11 Apr 2017

“Po Toi and HK Southern Waters”

Long-tailed Skua - Stercorarius longicaudus

“Po Toi and HK Southern Waters” is the usual billing for Hong Kong Bird Watching Society boat outings that aim to find seabirds.

These spring boat trips usually stop over for a hour or two on Po Toi Island itself, where there can be some migrant landbirds.

Two examples here: the Ashy Minvet  is a regular bird of passage on Po Toi, 

Ashy Minvet (Pericrocotus divaricus)

But the status of HK’s first Maroon Oriole, found on March 30 and snapped by me on Saturday April 1st 

Maroon Oriole - Oriolus trailii

- will require the deliberations of the records committee as to genuine vagrant/“escape” status.

HKBWS had such an outing (Po Toi and Southern Waters) on April 9th, but we dithered about going and it got fully-booked.  Fortunately, TONG Mengxiu had boat trips on 8th and 9th April, and we were able to join these trips on both days.

Thanks to Carrie MA for the local arrangements.

So, a full “Double Header” of sea-birding - Saturday was quite quiet but on Sunday, we  started well with a two-hundred plus flock of migrant Chinese Bulbuls, a sign that migrant birds were around.

Chinese Bulbuls - Pycnonotus sinensis

A steady trickle of Red-necked Phalarope on the water was also a good sign. (Yes, I know Phalarope are waders...)

Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus

Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus

By late morning, we had hit the skua jackpot, recording all three HK Skuas (Arctic, Long-tailed and Pomarine).
Readers who prefer “Jaeger” can look away now. Some Long-tailed Skuas... 

Long-tailed Skua - Stercorarius longicaudus

Long-tailed Skua - Stercorarius longicaudus

Long-tailed Skua - Stercorarius longicaudus

And here are some "Pom" shots....

Pomarine Skuas - Stercorarius pomarinus

Pomarine Skuas - Stercorarius pomarinus

Pomarine Skuas - Stercorarius pomarinus

Actually a lot of seabird IDs were confirmed using camera images… Was that really an Arctic Skua out there….(I chimp my photos) “Yes, it was…"

Arctic Skua - Stercorarius parasiticus

All the Skuas are out there to prey on migrating terns, but we didn't see terns well on the day.  Here is the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society boat, ready for some seabird action....

Here, prior to a distant take-off, are both Great Crested Terns and Eastern Common Terns sitting on floating jetsam south of Po Toi Island.

A few shots from the boat that I hope convey some of the atmosphere of the trips.  Even seabirding does not escape the presence of man near HK, with many cargo vessels at anchor between Po Toi and the Dangan Islands.These are mostly Pomarine Skuas in the top shot, with mainly Long-tailed Skuas below.

The trip ended at Shaukeiwan, Lion Rock is visible in this shot from Hong Kong Harbour’s south-eastern approaches.

A couple of fine - if tiring - days on the waves.


  1. Great Skua shots John...........

  2. Great account, John. I envy you having this opportunity to do some pelagic birding so close to home.

    1. A great day, David, but seabirding here is very hit-and-miss....

  3. Love the photos and narrative. I have never seen all three jaegers, whoops, I mean skuas, in one day. I have seen Ashy Minivet in Thailand. It has the exact pattern of North America's Gray Jay, although the Gray Jay is much larger.

    1. Thanks, John - a three skua/jaeger day is the best we can hope for here - but South Polar Skua is a potential vagrant.
      Don't think I've seen Gray Jay...