in the field -
a hong kong
a hong kong
The period between October 29th and November 4th saw the arrival of six different rare birds to Hong Kong as follows:
A 1st-winter female Black Redstart at Long Valley on October 29th.
Four Tundra Bean Goose and three Greater White-fronted Geese at Mai Po on October 31st.
A Rook at Mai Po/Lut Chau on November 1st.
A 1st-winter male Pallas’s Reed Bunting at Tai Sang Wai on November 3rd.
A female House Sparrow at Long Valley on November 4th & 5th.
I am not a great twitcher but as all of these species were within a half-hour drive of my apartment, and as I had some free time between the 5th and 7th, I dusted off my telephoto lens and headed out into the field.
My first stop on Sunday afternoon was to Tai Sang Wai and Lut Chau – fish pond areas just to the south of Mai Po. It was at the southern end of Mai Po that the Rook of the eastern race pastinator had been seen on November 1st; this was the first record for Hong Kong and it caused a stream of birders to visit the site in search of the bird throughout the 2nd. The Rook kept flying back and forth between trees on the reserve and the ponds at Lut Chau to feed. John Clough who had walked to see the Rook at Lut Chau had come across a Pallas’s Bunting at Tai Sang Wai. So I parked at Tai Sang Wai and walked through the fish ponds with the hope of seeing the bunting. I was in luck as it was hopping around on the track in the same area where it had been found. Later, at Lut Chau, I saw a dark crow perched on a pole about 300 metres away. I took a few shots and the magnified image on the camera screen helped me identify it as the Rook. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it later.
Pallas’s Reed Bunting breeds in central and eastern Siberia, Mongolia, China (Xinjiang, and possibly Inner Mongolia and Helionjiang), and winters in Korea and Eastern China south to Fujian. It was first recorded in Hong Kong in December 1991; this is the 16th record with 14 of those having been seen since 2006. It is not quite of annual occurrence.
Early on 6th I went to Long Valley to photograph the Black Redstart. The redstart was not around so I went to the nearby rice fields which had just been cropped. This was where the female House Sparrow had been seen on 4th and 5th. I soon found a sparrow perched on top of a banana plant with its back to me – but a male not a female! Two females were in the vicinity. This was another new Hong Kong bird for me as I had not made an effort to connect with any of the previous ones. After spending some time observing the sparrows, I returned to the location frequented by the Black Redstart and found several photographers on a bund watching the bird.
Nominate P.d.domesticus occurs east from Europe through Mongolia and northeast China to far eastern Russia. P. d. indicus occurs from the Middle East through South Asia east to Laos. P. d. bactrianus occurs in Iran, Kazakhstan, north west Pakistan and Xinjiang in China. Only the latter is said to be migratory (along with P.d. parkini which is found from Kashmir east to Sikkin).
House Sparrow was first admitted to Category I of the Hong Kong List in 2014 on the basis of a male and two females at Long Valley from November 3rd to 6th 2012. (A male at Mui Wo from December 27th to 30th 1994 was retained in Category III.) In 2015, there were two males at Mai Po on October 27th and a female at Long Valley on November 15th. One was on Po Toi on July 19th 2016. It isn’t clear which subspecies these recent records refer to.
The eastern race of Black Redstart rufiventris breeds south from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan east through the Himalayas to central China. In winter, it migrates southwest into southwest and south Asia. So whereas Pallas’s Reed Bunting and Rook that have turned up in Hong Kong can be seen as overshooting south of their usual wintering grounds, this Black Redstart has moved in the “wrong” direction. This is an example of “mirror-image migration” where young birds choose a correct bearing with regard to the north-south axis, but choose the wrong east-west side of that axis. Interestingly, however, the previous two records of rufiventris have both been in April – a 1st-summmer male at Tung Ping Chau on April 23rd 1995, and a 1st-winter female at Po Toi from April 5th to 11th 2011.
On the following day, I went out to Mai Po to photograph the geese (four Tundra Bean Geese and three Greater White-fronted Geese) that had been present on the scrape since 1st, and also to try and get closer to the Rook. Unfortunately, some of the geese had become more mobile and during the time I was there only three of the Tundra Bean Geese were on the scrape. I still managed to get some decent photographs of those that remained, and at Lut Chau I managed to obtain reasonable views of the Rook.
The Rook of the eastern race pastinator breeds in central Siberia, north Mongolia, southeast Russia, and central and northeast China, migrating south to Korea, south Japan and eastern China in winter. There are only a couple of historic records (early 1900s) from Guangdong (information courtesy of Richard Lewthwaite),
Tundra Bean Goose breeds in the northeast Siberian tundra, wintering in eastern China (mainly in the Yangtse river floodplain), Korea and Japan. This is the fourth record for Hong Kong, the first having occurred in January 2009.