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Exploring Lantau

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Old Sunday 23rd October 2016, 23:50   #326
MKinHK
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Many thanks Owen and Gretchen

This weekend was hot and unseasonably humid after the passing of two typhoons last week and with the winds southwesterly and heading up migrants I had high hopes for Tai O on Saturday. It started well with a soaring Crested Goshawk as the bus descended out of the clouds on Lantau Peak, a juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle flew alongside the bus as it went past Shui Hau, and a Besra was displaying vocally above the ridge on the left hand side of the road as I entered the Tai o valley.

An initial trawl through the mangrove -lined former salt pans produced three or four each of Dusky Warbler and Black-browed Reed Warbler and the usual scattering of Great Egrets with an occasional Grey Heron and Little Egret. There were also five Richard's Pipits on the football pitch.

The star of the Shaolin Valley was a fine male Black-naped Monarch. Always one of my favourite flycatchers, this one was typically hyperactive and noisy and the usual wonderful combination of rich power-blue head, breast and back against a velvet-black collar and top-knot.

The valley was otherwise rather quiet, with the supporting cast coming from a couple of Asian Brown Flycatchers, a rather soft-spoken Dusky Warbler that had me dreaming about Yellow-streaked Flycatchers and a Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler that I barely saw but caught calling with the camera's video function. It will be interesting to see if I can do anything with it to pull out a specific identity, especially after all the interest with two birds turning up in Europe in the last week.

On Sunday I had another foray away from the patch to explore Long Valley. A Black-headed Bunting has been knocking about for the last fortnight or so along with a good supporting cast, and this terrific site always has the potential to turn up something special.

Always birdy, the valley welcomed me with a hepatic Plaintive Cuckoo and a shallow pond holding a dozen Black-winged Stilts, a pair of Avocets, half-a-dozen Wood Sandpipers and a jumble of Fan-tailed Snipe. Red-throated Pipits, a Little Ringed Plover, two leucopsis and a dozen ocularis White Wagtails, a few Chinese Pond Herons, a Black Drongo, two Stejneger's Stonechat and the usual Spotted Doves, Black-necked Starlings and Crested Mynas provided the usual backdrop.

The bunting action happens around the rice fields, which are specially planted for the purpose by the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society. I kicked off today with a couple of Yellow-breasted Buntings including a fine male that was still sporting the brown breast band of breeding plumage, and a Chestnut-eared Bunting. I then latched on to the fast-disappearing tail end of a larger sandy-brown bird as it disappeared to the easternmost corner of the valley showing just a hint of a large dark eye, and perched tantalisingly on top of a lychee tree. I trundled over to see it and predictably enough it disappeared when my head was turned. My meagre compensation was the first of five flyover Common Mynas and a bunch of Great Egrets, a few Black-winged Stilts, a Common Kingfisher and a Green Sandpiper in the drainage channel.

I headed back to discover, predictably enough, that some other birders had just seen the bunting, but my searched delivered nothing better than flocks of White-rumped and Scaly-breasted Munias and Tree Sparrows feeding on the rice. While I was waiting, a scan to the horizon all round pulled out a Kestrel over Crest Hill and over towards Deep Bay a soaring aquila Eagle that was really too far away to do anything with except speculate.

Bumping into John Holmes turned out to be the secret ingredient, and as we gave the rice fields a final pass, John said: "there it is", and there it was . . . It flew up and perched on one of the trees behind the paddy. For some reason I like Black-headed Bunting - particularly the juveniles that turn up in autumn in Hong Kong. They are ungainly and scruffy, with no feature that could be described as beautiful. At least for those that I have seen, the identification has never been especially tricky, but somehow I enjoy them every time I see one - and this one was no exception.

Afterwards, as we wandered out, we picked up a few Black-browed Reed Warblers in a big patch of high grass as we tried unsuccessfully to dig out a different bunting that was determined not to show itself.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Monday 24th October 2016, 03:27   #327
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Brilliant stuff, Mike. Including the Emei Leaf Warbler and the Black-naped Monarch. I saw the news that the super typhoon did a number in HK, hope your family is alright.
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Old Tuesday 25th October 2016, 05:28   #328
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Thanks Dev

The second typhoon was much less of an event than the first which produced some impressive flooding - google "Starbucks uncle" - and we had a full day off work and no serious damage.

Cheers
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Old Monday 31st October 2016, 10:58   #329
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A good day on Saturday at Pui O and especially Tai O was followed by a quieter day at Tai O on Sunday.

An early bus to Pui O got me started with a Black-browed Reed Warbler and a few Dusky Warblers in the fringes of the buffalo fields plus a promising-lookingflock of starlings that disappeared over the horizon before I could do anything with them. The highlights here were two Eastern Buzzards,my first of the autumn, being mobbed by a couple of Large-billed Crows.

Also interesting was the remaining fragments of a dismembered Grey Heron - I can only think that a Bonelli's Eagle or an Eagle Owl would be big enough to take one. I also added a photo of the darkest Spotted Dove I've ever seen in HK. Any thoughts about this bird would be appreciated.

Moving on to Tai O things started slowly, but several trawls of the Shaolin Valley eventually produced a fine haul of male and female Black-naped Monarch - different from last week's cracking male, male and female Blue-and-white Flycatchers, an Asian Brown Flycatcher and a tantalisingly probable Red-breasted Flycatcher, which I initially heard call once - the drawn-out rattle which separates it from the zippier buzz of Taiga Flycatcher - and then had one second views of the bird, tail cocked, and showing more than a hint of a pale base to the bill . . . hmmm.

There was more quality in the shape of a very bright Eastern Crowned Warbler and two Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warblers and most interesting of all a drongo that landed in deep cover an on the partial views available appeared to show black and white undertail coverts and a metallic crown, which is a good starting point for Crow-billed Drongo. There has only been one previous record in HK, some I definitely needed better views than that . . .

These maybe birds did inspire a return visit yesterday, but this delivered little - a Yellow-browed Warbler, an Asian Brown Flycatcher an unidentified bunting sp. and something ticking and scratching from deep cover just as an infuriatingly noisy hiking group spent ten minutes stopping for photos. There were again two Pale-legegd /Sakhalin Leaf Warblers and a sadly deceased Black-browed Reed Warbler.

Also of interest was a metre-long black snake - presumably Common Rat Snake as I could see no pale markings on the back of the neck - that slid away off a grave I had just walked past.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Thursday 17th November 2016, 11:48   #330
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Last Sunday I was back at Tai O and was pleased to see two female Daurian Redstarts and a male Japanese Thrush and a confiding Rufous-tailed Robin - one of my favourite winter birds - had arrived in the Shaolin Valley. I also spent a good deal of time chasing around a Taiga Flycatcher to see if I could confirm it wan't Red-breasted, and eventually (sadly) succeeded.

Other bits and pieces included a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers, which have been scarce this autumn and a Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler which allowed close approach but no pic.

Eclipsing all of these was a fine Amur Falcon which came in high over the ridge from the north and soared away inland. I have been expecting Amurs here every autumn and previously had several Hobbies, so it was great to plug an obvious gap. It has been an excellent year for Amurs across Hong Kong, so the expectation of getting a Tai O bird felt like "if not this year, then when?". It's just my second record on Lantau, and I still need it for the Magic Roundabout . . .

I did however see eight Amur Falcons on another raid on Long Valley last weekend. A very odd-looking Common Reed Bunting of one of the tiny-billed East Asian races had been found the day before and since they are almost never found outside mist nets in reed beds I still need this for my HK list. Still being the operative word. I t was apparently seen first thing on Sunday morning, but there was no sign after I arrived for what turned out to be a terrific morning. While searching for the Bunting I saw and was delighted to photograph both of the Black-headed Buntings that have been here for a little while now, as well as picking up two Eurasian Skylarks, a Chestnut-eared, two Little and six or seven Yellow-breasted Buntings.

The first of the Amurs - a magnificent male that came in head-on and low from the East pretended for a while to be a Feral Pigeon, but the whip of the silver-grey primaries and its contained purposeful speed kept me looking until it started soaring a few hundred metres away and showed the superb white underwing coverts to perfection as it circled up and eventually away to the west - what a stunner! The other birds were all higher, but watching them also put us onto at least five Oriental Honey Buzzards which were also drifting slowly westwards. Other raptors seen that morning (most not seen by me) included 5 more Amurs, Hobby, Kestrel, 19 Eastern Buzzards 2 Crested Serpent Eagles and 2 Japanese and one Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2 Black Kites and a Great Spotted Eagle.

Other good birds seen that day (again not seen by me, but exemplifying the enduring quality of Long Valley include a Bull-headed Shrike which amazingly was in the same tiny reedbed as the Black-headed Buntings, Baillon's Crake, Chestnut bittern 2 Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers,Pale Martin and Red-rumped Swallow, oriental and Black-browed Reed Warbler and 4 Chinese Blackbirds. Not bad for 26 hectares of wet agriculture!

if only I lived closer . . .

Cheers
Mike
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Old Sunday 11th December 2016, 04:23   #331
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Tai O provided a couple of flashes of magic yesterday - first up was being checked out by male Eye-browed and Japanese Thrushes, both alert upright and in perfect plumage - and standing a metre apart on the same branch about 20 metres from where I stood gaping!

The other moment was when a Rufous-tailed Robin stood side-on on top of a tangle branches, furiously twitching its tail before turning head-on to expose the beautiful fine russet scalloping on the belly below a pure white throat as it called and called.

This was an otherwise pleasant morning, with three or four Daurian Redstarts and Yellow-browed Warblers, a Pallas's Leaf Warbler, a dozen Silky Starlings, a noisy pair of Red-billed Blue Magpies, a couple of Grey-backed Thrushes (one of which posed nicely), two Chestnut Bulubuls, and a nice male Red-flanked Bluetail.

________

The weekend before I abandoned Lantau -and with good excuse - the allure of two Siberian Cranes which had been found at Mai Po the day before was too tempting to resist, so I went over and enjoyed wonderful views of an adult and a gingery juvenile feeding together in a reed-filled pond on the southern edge of the reserve.

These were just the second record for Hong Kong after the first - a juvenile - appeared for a day back in 2002. Mai Po was full of birds I rarely see these days - masses of Pintail on the geiwai ponds - Dusky and Yellow-browed Warblers calling everywhere, plus three or four Black-browed reed Warblers and a scattering of the ever charismatic Black-faced Spoonbills plus Greater Spotted and Imperial Eagles and a few Collared Crows, for whom Mai Po is an important global stronghold.

Cheers
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Old Monday 12th December 2016, 09:49   #332
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Great Grey-backed Thrush, Mike! And Siberian Cranes....sigh....someday...
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Old Monday 2nd January 2017, 13:16   #333
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I have once again been wandering off the beaten track over the last ten days or so, but since its been amazingly productive I'm more than happy to have indulged myself.

First up, the discovery of Hong Kong's second Buff-breasted Sandpiper on a fishpond at San Tin in the far northern part of Hong Kong on Tuesday 21st December had me getting up at 5:30 to twitch it before work the next morning. This was one of those twitches that is only possible with the help of good mates.

The early birds were on site by 0630 - long before I could get there - and, after a tense of hour "no news", found it just as I had given up hope and was calling off my ride in to the ponds having travelled for over an hour to be in position just n case it was found. Thankfully the positive news Whatsapp message came through just before Geoff hung up, so I jumped in scurried down the bund, complete with suit and briefcase, only to hear that the bird had flown. Dave Diskin (and his scope) walked me over to where he'd found it earlier and after a tense couple of minutes scanning he picked it out and gave me a look down his scope - allowing me my first wader tick in Hong Kong in a very long time! After a very hurried 30-second view I scurried off back towards the other birder and was fortunate enough to get a lift back to the railway from Graham Talbot, without which I would never have made my 0915 meeting!

This was hardly doing justice to a bird of this quality, so on Christmas Eve I headed back to San Tin for a proper look. This time the bird behaved much better - walking around the bottom of the drained fishpond within 20-30 metres of the assembled gathering of birders. What it hadn't dome was learn how to feed in such a habitat without getting all mucky, and its legs and bill were permanently covered in globs of mud. It was nonetheless an entrancing bird - the first I've seen since getting on on Davidstow Airfield in Cornwall in the late 1980s!

Other birds enjoying the drained pond were over 20 Temminck's Stints, a Long-toed Stint I tried long and hard to string as Least Sandpiper and a few Little Ringed Plovers and Eastern Yellow Wagtails and ocularis White Wagtails. In fact the whole area was heaving with birds - flocks of Silky, White-cheeked and Black-necked Starlings, Crested and Common Mynas, Spotted Doves, a couple of dozen Collared Doves in their Hong Kong stronghold, fifty-odd Red-rumped Swallows and a Pale Martin among a couple of hundred Barn Swallows, half a dozen Black Drongos and three or four Stejneger's Stonechats.

As I walked out through the ponds I flushed an interesting looking pipit. A Water Pipit had been found here a couple of weeks earlier, but I never got anything more than the most horrible shot of a bird that is far from easy to separate from Buff-bellied Pipit. In his article on separating the two Terry Townshend notes a contrast between a brownish back and grey crown and nape - which is about the only discernible feature, but it would take a braver soul than I to call this bird on that feature alone.

Next up was a stand of tall grass in one of the main ditches running through the site to the Shenzhen River, where the ticking emerging promised more than the expected Dusky Warblers. I was not surprised when one bird proved to be a Black-browed Reed Warbler, which winters in small numbers, but I was delighted when the other bird creeping between the reed steams turned out to be a sneaky backed , streaky-crowned Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler with pleasingly obvious white tips to the tail. This species is very rare in winter in Hong Kong. Indeed the last one I'd seen had been one in this exact ditch when I dipped a Blunt-winged Warbler here in the mid 1990s. I've never had a sniff at another since then.

I was however impressed with the general birdiness of the site - I've not even mentioned the large numbers of egrets and other waders - Wood and Green Sandpipers, Avocets and Black-winged Stilts, Collared Crows and raptors including Imperial Eagle and Eastern Buzzard and loads of Great Cormorants - and decided to come back to give it a more thorough search as soon as an opportunity emerged.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Thursday 5th January 2017, 13:29   #334
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Inspired by my previous visit returned to San Tin on 28th December for a general look round but was distracted, even before getting out of the cab, by a group of 15 Red-rumped Swallows hawking over the top end of the San Tin Main Drainage Channel.

This is the same channel that was full of waders (and a herd of goats) as I walked out on my earlier visit, and I got distracted as I found a slipway into the channel and slowly edged my way down it until I was very close to a fine mix of feeding waders which included Marsh, Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank, Avocet and Black-winged Stilt, Fantail Snipe, Little-ringed Plover and a couple of Grey-headed Lapwings.

Its unusual to get so close to waders on Lantau so I spent a couple of hours here thoroughly enjoying the close views and learning more about my camera's capabilities. In addition to the waders were a few Eurasian Teal in the water, and single Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Stejneger's Stonechat, Daurian Redstart, and a Taiga Flycatcher feeding in the banks and the nearby trees.

It was not unit very late in the morning that I finally got to the fishponds and turned left along a promising-looking track along the edge of a fishpond. I immediately flushed a pale-looking warbler with a square-ended tail from the weeds. It popped up onto a weed on the other side of the path and as it turned its head to look at me it profoundly shocked me by showing the "milky tea" plumage tones and distinctively pale lores of a Booted or Sykes's Warbler - which total HK three records between them!

Unlike my frustrating failure to grab pictures of the Black-throated Thrush I found at the airport a couple of weeks earlier I was able to get some shots as the bird stayed in the area for the remainder of my visit and on two subsequent visits AND lots of others were able to connect as well. I also heard the call several times and was able to make good comparisons with the calls published on Xeno Canto.

The upshot of all this is that the bird initially looked good for Sykes's based on the lack of a pale supercilium behind the eye and the all-pale lower mandible and the very short primary projection. However its structure, which was certainly rather short-billed, round-headed and not especially long-tailed was more indicative of Booted. The call a short single textured "zhrrrt" is also a good match for Booted Warbler. Any thoughts on the contradictory features and how to reconcile them would be most welcome.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Saturday 7th January 2017, 11:38   #335
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Here's a few pix of the waders from that same morning.

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Mike
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Old Sunday 8th January 2017, 04:23   #336
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Hey, great shots of the waders, Mike! Looks like your getting a lot out of the camera.

They look a lot happier spending the winter where it is warm than they would be here. We're having out tenth snow day of the season today.
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Old Monday 9th January 2017, 11:10   #337
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Many thanks Owen - it's been up to a scary 27 centigrade here today and the smog cloud from further north has drifted over HK making it pretty horrible to be out today.

Thankfully yesterday was distinctly different - a lovely blue sky and a fresh easterly breeze made for a wonderful day out - once more at San Tin to see if I could relocate the Booted Warbler. I couldn't, but I heard from another birder where the three Greater White-fronted Geese had been hanging for the last couple of weeks. As I wandered over I checked out the stand of reeds where I'd seen Black-browed Reed Warbler and Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler the week before and heard an interesting accro-sounding song.

However the easterly wind that was keeping the sky blue was preventing me from getting an accurate fix on the location by constantly swishing and blowing the reeds - frustrating indeed! While making a hopeless attempt at playing back accro songs from Xeno Canto I looked up to see the three Greater White-fronted Geese flying directly towards me and over my head! I got the briefest of views as they disappeared in the direction of Mai Po.

But they obviously have a strong affinity for the ponds at this corner of San Tin because some ten minutes later I saw them flying back from Mai Po, tried to land, but were scared off by something and circled the whole area again, twice flying close and giving wonderful views, including the white fore-crowns and dark bands on the breasts of the adult birds. Happily they decided it was now safe to land and having watched them settle on a bund I walked over to watch them.

I had heard that they were pretty tame, and so they proved. After watching some of the fishpond operators passing within 50 or so metres I found a shaded spot a bit further away and feasted my eyes on birds which are notoriously shy in many parts of the world - mostly because they are a valued food species. Initially two of the birds slept, while one of the adults remained alert on sentry duty, neck erect and looking around from time to time. There was a real need as while I watched them both Eastern Imperial and Greater Spotted Eagles passed overhead. I also throughly enjoyed several fly-bys from a party of three Pied Kingfishers - a bird I haven't seen for at least a year as they don't occur on Lantau.

I eventually had my fill and, with an offer of a lift back to the main road from some other birders, I reluctantly left them to it and headed home.
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Old Friday 14th April 2017, 15:50   #338
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Last night, while out walking the dogs I was delighted to hear my first Slaty-legged Crake on Lantau along with a Large Hawk Cuckoo and a small chorus of the highly restricted range endemic Romer's Tree Frog.

Today I made my first return to Tai O and Pui O since November last year. It was a quiet day for migrants, although an absolutely stunning male Black-naped Monarch with the largest top knot (the original "man bun") I've ever seen kicked it off well.

The other highlight was another Lantau tick (no 223) - a Hill Myna - which had joined the forty-strong flock of Crested Mynas that were feeding in the valley. Sadly its highly unlikely to be a wild bird as they are a popular cage bird and have been trapped into oblivion in most part of China and it remains in category III (Escapes) of the Hong Kong list. Other birds of interest included a female Japanese Sparrowhawk that was harassed by a Hair-crested Drongo into landing for a brief second within 20 metres of me, 18 Silky Starlings and more than 40 Large-billed Crows that had gathered to enjoy the food left over on the graves from the Ching Ming grave sweeping festival.

I heard what may have been a Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warbler but never got close enough, and the only other warbler here was a Yellow-browed Warbler that was constantly breaking into song.

Pui O was also quiet, with just a Swintail Snipe, two taivana Yellow Wagtails, a Dusky Warbler and one each of Red-throated and Richard's Pipits to add some interest along with the Cattle Egrets walking around the Water Buffalo in full summer plumage.

I found another day roost of Cattle, Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets in th mangroves by the river mouth, where three Common Sandpipers were also waiting for the tide to drop.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Sunday 16th April 2017, 04:10   #339
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A few more birds from my dog-walking over the weekend. Nothing spectacular, but some nice shots of adult and juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons and the always entertaining Crested Myna.

The only migrants were a Common Kingfisher, a Black Drongo and a Black Drongo.

Also of interest was one of the feral Red-eared Sliders laying eggs.

Cheers
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Old Monday 17th April 2017, 13:26   #340
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Today I decided that the likelihood of finding migrants on a perfect day for passage - light SE winds just keep everything moving - was slim, and instead decided to head up Sunset Peak on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year!

My target was to improve my photos and video of Chinese Grassbird from couple of visits last summer. It seems they hate sunshine and didn't offer even a single call the whole time I was up in their preferred habitat - some vertical 400 metres above where my walk started! At least the views were spectacular.

There was compensation in the form of half a dozen Pacific Swifts zipping around the summit, a couple of flyby Olive-backed Pipits, soaring Besra, Crested Serpent Eagle and several Black Kites, singing Large Hawk Cuckoo, Hwamei, and Chinese Francolin, a female Blue Rock Thrush, a couple of Yellow-bellied Prinias lurking in the grass bird stakeout, and best of all a wonderful Upland Pipit that allowed a close enough approach that I was able to video it's distinctive song and grab some pictures as it gave me the once-over.

They are really odd birds - with a distinctively thick neck and deeper-based bill sloping straight off the fore crown, making them somewhat reminiscent of Wrynecks. Anyway, this was the last of Hong Kong's three mountain specialists that I had not photographed or recorded singing, so all in all a day well spent.

Unfortunately this all came at a cost - sunburned arms that look like they've been spit-roasted and a mild heatstroke. No major harm done - and certainly nothing that a couple of cold showers, a gallon of chilled aloe vera, and my wife's "pretty girly scent" tallow (I kid you not!) can't fix.

Cheers
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Old Tuesday 18th April 2017, 04:33   #341
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Pics are looking really great, Mike! Maybe I missed it, but what camera & lens did you select?
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Old Tuesday 18th April 2017, 05:43   #342
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Many thanks Owen

I bought the Sony RX10iii back in July last year and have been delighted with it. This is a very large bridge camera (it weighs a kilo!)with an integrated Zeiss lens from 24mm to 600mm, a one inch sensor, a much better viewfinder than my previous Canon SX50.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Wednesday 19th April 2017, 04:47   #343
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One kilo, yea, that would be nice. My Canon 7D mkii at the lens set-up for 560mm weighs in at 2.6 kilo. There are times when toting that around starts to get to me. Not complaining though, I've gotten some really good shots in less than promising circumstances.
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Old Tuesday 25th April 2017, 09:02   #344
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Brilliant day at the Peak, Mike. Lovely shots of the Pipit at the peak.
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Old Saturday 13th May 2017, 13:50   #345
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A drizzly morning at Pui O was shattered by the blasting music of an informal (to be polite) dance music venue (only in Hong Kong!) warming up for a gig this evening. Despite that there were a few signs of migration, with an early Yellow Bittern raising my hopes in a good time of the year for bittern passage.

Unfortunately that was it for bitterns, but I did enjoy the arrival of a flight of thirty-odd Cattle Egrets, three of which were in glorious breeding plumage - complete with a purple tinge in the base of the bill. they added to another 20 on the deck, along with 2 Little Egret and a Great Egret.

Other bits and pieces included singing Plaintive and Large Hawk Cuckoos (plus Indian Cuckoo singing at Discovery Bay), an industrious Greater Coucal presumably feeding young, a White-throated Kingfisher, a dozen Barn Swallows and a pair of Magpies.

The Monarchs were only perched for a couple of seconds, but allowed a fine demonstration of the macro on full zoom.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Saturday 20th May 2017, 11:15   #346
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The next day offered much the same mix of birds and buffaloes, plus a nice view of a perched Greater Coucal and a Magpie Robin next to the stream also posing nicely for a shot.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Monday 22nd May 2017, 14:25   #347
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I seem to be in something of a Pui O groove at the moment and made another trip on Saturday in the hope that the two days of steady rain-bearing easterlies might have grounded some migrants. Having not seen a single one this spring Brown Shrike was my rather unambitious target, but I was also hoping for a good bittern - preferably Black or Schrenck's - or a nice flock of bee-eaters.

Well none of that happened, but I did pick up three Lantau ticks in the same flock of terns perched on the shark nets out in the bay. 43 terns comprising 35 Whiskered, 7 White-winged and a single Little Tern was a delightfully unexpected surprise! They mostly stayed a few hundred metres out in the bay, but several of the Whiskered foraged closer allowing some unspectacular record shots. It seems rude to complain when most of them were in superb breeding plumage. The very "impressionistic" (a.k.a blurry) photo captures more of the essence than the accuracy of what they look like, but it's strangely appropriate!

Other migrants included a second Yellow Bittern in eight days and two taivana Yellow Wagtails were unexpectedly late. I should also mention the pair of Dollarbirds high up on wires at the back of the valley last Sunday.

Pui O remains good for ardeids, with Cattle Egrets in their wonderful orange-buff finery ruling the roost, even if they were a bit less engorged with reproductive splendour than the ultra bright birds I found last week. Intermediate Egrets always look lovely with their trail of aigrettes, while Great and Little Egrets, a glowing Chinese Pond Heron and a single Black-crowned Night Heron .

Magpie Robin again featured as a bird of interest, this time a male had caught a froglet in the fields right by the entrance to the buffalo fields. The morning's closing highlight was an absolutely stunning Magpie, which posed unafraid and beautiful in the only two minutes of sunshine of the day just as I was heading back to the bus stop.

Cheers
Mike
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Old Wednesday 24th May 2017, 12:29   #348
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKinHK View Post
The very "impressionistic" (a.k.a blurry) photo captures more of the essence than the accuracy of what they look like, but it's strangely appropriate!
I have collected many more 'impressionistic' photos myself than sharp and clear. I like that euphemism and I think that I'll 'borrow' it (meaning shamelessly steal it). The truth is that often that 'impressionistic' photo is basically what we actually see as that new tic flies off or sits just a little too far away and with the sun directly behind it. The value of the ID photos is being able to sort through them to find the 10%, or less, that are actually usable and crop and process so we can actually see the fine details. That and being able to prove you really did see that rare bird.

Perhaps we should collaborate and put out our own guidebook for beginning birders. We could call it 'What You Really See'. Instead of perfectly posed subjects, we could use our 'impressionistic' photos for the plates.
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Old Saturday 3rd June 2017, 03:55   #349
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Not sure how well the book would sell Owen, but it's a fun idea!

I was back again on Saturday following more easterlies and was delighted to again find nine Whiskered Terns on the shark nets.

But the bird of the day was this Yellow Bittern which was as confiding as any I've seen. It was one of at least three and perhaps four birds on the marsh which was a patch record, and hopefully augurs well for more migrant bitterns with the rainy front that has been threatening for a couple of days.

I was also distracted by other wildlife - a cracking Lantern Bug, a Large Woodland Spider eating a flying ant and of course the buffaloes.

Tuesday was a holiday so I took the dogs up on the hills behind Discovery Bay and was delighted to see and hear three Indian Cuckoos engaged in what I believe was some sort of turf war. I also heard a Lesser Coucal and a couple of Chinese Francolins, one of which I unexpectedly flushed off the path.

Other birds of interest included a displaying Richard's Pipit of the small resident race sinensis and the House Swifts and Barn Swallows that were hunting low over the ridge, providing a zing of excitement as they zipped by within a couple of feet.

And finally . . . my friend Jeremy found a Eurasian Eagle Owl feather whilst walking the same hills with his own dogs just two days later.

Just one more thing . . . a record 17 Black-crowned Night Herons were hunched around the pond in Central Park this morning when I walked the dogs.

Cheers
Mik
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Old Monday 5th June 2017, 06:30   #350
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Very nice shot of the Pyrops candelaria. The proboscis is much cooler than its colorful wings.
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