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 !


6 January 2015

"Out with the Old, in with the New..."

Well, the Twelve Days of Christmas are done and dusted and the prospect of 2015 lies ahead of us. I've opened this post with a Black-winged Stilt, taken on New Year's Eve in Long Valley.

Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus

Elsewhere the birding has a "midwinter" feel to it; -a feature of Mai Po's Access Road are the flocks of wintering starlings around: -

Red-billed Starlings - Sturnus sericeus

Black-collared Starlings - Sturnus nigricollis
On the post at the bottom left you might be able to make out a couple of White-vented (Great) Mynas... an introduced species in HK.

Along the road a large flock of House Swifts  has been active.

House Swift - Apus nipalensis

House Swift - Apus nipalensis

In Mai Po itself - in late December - I was fooled by a small party of these at first, mistaking them for Siskins, but was just a group of good old, (introduced) Canaries.

Whoops ! I vow to check more carefully this year...

Canary - Serinus mozambicus

A nice male Daurian Redstart has been hanging around the litter bins near Mai Po's Education Centre;

Daurian Redstart - Phoenicurus auroreus

and nearby, Olive-backed Pipits have been poking around in the leaf litter.

Olive-backed Pipit- Anthus hodgsoni

On the subject of Pipits, here is a Richard's Pipit on a fishpond bund at the edge of Deep Bay.

Richard's Pipit - Anthus richardi

A few yards away, more starlings, Red-billed and Grey-cheeked, squabble over the contents of a sack of fish feed.

Sturnus sericeus and Sturnus cineraceus

A Common Starling has stepped back from the fray - the few we get are winter visitors.

Common Starling - Sturnus vulgaris

 We started with a wader, here is another: -

Pied Avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta

Here is a fairly typical winter view of the southern end of Mai Po Nature Reserve.

Pond 22, Mai Po
 The area can be quite birdy in the late afternoon. Here are a few of the winter resident birds..

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Black-faced Spoonbill - Platalea minor


Black-faced Spoonbills - Platalea minor


Last but never least, Eastern Imperial Eagles have taken up their winter quarters at Mai Po. Here, two views of a juvenile from the Tower Hide.

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca

An adult EIE at the south end of the reserve, not getting its' due respect for being the biggest beast around.

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca

Eastern Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca

Three species of corvid just want to say "Have a nice day !"

Finally: -

WWF HK manage Mai Po for the wildlife. Maintaining the Gei Wais, ponds, hides and paths costs money and we should not take their efforts to preserve this spectacular place for granted.

WWF Hong Kong's Annual Fundraiser, the Big Bird Race, takes place on January 17th.  I'm supporting the "Deadset Drongo" Team.

If you haven't picked a team to support in this event, here's a link to do so: -


And I'll just say "Have a great 2015" !