8 May 2017

Starting to feel like Summer

Short-tailed Shearwater - Puffinus tenuirostris

After the excitement of the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, it might seem strange that we returned to Po Toi Island the following day.

However, a week earlier, a friend had offered to take us to Po Toi on May 3rd in a fishing sampan, owned and skippered by his father.  Naturally we agreed. I haven’t given his name here to spare him lots of messages asking for similar outings...

Swinging out south of Po Toi in the hope of seeing shearwaters or other seabirds was part of the plan.

Early on, we had good views of Red-necked Phalarope among slicks of oily-looking rubbish.  However, the reflection of Po Toi in the water made an unusual-looking setting for images of these birds.

Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus 

Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus 

And the shearwaters - yes, we saw six in only about 45 minutes - most were quite distant, but this one practically flew into us.  

Short-tailed Shearwater - Puffinus tenuirostris

Short-tailed Shearwater - Puffinus tenuirostris

Po Toi itself was quiet, and the ODK did not show for the fifty-or-so photographers who had been encouraged by the results of the previous day, and made the pilgrimage to see it.

Thoughts of blue skies reminded me I haven't used these on the blog, so here are two shots of the same Lesser Frigatebird taken during a boat trip on April 29th.  

Lesser Frigatebird - Fregata ariel

Lesser Frigatebird - Fregata ariel

At Tai Sang Wai there have been a few Sand/Pale Martins around: -

Pale Martin - Riparia diluta

Pale Martin - Riparia diluta

....and this rather "left behind" - looking pratincole.

Oriental Pratincole - Glareola maldivarum

At Mai Po, wader migration has been winding down in terms of overall numbers, but there is still plenty to look at.

Grey-tailed Tattler - Heteroscelus brevipes

Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres

Long-toed Stint - Calidris subminuta

Sanderling - Calidris alba

Red-necked Stint - Calidris ruficollis

And the weather is just hotting up...

4 May 2017

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher - and supporting cast.

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher


Another month has arrived and it feels like “Phase II” of spring migration.  The waders and flycatchers have mostly passed in peak numbers but the birds that breed closer to, or actually in Hong Kong, have started to show up.

Commercial fishponds are a good wildlife habitat and the new month greeted me with Whiskered Terns over the fishponds at San Tin.

A pair of Indian Cuckoos circled overhead.

A few Black-collared Starlings were about, too.  A common resident, and some were seen carrying food for their young.

New month bonus birds included a group of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters at Tai Sang Wai, -

 and Dollarbirds on the cables at Ngau Tam Mei.

Also on May 1st, on Po Toi Island, a group of diligent birders had gone to try to untangle the mystery of whether a phylloscopus warbler thought to be Large-billed Leaf Warbler was actually that or another hard-to-separate phylloscopus of one of the three new species formerly known as “Arctic Warbler”.

Po Toi Island, Hong Kong

Elsewhere on the island someone found - and got brief photographs of - HK’s second Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher.  Naturally, word spread like wildfire and the warbler was abandoned as people headed for the stream where the kingfisher had been seen.   

Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers are long-distance migrants and in the 1970s were recorded in good numbers at Fraser’s Hill in Malaysia as part of the MAPS (Migratory Animals Pathological Survey) project.  Some birds must head northeast from Peninsular Malaysia to breed in Guangxi in China and Hainan Island. The birds in Hong Kong may be overshooting Hainan.

HK’s only previous record of ODK - in Tai Po Kau - was seen in early May, too. However, the finders - for whatever reason - didn’t spread the news, and no other person saw the bird.  (News of the existence of a HK photograph of Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher eventually reached the Hong Kong Bird Records Committee, and after enquiries the first record was accepted.)

Tuesday, 2nd May was not a Public Holiday, but ferries were running to Po Toi.  A group of optimists - including me - headed off to “twitch” the ODK.  Ferries arrive at Po Toi around 11:00hrs and depart three hours later, so the ferry service provided only a brief midweek window of birding opportunity.

Next to Po Toi’s helipad, a narrow path runs parallel to a thickly-wooded trickle of a stream. There, the the two-dozen or so birders/photographers set themselves up to wait for the kingfisher.  Despite the excitement, people were quiet, spread themselves out, and didn't try to barge too close to the watercourse.

To cut three hours of birding tension short - yes. the kingfisher showed at various points at various times along the stream.  As befits a woodland kingfisher, it tended to stay in the tangles in the darkness.  I managed a couple of ISO 3200 record shots, of which this cropped shot is the best.

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher

Here's what the original frame looked like....

Closer to home, around the fishponds of the New Territories, there was an influx of White-winged Terns, neatly replacing the Whiskered Terns of the previous day.

An annual bird of passage, but still one of my favourites.