Yesterday I went with Chris Campion to "have a go" at sea birding from one of Hong Kong's "Overnight Cruise" liners, namely the Star Pisces. Mid-May is the peak migration time for skuas and shearwaters in the seas near Hong Kong.
I had never been on one of these jaunts before, and it turns out that "Overnight Cruises" are popular with mainland Chinese tourists. In the past, people in China who lived far from the sea have actually told me how much they would like to experience the open ocean from the deck of a ship.
A dinner buffet, karaoke and stage performers all add to the attraction for the general tourist, but another factor is that - when the boat leaves Hong Kong's boundaries - casino-style gambling is no longer illegal, and those that want to can "have a flutter".
An "Overnight Cruise" was certainly a way of bringing some variety into our birding lives. The boat is a huge floating platform and we were up before the sun rose with commanding views of the South China Sea. We knew that nothing we saw was "countable" on our Hong Kong lists, but there was the prospect of possible additions to our China lists.
As it turned out, our most exciting birds were seen within the first hour…. one - probably two - Red-footed Boobys (we didn't really get onto the first one well.)
Red-footed Booby- Sula sula (VERY distant !)
There are a handful of Hong Kong records of Red-footed Booby, and an account of the last one Jemi and I saw in Hong Kong is here : -
We also had five Bridled Terns and a single flock of eight White-winged Black Terns, but no Skuas or Shearwaters, indeed not even a Phalarope.
So, a bit disappointing… but if you don't go, you'll never know.