3 December 2013

November birding in Hong Kong

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
Thomas Hood  (1799 - 1845)

November might be pretty grim in England, where Thomas Hood wrote his famous poem, but here in Tropical South China there's always something about, and the best weather of the year for birding. The Common Kingfisher has no fear of Hong Kong's watercourses freezing over.

On Sunday, 2nd November I was languishing at home pondering the futility of man's earthly existence, when Tim Woodward phoned me with news of a Bull-headed Shrike at Airfield Road, Shek Kong.

Here it is: identified as an adult female from Tim Worfolk's plate in "A Guide to the Shrikes of the World" (Pica press, 1997).

Tim Woodward's website is here: - http://www.southchinabirder.com

At Nam Sang Wai, the prospect of decent photo opportunities improved with some cutting and trimming by (I presume) a government contractor.

All you need at NSW is a sunny day, a low tide, and some some Black-faced Spoonbills - and Nov 7th was such a day.  

And - Stop Press - Great Cormorants still aren't very attractive.

Meanwhile, high tides are best for wader viewing at Mai Po Nature Reserve, and a few daytime high tides in early November were almost high enough.

A distant Nordmann's Greenshank

…and a flock of Black-tailed Godwits.

(December and January at Mai Po, by comparison, have hardly any daytime high tides that reach the boardwalk hides, so everything on the Deep Bay tideline is miles away.  But there are still duck and raptors and other "goodies" on the reserve itself).

A bonus was this Eurasian Woodcock in the pond beside the Mai Po car park.

In the woods, I saw my first Red-flanked Bluetail of the winter in mid-month.

Asian Brown Flycatcher is an autumn passage migrant and winter visitor, good numbers in November. Now this species has turned up in Britain, I note that Birding World has dropped "Asian" from ABF.

Grey-backed Thrushes arrive towards the end of the month. They are always shy, but newly-arrived birds are sometimes a little bit easier to see than the ones that have established winter territories. This is a first-winter male.

Plenty of swifts and swallows about at the end of November, here's my best effort at a House Swift.

To end with, another kingfisher, White-throated from a boardwalk hide at Mai Po.

We're half a world away from the UK, but there's already enough Christmas music in all the chain stores to make expat Brits feel at home.


  1. Superb pictures and birds, John. I was born in November. A spring baby in Aus and Autumn in Japan. It's a great month and can't believe it's gone already this year. Wonderful post, thanks.

  2. Thomas Hood described my world here in Alaska perfectly. I work and I sleep, but mostly I just endure. At least the ice and snow is pretty to look at.

    1. John, I remember a flight layover in February 1985 in Anchorage.... it was SERIOUSLY cold !

  3. My favourite is the Spoonbill with the fish. It's interesting to read about and see what birdlife you have in Hong Kong in November.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, I've been trying to present things differently recently, so that Nov'13 doesn't look too much like the blog posts of Novembers of years gone by.

  4. Very nice esp the BF Spoonbills. Bullheaded Shrike is a very common summer visitor to Hokkaido, indeed it is generally the only shrike species I see most years.

    1. Thanks, Stu. ! For us Bull-headed Shrike is a one-or-two per year bird...

  5. Another great post, John. Tis the season to be jolly...

  6. Excellent set of images as always, lovely spoonbill.