21 September 2014

Spoon-billed Sandpiper at Mai Po - a September surprise

Found by Ivan TSE of the HK Birdwatching Society this morning on Ponds 16/17 Mai Po Nature Reserve.  This Critically Endangered Species is "difficult" to find here in spring, and even rarer in Autumn.

A few record shots:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus pygmeus
Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Yesterday (Sept. 20th) there were about sixty Great Knot on the outgoing tide.

Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris

Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris

Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris

Great Knot - Calidris tenuirostris

And - as a useful comparison - three Red Knot were close to the hide, here is one of them

Red Knot - Calidris canutus

In the bay, though, the most noticeable Great Knot was struggling for it's life in the retreating tidal waters while a Peregrine tried to pluck it out of the sea.

The Great Knot moved closer to one of the old marker poles and this disturbed the rhythm of the swooping raptor.

And, to our surprise, eventually the Peregrine gave up and flew away.

Peregrine - Falco peregrinus

Peregrine - Falco peregrinus

Unfortunately for the Great Knot, though, it had a gash on it's chest and probably won't get much further.

15 September 2014

Eurasian Wild Boar

I've done this before but this is a "HK-border-with-Shenzhen" photo…  where the foreground is Hong Kong, and the city in the distance is Shenzhen, our nearest mainland neighbours.

The main reason for lack of development on the HK side was the "Frontier Closed Area" - a restricted Zone that was created in the early 1960s and lasted until well after the handover.

Even though there are development plans now for the HK side, there are still a few wild corners, and a few wild occupants, such as this Wild Boar, photographed earlier this month. 

Wild Boar Sus scrofa

Wild Boar Sus scrofa

Wild Boar Sus scrofa

Further east along the land border, Kong Shan Police Post towers on a hilltop near the village of Lin Ma Hang.  These posts are informally know as "Mackintosh Cathedrals" after a Commissioner of the Hong Kong Police in the early 1950s.

Kong Shan Police Post

But, the post, in turn, now seems to be overlooked by luxury flats on the Shenzhen side of the border. 

Kong Shan Police Post
Once upon a time, would-be illegal immigrants used to sit on the Chinese mountainside opposite this post (and the six others like it) and wait for darkness to fall before making their bid to cross the Hong Kong Border Security Fence.

Anyway, that's enough travelogue. As this is supposed to be a blog about birds, a couple of shots of Grey Treepie.  Like most corvids, they are clever and alert.

Grey Treepie

Grey Treepie

These are the best shots I've managed so far of this species, but, obviously, there is plenty of room for improvement !

11 September 2014

A "Hong Kong First" - Crow-billed Drongo

Not found by yours truly, I must confess.  This bird was seen on Po Toi Island on Sunday 7th September, and again on Tuesday 9th.

Some photos by Allen Chan are on the HKBWS website here:


The bird was reported to favor a small area of wooded hillside and so it seemed like a good idea to go and have a look for it again today.  About twenty Hong Kong birders and photographers had a similar idea ("Great Minds…") and the ferry trip to Po Toi Island was quite a social occasion.

I was lucky to walk right up behind some eagle-eyed types who had just found it.

Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans

Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans

Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans

Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans

Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans

Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans

In front of an admiring audience, the drongo made short work of a succession of Stink Bugs, Lychee Bugs and a Cockroach.

The spotting indicates that it is a juvenile.

Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans

Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans

Crow-billed Drongo occurs in S.E. Asia, and Yunnan, Guangxi and Hainan Provinces in China.  There are one or two records from north Guangdong, too, but this is the first to be seen in Hong Kong.

A memorable bird, and ideal conditions for a "Twitch" !

7 September 2014


A good variety of waders on the falling tide at Mai Po yesterday.

Black-tailed Godwit

Common Redshank in flight, Whimbrel, Godwits in the water

Two Common Redshank and, right, Terek Sandpiper


Broad-billed Sandpiper

Broad-billed Sandpiper, with Common Redshank and Marsh Sandpiper (background)

Red-necked Stint (juv) with Marsh Sandpiper, Greater Sand Plovers

 Last here, but not least….

Red Knot (juvenile)

Autumn migration is never as gripping as spring, but at Mai Po, there's always something to look at !

4 September 2014

Bonelli's Eagle at Mai Po

Bonelli's Eagle (juv)

Bonelli's Eagle (juv)

Bonelli's Eagle (juv)
Not a species seen very often by me, but reports are regular in Hong Kong. The Water Buffalo on Mai Po's Pond 24 were suitably impressed.

Out on the mudflats, a few southbound Whimbrel can be seen in late August..


For wader fans, there were also a few Asian Dowitchers dotted around, often associated with Black-tailed Godwits

Asian Dowitchers (front)

Asian Dowitcher (juvenile)
Most wildfowl won't turn up until the end of October, so the appearance of this Ferruginous Duck in mid-August was strange.  It's been a big favorite of photographers here…

Ferruginous Duck
So I can say "large as life" but maybe not "twice as natural" !

22 August 2014

Two half-days at Luokeng Nature Reserve, north Guangdong

The road to Luokeng

In September 2002 a team from Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (HK), together  with mainland Chinese researchers did a "Rapid Biodiversity Assessment" of Luofeng NR in north Guangdong.  The area has a population of the rare Crocodile Lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus), the main reason for Nature Reserve status. Luokeng Nature Reserve was upgraded to National NR status in 2013.

Among the KFBG report findings was that Himalayan Swiftlets (Collocallia brevirostris) were using a cave at Luokeng. This was the first record for Guangdong Province. A link to the report pdf is here:-

There have been regular (mostly winter) sightings of swiftlets in Hong Kong, and they have mostly been ascribed to brevirostris, although the possibility that some other types are occurring is being considered.

With a few unusual summer swiftlet records in HK this year, it seemed timely to check out the Luokeng Swiftlets, with a view to firming up some identification criteria, so Richard Lewthwaite organized a trip to go up to Luokeng to look for them. Ruy and Karen Barretto, Martin Hale and I joined him.

After a dawn rendezvous at Lok Ma Chau Boundary Crossing Point we were met by our driver, Mr YIP, and driven though some steady rain up the highway from Shenzhen. It was about 280 km to get to the turnoff for Luokeng, which lies 40km westwards from the highway along the x317 road.

After some uncertainty (only RWL and R & KB had been there before, in 2004, but had arrived in the dark) we found the Nature Reserve HQs. A staff member was sent to show us the "Swiftlet cave" and we duly arrived after a ten-minute drive from town.

There were no signs of swiftlets using the cave, and only a few bats were present.

We birded around the area near the swiftlet cave until dusk,  Swifts, both House Swift and Pacific were seen but no swiftlets were noted. No birds appeared to be using the cave. At last light we noted a Peregrine perched on a branch near the mouth of the cave, but concluded that it was waiting for bats to come out.

The weather improved overnight, and no swifts or swiftlets of any kind were seen on 21st August. 

Morning mist, Luokeng

The nearby fields produced a flock of eight Black Bazas...

 …..and a Chinese Sparrowhawk.

Some winter visitors had arrived, including this Grey Wagtail

Intriguingly, we had glimpses of a largish possible Mountain Pigeon a couple of times, but couldn't nail the ID. 

A large migrant flock of mostly Little Egrets dithered at the edge of the reservoir.

Some Yellow Wagtails and a Stejneger's Stonechat were in grassland near the edge of the reservoir, too. It was good to see birds we consider winter visitors to Hong Kong on their way south.

Livelihoods have improved in recent years for the residents of Luokeng, but rural development has not flattened every historical building, so some vintage stuff remains, including this old residence outside the town. 

We noted this collection of agricultural implements, ready for the rice harvest in October.

Even now "Outdoor Facilities" are a reality for some, - but there's no "Greener" way to do your business !

A reminder of the "bad old days" in rural China was this fortress near one of the villages.  Villagers built these forts a century or so ago with a view to to barricade themselves inside as protection against marauders.

Papaya trees against the ramparts..sweet potatoes in the field

Shortly before midday we departed and were driven back to Shenzhen.  We saw fifty-or-so species in our few hours of birding, but drew a blank with the swiftlets.

Whatever the outcome, though, it's always worth going "into the field" to check things out for oneself, and the fresh, cooler air of northern Guangdong made a nice break.