12 Dec 2012

Not completely gloom and doom

I'm talking about the cruddy weather of the last few weeks or so.  It's official !  - according to the HK Observatory, in November 2012 Hong Kong experienced the fewest hours of bright sunshine in any November since 1885.

December won't be greyer than November, will it ? Let's hope not.

Last week began slowly and just got better. In mid-week, the high-ish tides in late afternoon at the Mai Po boardwalk gave some decent viewing opportunities, but it was a bit gloomy for photos.

Saunders's Gull - Saundersilarus saundersi

For a small cute-looking gull, Saunders's is an astonishingly effective crab-killer…and it scatters its prey all over the mudflats.

Grey Plover - Pluvialis squatarola - with a piece of crab carapace.

At Nam Sang Wai, though, things perked up when the sun came out on Thursday (6th December), and the NSW regulars paraded along the edge of the creek.  You've seen 'em all here before, but here they are again, in all their sun-drenched glory !

Pied Avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta

Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus

Black-faced Spoonbill - Platalea minor

Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea

Three shots of Marsh Sandpiper - Tringa stagnatilis

Great White Egret - Casmerodius albus

Last Sunday's sunshine inspired me to try to "improve" on the Red-rumped Swallow shots I'd taken a few days earlier…  in the end though, my "Bird of the Week" was a Northern/Common House Martin

With a copy of the 2009-10 Hong Kong Bird Report beside me, I can tell you that Hong Kong's first confirmed Northern House Martin was found by Paul Leader on Nov. 20th 2009  (Photos by Martin Hale).  

Two other NHM reports followed in quick succession, possibly birds of the same influx due to cold weather.  

I don't know how many sightings of Northern House Martin have been made in the intervening three years, but there are still only a handful of records, due to the difficulty of seeing House Martins well enough to distinguish "Asian" from "Northern/Common".

Some record shots and discussion are here, but here are the photos I posted on the HKBWS website.

Northern House Martin - Delichon urbicum

A Hong Kong "Tick", and December off to a flying start....


  1. After you introduction to the gloomy weather I wasn't expecting such a feast of bird photography. Amazing portrait of the Black-faced Spoonbill and super records shots of the rarities.

  2. A very fine selection Mr. H and the NHM is a very special find indeed. Congrats.

  3. Some pretty good shots despite the gloom.........

    I have no idea how to tell Northern and Asian House Martins apart in normal viewing conditions.

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone -

    Stu, Mark Brazil's Birds of East Asia is, as usual, very good on the differences. But as House Martins seem to do most of their low-level whizzing about under grey skies (and they are higher when it's clear) it's difficult. With my middle-aged eyesight, I've had to rely on getting photos...this seems the only way (to be fair to the Records Committee) to get an acceptable record.

  5. John, this is another great set of images. Congrats on the House Martin. In Peninsular Malaysia, only the Asian House Martin has been recorded and it is getting pretty scarce nowadays.