Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Hong Kong pt1

I said in the last post I was sick of the crappy weather with cold winds blocking any migrants, it was a good job therefore that I had an escape route planned, namely just over 2 weeks in Hong Kong.  The main aim was to see Spoon billed Sand, Nordmann's Greenshank and hopefully Aleutian Tern.

With these targets in mind I planned 4 days at Mai Po marshes and two day trips to Po Toi island, the rest of the time I'd grab a bit of birding here and there in between family duties.

We flew with Emirates from Manchester to Hong Kong via Dubai and flights cost £535 each, there is no need to hire a car in Hong Kong as public transport is exceptionally good.  On arrival we caught the E34 bus to Tin Shue Wai (cost about £1.90) where we were staying in the Harbour Plaza resort hotel.  The hotel had been recommended to me by the reserve officer at Mai Po as the best locally and it turned out to be excellent, very spacious room and good breakfasts.  There was free wifi in the bar area.

The first morning I headed off to Mai Po in a Taxi which cost about £7 and bought my permit at HK$150 for the day which isn't cheap at about £13 plus a HK$200 deposit, I also had to hand it back in at 5pm and go through the same routine each day.  Due to the high tide times being around midday this didn't hamper me too much but on a full on birding trip I would advise asking in advance if you could pay up front for all the days and keep the permit throughout, then you could bird early mornings and into the evening.  I tried to do his at the visitor center but the woman on duty didn't seem to understand.

The reserve is made up of lots of shrimp ponds which have mostly been colonised by mangrove tree species and as such they seemed to have little interest, unless you wanted to see Koel and Masked Laughingthrush that is!  I had other things on my mind so headed straight for the floating mudflat hide, it is a long wayfrom the visitor center and probably takes about an hours walk as you inevitably get distracted by the odd Flycatcher of Bunting.  
Much of the walk is along boardwalk through the mangroves with the first part being on the most amazing floating boardwalk, a true feat of engineering, each section had 4 barrels that had a welded up cage to hold them in place, it must have taken months.  I can't begin to imagine how hard it was to build this thing, I was soaking wet from just walking due to the humidity.

There are a couple of shrimp ponds that are managed as high tide roosts for waders and have islands and the vegetation is cleared from them, it's very much like the scrape at Cley or even more like Minsmere.  I spent a bit of time exploring round here but the best area was definitely the mud flats.

In the end I didn't see any Spoon billed Sands, there were at least 2 present over a few days the week before  arrived and one was claimed on my 3rd day, I saw the bird and I'm absolutely certain it was a Red necked Stint with mud on the bill, like the pic below!

What I did see though more than made the trip worthwhile, in total I scored 38 species of wader in the 4 days including 2 lifers in the shape of Nordmann's Greenshank and Painted Snipe and I narrowly missed out on Oriental Plover, just as well they weren't males!  Mai Po really is a dream for anyone who likes Waders, are you listening Gristi and Gav?

It is also a photographers paradise, in fact on one day I couldn't get in the main hide because it was totally rammed with masseeve lenses!  As the tide pushes the birds they come to within feet of the hide giving incredible views.  The only downside is that (when I was there at least) it was always completely overcast and often raining so the light wasn't great.  Here's some of my best efforts.

Despite them being classed as very scarce I saw a total of 4 different Little Stints, I seem to have a knack of seeing these in the far east, I found 3 on the Wildwings trip to China in 2004 as well, wish I could do it in reverse and find a Red necked Stint back home!!!

It wasn't all Waders though I spent a fair bit of time looking at Eastern flava's and saw 2 stunning male Narcissus Flycatchers,, but sadly didn't get any photographs of them.

And finally no post on Yorkslister would really be complete if I didn't add a couple of Gull pics, the first is easy but what are the two in the second pic?

1 comment:

hummerman said...

Good stuff Garreh.