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Old Saturday 26th January 2013, 16:07   #1
MKinHK
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Exploring Lantau

New beginnings . . .

With Lam Tsuen now too far away to be my regular patch my next challenge is to find somewhere nearby to replace it.

Discovery Bay itself is not it. Its a town of about twenty thousand living in a mix of high rise and villas, with some parkland and native vegetation, but none of the quality forest/fung shui or open farmland that made Lam Tsuen so good.

Lantau Island is greatly under-birded. So, rather than settle on a single spot right away I've decided to explore a few sites over the coming weeks and months. This will require getting to grips with the transport connections as well as working out where the best areas are at different sites so this will be highly exploratory, with (hopefully) some exciting discoveries rather than the trawl round the known-to-be birdy haunts of Lam Tsuen.

1. Tai Ho to Mui Wo.
The parts I know best of Lantau are those where I conducted baseline surveys in the dim and distant past. One of these was for a road that was thankfully never built from Tai Ho Wan on the north side of Lantau to Mui Wo (or Silvermine Bay) on the other side.

Tai Ho Wan used to be a gentle inlet, but is now almost an inland sea - cut off from the sea proper by a six lane highway and two railway lines on a reclaimed causeway - except for a narrow channel underneath. Of the three small villages in the catchment Pak Mong is the closest to the road and the channel, and I got off the bus here at 8am.

The outer edge of the channel overlooking the sea held a Little Egret and a Common Sandpiper, but there was no hoped-for gull or any of the rarities that might have been on the water. The path along the edge of the inlet is well wooded and I had my first Grey-backed Thrush and heard a Red-flanked Bluetail in the undergrowth.

Just before the village a large area of fields was given over, much to my surprise, to pineapple cultivation, which hosted a Eastern Buzzard, the only male among six Daurian Redstarts throughout the day and both Dusky and Manchurian/Korean Bush Warblers (don't ask - more taxonomic revelations that serve only to add further confusion!). Grey Wagtail and Blue Whistling Thrush were in the boulder stream and a Red-billed Blue Magpie called a few times.

It was nice to hear a White-breasted Waterhen gurgling away and to see a few Crested Mynas and Black-necked Starlings and a Stejneger's Stonechat on the marshy ground outside Tai Ho village. The lower part of the village is famous for having a Chairman Mao hall complete with photos, statues and calligraphy in a shrine dedicated to the founder of the PRC. The woods here were rather quiet, although I did winkle out a couple more Grey-backed Thrushes, a Greater Coucal, Yellow-browed and Pallas' Leaf Warblers and some Scaly-breasted Munias.

The best birds of the day were an adult Striated Heron and a wintering brown-type Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler at the mouth of the Tai Ho stream and along the path to the yellow temple respectively. A female Black-faced Bunting was too curious to stay hidden in the grass and showed pretty well after a bit of pishing.

After that the climb out of the valley was rather quiet,with a just-about-possible, but very briefly seen, Brown-headed Thrush zipping across the path and another Korean/Manchurian Bush Warbler buzzing and showing rather well close to a pathside grave.

More to come . . .

Cheers
Mike
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Old Saturday 26th January 2013, 19:12   #2
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Pity when I lived in DB I was hardly into photography, never mind birding :(

Sounds interesting Mike.
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Old Saturday 26th January 2013, 23:48   #3
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Good start, Mike.
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Old Sunday 27th January 2013, 01:55   #4
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Good to see you've started posting about sightings on Lantau. I look forward to hearing more - I've always argued that Lantau is seriously underwatched. There's good forest, lowland open country, uplands, coastline, etc. - a good diversity of habitats suggests a good potential for birds. And certainly potential for migrants!

I may also post some sightings here in future when I make it over there for some birding.
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Old Sunday 27th January 2013, 04:24   #5
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Thank you Mike

I've sometimes wondered what delights Lantau might offer.

Great start.

And looking forward to reading about your discoveries.

Cheers.

Steve
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Old Sunday 27th January 2013, 13:38   #6
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Many thanks everyone - and post away John - this thread is certainly not intended to be mine alone.

Tai Ho - Mui Wo Part 2.

The second half of the walk - the descent to Mui Wo and the ferry back to Discovery Bay took less than half the time and produced far fewer birds. It did however lead me past the scene of one of those random blessings from heaven that keeps us going on the dull days.

The ridge between Mui Wo and Tai Ho has several small flat marshy valleys. As I passed one of these during one of my baseline surveys (in September 1998) my attention was drawn by a movement under a bush which turned out to be a Fairy Pitta!

I had no such luck today, with a couple of Black Kites just after I crossed the ridgeline, and a smattering of forest species including a couple of Hwamei in the leaf litter, Chestnut Bubuls that called without showing, and singles each of Crested Goshawk and Japanese Sparrowhawk above the farmland at Mui Wo.

Reef Egret
on a rock close to the Mui Wo ferry pier and from the boat itself was the first species I never had in Lam Tsuen and made a slightly disappointing total of 37 species on the day.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Sunday 27th January 2013, 14:19   #7
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That Fairy Pitta sighting should be in bold ... and italics .... and underlined .... and a fancy colour too ! Not hidden away in plain text so the skimmers miss it
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Old Sunday 27th January 2013, 15:30   #8
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True Kevin, but the colours and bolding only come out for birds I see on the day - my pitta was some time in the early 2000s, and if I remember correctly in September.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Sunday 27th January 2013, 16:01   #9
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Originally Posted by MKinHK View Post
True Kevin, but the colours and bolding only come out for birds I see on the day - my pitta was some time in the early 2000s, and if I remember correctly in September.

Cheers
Mike
Ah sorry - I misread that !
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Old Wednesday 30th January 2013, 11:32   #10
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Looking forward to more of your "getting to grips" with Lantau, Mike !
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Old Saturday 9th February 2013, 17:56   #11
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A gentle walk to the Trappist Monastery this morning added a few birds to the Discovery Bay/ Lantau lists.

But before I start on today I should mention a few birds seen last weekend around Discovery Bay. These included a female Blue Rock Thrush, a Grey Heron and a Common Kingfisher were on the tiny patch of mangrove below Discovery College. The nearby park also held Crested Mynas, Black-collared Starlings and Tree Sparrows, plus Magpie Robin and a Chinese Blackbird.

A Blue Whistling Thrush on the fence of the kindergarten next to the fire station was a good start and my visiting freind Lawrence and I headed long the path behind Nim Shue Wan we saw at least two Common Sandpipers, Dusky Warbler and a female Daurian Redstart, a female ocularis White Wagtail while a calling flycatcher rattled in a way that suggested Red-breasted, but never showed.

There were several Fork-tailed Sunbirds around the Trappist Monastery, mostly in a flowering rhodoleia by the church, and Besra circled briefly overhead, but despite looking promising there was not much more except a flock of Eastern Great Tit and Japanese White-eyes to catch our attention.

The kaito (ferry) took an unexpected diversion to Peng Chau, giving us very good views of a couple of Reef Egrets landing on the roof of the ferry terminal and a Little Egret mooching on one of the fishing boat.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Monday 11th February 2013, 23:41   #12
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I took another walk along Nim Shue Wan towards the Trappist Monastery this morning. It started well with a Blue Whistling Thrush and a female Daurian Redstart right outside my block, but it was the pretty quiet until the stinky stream in Nim Shue Wan village produced a leucopsis White Wagtail , three White-breasted Waterhen, a Common Sandpiper and a Magpie Robin . Just above a Pallas' Warbler was the first I've heard singing this year.

I then checked out an abandoned paddy under some fine trees. Almost every branch and rock had droppings of a small bird and while in there I constantly heard thrushes calling. I suspect there must have been either a bluetail or some sort of flycatcher in residence, but since I newer got the faintest glimpse . . . I'll just have to go back and nail the little bugger!

Other birds included a Black Kite collecting twigs for a nest, a male Black-faced Bunting, a Korean/Manchurian Bush Warbler that did not show, a rather grey-crowned Yellow-browed Warbler and a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler that called repeatedly, but never sat long enough to get in the bins.

On the way back a Grey Wagtail flew up from the stinky stream, a female Daurian Redstart was in the organic farm and a Greater Coucal was lurking nearby.

Cheers
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Old Tuesday 12th February 2013, 13:52   #13
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I did threaten to post some sightings when I was next on Lantau. I was there on Sunday for a bit of a trek, up from Tung Chung to Sunset Peak and then down the south side to Chi Ma wan and Pui O. As Mike knowsI have a reputation for going birding on long hikes like this (my GPS claimed 26km) - sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't.

On Sunday it did pay off. The major highlight was a Brown Bush Warbler showing intermittently on the slopes of Sunset Peak. Probably the first for Lantau I guess, and only around 10 HK records now. Also a Radde's Warbler (only about 5 or 6 winter records) near Tung Chung.

Among commoner species, quality birds included: Goodson's Leaf Warbler (near Tung Chung), Two-barred Warbler (across the path from the Goodson's), Black-naped Monarch (1 near Tung Chung, 1 at Chi Ma Wan), Chestnut-collared Yuhina (15 at Chi Ma Wan, at least 1 at Wong Lung Hang), Bright-capped Cisticola (1 at Sunset Peak), Tristram's Bunting (2 at Nam Shan), Rufous-tailed Robin (3 at Chi Ma Wan), Hair-crested Drongo (1 at Pui O), Brown-flanked Bush Warbler (2), Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker, etc.

Also good numbers of Yellow-browed (48) and Pallas's Warblers (15) and no less than 15 Blue Whistling Thrushes, especially common around Chi Ma Wan for some reason.
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Old Tuesday 12th February 2013, 14:35   #14
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A couple of hours at Pui O - a lowland area compring grazing, marsh, a tidal creek, a sandy beach and some 25 Water Buffalo was good in parts this morning.

The highlights were a flushed Woodcock, a fabulous male Verditer that gave protracted close views, one or possibly two Black-capped Kingfishers, four Grey-backed Thrushes, three Chinese Blackbirds and a Pale Thrush.

Other bits and pieces included three each of Silky Starlings, Black-faced Buntings and Daurian Redstart, a dozen OBPs, single Great Egret, Reef Egret and Grey Heron.

This site has also held some real quality in the past- including Brown Wood Owl, Black Stork, and Black-breasted x Dusky Thrush, so I expect I'll be back.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Wednesday 13th February 2013, 11:57   #15
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This site has also held some real quality in the past- including Brown Wood Owl, Black Stork, and Black-breasted x Dusky Thrush, so I expect I'll be back.
Mike, I think you're holding onto your previous patch - Brown Wood Owl is a Lam Tsuen bird, it's Brown Fish Owl at Pui O!

And in the excitement, you're getting your thrushes mixed up - the Pui O bird was Black-throated x Naumann's!

I hope you can make it out to Pui O occasionally - this is one of the places on Lantau that surely has the potential to turn up something good.
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Old Sunday 17th February 2013, 15:54   #16
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Yesterday I made my second visit to Pui O. Once again there were a few good birds with the pick of the bunch being a fine White's Thrush - my first of the winter - feeding along the hedgerow between the central and southern sections of the buffalo fields.

Other new additions included a couple of taivana Yellow Wagtails, a fantastic male Red-flanked Bluetail, single Intermediate Egret on the tidal river mouth with a fine adult Grey Heron and four or five Little Egrets, including one with lots of extra pale pigmentation on the legs.

I also had wonderful close views of five Little Ringed Plovers, one of which I tried unsuccessfully to turn into Long-billed Plover and further new high counts of Daurian Redstarts (4) Silky Starlings (19) and Cattle Egrets (20).

I also thoroughly enjoyed watching the water buffalo. There are at least 20 in the herd, and they in turn bring in the Cattle Egrets . I always like the way the buffalo totally ignore the egrets which feed around, under and even on top of them.

One of these Cattle Egrets caught what looked like a Gunther's Frog and made a huge meal out of making a meal out of it. piking it up, putting it down, failing to swallow it for over 15 minutes.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Monday 18th February 2013, 00:37   #17
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Yes, the harmony of birds and cattle are very interesting to watch. I saw mynas around the cattle in last week's visit to Thailand. I keep thinking a bird will get stepped on!

Sounds like things are interesting if not astonishing. Very nice pics! The pale legged egret is interesting.
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Old Tuesday 19th February 2013, 03:46   #18
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Good to see the photos coming Mike. Discovery Bay n Nim Shue Wan got some exotic looks. Perfect shot for a "Cattle Egret".
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Old Tuesday 19th February 2013, 15:16   #19
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Many thanks Dev. It's good to take advantage of the clear days - especially in winter!

I've added some more pix of Pui O, and the buffalo, which I think are terrific animals and about as near as we get to megafauna in HK these days.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Thursday 21st February 2013, 06:20   #20
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With my only knowledge of Hong Kong being what I've glimpsed from higher floors of Shenzhen hotels, this new flood of photos is great. Thanks Mike!
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Old Saturday 23rd February 2013, 13:50   #21
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More to come Andrew . . .

This afternoon I brought my wife to Pui O to see the Water Buffalo and walk on the beach in the soft late afternoon light. OK . . . and to do a little birding.

We scored well with the buffalo and did event better by finding a lcal lady selling organic-ish betroot that Carrie will ferment in whey to make a virulent purple electrolyte that is a great restorative after my hockey matches!

New birds for me at Pui O were a monstrous Peregrine that barreled through without stopping and a couple of snipe sp. that were too far away to sort out with bins.

The superb male Verditer from two weks earlier had moved to the campsite along the sandbar and flock of well over 100 Crested Mynas were gathering to roost in the same area.

As the winterers begin to thin out I'll be looking forward to see how Pui O does as a spring migration watchpoint in the coming months.

The real highlight of the visit was watching a hapless young lad hurl his flip flops across the river and then carry his girlfriend across, only to discover that one of her flip flops had fallen short and was drifting merrily upstream on the rising tide. Having landed his damsel he was immediately urged back into the water and waded for a good 100 metres before rescuing it as she bleated useless advice from the safety of the shore.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Sunday 24th February 2013, 03:49   #22
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Maybe next time that lad will make her carry the flipflops in her mouth!

hehe

Lovely crab!
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Old Monday 25th February 2013, 14:48   #23
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I was back at Pui O early the next morning, but for only an hour and a half as one of my contact lenses fell out as I got onto the bus and I thought it had simply flipped in half and disappeared inside. It hadn't but I was not ready to accept that until extensive exploration in three different mirrors left me with no choice but to call it a day before I developed a killer headache.

So despite arriving earlier than I ever have before I had to focus on open area birding, where the handicap was not too irritating. I again had the Peregrine from the evening before. It look rather heavy and definitely brown on the rump and tail as it flew off, but I've got overexcited about potential Sakers before . . . so I expect it was simply a brownish young female bird.

The big highlight was a very confiding male Japanese Thrush, which caught and ate a worm in a drainage ditch and then sat still to digest for a few seconds, allowing me a decent shot - evidently digiscoping works fine with one functional eye!

I was once again taken with how small they are, and my first view - all-black from behind - had me wondering what on earth it was. Other highlights were my first, and long overdue, Chinese Pond Heron on Lantau and getting some better shots of the Intermediate Egret on the river, which also held Common, White-throated and Black-capped Kingfishers.

Oddity of the day was seeing half a dozen Large-billed Crows feeding on the emerging flowers in a bombax tree and a Common Myna at the bus stop where I got off the bus.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Tuesday 26th February 2013, 01:13   #24
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What a great Japanese Thrush photo.

Thanks for posting it.
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Old Tuesday 26th February 2013, 11:07   #25
subbuteo71
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 20
Looks like a great place to visit regularly, Mike. I am sure you will turn up some great birds this year. Great shot of the Japanese Thrush!

Dylan
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