Friday, 22 September 2017

The Curse Of Ho Man Tin

Arctic Warbler - the only notable migrant that I managed a good shot of...

The key to becoming a successful birdwatcher have much to do with being hard working and having patience, but sometimes without a stroke of luck and good fortune even the more experienced birders have to endure dipping on target birds. I would consider myself quite a lucky guy most of the time, but sometimes your luck simply runs out and nothing goes your way.

Ho Man Tin had been a migrant hotspot the last couple of years, and people have had tons of interesting records there with some ludicrous rarities, Brown-chested Jungle Flycatcher and Brown-breasted Flycatcher this season are some of the more interesting records. An influx of Tiger Shrikes and Siberian Blue Robins certainly had raised my expectations, and seeing that many friends had success in finding the Shrike at Ho Man Tin got me off my ass. I have very mixed feelings about the site at Ho Man Tin, first off it is an incredible magnet for migrants in the middle of the city, anything can turn up there at any given day and time. BUT, I never seem to have much luck in uncovering the small hill's secrets, and half of my visits have me leaving empty handed. It got to a point where I don't quite bother going there anymore, as in Chinese we have a saying "you're only scared of the dark if you've seen a ghost", and Ho Man Tin had definitely been my "ghost".

Reports of the Tiger Shrike showing on Monday morning up till noon was encouraging, and I thought an afternoon there will be sufficient for me to nail this rarity. I was so wrong. I got there by 2pm and walked up and down the hill, only to get a single female Black-naped Monarch, an Asian Brown Flycatcher, a few rather tamed Arctic Warblers plus a tamed male Oriental Magpie Robin...I managed to spot a Shrike which should be a juvenile Brown Shrike, but nothing that resembled a Tiger Shrike even gave me a glimpse...Siberian Blue Robin seen previous afternoon by my friend was again nowhere to be seen.

Black-naped Monarch - female

Arctic Warbler

Oriental Magpie Robin - male

As I had other business to attend to, I left at 4:45pm, feeling completely defeated. At around 5pm, a text from my friend told me that someone had just seen the Tiger Shrike just before 5pm.

So, there I was again the next morning, arriving early hoping that the Shrike will finally show itself. Walked around various hotspots with little luck. I even missed an Orange-headed Thrush seen by three other birders by a half a minute! I managed a newly arrived Black-winged Cuckooshrike, a single female Hainan Blue Flycatcher and an Asian Brown Flycatcher, nothing to be excited about. I once again came back empty handed, and left the site at 10:15am. I later heard some other birders might have spotted the Tiger Shrike again, no surprise there.

Black-winged Cuckooshrike

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - female

Asian Brown Flycatcher - such a poser

Despite all this, I have to admit that Ho Man Tin is an incredible urban birding site. Easy to get to and having one of the most incredible track records in the past few years, no wonder it had gained so much in popularity in amongst birders. I only wish that I would have slightly better luck there in the future, for now I would say my curse of Ho Man Tin is yet to be broken.


  1. Pity about the Tiger shrike, still, some good other birds at HMT

  2. Keep at it Matt. Your luck there will change sooner or later.