14 April 2015

A wet weekend in April - Mai Po

Oriental Plover-Charadrius veredus

It’s been very dry this year, with hill fires in many places in Hong Kong over the first weekend in April. 

For migrating birds the fine weather must have been a welcome phenomenon, for they can hurry faster northwards on their epic journeys to their breeding areas.  For we humans who like to look at migrating birds, the dry conditions have been disappointing. 

But last Saturday (April 11th) the weather changed and Hong Kong was drenched in a substantial quantity of rain.  

From the boardwalk hides at Mai Po it was clear that there had been a “fall” of waders, with many shapes on the distant tideline.

Looking west from the newest boardwalk hide

Yellow Wagtail - race tschutschensis

Terek Sandpiper-Xenus cinereus

And there was variety too.

Far Eastern Curlew-Numenius madagascariensis

Great Knot- Calidris tenuirostris

Black-faced Spoonbill - Platalea minor - competing for fish with Little Egrets

Later on Saturday afternoon I looked around some fishpond areas and bumped into some photographer friends who told me where they had seen two Oriental Plovers.

A close-up photo opportunity of a species that is rare in HK made these two individuals my birds of the weekend.

Oriental Plover-Charadrius veredus

Oriental Plover-Charadrius veredus
The buffy feather fringes should indicate juveniles, but it’s a strange place and time to see juveniles of a species that should be heading north to breed.  Juvenile Oriental Plovers are more often seen here in HK than adults, so "Go Figure" as they say.

The rain was so steady, even Barn Swallows weren't all flying, with many sitting on clods of earth.
Barn Swallow-Hirundo rustica

The rain eased off overnight and by first light on Sunday it became evident that there had been a bit of a migrant bird “clear out”.

But there was still plenty to look at.

Bar-tailed Godwit- Limosa lapponica (menzbieri)

Curlew Sandpiper- Calidris ferruginea

Nordmann's Greenshank - Tringa guttifer

Black-tailed Godwit - Limosa limosa
A Chinese Egret appeared - as if from nowhere - on the mudflats for my first view of this species this year.

Chinese Egret- Egretta eulophotes
A nice-looking adult (almost ?) Eastern Marsh Harrier was another fine-looking bird.
Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

On the scrape, many waders in the early evening sun.  There was a good crowd in Hide "No.7” because John Allcock had found a (quite distant) Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

View from Hide 7

"Mr Spoony" is in here somewhere

A “Tick” for several people who saw it, both locals and overseas visitors alike. Here's a "miles away" record shot....

Spoon-billed Sandpiper - Eurynorhynchus pygmaeus (back, centre)

To round off an enjoyable weekend, there were two Blue-tailed Bee-Eaters in the trees near the north end of Mai Po Nature Reserve at last light.


  1. What a wonderful day, and collection of photos. Is spring usually a better time for shorebirds or autumn - useful for planning!?

    1. Hi Sonja, spring is more intense with the birds going into breeding plumage - basically early April to mid-May. Autumn migration is more spread out, with August Sept AND October possible migration months...

    2. Thanks, John. I'll try to remember and keep it in mind!

  2. Great shot of the BF Spoonbill and even a record shot of a Spoonbilled Sand would be wonderful..............

    1. Thanks, Stu - most of the BFS have gone back to their breeding grounds now. The Spoon-billed Sandpiper was the first of this spring.

  3. Love your Oriental Plover photos, I really should have gone out on Saturday despite the rain...

    1. Hi Matthew, I always IMAGINE that I'll see more migrants in the rain.... it doesn't always work out like that, of course !

  4. Another great posting from Mai Po. The Oriental Plover is also rare in Peninsula Malaysia. I have not recorded one yet and your shots are making me green with envy.