Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Chasing the Tide: A day at Mai Po

Spent my last day of Easter Holidays at Mai Po Nature Reserve. It's April, both the tide and the numbers of waders urges birders to pay a visit. However, timing your visit with the tide is not always accurate, as was the case today where the tide came in way too quickly and the birds never stayed long out at Deep Bay. The tide was suppose to reach it's peak at 11am, but was already up to the hide at 10:15am!

There's a way around this problem ofcourse, because the birds follow the tides into the scrapes to feed, so all you have to do is follow the birds. But the views are usually much further so photographing the birds are much more tricky.

The only species of interest that were out at Deep Bay were a few Great Knots, which stopped very briefly only to fly away within a minute. Everyone out at the floating hide were a bit disappointed I guess. Marsh Sandpipers remained and they weren't very exciting to look at.

Great Knot

Marsh Sandpiper

On my way back into the scrapes, I found this scruffy looking Asian Brown Flycatcher. This was the only Flycatcher I have seen this Easter break, which is highly unusual as we do usually get a whole range of flycatchers passing through...again this suggests the strong southerly winds have pushed the birds up north much quicker then usual.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Little Grebes can be heard calling everywhere at Mai Po now, they have also changed into their breeding plumage, a lovely reddish brown on the neck.

Little Grebe

A flock of Chinese Grosbeaks made an appearance, this winter visitor can be commonly seen foraging on trees during the winter months, they should be heading off back North to breed soon, though there's been breeding record in Hong Kong in the past. Males are very handsome with a jet black head, while females are more plain.

Chinese Grosbeak

To the scrape, the birds have all settled in nicely, the whole pond filled with birds. There were a lot of Black-tailed Godwits, unfortunately no Dowitchers of any kind were spotted.

Black-tailed Godwit

Waders like Redshanks, Spotted Redshanks, Greenshanks and Marsh Sandpipers were a lot closer to the hide.


Spotted Redshank

A few Nordmann's Greenshanks were spotted very far away at the far side of the scrape, the photograph here shows two birds, both looking right with their beaks out, you can see their more stout posture and their "thighs" length between the body and the knee is much shorter compared with Common Greenshank.

Nordmann's Greenshanks along with Common Greenshanks

Two Far-Eastern Curlews were seen within a few dozens of Eurasian Curlews. Here is a flight comparison shot, the difference is very obvious when they are in flight.

Far-Eastern Curlew

Gull-billed Terns were numerous, but only a few Caspian Terns showed up.

Gull-billed Tern

Caspian Tern

The waders were always alert and took flight a few times as a Black Kite soared past, many Black Kites in Hong Kong are what we called "vegetarian", mainly scavenged for food or hunt for fish out at sea, but perhaps this one had something else in mind on what to eat for lunch...

Black Kite

An Eastern Marsh Harrier also soared about, obviously looking for it's next meal.

Eastern Marsh Harrier

A Collard Crow dropped by, this commonly seen species is Hong Kong is however now globally rare, with numbers decreasing everywhere else, Hong Kong have become the stronghold for this species. Such rapid decline should be taken seriously and carefully, or else we would have another critically endangered species added to the list soon...

Collard Crow

A tmacronyx Yellow Wagtail was seen, this is a less common subspecies in Hong Kong, and this one was in beautiful breeding plumage, I like to call them "Blue-headed Yellow Wagtail".

Yellow Wagtail (macronyx)

On my way out to the car park, I saw a bird perched on a tree not far off. I looked and what may it be but an Asian Barred Owlet perched in broad daylight! This species are more regularly seen during the day then other owl species, but still not a bird you see on every outing. I have not seen them outside of their breeding site at Kam Tin for a long while, so I was pleased to see this one at Mai Po.

Asian Barred Owlet

With Easter break over, busy life should resume and I might not be able to get out until two weeks later...I am very torned in hoping no rare bird shall be spotted during this time, but at the same time I hope this Spring can get a bit more exciting...


  1. Good to see you yesterday..

    A decent day's birding, but the hot, clear weather has made things harder, that's for sure. We got the Grosbeaks, so Thanks for the reminder !

    I think the race of blue-capped Yellow Wagtail goes down here usually as "macronyx", the western race is "thunbergi"

  2. Thanks John, and good to have someone clarify the ever complicated yellow wagtail taxon! So I just looked up about the subspecies, and M. tschutschensis is now Eastern Yellow Wagtail which have been split with M. flava the Western Yellow Wagtail, and "macronyx" is the race in the Eastern Yellow Wagtails and "thunbergi" is the race in Western Yellow Wagtails?? Which looks superficially similar to one another?? So I guess we should just follow all the Eastern Yellow Wagtails subspecies...