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.

Asian Dowitcher at Long Valley

There have been reports of a lone Asian dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus) at Long Valley for weeks now and I finally headed out to have a look. I am very grateful that this bird decided to stick around long enough for most birders to have their fill, leaving me to visit it in relative peace. (There were only two other birders there when I arrived.) The dowitcher was flanked by a handful of black-winged stilts, little egrets, and Chinese pond herons, though I was only interested in photographing the dowitcher.

It seemed rather relaxed, foraging around for worms and crustaceans in the mud with its characteristic “sewing machine” method before eventually wading out into the middle of the pond and having a rest.

These birds are actually nearly threatened, with a steady and clear decline in the adult population having been recorded by the IUCN Red List. It was very nice to see this rare and vulnerable creature relaxing at the soon-to-be-former oasis that is Long Valley.

It was the first time I had visited Long Valley since March and the Civil Engineering department had already walled off the farmland that will soon be developed, irrevocably ruining this fragile and immensely valuable speck of farmland in Hong Kong. Local conservation efforts have allegedly succeeded at acquiring some modest concessions from the government regarding the conservation of some farmland, but still the whole place will almost certainly change for the worse once construction begins in earnest.

Another oddity at Long Valley this year is a flock of a hundred or so white-headed munia, which are typically not found in Hong Kong. These birds were no doubt released as part of a “mercy release” common in Buddhist traditions, though the practice is hardly merciful when animals are released into habitats in which they can’t survive!

White-headed Munia

For now though, these munia seem to be enjoying their summer in the farmland, and i hope the best for them whither they stay and try to tough out the winter in Hong Kong, or decide to migrate further south nearer to their usual range.

The Asian dowitcher has a corresponding entry in my Hong Kong Bird Log.