The ubiquitous Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) is a fine color in mid-July;-
And here is a juvenile-ish Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocerus);-
Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) - taking a fish at a Gei Wai sluice gate.
But some of the birds to be seen around Mai Po this week would have been an unexpected summer presence a decade or so ago, according to The Avifauna of Hong Kong which was published by the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society (HKBWS) in the year 2000.
The species accounts are a distillation of historical Hong Kong bird records dating back to Robert Swinhoe in 1860, pre- and post- World War II stuff by Geoffrey Herklots and other observers as recorded in the "Hong Kong Naturalist" and 40 years of Hong Kong Birdwatching Society records from 1957 to 1998.
The last word then, on the status of Hong Kong birds ? Well, up to 1998 certainly, but, inevitably changes in the status of some species have been recorded since that time.
Some snaps of HK's new HK breeders (both suspected and confirmed) in the past few days around Mai Po ….
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica) - "uncommon passage migrant with occasional midwinter reports" (Avifauna). Now known to be a localized breeder in HK.
White-cheeked Starling (Sturnus cineraceus) - strictly a "winter visitor" (Avifauna) but there are increasing summer records and this week mid-summer juveniles have been about. These were part of a group of at least twenty.
Red-billed Starling (Sturnus sericeus) - another former "winter visitor" with an increasing number of summer (apparently local breeding) records.
A final Starling, - White-shouldered (Sturnus sinensis). As befits its latin name, a Chinese breeding species, and long-known HK breeding bird. They are actually increasing in number, in part due to a liking for China Light and Power Company electrical switch boxes.
Chinese (Yellow-billed) Grosbeak (Eophona migratoria) - another new HK breeder. Before 2000, only known as a winter visitor. Here is a young bird at the edge of a track, behaving a bit like a pipit.
So, these increases sound like good news. But what is going on ? Is this due to climate change ? It is certainly hard to say for sure. But many other species are in decline. Many migrant birds - especially waders - are declining due to hunting, trapping and especially habitat destruction all along their migration routes.
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) …. in areas of suitable habitat, present all year round, and this - as for other species - makes their status in HK and elsewhere more difficult to assess.
Many are migrants along the south china coast and must be subject to the same pressures as the other migrating birds.
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) - "common in early autumn" (Avifauna). This is still spot-on. These Redshank -under the watchful eye of a curlew- were among over 600 at Mai Po Nature Reserve this week. Numbers should peak in August, when it might be clearer whether their numbers are declining or not.
"The Avifauna of Hong Kong" was a milestone in the progress of the Hongkong Birdwatching Society. But like any milestone, the road has moved on beyond it. Still, there is no doubt that is a great book and must-have reference for any Hong Kong birder.