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San Tin Fishponds (and beyond), Hong Kong (1 Viewer)

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
After not getting round to posting last week's visit I'll post that first before updating on yesterday's hobble round San Tin.

Last week was all about the terns. 125 Whiskered Terns and a single White-winged Tern, which helpfully showed black botchers on the underwing coverts, offered a wonderful spectacle as they hunted low along the edges of a couple of accessible ponds, coming within a couple of metres in regular loops that allowed even the most hopeless of bird in flight photographers to get some nice results.

Another nice addition was a drained pond with a nice mix of waders that included 6 Red-necked Stints, 5 Long-toed Stints, 4 Marsh Sandpipers, a Curlew Sandpiper, Common Redshank and a patch first Dunlin along with the usual suspects. A solitary female Garganey also found the drain-down feeding opportunities to her liking. This pond also held my first Richard's Pipits and Stejneger's Stonechats of the autumn.

Other good birds included a second Himalayan Swiftlet over the same pond as the previous bird, an Eastern Marsh Harrier and a pair of Yellow-breasted Buntings flushed unexpectedly from the long grass near the Manchurian Reed Warbler pond. I also enjoyed the gathering of several hundred Great and Little Egrets making life miserable for the small fish , shrimp and other designs in the last dregs in a drained pond from which all the commercial sized fish had already been extracted.

On the way out past the flood alleviation pond I was pleased pick up a skulking Dark-sided Flycatcher and a calling Pale-legged Leaf Warbler in the surrounding hedge, the latter whose identity I was able to confirm with the attached sonogram showing it calling at 6000Hz, instead of the lower 4800-5000Hz of Sakhalin Leaf Warbler. I still need Sakhalin for my HK list, and the iPhoneX voice record function plus the super cheap SpectrumView app looks like providing a way to definitively prove that I've nailed it when I eventually do!

Cheers
Mike
 
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MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Ran out of time in posting pix for the above visit, so here they are. First up the Whiskered and White-winged Terns
 

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Love the tern shots with the buildings in the background Mike. Must have been tough to get the birds in focus but still have the buildings visible? I'm not a photography expert but don't you need a very high F stop to make that happen?
 

Gretchen

Well-known member
Love the tern shots with the buildings in the background Mike.

Agree! Buildings aren't a typical background, but an interesting way to reflect modern reality. Owen also had a nice heron posed in front of a high-rise, which stood out to me.
 

Owen Krout

Well-known member
Some really nice BIF shots there Mike! Tom is correct, that had to be a quite high F stop to get that depth of focus.
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Thanks Owen and Gretchen - I'm really pleased how the tern shots worked out. The setting was F5 with a 1/1000 shutter speed.

This autumn has been more about tracking the steady progression of migration than a rush of rarities. Saturday 3rd October started well when a Yellow-browed Warbler appeared in a tangle at the back of the San Tin flood alleviation pond. There's been a good passage of these in the woodland sites across Hong Kong, but here on hedge of the fishponds it felt like a real bonus. Also here were the first of three Arctic Warblers and the Pale-legged Leaf Warbler which called again at the statutory 6000Hz without showing well. I've attached a sonogram showing both of these. The Arctic Warbler's call is the long streaks and the Pale-legged Leaf Warbler the short dots right on 6,000Hz. The short even bars at 3000Hz is a reversing truck!

Out on the ponds a Purple Heron, a Striated Heron and three of four Yellow Bitterns were on the westernmost and most attractive pond - It has a fine row of mature trees down what was once a central bund, and a fringe of emergent grass which makes great feeding habitat for bitterns and young Chinese Pond Herons. I also managed a sneak shot of a noisy Pied Kingfisher that landed on an overhead wire where it thought it was safely invisible.

I was pleased to pick up my first Black-browed Reed Warblers of the autumn - five were scattered across the site - along with ten Oriental Reed Warblers, and Dusky Warblers had climbed to 18.

The waders continued the theme of slow transition, with 15 Avocets adding a wintry feel. A quartet of Marsh Sandpipersand single Red-necked and Temminck's Stints were the best of a diminished number and diversity of waders - owing to a lack of a good drained pond (I've attached a pic of what it looked like last week), although a second Garganey had joined the female from last week.

Cheers
Mike
 

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Owen Krout

Well-known member
Getting that kind of depth of field with F5 is interesting in itself. What kind of camera & lens are you using again? I know you have mentioned quite some time back, but not being a brand or model chauvinist I didn't pay enough attention to remember. It impresses me as being a processor along the lines of an iPhone, which tends to put everything in focus through fancy programing and a powerful processor, but in a traditional camera body as you can control settings and more importantly you can physically vary focal length of the lens.

All of that to satisfy my curiosity and to say that you've been getting some really good birding ID photos!
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Having tried and failed to get out the door early this morning and vegged all day at home instead I now have time to write up last weekend's trips to San Tin. Once again there were no major fireworks, but a steady supply of sparklers marking the arrival of passage and winter visitors was enough to keep the kids (well this kid) happy.

My weekly undeserved passerine migrant was another patch tick - an Eastern Crowned Warbler - in the same row of trees along the back of the flood alleviation pond. It only showed briefly from below, but the yellow lower mandible, strongly marked head and lemon-tinted undertail covers were enough to confirm its identity. An Asian Brown Flycatcher, an Arctic Warbler and a lurking Dusky Warbler added some extra interest, but more arresting was the giant yellow bulldozer clearing the invasive water hyacinth out of the pond, providing feeding for Chinese Pond Herons, Little Egrets, a couple of Black-winged Stilts and a Marsh Sandpiper.

As I came out a nice flock of five Chinese Blackbirds flew over from south of the village and landed in a tree right on the edge of the ponds. One of them - a black-billed young male - even had the good manners to drop onto the overhead wires where it posed nicely for a minute or so.

There were still a good 50-odd Whiskered Terns quartering the fishponds and loafing on preferred overhead wires in between, and an immature Purple Heron flew west towards Mai Po, but the quality bird of the day was a male Daurian Starling lurking in the top of the bog banyan in the middle of the site with four or five White-shouldered Starlings. The same tree held Arctic, Pale-legged Leaf and Yellow-browed Warblers, the latter giving a two note call I'd never heard before. I'd be interested to hear others' thoughts on whether it really is Yellow-browed.

A wander down the grassy bunds produced the briefest of views of a Siberian Rubythroat that flushed off the path and a little further on my first Chestnut-eared Bunting of the autumn posed long enough to enable me to confirm my initial impression. The pond where the Whiskered Terns posed so beautifully the week before held an elegant Spotted Redshank and a Common Snipe, which made an unusual pair as they eyed my suspiciously from the grassy verge. I was also rewarded by going all the way over to the far corner of the patch where I was delighted to find a Pheasant-tailed Jacana lurking in the emergent vegetation of the pond which held Baer's Pochard, Mandarin, Bittern and Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers in previous years.

On a better day for raptors I added an Osprey and a Eurasian Kestrel and as the dusk started to deepen a Japanese Sparrowhawk that zipped through the trees where 80-odd Red-turtle Doves and 150 White-shouldered Starlings had been setting down for the night with predictable carnage.

As I walked out I was surprised to see a flock of Whiskered Terns shoot by , twisting and turning in tight formation low over the surface of the water. I have never heard of let alone seen such behaviour, so I'd be interested to know if anyone else has experience of such behaviour.

Cheers
Mike
 

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MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
This week I'm stuck on the sofa rather than bashing round San Tin because one of my fire ant bites turned septic - three days after the bite! I picked these up in the same place I often get bitten, and yet still focus too much on the birding to pay attention. This is of course close to one of the ponds that most regularly delivers good birds, so I guess it's the price that has to be paid ...

Ona good day for harriers an Eastern Buzzard and both a female Eastern Marsh Harrier and what I thought was a Pied Harrier drifted over.

The latter was well-mannered enough to drop low enough for a fabulous view over the same pond which held the Pheasant-tailed Jacana that I think had stayed since last weekend. I was delighted to manage some rather distant video of it as it picked its way among the emergent vegetation on the far side of the pond. A rather scruffy young Chestnut Bittern flushed unexpectedly from the edge of the next-door pond and a couple of typically sulky Black-browed Reed Warblers called from deep in cover without ever offering to show themselves.

Prior to that five Sand Martins were hunting with some Barn Swallows over the now refilled pond that had held the Turnstones and various other waders, while Stejneger's Stonechats and Dusky Warblers were well and truly back for the winter.

The other nice birds appeared along the drainage ditch that holds several large invasive sonneratia trees and an old phragmites bed. I got no more then eyeball views of the Wryneck that popped out of the reeds onto the rail of the bridge before it flipped up into the sonneratia. An Oriental Reed Warbler - one of a dozen on-site - showed exactly long enough in the reed bed to not be photographed, but more positively first a single male and then ten more Eurasian Wigeon flew over and landed in the nature reserve and a glittering yellow male Black-naped Oriole, learning from the Oriental Reed Warbler, sidled away a split second before the focus lock engaged.

Apart from that the day was much as the previous visit, as the Whiskered Terns lingered and the good numbers of Egrets continued to occupy the site. I'm expecting the first Black-faced Spoonbills to turn up in the next week or two.

A bunch of Eurasian Tree Sparrows feeding on a seeding plant provided a better photo option that the usual piles of decomposing soy meal or stale bread.

Cheers
Mike
 

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Owen Krout

Well-known member
At least I don't have to contend with fire ants in the North-East of China! Snakes, mosquitoes and village dogs are mostly it up here. Take care of your battle wound so you can get back out there again soon.
 

etudiant

Well-known member
Seems like a law of nature, 'if the sqeeiters don't get you, then the gators will'.
Fire ants were not part of that analysis.
Get well soon!!
 

MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Thanks gents - no gators here - thankfully, and most fishpond dogs are not really an issue, but those evil little bar stewards more than make up for it!

Cheers
Mike
 
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