Shing Mun/ Lead Mine Pass Winter of 2011

Shing Mun/ Lead Mine Pass Winter of 2011

29th December 2

It was the second Chestnut-flanked white-eye that I was satisfied beyond doubt that I saw one, the first one being paler flanked and the second of the same species had a larger frontal portion, a common feature among this kind of birds. It was a real windfall that amongst the birdwave consisting mainly of Pallas's and Yellow-browed warlbers and Japanese white-eyes that I found a warbler quite different. In two positions I managed to note that it was larger than the rest, complete pale lower mandible, a rather thin whitish greater-covert wing-bar, an generally unmarked crown and rest of upperparts which I identified as a Greenish warbler. A third Ashy drongo was first seen in this bird-wave some two-minute walk below Picnic site No. 9.

It is still maintained here that for cold days the Shing Mun part is better than places of higher altitude at Lead Mine Pass. Under this belief I returned to find a nice male Buff-breasted flowerpecker near the junction with the road branching off up to the big secondary forest of the reservoir. Earlier on there were two Grey-headed flycatchers in a medium-sized flock of mixed birds here.

From memory I recall seeing first a female Verditer flycatcher and then two Ashy drongos near the road barrier with the latter two refusing to call me good morning for being absent on my part from the expected regular Monday trip.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 29/12/2011 20:46 ]


3rd January 2012

It is strongly suggested a birder should try to begin around seven fifteen in the morning by strolling along the catchment area until the road bends to the left in the next two weeks at the very least. I have for more than twice witnessed that bird waves started to appear from below Shing Mun under present winter weather condition. I adhered to this new found rule and was not disappointed.

First there were the calls of the minivets which proved to be all Scarlets,three in total, closely mixed with those of Yellow-cheeked tits, again several totally. Two Ashy drongos of both subspecies found in Hong Kong were easy to locate. I was given a first-rate opportunity to compare them when they perched adjecent to each other. The palerleucogenis, when looking straight in the front had the forecrown, bill and chin coloured black that contrasted interestingly with its pale faces, suggesting it wearing a pair of frameless pair of glasses, with the connecting centre solid black. Where the throat met with the breast it looks paler than the rest of the underbody which was mainly medium grey. In companion the salangensis was all dark grey, underbody a shade or two paler than the rest of the body. Their typical call was confirmed being three-noted, but in form of English sound transcription it became atp..ip,ip (slightly modified from previously), first note loud rising a bit in pitch and flatten in the last two, loudness less in volume too.

I lingered on at the area in order to check Mr Hui's bird, who was nearby saying it being a Verditer flycatcher. I was able to confirm the bird was a female Verditer. A long missing species in the form of a Black-winged cuckoo shrike was also present.

A second bird wave was met near the second butterfly garden, the best bird being an active Grey-headed flycatcher. Picnic site No. 9 on Lead Mine Pass was found quiet again, and on my return it was behind the public toilet near Picnic site No. 6 a secondVerditer flycatcher was found, this time a male. The situation today was found to be unfavourable to identification of leaf warblers. I left Shing Mun empty-handed with good ones of this genus.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 3/01/2012 21:31 ]


10th Jan 2011

Field learnig is an ever progressing process one never knows where and when it ends. Two dark birds just smaller than a spotted dove flew and lurched to a distance of about thirty metres, dark upper-winged as well as lower-winged, manner of flight quite like the latter as well. Having seen a Black-winged cuckoo-shrike in the tree where the two birds took flight, I followed them in the hope to confirm if they were indeed cuckoo-shrikes. The answer was found to be an affirmative.

An Ashy drongo was heard on my left and one near the two cuckoo-shrikes was seen, calling like usual. The third of the trio - the Verditer flycatcher seen with the first two species last time - was missing, leaving a gap in the fulfillment of my expectation.

It was near the second butterfly garden that I found my morning's Grey-headed flycatcher, probably two, - calling in rapid single notes, not its four-note form on sunny warm days. It was again a Verditer which appeared like last time. Some a dozen of Pallas's leaf warblers which flitted and hovered on a flowering tree for pollen, revealing their yellowish rumps, flatted headed, yellowed wing-barred, sharp and quite darked billed.

A second Verditer and third Ashy drongo was found at Pinic site no. 7 where I intended to see my first Turdus thrush of the winter. Thrushes were heard but instead I saw my first Oriental turtle dove of Shing Mun ever which I was able to compare with its walking companion - a Spotted dove. Though just two inches longer, the Oriental one looked somewhat a third larger in size. On the ground I counted at least ten OBPs, the largest flock ever this winter.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 11/01/2012 20:55 ]


17th January 2012

Being completely free to choose whatever weekday for Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass at the moment, I went on the ground of the morning promising with sunlight which turned out to be the case in plenty.

Minivets were already calling by the time I got my binoculars hanging properly and notebook and ballpen in their respective pant side-pocket. I was in such good mood for bird calls that I started to transcribe
in common-English phonics hopefully to be easily understandable.

First of all, there was a Yellow-browed leaf warbler whose call was like 'di-vee', a two-note call which seemed not separalbe by the ear, crisp and fairly high-pitched. Then there were Silver-eared mesiaswhich utter two-note calls somewhat like 'vi-vee', a bit prolonging and rising in tone for each note. The Magpie robin was heard with a low-pitched prolonged 'driee(t)', a Pallas's leaf warbler with its 'chuit', low-pithced and ended abruptly, a Blue magpie with its loud aggressive chungh, chungh, chungh, chungh similar to that of a Magpie which was thought softer. Last of all there was the call of the Chestnut bulbul's four-note 'dee-do, do-dee', first two in falling and second in rising tone(四川台慶). Finally, there was the first of winter Crested serpent eagle whose four-note call was somewhat like 'wu-wa, wu-wa'. Others not yet presentable were omitted.

The first-winter male Black-naped monarch was seen again with its feeding associates of bulbuls, babblers, warblers and White-eyes. Three Ashy-drongos were again recorded along the catchment area, one heard and two of both races seen, but no sign of Black-winged cuckoo shrikes and Verditers, possibly gone with the flock of minivets on the downhill side of Shing Mun.

With the thought of the morning being just passable, I went past the road bridge beyond Picnic site No. 6 and about 100 metres before the road branched off to Picnic site No. 7 on the right, I saw a single  warbler whose tiny size caught my attention. To my surprise, it was pale-rufous of face and yellow on the breast, flitting and feeding on low-stroey level above a flat granite-slab walled slope two-metre high - my second Rufous-faced warbler seen in Hong Kong - automatically voted the best of 2011-2012 winter of Shing Mun, changeable on the condition of the discovery of a Hong Kong first.

The last reward was a two-barred Greenish warbler seen on the road bridge above Picnic Site No. 7- stout bill for a leaf warbler, heavy looking, dark on the upper and entirely pale on the lower of the mandibles, tertials absent of pale fringes and legs being dull pinkish to dark grey according to brightness of sunlight, direct or in the shade.

S L Tai

NB Apology for wrong typing of punctuation keys which was impossible to rectify with my poor computer skills

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 17/01/2012 22:09 ]


27th January 2012

The first bird that met my eyes at 7:15 am was a White-wagtail that parked itself briefly on the spot where the minibus taking me to Shing Mun had departed. Habitually I noted its call and upperbody and head for any interesting features. None came forth, except once again confirming my notion that White wagtails' calls are in general coarser and lower-pitched in comparison with Grey wagtails nearby whose's call was crisper. White wagtails could be anywhere but Greys are chiefly confined to the catchment area or stream heads as regards Shing Mun.

The next morning feature was to see that Black-eared kites, which took advantage of the morning air turning warmer, appeared from what I supposed to be their night quarters, today in groups of five and six respectively, gliding towards north with occasional shallow flapping of wings just to keep afloat, to start its daily foraging for food. The principle of areoflow -heading into the wind to maximize uplift -was fully utilized by them.

Predicatably, the Minivets, virtuallyGrey-throated, appeared near me and the Verditer flycatcher was again seen. Similarly, one of the Ashy drongos -the dark face- was present. A group of photographers all carrying 600 mm lenses mounted on human-high tripods were waiting for a Grey-headed flycatcher seen not long ago. I stayed with them just long enough that the bird had headed uphill and left them, confident that I would at least find one further way. Experience was valuable in my case, and I was rewareded with one seen and one heard.

The weather was not in my favour, cloudy and hazy uphill all morning. At Pinic site No. 12 after I had counted four OBPs I returned. When I stepped down to the first butterfly garden I was delighted to see Sharp-tailed Munias, about eight of them, which had been absent from my Shing Mun list for at least six months, or more.

S L Tai

Postscript:Bird watching without feeling is bird watching with a technical heart.

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 28/01/2012 21:03 ]


1st February 2012

Forest birds are fascinating, based on the fact that their ancestors came first from forests and not from marshes, grassland, deserts, or any other land systems and therefore more diversified.

Wintering Grey wagtails stayed at waterways along forest edges. A lot of kingfishers do the same. And owls are no exceptions.

The morning started with the singing of a Yellow-cheeked tit - kwai, see, see, kwai and repeated - quite accurate if one can whistle the notes out, and was heard throughout the morning. The pair of Ashy drongos at the catchment was seen together again, affording me yet another chance to compare their colouration. I have to work hard, for one never knows when will I get the opportunity again. A pair of Verditer flycatchers, though regularly seen, were absent this morning, but were seen at the far side of the catchment in yesterday afternoon, according to Mr Hui, an AFCD official working at Shing Mun.

The weather looked right, bright from the start and just slightest kind of wind, but warblers were hard to come by which meant that though I met them at the right place again with two Grey flycatchers, the rarer
kinds were missing and I failed to claim a Greenish for failing to see it well before it flew out of sight. The usual kinds, both the Yellow browed and Pallas's were seen when chance arose, but hardly a good compensation.

With some sense of loss, I set foot to return but stopped when I heard an owl calling - blowing wind-like of quick 'who, who, who.....'. I waited until it called again to be certain that it was an Asian barred owlet, an owl which calls at daytime.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 6/02/2012 18:22 ]


6th February 2012

A struggle between sleepiness and keeping Shing Mun visits regular had me settled upon beginning my
bird watching a total of an hour late at eight twenty. At the start, no more Black-eared kites were seeen flying north, and minivets were already making their nosiy calls, ready to venture further uphill. Anyhow, I was just in time to get, among a lot of bulbuls, a Verditer flycatcher which, with spread wings, making a typical almost vertical somersault-like sally, flashing a split-second of its unique kind of blue and disappeared to be seen no more.

A stroll in search of Ashy drongos turned out to be futile, believing to be already again turning towards upper slopes. When I descended from the longest slope of Shing Mun, a bird flying rapidly towards me about fifteen feet above ground - manner of flight powerful and straight. I managed to get hold that it had a brown head and blue back and forewings. With the help of its size and the place just above the reservoir, I deemed to judge it to be a White-breasted kingfiher, a bird which I hadn't seen around for over five years. With further expectation, I turned my eyes towards the lower slope towards the waters. Just below me there was a half-wet Little green heron perching on a small mud-kind of outcrop, which remained there when I returned.

I stopped to go no further when I arrived at the place just before the road branched off to the right to Picnic Site No. 7. No birds that interested me were seen. But when I got past the part of the slope that reached a stream at the bottom, I found the Grey-headed flycatcher of this part of the Country Park which kept me lingering on for more than twenty minutes, hoping to find me 'good' warblers.

With a glimpse of a Black-eared kite carrying a thin wood branch in its bill heralding spring mating season being near, my winter reports would end this week, also to keep in line with the Chinese calendar which annouced the start of spring (立春)last Saturday.

S L Tai