1 Nov 2020

The “Awesome Foursome” at Telford Gardens, Kowloon Bay

The flowerbeds and planters of Telford Gardens have been host to an exotic variety of migrant birds through October 2020. Consider: -

Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler

Lanceolated Warbler

Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler

Pale-footed Bush Warbler

All these birds have been very viewable due to the limited size of the flower beds they are stopping-over in.  

Rare birds have been found and Telford Gardens before Braving the Concrete Jungle (in early 2017).

This Middendorff’s Grasshopper Warbler was only the third HK bird to be detected other than by the bird ringers in their Mai Po reedbed nets.

So it drew a sizeable (socially distanced ?) crowd of admirers, including yours truly.

Captain Wong (Wong Lun-cheung), who found many of these rarities, has lived at this estate in east Kowloon for a decade and back in the summer (of 2020) wrote up an account of this phenomenon for the HKBWS’s quarterly bulletin number 256. 

The birds get so used to people they can be photographed with mobile phones, which certainly democratises the recording process; -

Telford Gardens Estate Management has been both informative with the signboards, and responsive to control the human movement around the flowerbeds.

So it’s a “win” for the birds, and a “win” for the humans, too.

Elsewhere, a view of Collared Scops Owl, seen on our nightbird survey on 22nd October. 

And, on 26th October, a sunny morning at Mai Po’s boardwalk hide, with a falling tide.  Wigeon are among the first duck to arrive for the winter.  

"Also seens" were Pacific Golden Plover, atrifrons Lesser Sand Plover, and Osprey.  

Dunlin are also winter visitors…

Cool weather now, but strangely, there’s a big Typhoon in the Philippines, heading for the South China Sea.

15 Oct 2020

The hunt for mid-October

Yes, I know that’s nonsense, but here we are.  And there’s plenty of nonsense already on the internet !

Throughout this month there have been southbound Whiskered Terns over the fishponds near HK’s boundary with Shenzhen.

And the odd White-winged Tern (left on the last photo).

At Mai Po Nature Reserve, the resident birds (and non-birds) have been showing well..

...and the winter visitors have started to arrive..

Two Taiga Bean Geese have been a highlight of the autumn/winter so far...

The “end of the Fence”

At the start of the day...

3 Oct 2020

Day and Night

There have been a lot of migrating Egrets around in the past couple of weeks, but for some real “Viz Mig” Jemi and I went to Mai Po late yesterday afternoon.

Almost seven hundred Egrets of various kinds flew up from parts of Mai Po and nearby and headed off south and southwest, towards the setting sun.

Mid-Autumn Festival was the day before (October 1st) and the moon was still full.

And two Savanna Nightjars from a week or so ago.  These are resident, but there may be some migrating through Hong Kong as well.


Still haven’t got used to the new blogger set-up... Really, picture size ?  Anyway, life’s too short !

11 Aug 2020

Ryukyu Scops Owl - a welcome stranger

In the spring of 2020 Jemi and I took part in the HKBWS Territory-wide Night Bird Survey. Our initial agreed route concluded at Fan Kam Road near Lin Tong Mei.

Ryukyu Scops Owl (Otus elegans) - July 2020

On May 16th in mid-evening we decided to continue eastwards and bird around a quiet track nearby. This area is near/at the boundary of Lam Tsuen Country Park, but the flat land is occupied by single storey dwellings and smallholdings.

At the far end the paved road peters out into a track that drops into a dip that has a fishpond and some open storage areas, but the steep hillsides around these features have some tall trees (not all native) and dense understory.

Relatively undisturbed, the area can be habitat for resident species like Collared Scops Owl and Asian Barred Owlets. In 2004 and some subsequent years Malayan Night Herons bred in the area.

Jemi and I heard a repeated two-note call “bar-bap…bar-bap…” which reminded us of Asian Barred Owlet, sounding like the first two notes of ABO’s longer call.

We recorded the bird - which was close - with an I-phone and put the call on the “Local Patchers” WhatsApp group. Although the call was unusual there was a general consensus that the two-note call was likely an aberrant call of ABO.

On June 24th we returned to the area and met two other birders we knew who were investigating a two-note call that they believed to be Brown Boobook, a regular passage migrant but not known to breed in HK.

We did not hear the “mystery call” that evening.

On July 25th we returned to our mystery owl site at the end of our Night Bird Survey.  Arriving at a high point near the end of the road, after a few moments we heard the two-note call again. It was close at first, regular, and calling at about 4-second intervals.  We recorded it again with mobile phones.

The bird did not call continuously, it would stop for a few minutes at a time. At one stage it seemed to start up after being disturbed by the movement of passing car headlights.

After twenty minutes it moved away, unseen, back the way we had come.  Driving the road we stopped at a junction lit by a street light. There Jemi located the calling bird with a small LED torch.  I got a few shaky photos, before we were interrupted by a passing vehicle. Later, examination of the photos were enough to see that the bird was NOT Asian Barred Owlet, nor a Boobook.

On 26 July we contacted John Allcock who had commented on the May 16th recording. JAA confirmed our suspicion that the mystery owl was an Otus of some kind.  He forwarded a link to a Xeno-canto recording of Elegant Scops Owl, made on Lanyu Island, which seemed similar.

Arrangements were made and that night several of us returned to the owl site where the bird was again recorded with better quality equipment.

We didn’t get a good view of the bird on 26th, but we did a couple of days later.

Ryukyu Scops Owl (Otus elegans) - July 2020

Ryukyu Scops Owl (Otus elegans) - July 2020

To make a long story short, the recordings and photos indicate strongly that this bird is of the Lanyu Island race of Ryukyu (Elegant) Scops Owl (Otus elegans).

It is a “First" for Hong Kong - indeed a “First” for mainland China/mainland Eurasia.


Ryukyu Scops Owl (Otus elegans) - July 2020

In the way that these things happen, news spread and many people have been to see the Owl in the past couple of weeks.

Everybody needs a break from Covid-19 and local politics, but I hope this distinguished visitor does not get disturbed too much.

12 Jul 2020

About the light...

Anyone who fancies themselves as a photographer, as an “artist” needs to think about light, and its’ effects.

On the subject, on the background, in front or from behind, how much or how little of it, the colour “temperature” … - whatever.

I’m so pretentious, this year marks the 50th anniversary of when I discovered what “contre-jour” means. 

Just yesterday,* with June racing towards it’s febrile conclusion,  I knew I’d have to get my pledged monthly “Night Bird Survey” done.  The moon was on the wane, but the sky was clear.

Off out then, to cover the usual circuit.  Most night birds are noted by call, but occasionally one gets a view, so it would be a shame to leave the camera behind. Light is a challenge at night, but digital has made night photography a lot easier than it used to be.

Eventually we came to a spot where the footpath was illuminated by a yellow street light.

A fluttering shape revealed itself to be an Asian Barred Owlet, swooping from the shadows to a well-lit patch of ground beside the path.  We could see it trying to subdue a prey item among the leaves.

Owls REALLY know how to work the light conditions.

Disturbed by a passing villager it hid high in a tree before emerging again and then perching lower.

Same perch, but a white LED torch makes the dark bits stand out.  Even so, Asian Barred Owlet is not a two-toned bird - it’s just that a yellow light and a white light compete with each other. 

It was interesting to see the Owlet making full use of the artificial light provided by mankind..no need for it to go hungry until the next full moon !

All the other Nightbirds on the survey were “Heard Only” - it was nice to actually see one.

* actually, 24th June 2020

The new blogger dashboard - grrrr