29 January 2015

Relict Gull at Mai Po

Relict Gull (Larus relictus) enjoys a unique distinction among gulls of my acquaintance - it is almost romantic. 

Relict Gull - Larus relictus

It was overlooked as a species until 1970, having been previously confused with other species, especially Brown-headed Gull (L.brunnicephalus).  There’s a fascinating paper about this species in the Oriental Bird Club publication “Forktail” from 1991, written by Dan Duff, Dave Bakewell and Martin Williams.


Hong Kong’s first Relict Gull was found by Peter Kennerley and Mike Turnbull in 1989.  I missed that one, but saw the second bird after it was reported from Tsim Bei Tsui in 1992. (But all the Relict Gull shots shown here were taken last week.)

Relict Gull - Larus relictus (l)
Since then , Relict Gulls (always first winter birds) have been seen in HK’s Deep Bay - especially Mai Po’s boardwalk hides - every two to three years, on average. They, like other gulls, are often very distant. 

John Allcock found this one a few weeks ago, and on 21st January 2015 it came obligingly close to the hides.

Relict Gull - Larus relictus

Relict Gull - Larus relictus


Relict Gull - Larus relictus

Smew is not a rare species in its normal range but we get very few in HK.  One has been hanging around Mai Po Nature Reserve’s Pond 7 and Pond 8 since December 2014.  It is Hong Kong’s third record, I think.

Smew - Mergus albellus
Rarer than Smew for us, but “common where it is common…” - a few days ago a Common Swift was found by Paul Leader over a Hong Kong fishpond, among thousands of House Swifts. A second record for Hong Kong, Martin Hale had it staked out - if a swift can ever be "staked out" - and led me to it.

Common Swift - Apus apus
Handholding a 500mm lens with the 7D Mk2  to get this shot proved to be good exercise !


16 comments:

  1. John-we have the same gear! We don't have any Relict Gulls here though, great name for a species.............

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    1. A Relict from the Sea of Tethys, it seems. I had to Google "Sea of Tethys"...

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  2. Great ID on the gull and superpictres too.. Excellent wor to capture the swift!

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    1. Thanks Russell, as usual for me, it was someone else in the hide who spotted that the RG had dropped in !

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  3. That swift photo is amazing. You must be fast on the draw. Maybe you were a gunslinger in a previous life.

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    1. John, as a "Gunslinger" I can tell you I've got mostly OOF shots, or images of the sort of things (containers, wires) that clutter the sides of HK fishponds ! Perhaps there's a blogpost in that ?

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  4. Hong Kong's obviously the place to be at the moment. A wonderful capture of the Swift.

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  5. Thanks Sonja, it was a memorable Hong Kong "tick" for me.

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  6. Great set of images as usual but the swift was outstanding. Congrats!

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    1. I remember the common swift back in 1996 at Mai po. Knew it was rare but didn't know it was the first. I was more impressed by the Himalyan swiftlet at the time

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    2. I remember the common swift back in 1996 at Mai po. Knew it was rare but didn't know it was the first. I was more impressed by the Himalyan swiftlet at the time

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  7. That Relict Gull is very elegant indeed and your shot of the swift is just amazing. I have never - and I mean never - been able to get a decent shot of a swift in flight.

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    1. Thanks David, my usual technique is to fire off more frames and be ready to crop the images heavily. Even then, most are out of focus, or even out of the frame.

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  8. Great flying shot of the Common Swift John! Not an easy task with handheld 500mm...

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    1. Thanks, Matthew, as said above, I've learned to just keep shooting !

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