Monday, 24 April 2017

Continued Surprises - Mai Po

Eurasian Eagle Owl - our largest owl species, likely in the world!

Mai Po never seizes to surprise us, and in April anything can turn up anywhere. The raptors are taking advantage of the abundance of migrant waders, other then the Peregrine and Eastern Marsh Harrier from the previous posts, I witnessed a Black Kite coming down onto the mudflat and grabbed an injured Curlew Sandpiper and devoured it right in front of the bird hide! A Besra was also ambushing around the footpaths, this particular one I encountered at least twice throughout the day, first time it chased a few songbirds through the mangroves, the second time Pan Lau found it perched close-by next to the footpath, we enjoyed some confiding views for as long as we wanted.

Black Kite - with Curlew Sandpipers between it's talons...


Large Hawk Cuckoos had been calling constantly in Mai Po, and we have been getting some good views of them lately, here's another one perched on top of a tree, a bit further away then my last close encounter. The other Cuckoo species that had been active are Indian Cuckoos, their "One More Bottle" call can be heard throughout, I was lucky to bump into one that allowed me to get an obscured but close view, it's the first time had been able to get a photograph of a perched individual.

Large Hawk Cuckoo

Indian Cuckoo

Mudflats at Deep Bay had been full of waders, here are just a sample of the many waders found there on any given day...Greater Sand Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Terek Sandpipers, Great Knots, Red Knots, Red-necked Stints, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Whimbrels and Asian Dowitchers...

Greater Sand Plover

Ruddy Turnstone

Terek Sandpiper

Great Knot

Red Knot

Red-necked Stint

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper


Asian Dowitcher

An interesting wader caught our eye on the mudflat, a very bright and well marked stint foraging amongst the Red-necked Stints. The general reaction in the bird hide at the time is that this was probably a Little Stint, and I thought so too given that it looked so different with rest of the flock. It was later suggested that this is a Red-necked Stint, although I must say it's bill shape doesn't quite click as classic Red-necked to me, it looks slightly longer and very pointed...especially when placed side by side with the Red-necked present, but I must admit the body structure, leg structure both seems a bit off for a usual Little. I did saw a more 'obvious' Little Stint on the same day in bright breeding plumage, although it was way too far for any photo to be taken, but in breeding plumage they are difficult to miss. It does show the huge variety Red-necked Stints can show. So, I will have to wait my turn for photos...

The 'strange' Red-necked Stint with a 'regular' Red-necked Stint

Other then waders, there was a bird that attracted quite a lot of attention in form of an Eurasian Eagle Owl, they are rare to scarce residents in Hong Kong, although quite widespread they are seldom seen. One had been spotted around pond 11 frequently and attracted a lot of birders to try their luck for this elusive species. I took my chance and went for it, knowing that birders waited half a day to get a look at it the day before. I was surprise therefore when Peter Wong found the bird sat right next to the footpath, it didn't move much for the next few hours. By the time it was surrounded by a dozen of photographers, it seems quite obvious to us that there was some problem with this owl. After a heavy rainstorm birders reported it to be quite week, and called up WWF to pick the bird up. It was later transferred to SPCA later on the day. It was unclear what was wrong with the bird, but our guess is that it could have ate a rat with poison? Sad news is that after a few days this majestic bird did not make it. It was exciting while it lasted...let's hope we get to see a healthier one next time.

Eurasian Eagle Owl - RIP...


  1. Wow, I wish I had been with you at Mai Po that day! It's great to see so many shorebirds in breeding plumage. Our migration is well underway here and we will start up our mist net operation this weekend.

  2. I would have put the strange stint down as "Little", too. Good to see all the other waders on parade, - the cuckoos usually stay hidden from me !