I usually like to post good pictures of birds. Some are better than others but by and large they pass. Today’s photo is a mess. But I am very happy with it.
Last night as it was getting dark I saw some activity in the jasmine. I knew what it wasn’t but I did not know what it was. It looked like a warbler and it looked biggish. Mentally I wondered if Oriental Reed Warbler ever visited gardens. It seemed pretty unlikely but so did Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler.
The light was simply too poor and the bird too deep in the greenery to attempt photos. I thought however that it would not go far over night. A dawn patrol was called for. Happily dawn is getting later these days so 6.45 was official sun up. I was promptly on parade and after no more than five minutes the bird appeared again, still in the jasmine. I was getting no more than the odd glimpse of movement. And then suddenly it flew up and perched in full view on the Lantana. I had not opened the doors in case the bird flew. So my only shots were through the dining room doors, with reflections from the room lights thrown in for good measure. I had only a 400mm lens on a full frame camera. The resultant images were pretty awful but I was happy enough that this was a new garden tick, Japanese Bush Warbler, Horornis diphone. I posted the image on the HKBWS forum to make sure. A few minutes later, the local guru said simply “Manchurian for me“…..
I was rather puzzled. It didn’t look like Manchurian Reed Warbler but I thought it was not for me to question he who knows everything. So I then alerted others. A good garden bird I thought. Very good in fact. It didn’t take long for someone to point out helpfully that the guru meant Manchurian Bush Warbler, Horornis borealis. My problem was that I didn’t know MBW occurred in Hong Kong. BMW yes, MBW, well search me guv’.
I dug out the last copy of the HK Bird Report and sure enough it seems MBW is now recognised as a HK species but it also stated that reliable criteria for separation in the field remain to be established. Now I’m even more confused. So I was right…. it was a Bush Warbler. I was wrong…… guru or sifu did not mean MRW. My initial instincts were right(ish). The answer to separation seems to be coming from in the hand examination of birds trapped and ringed here. Guru / sifu had listed why he went with MBW. I guess I should have known that the species was either split or added to the HK list a couple of years back but I didn’t. And I don’t think I am really bothered which species it was. They would all have been new for the garden. But I may have saved myself a face full of omelette. I am sure by know you are either bored rigid or desperate to see the cause of all the kerfuffle. So here it is in all its blurriness:
Now I think its exciting to get this chappie in the garden but Mrs. Ha, who is once again feisty enough to be classified as ‘on the mend’ simply said ‘its very boring’. I think she mistook borealis for boring just as I mistook horor-nis for horror. Back to my Latin Primer I think.
The excitement however was not over. The domestic helper, whose birthday it is today, came in and announced there was a moth outside. Hmmm. Ok. I suppose I’d better humour her and have a look. Wah! Convolvulus Hawk Moth, Agrius convolvuli. To be honest this would be a much better find in Britain than in Hong Kong. However I’m just a big kid who still likes to find insects that have scare potential. So I picked it up and tried to offer it to the helper as a birthday gift. She seemed unamused. Well, would you run away from this?
What a treasure. Fits nicely into the palm of your hand.
My punishment was to drive Mrs. Ha to the TCM shop (TCM = Traditional Chinese Medicine). Not much fun.
But on balance I think it was worth all the hassle and confusion to have a MBW and a CHM in the garden within an hour of one another. Sometimes the quality of the photo isn’t important. For me it was the thrill of the chase, guessing correctly that the bird would overnight (free of charge) and leave without breakfast and then finding something that would have given my Manchurian friend a very good breakfast indeed. Come to think of it, I wonder if the guru meant Mancunian……… I think I heard an accent.