Plants and Animals

Flora n fauna on Cheung Chau

Arctic Warblers tzicking and singing - and termites flying

There are several Arctic Warblers around at the moment - these are late spring migrants that are headed for forests in Siberia or even in Alaska, after spending winter in tropical forests south of Hong Kong. It seems they like acacia trees here; can be heard calling - a short, loud tzick, also singing: not a warbling song, but like quickly running together several calls, to become zick-zick-zick-zick-zick, sounding rather insect like.

The porpoises and the laughingthrush

I again headed to se Chaung Chau in hopes of seeing passage migrants this morning - weather seemed promising, with easterlies, overcast morning w some rain.

No birds to be seen over the sea, though I did see at least two Finless Porpoises - locally scarce animals, which appear a little like big tyres bobbing to surface then vanishing.

Wrestling Rat Snakes; Arctic Warblers

Walked paths in southeast Cheung Chau early aft. Looking for birds, but the most interesting sighting - by far - was two large male Rat Snakes entwined in a wrestling match, in Fa Peng Valley.

The snakes were mostly lying side by side, sometimes rearing up and pushing at each other, almost twining round each other as pushed to see which was strongest (the victor should gain rights to territory, and breeding). Also even twisted round together, till heads overlapped tails and they formed a writhing circle.

Late spring migrants

I walked the woods of southeast Cheung Chau early this afternoon. Saw an Arctic Warbler and a Brown Flycatcher - both typical migrants of late spring, and heard one or two thrushes, which at this time are probably Eye-browed Thrushes.

Maya - my missus - saw a Brown Shrike just above Pak Tei Temple.

After dark, a fruit bat  probably Roussette's Fruit Bat - was flying around the banana trees by our place.

Thunder but near zero migrants

A band of thunderstorms swept east across Hong Kong this morning; afterwards overcast with light rain, southwesterly winds. I went to se Cheung Chau, to see if any migrants had been brought in. I seawatched from Nam Tan (looked over the sea with binoculars and telescope, hoping to see seabirds such as terns), walked the woods, but no passage migrants: four Chinese starlings at Nam Tan might be planning to stay around and breed.

Back at Siu Kwai Wan, saw another Chinese starling, and heard an ashy minivet.

Migrants including Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher

Walked around Fa Peng area in southeast Cheung Chau this afternoon. Wasn't expecting much, given fine weather (birds can readily continue migratory flights, rather than halt along the coast). But proved productive.

Found a male Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher: in breeding plumage, this is one of the most glorious Hong Kong birds, with tail well exceeding (twice?) its body length. Also, a globally near-threatened species.

B n W Flycatcher and two Ashy Minivets

Saw a male Blue-and-white Flycatcher on slopes of Fa Peng Knoll in early aft. Good, but still leaves Cheung Chau trailing in slipstream of Po Toi, which is proving a superb island for migrants.

Also, at least two Ashy Minivets at Siu Kwai Wan: another migrant, which is more readily seen on Cheung Chau than in many places in Hong Kong: seems to like old farm areas with orchards, some trees (another good site is Tsim Bei Tsui, north of Lau Fau Shan): this isn't a bird of dense forests in HK.

Two Blue-and-white Flycatchers - Hooray!

Some years ago, I found Cheung Chau could be good for seeing migrants such as flycatchers during April - with the best variety around this time. But lately, hasn't been so productive: last spring, for instance, I heard news of flycatchers in several places - especially Po Toi island, where there was a highly impressive series of bird records - yet found no good ones on Cheung Chau.

When bulbuls turn fly-catchers, and frogs call like cows

The first major cold front of the spring arrived this afternoon, bringing heavy rain and thunder.

Just outside our place, Chinese Bulbuls made sallies into the air, to catch termites that started flying in the rain. Bulbuls don't normally feed like flycatchers, but do so opportunistically at such times.

WWF Seafood Choice Initiative 海鮮選擇大行動

News today included the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong (WWF Hong Kong) producing a guide to help Hong Kong consumers make informed choices about whether their seafood is sustainable or not.

Relevant to Cheung Chau, of course - but how easy or difficult is it to choose sustainable seafood here? My impression, reading quickly through the guide, is that it's doable - but are species on sale that the WWF guide rates as "avoid", such as horseshoe crab (a species that's locally protected, yet legally sold for eating in restaurants - go figure!).

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Forest Wagtail right by our place

The Forest Wagtail Maya n I saw yesterday is again just outside our place - even walking around on patio by kitchen.

Not too much else of note, though. Walked round Fa Peng area this morning, and little to see. A couple of Pallas' Warblers in song - a busy, twittery warble, rather loud given how tiny these birds are. Practising for arrival in breeding grounds, perhaps some time in May.