Thursday 25 April 2019

Deep Bay - Mudflats, Birds and More

Flocks of waders feeding together is a common sight at Deep Bay

April is always a good time to visit Deep Bay, the mudflat situated within Mai Po Nature Reserve can be especially rewarding, where you get  a wide array of waders on passage. The floating bird hide becomes one of the best places in Hong Kong to get up close to these amazing birds. Species such as Pied Avocets are never in short supply, where they often come really close to the hide.

Pied Avocet

Large waders such as Black-tailed Godwits are often some of the most numerous, within hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits you may find a few Bar-tailed Godwits with their up-turned bill. There is a good chance for Asiatic Dowitchers during April and May where these thick-billed waders are found amongst the Black-tailed.

Black-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit

Asiatic Dowitcher

Common Redshanks are still very numerous at Deep Bay, while Spotted Redshanks numbers had decreased massively in recent years. It is quite alarming, although we still see quite a few the numbers are not what it used to be.

Common Redshank

Spotted Redshank

Far Eastern Curlews are also fairly easy to find at this time of the year, I counted up to seven in amongst the Eurasian Curlews. They are now listed as Endangered and warrant more attention in international conservation.  Curlew Sandpipers on the other hand is now listed as Near Threatened, they are still very numerous in Hong Kong.

Far Eastern Curlew

Curlew Sandpiper

Terek Sandpipers often perch on dead trees during high tide and doesn't like to get their feet wet. Most are passage migrants through Hong Kong although we do get the odd one wintering on rare occasions.

Terek Sandpiper

One of the most 'fun' part of looking at waders during spring is scanning through hundreds of Red-necked Stints. You often get a few surprises while doing that, such as this lone Sanderling which was feeding amongst the flock, it's slightly larger size and overall pale plumage was a dead giveaway.

Red-necked Stint


I tried very hard for Spoon-billed Sandpiper but ultimately failed. A few Little Stints amongst the Red-necked Stints were however nice to see. A few Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were also present.

Little Stint

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

Lesser Sand Plovers as well as Grey Plovers were in good numbers, a few Pacific Golden Plovers and Greater Sand Plovers were around but didn't come close to the hide.

Lesser Sand Plover

Grey Plover

A few large Gulls remains at Deep Bay, mainly young birds that are in no rush heading back to their breeding grounds. All of them are presumably Mongolian Gulls. Other than the regular Whiskered, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, a single Little Tern was noted, a regular migrant at Deep Bay.

Mongolian Gull

Little Tern

Black-faced Spoonbills were still in good numbers, I counted no less than 70 birds. The international census this year had revealed their most recent population had increased to over 4,000 individuals world wide, a successful conservation story that is rare these days.

Black-faced Spoonbill

Other than waders, Deep Bay supports a good range of raptors, including Peregrine Falcons, Western Ospreys and Eastern Marsh Harriers. All three can be seen out on the mudflat on a regular basis.

Peregrine Falcon

Western Osprey

Eastern Marsh Harrier

The 'brain-fever' song of the Large Hawk Cuckoo is almost unmissable during April, although seeing them well is another matter all together...I got lucky while out on a birding tour of one singing right at Mai Po car park, I even managed a few photos before it flew off! Black-naped Oriole is also a regular migrant in Mai Po, I came upon this beautiful male while out with Kenneth Lam, they are always delightful to see and encounter.

Large Hawk Cuckoo

Black-naped Oriole - male

The Mai Po egretry is one of the largest in Hong Kong, and the Little Egrets have wasted no time in raising this year's brood, with many chicks already near fledging!

Little Egrets at nest

Mai Po is not just good for birds, but a great place for wildlife in general. Periophthalmus magnuspinnatus, a newly found species of Mudskippers in Hong Kong back in 2015 are not difficult to find during high tide. While the Four-Spot Midget, a species of damselfly specialising in mangroves and brackish waters can also be found out at Deep Bay. The beautiful Hasora badra is also quite common in mangroves, their purplish sheen is especially impressive when you are able to get a closer look.

Periophthalmus magnuspinnatus

Four-spotted Midget

Hasora badra

Sunday 14 April 2019

Spring in Full Swing

Certain migrants will remind you of certain time of the year, and Oriental Plovers are certainly one of such. Last week a flock of five Oriental Plovers were reported along Tam Kon Chau Road, which was well worth a Sunday afternoon to try and find. My dad and I found the five fairly easily at the reported site, they were dozing off under the sun on a dried fish pond, taking little notice of the few admirers sat nearby.

Oriental Plovers

Oriental Plover's Admirers...

As with most Oriental Plovers, these were fairly confiding and are fairly relaxed even when approached, no wonder they are popular for birders! There were two adults in amongst the juveniles with a beautiful red breast band, certainly got most of my attention because I never seen adult up close before!

Oriental Plover - adult breeding plumage

Juvenile Oriental Plovers are fairly attractive in their own right, especially when you consider how we only get them during a very short period of time each year! It is always a joy to encounter them in the field and should be appreciated.

Oriental Plover - juvenile

Other than the five Oriental Plovers, Oriental Pratincoles were also passing through in good numbers, I counted no fewer than 15 around the same area where they share the same habitat. Adults in breeding plumage are more vibrant and shows more orange tint on their throat and belly.

Oriental Pratincole - breeding plumage

The pair of Glossy Ibis had stayed on and made themselves comfortable at a shallow pond at Tai Sang Wai where they have been gorging on snails and worms. The pair look very healthy and seems quite contented there, I even wonder whether they may stay the summer! I certainly hope so as I certainly enjoy having this wonderful species around!

Glossy Ibis's new favourite pond

Glossy Ibis

I've also been doing a few birding tours of late, tours during spring is always exciting as you never really know what may turn up next. As was the case for a full day tour where we had an extremely productive morning at Tai Po Kau, best bird was no doubt a Brown-breasted Flycatcher, a species I hope will be able to breed successfully this year.

Brown-breasted Flycatcher - rare summer breeder

Tai Po Kau is a good place to sample most of our forest species. Hainan Blue Flycatchers are now everywhere and extremely vocal. We had luck with a Lesser Shortwing which showed briefly, a species that even I seldom see well!

Hainan Blue Flycatcher - male

Lesser Shortwing - a rare occasion to get it in full view...

Plain Flowerpeckers had been very vocal and fairly unmissable during spring, you are almost guarantee to get great views of it. The more common Scarlet-backed Flowerpeckers however don't always want to show off their most colourful feature, but males are extremely territorial and will defend their territory fiercely if another male come close.

Plain Flowerpecker

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker - male

Fork-tailed Sunbirds can be slightly tricky to get a good look without flowering trees, but occasionally you will get singing males that show off it's iridescent plumage at eye-levels!

Fork-tailed Sunbird - male

Black-throated Laughingthrushes can often seen in song during early morning, they are great mimics and can mimic anything from a Besra to Crested Serpent Eagles. Breeding season is well underway, including a pair of Blue Whistling Thrush which seems to be nesting near the stream, we even found a Huet's Fulvetta nest during one of our outings.

Black-throated Laughingthrush

Blue Whistling Thrush

Huet's Fulvetta - at nest

The egretry at Mai Po is fully occupied, with many Little Egrets either busy building their nest or tending to their chicks. There's also been plenty of Yellow Bitterns around, unlike their relative they don't make their nest in full view but rather discreetly in reed beds, so chances of finding their nest is quite slim.

Little Egret - collecting nesting materials

Yellow Bittern

Whiskered Terns had arrived in good numbers around fish ponds, its difficult not to stop and look at them as they are such graceful fliers. Black-faced Spoonbills had been fairly stable at a drained fish pond at Tai Sang Wai, but probably not for long as the fishermen is likely going to get all the remaining fish out soon and refill it with water.

Whiskered Tern

Black-faced Spoonbill

Another wonderful find during one of the bird tour were a few Chinese Penduline Tits, they are not always easy to see in the reed beds so I was delighted to first find one perched on the wire and later another perched next to the car for a better look.

Chinese Penduline Tit - female

Finally, finding two separate flocks of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters at both Long Valley and Tai Sang Wai was no doubt one of the highlight for me this week. These fairly scarce migrants can be hard to track down sometimes, a little bit of rain usually helps with grounding them on passage.

Blue-tailed Bee-eater - can brighten up any birding day!

Forecast of more rain in the next few days, not good weather to go outside but certainly weather that may bring in some interesting birds...We shall see!