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Ng Tung Chai, Hong Kong (1 Viewer)

My Pui O bird has given me the grace to accept your latest success with some degree of equanimity Dylan - and there's no question its a tremendous and long overdue addition to the Lam Tsuen list.

There was a record of a bird calling on HK Island a year ago Jon, so its not inconceivable you might fluke one on a walk round the Peak.

Do you have any memory of HK in the 50s/60s?

HK has changed a bit - and despite the massive development of the urban areas the birding has certainly got better!

A victory for the Decision Review System

Good news - last week the HKBWS records committee reviewed the records of Hawfinch and decided to accept several birds which had been either rejected or held up over concerns of potential escape - including my record from February 2011!

The decision was based on the clear pattern of mid-winter occurence and a rethink on the issue of cage damage to feathers and bare parts.As a result my bird becomes the eighth record for Hong Kong.

In other Lam Tsuen news:

Dylan had 532 Red-whiskered Bulbuls enmerging from a roost earlier this week - a new high count not only for Hong Kong, but also for China.

Dylan also had Chinese Cobra on his doorstep and John a 3m King Cobra up in the hills.

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Well, I've been living in Ng Tung Chai now for 3 months and keep planning to resurrect this thread. The summer has generally been a bit quiet, but now autumn is here...

A walk up into the forest today proved productive - this took in the whole of the forest loop to the highest falls, and then back down into the farmland below the village (although this was not so productive).

The highlight for me was a flock of Grey-chinned Minivets. I was early enough to find these roosting - at least 62 birds in a single tree - and they were just waking up as I went past. They followed me up the path for quite a distance, sometimes flying on ahead, sometimes slipping just behind. There were 40 in the trees behind my house at lunchtime - I'm not sure if they were the same birds, or another flock.

I was hoping for more migrants but I did manage to pick up a few - Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Arctic Warbler, Yellow-browed Warbler and at least 6 Grey Wagtails. Plus a Dark-sided Flycatcher from the rooftop this afternoon.

Among the other birds, there were 6 Lesser Shortwings (one of which, suprisingly, showed well), 5 Pygmy Wren Babbler, 10 Mountain Tailorbirds and the usual mix of babblers. In the afternoon, 4 Crested Serpent Eagles and a Crested Goshawk were circling over the house.

But there were also non-bird highlights. The best of these was a Barking Deer (Red Muntjac) running through the agricultural land next to my flat in the late afternoon, while another barked from somewhere in the forest. But also four Hong Kong Cascade Frogs and a Hong Kong Newt (no doubt I could have found more of these if I had search the streams). And a suite of quality butterflies - including Indian Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Angled Red Forester, Plain-banded Awl and no less than 11 Metallic Ceruleans (all species considered rare or very rare in Hong Kong).
A good walk today, starting at the eastern end of the valley along the Ngau Kwu Leng trail, before going over the top of Tai To Yan on the northern slope of the valley and back to Ng Tung Chai.

The Ngau Kwu Leng trail was pretty birdy. In particular, there was one great flock containing White-bellied Erpornis, 2 Yellow-cheeked Tits, Eastern Crowned Warbler, 4 Velvet-fronted Nuthatches and 2 Grey-chinned Minivets, among some of the commoner species. A short distance further along I bumped into a White's Thrush - the first I have heard about in HK this autumn. And on the trail as a whole, no less than 4 Two-barred Warblers. It's not know as a birding hotspot, probably because it's a bit of a climb, but I'm definitely going to be going back there!

The top of Tai To Yan was less productive, unsurprisingly given the hot weather and time of day. Best birds were a Eurasian Sparrowhawk circling the first peak and a Eurasian Skylark near the higher peak.

As well as these birds along the walk, at home at Ng Tung Chai this morning I had great views of another Two-barred Warbler. With the 4 at Ngau Kwu Leng, this means a total of at least 5 in the Lam Tsuen valley today - which I think equals the highest count in Hong Kong.
Latest excitement in the valley has been a pair of Swinhoe's Minivets (Brown-rumped Minivets) which have been seen for the past three mornings in a dead tree on my regular dog walking route.

Following a very enjoyable return to my Ng Tung Chai (NTC) patch in October with visiting birder Tim Boucher (which I'll write about another day), I returned again on Boxing Day in pursuit of some of the wintering woodland birds that are absent or highly elusive on Lantau.

I started off pretty well in the farmland on the edge of the village as a Barking Deer bounced away into the forest, pure white tail pointing skywards, and two Grey-backed Thrushes and what was almost certainly a White's Thrush zipped away out of a fruiting tree. Other good birds lower down in the valley including foraging flocks of Blue-winged Minlas, Silver-eared Mesias, a few Rufous-capped Babblers and a solitary female Scarlet Minivet. As I walked up I heard two or three each of Mountain Tailorbird and Pygmy Wren Babbler, half-a-dozen Pallas's Leaf Warblers and three Yellow-browed Warblers.

Chestnut Bulbuls called in a few places on the way up, but it was otherwise rather quiet until I surprised a Woodcock on one of the smaller waterfalls, which took off vertically at high speed. I again found birds along the landslide trail that climbs next to the Main Falls, including a couple of friendly Mountain Bulbuls, more Chestnut Bulbuls and, best of all, a magnificent male Japanese Robin that called softly and to my delight showed for about a minute on the far bank of the tiny stream at the top of the valley. This was an especially good discovery as I found my first ever Japanese Robin here on Boxing Day back in 1993 - almost 25 years ago!

Now I've reactivated the thread here's a link to another good day back in October last year when I successfully twitched Hong Kong's second Emei Leaf Warbler which was found by former NTC resident John Alcock.

A quick reminder of how good this site has been can be found here.

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Yesterday morning, fulfilling the maxim that no good deed goes unpunished I headed back to Ng Tung Chai with my Captain Wong and Yuen to look for the Japanese Robin I'd seen on Tuesday. We started well with a gang of ten thrushes just above the village of which one was a Pale Thrush and one was a male Japanese Thrush.

Other birds on the way up included good numbers of Chestnut Bulbuls, Mountain Tailorbirds three or four Pygmy Wren Babblers and a couple of Brownish-flanked Bush Warblers. A couple of Mountain Bulbuls came to check us out just as we topped out before the Main Falls.

We had no luck with the Japanese Robin, but as the sun warmed up the valley a female Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher that appeared in a 'turn in the wind' tree provided superb compensation! It showed briefly a few times over the next ten minutes. Part-way through this period we were astonished to see that there were actually two of them chasing each other around!

I found my first ever Rufous-gorgeted Flycatcher in exactly the same place in February 1995 - the same winter I'd found the Japanese Robin. there have only been about 25 or 30 records in Hong Kong, and like Japanese Robin, Ng Tung Chai holds the lion's share of records. I believe these are my sixth and seventh birds from the valley.

The trouble with scoring big two visits in a row is that it creates the temptation to go back again - and the steep climb doesn't get any easier!



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As promised a post from a visit back in October this year with visiting birder Tim Boucher . . .

The visit started well for me with Scarlet Minivet calling and showing from the carpark and most of our highlights came below the temple - with both an immature/female Siberian Blue Robin and a wonderfully confiding Orange-headed Ground Thrush showing well in the trees to the right of the path on the top of the climb up to the temple.

The thrush was interesting as it made a call which initially sounded to me like a very angry cicada. Whether it was a cicada or the thrush itself that made the noise we never did work out, but when we edged over to take a look it stayed very close and then hopped up onto a perfectly curved twist of creeper to pose like a champion while we blazed away.

Other good birds included 4 Arctic Warblers, two Pale-legged/Sakhalin Leaf Warblers, a showy male Hainan Blue Flycatcher and half a dozen or so Mountain Tailorbirds.

We also enjoyed excellent close views of the Hong Kong/Guangdong endemic Hong Kong Cascade Frog, for which Ng Tung Chai is a prime site.



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Another visit to Ng Tung Chai delivered none of the fireworks of the last two visits, but there was still plenty of interest to justify the climb.

First up was a very grey fokiensis Goodson's Leaf Warbler nuthatching at eye level on the bend above the orchard (which despite being abandoned and desiccated still held a Black-winged Cuckooshrike which showed nicely in a cherry blossom tree.

There was a consistent background chattering and whistling of Chestnut Bulbuls almost all the way up and down, with a shyer and silent pair Mountain Bulbuls putting in an appearance in the landslide valley. The highlight was finding a good mixed flock comprising a few Blue-winged Minlas, a couple Cinereous Tits, a Yellow-cheeked Tit, Mountain and Long-tailed Tailorbirds an intermediately yellow-toned Goodson's Leaf Warbler and a half dozen Pallas's Leaf Warblers of different shades from drab to bright yellow, which would surely have repaid deeper investigation.

I also picked up single Brown-flanked Bush Warblers and finished with a flourish while watching a fruiting tree back near the village which attracted four different Grey-backed Thrushes and an inrushing and equally swiftly departing score of Striated Yuhinas. Other bits and pieces included a Crested Goshawk displaying with its white under tail coverts spread wide far out over the valley, a pair of Scarlet Minivets and small groups of both Silver-eared Mesias and Red-billed Leiothrix.



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As winter draws to a close here in Hong Kong I decided to go back to Kadoorie Farm. A female White-throated Rock Thrush had been recorded a few weeks earlier, and the Farm is the only place in HK where Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush winters with any regularity.

The Farm covers a couple of hundred hectares on a rather steep hillside crisscrossed by terraces and steep winding roads. The good news is that a shuttle bus runs all the way to the top a few times a day so I hopped on the first bus at 0940 and saved myself a 300+ metre climb. The first birds noted on getting out at the top were several calling Great Barbets. I never got near them, but it was good to hear their rather curlew-like call throughout the morning.

The first birds I saw were a couple Eastern Great Tits, Yellow-browed and Pallas's Warblers and my only second Red-flanked Bluetail of the winter above the Woo Pavilion. I also pished in a Brown-flanked Bush Warbler and heard another one's whip cracking song from a distant hillside.

The big advantage of birding Kadoorie Farm is that birds that you typically see in the treetops can often be seen at eye level because the hillsides are so steep. On the way back down the hill a Crested Serpent Eagle flew over calling and a feeding flock of some thirty Striated Yuhinas proved this to perfection - coming very close on the downhill side of the road and even (given the excellent views) allowing a couple of disappointing pix as they collected nesting material. The yuhinas are among the most consciously social babblers - chattering away to each other as they investigated the treetops and roadside shrubs, then bunching up tight before dashing off in another burst of noise.

The mistletoe on the higher branches of the same tree also played host to the first of several Buff-bellied Flowerpeckers. This bird was indeed a buff-bellied female, but why this bird is not named after the male, which has a distinctive large red spot on the breast and a broad black line extending down the belly from this spot that looks like a child's drawing of a red flower or a lollipop, I can only put down tho the fact that it was named by the same dullards who came up with Inornate Warbler. More interestingly it is one of the few species named for the distinctive feature of the female's plumage rather than the male's. Red-necked Phalarope is the only other that comes to mind at present, but there are certainly more.

There were a few more birds around the convent garden and the walk down the stream from there. These included a couple of Fork-tailed Sunbirds, a trio of Chestnut Bulbuls, a pair of Grey-chinned Minivets and best of all a very vocal female Orange-bellied Leabfbird washing in the stream. she had chosen a spot with a prominent branch and was much more interested in getting a wash than worrying about any danger I might have posed and allowed a very close approach. Other birds using the same spot to bathe included several each of Blue-winged Minla and Silver-eared Mesia, plus a couple of Rufous-capped Babblers. A couple of Mountain Tailorbirds in the same area completed the scoring for the day.



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Ahh, it looks nice compared to here in Liaoning! A light coat of freezing rain yesterday and were just about to leave the dry season and it might struggle up to just above freezing later this afternoon, so if the ice melts away making the footing safe, maybe I'll give it a try later. Maybe the weather yesterday will yield a few stop-over migrants.

Really enjoy the pictures with bright colored birds and luxuriant green foliage!
The contrasting birds and seasons is one of the things I love about BirdForum Owen - delighted to be the provider on this occasion!

Having been limited in the areas I could visit during my last visit to Kadoorie Farm (which i inadvertently posted in the wrong thread - here: https://www.birdforum.net/showpost.php?p=3798083&postcount=52. I was very happy that Hong Kong's first Fire-capped Tit had stayed the whole week single being found last Sunday afternoon when I could not go for it.

Given that Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden is set on a steep hillside and has a 300m altitude I was delighted to take the genteel option of a minibus up to the Ilex grove where the Fire-capped Tit has been eating its way through the blossoms on a flowering peach. It turns out that the Tit does not like the sound of the minibus so close to its tree, but after five minutes or so it reappeared in the top of its favoured tree to the crowd of thirty or so birders and photographers. From front-on it showed the same rather grey face and underparts as a Plain Flowerpecker, albeit with a hint of orange around the base of the bill, but the wings are a rather bright green with a couple of yellow wing bars. In short it was not an especially stunning bird.

Fire-capped Tit is an absolutely unexpected first record in Hong Kong, as it has not been recorded any closer than Wolong and Emei Shan in central Sichuan, and it is known as a short distance migrant in Ruili in far western Yunnan. The race that occurs in China is olivaceus, and this bird certainly seemed to fit , as the other races are more yellow on the underparts in all plumages.

Other birds here included the long-staying Striated Heron, lurking on the flamingo pond with a Little Egret, a Long-tailed Shrike that perched perfectly on a bamboo bean frame and a male Daurian Redstart in the same veggie patch as I arrived.



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Thanks Owen - Long-tailed Shrike is one of those species I struggle to get pleasing shots, so this was a nice bonus.

Here's a link to a YouTube clip of the Fire-capped Tit, with the atmospheric noise of the "firing squad" in the background:


Back at Ng Tung Chai for the first time since February in pursuit of a "self found" Rufous-faced Warbler during this exceptional winter of irruption. I had no luck with finding one, but I nonetheless enjoyed being back in the forest after so much fishpond birding at San Tin. As a result it was nice to have Rufous-capped Babblers, Blue-winged Minlas, a Red-billed Leiothrix and Mountain Tailorbirds responding well to my pishing and coming in really close. Two or three Asian Stubtails were less co-operative, calling from cover without ver showing, although three different Brown-flanked Bush Warblers were more than happy to show themselves. I was also pleased to get a rare view of two Hwameis in the low bamboo by the entrance to the open burial ground.

Despite careful checking none of the small parties of Pallas's Leaf Warblers held a Rufous-faced Warbler, or any other species for that matter, although I did see one Yellow-Browed Warbler and hear another. There were plenty of Chestnut Bulbuls and I heard both Lesser Shortwing and Pygmy Wren Babbler a couple of times as well as a distant group of gargling Grey Treepies, and a very distant Great Barbet, but my best heard only by far were the pair of Bay Woodpeckers giving their contact calls before not 20 metres away an unseen adult launched into the full piercing cackle which so often advertises their presence. This was a little frustrating as I'm yet to see one at Ng Tung Chai, or anywhere else in Lam Tsuen for that matter.

A fabulous turquoise blue male Verditer Flycatcher further lifted my spirits just before the lower falls, where I turned round and headed down through a disappointingly silent forest. A Red-flanked Bluetail coming up off the path was my second of the morning and had little else until a dark shape in a stream course below the path hopped onto a branch and in the second I got my bins on it flashed a hint of blue on the crown and shoulder before opening its tail to display two distinctive white patches either side of the central tail feathers, unequivocally identifying it as a pristine male White-Tailed Robin! To say I was delighted would be a huge understatement - there have been no more than 15 records in Hong Kong, and they're always elusive except when corrupted by mealworm-dangling photographers - and I have very limited interest in seeing birds that way. To find it on my old patch just added another layer of satisfaction to a wonderful find.

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I always enjoy the woodland (is there that habitat in HK?) birds. Congratulations on the robin, and a nice day despite some birds who are helping to keep you patient and persisting!
There’s loads of woodland in HK Gretchen; and this winter its heaving with good birds!

The top site - Tai Lam Country Park has had five Japanese Robins, two White-tailed Robins, Chestnut-bellied and White-throated Rock Thrushes, a Thick-billed Pigeon, numerous spectacled warblers, Fujian and Small Niltavas and its fair share of an excellent invasion of Rufous-faces Warblers, plus a showy pair of the ever wonderful Brown Wood Owl.

If there was ever a thing me to find an excuse to come to HK ... now is the time!

On Christmas morning I again headed up Ng Tung Chai with the intention of checking out the upper parts of the valley for Rufous-faced Warbler and some of the other potential goodies the site has held in the past.

I started well with a leucogenys Ashy Drongo calling loudly from the spindly top branch of a clump of bamboos and immediately hearing the first of many Chestnut Bulbuls in a loose mixed flock that seemed to follow me up the valley almost as far as the Lower Falls. Other good birds included 20-odd bleatingBlack Bulbuls, a small chattering group of Striated Yuhinas, a Black-winged Cuckooshrike, and four Grey Treepies that dropped down into a low spindly tree above the grave on King Cobra corner.I also had very close views of a pair of Black-throated Laughingthrushes, and four or five Mountain Bulbuls showed well enough for a photo.

Smaller birds included the usual suspects, as well as an unusually high count of eight Red-flanked Bluetails[/B,]a Verditer, a Goodson's Leaf Warbler among the dozen or so Pallas's Leaf Warblers seen on the day, but sadly there was no Rufous-faced Warbler amongst them..


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