17 Apr 2016

Bee-Eaters at Pak Nai, Hong Kong

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Merops philippinus

Once a month there is a Waterfowl Count in the Deep Bay area of northwest Hong Kong, centred on the Nature Reserve at Mai Po.  

The Waterfowl Count is part of the Governments’ meeting of its responsibilities of monitoring the birdlife in HK’s only Ramsar site; - “Inner Deep Bay”. Depending on the season, the habitat where birds are to be counted is divided between about two dozen counting volunteers.

Last Sunday, I was assigned to count part of Deep Bay from the pier at Tsim Bei Tsui, followed by the coastline between there and Nim Wan. 

I’ve done this area before, but haven’t felt quite as exposed as I did when looking behind me towards the west and seeing some huge, black rainclouds.

I managed to complete the pier section of the count, and scuttled back to the car before the first of several heavy squalls arrived.

It was quite obvious along my route that most of the birds didn’t like rain such quantity either, and they remained mostly hidden from view, until I completed the survey near the landfill site at Nim Wan.

On the way back I had reached Pak Nai when the rain eased off.  The weather had warmed a little, and I could see hundred of swifts and swallows circling in the still grey sky above. 

Starlings, both White-shouldered and Red-billed were active, too. Many were perched on power lines over a grave and scrub covered hillside, together with Crested Mynas.

Getting out of the car for a closer look there were about thirty Pacific Swifts in the flock, with two hundred House Swifts and a similar number of Barn Swallows. Two circling Blue-tailed Bee-eaters provided a vivid reminder that spring migration was in progress.

Pacific Swift - Apus pacificus

Many of the birds were hawking insects, mostly winged termites, which were swarming after the rain.  

Black-winged Termite - Odontotermes formosanus (?)

Red-billed Starling - Sturnus sericeus

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Merops philippinus

More Bee-eaters paused in their migration to enjoy the feast.  I counted nineteen in total.

Blue-tailed Bee-eaters - Merops philippinus

Looking at the wall of concrete across the Bay in Shenzhen, the attraction to the birds of a scrub-covered hillside in Hong Kong seemed obvious, and the presence of swarms of termites must have been welcome to wet and hungry migrating birds.

Blue-tailed Bee-eaters - Merops philippinus
I managed to line up a few shots with a fairly neutral background, so that the birds, especially the Bee-eaters weren’t just silhouettes.The light was still lousy and (insert excuse here) the birds more distant than I'd have liked. Still, it all seemed like a bonus after the downpours earlier. 

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - Merops philippinus

Turned out nice again !