This weekend I visited Ma Chang and did the usual walk from there to Yeyahu. I hadn’t walked this route for a while – Ma Chang is very disturbed by recreational activities in summer and the humidity makes a long walk very uncomfortable – so I was very interested to see what birds were around and whether any migration was taking place. On arrival at 5.30am, the weather was perfect – a lovely fresh 16-17 degrees C with no wind and a little mist. Already, by 7.30am, the sun was strengthening and gradually burned off the mist to reveal a sunny, clear day.
Migration was in evidence early on with a reasonable passage of Yellow Wagtails plus a couple of Grey Wagtails mixed in. A few juvenile Yellow Bitterns commuted between the reedbeds and a good number of Little Grebes (the race here in China has pale eyes – a potential split?) were loitering along the edge of the reeds.
An adult female Pied Harrier was a nice sight – these birds pass through in spring and autumn – and it was nice to see it, momentarily, alongside a juvenile Eastern Marsh Harrier, showing the obvious size difference.
The walk to Yeyahu was hot and sticky and, in places, was quite hard work due to the massive growth in vegetation that has occurred over the last few weeks. Along one trail I noticed some mammal tracks (see photo below). I suspected these were some sort of badger and, after making some enquiries, it seems that they belong to the Hog Badger, a creature that looks superficially like our European Badger but with a pig’s snout, hence the name.
A few months ago, Spike Millington and I discovered a set of burrows not far from where I saw these tracks. I suspect that they may belong to the Hog Badger, too. I will try to stakeout this site on a moonlit night sometime soon to see if I can catch a glimpse of these nocturnal mammals. I might have to take along some irresistable treats to tempt them…
At the Yeyahu reserve, there had clearly been an explosion of butterflies, mostly these small blue butterflies.. they were everywhere and many were congregating in large groups around small puddles. A real spectacle.
This grasshopper made a brief appearance when it landed near the butterflies.. amazing camouflage.
Other migrant birds on show here included 5 Black-naped Orioles, 39 Black Drongos (a record count for me), a single Fork-tailed (Pacific) Swift and a couple of snipe sp. I have seen a few snipe recently that are not Common Snipe and I suspected Pin-tailed. However, after a discussion with Paul Holt, it seems that Pin-tailed and the very similar Swinhoe’s are extremely difficult to tell apart and it is not safe to identify them in the field without seeing the individual tail feathers… There is an article in British Birds from a few years ago which I will have to dig out. Sunday’s birds will have to go down in my book as “Swintail Snipe”..!
Full species list (in chronological order of first sighting):