Monday, 7 January 2019

2018 Top Wildlife Encounters

2018 was not the most exciting year of birding for me, but it had been a year where I travelled the most which certainly broadened my spectrum on birding and being a naturalist in general. If I included all my encounters abroad this post would have gone on forever...Therefore, I am just going to list sightings from Hong Kong, and for the first time I am not just going to include birds in my annual highlight reviews, but other wildlife I've encountered throughout the year! 

1. Oriental Stork

It had been so long since I've seen one of these majestic birds in Hong Kong, one at Mai Po at the beginning of the year certainly was one of the top bird to see. This Endangered species had been continually decreasing, with an estimated global population of no more than 3,000 individuals.

2. Grey-headed Swamphen

Another rarity from Mai Po, I've been wanting to see one of these in Hong Kong for a while, having missed a chance before I am glad to have caught up with this one. This incredibly beautiful species was formerly considered a race of Purple Swamphen.

3. Mrs. Gould's Sunbird

I've missed several chances of seeing this species in Hong Kong, this immature male at Shing Mun Valley was more than enough to make up for it. Not as beautiful as adult males, but this was enough to get me this Hong Kong tick.

4. Crested Serpent Eagle consuming a snake

When I say "Top Wildlife Encounters" it mean it doesn't have to be anything rare, but this moment was amongst one of the most memorable all year! A Crested Serpent Eagle doing what it does best, eating snakes! It's the first time I've seen one in the act and I certainly hope it's not the last.

5. Eurasian Siskin

A large flock of Eurasian Siskin don't sound very interesting to those living in Europe, but it's sure not a common sight in Hong Kong. It's the first time I've seen over 30 individuals all in one go.

6. Glaucous Gull

Okay, this one was debated quite a lot at the time, I am not sure whether the record committee is accepting this as a genuine Glaucous Gull or not, but it certainly was genuine enough for me.

7. Oriental Plover

I've been wanting to get a proper photograph of this species for a while, this very cooperative individual at San Tin certainly made my day!

8. Common Wolf Snake

Been wanting to see this beautiful species for so long, I've seen a few dead ones in the past but finally found this young snake by the roadside on a night walk at Shek Kong Catchment one evening!

9. Lau's Leaf Litter Toad

This little toad species was found during one of our night walks at Tai Mo Shan, right in the middle of the road where Kenneth so nearly stepped on it! Not a particularly rare species but not one that you often find hopping around either.

10. Lesser Whistling Duck

A rare duck that I've not seen for years, provided a good reason to visit Mai Po in the middle of summer.

11. Breeding Eurasian Hobbies

While we get Eurasian Hobbies on passage, breeding is not that well known in Hong Kong, although this pair which had successfully been breeding the last few years proves how little we actually know about birds...

12. Phlogiellus sp.

A Tarantula in Hong Kong, I've always wanted to see one of these! They are impressive looking animals and was no doubt one of my spider highlight of the year!

13. MacClelland's Coral Snake

A species I've searched for years, finally saw this beautiful snake one fateful night!

14. Bamboo Pit-Viper and meal...

The snake itself is not really worth mentioning, but we found this one in the middle of devouring a Chinese Gecko! The poor gecko was still sitting in it's mouth looking as though it's trying to escape.

15. Tiger Shrike

I can hardly recount how many times I tried looking for this species at Ho Man Tin, but perseverance paid off when I finally struck gold one day!

16 Giant Spiny Frog

I've been wanting to get a good photo of this monster frog species, being the largest frog species in Hong Kong they are truly impressive to look at, and certainly worth all the hard work climbing down rocks and getting your feet wet.

17. Yellow-browed Bunting

I found a small flock of these lovely buntings at Mai Po, never really been able to get a good photo of them before until now!

18. Manchurian Reed Warbler

A notoriously difficult species decided to play it easy this year, this very showy individual certainly made an impression, I am not quite sure when I will be able to see another quite like it!

19. Rook

After the immature individual last year, another decided to pop in Hong Kong again! This time an adult! Whether they are the same individual is unknown, but this had got to be one of my best finds this year. 

20. Yellow-streaked Warbler

My final lifer of the year, this species had been long anticipated for me. Having been able to observe this individual for a few hours in the field helped with gaining enough confidence for me to make the call for it's ID.

I am looking forward for more wildlife encounters in 2019! 


  1. Thanks for posting this stunning selection, Matt. You really are a wildlife photographer par excéllence. For what it's worth, I am sure the gull is a Glaucous Gull. We see them here in every plumage phase and I would be confident in calling this one.

    1. Thanks for your kind compliments David, sorry only noticed your comment so late! Yes, to me it could only have been a Glaucous.

  2. Oriental Plover is my favourite here - missed the Oriental Stork in 2018...