28 March 2016

Winter turns to Spring, but slowly.



Oriental Pratincole - Glareola maldivarum
March should be the month when winter turns to spring.

A few breaths of warm air, it seems, is all it takes start the breeding birds calling. 

But it was still quite cool back on March 11th when John Allcock found a Cuculus family cuckoo in Lam Tsuen.   It may have been either Oriental or Himalayan Cuckoo.  The former would be a rare-but-regular spring migrant, and the latter a “First” for Hong Kong.

Oriental/Himalayan Cuckoo - Cuculus sp.


Since Oriental was “split” from Himalayan, like other “splits” we now have  two species that are visually hard to tell apart - “essentially identical” according to one field guide.

Oriental/Himalayan Cuckoo - Cuculus sp.

Oriental/Himalayan Cuckoo - Cuculus sp.
If the bird called, the ID would be straightforward, but this one remained silent throughout it’s stay.

If only it had turned up at the end of March, instead of the middle - maybe it would have called.  Although a number of photographers got far better shots than these, the identification to species may never be established.

At Mai Po Nature Reserve, some wintering gulls were still around this week. All the gulls should be gone by mid-April, and the ones in breeding plumage tend to go first. Here are two species we don’t always see with full breeding-plumage black heads.

Pallas's Gull - Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus (with Black-headed Gulls, L. ridibundus)

Saunders's Gull - Chroicocephalus saundersi (breeding and non-breeding, with Black-headed Gulls, C. ridibundus)

Oriental Pratincoles, on the other hand, are regular early passage migrants and no call is required for identification. Groups of migrant pratincoles have been turning up here and there in the north-west New Territories of Hong Kong in the last few days.  

Oriental Pratincoles - Glareola maldivarum


Oriental Pratincole - Glareola maldivarum

Oriental Pratincole - Glareola maldivarum

 As usual, Long Valley has been a good site for this species.


Oriental Pratincole - Glareola maldivarum

Oriental Pratincole - Glareola maldivarum

Oriental Pratincole - Glareola maldivarum

They are pretty confiding, too - which is a good characteristic in a bird one is trying to photograph.

6 comments:

  1. Some wonderful inflight shots of the Pratincole John! The Pallas's Gull continue to eludes me of late...

    ReplyDelete
  2. A nice collection of gulls and superb BiFs, John. I was hoping to get pics of Black-headed Gulls in breeding form here but I may already be too late. I think they've gone.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Those pratincoles are stunning - especially in flight. Which reminds me, I really need to do more studies of them!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Superb Pratincole pics John.............

    ReplyDelete
  5. Pratincoles and Coursers are among the most enigmatic of bird families. I have seen both Himalayan Cuckoo and Oriental Cuckoo, identified only because I saw them in their expected ranges. As you point out they are essentially identical.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks everyone.....I really like pratincoles!

    ReplyDelete