very impressive bird but when I saw Purple Swamphen in South Africa, I was blown away by its magnificence. The photos you got of the diminutive, Fork-tailed Sunbird are equally impressive to me. All the photos are great.

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    1. Thanks, John. We used to call our Old World swamphens "Gallinules", too - but recently "Swamphen" seems to be preferred to avoid confusion with "American Purple Gallinule".

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  3. John, I missed seeing the Long Valley Swamphen when I was in HK recently, and now I'm back in the States :( Great to see your excellent photos of one though. Amazing pics also of the sunbird (as well as the other associated bird images), interestingly I had my best ever views of cracking male Fork-tailed Sunbird just last month when it came into feed on the flowering creepers in front of Richard's balcony. Fortunately I happened to have my binoculars handy - the early morning sunshine really brought that little bird to life - terrific so thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Hi Jeremy, the sunbirds may be small, but they're always worth a thorough look when you can get a decent view. On a balcony, I might have had bins in one hand and a drink in the other hand (Tea, of course)

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  4. John, I will trade the Bittern for the Swamphen anytime as the status of the two are reversed here in Malaysia. Great shots as usual.

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    1. Thanks, Mun ! I was happy to see them both..

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  5. Some really great photos there. I like the colours of the sunbird. Australians look at Gull-billed Terns more carefully now as we have our own!

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