8 Mar 2012

A promise of spring at Mai Po

Saunders's Gull (Saundersilarus saundersi)

Out to the Mai Po Nature Reserve boardwalk today, and the Deep Bay tide was higher than predicted, coming all the way in.  

I was carrying the big lens, so I didn't bother carrying my telescope.  

March must be the best month to see Saunders's Gulls in HK, and several adults in breeding plumage  showed well close to the hide, although the light was poor.

Saunders's Gull (Saundersilarus saundersi)

A few migrating Curlew Sandpipers were on the mudflats, - harbingers - (I hope)  of the thousands of migrant shorebirds we can expect to pass through in the next few weeks.  A single Nordmann's Greenshank loafed at the tideline, looking a lot more relaxed than you might expect for an Endangered species.

Nordmann's Greenshank (Tringa guttifer)

The bird of the morning was a Spoon-billed Sandpiper, spotted by the visiting Finns, Antero Lindholm and Annika Forsten.   Antero kindly let me look at it through his 'scope but from my place in the hide I couldn't line up a record photo before the SBS and the other waders near it took off, and flew towards the middle of the Reserve. The first Hong Kong sighting this year of this Critically Endangered species, and I'd missed the shot !

About an hour-and-half later the tide was dropping and birds ware re-settling themselves to feed in the sludge of the Bay.  I noted a smallish flying flock of Curlew Sandpipers and took a couple of "just for practice" shots… the kind of unnecessary shutter noise that drives non-photographers mad.

When I got home I reviewed the mornings' photos and found that the Spoon-billed Sandpiper had been in the "just-for-practice" Curlew Sandpiper group; here -

Spoonbilled Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus)

It's a poor quality photo, shot but it IS a Spoonbilled Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) 

- as Mark Brazil writes in "Birds of East Asia" -  "(a) unique bill, though distinctive tip is not always clear, especially in profile." 

Note to self:  "Must Try Harder !"

Added and edited on 9th March 2012:

The "Spoony" was on the outgoing tide today.  Thanks to Annika For finding it !

Spoonbilled Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus)

And, yes, even with the 800mm it was miles away....


Edited and added on 11th March 2012

Today on the outgoing tide, but a bit - only a bit - closer than two days ago...

Spoonbilled Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus)

- and a bonus "Kamchatka" Gull -


  1. Wow, the 2 big ones in one day, not bad at all........

  2. Lovely photographs of the Saunder's Gull. It's really beautiful. You also prove that we should take practice shots all the time and review them later. We don't know what we might find.

  3. Thanks Stu and Russell, digital photography really is a wonderful thing !

  4. Do love those Saunders Gulls, especially in breeding plumage - has to be my favorite gull! Lovely in-flight photos and I enjoyed the pic of the Nordmann's too.

  5. Wow 3 big names in this post! And you've got some really nice shots of the gull in breeding plumage that I've still yet to see.

  6. Nice Nordshank photo and an early SBS, what a day, must get to Mai Po one day, give my regards to John Alcock if you see him.

  7. Jeremy, Ayuwat, - Yes, I think Saunders's is a really handsome Gull, too

    WW, - Saw John A. yesterday at Mai Po.... I think he's missing Australia already !

  8. Congrats with those rarities. Mai Po is certainly a great birding spot.

  9. Any Spoony is a good Spoony. Congrats John. As soon as I feel a bit better I'll come and do some practice shooting myself.

  10. Andrew: - Enjoy your 5D Mk III therapy !