Source Dave's Birding Blog

The hottest summer on record

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The news today confirmed what we all knew already in that the summer has been the hottest overall in England on record. It’s certainly ben a very sunny one with my PV installation hitting record figures through May and June though late July and August have been a little more ‘normal’. This weather has my garden plants in at right tizzy. Many have done well but a lot of the ‘early autumn’ flowers are already starting to go over which may not be good for the insects.
Female Ghost Moth
Moth records have certainly been a but topsy-turvy - generally a poor summer but I’ve had a couple of really odd records of salt marsh species which have turned up in my garden trap - how bizarre! Butterflies have been good in the garden with a Painted Lady rather regular.
Painted Lady
I've also tried my hand at hoverfly identification - a minefield but something to pass fine summer days once the moth trap is empty and no birds around.
Eristalis pertinax
Local birding has been a little frustrating of late but, nevertheless, I’ve seen some good birds on Rishton Reservoir which, once again, has dropped very low due to a leak in the canal somewhere along our section. This has revealed some lovely mud but had unintended consequences on the pair of Great Crested Grebes that nested on the small res. They produced two young but as the water level dropped, the patch of after available to them diminished and eventually the parents left the youngsters to it. Amazingly one of them managed to find the culvert under the railway track and swam to safety. The other must have perished.
Juvenile Avocet
The mud on the west back attracted in a few waders but nothing like as many as last year. A juvenile Avocet was most unexpected though perhaps a long overdue visitor considering their range expansion. There’s been very few hirundines around this year but a good number of gulls have been loafing on the waters edge. A couple of weeks ago there were at least 500 LBBG’s and in amongst them was what I think must have been a juvenile Caspian Gull but it was missing one feature that would have clinched it.
Possible juvenile Caspian Gull
The same day a juvenile Kittiwake dropped in and in the preceding week I’d had up to two little Egrets! So imagine my surprise this-morning when I got down there in heavy drizzle to see a Great White Egret wading through the water. Unfortunately it didn’t hang around but I managed a few images to record the event.
Great White Egret - Rishton Reservoir

Source Dave's Birding Blog

Bulgaria May 2018, part 2

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After a good breakfast and a local meander down the lane where I had Whinchat, Woodchat and Stonechat as well as eh regular goodies, we packed some butties for lunch and headed for the Burgas wetlands. First port of call was just off the main road overlooking the shallow Burgas Lake that was covered in birds. Great rafts of Great White Pelicans with a few Dalmatians dotted in amongst them gorged themselves in one corner of the lake along with gulls and terns. Pygmy Cormorants were in amongst the Greater Cormorants and Great Crested Grebes fringed the lakeside. There were A few ducks, notably Garganey and Pochard and raptors overhead.
Great White Pelican

Dalmatian Pelican

Pygmy Cormorant

Flight of Great White Pelicans
After an hour or so, the Pelicans started to move off and so we did too to a lake on the south side of Burgas where we had great views of Suqacco Heron and trip firsts such as Glossy Ibis, Gull-billed Tern and Great Reed Warbler.
At the salt pans back in Burgas there were lots of waders but all a little distant. Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints made up the bulk of the migrants with Terns and Avocets abundant. A couple of Slender-billed Gulls were here too.
Then it was a little further north for lunch whilst enjoying reed-bed birds such as Penduline Tits though access to the main reed beds was not possible and it was very warm!
Cuckoo

Crested Lark

The afternoon was spent a the reservoir near Poroy where we enjoyed around 25 Whiskered Terns feeding along with Ruddy Sheduck, Wood Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, White-tailed Eagle and al three ‘regular’ woodpeckers in the nearby woodland.
Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

Ruddy Shelduck
A final look at the marshes on the way back gave us a few more waders and a host of Little Gulls and then it was back to Burgas to our Hotel for the night. After lunch we took a stroll round the block to hear, and eventually see, a Scop’s Owl.
We headed north on Thursday through the eastern Balkan Mountains with stops at several places en-route to Varna where we picked up Eastern Bonellli’s Warbler, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Barred Warbler, Wood Warbler, four Woodpeckers plus Wryneck as well as Hoopoes and Bee-eaters galore. The Flycatchers were around a nest-box scheme where around 40/200 boxes were occupied. We had excellent prolonged views of males singing (some trying to find a mate, others defending the territory they had).
Eastern Bonelli's Warbler

Cirl Bunting

Syrian Woodpecker

Semi-collared Flycatcher in habitat

After Ice-creams in Varna we headed for Cape Kaliakra to get some more special birds. The place was alive with Pied Wheatears and birds on the sea included the Mediterranean subspecies of Shag, around 700 Yelkouan Shearwaters, a few Black-necked Grebes and Black-throated Divers and an Arctic Skua chasing terns for good measure. We also got Alpine Swifts here.
Pied Wheatear

Our hotel for the night was just south of Lake Durankulak and so early the following morning we headed to the area passing innumerable Red-backed Shrikes on the way. There had been a thunderstorm overnight and suspected that this was a ‘fall’ of migrants. As we arrived, a White-tailed Eagle arose from its roost. The reed bed was alive with bird song - the loud grating song of Great Reed Warblers filled the air and soon the cacophony was joined by a reeling Savi’s Warbler. Ferruginous Ducks were in the pools and Lesser Grey Shrikes in the surrounding vegetation. The omnipresent Orioles gave us some splendid view before Mark found a pair of Paddyfield Warblers which we enjoyed. Montague’s and Marsh Harriers quartered the reedbeds.
Paddyfield Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Red-backed Shrike
With all the target birds in the bag as it were, we headed back for breakfast and check-out before heading to Kavarna where we had great views of singing Marsh Warblers despite the nearby traffic and road-works.
Calandra Lark
Marsh Warbler
The it was off to do some steppe birding - yet more Red-backed Shrikes - we estimated 2-300 along a 5km stretch of track - as well as our first Calandra and Short-toed Larks. Alpine Swifts buzzed overhead nad we eventually found a Long-legged Buzzard with better views of a second bird later in the day. We even jammed in on a second male Levant Sparrowhawk as it was mobbed by corvids.
Finally, we finished off at a couple of Bee-eater colonies as a relaxing conclusion to our four days in Bulgaria before having our final dinner together and then getting dropped off at the airport.
All-in-all, a splendid trip with 166 species recorded and 12 new for myself. I’d heartily recommend Neophron Tours and Bulgaria as a destination for some great wildlife. And I’ve not even mentioned the flowers and Butterflies we saw!!!

Source Dave's Birding Blog

Eastern Bulgaria May 2018 Part 1

Posted on - In Dave's Birding Blog
I can’t believe it’s six months since my last blog entry. I suppose the travelling we’ve been doing has been with family and football so not all that many birds to write about; well apart from the Snowy Owls at Montrose in Chicago at Christmas, the divers off the coast of Cornwall in February and a visit to Ham Wall en route. OK so I’ve done a bit of birding but spring has been slow this year no more exemplified by the lack of moths in the moth trap.
Oh, and I’ve produced a book on the Pug Moths of the north-west of England (not authored by me I must add!) which has done rather well I’m glad to say.
There have been some excellent local birds recently - Marshside has had a bit of a purple patch recently with Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Snow Goose, Temminck’s Stint and a host of migrants. Rishton Reservoir on the other hand has been very quiet apart from the Glaucous Gull that was semi-regular in January. The leak in the dam wall seems to have been fixed and the water levels have remained high - good for the grebes hopefully!
Anyway, the football season is over (and we’re promoted :)), most migrants are in now and breeding is in full swing and bird-report writing needs to start. But before all that was a mini-trip to Bulgaria organised at the turn of the year with John Wright, Steve Flynn, Bill Aspin and Mark and Margaret Breaks.
The team photographing a Herman's Tortoise
The flights from Manchester to Burgas were rather restricting - the 11pm flight actually left at 1am on Tuesday 15th May so around 7am we were met by Dimiter Georgiev, our guide and driver for four days of full on birdin’.
Starting off a little late wasn’t too much of a problem as we sped past the enticing Burgas wetlands (that was to be saved for tomorrow) towards the eastern Strandzha woodlands. The area was a mixture of oak woodlands and pastoral farming with all the associated fauna and flora. Birds were everywhere and in good numbers, probably because invertebrate life was also abundant - I can’t remember when the windscreen on my car at home was caked in insect road-kill, but our transport was.
The ubiquitous Corn Bunting
We searched a prime patch of woodland - and after a quiet start, we started to rack up the birds. As well as commoner birds, we got good views of Short-toed Treecreeper, Ortolan, Masked Shrike and Olive-tree Warbler as well as several raptors: Short-toed and Lesser Spotted Eagle, Honey Buzzards and Hobby. Sombre Tits were being rather difficult but we diud get some good, if brief, views. In the background we could hear Golden Orioles and Nightingales wherever we went and in the more open areas, Corn Buntings and Red-backed Shrikes were incredibly common. Dimiter said that there were one million pairs of the latter in Bulgaria - I can honestly believe that in the country the size of England but an eighth of the population.
Fritillary - lots of several species seen thoughout
Everywhere we went, the adornment of Spring flowers and the associated Lepidoptera added another dimension to our enjoyment of the country. The next stop was a more open area as we neared the Sakar Hills, having seen Booed Eagle and Black and White Storks on the way. Here we had a marvellous Eastern Imperial Eagle, displaying Isabelline Shrike, Black-headed Buntings (all over the place), Black-headed Wagtails, Tawny Pipit and Syrian Woodpecker.
Imperial Eagle here
Lunch was spent semi-outdoors with nesting swallows as company before we birded other areas for Masked Shrike (as well as Woodchat) and a rather splendid Eastern Orphean Warbler. We headed for an area near the Greek/Turkish border where one of the special target birds, Levant Sparrowhawk showed well along with Rollers, Bee-eaters, Orioles, Lesser Grey Shrike, Rosy Starlings and other really excellent birds.
Roller

Spot the Rosy Starling

Black-headed Bunting
Our rural retreat for the night was the nicest place we stayed at and we were the only guests. The food was good and the rooms comfortable. Add that to having Lesser Spotted Eagle and Montague’s Harrier from the surrounding roads and the hedgerows supporting more Orioles, Nightingales, Buntings and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, what’s not to like!

Source Dave's Birding Blog

A bit of late autumn birding around Toronto

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We're spending a few days with Bernie's sister Jo in Toronto to celebrate a special birthday but the opportunity to get a little birding in at a time of year that I've not yet experienced over here was far to tempting. Bernie and I visited High Park on Tuesday where we had a nice flock of Slate-coloured Juncos and a single American Tree Sparrow as well as residents such as Downy Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch.
High park is famous for its "Hawk Hill" raptor watch-point - we were expecting to see people there but no-one was there at first. The wind had shifted westerly which brought we had a few Red-tailed Hawks (along with the residents) and quite a few Turkey Vultures passing (total of 45 in 90 minutes). A couple of Cooper's Hawks showed well and then I picked up a large raptor low over the trees which wasn't a TV - immature Golden Eagle!
A wander back along Grenadier Pond gave us several Wood Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Hooded Mergansers and an interesting exhibition of synchronised feeding by 20+ Shovelers.

Today, I met up with Owen Yates for some birding along the 'coast' east of Toronto. We started at Thickson Woods at dawn where we heard a Great Horned Owl but try as we might, we couldn't find one in the pines. There were plenty of Golden-crowned Kinglets as well as the ubiquitous Black-capped Chickadees on the edges of the woods.
Next was a quick visit to a farm field to twitch a Cattle Egret - we found two! Funny to think that these are still very rare here but increasing, just like at home. The area was full of Greater Canada Goose flocks and a few Cackling Geese were in amongst them.
We visited Cranberry Marsh next, one of my favourite places. Lots of ducks and herons on the water including American Wigeon, Pintail, Green-winged Teal, 12 Great Blue Herons and three Great Egrets. On the lake, a HUGE flock of mergansers were feeding - easily in excess of a thousand birds, mostly Red-breasted but a hundred or so Common (Goosander). There were also Bufflehead, Surf and Black Scoter and Bonaparte's Gulls.
Back on the paths, we got 'attacked' by Chickadees coming for food and some unexpected Red-winged Blackbirds.
Song Sparrow

Red-winged Blackbird

Mourning Dove - one several very approachable birds

Great Egrets
Next was to Whitby Harbour (Great Black-backed Gull) and then finally to Frenchman's Bay, a place I've not visited before. Quickly got a lifer with three White-winged Scoter flying past along with several Buffleheads and Long-tailed Ducks. There were also a few Great Northern Divers (Common Loon) and more mergansers. Not a bad morning's birding considering the rain and drizzle and a good deal of birding chat.

Source Dave's Birding Blog

Reflections on Autumn 2017

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Last autumn was certainly one for the history books in terms of volume of eastern waifs turning up on our shores following a sustained run of easterlies from the depths of Russia. This year has been totally different with a really wet summer and autumn and a succession of low-pressure systems (and ex-hurricanes) battering the west coast.
The effect on birds was most noticible in September when we had our first decent autumn gale for a few years - Leach's Petrels were seen all along the Lancashire coastline and a day out at Ainsdale and Formby enabled me to see ten of these along with a whole host of other sea-birds including Grey Pahalrope, Pomarine Skua, Gannets and Manx Shearwaters.
The biggest surprise was from this weekend when a Manxie was pick up exhausted from the banks of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in the middle of Rishton - 25 miles from seawater as the crow flies - goodness know how many as the shearwater flies. I collected it and kept it overnight, feeding it sprats before it was taken to Ainsdale to be release at night on the low tide. Then storm 'Brian' has hit - though it seemed healthy and not too underweight, its chances must be slim! :(
Manx Shearwater, Rishton
Manx Shearwater having checked it's weight.
Leach's Petrel over the beach at Ainsdale
I've done a couple of east-coast jaunts - one to Hartleppol turned into a long seawatch where we had all four species of Skua, distant Sooty Shearwater and Sabine's Gull and a host of birds passing offshore but very little in the form of passerines around the area. A couple of weeks ago I decided to have a couple of days in the Spurn area - it started OK with Rose-coloured Starling and Red-breasted Flycatcher, but the lack of numbers of commoner migrants was puzzling and a bit disappointing. However the news of a Scops Owl in Sunderland had me giving up on east Yorkshire and heading north for three hours. It was worth it.
Juvennile Rose-coloured Starling with Starings, Easington
Scops Owl, Ryehope
The following day at Hartlepool I had ten Yellow-browed Warblers but just a few other commoner migrants in the form of Redstart, Garden Warbler, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers. It certainly looks like the YBW's have discovered and alternative migration/wintering route - for now.
Yellow-browed Warbler, Borough Hall, Hartlepool
The winds would normally have put a dampener on mothing and ringing but there have been some interludes that I've taken full advantage of. I've had large numbers of Gold and Greenfinches through in the last couple of months with good numbers trapped and ringed.
I had the pleasure of joining a ringing team at Hightown  a few weeks ago where we processed over 1100 Knot, leg-flagging 500 of them as part of a study on their migration and wintering haunts. It was hard work and I felt the effect the following days!!!
Juvenile Knot
Moths have been steady and happy to get a Merveille Du Jour last weekend. Now getting the typical autumn species - Mottled Umbers, Red-line Quakers, Feathered Thorn, Red-green Carpets and November Moths. Another warm mass of air is due later this week so may get something then after which we're off to Toronto for a week.
Merveille-du-jour

Source Dave's Birding Blog

Rishton mud finally delivers

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As can be seen from the image, the water level at Rishton Reservoir has been rather low for some time despite the recent rain. Not sure if this is because of another leak in the canal/reservoir bank but it went down dramatically during the spring and has remained low causing the Great Crested Grebes to leave. Even the local fishermen had given up and that's when birds started to turn up and remain on the "West Bank".
Rishton Res from a couple of weeks ago - lots of sand/mud/rocks
There has been a steady trickle of birds through - good numbers of Black-headed Gulls with the odd Mediterranean Gull in there. Oystercatchers have been regular with up to 4 as well as Common Sandpipers with up to 7. Redshank and Little Ringed Plovers have also put in appearances along with a single Black-tailed Godwit a couple of weeks ago.

Yesterday, we were looking after our godson, Isaac, and I thought it we'd nip down t'res and the play area for a while. Of course the first call was the reservoir side and I immediately picked up a small wader in the far corner - it had me puzzled as it certainly wasn't any of the usual suspects. It was low down and cavorting around wagtails which were a similar size so I thought of a stint but it seemed a bit to big for that. I got a bad phonescoped image and sent it to Bill Aspin just in case I was just looking at an odd Dunlin. But it had pale legs. I put the news on the local WhatsApp group to see if anyone was around and fortunately Tony Disley was. Ten minutes later, he arrived as did the murk - the clouds had been threatening for some time! Meanwhile fortunately for me, Isaac was very happily playing up and down and jabbering away.

Tony was also a bit bemused so made his way down the muddy side of the reservoir to get a closer view - soon he phoned me - it's a Purple Sandpiper! Of course it was - the clues were there but the location and time of year as well as the perceived size were all throwing me off course.
Purple Sandpiper with freshwater mussel shell courtesy of Tony Disley
The news was disseminated and folk quickly turned up to see a first for East Lancashire and certainly something I wasn't expecting. A couple of Green Sandpipers came into the same bay for a while.

It was still present this-morning along with four Ringed Plover, two Dunlin, 95 Lapwings, a Black-tailed Godwit, two Oycs and a Common Sandpiper. A veritable feast of waders!

Source Dave's Birding Blog

Topsy-turvy weather seriously hampering Mothing!

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June and July have been rather busy on the publishing front. First of all, I spent a lot of time compiling the Micro-moth Field Tips book for Ben Smart and got it printed and published on time (not my day job!) and then it was onto completing my sections of the Lancashire Bird Report for 2016. Fortunately, both have gone well - the micro book has been widely lauded (and is available through NHBS), the Bird Report is in the editing phase so now I've started on the "Non-avian Vertebrate Fauna of Lancashire". I think I need to retire to get all these things done!

Summer is clearly the time for the largest volume of moths in the year but the weather is fine one day and tipping it down/cold the next. If you've followed the Open golf just lately, you'll see what I mean as that's only a few miles from me.

However I've had some goodies but mainly moorland species that have paid me a visit (so they must have traveled at least a couple of miles as the moth flies). A rather bedragled Marbled White Spot and today's pristine Scarce Silver Y have been highlights for me.
Scarce Silver Y
Birding has been interesting as it's been the turn of the terns. An Elegant Tern on the south coast in June gave Bernie and I an ideal excuse for a weekend away around Chichester. A splendid bird which remained distant but we got good views. There was a supporting cast of Red-footed Falcon, Woodlark, Goshawk, Dartford Warbler and several Red Kites in the South Downs and New Forest. Then it was a Caspian Tern that turned up at the unlikeliest spot - a reservoir on the moors - but then departed to be picked up again at Leighton Moss. That was a Lancashire first for me!
Elegant Tern - Pagham Harbour
We've also managed to squeeze in a trip to see our son in Munich and angst over several wedding cakes in the making! All in all non-stop in the Bickerton household but so glad I'm working four days a week. I need that time!
Dark Sword Grass, a migrant moth

Donacaula forficella, a moth of the reeds (some on the nearby canal)

Small Square Spot or is it Fen Square Spot based on the appearance date between the two batches of SSS that I get - the debate continues!
Marbled White Spot


Source Dave's Birding Blog

A break on the Ayrshire coast

Posted on - In Dave's Birding Blog
It's been a while but we're back in Girvan helping with the gardening and enjoying the mixed weather! The first nights were warm and so I put the moth trap out in our very coastal location...
View of Ailsa Craig from the living room window! Kintyre peninsula in the background.
Shark
I was delighted to get two new species for me - Shark and Tawny Shears in a catch of 30+. It seems that no-one has really recorded moths in this area so all records will be useful. the following morning I got a Marbled Coronet. We'll see what tomorrow brings!
Tawny Shears

Marbled Coronet
Today we did a little walk along the beach at Maidens and up towards Culzean Castle. A reasonably sized flock of waders contained 50 or so Dunlin and 30 Ringed Plovers. I'd had a couple of juvenile Ringed Plovers on the beach at Girvan - clearly local breeders - but were this flock still moving through to higher latitudes?

The fields next to the beach had several Yellowhammers singing, a song I rarely hear back in Lancashire. A few Gannets fished offshore but there were few seabirds on view. We had planned to go out to Ailsa Craig however the boat was full so something we'll do next time. A couple of Black Guillemots were very active at Girvan harbour but just a single female Eider there - most of these ducks will be forming large moulting flocks at various places along the coast one of which we could see whilst driving between Girvan and Turnberry.

Anyway, the trap is out again tonight though is is rather breezy. Currently it's 10:15pm and still light!

Source Dave's Birding Blog

Pallid Harrier? Give me a singing Wood Warbler any day!

Posted on - In Dave's Birding Blog
Well it is a little tongue in cheek. Last weekend's unexpected delight was a fantastic male Pallid Harrier which had taken up residence on the Bowland Fells where there should really have been a few Hen Harriers. Sadly none of the latter but the Pallid gave us some superb views and aerial displays together with several Ring Ouzels. It's really got to be one of the most exquisite visual spectacles I've seen in the avian world.

A run of very strong easterly winds for over a week now has halted a lot of migration though the onset did bring in a few Black Terns. Only now are we starting to see a few Swifts and House Martins in the village. There have been several good birds on the coast and so I paid Marshside a visit yesterday and jammed in on a very obliging Wood Sandpiper as well as a Ruddy Shelduck and a very orange-breasted Swallow.
Swallow

These birds together with my first singing Reed Warblers of the year together with a singing Lesser Whitethroat and passage of a few Swifts kept me occupied for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, the recent Spoonbills weren't playing ball and neither was a local Dotterel.

This-morning, Bernie and I headed to Moor Piece where a Wood Warbler had taken up residence. In the time-honoured fashion I wound my windows down and we could hear the sweet trilling before we'd slowed to pull in to the lay-by. It's got to be one of may favourite songs if not the favourite. (Woodlark a close second though I don't hear either of them all that regularly!)
Moor Piece Wood Warbler habitat
There was a wonderful selection of song to compliment the Wood Warbler - Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Pied Flycatchers all singing away. Siskins and a lone Redpoll called over head too. Blackcaps were very much in evidence. Indeed, last week there were lots a Brockholes Quarry joined by the first arrivals of Garden Warblers providing those who like a challenge the opportunity to distinguish them.
Male Blackcap from the garden
Pine Beauty

Goldenrod Pug
The cold winds have really put paid to much mothing so far this year. Easterlies also hampered ringing activities but I've managed to ring and control several Redpolls. Birds initially ringed in Kent, the Midlands and Greater Manchester have ended up in my garden and a Siskin I ringed last year was taken by a cat in Highland - I hate cats! I've also had lots of returning birds so it's nice to know I'm on the map as far as Redpolls are concerned.


Source Dave's Birding Blog

Good Friday farewell to Hong Kong with some excellent birds

Posted on - In Dave's Birding Blog
Having enjoyed a few days sightseeing and birding around Hong Kong, it was to 'work' for me and the preparation for the Hong Kong 7's tournament followed by a trip to a factory in Dongguan, China. I've got to say that our preparation for the event must have been good as everything went as planned and Bernie and I got some splendid views of Red-billed Blue Magpies from the back of the Stadium as well as a fleeting glimpse of a Blue Whistling Thrush as it dived for cover. We also managed to watch quite a bit of Rugby 7's too! :)
Box seats weren't too bad ;)
Bernie had headed back to England whilst I was in China but upon my return to HK, I had a day before my flight so arranged with Matt for another day's birding. I hadn't done any forest birding at all before - just had headed for Mai Po - so the promise of Tai Po Kau's established forest was an instant draw.

Matthew kindly collected me from my hotel in Kowloon - the roads were quiet on a holiday morning as we made good time to the foot of the valley. I should have realised that this was going to be a bit of a steepish walk up along the road to where the forest tracks start. Immediately we were hit with the song of birds - Great Barbets were calling in the distance (but didn't see them) and the ubiquitous Japenses White-eyes were buzzing along with Silver-eared Mesias. I didn't have my camera so I'll refer to Matthew's blog for the pics! (http://matthewkwanbirding.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/three-days-of-excellent-birding.html)
He's got a bigger lens than me - and a steady hand. Matthew photographing Eagles.
As we wandered along, more and more calls came from the forest and the tall trees around us - we eventually got some excellent views of several species including Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, the dazzling Hainan Blue Flycatcher and the equally impressive Orange-headed Thrush. We had excellent views of Crested Serpent Eagles as well as a Mountain Tailorbird and Plain Flowerpecker - the latter being the rarest and dullest of the three flowerpeckers that I hadn't seen.  Huet's Fulvetta, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Blue-winged Minla, Chesnut capped Babbler, Scimitar-billed Babbler (belter of a bird!) and Chestnut Bulbul all made their way onto the day-list. We also heard Yellow-cheeked Tit, Pygmy Wren Babble and Black-throated Laughing Thrush. It was just wonderful and I could have stayed a lot longer but we had other places to be.

I'd got another permit booked for Mai Po and as the tide was relatively early, there was no chance of me seeing it come in over Deep Bay so we made our way to the scrape hides where we were met with a wonderful sight of hundreds of Black-tailed Godwit in amongst which were several Asian Dowitchers.
View from the main scrape hide - birds continue left and right and well into the distance.
What can you say - the sight of so many wader species all relatively close at hand being occasionally spooked by a Peregrine and an Eastern Marsh Harrier as well as Black Kites was wonderful. Loads of Greenshanks, Marsh Sandpipers and Curlews with the odd Far-eastern Curlew, Nordmann's Greenshank, Terek Sandpipers, Mongolian Plovers and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Not to mention the Great Knots in their beautiful breeding plumage.

Great Knot in amongst the Black-tailed Godwits
We moved around to another vantage point to get closer to a few birds - an Intermediate Egret posed nicely as well as more obliging waders.
Intermediate Egret
It's not just size that separates Far-eastern Curlew from Eurasion as the latter can be just as big and long-billed. Look at the spots on the vent feathering - Eurasian are clean white.
Far-eastern Curlew
Nordmann's Greenshank



Then we heard the call of a Large Hawk Cuckoo. It was something we'd heard on several occasions and it sounded relatively near. I was sure it would be visible and my mimicry was perfect! We searched for ages from the raised viewpoint of the hide but didn't see anything - then I looked a little farther away and saw an interesting blob in a tree a few undred yards away. I got the scope on it an - et voila! Matthew had never photographed one so he managed to sneak up to the tree a little later to add that missing piece to his collection.
Large Hawk Cuckoo (Iphone7 through Swarowski ATX95)
It seemed I wasn't the only one who didn't see these birds even though they're big and common as a procession of locals had a gander through the scope.

It was nearly time to head to the airport so we made our way back past several Dusky Warblers.
Dusky Warbler
Our last stop was the "Magic Roundabout". Now I'm an aficionado of the "Magic Hedge" in Chicago but this? Essentially, it was the only bit of greenery and trees in the Airport complex - an area 'discovered' by a birder who took his breaks from working at the airport and found several good birds here. Matthew parked up and we made our way past the massed ranks of taxis into a becalmed area - Long-tailed Shrike, Hair-crested Drongo, White Wagtail, Olive-backed Pipit and an overflying flock of Oriental Pratincoles was a nice end to my sojourn to Hong Kong.

I hope to be back again in the not-too-distant future, whether with work or on a long-haul to somewhere else but there are certainly good birds to be had with a little planning. If anyone is looking for a guide, then I'm sure Matthew would be happy to help; his expeditions are taking him all over SE Asia and I'm sure that guiding will be one of the many strings to his bow. Add Hoiling's passion for moths and how could you go wrong?

Now it's back to a UK spring and masses of Redpolls and Chaffinches in the garden. The Blackbirds are singing (not quite ".... in the dead of night") - birdsong I recognise again :)