More optimistically, you have to try. Perhaps a miracle will happen.That one must have had a case of it's eyes being bigger than what it could lift. It looks like whatever it briefly snagged almost rolled him completely over! Good flying skills to have recovered from that one!
|Long before the first good bird on arrival on the first day was a juvenile Grey-headed Lapwing lurking on one of the bunds that have been planted with papaya trees - a trick usually employed when the landlord is angling for compensation when land is bought out. These papaya trees have been welcomed by the resident Common and Crested Mynas, Black-necked Starlings and Tree Sparrows, as well as the Great, Little and Cattle Egrets and Chinese Pond Herons, all of which seem to appreciate the combination of shade and an elevated view. Lurking and swooping amongst them were the two or three of the 25 Black Drongos, the good numbers a reflection of migration in full swing, as were the impressive 165 Whiskered Terns adorning the wires, 12 Pale Martins, ten Stejneger's Stonechats and eight Eastern Yellow Wagtails. Part of the same movement, but lurking in the grass along the bunds a a half dozen each of grating Black-browed Reed Warblers and the heavier Oriental Reed Warblers.|
So nice that even in some of the most populated parts of China, some bits of nature remain.Thanks Jos and Tom - This is peak season right now, and its a pleasure (mostly anyway, and more of that in due course) to be out with the distinct possibility of finding some good birds.
Saturday 31st October felt so birdy I made two visits to San Tin with an excellent chicken tikka biryani lunch at Shek Kong in between. Partly this was inspired by successfully twitching Hong Kong's second Lapland Bunting at San Tin, which I've covered in my Hong Kong Birding thread, and partly by feeling that I had not done the site justice before heading out for lunch.
Walking though San Tin village I picked up a couple of Sooty-headed Bubuls - a bird I only see three or four times a year here - and a Grey Wagtail lurking on the edge of a pond next to the alleviation pond with a juvenile Black-winged Stilt. A small group of six or seven Whiskered Terns suggested that passage was mostly done for this autumn - and that I should have made more effort to find a White-winged amongst them. But with plenty of other birds about and an embarrassment of choice for things to do it never quite made it to the top of the list. Three ocularis White Wagtails, including this handsome bird, were on the main track with a scattering of taivana Eastern Yellow Wagtails and the usual resident leucopsis Amur Wagtails.
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I again headed across the drainage channel to the northeastern side of the site, picking up 20-odd Red Turtle Doves and a female Eurasian Kestrel on the way in. Shortly after crossing the bridge and turning right I picked up two Eastern Buzzards which hopefully will join the Kestrel in residence for the whole winter. I have had good success in this corner of the patch in past years and was pleased to score nicely with three Yellow-breasted Buntings, a Northern Skylark and best of all a Wryneck on the track that heads towards the gate by the Main Drainage Channel (MDC). Sharing the scrubby fringes and tall grass were 20-odd Dusky Warblers, eight Black-browed Reed Warblers and a solitary Oriental Reed Warbler. I also picked up a nice male Chestnut-eared Bunting and a single Little Bunting, plus a couple of Eurasian Wigeon and the Black-winged Kite that has been around for a few months.
A handsome brown-backed Eastern Marsh Harrier with black-tipped grey wings that had me wondering about Western Marsh Harrier, but my impression of the bird in the field was roundly contradicted by shots from another birder. Ho Hum. Heading out I dodged a less than friendly dog and scrambled under the gate and found an unexpected immature Purple Heron on the MDC next to a group of 42 Black-winged Stilts. I heard but did not see a noisy gang of Red-billed Blue Magpies before heading off for lunch.
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On my return I got dropped off right by the MDC gate, scuttled underneath and after pishing in a couple of Dusky Warblers and Black-browed Reed Warblers at the nearest corner thought it would be a good idea to go right round the Baer's Pochard Pond despite the bunds being covered by 6-foot hight grass with an 18-inch understory of dead grass. It was hard going but just about passable although not really productive - with just a couple of Stejneger's Stonechats, a Dusky Warbler and an immature Purple Heron being my scant reward for a ten minute bash where each step either got caught or required a weird sort of goose step to make progress.
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I knew from previous visits the bund had been cut with a six foot wide channel right at the far end, and believed I could cross it with dry feet by edging down one side of the bund. 0.4 seconds later I was lying face down with my feet above my head staring up at the grass-fringed sky with a few hundred grass seeds sticking to the suntan lotion all over my arms and face. It got better. Righting myself, my next step onto what I thought was dry ground put me in water up to my waist. With my phone now underwater I had to act fast and, determined not to go backwards, I lurched across the channel and dragged myself up through the equally tall grass on other side, having dunked the camera bag, my bins and myself up to the shoulders!
Finally back on level, Fire Ant-free ground I set about figuring out the damage and how on earth to dry myself and my kit. While the bins and phone were water resistant enough to survive, my five year old Sony RX10iii was not, and succumbed instantly. I also lost my water flask, and Kindle, and my wallet was a delightfully soggy mess. There was some compensation. While I stood there dripping a Lesser Coucal flew past me, perched photogenically in the grass on the other side of the channel that had just claimed me, and laughed at me. Despite the carnage my inner birder took over - it was a patch tick after all! - and I enjoyed great looks at the fine white pinstripes in the beautiful chestnut head breast and upperparts that readily identifies young birds from the larger Greater Coucal. It was only then, with my pockets hanging out to dry like elephant ears, that the Fire Ants struck; the little buggers getting a bite on each leg, while I only just in time got to one that had crawled all the way up my trouser leg and was on the verge of sinking its jaws into my stomach!
It did get better after that. I was too wet to get into a car or bus and decided to carry on birding in the hope that I would dry out a little, and decided to properly cover the parts of the patch which I hadn't yet reached in the last couple of hours before dark. My diligence was rewarded with a female Black-faced Bunting keeping company with a fine Yellow-breasted Bunting. Two Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers popped out of different tangles and a newly arrived flock of 70 Red Turtle Doves, plus a Peregrine that I was surprised ignored them, an Osprey, a Japanese Sparrowhawk that zipped through, terrorising the mixed flocks of Black-collared, Silky and White-shouldered Starlings that were gathering to roost. A big tree at the top end held a couple of Oriental Magpies and a flock of 60-odd White-cheeked Starlings. A Richard's Pipit flushed silently from a grassy bund and two Red-throated Pipits went over calling.
With the light starting to fade I was searching the skies for the Amur Falcons I hoped would drop in to roost, but I instead picked out a high and tight group of eight Black-faced Spoonbills just as they started their descent towards Mai Po - my first of the winter. Migration is always exciting, but even more so when you get to see it in action. These were clearly newly arriving migrants from either Korea or Tom's old stomping grounds on the Liaoning peninsula.
Back at ground level the furthest bund started producing buntings. First up were a couple of Yellow-breasted Buntings, then a smallish female Chestnut-eared Bunting that had enough of an eyering and gave brief enough views to have me dreaming of Grey-necked and Ortolans.
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A second Chestnut-eared Bunting then flew, and with it a small, slim, pale and long-tailed bunting that immediately had me interested, and eventually revealed itself to be a spanking winter-plumaged male Pallas's Reed Bunting. It still had some of the dark hood, nicely set off by lovely pale underparts and nuchal collar, with a washed out black patch on the chin and throat and a fine suit of black streaks on the back. It clearly had full knowledge that my camera was trashed, and perched beautifully on a grass stem just a few metres away, giving absolutely stunning views - and fully justifying my decision to carry on birding. I was delighted to record five species of buntings at San Tin in a day, and with the Lapland Bunting at Long Valley making a sixth I had more than enough great birding to soften the blow of trashing the camera.
Happy to let you know that there is some recent good news about the Deep Bay fishponds from Hong Kong's most recent Policy Address etudiant.So nice that even in some of the most populated parts of China, some bits of nature remain.
Just hope that TPTB recognize the treasures that are at their door.
China would be a lot happier if people spent their money to to look at their natural wonders instead of buying flats in an empty city.