22 July 2012

Summer birds at Mai Po - and some population trends



The ubiquitous Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) is a fine color in mid-July;-



And here is a juvenile-ish Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocerus);-



Great Egret (Casmerodius albus) - taking a fish at a Gei Wai sluice gate.



But some of the birds to be seen around Mai Po this week would have been an unexpected summer presence a decade or so ago, according to The Avifauna of Hong Kong which was published by the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society (HKBWS) in the year 2000.  

The species accounts are a distillation of historical Hong Kong bird records dating back to Robert Swinhoe in 1860, pre- and post- World War II stuff by Geoffrey Herklots and other observers as recorded in the "Hong Kong Naturalist" and  40 years of Hong Kong Birdwatching Society records from 1957 to 1998. 

The last word then, on the status of Hong Kong birds ?  Well, up to 1998 certainly, but, inevitably changes in the status of some species have been recorded since that time. 

Some snaps of HK's new HK breeders (both suspected and confirmed) in the past few days around Mai Po ….

Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica) - "uncommon passage migrant with occasional midwinter reports" (Avifauna). Now known to be a localized breeder in HK.  



White-cheeked Starling (Sturnus cineraceus) - strictly a "winter visitor" (Avifauna) but there are increasing summer records and this week mid-summer juveniles have been about.  These were part of a group of at least twenty.



Red-billed Starling (Sturnus sericeus) - another former "winter visitor" with an increasing number of summer (apparently local breeding) records.



A final Starling, - White-shouldered (Sturnus sinensis). As befits its latin name, a Chinese breeding species, and long-known HK breeding bird.  They are actually increasing in number, in part due to a liking for China Light and Power Company electrical switch boxes.





Chinese (Yellow-billed) Grosbeak (Eophona migratoria) - another new  HK breeder.  Before 2000, only known as a winter visitor.  Here is a young bird at the edge of a track, behaving a bit like a pipit.



So, these increases sound like good news.  But what is going on ?  Is this due to climate change ?   It is certainly hard to say for sure. But many other species are in decline.  Many migrant birds - especially waders - are declining due to hunting, trapping and especially habitat destruction all along their migration routes.   


Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) ….  in areas of suitable habitat, present all year round, and this - as for other species - makes their status in HK and elsewhere more difficult to assess. 



Many are migrants along the south china coast and must be subject to the same pressures as the other migrating birds.

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) - "common in early autumn" (Avifauna).  This is still spot-on.  These Redshank -under the watchful eye of a curlew-  were among over 600 at Mai Po Nature Reserve this week.  Numbers should peak in August, when it might be clearer whether their numbers are declining or not.



"The Avifauna of Hong Kong" was a milestone in the progress of the Hongkong Birdwatching Society. But like any milestone, the road has moved on beyond it. Still, there is no doubt that is a great book and must-have reference for any Hong Kong birder.

10 comments:

  1. Agreed. It is still the first place I turn to after your blog, John. Along with climate change the threat from inappropriate development will determine how our bird population evolves. I was intrigued that the recent record of Ferruginous duck was followed rapidly by "probably an escape" based on time of year. I had a buzzard challenged because it was too early. Fair enough but it seems the times they are a changing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Andrew,

      Yes , birds are turning up at totally weird times, not only the Ferruginous Duck but a Greylag Goose....

      The appearance of these might be due to misguided buddhists with a desire for Karma and bigger-than-usual cages... but who knows... with the volume of rain right now, I'm expecting gulls in the street outside.

      Delete
  2. Very quiet here in Niigata for birds this season. You're doing pretty well. I think there are global conditions affecting everything everywhere these days. All well beyond my small mind. Love the swallow pic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Russell,

      It's beyond me, too ! It reminds me of an old joke..

      "The World ended yesterday, - you are now seeing an Action Replay " !!

      Delete
  3. Some nice Starlings you have there...........

    The original English language guide to Japanese birds is way off with its' taxonomy and distribution..............but I guess bird populations change more quickly than we think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stu,

      You mean the WBSJ one illustrated by Taniguchi ? I have a worn copy of that one... not the most brilliant field guide but at least it is pocket-sized !

      Delete
  4. Really nice variety of starlings you've got! I'd really love to see the Red-billed. So far I've only seen it once in Japan, where it is a scarce migrant.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ayuwat,

    There can be thousands of Red-billed Starlings here in the winter, so I reckon they'll turn up in north Thailand sooner or later ! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi - will you post your Blog at The Birding Community ay vorts.com? Our members will love it!
    It's easy just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Photos, Videos, Articles, Questions, etc. It’s free and easy…
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  7. Hi - will you post your Blog at The Birding Community ay vorts.com? Our members will love it!
    It's easy just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Photos, Videos, Articles, Questions, etc. It’s free and easy…
    Connect with other Birders from around the world.
    We are looking for contributors to share stuff with our members. Please help.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    The Birding Community: http://www.vorts.com/birding/
    Thanks,
    James Kaufman, Editor

    ReplyDelete