28 May 2011

Po Toi "Seawatching" - 17th to 19th May 2011

I spent a couple of nights on Po Toi Island last week. I  followed  Geoff "Mr. Po Toi"  Welch during his seawatching and woodland-searching routines.

I was keen to see how it is that - after five years of regular patch work on Hong Kong's most southerly island - Geoff has been largely responsible for taking the Po Toi "list" above 300 species.

Geoff's  regular seawatching takes place at both dawn and dusk. Last week we were looking out for Short-tailed Shearwaters, which were due to pass Hong Kong on their annual passage up the western Pacific.

Most of Hong Kong's migrating birds had already passed through but some "Visible Migration" was in progress, for example, this group of mixed Little Egrets and Cattle Egrets, perhaps coming up from the Philippines on their way north.

Some birds even tried to join us on the rocks....

"lucionensis" Brown Shrike

 Purple Heron

Lesser Sandplover

But most of the stuff seen, predictably, were birds you might expect over the ocean.. and quite far away, like this Bridled Tern

Sterna anaethetus

Black-naped Terns breed in HK, and this one was probably a local one on patrol..
Sterna sumatrana

During lulls in the proceedings, I amused myself by snapping the very co-operative Pacific Swifts in the area.

Apus pacificus

And it's always gripping to see frigatebirds...  Geoff had distant views on Tuesday morning, but this Lesser Frigatebird came a bit closer on Thursday in the early morning sunshine.

Lesser Frigatebird

And what about the gripping spectacle of Short-tailed Shearwater migration ?   Well, the Shearwaters obviously had a prior engagement, and failed to show at all.

That's seawatching.

An example of one of  Geoff's monthly Po Toi summaries can be found on the HKBWS website here :

Elsewhere on the island, there were some decent migrants around, like these Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, pausing on their way to Fujian Province to our northeast.

Lurking in the grasses behind Po Toi's seafood restaurant, a Cinnamon Bittern and a Yellow Bittern..

Ixobrychus cinnamomeus

Ixobrychus sinensis

Best of all, we were able to sit at the edge of the water in Po Toi's harbour and drink beer while watching this Chinese Egret, which had been around for a few days.....

Egretta eulophotes

But it seems like the egrets and bitterns are among the last of Hong Kong's spring migrant birds, so most of spring's birding excitement is over.

Sniff !


  1. Great stuff John, very nice selection of species and a great Swift shot to boot........

  2. Hi John

    Great post - Po Toi sounds like a fantastic place. Hope we can find an island like that here one day...! Love the shrike and swift shots!


  3. Stu and Dave,

    - the breeding Pac Swifts were very obliging.... the migrant ones seem to whiz around on the darkest of days.

    Po Toi is good fun, and when there are no birds, a slap-up seafood lunch is available, too !

  4. Great photos as always John, brings back such great memories...........