Journal archives for January 2019

January 01, 2019

Year ending 2018

A Black-winged Cuckooshrike at the Chinese University campus (not a rarity, but a first for that location) on the last day of 2018 brought up my 500th observation on i-Naturalist, while the White-tailed Robin at Lung Fu Shan was my 50th bird species at this small but rich country park. So there are some excuses for celebrating the New Year with my first journal entry.
The White-tailed Robin was so tame as to look like an escaped cage bird, but it turned out to have been fed by some of the photographers surrounding it. Interestingly, it is already described as a 'confiding' bird, like European Robins (but unlike the skulking Rufous-tailed Robin). The HKBWS guide notes that there are a few records from HK every winter in suitable habitat. According to Craig Robson in 'Birds of Southeast Asia', White-tailed Robins also make local movements, presumably moving downhill and/or southwards from their breeding grounds in winter. Towards the eastern end of their breeding range there are some populations in northern Guangdong province which could be the source of our winter visitors. So this may well have been a wild bird -- at least until tamed by feeding. My main concern with such baiting is that a small bird which is a sitting duck for photographers is also a sitting duck for the ubiquitous feral cats, as well as natural predators such as the resident Crested Goshawks. It was sad to see the robin waiting still for its mealworms long after the photographers had moved on.
Also at the end of 2018 it was good to see Red-flanked Bluetails back in residence at Lung Fu Shan after a couple of mild winters in which they were scarce. Chestnut Bulbuls have also been more abundant than usual, reflecting an influx of winter visitors on top of the resident population in the New Territories.

Posted on January 01, 2019 02:50 AM by stephenmatthews stephenmatthews | 3 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 23, 2019

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 on January 23, 2019 07:17 AM by stephenmatthews stephenmatthews | 0 comments | Leave a comment