Fairy Pitta and more at Ho Man Tin

I visited Ho Man Tin this morning to try and find a tiger shrike that’s been there for a few days. Instead, however, I was greeted by a juvenile brown shrike, whose slightly barred plumage on the front and lack of a prominent black eye-stripe possessed by adults did in fact have me fooled at first. Still though, it was a cooperative subject, and I’m glad to have gotten a few record shots, the following being my favorite.

In the next photo, you can see a bit of the patterning on the chest and neck, which should disappear I believe as it grows up.

The real prize from this morning, however, was a surprise appearance by a fairy pitta. These gorgeous ground-dwellers are indeed fairy-like in terms of their elusive behavior. When I left this morning, however, a group of interested birders was indeed forming, and I suspect it will be a star if it decides to stick around. Likely, it will be baited, so I suspect others will have better photos than the one record shot that I managed.

Definitely a special encounter with a special bird. I wish it luck on its journey, and I hope it isn’t held up too long here in Hong Kong!

Other records included a female yellow-rumped flycatcher as well as one or two Asian brown flycatchers. I spotted up to 5 arctic warblers as well.

More good records from Sai Kung

Last Saturday, 12 September, was a very productive morning in Sai Kung. The early Autumn migrant season is indeed in full-swing, with reports of flycatchers and warblers throughout the territory last week. We saw the usual amount of Amur paradise flycatchers during our walk, but also came across a few unexpected surprises in our bird waves.

One such surprise was 3 Hainan blue flycatchers. I’m not sure how much longer they’ll stick around, as they’re mostly here in the early summer for breeding purposes, but it was nice to finally see one this season and even get a record photo.

Equally welcome was a female yellow-rumped flycatcher, a bird with many records at Ho Man Tin and elsewhere, but one I hadn’t actually yet seen. Unfortunately my photos were no good, but at least it’s a clear record.

Perhaps the most special bird of all, however, was a Japanese paradise flycatcher mixed in with the Amur paradise flycatchers. They’re a bit difficult to tell apart, as they were considered to be the same species until re-organized in 2015, but the Japanese paradise flycatcher’s outer plumage is a bit darker overall compared to the brighter reddish of the Amur. Additionally, the Japanese paradise has a noticeably lighter eye-ring, as well as a lighter colored, uniform beak compared to the Amur’s black-tapered beak. I’m very pleased that I managed to snap a record shot.

Another special encounter was with some much welcome residents, including two bay woodpeckers and a speckled piculet. These elusive residents are a sign of the health and increasing maturity of Hong Kong’s secondary forests. Sai Kung is definitely proving to be a reliable and worthwhile place to visit this season!

On Baiting Birds

I wrote up a permanent page on the controversial practice of baiting birds. The intro paragraph is below, followed by a link to the full page.

Baiting is the practice of using bait—generally food—to attract wild birds. Sometimes it’s done fairly innocuously, while at other times, it can be both excessive and damaging. In Hong Kong, unfortunately, the latter is usually the case, and so I’m afraid that I’ll have to here defend the uncompromising view that baiting birds should not be done in Hong Kong…

Click here to continue reading….

Good records at Sai Kung

A friend and I journeyed to Sai Kung once again on 5 September for a late afternoon birding-cum-herping trip. The trail we take goes along a small stream for most of the way, which suggested that it would be a good spot for herping. But alas, while our bird luck was decent, our herping luck was not.

Immediately when we arrived, we spotted a small bird-wave that included an Amur paradise flycatcher. Among them was also an arctic warbler, two or three Japanese tits, and of course some chestnut bulbuls. I only cared about the flycatchers….woops!

As we moved along, things got quiet until we found another small bird wave. This one also had one or two more flycatchers, but equally impressive were two birds that I haven’t yet had good encounters with: one black-winged cuckooshrike, and one female orange-bellied leafbird. Both were hanging around a fruiting tree on the trail.

Orange-bellied leafbird (female)

I don’t think I’ve ever recorded an orange bellied leafbird yet, so this was a real treat. I hope to some day see the male bird with its striking blue cheeks.

The black-winged cuckooshrike put on quite a show devouring a praying mantis—a slightly less common bird devouring a slightly less common insect!

Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher at Ho Man Tin

I always hear about good records at Ho Man Tin, but I’ve personally not had any luck there until today. It’s a rather strange place–just a green hill in the middle of an urban jungle with a number of unusually old trees (for Hong Kong). It seems to serve as an oasis for many impressive migrants, especially flycatchers, though they generally don’t stay for long.

That was why when I heard reports of a brown-chested jungle flycatcher there today, I went right over to try my luck. Aside from being a slow bus ride, I happened to arrive just in time for a pretty nasty thunderstorm. Luckily a few birders were still at the spot when I arrived, so I knew where to set up. I waited out the storm under the forest cover, which was surely dense enough to keep me safe, but not enough to keep me completely calm!

As soon as the storm was over, this little fella came out to say hello. He was very close and still for seconds at a time on a few branches, but only these two gave me any chance at a shot. The conditions weren’t ideal, as it was late afternoon in heavy overcast under cover of a some fairly dense and large trees, so light was definitely an issue. I brought my tripod and cranked up the ISO and managed to get some shots that weren’t completely destroyed by noise. Without the tripod I wouldn’t have had a chance.

Aside from being very cute, brown-chested jungle flycatchers are considered a vulnerable species due to habitat loss, so each of these birds is quite precious. They are native to southern China and winter in Southeast Asia, so this little one probably comes from just a province or two away. Though it appears juvenile due to the bi-colored beak, adults do in fact have a yellowish lower beak and base of the upper beak, so I would say this is probably a full-grown bird.

Ebird describes these birds as “lethargic” and I’d say that’s accurate judging from my encounter. The bird did not seem eager to bounce around, comfortable instead sitting on a branch until something on the ground caught his attention. Indeed what might easily be mistaken for an exhausted juvenile is actually a lazy adult!

This bird has a corresponding (brief) entry in my Hong Kong Bird Log.

Amur Paradise Flycatchers and more in Sai Kung

Today I visited Sai Kung with a friend to try and track down the Amur paradise flycatcher. I haven’t done much birding in Sai Kung because it’s just so far away, but I decided to make the trip anyway just because there have been so many reports of these birds around, and I’m very glad that I did.

Amur paradise flycatchers typically make their way through Hong Kong on their way further south from the end of August to early September. Last year I did managed to catch one in a bird wave, but I wasn’t very satisfied with the only photo I managed to take.

Amur paradise flycatcher, September 2019

Today I had much better luck and was able to get more shots (we saw a total of 3), but still I’m not fully satisfied. I hope to have a few more tries before they all depart.

But that wasn’t even the whole of our luck. We also found a brown-breasted flycatcher, although the photo was only just barely enough to successfully identify it.

Brown-breasted flycatcher

Another good find was an arctic warbler. These are not terribly common in Hong Kong, though they are regular migrants and visitors.

Arctic warbler

A final bird of note perhaps only for me was the white bellied erpornis. I hadn’t ever seen or heard of this bird before, but they were regulars in most of the bird waves we came across.

This was the only shot that I managed, and the leaf unfortunately photo-bombed it.

The Amur paradise flycatcher and the white-bellied erpornis have entries in my Hong Kong Bird Log.