Wednesday 5 October 2022

Autumn Migration on Po Toi

Before Ho Man Tin, Po Toi was probably the most well known migrant watching site in Hong Kong, its potential peaked in the mid 2000s, with numerous Hong Kong first recorded on the island. While it receives slightly less attention than it did a decade ago simply because it is not the most easily accessible birding site in Hong Kong, it is still considered one of the prime site for migrants in both spring and autumn. Its been a while since we received any visiting birders, and not often do I get a request to guide a day trip to Po Toi. Richard Patient, a very experienced birder from the UK joined me at Aberdeen Pier at 8am and we boarded the ferry to Po Toi, we were hoping for some migrating flycatchers. Things started off slowly, with birds being difficult and shy. The first better migrant of the day came in form of a pair of Ashy Minivets, while a fairly common migrant in Hong Kong, views of this species is by no means guarantee.

Ashy Minivet - female

Other than a large influx of Arctic Warblers, Asian Brown Flycatchers were in no short supply, we counted up to ten individuals throughout the island, there seemed to be one on every large tree on the island. There was only one single Dark-sided Flycatcher located behind the public toilet.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Dark-sided Flycatcher - juvenile

We added a few more common migrants including numerous Two-barred Warblers, Yellow-browed Warblers, Dusky Warblers, Black-naped Oriole, Blue Rock Thrush...But most were either too quick or too far for photos. Black Drongos were in good numbers, while we only saw one single Hair-crested Drongo. A single Pale-legged Leaf Warbler type bird was seen, since Sakhalin Leaf Warbler was a target for Richard, we waited for the warbler to call, but it remained silent despite having tried the playback of both species! It is tough, but these two species are simply inseparable without the call.

Hair-crested Drongo

Finally, we had a female Blue-and-White Flycatcher at the helipad, this was one of the target species of Richard, so I am glad we connected with at least one of his targets on the island. It was a shame this was not a male, but the female showed well and perched at eye-levels for a few minutes before flying into the mangroves and not to be seen again!

Blue-and-White Flycatcher - female

Though Po Toi was not absolutely terrible, it wasn't producing anything interesting enough for us to stay, adding to the fact that it was 33°C and very humid (felt more like a spring day), we decided to cut our loses and take the 3pm ferry back to Stanley, from there we headed towards Telford Garden where we hope to get the long staying Styan's Grasshopper Warbler as Richard went the day before on his own but couldn't connect with it. We arrived to the rooftop gardens to a dozen of birders and photographers. The warbler showed immediately and gave several rounds of excellent views! This warbler is a different Styan's from my previous visits, located in the other end of the gardens, the original one was still present but now prefer the upper levels which is out of bounds to visitors. Luckily, this one decided to stay at one of the busiest part of the garden and provide excellent views for everyone. This individual looked less scruffy than the other, and seems to be less shy.

Styan's Grasshopper Warbler - star bird at Telford Garden

Other than the Styan's, we got a few Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers as well as a single Lanceolated Warbler, this was the first Lanceolated Warbler that I have seen at Telford Garden this season! I have somehow missed all the previous ones. Getting three species of Grasshopper Warblers in a matter of an hour is quite simply mind boggling, and I am certain Telford Garden is one of the very few places in the world where you can have such good views of these usually elusive warblers on passage. All in all it was an excellent day and a good sample of migrants that you may find during passage migration in Hong Kong.

Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler

Lanceolated Warbler

Closer to home at Ting Kok, nothing majorly exciting has turned up just yet, along the coast only a single Greater Sand Plover and a Kentish Plover returned, I was hoping for a few more passage waders, but perhaps it is still a little bit early. A Striated Heron along the coast was a nice find locally, I haven't seen a lot of these around. The only other notable migrant were two Black-naped Orioles at a distant.

Greater Sand Plover

Kentish Plover

Striated Heron

Black-naped Oriole

Over at Tai Lam again nothing hugely exciting, but a male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher was definitely a nice find. I usually see juveniles or females during autumn migration, so I don't see males without their long tail that often. Other than the numerous Eastern Crowned Warblers as well as a very shy Siberian Blue Robin that did not allow for any usable photos, a Dark-sided Flycatcher was the only other notable migrant that I managed to photograph. 

Japanese Paradise Flycatcher - male

Dark-sided Flycatcher

Temperature supposedly dropping further north, so hopefully some new birds will arrive with the change of weather very soon!

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