Tuesday 31 May 2011

Sheraton Hotel in Lagos; Just one lap

This post is dedicated to the beautiful Elizabeth, a security officer at the Sheraton Hotel in Lagos. She is a fine woman with many attributes, chief amongst which was the ability to gain permission for me to take photographs in the gardens of the hotel. Policy dictates that photographs may not be taken in the hotel grounds, but Elizabeth obtained permission for me to do so and even accompanied me to ensure that I didn’t get up to mischief.
Her time was precious so I had to make it quick. One lap of the gardens would not normally be enough, but even so, we managed to find a few birds. The only one that came anywhere close to sitting for a photo was an African Thrush.

From the casuarinas trees, an African Pied (Allied) Hornbill called with a whistling note that called to mind a Peregrine Falcon. They shared the casuarinas with some Common Bulbuls and Splendid Glossy Starlings. The trees visible over the wall and across the street, held Western Grey Plantain-eaters. Bronze Mannikins were tending nests with two located. Adult birds were continually flying in and out, maintaining the nests but no evidence of chicks was seen.
In the skies above, an African Palm Swift and Mottled Spinetails were scudding around, feeding. Closer to the ground a good number of dragonflies, that I suspect may be Wandering Gliders, were taking advantage of thick clouds of insects that had already taken a few nips at yours truly.
I had to look this ode up and I really hoped to find that it was called the Ninja Skimmer.
I suspected that the top and second pictures may be a female and a similar pattern on the wings of this blue individual led me to consider that he may be the male of the species.... until I saw the bottom one.
This ode was superficially similar to the first one, but the body patterns and wing markings are different enough to make me look further and to reconsider the affiliations of the blue one. I felt that I had seen them before but had to wait until I got home to check on the Africa Dragonfly website where Dirk Motshagen's photos from Port Harcourt in Nigeria suggest that the top 3 could be Lucia Widows, Palpopleura lucia. My best bet for the bottom picture at the moment is a Portia Widow, Palpopleura portia. I am still open to suggestions however if you have any experience of West African odes.

The Agama Lizards at The Sheraton in Lagos may well be the best protected lizards to be found anywhere.

Species seen; 14

Cattle Egret 15, Black Kite 15, Red-eyed Dove 6, Laughing Dove 4, Western Grey Plantain-eater 5, Mottled Spinetail 30, African Palm Swift 1, Little Swift 4, Broad-billed Roller 2, Allied Hornbill 2, Common Bulbul 12, African Thrush 8, Pied Crow 2, Bronze Mannikin 4.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Costanera Sur pre-departure, Buenos Aires, Argentina

I had a plane to catch this morning, so it had to be a very quick flash into Costanera Sur. The Grey-headed Rails were out on the pavement to see if there were any gleanings to be had from the pavement cafes. The gates were shut so I shimmied over the fence and started to explore the long grass and pampas to the left. Rufous-collared Sparrows were feeding in the weeds and Masked Gnatcatchers were especially common this morning.
A Pampas Cavy fed within easy reach of cover and a bright chestnut bird briefly showed, but I was unable to identify it straight away. Southern House Wrens were also very common this morning.
In contrast to the first morning in Buenos Aires, the sky was overcast and the birds were very quiet. The road leading towards the river was not as productive, but then I did have a very strict time limit today and couldn’t afford to linger. The usual suspects, Chalk-browed Mockingbirds, Rufous-bellied Thrush and Rufous Hornero were all seen easily and something spooked the Picazuro Pigeons and upwards of 150 took to the air in a big cloud.
Do Caracaras roost communally? About 20 or so appeared low overhead coming out from the reedbeds. Mostly they were Southern Caracaras with about half a dozen Chimango Caracaras mixed in with them. They all seemed to have emanated from the same place making me think that either there had been something worth scavenging in the reeds, or they were leaving a roost. Caracaras are closely related to falcons but spend more time scavenging than hunting.
The bright chestnut bird showed again and I was able to pin it down as a White-lined Tanager female. This was the third one I had seen although there was no sign of the black male.
The warden’s hut was manned this morning and he had put out a few crumbs for the birds. Bay-winged Cowbirds were quick to take advantage and waited on the ground below until the Chalk-browed Mockingbirds knocked crumbs from the windowsill.
Shiny Blackbirds remained aloof to start with, but soon plucked up the courage to come in closer.
My favourite of the morning were the female/juvenile Golden-billed Saltators. I had seen the splendid male on the first morning, but only briefly and from a distance. The femalesjuveniles were very confiding.
I had to tear myself away and get back, but the warden called out to me as two Orange-backed Troupials came in to feed on a fruiting palm. It was very tempting to push my luck and stay longer, but if I keep my job, maybe I'll come back again (within 15 years this time I hope).

Species seen; 34
Neotropic Cormorant 3, Great Egret 1, Southern Caracara 15, Chimango Caracara 8, Grey-necked Wood-rail 4, Black-backed (Kelp) Gull 12, Grey-headed Gull 8, Picazuro Pigeon 200, Eared Dove 20, Picui Ground Dove3, Monk Parakeet 12, Chequered Woodpecker 3, Rufous Hornero 35, Cattle Tyrant 2, Great Kiskadee 20, Southern House Wren 8, Chalk-browed Mockingbird 35, Rufous-bellied Thrush 20, Masked Gnatcatcher 12, Common Starling 5, House Sparrow 10, Hooded Siskin 6, Tropical Parula 3, Golden-crowned Warbler 1, White-lined Tanager 3, Black and Rufous Warbling-finch 2, Saffron Finch 2, Yellow-billed Cardinal 1, Rufous-collared Sparrow 15, Golden-billed Saltator 3, Bay-winged Cowbird 15, Shiny Cowbird 20, Orange-backed Troupial 2, Solitary Cacique 2.
Costanera Sur is described and directions given at this link. Other Argentinean and South and Central America trip reports can be found on the dedicated  Central and South America Page
The trip finished with 74 species seen, 18 of which were lifers
Costanera Sur pre-departure, Buenos Aires, Argentina. EZE

Friday 27 May 2011

Parque Tres de Febrero, Buenos Aires, Argentina. EZE

Parque Tres de Febrero, known variously as the Palermo Woods or Plaza Holanda, is a city park in Buenos Aires with a large lake. I had dipped on some coots and grebes earlier in the day and hoped to rectify that with a visit to some open fresh water.
Using Retiro Station (Google Earth ref; 34° 35’ 29”S 58° 22’ 28”W ) as a starting point again, a taxi took 10 mins and cost 25 Pesos (6.5 Pesos =£1). It drove along the Avenida Del Libertadore which is also well served by buses. Cut and paste these coordinates into Google Earth for an overhead look at the park; 34° 34’ 15”S 58° 25’ 01”W
Immediate success was had with a White-tufted Grebe and the promise of coots further along. Although I had not experienced any problems and had so far remained unmolested, the damage had been done by various strong warnings about personal security and I did not have the confidence to bring the big camera to the park. Others did though and there were plenty of people taking pictures.
I decided on a circuit of the lake and set off towards the coots. The first was a White-winged Coot. Although the white tips to the secondaries are not always apparent, the bird can be separated from the other coots by a plain yellow frontal shield and bill.
A slightly larger coot had a dark red marking between the shield and bill indicating that this was a Red-gartered Coot. It also has a red "garter" at the top of its tibia, but this is not a good field mark when it is on the water. It was more aggressive and appeared to cooperate with others of its kind to bully the white-wings away from free food thrown by park visitors.
The gimme birds, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Rufous-bellied Thrush, Rufous Hornero and Picazuro Pigeons were all present in good numbers. Monk Parakeets were joined by Nanday Parakeet to keep up a constant grating noise.
A bridge spans a narrow point in the lake and leads into a formal rose garden. Lawns and trees beyond here held Shiny Cowbirds, Eared Doves and a male and female Hepatic Tanager.
From here I crossed the road towards the Japanese Gardens. There is a less formal area outside the enclosed gardens and there were a couple of vagrants in makeshift shelters in the trees and by the pond. They did not approach me and left me to watch a Limpkin as it fed at the edge of the water.
The park struck me as quite a bohemian area. A nearby university provided a good supply of students sitting out, artists, musicians and even dancers. Perhaps the big camera would have been provocative, but I hope that bold capitalised warnings won’t stop visitors to Buenos Aires from enjoying the city with the normal precautions that they would take in any big city.

Species seen; 21
White-tufted Grebe 4, Neotropic Cormorant 5, Southern Caracara 1, Limpkin 1, White-winged Coot 8, Red-gartered Coot 15, Picazuro Pigeon 30, Eared Dove 15, Nanday Parakeet 50, Monk Parakeet 40, Rufous Hornero 30, Cattle Tyrant 2, Great Kiskadee 6, Chalk-browed Mockingbird 15, Creamy-bellied Thrush 1, Rufous-bellied Thrush 50, Common Starling 4, House Sparrow 30, Hepatic Tanager 2, Red-crested Cardinal 2, Shiny Cowbird 4.

Other posts from Buenos Aires can be found at the links below;

Visit the dedicated Central and South America Page for more posts from the region.

Parque Tres de Febrero, Buenos Aires, Argentina. EZE

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Ribera Norte, Buenos Aires, Argentina. EZE

The seed of doubt had been sewn and despite a completely attack-free day at Costanera Sur, personal security weighed heavy on my mind. I preferred to leave the tripod behind again as I would be travelling on the train, an activity that drew a slight shriek from my Argentinean colleague.
The journey took around 30 minutes and included today's first lifer. The Corscoroba Swan is unmistakeable, even from distance at speed. Shortly after leaving Retiro Station (Google Earth ref;  34° 35’ 29”S 58° 22’ 28”W ), the train passed a horse racing track with a couple of weedy lakes inside the rails. 4 Corscoroba Swans floated gently in the early morning light.
Dawn was around 07.15 this third week of May and my intended site at Ribera Norte opens at 09.00. Acassuso station (Google Earth ref; 34° 28’ 47”S 58° 30’ 14”W) is the 9th on the line from Retiro towards Tigre and a 30 minute walk from there should see me at the reserve.
Everything worked well and I arrived, unmolested, in the vicinity with a little time to spare. There is access to the river just south of Ribera Norte and I spent the time with Saffron FinchesWhite-crested Tyranulet and a raptor identical to the one that I had called Red-backed Hawk yesterday. There were many Picazuro Pigeons and the gimme birds, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Rufous-bellied Thrush and Rufous Hornero had all been ticked by the time the gate opened.
The track in Ribera Norte reserve describes a circle around a central weedy and reedy lake, passing through willows and woodland. One spur path leads down through the riverside rushes as far as the shore. I set off in an anti-clockwise direction and quickly came to a rustic hide looking out over a small patch of open water. A Rufescent Tiger-heron flushed into a low tree on my approach, but the rest of the waterbirds seemed unconcerned. I watched from the hide for a while, noting Common Moorhen, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Brazilian Teal and Speckled Teal.
The hide is open-sided and open-backed allowing an all-round view. A pair of White-tipped Plant-cutters fed from a berry bush behind me. The antshrike-looking female, confused me for a while until the male showed himself and gave me a clue.
A small, metal, bridge crosses some boggy ground and a couple of White-tipped Doves and a Great Kiskadee perched on the railings.
Beyond here the woods became fairly thick and the under-storey was dense. A Grey-necked Wood-rail picked its way along the path before ducking into cover when it saw me. This area proved to be a real hotspot with Black and Rufous Warbling-finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Southern House Wren, Chequered and Green-barred Woodpecker and Red-rumped Warbling-finch.
A lot of large pigeons were roosting in the tops of the dead trees. Most of them were Picazuro Pigeons, but one in particular caught my eye and closer inspection revealed him to be a Spot-winged Pigeon.
A couple of Hummingbirds had been buzzing around this morning, but it was difficult to get enough details to know where to start looking. Its bill was quite substantial with a dark tip and its back was brassy green. Eventually I found one sitting and was able to match it with a Gilded Hummingbird from the field guide.
The spur leading out to the river was quiet with only a couple of Neotropic Cormorants and some Grey-headed Gulls to show me. This might have been the prime site to look for the Scarlet-headed Blackbird, but I have to save something for next time.
Back on the circular path, a Roadside Hawk watched over a clearing from a high tree. Another hawk flew from close by and may have been a parent bird. The first one had a pale breast and the flushed bird called for it to follow.
I had been seeing a lot of Monk Parakeets and was trying to block out the raucous calls and shrieks from this noisy bird. A slightly less grating, but still strident call drew my attention from the hawk, just in time to see two Yellow-chevronned Parakeets fly from a snag above me.
The clearing allowed the sun to light up some butterflies and I wonder if this is where the idea for stained glass windows comes from.
I had almost come full circle and decided to go round again in the opposite direction, intending to return to the hide and spend a little time there. On the return walk, a small flock of Solitary Caciques belied their name as they stopped in a tree above me.The reserve is only about 25 acres, 10 hectares, in size so it doesn't take too long to complete a full ciruit and I had almost finished my second when I came across a Green-winged Saltator.
Back at the hide, a Cocoi Heron sat atop a small tree, a Green Kingfisher flashed across the reeds with a fish and a Ringed Kingfisher almost landed on a snag in front of me but saw me and changed direction at the last moment. A family of Coipu swam with their tails raised out of the water, appearing to feed on the floating weed that matted the surface.
I had come to Ribera Norte hoping to find more waterbirds, especially grebes and coots, but had not been very successful. I knew that there was a large body of water adjacent to the reserve and hoped that this might be more productive. I could not find an access point to the water, but found Chimango Caracara, Southern Lapwing, Picui Ground Dove and House Sparrow to bolster my sightings for the day.

Ribera Norte can be found at Google Earth ref; 34° 28’ 13” S 58° 29’ 46” W

From Acassuso Station on the Retiro – Tigre Line, follow Peru St. north-east towards the river. Peru St. is staggered to the right as it crosses Avenida del Libertador and reaches the river within 10 minutes walking. Cross the Tren de la Costa light rail line, turn left and continue for three blocks. Ribera Norte is in to the right. It opens from 09.00 ‘til 17.00. Entry is free but a donations box is available to support the reserve. I only saw one other visitor here today and encountered no threatening behaviour during the walk through a pleasant residential area from and back to Acassuso Station. It had been my intention to walk, but thinking back, there were no taxis evident at the station nor did I see any in the area.

Species seen; 51

Neotropic Cormorant 3, Cocoi Heron3, Great Egret 1, Corscoroba Swan 4, Brazilian Teal 4, Speckled Teal 2, Roadside Hawk 2, Red-backed Hawk 1, Southern Caracara 3, Chimango Caracara 2, Grey-necked Wood-rail 2, Common Moorhen 8, Spot-flanked Gallinule 1, Southern Lapwing 5, Grey-headed Gull 45, Picazuro Pigeon 50, Spot-winged Pigeon 1, Picui Ground Dove 2, White-tipped Dove 4, Monk Parakeet 40, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet 2, Gilded Hummingbird 2, Green Kingfisher 1, Ringed Kingfisher 1, Chequered Woodpecker 2, Green-barred Woodpecker 4, Rufous Hornero 6, White-tipped Plant-cutter 2, Small-billed Elaenia 2, White-crested Tyranulet 1, Cattle Tyrant 3, Great Kiskadee 30, Blue and White Swallow 1, Southern House Wren 6, Chalk-browed Mockingbird 20, Creamy-bellied Thrush 2, Rufous-bellied Thrush 60, Masked Gnatcatcher 3, Common Starling 8, House Sparrow 15, Tropical Parula 3, Golden-crowned Warbler 1, Black and Rufous Warbling-finch 1, Red-rumped (Grey-throated) Warbling-finch 2, Saffron Finch 5, Rufous-collared Sparrow 20, Green-winged Saltator 1, Yellow-winged Blackbird 1, Bay-winged Cowbird 8, Solitary Cacique 4.

Ribera Norte, Buenos Aires, Argentina. EZE

Monday 23 May 2011

Costanera Sur, assessment on arrival, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Visiting Costanera Sur Reserva Ecologica this morning, straight from the flight, was to be a quick assessment of the atmosphere there before a rested visit later in the day. Information sheets given to us, contained bold, capitalised warnings recounting recent incidents and advising great caution while in the Argentine capital. Trying to be as discrete as possible, I did not bring my tripod, but refused to be intimidated into not bringing the camera. This proved to be a well-founded obstinacy as the first bird of the morning was a red-crayon, Grey-necked Wood-rail.
I felt very pleased with myself, being able to catch a photo of such a rare and elusive bird, until later, when I discovered how common and approachable they actually are.
For now, still smug, I found a second lifer in the form a a Spectacled Tyrant and I was 2 for 2.
This kind of luck could not continue (I would be hell to live with if it did) and a few more common species were found to the left of the entrance, in an area of long grass and pampas. Eared Doves fed from the ground while Great Kiskadees perched on the edge of a raised, round water tank. Bay-winged Cowbirds looked down from a high snag.
50 meters in from the entrance, is a warden's office and a park map which allowed me to get a mental picture of the reserve. Rufous Horneros, Chalk-browed Mockingbirds and Rufous-bellied Thrushes were easy to find here (actually, they are easy to find everywhere, even from fast travelling buses). Perhaps going to my right may have been the better option with the sun behind me, but instead the birds drew me to the left, facing into a sun which was low in the sky even at 10.00. My eyes were sore after a 13 hour flight from London and dull brown birds would have suited me just now, but an Orange-backed Troupial was the next lifer to sear my retinas. I confess to being ignorant of the bird's status as a lifer at the time. I had seen Troupial, Icterus icterus, before in Brazil, but didn't realise until later that the Argentinian version has been awarded species status as I. croconotus.
Single ladies (that is one at a time, not unmarried, though of course the conditions are not mutually exclusive), were among the joggers, walkers and cyclists that frequent Costanera Sur. I took this to be a good reflection of the level of threat that I was likely to encounter here. My thoughts are that single ladies quickly find better places to jog if their safety is at risk (unless of course they are really fast joggers).

Having made my snap assessment, I could have returned to the hotel for a nap and returned later, rested, but the birding was too good for that kind of nonsense, so I continued, with my fourth red-letter bird coming within 100 meters of the entrance. A Green-barred Woodpecker flew in to the trees on my left. It was accompanied by a second bird which I assumed at first was half of a pair. However the second bird was smaller and proved to be a Chequered Woodpecker. There was no way that I could go to bed with all this hot birding action going on around me.
Two little birds that didn't make it onto 10,000 Birds during their wood warbler-fest, a Golden-crowned Warbler and a couple of Tropical Parulas responded well to a bit of "pishing." I was walking along the wide, well maintained road towards the Rio Del Plata, concentrating mostly on the left side where a wide deep ditch was lined either side with trees. A few tiny patches of water in the ditch gave me hope that the reserve had had some rain since GL visited a few weeks ago and found it to be completely dry.
About 400m from the entrance, the road meets the river and turns south-east to skirt along it. There was an opening to access the river bank and I took a quick look into the rushes there to find a small flock of Rusty-collared Seedeaters. The females on their own would have been tricky to identify were it not for the male, he of the rusty collar, popping out for a quick showing.
At the open area by the corner, more lifers were found. A Golden-billed Saltator evaded the camera and niether the Grassland Yellow-finches nor the Spix's Spinetail will appear here until I can get a better picture, but they were delicious additions to my lifer list for the day.
I couldn't help but continue along the road as it ran parallel to the river bank. Another Spectacled Tyrant was seen and Picazuro Doves roosted with Pale-vented Pigeons at the top of a dead tree. Both of the woodpeckers were common and seen frequently. I had hoped to see a Great Grebe out on the estuary, but settled for a few Neotropic Cormorants and some Black-backed and Grey-headed Gulls.  
Further along the road, there is a junction where one fork cuts back inland. There is also a picnic spot here which was over-run with school children on a day-trip. This Red-crested Cardinal did not seem to mind and appeared to think that he might pick up a few scraps from the kids. At the junction, I took the track heading back inland, hoping to find a body of water which the map promised was there, but which GL had missed during his "dry" visit in March. It was still dry on this 3rd week of May, in stark contrast to my previous visit here on exactly the same date, 15 years before. On that occasion there had been plenty of water and a good part of my list then was made up of waterbirds such as Southern Screamer, White-winged Coot, Spot-flanked Gallinule and Rosy-billed Pochard. There was no sign of any such thing today. Nor were there any calls from the reeds or any herons or ducks flying over to betray their presence. The areas enclosed by the roads each has the potential to hold water and are known as Lagunas when they are wet, however, up until now, the roads had been thickly lined with bushes and low trees preventing a view. As I passed along the track leading away from the river, the roadside vegetation thinned and allowed me to look out over a large area of reeds and pampas grass. Despite stopping and scanning for a while I could find only one Black and Rufous Warbling-finch and a Rufous-collared Sparrow.
Two American Kestrels took it in turns to perch atop a small metal tower. As I watched them, a larger shape, higher up, passed through my line of vision. After much deliberation, I have decided on a young Red-backed Hawk, but I am prepared to take advice on this one if anybody has a better suggestion.
It was lunch-time now and the reserva was becoming very busy with joggers, walkers, cyclists and school children. I had reached the alternative entrance at the other end of the sanctuary. Here there is an interpretation centre and toilets, but no sign of lunch. Hungry and by now, obscenely tired, I followed the road that would eventually bring me around in a big circle to where I had started.
A tiny spring was squirting a weak spray of water into the wide low area that runs along the west side of the reserve. Rufous-bellied Thrushes, Rufous-collared Sparrows and a Southern House Wren lurked close to the edge of the shallow puddle that it had created. Hoping that fresh water might attract some other birds, I sat down to wait for a while. In the bush beside me, I noticed a Guira Cuckoo and some Unicoloured Blackbirds.
As I approached the completion of my circle, the habitat changed to pampas grass on both sides of the road. In one small bush, three Masked Gnatcathers formed their own monospecial feeding party (PS indicates that the photo was edited to bring the bird out of the shadows).
There was some very pleasant evening light in the grassy area close to the entrance and I spent a while there watching a flock of about a dozen Guira Cuckoos build up as they arrived, one at a time, to roost close together. A small puddle in a wheel groove attracted Eared Doves to drink and a Rufous Hornero came by for a bath.
My assessment had taken all day and the light was beginning to fade now, so I headed for the exit. As I approached the gate I saw my first lifer of the day again, the Grey-necked Wood-rail. Far from being elusive, this bird proved to be common and confiding. No less than 6 of them were feeding in the open area immediately adjacent to the gate. I stopped at a pavement cafe for a quick bite and they came out through the fence to compete with the city's pigeons, picking for scraps between the tables!
Despite all the warnings, I did not feel threatened during my visit to Costanera Sur with many of the passers-by wishing me a cheery "buen dia" It is about 20 minutes walking from Retiro train station and none of the people that I saw during the day gave me any cause for concern. I later found that the reserve is in an area policed by the navy. There are few routes to escape after a crime, so the level here is low compared to the rest of the city. I guess there is reason behind the warnings though, so please be sensible and discrete.
The hotel concierge can provide directions to get there. To find the north-west entrance, go to Google Earth and cut and paste these coordinates into the search box, 34° 35' 57"S 58° 21' 45"W 
The above map would benefit from being turned through 90°. As it is, the north-west entrance is in the bottom left-hand corner at Accesso Viamonte. The gate is not always opened on time, but scaling the fence here appears to be an acceptable method of entry and exit. Thus the opening times of 09.00 until 17.00 are largely voluntary.
Species seen; 43
Neotropic Cormorant 15, Red-backed Hawk 1, Southern Caracara 9, Chimango Caracara 4, American Kestrel 3, Grey-necked Wood-rail 6, Black-backed (Kelp) Gull 25, Grey-headed Gull 15, Picazuro Pigeon 100, Pale-vented Pigeon 8, Eared Dove 20, Monk Parakeet 45, Guira Cuckoo 15, Chequered Woodpecker 6, Green-barred Woodpecker 10, Rufous Hornero 35, Spix’s Spinetail 1, Small-billed Elaenia 4, Spectacled Tyrant 2, Cattle Tyrant 2, Great Kiskadee 40, Blue and White Swallow 5, Southern House Wren 4, Chalk-browed Mockingbird 50, Rufous-bellied Thrush 40, Masked Gnatcatcher 6, Common Starling 15, House Sparrow 6, Hooded Siskin 25, Tropical Parula 4, Golden-crowned Warbler 3, Black and Rufous Warbling-finch 3, Rusty-collared Seedeater 8, Saffron Finch 2, Grassland Yellow-finch 6, Red-crested Cardinal 8, Yellow-billed Cardinal 1, Rufous-collared Sparrow 35, Golden-billed Saltator 1, Unicoloured Blackbird 5, Bay-winged Cowbird 6, Shiny Cowbird 4, Orange-backed Troupial 1.

Other posts from Buenos Aires can be found at the links below;

Visit the dedicated Central and South America Page for more posts from the region.
Costanera Sur on arrival, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Thursday 19 May 2011

Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden, Hong Kong.

Bell Wong had come with me to visit Tai Mo Shan and suggested a visit to Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden once we were done there. I had never heard of Kadoorie Farm and pictured rolling pasture and corn fields. But this is Hong Kong where any flat piece of ground that is not likely to flood has been built upon, so the terraces stretching up the steep slopes should not have come as a shock. My greatest fear was that the sprightly Bell, might suggest that we climb the seemingly endless steps to the top.

Luckily there was an attractive wooded stream that passes through the lower part of the farm and that kept us entertained. Red-whiskered Bulbuls were common and confiding here.
We found a family of Blue (Violet) Whistling Thrushes along the shaded stream. At least four fledglings were being tended by, we think, just one parent. In the dim light beneath the trees, the spectacular colour and spangles of the parent bird appeared black, belying the glory of a sun-kissed bird. One of the young birds stepped out of the shade and we could see glimpses of the splendid plumage that was to come.
The Blue Whistling Thrush simultaneously fans and presses its tail downwards. This behaviour had already become habitual amongst the shorter-tailed youngsters who appeared to “dance” for us.
Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Gardens has a good website which is distilled below. I was surprised that the site does not make more mention of the wild animals to be found on the farm. Visitors may encounter Wild Boar and Barking Deer for example in the forested areas on the upper slopes and the gardens have attracted 171 species of butterfly and 1300 species of moth!
A small nature pond for frogs and dragonflies attracted this Red-faced Skimmer Orthetrum Chrysis.

Opening times are from 09.00. The last entry is at 16.00 and closing time is 17.00. There is a HK$10 (@HK$12=£1) entrance fee and a shuttle bus that will take you to explore the upper slopes, allowing you to walk down instead of up. Buses leave from the reception car park at 09.40, 11.10, 13.30 and 15.00. Two additional buses run between these times at weekends and public holidays. The farm can be found at Google Earth ref; 22 26’ 01”N 114 07’ 04”E. It is within 3 kms from Tai Mo Shan as the crow flies, but the bus took us on a tortuous drive along Route Twisk to Shek Kong. Here we changed to another bus that passed the farm on the Lam Kam Road.

We only spent a very short time at the farm during the heat of the day and most of our attention was taken by the whistling thrushes. The list below is therefore very short. I am convinced that there is far more to be found here. Thanks again to Bell for his good company and for not making me walk all the way up the steps.

Species seen; 7

Spotted Dove 3, Red-whiskered Bulbul 4, Light-vented Bulbul 6, Blue Whistling Thrush 5, Common Tailorbird 1, Japanese White-eye 1, Eurasian Tree Sparrow 40