16 May 2019

Spring 2019 - "Boat Trip season" in Hong Kong's Southern Waters

Bridled Tern - Onychoprion anaethetus
The are umpteen species of tern of the HK “list” and we are lucky enough to get three handsome species (Bridled, Black-naped and Roseate) breeding on some of the weathered granite rocks that dot Hong Kong’s southern and eastern waters.

Bridled Terns - Onychoprion anaethetus

Bridled Terns - Onychoprion anaethetus

Bridled Tern - Onychoprion anaethetus (11th May)
By early May the islets are populated with noisy, quarrelsome terns in the process of pairing, securing nest spaces and breeding.

Bridled Tern - Onychoprion anaethetus (11th May)
They can often be seen carrying fish as offerings to potential mates. 

The Agriculture, Fisheries and conservation Department (HK Government) puts up signs in an attempt to stop careless humans from landing on the islands and disturbing the birds, but this doesn't always work.

(11th May)

Black-naped Tern - Sterna sumatrana (11th May)

Black-naped Terns - Sterna sumatrana and Roseate TernSterna dougalli

(mostly) Black-naped Terns - Sterna sumatrana (11th May)

Roseate Terns - Sterna dougalli (11th May)

Black-naped Terns and Roseate Tern (11th May)
Mid-April to mid-May is usually the ideal time for boat trips in HK waters to look for migrant terns and other seabirds as well.  

2019 was not as spectacular as some previous years, but a few migrant terns and other seabirds were tallied, too.

Aleutian Tern - Onychoprion aleuticus (11th May)

Great Crested Tern - Thallaseus bergii (28th April)
Common Tern - Sterna hirundo (21st April)

Common Tern - Sterna hirundo (21st April)

Arctic Skua - Stercorarius parasiticus(21st April)

Arctic Skua - Stercorarius parasiticus(21st April)
Short-tailed Shearwater - Ardenna tenuirostris (28th April)

Sometimes, not everything at sea is a seabird. 

Red-necked Phalarope - Phalaropus lobatus (20th April)
Oriental Pratincole - Glareola maldivarum (20th April)

Grey-tailed Tattler - Tringa brevipes (27th April)

Swinhoe's (left) and two Little Egrets (27 April)
Swinhoe’s Egrets - Egretta eulophotes (11th May)

Examples of "VizMig" - "Visible Migration" !

I know long-distance landbird migrants may have to fly over stretches of open sea, but it is still a thrill to see them actually doing it.


  1. Looks like a great trip. I especially love Terns (they are so scarce in Hokkaido) and you got some great pics here. If I were rich I'd buy a boat and spend my days at sea looking for terns, skuas and god only knows what else.

  2. Shame I wasn't able to join any of the boat trips, they look fun even without any real rarities!

  3. Are the trip lists anywhere please? - I was on the 11 May 2019 trip (visiting from Aus en route to the UK) but I never got round to actually posting a trip list to e-bird. Thanks