27 Apr 2012

More spring waders at Mai Po Nature Reserve, Hong Kong

This week the spring tides in Deep Bay have been high and many of the waders have been leaving the tideline long before the water gets to the Mai Po boardwalk hides.  AND the weather has been hot and humid.

So, I'm already nostalgic for last week, when these photos were taken. 

An assortment of shorebirds from the Deep Bay mudflats ….

Broad-billed Sandpiper - Limicola falcinellus

Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea

Terek Sandpiper - Xenus cinereus

Long-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus scolopaceus

Bar-tailed Godwit and Greater Sand Plover - Limosa lapponica and Charadrius leschenaultii (and Curlew Sands, inevitably...)

Little Stint - Calidris minuta

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - Calidris acuminata

A number of leg-flagged birds serve as living flagships for the hordes of waders on their northerly migration…  many waders "refueling" in Hong Kong have wintered in Australia

(Red-necked Stint and Curlew Sandpiper, both flagged in NW Australia - and duly reported elsewhere)

This Curlew Sandpiper was flagged in Thailand 

And "Spring" isn't over yet !

23 Apr 2012

Japanese Murrelet in HK southern waters - 21st April 2012

Japanese Murrelet - Synthiliboramphus wumisuzume

The Hong Kong Birdwatching Society runs a regular series of sea-birding trips throughout the year.  These are booked weeks in advance by the Society and are, in some ways, hostage to the weather conditions on the actual day the trip takes place.

With a lot of rain falling in the latter half of last week, we got a chance - at short notice- to book a boat privately on Saturday, 21st April.

We advertised and asked around for anyone interested to come along and share the costs.  As it happened there were only eleven birders on the boat.  Our fellow birding optimists may have been hoping, like us, for a good showing of migrant terns.  

The sight of dozens of Red-necked Phalaropes gave us heart that sea-going migrants could be around.

Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus

The terns were disappointingly few and were mostly encountered resting on various pieces of flotsam.

Aleutian  Tern - Onychoprion aleuticus

 Common Tern - Sterna hirundo

Great Crested Tern - Thalasseus bergii

But the stars of the show - and saviours of the trip - turned out to be two different murrelet species, including HK's second-ever Japanese Murrelet.  HK's first was on 5th May 2007.  We happened to be on that 2007 boat trip as well, and I thought then that Japanese Murrelet in Hong Kong would be a once-in-a-lifetime sighting. Which shows how little I know about seabirds !

Like the individual pictured here, the 2007 bird was moulting.  Actually the 2007 bird was in terrible 'nick'.  Photos on the HKBWS website here:- 

There seems little chance that either of the Japanese Murrelets seen in HK waters could regain their flight feathers and get back to Japanese offshore islands in time to breed in the same year. Perhaps one-year-old birds spend their first spring at sea.  

Japanese Murrelet - Synthiliboramphus wumisuzume

Less than an hour after encountering Japanese Murrelet two odd black-and-white shapes could be seen bobbing among some floating rubbish.  These turned out to be Ancient Murrelets.  Records in HK of these are almost annual, but we again had very good views.  More photos on the HKBWS website here:-

"Saam Dim Sui..." !

Ancient Murrelets - Sythiliboramphus antiquus

One of the Ancient Murrelets seemed less able to fly than the other, different stages of moult, perhaps ?

We sailed south of Po Toi and Waglan Islands until late afternoon, but it was a bit of an anti-climax after the earlier excitement...

With the light fading we headed back to the bright lights of Tsim Sha Tsui.

18 Apr 2012

Spoon-billed Sandpipers at Mai Po Nature Reserve, Hong Kong

Two individual Spoon-billed Sandpipers from the rising tide at Mai Po on 18th April.  

One winter-plumaged bird…

and one going into breeding plumage....

Spoon-billed Sandpiper  - Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Just one (presumably the same non-breeding bird) on the outgoing tide...

This posting is short and sweet, a bit like a Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

17 Apr 2012

April waders at the boardwalk, Mai Po Nature Reserve

Rain overnight and more forecast.  

Ideal conditions to bring exotic hirundines and terns to the fishponds around MaiPo access road, I thought.

Actually, over the fishponds there were a few Barn Swallows and no terns, so I bashed out to the boardwalk instead. The threat of a soaking put a spring in my step, and I got out to the furthest hide in just under thirty minutes from the car park.   

A close Asian Dowitcher was a good omen, even though the light was poor.

Asian Dowitcher - Limnodromus semipalmatus

The water came a bit higher than the 1.8 metres predicted, and the smaller waders showed well on the mossy patch in front of the hide...

Terek Sandpiper - Xenus cinereus

Greater Sand Plover - Charadrius leschenaultii

Grey-tailed Tattler - Tringa brevipes

Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres

And some busy calidrids -

Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea

Red-necked Stint - Calidris ruficollis

Little Stint - Calidris minuta

Sanderling - Calidris alba

The finale of the show was an "advance in review order" by about forty Black-faced Spoonbills 

Black-faced Spoonbill - Platalea minor

There were a few flagged and ringed migrants about, too, so I shall now leave this posting and dutifully report them !