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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Autumn Birding in Hong Kong- Mai Po

Autumn is a prime time for migrating birds- every year, I’d venture out to other countries and places to see birds on their migrating paths; but this year, I stayed put in Hong Kong. Located strategically at the Southern Coast in China, enclosed by the South China Sea and Pearl River Delta.. autumn here can be filled with lots of surprises and for us birders, a chance to increase our bird ticks! Over the past 2 weeks, raptors and waders have begun their detours and its always easy to see them at the Hong Kong’s Mai Po Nature Reserve. Its not a huge reserve like ones overseas- but considering Hong Kong as a concrete jungle where land is so friggin expensive, its the place to see waders, ducks and raptors in HK. For overseas birders who would like to visit Mai Po, an application can be made at the WWF. Click here

Probably the easier raptors to see here during Oct. would be:

- Greater Spotted Eagle

- Peregrine Falcon

- Kestrel

- Imperial Eagle

- Pied harrier

- Japanese Sparrowhawk

- Besra

- Eastern Marsh Harrier

- Osprey

Here are some of the raptor photos taken in Mai Po!

Eastern Marsh Harrier, a regular autumn visitor

Eastern Marsh Harrier, a regular autumn visitor

Greater spotted eagle at MP

Greater spotted eagle at MP

Pied Harrier is possible to see too!

Pied Harrier is possible to see too!

Peregrine falcon in Mai Po

Peregrine falcon in Mai Po

Mai Po Nature Reserve is also an important resting stop for ducks, geese and waders during migrating season. While the endangered Black-Faced Spoonbills can be seen in small flocks… this autumn, a Greylag Goose  just stopped for a day (luckily I was there to tick it- phew!) As the migrating season is still on, I am keeping my fingers crossed to see something rare in Hong Kong.. :)

Greylag goose only stopped for a day at Mai Po

Greylag goose only stopped for a day at Mai Po

From left- Asian Dowitcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey-headed lapwing easily seen in Mai Po, Hong Kong

From left- Asian Dowitcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Grey-headed lapwing

From left- Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Fudge duck, Golden Plovers

From left- Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Fudge duck, Golden Plovers

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October “bird fest” at Miyun Reservoir, Beijing

The weather in Beijing is Schizophrenic- one day its smoggy and the next- blue skies! *Roll Eyes* Well, no bad weather can put me down- spent a smoggy noon at a pottery workshop, which was a lot of fun! But on a clear day, nothing beats birding!  Standing on a hill, we had great views of the birds coming in all directions, as well as the wind! Brrr….!!!

Miyun reservoir

Me in shadow!

As always, the early bird gets the worm! Ducks including Baikal Teals, Chinese Spot-Billed etc., floated in the reservoir, while Black-Headed Gulls, Mongolian Gulls along with a Whiskered Tern and some waders- Golden Plovers, Black-Tailed Godwits and Spotted Redshanks, to name a few,  roosted on the other side of the bank. There’s also Bean Geese, Swan Geese (lifer for me) and a Beijing 3rd record-Great White Pelican!

A symphony of Baikal teals

A symphony of Baikal teals

It was a busy birding morning- our eyes rolled in all directions making sure no birds were missed! Birds of prey of all sorts- Hen Harrier, Hobby, Japanese Sparrow hawk, Kestrel, Saker, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzards performed their morning hunting rituals and some swept past us like the wind! But one bird did a graceful,  180 degree panoramic flyby- the Great Bittern! It was an unforgettable sight!

Great bittern over Miyun, Beijing

Great bittern over Miyun, Beijing

By the end of the day, I think we had recorded over 70 species! It definitely felt like a “bird fest” in October at Miyun Reservoir! A truly hidden treasure in China!

 

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Birding at Laotieshan, Liaoning province- raptor watch

Laotieshan, located at the southernmost tip of Liaoning is probably the best place to watch raptors migrate in vast numbers in autumn in China! Waking up at 5am everyday and being at the same spot counting the number of birds till noon was no easy task unless you’re a hardcore birder! I was just there to take pictures, soak up the environment and watch the avid birders do the tough work…lol! :P The weather hasn’t been brilliant during my stay there-but there was no stopping of raptors trying to cross the sea to Shandong! Of course, there were a few solo raptors who aborted their onward flight when fog hits bad while some gathered in groups to fly together!

In early hours, small birds would migrate first-groups of Pechora pipits were heard and seen, Daurian starlings, Asian brown flycatchers, Black-Naped orioles, Siberian stonechats and even Dollar birds! Then came the raptors- Japanese Sparrowhawks in huge numbers with an Eurasian Sparrowhawk amongst them, Amur Falcons, Kestrels, Oriental Honey Buzzards and Pied Harriers!

Amur falcons are common in autumn migration

Amur falcons are common in autumn migration

oriental honey buzzards in Laotieshan

oriental honey buzzards in Laotieshan

Japanese sparrowhawks are plentiful at Laotieshan

Japanese sparrowhawks are plentiful at Laotieshan

On a foggy day, Gulls, Shearwaters, etc, seemed to near the coastal shore as well, which was brilliant for seabirding! I love seabirds!

Mongolian gulls and Black-tailed gulls

Mongolian gulls and Black-tailed gulls

the art of seabirding!

the art of seabirding!

It’s been a fun few days- every morning, we wake up with anticipation and by the end of the day, we rewarded ourselves with ice-cream and coke (but no lunch..@_@)! Can we have lunch included in the itinerary next time please?? >.<

a break for an ice-cream and coke!

a break for an ice-cream and coke!

 

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Summer birding at Lingshan- Version with accomodation

Nothing is more enjoyable than birding on high altitude that exudes cooler weather in hot summer! We made visits over 2 weekends, but with a very different approach!

Version 1: The first weekend visit with accommodation

Having packed sausages and sandwiches for lunch ,we left in late morning. The drive from Beijing to Lingshan was approx. 2hrs, but as soon as we approached the outskirts of Beijing, the mountain drive towards Lingshan was breathtaking..!

My mind soon wondered what it’ll be like in winter with snow-capped mountains. :)

On the way to Lingshan, testing my GoPro camera!

On the way to Lingshan, testing my GoPro camera!

We saw some birds along the way, but the main highlight was the birds and wildlife at Lingshan! At the top, we saw Hill Pigeons, Common kestrel and Large Billed Crows! We  parked the car and took a walk along the trail near the horse-riding area. Already at the beginning of the trail, we were greeted by Silver-throated Tits, Songar tits, etc that pranced about in the bushes. Suddenly, I spotted something moving in the grass right in front of me! I held my breath and hoped for a clearer view. “A snake”? I thought to myself, sending shivers down my weak spine. Very quickly, it revealed itself- its a Weasel!! I almost squealed with joy when it stood up and looked at me, we were both in shock to see each other! Its my first ever Weasel and I couldn’t be happier!! :P :P

Our attention soon turned to a delightful bird’s call that was apparently never ending! Its the Manchurian Bush Warbler! Wow, another lifer for me!

manchurian bush warbler in Lingshan

manchurian bush warbler in Lingshan

We drove to the nearby village and checked ourselves into a 80 yuan room with no flush and blankets! But we comforted ourselves with a good meal and stargazing with scope! It was awesome to see Saturn with rings and tried to identify all other planets but we were no experts! The night was complimented with nightjar calls but it was too dark to see it! It was a fulfilled day and we couldn’t wait for dawn! :)

The early bird gets the worm! An early dawn walk downhill from the village was surrounded by early chirpees- Rock buntings, Claudia’s leaf warbler, chinese beautiful finches, russet sparrows, just to name a few!

As always we love to explore! Instead of taking the usual route back, we took an off trail route that lead us to Hebei region! On our way back, we saw a Northern Wheatear, apparently a gd find in summer! It was a gd weekend trip…almost as good as the next weekend trip to the same area but with no accommodation, which I will soon write! Stay tuned! :P

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