Mai Po Nature Reserve, Hong Kong

johnallcock

Well-known member
I keep expecting that soner or later I will have a day on the reserve without adding anything to the year list. Today wasn't that day.

At lunchtime there was a Zitting Cisticola (#123) in the main buffalo enclosure, and in the evening I had distant views of two male Mallards (#124) on the scrape. These two have been around now for several weeks (unlike most places, mallard is actually not very common in HK!)

Highlight of the day though was when I stepped outside the office on a short tea-break mid-morning and looked up to see the Oriental Stork circling directly over the office. There can't be many places that you can manage to see a bird like that on a tea-break!
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
Hoping for a good tide, I headed out to the boardwalk hides this lunchtime. Unfortunately the tide was still a bit too far away and the sunlight was a bit too strong, so it wasn't the best of visits. Still, there were a few birds around, including 2 Caspian Terns (#125), 3 Terek Sandpipers, a Whimbrel, a Common Snipe (unusual on the mudflat!) and a nice, bright macronyx Yellow Wagtail.

Scanning offshore I managed to pick out some Great Crested Grebes (#126) but the Tufted Duck flock was just too far away to hope to find anything mixed in. Not many gulls were present, but a search through those that were yielded a single mongolicus Caspian Gull (#127).
 

Neil

Well-known member
I debating whether it's worth heading out over the next few days John. Is the light any better than this from December?
Neil.
 

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MKinHK

Mike Kilburn
Hong Kong
Delighted to see a competing bid.

300 would be phenomenal, especially since the HK record for a year is only 50 more at 350 species. But if there's any site in HK where it might be possible it would have to be Mai Po.

You should also know that John's been slacking - Kamchatka, Black-tailed and Slaty-backed Gulls were seen from the Boardwalk late last week!

Cheers
Mike
 

Gretchen

Well-known member
... Is the light any better than this from December?
Neil.

Ah, this photo is related to the question I have. I've never been to Mai Po (and won't be for a few more years probably), so I wonder what the site is actually like. I guess there's a boardwalk which people are restricted to (perhaps a fence), as I never hear about flushing of birds there as I read about at other sites. And from this photo, I take it there's a hide?

If anyone wants to put up another photo or two of the site for the uninitiated like me, it would be great.
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
Especially for Gretchen, a few pictures of the reserve. Firstly, the view from our tower hide overlooking one of the freshwater ponds, with the large reedbed behind (this is where we carrying out our regular ringing). Secondly, the main shorebird roosting site (still too grassy at the moment, but hopefully this will die back by spring). And finally one of the gei wai (shrimp ponds) which we are currently draining - note the Black-faced Spoonbills on this picture. These are all around the reserve itself, in addition we have a boardwalk through the mangroves leading to four hides overlooking the intertidal mudflats. I'll try to get some pictures to post soon.

Mike, I prefer not to think of it as slacking but pacing myself. I don't want to peak too early! Actually the main problem is that I've been having really bad luck with tides - it seems the good tides are always on the days I can't make it out to the boardwalk hides.
I did try yesterday lunchtime - again the usual problem of a lower tide, but I did manage to pick out a single Red Knot (#128) and at least three Bar-tailed Godwits (#129). Hopefully I will go again today, fingers crossed for a better tide...

Jos, I will try for 300 but realistically I don't hold out much hope.
 

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Gretchen

Well-known member
Thanks for the views John - I guess many people have been there, but it is nice for those of us that haven't yet. Looking forward to that day.

(In addition to the spoonbills, a Grey Heron, perhaps?)
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
Yes, Gretchen, a Grey Heron. Also Little Egret and a couple of Northern Shoveler in the background.

My bad luck with tides continued today. Sooner or later, I hope I will catch up with some of the more unusual gulls... Today I had to make do with a flock of 5 Temminck's Stints (#130) to boost the year list.

I spent most of the afternoon out and about on site doing some habitat surveys. This yielded a Garganey (#131) on the main scrape, a species I had expected to have found by now. Better was to come when I visited a part of the reserve that is not generally accessible to the public. First up a pair of Gadwall (#132) - the first record of this species on the reserve this winter. And then a female Baer's Pochard (#133) rounding off a nice trio of ducks onto the year list. This Baer's has been around for several weeks now and may be the returning bird from last winter, but she's not very predictable.
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
On the ponds just outside my office window we regularly feed ducks to attract them in for visitors (mostly Eurasian Wigeon). The food also attracts in lots of doves. To be honest I don't check these regularly enough, but today I did decide to scan through the flock, and turned up the species I was hoping for - Red Turtle Dove (#134).

The big news of the day though was that I finally managed to get a decent tide. There were still not huge numbers of large gulls, but I did find a first winter Slaty-backed Gull (#135). There were big numbers of Grey Plover and Eurasian Curlew close to the hide, plus a few Pacific Golden Plover and a flock of smaller waders. Scanning through the small waders (mostly Dunlin and Kentish Plover) I also managed to pick out a single Red-necked Stint (#136) and at least five Lesser Sand Plovers (#137). Some of these were starting to get some breeding colour, including a couple with the first hints of black on the forehead showing them to be one of the atrifrons subspecies.

I also had an ocularis White Wagtail this morning. I think maybe I should count this as a 'half-tick' to take the total to 137.5 - exactly half-way to Mike's target of 275, and it's still only 18th January!
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
I've never been particularly good with gulls, so double-checked the Slaty-backed I claimed on Friday. Just as well I did, because it actually seems to fit better for Vega Gull, so I need to correct that one. Slaty-backed should be out there somewhere...

I was working with a volunteer group all day yesterday, so not much time for birding but it did mean I was outside all day rather than in the office. Highlights were a Crested Serpent Eagle (#138) high over the site and a singing Barn Swallow (#139), perhaps a bird returning to breed nearby (we can get them nesting here from February).

In the evening I cycled around the reserve. One of the freshwater ponds obviously had a hatching of flies (presumably chironomids, which are starting to appear in various spots now) and there was a flock of ducks actively feeding on these as they emerged. Teal and Wigeon weren't too surprising, but seeing the two Baer's Pochards and a few Tufted Ducks chasing down flies on the surface was a bit more unusual!

Also today a rather impressive Burmese Python. This one has been around for a couple of weeks apparently, but I missed it when I was first told about it last week. It's an impressive animal - probably at least 3m long, maybe more. I'll try to get a photo to post here in the next few days if it's still around.
 
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ChinaBirds

Nick Sismey
Hi John,
May well pop down to Mai Po again this weekend, was there Saturday for a short while, saw the Oriental Stork but not the Baer's Pochards . You can never get enough of Mai Po

Cheers
Nick
 

Neil

Well-known member
John,
I haven't been to MP in the pm for a while so I'm going to pop over to Pond 11 this afternoon and hope that some birds come in there with the high tide. If not I'll photograph cormorants for a couple of hours.
Neil.
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
After a busy week at work and something happening most evenings, I haven't had time to post for a week now. I've only added two new birds for the year list this week. I've now seen Eurasian Spoonbills (#140) a couple of times among the main flock of Black-faced. I was actually surprised it took so long to track these down this year. The other new species was a Japanese Quail (#141) which I flushed from one of the bunds on Friday morning.

I did also see at least three Mongolian Sand Plovers on the mudflats. Unfortunately I can't really count these because they're still lumped into Lesser Sand Plover. I don't really understand why personally - seeing one of them next to a Lesser just highlighted to me the differences! For now I'll just have to bank these in the hope that a split is accepted before the end of the year, or so I can accept another taxonomy and use them as a trump card if I'm struggling to reach my target!

I also had a slightly intriguing bunting on Thursday, which gave an unfamiliar call, but dived off the path into the mangroves, never to be seen again.

The long-staying Red-breasted Flycatcher is still around. I haven't seen the Oriental Stork all week, but I know others have done so it's still there somewhere.

Hope you were successful on Pond #11, Neil. The curlews have been roosting there most evenings this week.
 

Neil

Well-known member
After a busy week at work and something happening most evenings, I haven't had time to post for a week now. I've only added two new birds for the year list this week. I've now seen Eurasian Spoonbills (#140) a couple of times among the main flock of Black-faced. I was actually surprised it took so long to track these down this year. The other new species was a Japanese Quail (#141) which I flushed from one of the bunds on Friday morning.

I did also see at least three Mongolian Sand Plovers on the mudflats. Unfortunately I can't really count these because they're still lumped into Lesser Sand Plover. I don't really understand why personally - seeing one of them next to a Lesser just highlighted to me the differences! For now I'll just have to bank these in the hope that a split is accepted before the end of the year, or so I can accept another taxonomy and use them as a trump card if I'm struggling to reach my target!

I also had a slightly intriguing bunting on Thursday, which gave an unfamiliar call, but dived off the path into the mangroves, never to be seen again.

The long-staying Red-breasted Flycatcher is still around. I haven't seen the Oriental Stork all week, but I know others have done so it's still there somewhere.

Hope you were successful on Pond #11, Neil. The curlews have been roosting there most evenings this week.

I had just packed up my kit at around 5.30 pm when they flew in. The light was dropping fast so I didn't bother to get it out again.
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
Another very busy week last week left little time for birding.

Saturday 2nd was the day of our annual Big Bird Race, timed to coincide with World Wetlands Day. This is the major fundraiser for the reserve and finances a lot of the habitat and infrastructure we will be doing this summer (including improved access to the mudflat hides and enhancement work on some degraded reedbed). Our Mai Po team didn't do great compared to some of the other teams, but still it was a good day. For me probably the highlight was an adult Imperial Eagle gliding past at close range in southern Mai Po, giving some of the best views I've ever had of this species.

The waders have been putting on a good show on the recent high tides, especially the Dunlin flock which is very obliging this year. While checking through this flock on Sunday afternoon, I was able to find two Dunlin with leg flags from overseas - one from Yalujiang, the other from Sakhalin. I also finally managed to catch up with a Nordmann's Greenshank (#142) and a Slaty-backed Gull (#142) - confirmed this time! My bad run of luck with gulls is continuing though and I still haven't managed to see either the Black-tailed or the Kamchatka Gull that have been hanging around, even though both were seen during a survey on Monday while I was counting the curlew flock!

One more species for the list again today as well - a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (#143) that flew over at lunchtime.
 

johnjemi

Well-known member
Mai Po - heading for one-five-o

Sunday, 3rd Feb. John A. found this Nordmann's, quite close to the boardwalk hide...

And here Eastern Imperial Eagle from a couple of weeks ago...

And a wintering Dunlin with Bohai Bay leg flags...
 

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johnallcock

Well-known member
The end to another week on the reserve, with a few more species.
A ringing session in the reedbed on Wednesday was fairly quiet, as is usual for January. Highlight was a retrap of a Bluethroat (#145) from last autumn, but also a few Chinese Penduline Tits, Siberian Rubythroat, etc. We also had a Northern Goshawk which flew passed being mobbed by a Eurasian magpie and was then perched up in a tree. Unfortunately I suspect this was the obviously ex-captive (still with leather straps on it's legs) bird which has been around for a few months, so not countable on the year list.

On Wednesday evening, during a duck survey at the end of the day, a couple of Black Drongos (#146) flew over. The Baer's Pochards were apparently also back on ponds I wasn't surveying. There also seems to have been an increase in Eurasian Teal over the course of the week - is this evidence of migrants starting to move, or are they just relocating from somewhere else in the area?

One bird I realise I forgot to mention last weekend was a hybrid male Eurasian x American Wigeon from the boardwalk hides on Sunday. These hybrids are seen fairly regularly in Hong Kong, but there still hasn't been a pure-bred American Wigeon accepted (although there was a very good candidate a couple of years ago). One day, hopefully!
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
First of all, Happy New Year and Kung Hei Fat Choi to all.

Although I didn't need to be on the reserve because of the New Year break, the tides have looked promising and I decided to give it a try today. It seems that it may have paid off in great style.

Initially the tide was not good - very slow to rise and birds remaining distant. Eventually, though, it did come in. I scanned through the Dunlin flock and picked up a bird with leg flags from Chongming. Searching through the Black-headed Gull flock finally turned up the Mew Gull (#147) that has been around for a few weeks, but I somehow kept missing.

But there was more to come. I picked up an odd-looking plover among the Grey Plovers - only slightly smaller than Grey and with distinct yellow fringes to the upperparts. I was clearly larger/dumpier than Pacific Golden (obvious when seen later in direct comparison), as well as seeming thicker-necked, shorter-legged and shorter-billed. With a poorly-marked head pattern. And a slightly longer primary projection than most PGP (3 or 4 primaries visible). In other words, features that seemed to point towards EUROPEAN GOLDEN PLOVER!

If it is one, it would be the first for Hong Kong, and a complete surprise. I'm not counting it yet, and I'm hoping someone comes along with better photos in the coming few days (no offence John H - you weren't there for the best viewing conditions). There are more details on the HKBWS website here: http://www.hkbws.org.hk/BBS/redirect.php?tid=18408&goto=lastpost#lastpost and I would welcome any feedback about ID (I haven't seen European GP for several years, and have no experience with American). But fingers crossed on this one for now!
 
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