A few Migrants and an Eagle at Mt. Davis

Mount Davis is probably the easiest spot for me to visit these days, second only to Lung Fu Shan. I dislike going there, however, given the foot traffic and, well, the truly oppressive amount of stairs. The walk up to the top of Mt Davis, by contrast, is more gradual. It’s a pretty tight spot, however, so you may struggle to find good stuff on the edge of the field at the top like buntings and chats during the autumn if some merrymakers are up there.

By the time I got up there, two separate groups were taking wedding photos in the field, and a few hiking groups also showed up, so at one point there were nearly 30 people up there—not great for birds. However, I did manage to spot an Asian brown flycatcher, as well as an Arctic warbler, two common migrants this time of year.

Asian brown flycatcher

More impressive, however, was a flyover by a white-bellied sea eagle. I’ve only seen this rather impressive bird in Hong Kong once before, soaring very high up during one of my trips to Po Toi. Today, however, I managed to get a proper shot as it was comparatively low while I was in the field at the top of the hill.

Additionally, I managed to see a Chinese sparrowhawk, a first for me. These raptors are currently migrating through Hong Kong and can be observed primarily in the open countryside or island hills. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to get a good capture of it flying lower.

Ashy Drongo at Mt. Davis

Just a quick post today: an ashy drongo from Mt. Davis. This was the first time ever saw one, so I was very happy to get a record shot. These birds migrate south for the winter, so this one is likely passing through. However, there may be more permanent residents elsewhere in Hong Kong, as it is within their breeding range.

The species has a number of subspecies that vary primarily in color throughout their distribution. The ones furthest east in Asia ranging from about Korea to Southeast Asia are more grey colored while those to the west in the Indo-Malayan subcontinent are closer to black.

Quiet Morning at Tung Lung Chau

Tung Lung Chau is a small island off the eastern coast of Hong Kong. The island’s east faces the South China Sea rather uninterrupted, so its cliffs are rather steep and impressive (and good for rock climbing). The island is mostly barren due to a history of clear-cutting combined with the intense weather there, but some of the trees near the village and the surrounding areas are a bit more mature and have proven to provide refuge for migrants.

Today, though, luck was not really on our side. While our 8:20AM ferry was not very crowded, the subsequent ones were all packed, making for a persistent stream of people passing through the village throughout the morning. But I’m not sure what effect crowds really had, as things seemed pretty quiet to begin with. In the trees just beyond the village we found a few Arctic warblers.

Beyond the trees in the open brushland, we immediately had a brief encounter with a Siberian stonechat, which we also saw yesterday at Mt. Davis. Otherwise, we didn’t see much of note aside from the occasional dollarbird or black drongo perched on a power cable.

This one posed rather nicely on an exposed bit of brush.

We also noted a group of 3 Chinese sparrowhawks very high in the air, likely traveling together during migration. A few of these have been spotted in the territory this past week, though they are not easy to photo.

Another fun encounter was a migrating group of 15 traveling cattle egrets. I don’t often encounter large groups of birds like this in my trips (though perhaps that will change in the coming months especially in the wetlands!) so witnessing groups like these on the move is pretty special to me. Otherwise, we may have heard a pale-legged leaf warbler calling, but really nothing else.

Happily, just before the ferry arrived to take us back, we had a bit of luck at one of the large trees in the village. A dark-sided flycatcher was perched on a rope under the tree, from which it was flycatching. I still don’t have a good shot of this rather common bird this season, so I was excited to have my best chance yet. I’m still not fully satisfied with the results in terms of sharpness, but still they’re way better than nothing!

We also saw an Asian brown flycatcher together with the dark-sided at times, which is a common but always welcome guest.

Buntings and an Osprey at Mt. Davis

Well, after a long and busy week of work, I was finally able to get a morning at Mt. Davis, right down the street. Temperatures were around 26C today at the top and it was breezy, so we had perfect autumn conditions well suited for an October morning. We taxied up right away (not without some protest from the cab driver) and were immediately greeted by a little bunting, a sure sign of autumn.

We heard some other buntings calling and saw some flyovers, so I’m fairly confident that this will be a good spot for buntings as the season rolls on, which is good news for me! But it seems the best strategy is to go early and catch them when they’re exhausted and cooperative (without disturbing them too much of course).

Another concurrent visitor we were pleasantly surprised to encounter was a Siberian stonechat. I’ve only seen these before in Long Valley, which I haven’t made my way to yet this season.

In addition to the usual assortment of large-billed crows, bulbuls, magpies, and white eyes at the summit, we also saw a few pale-legged/Sakhalin leaf warblers, and Arctic warblers, one of whom was very cooperative for a photo.

As it was very windy at the summit, I didn’t expect us to see too many raptors, and unfortunately I was right—at first anyway. Eventually at the summit, we saw a besra, a small raptor, but I couldn’t get a photo. We did, however, have a number of flyovers of at least 3 different crested goshawks.

The most impressive encounter today was in my opinion the one osprey we saw just as we began our descent. I was very surprised by this, since although they do occur in Hong Kong sporadically, I’ve only ever heard of reports from Mai Po. To see one hanging out at the top of Mt. Davis was definitely a treat.

I’m very pleased with our findings today and I’ll definitely be returning to Mt. Davis in the coming weeks as the fall migration continues.