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Exotic Hong Hong Trip Report

Black Kite by Neil Fifer

by Dion Hobcroft

This was a very successful winter tour to Hong Kong. Our visit coincided with excellent weather, the blue sky appearing on three out of four days, often making it quite warm. Our days were spent exploring a number of bird sites and we did considerable exploring after the closure of Mai Po Marshes to birders. Despite this setback we recorded 122 species including several of the most sought after. This included Dalmatian Pelican, Chinese Egret, Black-faced Spoonbill, Imperial and Bonelli¹s Eagle, Grey-headed Lapwing, Long-toed Stint, all four kingfishers, Chestnut Bulbul, Asian Stubtail, Yellow-bellied Tit, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch and Red-billed Starling.

I would like to thank the participants Patricia, Joan and Ian, Rodger and Julie. A special thankyou to our host and organiser, Janene Luff, who put together the tour so wonderfully.

7 Feb 2021: Spent the morning birding at Lam Kam Road in feng shui woodland known by the locals as the “Golden Triangle”. Late morning we birded up the main road at Tai Po Kau (TPK) and then explored the Ho Chung Valley (HCV) and Kowloon Peak and Tai Mo Shan (TMS), the highest peak in Hong Kong. We were privileged to be shown these sites by Dr Martin Williams.

Chinese Pond Heron by Neil Fifer
8 Feb 2021: We spent the morning at the fabulous Nam Sang Wai (NSW) enjoying close-up views of ducks, kingfishers and a variety of shorebirds and passerines. We were lucky to be joined by Neil Fifer who showed us his favourite photography site. After lunch we explored Tsim Bei Tsui overlooking the Deep Bay and Mai Po Marshes exploring along the perimeter fence.

9 Feb 2021: An action-packed day starting off again at Nam Sang Wai where thanks to some sharp spotting by Joan we saw our first Black-faced Spoonbills. We returned to Tai Po Kau that was in fine form with many mixed flocks of colourful passerines. After lunch we explored Long Valley (LV) and after quickly finding our target birds we spent the late afternoon along the Mai Po Road (MPR) that was alive with thousands of birds.

10 Feb 2021: Although not officially a tour day a few of us opted to continue birding. We caught a taxi to the threatened wetland of Kam Tin and then finished with a walk through Tai Po Kau on the blue trail.


Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis: (5) NSW; (5) MPR
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus: (50) TBT

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo: Several hundred seen at NSW, TBT and MPR.

Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus: (2) TBT in breeding condition with bright orange gular pouch and crest development. This is a threatened species with this wintering population in HK in decline.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea: Recorded daily with hundreds present at NSW.
Great Egret Ardea alba: Recorded daily with (100) on 8 Feb mostly at NSW.
Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia: (1) at TBT.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta: Recorded daily with (200) on 8 Feb.
Chinese Egret Egretta eulophotes: (1) at NSW was tentatively identified as this species on the basis of its yellow legs, powerful, hunched Eastern Reef Egret-like posture. It was in a heavy moult and looked pretty bedraggled and its beak was obscured by mud making it very difficult to assess these features.
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus: (30-50) at NSW, TBT and MPR: all in non-breeding plumage.
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis: (10) at LV
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax: (20-30) at NSW
Black-faced Spoonbill Platalea minor: (2) at NSW on 9 Feb and (12) in flight over MPR on the same day gave good flight views.

Little Egret by Neil Fifer
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna: (10) scoped in the distance at TST.
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope: (300) NSW
Common Teal Anas crecca: (300-500) NSW
Garganey Anas querquedula: (3) NSW on 8 Feb including two males acquiring breeding plumage.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata: (300) NSW
Northern Pintail Anas acuta: (1) female NSW and (40) TST including several males.
Greater Scaup Aythya marila: (40) TST

Osprey Pandion haliaetus: (1-2) at NSW, TST and MPR.
Black Kite Milvus migrans: (5-30) recorded daily. The subspecies occurring in HK is sometimes split as a separate species: Black-eared Kite Milvus lineatus.
White-bellied Sea-Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster: (2) TST
Crested Serpent-Eagle Spilornis cheela: (2) spiralling over the “Golden Triangle” calling noisily and giving good views.
Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus: (2) TST
Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus: (1) performing display flight over TPK on 7 Feb gave an excellent view with the flared white undertail coverts almost encircling the base of the tail.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo: (3-4) recorded on three days at NSW, TBT, MPR and KT.
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca: (1) soaring over MPR on 9 Feb was a good sighting.
Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus: (1) soaring over LV on 9 Feb was also a good sighting.

Buzzard by Neil Fifer
White-breasted Waterhen Amaurornis phoenicurus: (3) at NSW and (4) at KT. Also heard the remarkable braying call at MPR.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus: (2-5) at NSW and TBT.

Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus: (50-100) on both visits to NSW. Mostly in winter plumage, quite different to the Australian leucocephalus.
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta: (100) at NSW and a huge flock of perhaps (1000) at TBT.

Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus: (17) at KT on 10 Feb including several in breeding plumage.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius: (6-10) recorded on three days at NSW, MPR and KT.

Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura: (1) at KT was identified by its short tail and primary extension, shorter bill and more heavily barred flanks from the following species.
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago: (12) at LV and MPR with (5) at KT gave excellent views in the telescope both on the ground and in flight where we could see the narrow white trailing edge to the secondaries.
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia: (8) at NSW
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus: (1-3) at NSW and (1) LV and (2) KT allowed some good views.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola: (12) at LV and (20) at KT
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos: (1-6) recorded daily including HCV.
Temminck¹s Stint Calidris temminckii: (10) at MPR
Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta: (2) at MPR with a close study of (1) which we could even see the long toes.

Heuglin’s Gull Larus heuglini: (1) scoped by Dion in distance at TBT was identified primarily by the dark upper wings resembling a Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Vega Gull Larus vegae: (1) a bird moulting from second summer plumage was considered this species because of the pale grey mantle, pinkish legs and pale eye and largely unstreaked head and neck. It was closely studied at NSW on both visits.
Common Gull Larus canus: (1) scoped in distance in flight at TBT by Dion was identified by size compared to Heuglin’s Gull and pale grey mantle with jet black primaries. Probably the Kamchatka form occurring here.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus: (500-1000) at NSW and TBT

Asian Koel Female by Neil Fifer
Rock Dove Columba livia: (5-20) recorded daily.
Oriental Turtle-Dove Streptopelia orientalis: (10) at NSW on 9 Feb.
Spotted Turtle-Dove Streptopelia chinensis: (10-20) daily.

Asian Koel Eudynamys scolopacea: (2) male and female seen at Golden Triangle on 7 Feb. Also heard at Shatin, NSW and KT.
Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus: (1) heard only at KT on 10 Feb.

Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis: (1) NSW on 9 Feb where also heard calling the previous day.

Asian Barred Owlet Glaucidium cuculoides: (1) seen by Dion only being mobbed by bulbuls in the Golden Triangle Feng Shui woodland on 7 Feb. It was ultra shy.

Fork-tailed Swift Apus pacificus: (2) at NSW on 8 Feb.
Little Swift Apus nipalensis: (5) at HCV, (50) over NSW and (1000) over MPR on 9 Feb.

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis: (3) on both 8-9 Feb with good views at NSW, TBT, MPR and LV.

White-throated Kingfisher Halcyon smyrnensis: (1) in distance at NSW and (2) that gave great views at TBT on 8 Feb.
Black-capped Kingfisher Halcyon pileata: (2) at NSW gave great views of this spectacular species.

Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis: (3) at NSW

Black-capped Kingfisher by Neil Fifer
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica: Recorded on three days with max. (100) at MPR on 9 Feb.

White Wagtail Motacilla alba: (2-20) recorded daily, all those that could be identified were subspecies leucopsis.
Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava taivana: This distinctive subspecies with the broad yellow eyebrow is also genetically distinct and likely to be split. (2-20) were seen on three days with best numbers at NSW, MPR and KT.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea: (1-4) seen daily
Richard¹s Pipit Anthus richardi: (1) at KT on 10 Feb.
Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni: (10) at HCV on 7 Feb and (2) TPK on 9 Feb with (8) at LV on the same date.
Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus: (10) at LV and MPR including several males in breeding plumage on 9 Feb. (4) at KT on 10 Feb.
Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens japonicus: (2) at MPR allowed great comparisons with Red-throated and Olive-backed Pipits.

Scarlet Minivet Pericrocotus flammeus: (1) male at TPK on 9 Feb seen by Joan.
Grey-throated Minivet Pericrocotus solaris: (1) male at TPK on 9 Feb seen by Rodger and at least (6) at TPK on 10 Feb.

Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus: Recorded daily, max. (50)
Chinese Bulbul Pycnonotus sinensis: Recorded daily, max. (100)
Chestnut Bulbul Hemixos castanotus: (5-20) recorded on our three visits to TPK.

Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii: (1) male seen by Dion at TPK on 10 Feb.

Crested Myna by Neil Fifer
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius: (1) female at TMS on 7 Feb.
Blue Whistling Thrush Myiophoneus caeruleus: (1) opposite our hotel in Shatin on 7-8 Feb was the only one seen.
Grey-backed Thrush Turdus hortulorum: (1) at TPK on 9 Feb.
Pale Thrush Turdus pallidus: (1) at TPK on 10 Feb seen by Dion only.

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis: (5) at LV and (2) KT.
Plain Prinia Prinia inornata: (1) at TBT and (2) MPR.
Yellow-bellied Prinia Prinia flaviventris: Recorded daily at HCV, NSW, TBT and MPR.

Asian Stubtail Urosphena squameiceps: (1) at TPK on 9 Feb gave a great view as it skulked along the forest floor.
Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius: (2-10) recorded on three days.
Oriental Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis: (1) heard only “chacking” along the fence at TBT.
Dusky Warbler Phylloscopus fuscatus: (1) HCV, (2) NSW and (2) KT.
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus: (2) at Lam Kam Road and TPK and (1) NSW on 9 Feb.
Pallas’s Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus: (3-10) at TPK on all visits and (2) at Lam Kam Road.
Blyth’s Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus reguloides: (2-10) at TPK on 9-10 Feb.

Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica: (1) at TPK on 7 Feb.
Hainan Blue Flycatcher Cyornis hainana: (1) at TPK on 9 Feb.

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis: (2-3) at TPK on 9-10 Feb.

Oriental Magpie Robin Copsychus saularis: (5-10) daily
Daurian Redstart Phoenicurus auroreus: (1) female at TMS and (1) male at KT.
Siberian Stonechat Saxicola torquata maura: (1-5) daily including some beautiful males. The Siberian subspecies is sometimes split.

Black-faced Laughingthrush Garrulax perspicillatus: (2-10) recorded on two days mostly in scrubby secondary growth including opposite our hotel, HCV and MPR.
Red-tailed Minla Minla ignotincta: (1) at TPK on 10 Feb.
Blue-winged Minla Minla cyanouroptera: (2-10) seen on all of our visits to TPK.
Silver-eared Mesia Leiothrix argentauris: (10) at TPK on 9 Feb and (4) there on 10 Feb.
Pygmy Wren-Babbler Pnoepyga pusilla: (1) heard only at TPK on 7 Feb.
Rufous-capped Babbler Stachyris ruficeps: (3-10) seen on all of our visits to TPK.

Forked-tailed Sunbird by Neil Fifer
Great Tit Parus major: (1-5) recorded daily.
Yellow-cheeked Tit Parus spilonotus: (2-5) recorded on all of our visits to TPK.
Yellow-bellied Tit Parus venustulus: (2) at Lam Kam Road on 7 Feb was a great record of this Hong Kong rarity and Chinese endemic.

Velvet-fronted Nuthatch Sitta frontalis: (3-4) seen at TPK on 9-10 Feb. Great views.

Fork-tailed Sunbird Aethopyga christinae: (3-6) recorded TPK including some stunning males in hibiscus flowers at eye level.

Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker Dicaeum cruentatum: (1) male at TPK on 9 Feb was well spotted by Janene. Heard only on our other visits here.

Japanese White-eye Zosterops japonica: (20-50) recorded daily.

Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach: (2-3) recorded daily including two sightings of the unusual dusky morph at both TMS and TBT.

Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus: (3) at MPR on 9 Feb.
Hair-crested Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus: (6) at HCV on 7 Feb.

Black-billed Magpie Pica pica: (4-10) at NSW and TBT.
Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus: (2) at NSW on 9 Feb.
Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchus: (2-10) recorded daily.
Collared Crow Corvus torquatus: (1-6) at NSW and TBT with (2) at KT.

Crested Myna Acridotheres cristatellus: (10-50) recorded daily with max. at HCV.
Common Myna Acridotheres tristis: (10) at MPR and (2) KT.
Black-collared Starling Sturnus nigricollis: (5-20) recorded daily.
Red-billed Starling Sturnus sericeus: (100) at NSW on both visits with (500) at MPR on 9 Feb. Also a few at LV and KT; a common winter visitor in HK.
White-cheeked Starling Sturnus cineraceus: (10) at NSW and (5) KT

Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus: (5-50) recorded daily.

White-rumped Munia Lonchura striata: (1) at TPK on 9 Feb.
Scaly-breasted Munia Lonchura punctulata: (5-10) recorded 7-9 Feb.

Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala: (3) females at TMS well spotted by Rodger.

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Photos of Variegated Fairy-wren and Little Tern courtesy of Neil Fifer