19 Jan 2020

Eastern Imperial Eagles at Mai Po Nature Reserve, Hong Kong

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca
Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca

A fine afternoon in mid-January. 

I knew I was due to do a Waterfowl Count at Mai Po on Sunday Jan 19th, and a circumnavigation of the reserve would be required.  

“Time spent in reccee is never wasted” they say. So it seemed a good reason to stretch the legs and check out the paths at the southern end of Mai Po, adjacent to the fishponds at Lut Chau.

In the summer the bunds become muddy and overgrown, but I remembered that conditions are usually drier and clearer in mid-winter, and snakes likely to be less of a hazard. 

Among the thirty-or-so Black Kites circling above the open water and reedbeds were two Eastern Imperial Eagles, a first or second winter bird and an adult.

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca
Later these settled in a tree beside Pond 21.  When I got closer, I found two young Imperial Eagles standing on a grassy bank accompanied by several Collared Crows.  The adult Imperial was in a tree nearby, striking a heraldic pose as it fended off the attentions of a Black Kite.
Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca
Royal Air Force Cap badge

Meanwhile, the  juveniles standing at the pond edge nearby reminded me of barnyard chickens. Large and fearsome barnyard chickens.
Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca
The reason for the young eagles’ interest in that particular area was revealed when one of them popped out of the long grass with a dried - but well-pecked - piece of fish. 


Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca

Almost immediately the other bird threatened the first bird, causing it to drop and abandon the fish. 

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca


Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca
The dried fish was abandoned to the crows. 

Both juvenile eagles went to roost as the sun set over the phragmites reedbeds.


12 Jan 2020

Eastern Marsh Harriers at Mai Po, Hong Kong

Although the calendar says “mid-winter” the temperature was distinctly autumnal at Mai Po yesterday.

Conditions were good to view and photograph the Eastern Marsh Harriers (Circus spilonotus), which make use of the habitat at Mai Po Nature Reserve and nearby Deep Bay area from mid-September to mid-April.

Eastern Marsh Harrier (Circus spilonotus)

Eastern Marsh Harrier (Circus spilonotus)

Eastern Marsh Harriers (Circus spilonotus)

Eastern Marsh Harriers (Circus spilonotus)

Eastern Marsh Harriers (Circus spilonotus)

Eastern Marsh Harrier (Circus spilonotus)

Eastern Marsh Harrier (Circus spilonotus)

Eastern Marsh Harrier (Circus spilonotus)



Two individuals were about, an adult female and a first or second-winter bird.

6 Jan 2020

2019 “Review” - some birds in flight in Hong kong


Here we go, then - umpteen photos in search of a theme....


Black-faced Spoonbill - October


Saunders’ Gull - February


Silver-backed Needletail - March


Oriental Plover - April

Black-tailed Godwit - April



Whiskered Tern - May


Bridled Tern - May

Little Egret - June


Large-billed Crow - June

Peregrine - October


Sand Martin - October

Himalayan Swiftlet - December


Whimbrel - October

Chinese Grey Shrike - November


Amur Falcon - October

Chinese Pond Heron - October

Black-faced Spoonbill - October

Wigeon - November

And a Birdy 2020 to all !




25 Nov 2019

A Long Weekend..

Long-tailed Shrike

Well I’ve declared the weekend that just passed five days long, solely for blog purposes. Last weekend began on Wednesday, 20th November.

November in HK was known traditionally among expats as “Wrinkly Season” - the best weather of the year, when people’s aged relatives chose to make a pre-Christmas visit.

The birding was good too, with feathered winter visitors arriving in numbers.

Perhaps fewer expats and “wrinklies” now, and the climate seems milder than twenty years ago, but there are still many birds around in late November.

“ocularis” White Wagtail

Daurian Redstart (f)

Common Kingfisher

Red-rumped Swallow

An outgoing tide at Mai Po on Friday 22nd drew us out to the boardwalk, bright and early.

In the clearest of light, we watched the Cormorants pouring out of Nam Sang Wai and out over Deep Bay.

Great Cormorants - crossing Deep Bay

Western Osprey

Great Cormorant

....and the Wigeon came very close to the boardwalk hide. 


Eurasian Wigeon (f)

Eurasian Wigeon (m)

Musical notes ?

The tides weren’t looking so promising on Saturday 23rd, so we just strolled to the scrape at Mai Po Nature Reserve, along the casuarinas.


Common Kingfisher

Masked Laughingthrush

Typical winter view looking towards the Border Fence


Once numbered in HK in hundreds, Chinese Spotbills don’t reach double figures here now.
"Chinese Spot-billed Duck" 

Grey Heron

Black-faced Spoonbill

A "Grebe Day" on Sunday 24th..we ventured forth after casting our votes (For candidates, not Grebes).

The biggest Grebe, Great Crested, was at an overgrown Fung Lok Wai, near Yuen Long. 

Great Crested Grebe

Meanwhile the twice-a-decade* Black-necked Grebe near San Tin returned to the fishpond where it was originally found (by Geoff Carey) on Tuesday, 19th November.
Black-necked Grebe (Little Grebe in BG)

Black-necked Grebe - “Eared Grebe” in the USA

....and a bonus Rosy Starling, also at San Tin...

Rosy Starling

...a rarity here in HK. 

Perhaps the same bird as originally seen (by Chris Campion) at San Tin on 7th October. Or  perhaps not - this blog doesn’t do certainties.

* Last two BN Grebe records were 2018 (briefly, one observer) and 2010