Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass in Spring, 2012

Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass in Spring, 2012

13th Feb, 2012

The day started and ended as usual.

As the Ashy drongos fell silent, I went to visit them and found one -the one with a dark face- perching on a bare tree. Since the minivets had already started their morning round, I proceeded along the road until I arrived at the second butterfly garden. The Grey-headed flycatcher there uttered its four-note calls only once for a while, rest of time just bursts of flycatchers' calls, similar but weaker than Black-naped
Monarchs and Paradise flycatchers found in Hong Kong. Anyhow, I managed to see one clearly, for the days were numbered that its kind would stay.

It was the day's only Verditer flycatcher that posed me some trouble of identification. When I first found her - its sex was only ascertained later at home - it was perched in such position and light condition that it looked like a smallish Black-winged cuckooshrike until I got hold of its beak and tail shape . I lost sight of it with my mind puzzled. I got on searching other birds, especially the male Mugimaki flycather which was photographed here about a week ago. The effort on the Mugimaki proved futile but I located the Verditer flycatcher again which I was able to get a glimpse of its pale blue lower back and rump and underbody all greyish down to the undertail.

Early spring from my experience is a time when winter visitors start to leave and forest migrants are
yet to come. It was no surprise therefore that the last bird that I recorded was a local Crested serpent eagle which was heard more and more regularly. But mind you, I am now able to differentiate a male Scarlet minivet from a Grey-headed by looking at their folded wing patterns alone.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 13/02/2012 21:48 ]


19th February 2012

The cold spell and overcast together with the time period being the last third of February all rendered
the morning one of the least productive. The birds were less vociferous than usual, with the exception
of the Asian barred-owlets in the area which were heard thrice from two individuals.

Wintering birds were minimal, just the commonest leaf warblers, the OBP, and the pale-faced member of the
two Ashy drongos all seen previously along the catchment at right angle with the road barrier gate.

No flycatchers were seen, alone or together with a birdwave. Not a call from a Grey-headed flycatcher
was noted, although I was comforted with the sighting of a White-bellied yuhina which was not seen for a long while.

The incoming of spring time was becoming stronger, again a Black-eared kite was seen carrying nest-building dry twigs and a male Scarlet minivet flying and calling alone, away from its usual companions of Grey-throated minivets.

S L Tai


This morning, on the walk from the catchwater to the arboretum, saw 6 verditer flycatchers in very separate locations...
Unfortunately, not much else worth mentionning.


1st March 2012

It was quite unexpected that a delay of more than an hour of starting my routine trip (8:45 instead of 7:20) resulted in nothing much of a change in the number and variety of birds seen.

The Grey wagtails - two of them developing at different rates of widening pale fringes on its tertails and an inverted whitish triangular patch at topmost greater coverts - were already individuals I could tell from one another by their, albiet changing coloration, different plumage. They were largely quiet and less active than previous months. The two Ashy drongos at the Catchment area, the white-faced and black-faced, were seen together again, joined by three Scarlet minivets.

At the ninth hour of the morning the  bulbuls were extraordinarily active, making their calls the dominant sounds of the forest, punctured here and there by the more pleasing ones of a Fort-tailed sunbird.
It was when I returned from Picnic site no. 7 empty-handed there that I met my morning's only small sized birdwave, in which I found two lovely White-bellied yuhinas and a Grey-headed flycatcher. While the former were heard when not seen, the latter was only heard of its four-note call once.

I finished without hearing any owls making their daytime calls. Possibly the mature Asian barred owlets had already paired and were preparing for their mating or egg laying businesses .

S L Tai

NB Six Verditer flycatchers seen at Shing Mun and lower Lead Mine Pass might be a reusult of a concentration of local wintering birds plus possibly south arriving ones. This morning, a separation of four days resulted in seeing none. A reasonable guess is that they had already left the place heading north back to their breeding ground.

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 1/03/2012 20:35 ]


5th March 2012

The spring scene of the Hong Kong forests in early March has changed quite a lot for the birdwatcher who does not count the number of birds he or she thinks good alone. The bulbuls still dominated the forest with their calls, with monotony broken noticeably by that of the Fort-tailed sunbirds, and this morning joined also by minivets and Scarlet-backed flowerpeckers, the latter's shrill ending easily mixed up with the completely changed tone of Pallas's leaf warblers . Wintering birds remained silent with the exception of Yellow-browed leaf warblers and no Grey-headed flycatcher was heard.

But surprises laid in wait. First there were the ten Greater neacklaced laughing thrushes which flew across the forest road, the first lot given up for chasing after them often found to be disappointing. I turned my attention to the following group which I found one clearly seen, absent during the autumn and winter seasons of the Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass area.

Earlier on I found in a small bird wave the pair of Ashy drongos again with unexpectedly two Black-winged cuckoo-shrikes in the same patch of tress bordering a lawn near the road barrier gate, but no Verditer flycatcher found. I added one respective of each of the two species at upper levels.

It was on my return from two hundred paces higher than the Lead Mine Pass/Way to the Arboretum junction
that I found my target species of the trip near Picnic Site No. 8 - two Red-headed or Black-throated tits, long-tailed but slenderer and smaller than Great tits.  

The weather was rather warm and heavily humid and I got a mosquito bite, all signs pointing to the spring migration of forest birds reaching Hong Kong not far away in time.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 5/03/2012 20:59 ]


16th March 2012

The weather is always a crucial factor that decides whether birds are easily found. The time is honestly
not in my favour, being near but not quite in the main period of migration of forest birds. The outcome was consequently quite accurately reflected with what I saw.

I started late at 8:55 am with a warm, wet and misty environ. As the time suggested, all the places were already loud with bulbuls, apparently the result of forest being in full bloom of flowers and fruits and nuts tasteful to them. However, by behaviour particularlly flying pattern, it was not difficult to pick out one Ashy drongo and one Black-winged cuckoo shrike present. It must also be pointed that again one Grey wagtail was seen only, and this one was different in plumage development with what I saw on birds of same species previously, strongly suggesting that it was a newcomer, a migrant passing the place. All three speceies were not seen again rest of the way.

It was not a surprise the forest was empty of wintering flycatchers but a seasonal visitor in the form of a Hainan blue flycatcher was heard singing twice.

I returned from a brief stay at Picnic Site No. 9, recording an acceptabe 29 species, admittedly more heard than seen.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 17/03/2012 08:27 ]


20th March 2012

Seasonal changes brings variety is true to food ingredients as well as birdwatching.

When I habitually checked the southern hillock for Black-eared kites on the other side of Pineapple Dam
it gave me a mild surprise that one of the two raptors flying nearby was a Common buzzard, quite uncommon for Shing Mun.

A routine walk along the catchment found me no Grey wagtails. The barrier gate area still abounded with bulbuls, but the biggest tree on the lawn yielded a Hair-crested drongo, the still staying salangensis Ashy as well as leucogenis Ashy drongos and an immature Black-naped oriole. While comparing the body size of the bulky Hair-crested to that of the slender Ashy drongo, an immature male Buff-bellied flowerpecker flew and perched in the same tree. It was spring migration evidence aplenty.

Walking along the road that led to the top of Lead Mine Pass my morning list increased steadily but slowly, for there was hardly any sizeable birdwave that swelled it suddenly. A male Verditer flycatcher was found again today. It was interesting to report that a swift group of waders dashed towards and past me that whipped up the air, producing a sound one hears in a birdhide at Mai Po during falling tide, possibly via Tai Lam and Tuen Mun towards the Deep Bay area.

I turned around at Picnic Site No. 9 just before the Arboretum junction and found a Crested goshawk not far away, again quite uncommon in the area.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 20/03/2012 20:38 ]


25th March 2012

A cold front was one day over Hong Kong but the sky was promising of a clear sunny day. What would my
finds bear out, I wondered.

At 7:15 the usual birds were there again. On one side of the Pineapple Dam there were Black-eared kites
flying and on the other there were six Chinese bulbuls, later occupied by a Chestnut bulbul, which sang in a way seeming to proclaim himself the best male in the vicinity for a mating partner.

The catchment was quiet and one single Grey wagtail was found again along the section I used to look for its kind. The old one from last Thursday or a new bird, I found unacertainable.

Were the Ashy drongos not there? No way to find a quick answer for the question. So I lingered on for a while. The leucogenis one appeared which vindicated again before me how efficient it preyed on its victims as food. A single male Scarlet minivetperched itself on top of a fir tree and sang all the while I wandered nearby, supposedly trying to get an admirer of the opposite sex for the year's reporduction of the species.

It must be mentioned again, a clear but weak Crested goshawk's call came in the direction of a short flowering Cotton tree. I approached the tree a few steps at a time, this time witnessing a male Orange-bellied leafbird making the call while feeding on the cup-like red flowers. Is it a means to frighten other birds away? Obviously, the calls failed if it was the purpose. The several Whiskered bulbuls on the same tree seemed totally unaffected and stayed. My only plausible explanation of the phenomenon was that the genetic trait was developed accidentally. Whether the trait will continue to pass on depends on whether it will strengthen the species chance of survival, a result which will overwhelmingly certain takes more than a dozen of lifespans of my existence to find out.

I must be thankful for experience that I found the Mugimaki flycatcher that was around the place I saw it. It flew across my path in a shape and manner I immediately told myself that it was a bird I hadn't seen recently, and indeed for the whole winter. Would it be a flycatcher? The supposition helped me to look for it among trees that its kind favour. I was not disappointed to find it facing me, orange/rufous from throat to upper breast and dark upperparts, a male. A piece of good drilling of birdwatching, I told myself.

The Lead Mine Pass up to Picnic Site No. 9 was totally uneventful, save that I was able to hear and identify the call of a single Mountain bulbul, absent from my list since probably late October. The Mountain bulbuls must be a selective 'fruitivore', just like those Emerald doves in the area, quite the opposite of the much commoner bulbul species found there. Something more, I found a moulting Yellow-browed leaf warbler, a life experience I must admit.

The fourth week of March is possibly the peak of courtship activities among local birds. The whiskered bulbuls were seen pairing here and there, and a flock of Grey-throated minivets, while feeding themselves with worms and insects, made good use of the chance of the moment to show interest in their target mates. A male bird found a particularly tasteful green moth, kept it in its bill, moved sideways on a level branch of a tree to approach a hen bird. It's offering was evidently accepted and taken, reminding me of human males showing off his cattle to their prospective female marriage partners before a formal proposal.

The thirty-first and last species recorded was a Crested serpent eagle, again the calls coming from the part of sky overhanging between the Pass and Grasshill, at half-past ten. A punctual bird, I credited it.

It was a birwatching morning with good flavours, though without a lot of varitey, I told myself with satisfaction.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 26/03/2012 12:04 ]


4th April 2012

Grounded by some family trouble - my eight-year-old cat got gastro-intestinal problems which badly needed
my care until he started eating and drinking steadily again - I snatched up the first opportunity of being free and headed for Shing Mun/ Lead Mine Pass, a place top on my birdwatching priority.

At eight ten the scene was fairly quiet, bulbuls were not in loud chorus, and the catchment was absent of Grey wagtail, first time in several months.

The common wintering leaf warblers - Yellow-browed and Pallas's - still answered my weekly 'roll-call' with their sweet tweets, otherwise the walk the very epitiome of a monotonous routine.

At Pinic Site No. 9 - where the cotton trees had almost shed their cup-like flowers spreading densely upon the place - I stopped for there were different kinds of bird calls. I found a quiet female Orange-bellied leaf bird, a species usually found around flowering cotton trees in spring. What was interesting about the bird was that it came down to a boulder and pecked at the lichen growing thickly on it. I took the chance to observe its colour distribution so that I could distinguish the females of other species of the same genus when I visit China (outside HKSAR) and other parts of Asia. However, it soon became apparent that she was not feeding. It was instead collecting pieces of lichen, manifesting its feat of pecking, collecting and carrying tirelessly, only flying away when two walkers approached the place. It had to be a pregnant female building a nest before the great event of egg-laying.

At level 325 metre - a new way I devised for recording Hainan blue flycatchers at the hilly area of Lead Mine Pass - I heard a flycatcher singing supposedly a male. It refused to fly in my direction. After some effort of small-distance searching and  waiting I left for the top. No migrants was found there and I took leave almost immediately.

When I turned back to the 325 metre level spot I heard the Hainan blue flycatcher again. This time I was able to see its head and neck unhindered, until it was disturbed and flew to a inner place out of sight. It was clear it was a male which had come recently and was holding territory, a behaviour familiar to me.

I recorded another male at 210 metre.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 5/04/2012 09:13 ]


9th April 2019

April is a month you can't afford staying indoors if you're truly a birdwatcher. Every time when I'm  at Shing Mun/Lead Mine area I refresh myself with bird calls and learning something about birds, even if one doesen't see any migrants.

The fourth day of the Easter holidayds kept Hong Kong city dewellers late for the countryside, fairly empty of human noise when I started at seven ten. It was also quiet for birds too. It was when I was midway at Shing Mun when I heard the bubbling calls of a Red-tailed robin, something Richard L. told me when I was at the helipad on Po Toi. It was an experience well gained when one could exercise recall from memory at first opportunity.

It was again a good recall when I about one-third of my way up the Pass recording Hainan blue flycatchers. I heard some shrilling two-note calls which I recognised being that of a cuckoo. It was definitely unfamilar but after consulting Viney's confirmed my suspicion it being a Hodgson's hawk cuckoo. However, the call only made sparingly and as it didn't fly I failed to see it.

Today I heard four Hainan blue flycatchers but didn't see any of them.

S L Tai


16th April 2012

The day started with an overcast dome and warm, promising of rain and shower. Would migratory birds, to
make a landfall to take shelter among the woods of my morning trip?

A sight reminiscent of old Kam Tin marsh days met my eyes with a single Cattle egret in breeding plumage
among a herd of cows, not buffalos, though.

The only migrant on the catchment was an ordinary leucopsis White wagtail, and none in the trees on the lawn near the road barrier. The wintering birds had all gone, I supposed.

Pairing was still evident, with Whiskered bulbuls and Grey-throated minivets seen in pair each.

I started to count the number of Hainan blue flycatchers present, this morning two being heard in Shing
Mun proper.

The calls of some Yellow-browed leaf warblers had changed to a much higher-pitched tone, but the basic two-note part of 'tch-weet' was still present if one was patient enough to hear.

It was at 270-metre level that I saw my first male Hainan blue flycatcher of the morning, and a second one at 305. It was quite a sight to watch them singing in praise of complete freedom, and see one suddenly dart-flying upwards and snatch up a worm and disappeared.

It was nice to hear a Lesser shortwing again. I stopped at level about five minutes' walk from top when a shower started to fall. It ended soon enough before I came back to the Arboretum junction.

The side road to the Arboretum attracted me with the calls of Hodgson's hawk cuckoo. I had already heard a Chestnut-winged cuckoo calling further up the Pass. Would this time I could see the bird among the trees not so tall that could elude me without a sighting? While approaching the patch of trees on the right slowly I suddenly caught sight of a small bird perching on a level thick bough. Experience spurred me to focus. What met my eyes was a beautiful Ferruginous flycatcher, pale eyering wider behind eye, head mainly grey and underbody a nice peach. Seeing one on Po Toi is one thing, and seeing one in an extensive area is another. I saw it just in two positions and during a time of about half a minute and it was gone, but already an experience that would last for a life-time.

I found a total of eight Hainan blue flycatchers, an increase quite in line with what P K found during the past weekend at Tai Po Kau.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 16/04/2012 22:32 ]


23 April 2012

The first birds seen were two Barn swallows flying about above Pineapple dam. I walked on, confident I would seen something special, but in what form?

It was at mid-way of Reservoir walk that I saw a flock of egrets flying around the middle of the reservoir. It was more than five minutes before some settled down on some rocky outcrop, and some remained
unsettled and wandered around in the air. When I came back from Lead Mine Pass I found them roosting on the slope opposite me. They were loosely arranged roughly in a square, thirty-five cattle egrets on the upper part and fifteen little egrets fringing the lower part, dead tired and seldom moved, obviously affected by the low-pressure belt moving towards south of South China Sea, bringing squalls upon their flight.

I moved on and began to counted the Hainan blue flycatchers I saw or heard. The first one was seen. I reckoned it being luck. I moved up, seeing another near the top of the Pass.

When I was back at the Public toilet near Picnic site no. 6, I heard a flycatcher which sang a little
dfferently from other Hainan blues. I ventured into the forest behind the toilet. I succeeded again seeing it being also a male, wondering where all females have gone, or have they not arrived yet?

Totally I recorded eight Hainan blues, this time birds seen increasing to three, confirming hearing and seeing skills about this species at least were improving.

By the way, I saw two Great barbets clearly, something that can't happen every day.

S L Tai

Motto: Never mind how few birds you see in the forest. Mind only if you can't speed up the way you locate and see them in your routine practice.


30th April 2012

I started the morning with anticipation and ended up accepting the fact that it was the last day of April,
just five days short of the onset of summer which will fall upon us on coming Saturday, according to the Chinese calendar.

Pairing of resident birds was not seen, the only sign of breeding attempt was seeing a calling Black-eared kite carrying nesting material in its claws. It was evident most of resident birds were busy with their annual breeding affairs, for Velvet-fronted nuthatches were not heard at all, strongly suggesting that they were also active in their reproduction efforts. The overall result was that the forest areas were absent of bird waves and birds were mostly heard than seen.

As usual, I counted the number of Hainan blue flycatchers present. It seemed that their distribution had extended all over Shing Mun proper during the rainy week. I recorded a total of eight and one male was seen.

S L Tai

N.B. Proabably I will divert my area of exploration to Grass Hill and Needle Hill areas in the coming weeks, and less regularly, and not weekly.