18 March 2016

A Lamma Island “Twitch"


Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)

There is plenty of bird news out there on the internet, but tuning into the stuff one wants to hear seems to get harder when we are spoiled for choice.

Via a WhatsApp group we heard of a Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) in the harbour of Yung Shue Wan, on Lamma Island, Hong Kong.  It had been seen on Monday 14th March by a (Canadian ?) visitor called Steve Ansell while he ate at a restaurant on the waterfront. Reported to eBird, someone locally picked up the news from in mid-afternoon yesterday and put it out on WhatsApp.

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) 
The diver was also independently snapped by a Hong Kong photographer on the afternoon of the 17th March and photos posted yesterday evening on the HKBWS website here.


It is the fifth or sixth HK record of this species, with some sightings more “twitchable” than others.

Although we had seen the 2005 Red-throated Diver - in Starling Inlet - we had already made up our minds to go to Lamma. The 07:50 ferry from Central to Yung Shue Wan takes 25 minutes.  

Seafront - Yung Shue Wan

Coming out of the ferry building, the diver was immediately visible in the harbour among bobbing boats. The promenade, seafront eateries and lack of traffic made for an attractive scene.

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) 

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) 

It moved around for about an hour before disappearing westwards, towards Lamma’s not-picturesque coal-fired power station.

We retired to the Green Cottage Restaurant for coffee and breakfast.Other birders were on their way.

There had been some mist around, but more blew in and it turned a bit cooler. Migranting birds were immediately visible over YSW harbour in the form of a couple of Silver-backed Needletails, a Pacific Swift and two Grey-faced Buzzards. - only record shots !

Silver-backed Needletail

Pacific Swift

Grey-faced Buzzard with Black Kite

The Diver should really be at sea, not swimming around too close to people. Sadly, it is probably sick.

Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata)
But it's still "tickable" while it lives , and many Hong Kong birders and photographers will wish it well, while they plan a pilgrimage to Lamma to see it.

9 comments:

  1. Most divers I see close inshore are generally sick alas........

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    1. It seems to be the way...if they're fit, they're at sea.

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  2. Great bird! It's not especially common here but with a little persistence you can usually find one in the winter, Niagara-on-the-Lake being the most reliable spot. My best sighting ever was a pair of breeding plumaged birds on a Scottish loch last year.

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    1. Stunning in breeding plumage, I should think!

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  3. I wonder if it could be affected by this year's, El Nino happening along North America's West Coast. There has been a massive sea bird die-off this Winter, especially in Alaska. Maybe the loon is starving like our birds because normal prey species of fish have moved to deeper waters.

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    1. That could be it, whatever the problem "El Nino" doesn't help seabirds anywhere.

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  4. The island's residents are surely enjoying the influx of attention it seems. A great bird and much anticipated for birders who missed the 2005 bird, me included!

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    1. The RTD was still drawing a crowd over the Easter weekend...very popular!

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  5. Great tick John, pity we missed it! Great seeing the needletails too.

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