6 Oct 2021

Tail end of a long, hot summer

 Still very warm - 

It’s official, the Hong Kong Observatory has declared Sept 2021 to have been the hottest September on record.

An autumn bird but not in autumnal conditions then, here are three shots of the same Blue-tailed Bee-Eater (Merops philippinus). It was one of 20 at Mai Po Access road on Sept 29th.

Blue-tailed Bee-Eaters will be on passage here throughout October.

Early October is also a good time to see a Pied Harrier (Circus melanoleucos), these are mostly birds of passage.  Very few seen in Hong Kong are adult males, so some confusion with Eastern Marsh Harrier can occur. 

Here are three shots of Pied Harrier from Hide 1 over the scrape at Mai Po on October 1st, -

and three shots of what seems like the same bird, same place, - but from hide 3 - the following day.

Normally secretive, up to seven Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea) were visible in and around the grass between Hide 1 and Hide 3.  

I made it two adults and five first-year birds.  They often squabbled with each other, which seems like a real waste of their energies, when they have migration, habitat loss and real predators to contend with. 

My “Species of the Month” * is Black Drongo  (Dicrurus macrocercus). 

A steady procession of these seem to be flying westwards over Mai Po every day in Autumn.

 That’s “Visible Migration”....

* “Species of the Month” is a John’s Blog tradition that I have just made up...

28 Sept 2021

Mai Po - late afternoon in Hide 3, - 27th Sept 2021

A hazy day, with pollution brought to HK by a northerly airstream from the much-vaunted “Greater Bay Area”.  

Recent record high temperatures meant that I had worked up a good lather by the time I got to Hide 3 with the trusty 500mm f4 lens and clunky, old-fashioned Canon I D MK 2.  There were several other suitably-distanced photographers in the hide already.

I had encountered no flycatchers along Mai Po’s footpaths, but autumn bird migration was evident in the form of no fewer than four Purple Herons in the grasses in front of the hide. Here is just one of them.

Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea

Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea

Also present were two (Australian) Black Swans.  I normally would not post photos of “escaped” birds here, but they have probably come from the Huawei Campus in Shenzhen, just a few kilometres northwest of Mai Po. So they get included for reasons of topical interest.

Black Swan - Cygnus atratus

Black Swan - Cygnus atratus

Two Ospreys circled briefly, this was the closest.

Western Osprey - Pandion haliaetus

Eastern Marsh Harriers have returned to the Deep Bay area for the winter.

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Eastern Marsh Harrier - Circus spilonotus

Right in front of the hide there was a sudden fight between two Intermediate Egrets

Intermediate Egrets - Ardea intermedea

Definitely “no holds barred” for this species !

Autumn may be coming - but it seems summer wants to linger on.

“Mmmm...healthy greens..."

We should learn to relax like Mai Po’s water buffalo, seen here enjoying a salad buffet on Pond 17a.

13 Sept 2021

Hong Kong Southern Waters, 12th Sept 2021

The little bit of success seabirding on 29th August proved encouraging. 

So, on Sunday 12th September 2021 many of the seabirders from two weeks before turned out again at Aberdeen Public Pier at 07:00hrs for more of the same. 

Hong Kong was wedged between two typhoons, and the air seemed hot and still.

This time there were no dolphins, nor any Storm-Petrels to be seen. There was a passage of terns going on, though, featuring mainly three species. 

Greater Crested Terns (Thalasseus bergii) were dispersing southwards from their breeding grounds in Fujian/Zhejiang with a few juveniles present. 

Great Crested Tern

Great Crested Tern

Great Crested Terns - juvenile on left, obviously

Great Crested Tern

All morning we encountered both Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) and Aleutian Terns (Onychoprion aleuticus). In bright, hazy conditions, when in flight, they could be hard to separate.

Common Tern

Aleutian Tern - note dark trailing edge to secondaries

Standing on bits of floating polystyrene, identification was more straight forward.

Common Tern

Common Tern - note pink legs, dark edge to carpals 

Aleutian Tern - still mostly adult plumage

Aleutian Tern - still mostly adult plumage

Back to Common Tern (Sterna hirundo), five flight shots......

A quick (five shots) comparison with Aleutian Terns (Onychoprion aleuticus)

Some of these birds are going into winter plumage quicker than others.

Although over 300 individual terns were tallied during the seven-hour trip, not a single skua was spotted.

Finally, there were flocks of egrets moving generally southwest over the sea, clearly more “visible migration” was happening with land birds, too.