Obscene photosBefore moving on from the last of the winter birding I wanted to do a post on colour-ringed Black-faced Spoonbills at San Tin. One of the conservation success stories of the East Asian Australian Flyway, Black-faced Spoonbill numbers have climbed over 5,000 individuals for the first time in living memory. Hong Kong hosts a little over 6% of the wintering population and among these are birds ringed in various locations - both Hong Kong and elsewhere on the flyway. There is a register showing where each bird is ringed on the Black-faced Spoonbill Conservation Network website
Among the birds I saw in March were birds from Korea, Russia and Hong Kong. It's fun to try to figure out which bird you're looking at, especially when you don't the full combination of numbered and colour-ringed birds.
Pic 1 - The grey-ringed Russian bird at the back was ringed at a breeding colony on Furugelm Island which is the southernmost point of Far Eastern Russia, just off the border between Russia and North Korea sometime between 2006 and 20014. Unfortunately the number was not visible, so it not possible to be more precise. But it interests me for being from the northernmost known breeding colony.
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also Pic 1- The bird in breeding plumage front and left is one of five individuals ringed as chicks ( H 02, H 25, H 26, H 27, H 28) with the H numbered ring on the left leg and red over blue on the right leg. Unfortunately I could not see the lowest colour ring on the right leg. All of these birds were ringed in 2015 in Korea on one of three small islets on the west coast around the Demilitarised Zone. The website provides further interesting insights. H 02 was radio tracked for its first year, H26 was never reported subsequent to being ringed as a chick, H27, which has not been seen since 2016 (although this was in Hong Kong) and H 28 were siblings. So its most likely to be H 02, H 25 or H 28.
H02 was recorded beforehand after this date in Tai wan and is highly unlikely to have visited hong Kong in the interim
H 25 has no previous records from Hong Kong and not been seen closer than Zhejiang.
H 28 was reported at Tiaozini (part of the Yanchang wetlands) in Jiangsu on 1st April, so it would have had to travel 1300km in ten days. It has also previously been reported in Hong Kong in late March 2018, so it has some past form.
On the basis of all this info my money is on H28.
Pix 2 & 3 - A 43 with white yellow and green colour rings was ringed in Hong Kong. The earliest records are from November 2019. See link here
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I'll post more of these here from time to time.
Thanks TomInteresting bird indeed. Very special to be able to "get to know" a specific individual. All of my other photos of this one are by itself so unfortunately there's no more size comparison opportunities. It's so special to be able to know exact individuals to form such a clear link between wintering and breeding sites. Being able to record numbered leg flags on waders along the east coast of Liaoning and reporting them to the authorities (mostly in Australia and NZ) are some of my best memories from my time in Liaoning. Godwits, Knots, Tereks, etc...
Love this stuff! Thanks for posting and sharing.
Hi TomThanks Mike, I wasn't sure about what you meant regarding a pdf but just finished submitting T69 under the observation report section of that website. Was able to add a photo, etc.. and I believe it went through. I'm not sure how well known the small breeding site in Liaoning is as there were only 5-7 pairs nesting when I was there almost 10 years ago now. I know that the numbers feeding at low tide on the mainland adjacent to the breeding site were slowly rising so it may be that there were other islands in the area supporting nests as well. Anyway, thanks so much for posting your photos and the website links and it was great to hear that the numbers are slowly rising for this iconic bird of East Asia!
|The best single bird, and a San Tin patch tick to boot, was a male Yellow-browed Bunting I was surprised to flush from a grassy bund on 11 April. It was not keen to be seen and I was unfortunately not able to photograph it. However, in what has been an underwhelming winter for buntings this was a very good bird for San Tin.|
The same day I had the briefest of views of a long-staying and equally skulking Rosy Starling. San Tin is something of a hot spot for this rare winter visitor and I was relieved to catch up with this long-staying bird that never really delivered on the initial signs that it might adopt the full on breeding plumage. Even so it was still better looking than the scruffy juvenile I saw here back in 2018. Others did better than me - photographing the bird as it annoyed the local White-shouldered Starlings who were prospecting a nesting site in one of the power line fuse boxes they love so much. I did also enjoy the pair of White-cheeked Starlings - a rare breeder - dropping onto one of the fishponds for a drink.
Good passerines included a few lingering Red-throated Pipits, taivana, simillima, and a few macronyx Eastern Yellow Wagtails, most but not all of which were in their stunning breeding plumages and a rather slow trickle of Black-browed and Oriental Reed Warblers. A singing male Siberian Rubythroat added a brilliant splash of colour on the edge of a reedbed on 5th April.
|April heralds the main arrival of the cuckoos. The key wetland species is Indian Cuckoo, and I was fortunate to enjoy a couple of close fly-bys from a displaying bird, while Large Hawk Cuckoo was regularly heard in the distance, and a Plaintive Cuckoo was happy to be heard but not seen. This is also the month when Chinese Goshawk comes through, and a bird flying up from the banana trees along the drainage channel that runs north to south through the patch was a rare treat here.|
|A major feature of April is the wader passage that drops onto the drained ponds and feeds up for a few days before heading north. I was disappointed to miss out on the Pectoral Sandpiper that appeared a couple of times and spent more time lurking out of sight on the Lok Ma Chau reserve, and discovered, by dipping, that I still have not seen a Terek Sandpiper here. Nonetheless the draining of some of the ponds created more wader habitat than usual and it was a pleasure to see up to 100 Red-necked Stints, three or four Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, up to a dozen each of the ever-elegant Long-toed Stints, deeply russet Curlew Sandpipers, and Marsh Sandpipers, plus a scattering of Common Redshanks, Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers and the occasional lingering Green Sandpiper. Presiding from their stately height Black-winged Stilts will stay through the summer and breed nearby, but the occasional Avocets that linger into April will head north.|
Highlights amongst these include the fabulous flock of over 30 Oriental Pratincoles and almost 20 Pacific Golden Plovers that spent almost two weeks loafing on a small island of cracked mud that was yet to be turned by the farmer. I was also pleased to find a Common Snipe hunkered down on the mud in a way that was clearly less cryptic than it imagined. I always enjoy inland phalaropes, and the Red-necked Phalaropes puttering about among the other wader were typically confiding.