Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass in Autumn,2011

Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass in Autumn,2011

29 August 2011

It was more than a hundred days that I returned to the above area for birdwatching - a period of
time long enough for Napoleon Bonaparte to return from his first exile to Paris, raised an army again and got defeated at Waterloo. But in terms of migration millions of feathered juveniles have to brave the elements and travel after fledging within more of less the same length of time. It is to witness their amazing courage, stamina and physical power that I spent a morning to find them.

I got - indeed it was rushing - to the stop to catch the 6 am bus to Tsuen Wan. It was all done
to enable me to start looking for birds at six forty.

The birds came my way slowly. I could only counted ten species after more than an hour -
at seven fifty-three to be exact. It was common stuff all the way up to the top of the pass.
Would it be a failure that I was to report? Then fortune turned a little in my favour.
Two Artic warblers complex were spotted, one of them quite well seen. But which species of the three recently split? Almost instinctually I reached for my record book and dropped down descriptive notes, if only to comfort myself that I was serious. Anyhow, I had something to tell. Vainity and self-pride were at work again.

I made a routine check just further up from the public toilet, just for sure I didn't miss anything
noteworthy. Fruitless effort again. I went downhill - with my tail betweeen my legs, so to speak.
I stopped at the spot I had found the Artic warblers - A w complex to be correct - for there were
still babblers rummaging nosily there. But look. A bird air-skid and spread wide its light brown tail.
Without doubt I was looking at an Asian paradise flycatcher. Possibly two, but I failed to see two flying separately to confirm. I picked out a Eastern-crowned leaf warbler before I made my descent again.

Hot and sunny - indeed I found the sunlight somewhat scorching - reminding my birdwatching days in the
Philippines. Babblers and possibly call of a Lesser shortwing and elusive calling  Hainan blue flycatchers. Should be at least three of the last kind still around the place, I thought.

Time was becoming short for my planned vegetarian lunch, for wasn't it first of August in the Chinese
calendar? I quickened my steps. But, eh. Shortly before I reached Pinic site No. 2 on Reservoir walk, a bird was flushed up to perch within sight by two walkers opposite me. Profile and structure fitted well with that of a wagtail. Aided by the pattern on its folded wing and distinctive sideway swing of the tail, the conclusion was inescapable. I had found a Forest wagtail, a regular autumn migrant around the area and yet always a favourite of mine - a deja vu so similarly felt when I met and identified the first of same kind more than a decade ago at Tai Po Kau.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 29/08/2011 21:26 ]


Morning of 5th of Sep 2011

My fate almost repeated itself exactly as last Monday for most of the uphill half. I reached ten
species at seven fifty-seven, one hour twenty minutes after I had started. And the eleventh species
was a female Magpie robin. Yet I was already past Shing Mun proper.

Should I stop at Picnic Site No.8? My inner self urged me on. Still no bird-wave at Picnic
Site No.9. I doubted if I was wise to come after I had heard that Tai Po Kau got five species
of flycatchers on Sunday. But I was here supposedly to birdwatch regularly. I continued.

Near top of the pass I turned my attention to the right, the same location I found the first Asian
paradise flycatcher of the autumn. It was quite quiet there. Should I throw in the towel?
But I was adamant. I turned to the side of the path that branched up to the hill-fire control unit
of AFCD. Some babblers were flying and calling noisly near tree-tops. First there were the
Blue-winged minlas. I dismissed them as distractants (forgive I am again coining a new word).
Then the Velvet-fronted nuthatches which though common enough were good indicators of the presence of
a birdwave of rich in variety.

I was soon rewarded with an Asian paradise flycatcher - pale brown tail and back. No, there were two of the kind, one having grey tinge reaching lower down the belly than the other. Then there was
one obviously darker - reddish brown back and lighter tone of the same tinge on the tail and blacker
head and neck than the other two. This third paradise flycatcher must be a Japanese.

Could there be a third kind of flycatcher, a black-naped monarch, for example? Well, a flycatcher with
blue upperparts made a very brief sidewise appearance. Slim but not quite with the head shape of
a Black-naped. I needed a view of its lower parts. I searched and searched, failing to rediscovering
it but seeing some Eastern-crowned warblers and one Arctic type, surely with supercilium reaching well before bill-base and again with one single thin wing-bar as seen last Monday. My effort after some long moment paid off
when I found the blue-toned flycatcher again. It was a bird with an oval-shaped demarcation above the white-belly. That's enough to identify it as a male Blue-and-White flycatcher - quite scarce in autumn as I was told by Avifauna of Hong Kong at home.

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 5/09/2011 22:01 ]


Morning of 10th of September

Starting later by half an hour revealed that Shing Mun proper wasn't as quiet as preceding two
times. The tenth bird in a minor bird wave was a Japanese paradise flycatcher within an hour. It was welcome that a Common kingfisher, which was quite uncommon at the place, was seen at the catchment across behind
the Waterworks/AFCD Offices. Two Gray wagtails were also there, too early to be settling in for winter.Possibly both species are passage migrants. Anyhow I will keep the vicinity in check to ascertain their status.

I made the trip to the top of Lead Mine Pass, meeting several bird waves on the way, but found nothing
significant when I walked down. Birds worth mentioning was a nice White-bellied yuhina which announced his/her presence with distinctive bird call. The only migrant met on my return trip being an Eastern-crowned warbler.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 14/09/2011 19:52 ]


17th Sep 2011

The day had started reasonably bright with a cool breeze, strongly hinting at autumn truly upon us. But the Shing Mun part was repeatedly quiet in the seventh hour of the day. There were only nine species of birds heard or seen when I walked up Lead Mine Pass at nine o'clock.

It was just ten minutes' leisurely walk from the top  when my attention was caught by some noisy movement
of birds on my slopy left. I caught sight of a paradise flycatcher which afforded me just an unidentifiable glimpse, while the whole lot of birds were moving upwards away from me. To follow or not to follow, this is the question. I took the former as my decision. It was a difficult climb that resulted
in a surprise that awaited me after covering a distance of fifty metres.

All around me were shrubs and thickets that pricked and cut until blood was drawn. Determinedly I carried on. What troubled me was when I stopped at a vantage point with foliage sparse enough to enable sighting of any bird at short distance, there was no bird to be to be seen, just noisy babbling. I relaxed and regained regular breathing.  There it was! Right in the middle of a large shrub a Black-throated tit was showing well, perching and tidying up its plumage. There had to be more nearby. Soon I counted at least five seen. It must be a year since I saw the last of their kind. The birght chestnut cap, the thick black patch across the face, the black throat patch with rufous collar lower down - making it the most attractive local tit of all. I noted the presence of about fifteen when the birds took leave. I searched for other birds, noting a Hainan blue flycatcher but no finding of the lone paradise flycatcher that lured me away from my well beaten path.

The top of the pass looked uneventful even at the moment when I heard minivets descending from a slope.
But the better part of my sense held me on. Wasn't it time for a Black-wing cuckoo-shrike to appear in minivets' company? I didn't have to wait long. A slightly bigger dark bird confirmed the accuracy of my anticipation. But it was gone out of as fast as it was within sight. However, I managed to go ahead of the whole flock, and on some higher ground I had the bird again, in full view of its undertail white and black blots.

Awash with such delightful encounters that only a single Asian brown flycatcher warranting a written record was further seen, double failure of trying with a Siberian blue robin which gave out calls but refused to favour me with a physical appearance when I returned to Picnic Site No. 6 again, again sighting another unidentifiable paradise flycathcer didn't dampen my high spirit that remained to hold me in spell when I finished my trip after more than six hours in the hills.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 24/09/2011 20:53 ]


24th Sep 2011

Could a morning fare worst when I returned from the top of Lead Mine Pass to Shing Mun reservoir
-seeing and hearing merely ordinary local birds -only to have waited for more than ten minutes listening to birds' babbling and calling on the opposite side of the main stream? Would I be reporting no migrants? It was at this moment that I remembered the fung shui woods at Picnic Site No. 7. With half-willingness I dragged my heavy feet down along the road bridge.

Half-way on the road bridge I found a dark bird which flew flycatcher-like. Soon it was confirmed to be an Asian Brown flycatcher. Was it all? I moved and stopped and moved to look for more. A bird in the silhouette and colour-tone of a paradise flycatcher caught my attention. A glimpse and gone. Hope was raised. I retraced my steps, trying hard to find a favourable position so that I could see better and more. To my surprise, I discovered a way down the stream, a stair of rough concrete slabs in the form of uneven steps leading the first half way down which I unhesitatingly followed. A sense of adventure ruled over me.

What met my eyes was one of the best scenes a local stream could offer, roughly fifteen metres wide with tall trees and scrubs lying the sides, water rumbling over stony places. What I witnessed next was the largest flock of Mountain bulbuls ever found in the area - twenty and possibly more - feeding avariously, one moment herbivorusly pecking from a big flowering plant, next snatching up a big winged insect, their high-pitched choking calls filling up all my ears. Equally furious in feeding manner was a juvenile Sooty flycatcher, small yet flying in more open space. No, not one. There were two. Soon afterwards the paradise flycatcher came into good view -deep reddish brown back and deep brown upper tail - a good Japanese paradise flycatcher. Before I took departure my list was rounded up with a neat and clean Eastern-crowned warbler.

A twist of fortune. This is all I could conclude my morning of birdwatching.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 24/09/2011 20:48 ]


2nd October 2011

The day started cool (23 degrees Celsius) and breezy, with a blue sky scarcely covered by light clouds.

At the place where there was a branch road leading up to the main forest of Shing Mun I met my first bird
wave. I saw few birds but the calls of Velvet-fronted Nuthatches kept me stay, the birds being a good indicator of the presence of good varieties. Patience paid dividends and I was rewarded with a juv Sooty flycatcher and an Arctic type leaf warbler. It was within the Shing Mun proper that I met my second minor bird wave with an Asian paradise flycatcher which never bored me with its quick air diving and skiing.

I passed on and reached Picnic Site No. 8 on Lead Mine Pass where I met my third of mixed flock. It was easy to pick out the Black-winged cuckoo shrike among Chestnut bulbuls and minivets. It was a delight to hear singlePygmy wren babbler and Lesser shortwing calling again after weeks of their absence from my auditory awareness.

With the evidence that most migrants having overstayed after the latest typhoon at levels low as Shing
Mun reservoir and no new arrivals yet I returned on reaching Picnic Site No. 9. Nearby I was further delighted by the minmicking calls of an Oranged-bellied leafbird. The presence of the bird was almost always betrayed by its imperfect imitation of calls of Ashy drongo and Crested goshawk coming from the same spot.

It then became uneventful and a light rain started to fall obviously lengthening the birds' morning activities. A larger mixed flock was there when I reached the location of the first bird wave. Here I saw my second Asian paradise flycatcher which in colour tone was a bit deeper than the first and in pursuit of a small leaf warbler I found my first Yellow-browed of the autumn.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 7/10/2011 21:07 ]


Dear all

I'm really thankful for those who have habitually visited my column to read my reports, the total of visits getting an amazing hundred more within 24 hours. It's really a great encouragement to one who's attempted to write and report well, especially one swimming against the present great photographic current in the modern birdwatching world.

Possibly I will start writing stories about bird migration as well.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 7/10/2011 21:03 ]


Morning of 15th October 2011

The Little green heron which I saw flying along the catchment behind the Water Works/AFCD Offices was certainly not one that belonged to the local subspecies. It was not seen there before and during my past weekly autumnal visits. Anyhow, it was nice to find a new bird to this part of heavily humanized natural habitat.

It was also a mild surprise to see a Crested Goshawk nearby - verified to be an juvenile female after matching my extensive notes with bird books - which was probably the same raptor I found there about two weeks ago.

The number of Grey wagtails seems to have become stable, with one or two seen each time. In this case they will stay until spring. On the other hand my first White wagtail of the season- one with gray back and plain white face, a 1st winter leucopsis according to Viney's - was found on a flat mud lump on the reservoir. These are all the birds worth of recalling. It was already ten in the morning.

The local birds then were predominantly heard than seen, until I met a mixed flock of five species of babblers, including a few seldom-met Grey-cheeked fulvettas.

It was not until when I returned from the top that I found an Asian paradise flycatcher in a moderately sized bird wave, again with the presence of Velvet-fronted nuthatches. Today the paradise flycathcher displayed its flight skills by flying across my path twice and once perching low as half a metre from the ground. Very soon a male Black-winged cuckoo shrike was seen carrying a winged insect in its mouth. It was worth to note that so far it was all males seen. It was nearly the same from memories of past years. A member of its kind was seen lower down. Would it be three seen next time, I wondered.

It was interesting to be able to say there were two species of Artic warbler type seen, one obvious grayer in the crown clefted in the hind part and white shoulder arch clearly discerned. And it was with glee that I found a Blyth's leaf warbler, its crown pattern being familiar to me.

It was time to see thrushes and it was not a surprise to hear one. The last migrant seen was a non-breeding Cattle egret seen on a patch of grass, which didn't retreat to let a human passer-by walk within feet but flew from my sight when I went near.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 23/10/2011 19:39 ]


23rd October 2011

I willed myself up with an effort, challenging what had made me setting the alrarm clock at
twenty past five. The minibus driver was non-coperative. Another driver would have started the car at 7 a.m. but my present one kept me waiting until it was near seven ten.

In sptite of all my grumblings I got everything ready, binoculars, pen and notebook and my hat so that I could begin once alight on ground. It was seven twenty-five when I started up the stairs of Pineapple Dam.

Sundays at Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass area is a favoutite place for family outings, group hikers and joggers. People training for the coming Oxfam Trailwalkers 2011 kept overtaking me. Single birds on the ground were impossible. Even Olive-bakced Pipits which I heard kept themselves out of the humans' way.

It was noticeably evident that Grey and White wagtails were still on the increase. Casually counted there were four of the former and two of the latter.

Shortly before I ascended the slopy part of Lead Mine Pass I heard tits calling. But surely there was something else. The calling notes of an Ashy drongo were heard. Applying concentration I located the bird of the white-face subspecies with ease, exactly like the one photoed by P K Kwan at Tai Po Kau the previous morning, the only difference being it having a winged insect caught in its mouth.

It was a little up the junction of Lead Mine Pass where a single-lane road branched off towards the Arboretum that I met my morning's sole good bird wave. Three species of tits including more than ten tiny Red-heads were seen. They were forgaing above mid-level of trees. My attention shifted abruptly when I saw two slender-bodied birds flying near some tree tops. One was seen in blue-green plumage with black lore and scaled under-tail coverts. Undoubtedly it was a male Verditer flycatcher. It was flying rapidly closely followed by another bird, same in flight silhouette. Both were male verditers. There were probably three. As I failed to locate all of them single-handedly I settled on seeing two. I managed to spot an Eastern crowned warbler clearly and a Yellow-browed as well.

At the patch of grassy ground on the left of the toilet at Picnic Site 7 I found the single Cattle egret with jet black legs and pale yellow iris seen the other week. Attention was paid to these two parts becasue I saw an egret which I was suspicious to be a white morph Reef egret on Po Toi. The one I found on the island was pale yellow billed with a dark tip and legs being light grey with iris being white. I will research further before I offer a final answer to my self-imposed question.

Otherwise uneventful I found myself waiting for a minibus a few minutes before noon.

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 6/11/2011 19:04 ]


29th October 2011

At ten past seven the Shing Mun morning was cool, sky being light blue indicating the wind direction being easterly or north easterly, the latter less likely.

Behind the Waterworks/AFCD catchment I saw the Grey wagtail which I first found on 24th Sep, nearly five weeks ago. It was different from others I saw around the area by having retained a yellowish breast which was lightly orange tinged earlier. I can safely declare that it has started staying in Hong Kong from late September.

The fifth bird I recorded was a Black-winged cuckoo shrike which seemed to be a promising day. However, my attention soon turned mainly in the direction of local bird calls. It was interesting to hear that one Pygmy wren babbler had a lengthened time gap between its first and final notes of call. It was even more intriguing to hear another one having three-note calls amid its usual two-note ones.

Physically below par I turned back when I reached Picnic site 9. The last bird which I noted down was an Asian brown flycatcher.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 30/10/2011 19:16 ]


04 November 2011

Birding on a Friday morning is a lot quieter except regular elderly visitors. Along the Waterworks/AFCD
catchment I met Grey wagtail The Orange-tinged Breast again, with its fellow adult males with yellow tinged breast. The Yellow wagtail to White wagtail ratio is three or four to one here.

The 16th bird was an Asian stubtail warbler its kind had been eluding me though alarm calls of them are kept being heard. This one was probably an overnight new arrival which was yet to find its wintering quarters. It first betrayed itself by its repeated alarm calls. I froze and waited until it jumped on to lower branch of a short tree. I felt satisfied by being able to confirm its call with a clear sighting- brown upper head bordered lower down by thick creamy eyebrow and strong dark eyestripe with warm underbody and pale legs. It is good to consolidate one's memory with a brief refresher's course annually.

The tweny third species were two Black-winged cuckoo shrikes accompanied by minivets and others. No sign of Verditer flycatchers seen last time suggesting they were perhaps migrants.

Back on Shing Mun proper two Grey-headed flycatchers were distinctly heared. I circled round the forested area for more than twenty minutes but failed to see them. Anyhow it was welcome to have their presence again after last year's total absence.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 13/11/2011 18:39 ]


13 Nov 2011

The morning was unpredicatably clear showing a blue sky. The birds seemed to have reponded well by starting early, for my 20th species heard or seen was within Shing Mun proper.

The Ashy drongo which I heard but failed to see last week was seen clearly when it flew among tops of some tall trees before the road barrier. A single Hair-crested drongo was seen not far away strangely with no companions, suggesting it being a northern bird coming to Hong Kong for winter. Warblers were heard rather than seen, Yellow-browed, Pallas's and Asian stubtail.

In pursuit of my first Olive-backed pipit of the season previously heard but not seen I went up to the top, an insistence largely due to stubborness rather than common sense, for a windfall of birds should not be expected after a cold front had reached three days before. No birds added to morning's list but lots of hikers and big tents and temporary toilets for the coming Oxfam trailwalkers' annual race.

Fifteen minutes down from the top I saw a single Grey-throated minivet which soon followed by others, not a noisy lot creating an unawareness in me unill I heard and saw a Fortailed sunbird, a Yellow-cheeked tit and lots of Rufous-capped babblers. It was then that I detected a flycatcher with a greyish blue breast with a black collar fringing the upper side - a Black-naped monarch. A sideway facing away revealed a light brown upperbody telling me it being a first winter male. It was nice to see its kind again fanning out its tail. The biggest bird in the vincinity was a Black-winged cuckoo shrike which failed to distract me for I was in pursuit of something new for my season's  list of the region. And I was satisfied when I got sight of a flycatcher which orange throat and breast, my first Mugimaki around the area. It was the next good bird that was hard to come by. I was already more than fifteen minutes with the birdwave. I was walking down the road following the birds, again and again Grey throated minivets mingled just with a single female Scarlet. My attention was then turned to smaller birds, almost always Rufous-capped babblers until I saw a warbler reminisent of ioras I saw in Fraser's Hills. No, not quite like when I saw its thick black crown stripes, together with its virtually yellow underbody with clear yellow greater covert wing bar, good enough to convince myself but insufficent to uphold my record that it was a Sulphur-breasted warbler before the prestigious record committee members.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 13/11/2011 20:43 ]


17th Nov 2011

It was my second chance to bird on a weekday in as many months. I snatched it up without a second thought.
Would there me good birds awaiting me?

It was the nineteenth bird which was a Black-naped Monarch. However, it was seen at nearly extreme distance affording little pleasure. It was foraging just under the canopy in the shade, barely identifiable with the help of some logical elimination. While walking in light rain, I couldn't help noticing that Fortailed sunbirds had increased in number in marked difference to October. Their two typical calls were heard every now and then. I also spent some time self-reproaching for subjective willfulness of seeing White-breasted kingfishers again after about six years, thus blinding myself until I saw with clear sight that they were some vociferous Blue magpies.

Though enjoying no good haul of birds, I cannot help but to inform my readers that the area have increased in the number of species seen or heard which exceeded thirty for the past two weeks, being 37 last week.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 18/11/2011 20:10 ]


Interesting to compare this with Po Toi.

Fork-tailed Sunbirds arrive on Po Toi in early November as you can see from this chart

Some stay through to early March. Avifauna suggests these are dispersals but I wonder if they are migrants come from further north somewhere.

I haven't seen a White-throated Kingfisher on Po Toi for nearly two years, they used to be regular. I remember Bena Smith mentioning they are getting rarer at Mai Po.

And this is the peak time of the year for species on Po Toi also.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/11/2011 21:36 ]


Dear Geoff

Thank you for showing your statistics. I am used to record birds according to order of seeing or hearing
them. Fork-tailed sunbirds have become quite noticeable with their crisp calls, summitting on Thursday when I birded in the area of Shing Mum, at least fivefold than October. You see, now I can easily bump into one in a birdwave. I at the moment presume that they are short distance migrants from perhaps eastern half of Yangtse River and south of it.

My record or according to my memory, to be more accurate, reveals that I have only seen White-breasted kingfisher once.

Your sudden reply has given me an injection of extra birding spirit.

Cheers and continue to share!

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 19/11/2011 20:11 ]


28th November 2011

The weather was good. Cool refreshing North to North-easterly wind with pale blue sky was just 19 degree celsius. Could it be better? It was quite well matched with the forest birds I found.

At seven twenty nine near the road barrier the Ashy drongo (previously seen) was giving out its typical calls of Ap-ip-ip, Ap-ip-ip ... and near-perfect minmicking of Crested goshawk's cold-type of chuckling. It did not stay long. In five minutes when I returned further along the catchment I saw it flying away with weak ip...ip calls.

It was all routine up to the Picnic site No. 6 with big grass patches on both sides. No single flycatches seen and no birdwaves. I went past the road birdge where I found a Slaty-backed fortail last winter and within some thirty paces I heard again my long-expected calls of a Grey-headed flycatcher. I was in no hurry so long as I could hear it in the vincinity. Soon a Goodson's warbler (formerly known as Blyth's leaf warbler)came into view, affording me renewed interest in its tit-like feeding method on the trunk and large branches. Nearby I found another but behaving differently Goodson's which foraged rapidly among thick-leafed branches, with the same head-pattern but warmer yellowish-washed underbody, a goodsoni.In no time a Black-wing cuckooshrike -the ubiquitous wave-member in winter - also added to my morning's list. It was then that the Grey-headed flycatcher came into view, its behaviour and call so familiar and yet so ever enjoyable.

Following my ritual-like walking I met another birdwave barely ten minutes afterwards. This time there were Velvet-fronted Nuthatches, as always true a good omen. A second Grey-headed flycatcher was seen, and yet another Black-winged cuckooshrike. Were they all? I continued my walk to the fringe of the birdwave when the bird density started thinning out. A bird-flight typical of a flycatcher caught my attention. I stopped. A bluish grey bird with a somewhat angular head perched in a horizontal stance. A female or first-winter male Black-naped monarch was definitely seen.

I reached the stream cutting section of the Arboretum-road and returned. No flycatcher met there. The return trip was just ordinary until I met a minor birdwave with few variety. Yet I found it easy to pick out a champion among mediocrities. I found a first winter Verditer flycatcher - face showing some bright blue- consequently bringing my day's flycatchers to three in kind.

It is with some optimism that I dare say the soon-coming winter will be a lot productive. With musical directors - Grey-headed flycatchers - back to their position, the winter ensembles of birds at Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass will soon perform their respective great musical pieces of nature.   

S L Tai

NB I was probably mistaken for the Goodsoni's behaviour as different. I remember one photo of a bird's of the same subspecies perching upsidedown on a tree trunk (this comment is added after the report was made).

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 28/11/2011 21:10 ]


Very nice trip report. Thank you for posting.



Be sure your favourable comment is highly appreciated.

S L Tai


4th December 2011

This morning's trip is rather a continuation of the one on the 2nd which was quite non-productive.
On Friday the bird population appeared rather disturbed and disoriented by the drastic drop in temperature. No sizeable birdwave though single Black-winged cuckooshrike and Ashy drongo, of the subspecies salangensis were seen. The only new species of the season were three Olive-backed pipits seen rather than heard alone.

On a Sunday at seven thirty-five Shing Mun attracted the usual family and social outings. But to follow the advice given by the English proverb, 'Make hay while the sun shines' I went when I learned that it was another sunny day.

There was no Ashy drongo to greet me near the road barrier. But the woods are already loud with the calls of bulbuls and warblers notably Yellow-broweds. It was quite uneventful until I walked beyond Picnic site No. 6. Two Grey-headed flycatchers were heard. I tried hard to find the one on the upper-slope side of the road but it refused to come within sight. I turned to the other side and soon I was rewarded with a leaf warbler which at first was supposed to be a goodsoni. A second look told me otherwise - quite uniform yellow underbody and striking blackish eyestripe which ended rather thick and knife-ended in sharpness - a good candidate for a Sulphur-breasted Warbler. For the next ten minutes I searched and found the bird several times. Other features came into view - entire pale lower mandible, two narrow
yellow wing-bars, prominent black lateral crown stripes with yellow median crown stipe
- all pinpointing it to be a Sulphur-breasted, quite reportable for Record Committee's consideration.

Meanwhile the calls of the second Grey-headed flycatcher kept fading away. I went down the steps to
Picnic site No. 7 in pursuit of it which was quite in vain. Determined not to give up, I went to Picnic site No. 12, which was beyond the dark Fung Shui woods but just a couple of hundred metres from No. 7.
It was quite clear there was a mixed flock of birds becoming stationary at the moment. On the frontal view of the woods I saw nothing attractive, so I penetrated and birded on the oppiste side. It was there that I found the Grey-headed flycatcher and a malangensis Ashy drongo .

On returning to the first butterfly garden I found a group of photographers who were again waiting for the Mugimaki flycatcher found there on several previous morningss but just briefly seen today.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 5/12/2011 19:49 ]


12th Dec 2011

I missed seeing the Ashy drongo that greeted me good morning with its usual calls for overconfident that it would stay as it used to be; I missed seeing the Grey-headed flycatchers all the morning in stead of paying enough effort at least twice; the forest birds looked disturbed to be forming themselves into proper birdwaves by the cold spell that I didn't see any good leaf warblers. It seemed my report to be a long list of turn-ups not up to expectations. Are there compsensations? To me they are quite enough for a morning.

First there was the charming male Verditer flycatcher that I found along the road on the left of the second butterfly garden - its unique kind of blue, strong black pre-eye stripe and faintly scaled undertail coverts and its slight trembling of tail while perching nearly upright - were all experiences worth of renewing and reinforcing. My choice of a weeekday was right, for while I watched a woman pulling a baggage trolley returned from her morning fetch of stream water, scaring the bird to fly away. When I returned, the bird was again seen feeding on the ripe small hard berries with lots of bulbuls. Coldness had probably made his insectivorous stomach hard to satify, resorting to feeding on fruit low in energy for long period, yet providing me opportunity to enjoy its presence again.

With a thankful heart I walked away back to the first butterfly garden in search of the Mugimaki flycatcher found on former occasions by some bird-photographers. A careful search found me no flycatcher on the open ground but five OBPs with one which refused to fly away on my approach, its choice of staying quite beyond my comprehension.

At the moment when I walked down the steps leading to the edge of the reservoir I heard a lot of bird calls mainly of bulbuls, tits and white-eyes. But amid such common calls there was a weak four-
note call of a Grey-flycatcher. As it was past half-past eleven it refused to move within my sight (birdwaves usually move a lot less towards noon). Just when I was about to give up, from seemingly nowhere a handsome male Black-naped monarch appeared, this time with its black collar-like black patch below its throat well seen.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 13/12/2011 21:23 ]


19th December 2011

To check the accuracy of your ears and their sense of direction it is good to have one bird heard loud and
clear in the distance. I got a good chance today with my friend who I have more than once mentioned here -a salangensis Ashy drongo. This time his utterance came from the south which meant a bit lower than my level. I moved down from the catchment. On the road I saw a bird on a cable wire and confirmed it was my friend - just circular white patch round the eye whith darker underbody than a leucogensis.

Just about twenty-three species of birds seen or heard. I made an omission of the sandbanks on the north side to check white wagtails and the single Common kingfisher which had taken up his place there since I found it more than a month ago at the catchment area above Pineapple Dam.

Is it a dull morning with no nice birds seen? Certainly not, for I was given a good opportunity to observe warblers and compare them - possibly the best in December.

I was walking back from Picnic Site No. 8, finding the Lead Mine Pass section less and less attractive.
On my left was a good patch of trees comparable to those one finds along the main stream alongside the main part of Blue/Red Walk of Tai Po Kau. This patch is on a slope with a stream below about to join the reservoir. It was here I found three Goodsoni warblers and a Blyth's leaf warbler, all quite well seen.

First it was the Blyth's which caught my sight - once again the behaviour of feeding round the trunk that set it apart from other species. Two thin wing-bars, no, one and a half to be accurate, set on the wing of a dull green upperbody. Together with its bushy black lateral crown stripes it gave me an impression to be a leaf warbler with a dark upperparts - a gist that set one apart from novice birders of the philloscopus genus. Compelete pale lower mandible and a helful feature - its offwhite, or a bit dirty white on the lowertail coverts/vent part- is worth to remain in one's mind for future reference.

Three Goodsonis alternatively turned up next. Two were having one-and-a-half wing-bars -thin and yellow - leaving my sight one by one to the left. They were not as bright in yellow as a Sulphur-breasted in all parts. Lower mandible freshily pink contrasting with dark upper counterpart, the bill obviously longer than a Pallas's and slenderer than that of a Yellow-browed, quite pointed. Yellow lowerbody, most yellow around breast but beoming offwhite in central belly. I found them having large round heads. Looking up I found them broad-shouldered as well. The third one had just one thin yellowish greater-covert wing-bar, equally attractive. They flitted and fed within a length of distance of about twenty metres, producing a pleasure in me lasting thirty minutes when I found my feet sending me a message of uneasiness of over standing, a price that I found more than happy to pay.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 19/12/2011 21:30 ]


Entertaining and instructive. You would like W H Hudson as a writer, I believe.



I'm pleased to see your final comment on the Northern Goshawk only applied to that thread.


Dear Geoff and Andrew

Thanks once again for praises as well as most understanding comments.

It is curious that when I write I don't know my scheme at all, how the story develops and how to end
it. It is once and again my right-brain type of thinking that gets me embroiled in verbal scuffles with
fellow members. I will look up Hudson to see what I can get from him.

S L Tai


Dec 27, noon

-goodson's leaf warbler
-chestnut flanked white-eye (2X)