Shing Mun and Lead Mine Pass in Winter, 2013

Shing Mun and Lead Mine Pass in Winter, 2013

14th November, 2013 (Thursday)

First Winter Trip

Though the six-nineteen Minibus 82 was parked somewhere unfamiliar to me, I managed to get on it with hint from a local minibus driver and was able to start birding at six thirty-five.

It has been learnt from past years that new weather circumstance causes new mode of bird activities. Only one Grey wagtail was seen around the catchment section before the road barrier, though two more elsewhere. The Ashy drongo on the biggest tree on the lawn was there sallying midair for food, in silence. Minivets nearby had already flown further in by the time I passed the barrier.

Asian stubtails were heard once or twice, and a Red-flanked bluetail was heard but not counted;first-time- heard birds are not included until they are seen, a personal rule unless they are distinctive beyond doubt, like the call of a Grey-headed flycathcer.

Ashy drongos remained steady in number of five, one more when I visited Picnic Site No.12
first time of the season.

Grey-headed flycatchers in the same way did not utter their four-note calls though I managed to see one on my way.

As the trip did not seem productive, I returned after reaching Picnic Site No. 9, somewhat half short in distance from the top, or twenty minutes of walking.

The outer reach of Picnic Site No.12 remained submerged in water. Three Olive-backed pipits, behaving like first arrivals of the day, remained unsettled as seen flying in mid-storey of tall trees above water to get a piece of suitable dry ground.  

The incoming flow of winter birds seemed slow but time would see if there were good surprises.

S L Tai

P.S. Thanks to Sub-buteo for his kind comment.


18th November 2013

The Scene of Early Winter

The weather, especially a cold front, could switch the bird scene of a local woods to a significant change. As local forecast said the morning was set to drop to a new low of fifteen Celsius in hilly areas, I left Ma Wan at six five and was able to start birding at six thiry-five.

It started with a scene that repeated itself as on last Thursday morning; five Black kites circled a bit to find some lifting thermals to reach a suitable height before flying away and the Long-tailed shrike was heard once more. A flycatcher was heard probably an Asian brown. I didn't get out of my way to find it and failed to locate some minutes later when it became silent.

When I emerged out of the catchment with the AFCD office on my left I heard and got sight of
two calling Eurasian blackbirds; one was a female for its darker bill. It was a good sign that more thrushes would follow.

It was along the Reservoir Walk that I found a Sooty flycatcher which circled across the road and perched for my identification, soon followed by a male Red-flanked bluetail which first stopped me with its single-note calls. I was stopped also by a Japanese bush warbler when its calls were heard near the ground. I uttered some pishing sounds which worked. A slightly cocked long tail with rufous crown were the main features which guided me to its identity.

While I was still on the walk thrushes were seen in a flock of about ten which flew above treetops rapidly away affording no clear sight. Only their calls... Morning strollers kept passing who irked me that thrushes wouldn't be seen on the ground. But strangely I had a White's on the ground between Picnic Sites 8 and 9 and a glimpse of a far away near-tree-top male Japanese. Three species now. Another flock of thrushes flew high overhead, foretelling a good number of them in the rest of winter days.

The local birds were also active and my species number soon surpassed thirty-five. On my return trip from Picnic Site no. 9 I got a female Red-flanked bluetail and heard one more of its kind. I went down to the first butterfly garden to give a check of the fruiting tree on which a Mugimaki flycatcher was found in a previous year. Already there were two photographers there. One told me there had been indeed one but was not seen for sometime before I arrived. Soon both left. In the silence that followed
a first winter maleappeared which gave me quite an enjoyable moment in its presence.

I walked down the stairs that led to Pineapple Dam when the bird flew to a distance. Further delight awaited me on reaching the bottom path when I heard and saw a male Daurian redstart.

My morning list stood well at forty-four, a fifty-seven percent jump from last Thursday's twenty-eight.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 20/11/2013 21:07 ]


25th November, 2013

A Comfortable Cool Morning

The weather, cool and sunny- was excellent for a morning walk, but the thrushes seemed shy to keep from my sight. Anyhow, few calling thrushes were heard though I was given a sight of two Blackbirds at Pinic Site No.6.

I saw the Grey wagtail with the orange breast again, a good sample to record how long a bird of the species would stay. I checked the Mugimaki flycatcher at Butterfly Garden No.1 on my uphill lap and found it with two Red-flanked bluetails as companions. Lots of Japanese whiteyes too and a few Chinese bulbuls which gathered there to feed.

Ashy drongos were four with one seen. A Black-winged cuckoo-shrike was found feeding without its usual company of minivets. Indeed, minivets were absent from my morning's record.

The number of Grey-headed flycatchers had stablized to three with one seen. One leaf warbler with total
fleshy lower mandible was glimpsed without identification.

I look forward to the arrival of the coming cold-front which promises to be near ten in early morning on Friday. A good chance to look for feeding thrushes on road sides and nearby grass patches and good leaf warblers. And some other good birds.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 25/11/2013 20:17 ]


29th November & 5th December, 3013 combined

A Good Switch of Bird Scenes
A Lesson Learned about Cold Front and Bird Arrival and Activities

In the belief that a good cold front that brings a significant fall of temperature will bring good birds, I went birding last Friday, hoping to see chats and thrushes feeding on road side or along forest edges. Two Daurian redstarts and three Red-flanked bluetails were seen, somewhat better than average but no thrushes.

Flycatchers fared a lot below norm, one Asian brown seen and two Grey-headed heard. The morning concluded with just twenty-seven species recorded, quite low indeed.

Six days later, I tried again but started nearly half an hour late for I missed my six o'clock bus by a few seconds of rushing.

The sixth species was a female Daurian redstart but the eleventh was a delightful sight of twenty-five or more of noisy Striated yuhinas feeding briefly on a young tree near the gate entrance to the local AFCD office complex.

Business seemed running as usual again until I arrived at the location that had a branch road leading up on my left. Bird calls from a distance of about fifty metres attracted me to look up and,on top of a big tree, there was a nice male Scarlet minivet, a species not seen at last visit. Next bird was better in the form of a Black-winged cuckoo shrike. The third bird that caught my attention was an Ashy drongo. Yellow-cheeked tits were heard, confimring a bird wave was moving around there. Could there be flycathcers other than a Grey-headed heard. Suddenly a light blue flash was seen, definely that of a Verditer's, a sight good enough for record but not delightful enough that satisfied my eyes. I rushed up fifty metres and stood opposite to the big tree that the Scarlet minivet had once been. The distance of sight was still around thirty metres but the light was bright and favourable. In just a short moment the same blue flash was there once more. It was indeed a Verditer when I trained my binoculars upon it and saw its eyestripe and the rest of body.

Further away there was a Two-barred greenish warbler well seen enough to be identified,the twenty-eighth kind of birds of the day.

I kept wondering what had happened to the Red-flanked bluetails and OBPs which were absent from my morning's list when I returned from Pinic Site No.9. I went to P.S.No.12 in search of thrushes and a great likelihood of seeing some of the latter. Thrushes I had none, for the one nearby was scared away by a noisy lot of male walkers,and OBPs remained heard only. I walked on and soon found myself with P.S. No. 6 on my left, a place of open turf big enough to have OBPs well away from human passers-by. I walked down half across the terraced ground when I spotted a ground bird looking like an OBP. But the bird I looked upon was without streaks on the mantle and more brown on the back. Its full view came when it turned sideways, doubtless a Forest wagtail, the second winter visitor of the same kind I found in the Shing Mun area over the years. A real OBP soon became flushed up as I left the place.

The species total naturally soared, this time to thirty-eight from last time's three under thirty.

The day's lesson was that winter birds arrived gradually after a cold front and in general a lot better a few days later.  

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 6/12/2013 19:01 ]


17th (Tue) & 20th (Fri),December,2013

A Tale of Two Mornings
A Comparison of Rainy and Sunny Days

The Tuesday morning started with rain which became denser towards noon, making birding inconvenient and identification of birds at times impossible for blurring of lenses.

Thrushes did appear on the roadside and large grassy patches, but limited to all Grey-backed, totally four, two males and females.

Grey-headed flycatchers were not heard at tall but two Asian brown flycatchers were seen feeding actively against cold wet weather.

Both species of robins, Red-flanked bluetails and Daurian redstarts kept themselves well out of sight and seemed not heard at all.

Even Ashy drongos looked shy and only one was seen.

As predicted by the week's weather forecast, the weather was fine on Friday morning, wind much reduced in force and sunny all the time.

Something uncommon did appear, first a Chinese pond heron was flushed up near the Pineapple Dam, and on the dam itself three crows of two different species were again seen associated together, two Jungle and one Collared as previously at the same location but after a lapse of more than a month. It looked the latter was being led by the former which were common residents around Shing Mun and Road Twist areas for the abundance of barbecue facilities.

I went up again half way on the side road that led to the upper entrance of the mainly-monotonous secondary forest as intersting birds were found on the opposite side of the parallel stream last week. Just an Ashy drongo perching prominently but following the calls of a Bay woodpecker I saw it flying rapidly and noisily around treetops, too distant for sight identification. This is also the area that H K Ying and his friend found a Rufous-bellied woodpecker years ago.

All Ashy drongos and Black-wing cuckoo shrikes were found again, four seen and one heard of the former and two of the latter, but out of possible three, only one Grey-headed flycatcher was seen and heard.

Three Red-flanked bluetails made their appearance but only one Daurian redstart was heard.

I diverted to Picnic Site No. 7 which was quiet except two OBPs and better at nearby No. 12. A Hartert's leaf warbler afforded me good views of its upper and lower parts, interesting enough to make me visit OBI for comparing my mental image with photographic ones there.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 22/12/2013 21:30 ]


27th December, 2013 (Friday)

Moderately Cold and a Moderate Count
Weather proving again crucial to appearance of forest birds

Today's early morning was around ten Celsius, well above five but not warm as fifteen, resulting in birds responding accordingly - flycatchers not showing well but thrushes still feeding on roadside.

At seven-thirty, the Ashy drongo near Pineapple Dam called loud and clear, and the one before the road-barrier was also there.

The egret flushed near the dam this time was a Great, surely not a wandering local bird but rather most probably a winter visitor.

Daurian redstarts just called but no sightings, and the catchment was far from good, just thirteen of species when I went past the barrier. For record's sake, the orange-breasted Grey wagtail was seen again.

Some minutes's walking before P.S. No. 6, a White's thrush was seen, just a moment before it disappeared on the approach of some morning strollers. That's Shing Mun in winter. Nearby was a male Grey-backed again just a short moment before it took a quick flight down to the right-side slope. The third thrush of the morning, a White's again, found me to be the disturber but enough time to have a sideway view across me.

A better reward was meeting a Red-tailed robin when I walked up to the lawn beyond the public toilet at P.S. No.6. What seemed strange was that its calls sound weak and a bit high in pitch, though still single noted.

The rest of the morning was uninteresting until I was on top of Shing Mun's longest slope and stopped to count some Striated yuhinas which coincided with last time's number of twenty-five.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 27/12/2013 22:19 ]


3rd January, 2013 (Friday)

A Morning Below Expectation
The Leading Species of a Bird Wave At Play

Friday was the third day the temperature saw a steady rise which looked good for bird activities. It was easy work to find the first Ashy drongo of the catchment near its water outlet to the reservoir, returning to perch on the same leaf-barren tree by waiting not much, making calls including its mimicry of a Crested goshawk. The catchment itself again attracted the 'oranged-breasted' Grey wagtail as feeding ground. It was good to find the Black-winged cuckoo shrike from the lower slope but as was the Grey-headed flycatcher which followed a big flock of Japanese white-eyes which moved fast uphill in their ususal manner, the latter bird was just heard. It was not a good indication at all when I began the Reservoir Walk with just eighteen species on my morning's list.

All the way up to P.S. No.9 and return there were no bird waves led by minivets, resulting in birds uneasy to see and few in variety. I turned left on reaching P.S. No.7 which was rather quiet. The only bird on the ground which I believed to be a thrush took flight when I began to pay it attention. Be patient, it would be there on return, I told myself. P.S. No.12 was again rather quiet so I didn't stay. The thrush at P.S. No. 7 was a White's which was shy and again flew out of sight behind a woody/scrub patch.

The morning's list stood at thirty, rather disappointing save an interesting sight of a Blyth's leaf warbler (P.reguloides), which behaved like memories of old, turning round thick boughs while pecking at the bark I believe for worms and eggs of insects.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 4/01/2014 17:31 ]


8th January, 2014

A Day Before Yet Another Cold-front
A check on the existence of rhythymic activities of forest birds

Based on personal experience of Tai Po Kau's winters, I chose the day as an experiment on my idea that birds tend to intensify their feeding acitivities in instinctual prior response to an oncoming cold-front. The results were mixed and uncofirming.

It was beyond expectation that the first bird seen was a Verditer flycatcher, first sighted making a short aerial sally to snatch its live food. Funny was that when I made a nearer focus on the bird it became an Ashy drongo with deep forked tail. But unfaded memory helped to see the differnce. The drongo perched on its favourite position of the very top of the bald tree whereas the flycatcher on mid-level. While dismissing other details here, it was worth mentioning that their aerial hunts were quite different in manner, the drongo's more wide-sweeping and with quite difference in height between high and low points. When I attempted a near distance sight, they were all gone, qutie clear to keep distance with an approaching Black kite. Another point of interest was that this time the drongo uttered calls of three species - its own typical one, a Crested goshawk's and an Orange-bellied leafbird's - producing in me the question of the cause of the third and last one.

It was uneventful for wintering birds, no thrushes seen and just one robin in the form of a female Red-flanked bluetail. But there were other things to attract me. First there were a Crested goshawk and a serpent eagle heard, after a lapse of months, followed by White-bellied erponis seen twice. The flock of twenty-five Striated yuhinas were again seen on Reservoir Walk.

It was in the last phase of the morning's birding that I stopped at the first butterfly garden to enjoy the song of a male Orange-bellied leafbird until it flew away and solved the mystery created in me by the third type of bird call made by the Ashy drongo seen earlier there. They had likely been quite close to each other for the last several days.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 9/01/2014 19:47 ]


14th January, 2104 (Tuesday)

Robinson Crusoes at Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass
Avifauna of Shing Mun/Lead Mine Pass in winter  

Things never wholly repeat themselves. At least it is true about birds of the area in winter. The trees and plants take turns to bear berries and flowers and in turn affect the daily morning route of forest birds. The leaders of bird waves change roles as leaders when food variety changes. As a result, each weekly visit faces a different bird scene. The minivets as leaders were absent from my list for the past two weeks.

It is out of expectation that the long absent Long-tailed shrike showed its appearance on the staircase part of Pineapple Dam; in a manner creating in the human observer an impression that it was in sullen mood due to prolonged coldness and lack of insectivorous food, soon gone feeling not to keep a moment longer to aggravate its hunger.

The bare tree that bore a Verditer flycatcher and Ashy drongo were empty of birds while a Black kite soon glided past; the villain that kept the other birds away? Anyhow, the place was quiet of birds on the return trip instead of a bird wave last week.

It was on the road side of the second Butterfly Garden that I met a Forest wagtail which fluttered and jumped a bit but lingered on enough for me to recognized it with my lenses. If not mistaken, it was the same bird that first seen at Picnic Site No. 6 in late November of last year, seen by some photographers in Butterfly Garden No. 1, ranging its activities in a distance of a kilometer or one and a half. It wins my admiration greatly for its ability to survive with what is naturally endowed alone, ridiculing modern humans who monopolize overwhelming part of natural resources, yet forever breed for economic growth at the expense of other animals which include the Forest wagtail which has to face the world all itself, a perfect example of avi-Robinson Crusoe I find there.

A second avi-Robinson Crusoe in the form of a Little egret which flew across the reservoir when I approached the outlet of the catchment, obviously in search of fish on the spot usually occupied by local human anglers.

A third avi-Robinson Crusoe was a Red-tailed robin on the Lead Mine Pass part, genetically engineered to bear loneliness before joining its kind in the north in spring.

It is sincerely hoped that they all will survive and bear progenies to adorn the originally heavenly scene already looking like an oil-painting smeared and cut out of shape in the hands of humans in the past several hundred years.

S L Tai

[ Last edited by tsheunglai at 16/01/2014 19:41 ]


21st January, 2014 (Tuesday)

End of Winter Well In Sight
Two weeks before spring in Chinese Calendar

With the 'Big Coldness Day' one day behind it is predictable that cold-fronts will be few and not deep in temperature drops. And the unchanging bird scene in the Shing Mun area seemed to be broadly in agreement.

As cold days continued local animals have become desperate in their choice of food. Monkeys were seen chewing soft bark of leaves and dug their fingers to pluck out root ends to satisfy their needs. Likewise, Black kites were seen cruising the sky constantly for food, chasing away crows and scaring birds from perching atop of trees.

Winter acquaintances, like the Little egret on the catchment outlet to the reservoir, the orange-tinged Grey wagtail on the catchment itself, the Ashy drongo on the bare tree of the lawn before the road barrier, and the Forest wagtail on the fringe of P.S.No.6, became regular encounters.

Local birds did not appear in sizeable bird waves and it was quite funny to count just one female grey-throated minivet among a avi-flock.

The tree that bears red-flowers towards Chinese New Year produced a pair of Orange-bellied leafbirds and one Spotted dove was heard uttering its spring calls of low 'hooing' sounds.

The only interesting sight was my first first-winter male Red-flanked bluetail of the winter which increased my morning count of the species to five, a high count of the area.

S L Tai


27th January, 2014

Farewell to Winter
Record of species drops as weather warms up

At around half-past seven Shing Mun was quiet. The only Ashy drongo that was seen was found at the bare tree on the lawn before the road barrier. None of the Grey-headed flycatchers seen previously was seen or heard all the way.

Some twentyPekin robins were seen feeding on the road which is a scene I remember happening before me years ago on Lead Mine Pass in late April. Local birds especially bulbuls were becoming noisier. Local birds separated themselves up to near species level.

To make the farewell a bit like an event, I heard and spent quite a while until I found the female Daurian redstart which flew from the reservoir fringe just beyond Pineapple Dam up to the catchment. Like some other wintering birds, she would fly north in a matter of days, making room perhaps for the arrival of spring migrants.

S L Tai


Mrs Gould's Sunbird

2014-Feb-16, afternoon
"半閒亭"前, 橋邊, Picnic Site No.7?

Hope you can see it and take the photo of this beautiful bird.



Sorry don't know how to address you properly.

That's Picnic Site No.12. The one on the right of the road bridge is No. 7.

Anyhow. Very fine find. Thanks for your info. I've planned to visit Shing Mun tomorrow, ie Monday.

S L Tai


sorry for the unclear information, Mr. Tai.

the photo was taken at the location as shown in the map below (the red cross mark):

hope this map helps.