Friday, May 26, 2017

Bulletin 293 - Hong Kong #1 - birds around water

I had a quick 1 week vacation in Hong Kong last fall and had  1 day birding with guide David Dinkins of Hong Kong walks. We visited several locations in the New Territories.

Because this was my first trip to Asia, almost all the birds seen were lifers and new photos. So I thought I would start with the sandpipers and other water birds. For those bird listers, some of these names will be familiar.

The best sandpiper was the 10" Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), This is the Eurasian counterpart to our Wilson's Snipe and were considered a single species until split in the last 20 years. If you have looked for the Wilson's Snipe, you know they flush and fly rapidly away and are hard to see clearly. Well we were on a boardwalk in a marsh. This bird flew in and landed on the boardwalk about 20 feet away, allowing a few photos before taking off again.

Common Snipe

The 9" Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) is plain in winter plumage with dark wings.

Green Sandpiper

The 9" Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) has a white eye stripe and dark spotted wings.

Wood Sandpiper

The 6" Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) is a typical small plover with 1 ring on his chest.

Little Ringed Plover

The Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is of course an easy ID with the long pink legs.

Black-winged Stilt
There were several herons and egrets, some of which have an obvious North American counterpart. The 38" Gray Heron (Ardea cinerea) is a large gray and white heron.

Gray Heron
The 24" Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) also has yellow feet like our Snowy Egret.

Little Egret

The 35" Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) is said to be a secretive bird feeding in reed beds and usually only seen when flying between feeding spots as this bird.

Purple Heron
The 19" Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) is brownish with streaked neck in winter. It has no obvious New World counterpart as this genus is confined to the Old World.

Chinese Pond Heron - non-breeding
The 36" Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) is a Eurasian species that also appears on east coast of North America and is in the Sibley guide. The non-breeding adult here is black with a white throat.

Great Cormorant - adult non-breeding
The juvenile has white underparts.

Great Cormorant - juvenile

There are over 100 species of kingfishers but only 6 are in the Americas. Many of the Old World kingfishers are beautiful. The 6" Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is blue above and orange below with red feet.

Common Kingfisher
Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2017 David McDonald

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bulletin 292 - miscellaneous local birds from winter and spring

I did not get out as much recently due to work requirements and I guess some degree of boredom, as I already have pretty good photos of most local birds. I do take photos when a good opportunity pops up to improve my existing photos of various species. And also, having been to Ecuador and Colombia, it does not seem nearly as exciting here. So here are my interesting photos since the New Year.

The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)  returned to the same place at Anahuac NWR for a second winter.

Burrowing Owl
A funny looking leucistic American Coot (Fulica americana). A leucistic bird is one with some white feathers, but is not an albino.

American Coot - leucistic
I had a Buff-bellied Hummngbird (Amazilia yucatanensis) once again in my yard this winter, but he was not there regularly. I saw or heard him maybe a half dozen times, but at least I got a nice photo. Such a treat to have this bird as a winter visitor.

Buff-bellied Hummingbird
The cute 13" Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is our smallest duck in North America. The male appears almost all white with just some purple on his head. The female is all brown with a white stripe across her cheek. This pair was at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston.

Bufflehead - pair

This spring I got several good photos of various birds. Photographers are told to get the best photos, it is necessary to be at eye level with the subject. So a bird on a fence is a better photo than one on the ground or way up in a tree.

Here is a beautiful male Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyranus forficatus).

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - male
I also got a nice 13" Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) on a fence post. The small size and bicolored bill is the ID for this bird.

Forster's Tern - breeding

There were 2 birds that I saw in the ponds at LaFitte's Cove in Galveston this spring, that I do not recall having ever seen there before. The first was a 30" Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens). This bird is normally in salt water rather than fresh water ponds. It is IDed by the gray body, shaggy reddish neck and pink bill with black tip.

Reddish Egret
Also, last weekend I saw Wilson's Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) in the ponds at LaFitte's Cove for the first time. Phalaropes are sandpipers that swim. They are unusual for birds in that the female is more colorful and the male looks after the eggs and raising the babies.

Wilson's Phalarope - female
A 23" Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) was found at LaFitte's Cove last weekend as well. This bird has raised considerable discussion on Texbirds as to whether it is a Glossy Ibis or aberrant White-faced Ibis or possibly a hybrid. The discussion is still ongoing, but it sure looks classic to me for a Glossy and a number of other experts who saw it. It has classic Glossy field marks with the dark face and eye, pale blue lines above and below the face and dark legs.

Glossy Ibis

And a second photo.

Glossy Ibis
I also got photos of a new turtle at High Island this year. This large turtle (estimated 10-12") had a very long neck with a streaking. I looked in my guide book and came up with the ID of a Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia). I confirmed the ID with a Texas reptile expert.

Chicken Turtle
And a close up of the head.

Chicken Turtle
Overall, spring migration was very quiet for the second year in a row. The most warbler species I saw in a day was 8. Normally mid teens is average and 20 or more is possible in a good day. I hope this is not indicative of a severe decline in the bird populations.

Happy birding and photography,

David McDonald

photos copyright 2006 - 2017 David McDonald

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