New Patch: Wolmido Island 월미도

There’s a curious patch of green in the midst of a heavily industrial area on the coast of Incheon: Wolmido Island. Historically, the island has been very important, being, for example, the site of the naval assault by the South Korean and UN forces to re-take Incheon from North Korean forces. Now though, it’s a lovely spot to spend the day. On the coast of the island is a lovely waterfront with many seaside shops and restaurants. In the middle of the island is a heavily wooded forest park that leads up to an observatory on top of the hill. On the inland side is Wolmi Traditional Park, a perfectly lovely and peaceful garden park.

The park area is not heavily wooded, but it does have a number of areas that managed to hold a few birds even in the heat of summer. I definitely plan on returning during migration season.

The most ubiquitous bird at the park was the azure-winged magpie, pictured above. Unlike their even more ubiquitous cousins, the oriental magpies, these birds seem to have a slightly lower tolerance for urban settings, and their calls filled the air throughout the park.

There were just two other species of note that I was able to capture. The first was a pair of grey-faced woodpeckers–male and female. I had actually nearly given up on finding anything more exciting than the magpies at the park, especially given that it’s the wrong season, but my heart nearly skipped a beat when I heard the male woodpecker calling, and managed to spot him on a tree.

After chasing him around a bit, I managed to sneak up on him and his misses as they popped down to the forest floor to do a bit of foraging.

The other birds of note were an adult and juvenile grey-backed thrush. I suspect the adult was the parent, though I suppose there’s no way to know for sure. They were hanging out together at a little clearing next to a stream.

Overall I’m convinced that Wolmido Island will be a great patch to explore in the future!

Bust at Sai Kung, but Ho Man Tin saved the day!

This past week was my first week of online teaching, and I was (and unfortunately will be) quite busy with class prep, so today was the day for me to try.

Sai Kung

With the first round of autumn migrants well on their way through the territory, I returned to Sai Kung to try my luck. Last weekend we didn’t see any Amur (or Japanese) paradise flycatchers, so I had assumed that they had all left by now were it not for a few sporadic reports of sightings throughout the week. But alas, none were to be found today either.

What’s worse is that I failed to find any bird waves, instead hearing a symphony of mostly residents, as well as a few calls I couldn’t identify. I did manage to spot a single, very shy dark sided flycatcher, but alas the photo is no good. Other records included two emerald doves, fairly common but extremely shy forest residents, and the unmistakable call of a bay woodpecker. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to see it.

I do wonder if the presence of the paradise flycatchers encourages bird waves at all. They seem to be numerous, prominent, and well-accompanied when we were used to coming across them. For local forest residents, i still think that this is one of the better places in Hong Kong to visit, but without the draw of such VIPs as the paradise flycatchers, I may try and explore somewhere else next weekend.

Ho Man Tin

Rather disappointed with my trip to Sai Kung, (and also frustrated by the traffic back to Mong Kok), I found the initiative to give Ho Man Tin a try, as there were some good reports this week, in particular of a Taiga/red-throated flycatcher. I did manage to spot the bird very briefly, but thankfully it was also enough to get a record.

I saw a pale-legged leaf warbler as well, another rather common migrant over the past few weeks, but the real prize was a clear shot of an Asian brown flycatcher. I’ve seen them at Ho Man Tin before, and last week saw one at the very same spot at the top of the hill, although I could never get a shot. Even though they are rather common visitors and lack an exciting plumage, I was still very happy to finally get a decent shot of this lovely bird.

Interesting Residents at Sai Kung

Well, considering today’s trip as well as reports from yesterday, it seems that the paradise flycatchers I got so used to seeing this month have left. Indeed their absence was very much felt on the trail this morning, which boasted a handful of resident species, as well as some migrants. The autumn migration should replenish shortly, though, with a new round of flycatchers passing through the territory from around now through October and November, as well as buntings. Regular winter visitors should also begin to arrive soon as well.

The most photogenic of them all, however, was a lovely female orange-bellied leafbird, perhaps the same from the other day. It was singing with a very high-pitched whistle for a short while, confusing us at first.

Another slightly less common resident was a grey-chinned minivet couple—one male, one female. I’ve often struggled to get decent shots of these birds in spite of how common they are in Hong Kong’s mature secondary forests.

In the past, the females have been more cooperative subjects than the males, but today I was fortunate to get a very handsome and confident male bird showing off for a few seconds, while the female, wisely perhaps, kept her distance.

We also recorded the call of a bay woodpecker, perhaps two, as well as a single but very distant dark-sided flycatcher, and a single female yellow-rumped flycatcher. The usual crowd of chestnut bulbuls, white-bellied erpornis, common tailorbirds, fork-tailed sunbirds, and Japanese tits also kept us company on our walk.

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.

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!

Crested Goshawk Surprise!

I decided to go for a walk in Lung Fu Shan after stopping work early mostly just for the exercise, but I brought my camera along. The trails and parks along the way were fairly busy, reasonably so given the limited options for exercise these days, but I eventually came to Victoria Peak Garden. I was about to start heading back down, convinced I wouldn’t see much with all the activity, when I noticed the goshawk perched on a branch right over the one-lane road up to the summit. And two cars had just passed by as well!

I had no camouflage and I was walking in the street, but I managed to snap a few shots before it flew to a new branch. I was able to follow it to the branch and actually get closer and get a better angle and was able to snap a few just before a family came and it flew deeper into the woods.

Crested goshawk (Accipiter trivirgatus)

This is something of a special bird for me as it is actually my third encounter with what I believe to be crested goshawks in Lung Fu Shan. (Perhaps they’re all the same bird?) The first time I was hiking and was nearly able to take a record shot but an approaching hiker from the other direction scared it off. The second time was while hiking with my dad in November. It was a case of not knowing the bird was right in front of you until it flies off, so I missed that one. Finally being able to photograph one so close was really good luck for me.

Hong Kong bird log entry here.