Saturday, 28 November 2015

Greater White-fronted Goose - squeezing in some time

I only had the morning free this Saturday, and it's really not the most convenient time of the year to be working on weekends! Birds were falling finally! After a strong cold front that passed Hong Kong starting on Wednesday, and Thursday saw our temperature dropped by 10 degrees celsius! It was only time before birds started arriving in Hong Kong, a Black Stork flew in Mai Po on Wednesday but didn't stay long, yesterday I received news of a Greater White-fronted Goose at Mai Po, and later another news of a Franklin's Gull out at Deep Bay! That will be a first for Hong Kong.

Knowing the tide came in later in the day, I knew the Franklin's Gull will probably be out of my reach. Therefore I had myself first focus on getting the Goose. It was reported to have been darting about the ponds and scrapes. My day started early and I immediately saw a pair of Magpies at the access road, I took that as a good omen and pressed on! (Magpies are considered good luck for the Chinese, and a pair is especially so meaning double happiness)

Eurasian Magpies - a sign of good fortune in Chinese culture

Morning at Mai Po are always lovely and peaceful, Egrets and Spoonbills congregate at the water ways to feed. I scanned around the ponds and didn't produce much. I bumped into our HKBWS ringers and found Kwok Jai ringing a Thick-billed Warbler! That gave me a chance to savour my encounter with another bird earlier last month. Soon, I got a call from Benjamin stating the Goose had been spotted at scrape 16/17 at bird hide #3. I quickly dashed over but the bird had just flown as I arrived. However, I very soon spotted the bird swimming at the far side of the scrape, it's white backend reflected the morning sunlight. We saw that the bird was closer to bird hide #1, so we quickly went over there to get a closer look.

Congregation of Egrets in waterways

Greater White-fronted Goose - a Hong Kong tick for me

The bird was extremely cooperative for a Goose. It spent quite a lot of time wandering about and eating grass seeds, totally at ease minding it's own business. We were quite concerned when an Eastern Marsh Harrier flew over but the bird seemed least bothered, I guess it figured it was too large for the Harrier to take. The Goose showed exceptionally well for the next hour or so, it was indeed a shame that my 400mm f/4 DO had to be taken into Canon for repair (faulty focus button issues?), I only had my 100-400mm f/5.6 lens with me, adding a 1.4x to the recipe was not a particularly good mixture. A lot of my images came out blurry and very loose. I had to turn the aperture up to f/20 to get any acceptable results, even then the photographs weren't particularly sharp...I was thankful for the bright morning sunlight that made these shots possible.

Greater White-fronted Goose

Just before I left the hide the bird flew one last time across the scrape to cheer me up. A star performance by this star bird! Having missed the previous records of this species, what a wonderful way to get a new tick to my Hong Kong list!

Goose in flight!

I was heading back out to the car park by 11am. On the way we had a flock of Chinese Grosbeaks, a very handsome and smart looking group.

Chinese Grosbeaks

A little further up the path, there was another "restaurant" for egrets. A Grey Heron caught a big Yellowfin Seabream! I was sure it could not swallow it, even the thought of such a fish going down it's throat gives me shivers. The Heron took the fish and flew away elsewhere to avoid other egrets from trying to steal from it. Black-faced Spoonblls were amongst the flocks, busy fishing as well by swinging their beaks side by side.

Grey Heron - caught a Yellowfin Seabream

Black-faced Spoonbills

Off I went to work and only to receive information about the Franklin's Gull's reappearance out at Deep Bay...Not something you will like to hear while working! I hope the Franklin's Gull will stay a bit longer for me to catch up with it!


  1. Magpies are considered good luck in Europe also, so long as they are not alone. =)

    1. Thanks! I did not know that~ So glad that it was my lucky day indeed.