Sharp island, Sai Kung

There were more than 50 bird photographers at the Sai Kung pier today.. Intrigued by what they were after, I was very soon “informed” that they were waiting for the White- bellied Sea Eagle. I remembered when I was a newbie in birding years ago, Sai Kung was the place to go! At dusk, black kites would fish around the pier for thrown away fish scraps by fishermen. There’s also a pair of white-bellied sea eagles residing on the islands near the pier too! Recently, there was a Frigate bird spotted at the pier that caused a stir.

But I  don’t have my gear or bins with me this time! So…what was I doing at Sai Kung pier then? 😛 During summer when there is nothing flapping around in the air, I would visit the ones flapping down under.. Yes, flapping fins! 😛 At the pier, we boarded the diving boat and headed off to Sharp Island.  Despite HK waters has poor visibility, the variety of sea critters can be surprisingly overwhelming on a gd day!

Here’s a short video of what I saw on my latest dive (taken by my GoPro cam).

night dive at Sharp Island, HK

“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust.

Nature comes in all forms, really dun have to travel far to discover them!

Greater Painted-snipe in HK

The Greater Painted-snipe has always been one of my favorite birds.. The reason is simple- the female is much more colorful than the male! Its no wonder the female who courts the duller colored looking male is polyandrous, leaving the male to look after its chicks! *cough*

The Greater Painted-snipe breeds in HK, and they’re not hard to see esp. in the Mai Po Nature Reserve at hide #3 during breeding season. Once the chicks are out, the father parades them proudly across open reed beds, onlookers like me are just as excited! It would be nice to see the entire family together, but the female is always AWOL after eggs are laid! The doting male will incubate the eggs and care for the chicks as the female leaves to mate with a different male. :-/ So its impossible to have a family portrait of the Greater Painted-snipe..

The female is much prettier, agree?

The female is much prettier, agree?

Male is less gaudy looking.

Male is less gaudy looking.

Proud father and its chicks! But mummy has gone AWOL!

Proud father and its chicks! But mummy has gone AWOL!

Birding at Tai Tong Country Park

In early Spring (Jan-Feb), Tai Tong Country Park often yields quality birds! Many times, I have taken overseas birders and photographers to this area birding! But because its also a hiking hotspot and family picnic area, I often arrive before 8am to avoid human traffic! After all, the early bird gets the worm. 😛

Tai Tong Country Park area for birding

Tai Tong Country Park area for birding

BBQ area at Tai Tong

BBQ area at Tai Tong

At the slopes of  BBQ area, thrushes will not be missed! Grey-backed thrush, White’s thrush, Japanese & Pale thrush are not rare here. It almost seems like a thrush haven! Occasionally, eye-browed thrush and orange-headed thrush can be seen too. Other birds foraging at the BBQ area are Olive-backed Pipit, Red-Flanked Bluetail, etc.

grey-backed thrushes seen along the slopes at BBQ area

grey-backed thrushes seen along the slopes at BBQ area

pale thrush at Tai Tong

pale thrush at Tai Tong

White's thrush

White’s thrushes almost everywhere, if you can spot them!

As you walked up to the red leaves area (in the map) from the BBQ area, you maybe in for some nice surprises! Rufous-tailed Robin, Siberian Rubythroat are not rare in HK, and this is a gd area to spot them!

rufous tailed robin seen uphill away from BBQ area

rufous tailed robin seen uphill away from BBQ area

Tai Tong Country Park never fails to amaze me. I have seen Black Bulbuls, Rufous-Gorgeted Flycatcher and lately, over 100+ hair-crested Drongos at close distance with overseas birders and birding friends!

black bulbul at tai Tong

black bulbul at tai Tong

rufous-gorgeted flycatcher- an early spring passage bird in HK

rufous-gorgeted flycatcher- an early spring passage bird in HK

100+ hair-crested drongos seen this early spring

100+ hair-crested drongos seen this early spring

Getting to this place is possible even without a car! But it would require a 30min walk uphill from the Tai Tong bus stop. Ofcoz along the way, you’ll see lots of large-billed crows! *cough* By public transport- take the Light rail transport to Long Ping Estate and take the bus K66 to Tai Tong!

HK Bird Market- Lets shut it down!

Its been a while since I last visited Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. My last visit as I recalled were just stores mainly selling parrots and “prayer birds” for release such as Japanese White-eyes, Munias and Finches, etc.

Yesterday, a visit to the bird garden exhibited more species for sale than I initially expected. An overwhelming 30 species of birds cramped in very small cages, many of which I couldn’t ID but some of which I could included:

Mongolian Lark

Hwamei

Chestnut-backed Thrush

Pied Bushchat

Orange-bellied Leafbird

Golden-fronted Leafbird

Siberian Rubythroat

Magpie Robin

Bluethroats

Chinese blue flycatcher

Hill Blue Flycatcher

Common Starling

Mugimaki Flycatcher

Black Crested Bulbul

Orange-headed Thrush

Hill Myna

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

 

Top- Mugimaki Flycatchers Bottom- Common Starlings

Top- Mugimaki Flycatchers
Bottom- Common Starlings

Left- Hainan Blue flycatcher for sale at HKD550, Right- 2 Mongolian larks in a small cage with poor feather condition.

Left- Hainan Blue flycatcher for sale at HKD550, Right- 2 Mongolian larks in a small cage with poor feather condition.

Chinese blue flycatcher looking miserable!

 

Birds big and small get the same small cage

Birds big and small get the same small cage

It’s a miserly sight and very heartbreaking to see and definitely questions why Hong Kong resounding status as a World Class City still allows bird trade to exist and that HK law on Wild Animals Protection Ordinance (Cap. 170) does not prohibit the importation and sale of wild birds, and even more so, the HK Tourist Board promotes it as a HK highlight! :-/

Only a small percentage of birds survived the ordeal of trapping and logistics to get to where they are now and even so, many were clearly distressed and in poor condition. It does make one wonder how many died to get one bird on display in the small cage. While Birdlife , CITES and NGOs around the world work to combat the threats resulting from wild bird trade…HK, being a world class city should step up and mirror European Union Ban on wild bird trade/import.

While some old Chinese hobbies should be nurtured, this is clearly NOT one of them! Dear HK, please let’s just shut this bird market.

 

 

 

Amur Falcon isn’t a myth in HK!

During migrating season, I’d often get messages about rare sightings of Amur Falcon sometime, somewhere in Hong Kong! But even getting to the site immediately to see the bird is almost mission impossible- after all, this little raptor surge is fast and furious and unpredictable! Its a myth to me and many birders too who heard lots of stories about Amur Falcon’s appearance but never got to see it in HK! To see an Amur Falcon in Hong Kong is all about chance and luck!

Lately, there were news about an Amur Falcon swooping around Long Valley and never would I thought I’d get to see it in HK! While I was waiting for the Pine Bunting, a small raptor surged in the sky; quickly someone identified it as an Amur Falcon! Despite my eyes were glued to my bins, I lost sight of it- it had already landed on a wire a few hundred meters away from me! Quickly, I grabbed my gear and sprinted as fast as I could to where the raptor landed and snapped a couple of shots before it took off!  It’s plumage looked pretty fresh to me- a juvenile I think! 🙂

It was a pretty intense moment for me- not that I’ve not seen an Amur Falcon before, but to me, Amur Falcon is no longer a myth in HK! 🙂

Amur Falcon in Long Valley, Nov. 2014

Amur Falcon in Long Valley, Nov. 2014