Monday 6 March 2017

Am I on Shetland?

There is a funny buzzing sound. There it is again. Ziiip. Wait, is that a Pipit? Quite stripey. Ziiip. Oh, there are two. Ziiip, ziiip. Actually, there are several. Lots in fact. All over the place, two more on that putting green, another there with that Wagtail. Ziiip. Oh, one over there in that tree. Gosh, they're not hiding very well are they? Can't be a rare Pipit if I can see it can it? Ziiip. Let's have a closer look. Hmmm, yes, quite creamy on the front, lots of stripes. And quite greeny on the back. Olivey some might say..... Ziiiiiiiip

Ooooh, and what's that "boing" sound? Small bird, warbler sized. Chu-wee! Well, err, oooh, that's got a bit of an eye stripe! Very bold in fact. Lovely some might say. And what's this over here. Small, very acti....."Tsooo-wee-eeet!" JESUS CHRIST WHERE AM I???!!!

So where was I? Actually I was a little confused myself, I had just stepped off a plane but I had thought I was going to Asia, not Shetland. But here I was near Lerwick seemingly - long flight, must have been diverted. Warmer than I recalled but still, global warming and all that. Oh and what's this bird over here? Dark glossy blue, cocked tail, whacking great wing bar and white underneath. Oriental Magpie Robin! I was in Hong Kong after all, there hadn't been the mother of all mistakes. But what are all these autumn rarities doing here? The place is literally crawling with Olive-backed Pipits, Pallas's Warblers and Yellow-browed Warblers

Well, this is the beauty of migration. When UK birders step out of their cars into gale-force winds at Spurn, or sway onto the pier at Lerwick in early October, this is what they're all after. Asian birds. Hong Kong is twelve hours and six thousand miles away, the rarities we all chase have taken one hell of a wrong turn. They should be headed to the warmth of Southern China, to south-east Asia and to India. Instead they're jumping around a hawthorn bush close to the meridian.

I retired to my sister's house overlooking Discovery Bay on Lantau Island, and gratefully received a large gin and tonic. Can't be too careful, got to keep the quinine levels high. I was where these birds were supposed to be. OBPs and YBWs are common winter visitors here, and it was absolutely delightful to be wandering around South Asia with them all around me. 
Crawling with megas

Screams Asia

The next morning I woke up early and wandered the golf course until I got kicked off it - I was apparently endangering myself. Before that happened I saw Dusky Warblers, Long-tailed Shrikes to die for, Daurian Redstarts to also die for, and a ton of other birds including various wintering thrushes as well as some of the common residents like Violet Whistling Thrush. VWT is as cool as it sounds. I kicked myself for not having brought a proper birding lens whilst nonetheless enjoying myself very much without one. This was not a birding trip in any way, though I had allowed myself my bins, but here are a couple of feeble efforts with the meagre focal length that I had with me.

Male Daurian Redstart. Like.

Female of above, on my sister's garden fence. If she had an interest in birds her garden list would be amazing. There was however no sign of the bird guide I bought her when she moved to HK.


Long-tailed Shrike. Superb.

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