1 Nov 2018

End of October

Blue-and-White Flycatcher - Cyanoptila cyanomelana
A stroll around Mai Po on “World Migratory Bird Day” (Oct 13th) revealed a variety of migrants, from a female blue and White Flycatcher in a grove of banyan trees to six or seven Purple Herons that popped out of reedbeds here and there.

Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea

Dusky Warbler - Phylloscopus fuscatus
But it was Dusky Warblers that stood out, their "tuck-tucking" call seemed to be coming from every pile of brushwood brought down by Typhoon Mangkhut four weeks earlier.

The bird ringers caught 83 Duskies in just a couple of hours. This, though, is Oriental Reed Warbler.

At Long Valley more recently I bumped into Matt KWAN and he showed me where LV’s star Wryneck has been appearing.

Eurasian Wryneck - Jynx torquilla
A pleasant surprise was an influx of Russet Sparrows, still a rarity here.

Russet Sparrow - Passer rutilans
There was other stuff, too, such as this “Swintail” (Swinhoe’s or Pintail) Snipe that flew by. This one is showing the “pot belly” as described in “The Birds of East Asia” (by Mark Brazil).

"Swintail" Snipe - Gallinago sp.

Red-throated Pipit - Anthus cervinus

And another Himalayan Swiftlet appeared - in better weather conditions that the one I posted here earlier.

Himalayan Swiftlet - Collocalia brevirostris

Himalayan Swiftlet - Collocalia brevirostris
After the sun had actually set I found a male and female Yellow-breasted Bunting sitting quietly feeding about ten metres inside a rice paddy.  The HK Birdwatching Society - with other “Green Groups” has grown this rice specially to attract and nurture this Critically Endangered species.

Yellow-breasted Bunting - Emberiza aureola (f)

Yellow-breasted Bunting - Emberiza aureola (m)
It was nice to sit quietly with them for a few minutes.  

We’ve had a run of wetter autumns than there were, say, twenty or thirty years ago.  (It’s Climate Change, sports fans !) The Chung Yeung Grave-Sweeping Festival was on Oct 17th this year, but rain in the days before kept hillside fires to a minimum.

Some Ancestor-worshippers clean the family graves a week or two later, which this year meant that the hills had dried just enough to become flammable, as was so common in years past.

Hillfires can be frightening sights.

HK Government Flying Services uses big buckets, strung from helicopters to fight hill fires. Expensive, but it seems to work.  The GFS crews were flying until sunset, though.

The hillfire shots were were taken Sunday 28th October.


  1. Looks like you spent a very pleasant day at Mai Po, John, but I guess it’s a bit of an oxymoron to even think otherwise. Kudos to the people who grew the rice. A little habitat restoration can go a long way.

    1. Thanks David, the buntings need any patch of habitat they can get in east China.

  2. Some nice stuff there John, my fave would be the Purple Heron: a species that has so far eluded me.

    1. Thanks, Stu - I like them too - not an everyday bird, even here.