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

Hong Kong’s First- Pine Bunting

The Pine Bunting was spotted foraging on the remains of the harvested field as early as Nov.11! But due to its striking resemblance to the female Chestnut-eared bunting, no one took notice of it till someone posted a photo at the HK Birdwatching Society 3 days ago which caused a stir amongst avid birders! :-/

The very next day, I arrived at Long Valley even before daylight! I was soon joined by others and even “retired” avid birders, too woke up early for this HK’s first record! A cold, windy morning at Long Valley produced some quality birds which included the Rustic Bunting, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Yellow-browed bunting, etc! But the star bird only showed up in mid-morning! With so many chestnut-eared buntings hopping about, it was hard to ID without experts! Thankfully, with avid birders next to me, I could easily spot the difference! Here’s the Hong Kong’s first Pine Bunting. 🙂

HK first Pine Bunting landed in Long Valley.

HK first Pine Bunting landed in Long Valley.

yellow-browed bunting is a regular visitor!

yellow-browed bunting is a regular visitor!

yellow breasted bunting

yellow breasted bunting

Rails and Crakes at Long Valley, HK

Vegetated fields at Long Valley, Hong Kong, provide a superb habitat for any rails or crakes on migration. Lately, while we’re scoping hopelessly for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper in Mai Po, a rare bird alert was sent out by an avid birder, Allen Chan. Apparently he found a White-browed Crake, a second record for Hong Kong! Quickly, we gave up our hunt for Spoonie and made our way to see the crake! Amazingly, it was still there-after an hour walk out of Mai Po and drive to Long Valley!!

I assumed the crake just arrived as it was busy feasting on frog spawn, small fish and aquatic plants in the muddy field and hardly took notice of us. I was glad we got to see it as it stayed very hidden the next day on.. I felt sorry for those who didn’t get to see it.. :-/

white-browed crake, 2nd record in HK, 2014

white-browed crake, 2nd record in HK, 2014

Apart from the White-browed crake, a Slaty-breasted Rail and Ruddy-breasted Crake were seen earlier this year. It was an accidental find for me as I walked aimlessly in Long Valley in early morning and saw them both foraged on molluscs in the same vegetation field.

slaty-breasted rail in Long Valley, HK, 2014

slaty-breasted rail in Long Valley, HK, 2014

ruddy-breasted crake in Long Valley, HK, 2014

ruddy-breasted crake in Long Valley, HK, 2014

A Baillon’s crake was seen in a shallow water pond and even a wild Japanese Quail can be found in Long Valley too! There are a variety of vegetated ponds at Long Valley- in short, there is no shortage of food or accommodation for rails and its extended family! I’m keeping my fingers crossed to see another rail/ crake come by! Truly, nothing beats the feeling of seeing a rail or crake come out from its hiding habitat…

Eastern Baillon's crake in Long Valley, Nov 2013

Eastern Baillon’s crake in Long Valley, Nov 2013

 

Japanese Quail

Japanese Quail

The birds named after Peter Simon Pallas

A bunting recently made a rare appearance at Long Valley, Hong Kong. Its none other than the Pallas’s Reed Bunting. This bird can be found in China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Kazakhstan and indeed I’ve seen this bunting on almost every visit to China, but its certainly rare in Hong Kong and its appearance caused a stir amongst the birders and bird photographers here!

Pallas's bunting in HK

Pallas’s bunting

Having seen the Pallas’s Rosefinch in China 2 weeks ago (not my first but my memory could only date this far back on this bird!) and as I continue to frantically prepare my talk tonight at the HK Bird Watching Society about bird watching in Xinjiang, I realized I have another Pallas’s bird from Xinjiang- The Pallas’s Sandgrouse! And somewhere I thought, I’ve seen a Pallas’s Gull, luckily I didn’t have to dig too far for the photo of this gull taken in India!

Another bird named after Pallas

Another bird named after Pallas

Pallas's gull in West India

Pallas’s gull in West India taken in Jan 2013

As I go through the list of birds named after Pallas, the name Pallas’s Leaf Warbler does ring a bell! Luckily a good friend of mine, Victor (Faizai), reminded me that I have seen this warbler in 2011! :-/ My memory failed on me but certainly not on Victor! Quickly I looked into the database and sure enough I do have a Pallas’s Leaf Warbler! 🙂

Pallas's leaf warbler in Shek Kong, HK, 2011

Pallas’s leaf warbler in Shek Kong, HK, 2011

Peter Simon Pallas (22 September 1741 – 8 September 1811), a zoologist that explored Russia, Siberia, the Ural, Caspian Sea, Altai Mountains, etc., discovered a number of birds that eventually named after him! Now, to complete the “Pallas birds edition”, I’d have to find the remaining ones below! :-/ Has anyone completed the Pallas edition?

-Pallas’s fish eagle

-Pallas’s Cormorant

-Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler

Autumn buntings in Long Valley, Hong Kong

Long Valley-  an agricultural piece of land made up of cultivated fields and marshy ponds is probably the best site to see buntings, pipits and some freshwater waders such as Painted Snipes as well as crakes and rails.

The varied vegetation attracts buntings during autumn migration and is probably the easiest place to see the endangered Yellow Breasted Bunting.  Its a hard fact and sad truth but this bunting will soon be extinct within the decade if sanctions to stop illegal trapping in China and other parts of Asia fail. I really wished that on going programmes that help save this species from extinction will see light at end of tunnel soon.

yellow breasted bunting in Long Valley, HK

yellow breasted bunting in Long Valley, HK

Yellow breasted bunting can be seen in Long Valley during autumn migration..

Yellow breasted bunting can be seen in Long Valley during autumn migration..

Other buntings that can be seen here include- Crested bunting, Little bunting, Chestnut bunting, Chestnut-eared bunting, Brown-headed bunting, Black-headed bunting, Black-faced bunting, etc. Long valley is a haven for buntings- with crops harvested in November, they can be seen foraging on grounds in early morning!

black faced bunting

black faced bunting

From left- Little bunting, Black-headed bunting, Brown-headed bunting in Long Valley

From left- Little bunting, Black-headed bunting, Brown-headed bunting in Long Valley

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