Another 10 day trip away with work and with a full day and a few afternoons off I managed to see abit more outside the city compared to last years trip. The birding is brilliant out there, with such variation and abundance of birds. I tend to seek out birds with more of a relevance to western palearctic birding but also enjoyed alot of the resident and migatory sub tropical type stuff but apologise for the lack of shots thereof.
My time birding was separated into three habitat types really. These were: The open grasslands and fish ponds surrounding the Mai Po nature reserve,(above) The Estrine tidal mudflats viewed from the hides within Mai Po nature reserve (Below)…
…and the densely wooded hillsides of Hong Kong Island itself (below) This was the hardest and least rewarding habitat, with with many things heard only or seen badly was abit of a pain. Not exactly coastal stunted sycamore, October elm on scillies or bare ancient oaks in early spring for seeing birds well. Still, an incredible environment.
One thing that even the non birding visitors notice daily is the presence of Black-Eared Kites all over the city and surrounding landscape.
Other Birds of prey included: Japanese Sparrow Hawk, Osprey (below), Bonelli’s Eagle and Oriental Honey Buzzard, this last species are apparently uncommon migrants in the area.
Mai Po is ridiculous for waders. The following is a list of what i saw during the trip accompanied by some photos of birds that came within camera range. Its a list with some very exciting birds on it but these are all relatively easy to see over here of course: Red–necked and Temminck’s Stints, Common, Green, Marsh, Wood, Broad-billed, Curlew, Terek and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Black Winged Stilts, Little-ringed, Grey, Greater Sand and Pacific Golden Plovers, Great Knot, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Green and Nordmanns Green Shanks, Both Godwits, Avocets, Whimbrel, Eurasian and Far Eastern Curlew, Painted and common Snipe and Oriental Pratincoles.
Little-ringed Plover and Temminck’s Stint
Greater Sand Plover
Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper (a new bird for me!)
Next up are the birds I came across whilst wandering around the fish ponds and down the gravel tracks along side them. This is my preffered kind of birding. walking around seeing whats about; the pipts, wagtails, shrikes, buntings and stonechats were the most fun for me, and theres a kind of self gratification in identifying these birds from glimpses or on call alone that feels good and moving about in a cool unknown landscape too gets me going.
‘Sinensis’ Richard Pipits (above and below) these mostly rather short/weaked billed and short tailed, so much so that I had one down for a Blythes for a while. Despite the upright stance, tibia legnth and behavoir which was very much Dick’s like.
Below are a couple of Olive-backed Pipit shots. This time of year in Hong Kong all the individuals I saw were going through some moult. They all characteristically flushed into trees and over headwires and made both a tree pipit type call aswell as a high pitched alarm call.
Shame they weren’t abit brighter as their one of my favourite pipits in full effect. The Below Red-throated pipits were mostly smart.
‘Stejnerger’s’ Siberian Stonechats (Below) Common, flighty and all silent in my experience this and last year.
One of the most commonly heard calls around the ponds was that of Eastern Yellow Wagtail, with m.t.taivana (below) the most abundant and also two m.t.macronyx (following image) seen. The calls are really quite different to Flava birds, harsher and more pipit like than Citrine even, although when hearing Citrine in Abu Dhabi fairly frequently last Novemeber I commented on the similarity to Eastern Yellow Wagtail (having heard birds here previously and a bird on st mary’s in 2016). Here are some notes from the field on the call, ignore any nonsense its just a quick note! –
” Short little yikes! rasp… grainy and urgent tree pipit/western yellow wag combo.”
The most common Alba Wagtails are m.a leucopsis (above) with m.a ocularis (below) coming through on passage.
Long tailed shrikes were abundant and characterful. ‘Dusky Shrikes’, The variable melanistic dark morph (below) were pretty impressive too with a couple of individuals seen.
Birds in the reed beds were mainly Plain Prinia and Yellow Bellied Prinias but i did see many ‘personata’ Black-faced Buntings that all gave ticking type calls -something i didnt hear last year. A few Zitting Cisticolas were seen and brief but still incredibly exciting views of a male Siberian Ruby throat
Views were better than the photo describes. The same goes for the many many Dusky and Yellow-browed Warblers that I heard at regular intervals through each of my days birding. For some reason I just couldnt take a picture of hardly any of them! heres my best dusky shot and all my YBW shots were from directly underneath so got binned. I was hoping to see some other Phylloscs but other than hearing something very like Arctic once or twice and a very brief view of what i think was most likely two barred greenish, I saw none.
Mai Po is famous for the variety and numbers of Herons and Egrets I was glad to see the Yellow Bittern, the eastern palearctic version of little bittern a couple of times and one or two Purple Herons flying about as well as all the Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets and Chinese pond herons.
Black-faced spoon bills (below) are a globally threatened speices but occur at Mai Po in decent numbers.
Another bird with low numbers globally is the Saunder’s Gull. Most of the adults had gone north but this and a dozen or so other 2cy birds were feeding around the mudflats at Mai Po. Sadly for me the only gull that came close enough for photography and a very distant flock of large gulls was basically not even worth looking at 😦
The Saunders Gull sat amoung avocets whilst the water was higher along with Caspian and Gull-billed Terns (below)
Here’s a handful of commoner east asian birds from the trip.
Asian Koel (fem)
White-breasted Water hen
Azure winged Magpie (introduced here i think)
Collared crow. One of the best corvids out there.
Thanks to Matt Kwan for his help and to the Mai Po staff.