Thursday 29 March 2012

Mai Po, Hong Kong, March 2012

I had not applied in time for the required permit to make a visit to Mai Po during this visit. Even so, I was within a 10 minute bus ride and the approach road is often very productive. Bus 76K runs past Yin Kong, where I had spent the morning at Long Valley and it dropped me at the end of the road.

Chinese Bulbuls and Red-whiskered Bulbuls were the first birds seen, followed very closely by Barn Swallows and Eurasian Tree Sparrows. A Common Kingfisher flashed past and the edges of the fish ponds held Common and Wood Sandpiper.

The tall grasses, reeds and bushes along the road held Plain and Yellow-bellied Prinias, singing constantly.

At the reception car park a Spotted Dove was collecting material for a nest that was under construction in the tree that shades the notice board. A flock of Azure-winged Magpies can usually be found along the road or close to the office. There were about 15 of them today.

I decided to ask if it would be possible to get a permit for immediate entry. It was, but only because the limited amount of permits had not been allocated. Passport and membership of an internationally recognised bird watching society are needed as forms of identification and HK$120 entrance fee is payable.

View across gei wai 8, the Tower Hide.
The tide would be falling by now and it would not have been worth the trek out to the mangrove boardwalk hides, so I just took a gentle stroll out towards the popular gei-wai 16/17 AT Google Earth ref;  22°29'16"N 114° 2'19"E.

Here Great and Little Egrets mingled with Black-faced Spoonbills. Mai Po is a hugely important site for the spoonbills and on my first visit here, I saw 50 out of the estimated world population (at the time) of around 300 birds. Today, I felt that I might be witnessing significant numbers when 3 counts went over 140. My final and highest count put the number of Black-faced Spoonbills in Gei wai 16/17 at 163. The intervening years had obviously been good to them and enquiries back at the office revealed that other populations had been found and that sustained conservation efforts had brought the estimated world population to over 3,000 birds.

Note the black tips to the primaries on the young bird and the yellow crest and breast band of the adult. The adult also shows more black on the face and has a darker bill.

I had been seeing a few dragonflies today despite a cool wind coming in across the water. It is not often that I have to use the flash on an ode. I believe this one to be a Pale-spotted Emperor, Anax guttatus.

Mai Po Birds seen; 51

Little Grebe 10, Great Cormorant 25, Grey Heron 15, Great Egret 35, Little Egret 200, Cattle Egret 60, Chinese Pond Heron 20, Yellow Bittern 1, Black-faced Spoonbill 163, Garganey 2, Northern Shoveler 20, Black-eared Kite 4, Marsh Harrier 1, White-breasted Waterhen 6, Common Moorhen 15Black-winged Stilt 15, Pied Avocet 300, Grey Plover 4, Little Plover 2, Black-tailed Godwit 1, Common Redshank 1, Common Greenshank 15, Wood Sandpiper 4, Common Sandpiper 3, Red-collared Dove 1, Spotted Dove 15, Asian Koel 2, Greater Coucal 2, House Swift 30, Common Kingfisher 1, White-throated Kingfisher 1, Barn Swallow 200, Olive-backed Pipit 2, White Wagtail 1, Yellow Wagtail 1, Grey Wagtail 1, Red-whiskered Bulbul 8, Light-vented Bulbul 60, Oriental Magpie Robin 8, Yellow-bellied Prinia 25, Plain Prinia 8, Masked Laughing Thrush 6, Great Tit 1, Japanese White-eye 4, Long-tailed Shrike 2, Azure-winged Magpie 15, Large-billed Crow 1, Collared Crow 2, Crested Myna 20, Black-collared Starling 10, White-shouldered Starling 2.
Directions for Mai Po are very similar to those for Long Valley and it was easy to visit both reserves today. It depends of course on how much time you wish to devote to each and when the high tide is due.
Black-necked Starling

Using the bus through the cross harbour tunnel saves at least 30 minutes on the journey into the New Territories and enabled me the luxury of a lie-in until 05.30 this morning. Today, the N118 (HK$13.40) was the bus of choice, caught from the stop at Cannon Road outside the World Trade Centre in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. The bus dropped me at Hung Hom, the first station on the East Rail Line heading towards the Chinese border. Continue to Sheung Shui (HK$8) and cross the road to the bus stop under the footbridge.

Take Bus no. 76K (you will pass Yin Kong, Long Valley, on the way). The road stops at a T-junction at San Tin. It turns right before doubling back on itself at a bus terminus. From the terminus it is approx 2.6 kms to Tam Kon Chau Road. The reserve is approx 1.5kms along this road.
For other posts from Mai Po, follow the links below;
Visit the dedicated Asia Page for other posts from Hong Kong, including Tai Mo Shan, Tai Po Kau and Hong Kong Wetland Park
 Black-faced Spoonbill, Hong Kong, Mai Po

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