Rhodoleias and bird waves at Tai Po Kau

Today saw one of my more successful forays into the woodland of Tai Po Kau. As Murphy's Law would have it, I was without a camera so this journal entry will have to take the place of photographs.
Tai Po Kau can be a frustrating place: it is perfectly possible to see no bird or animal life at all, especially if one makes the elementary mistake of following the Nature Trail.
There are two main solutions. One is to seek out flowering trees, which will usually attract nectar-feeding birds. In particular, the rhodoleia trees beside the stream on the Red Walk flower from January to March and largely depend on birds for their pollination. Today they were visited by Orange-bellied Leafbirds, Fork-tailed Sunbirds, Swinhoe's Whiteyes and Cinerous Tits. While leafbirds are primarily there for the nectar, one was observed to be consuming an insect (apparently with some difficulty: perhaps it was a bee which first had to be disarmed).
The other solution is to be lucky or patient enough to encounter a 'bird wave' or mixed feeding flock. This can happen anywhere on the Red Walk or along the shortcut connecting the Red Walk to the stream. A single flock today contained at least 9 species: Chestnut Bulbuls, Scarlet and Grey-chinned Minivets, Yellow-browed Warblers, Yellow-crested Tit, White-bellied Erpornis, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Huet's Fulvetta and a Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher. A second flock included several Indochinese Yuhina, Rufous-capped Babblers, Common and Mountain Tailorbirds as well as more Chestnut Bulbuls. Pleasing to report that there were many more Chestnut Bulbuls in the forest than red-whiskered or Chinese Bulbuls.
Many of these species have recolonized Hong Kong following the regrowth of secondary forests, with Tai Po Kau being the most mature such site. To some extent the resulting avifauna may be representative of Hong Kong before its historical deforestation.

As an afterthought, it is likely that I observed more species without a camera than I would have with one. These bird waves move fast, and by following individual birds to get a picture one can easily miss other species. A full checklist is at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S51953527

Posted by stephenmatthews stephenmatthews, January 23, 2019 07:17 AM


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