Po Toi Spring 2010 - May

Po Toi Spring 2010 - May

Another poor week for land birds this week, the third in a row, although numbers always start to fall from the beginning of May. I decided to leave early because of the big crowds going for the Festival but I will go back for the day on Friday to check if anything new has come in. Next week should be the peak period for terns and Short-tailed Shearwaters and the following week for small herons and bitterns if we get some bad weather around 19th May.

Best bird for me this week was the Yellow-fronted Canary which arrived on Tuesday. These birds are regular May visitors to Po Toi, and last year I saw one feeding a juvenile. Birds of East Asia mentions evidence of seasonal migration of Yellow-fronted Canary on Taiwan and I think the same is true here.

On Monday there was a late Ashy Minivet as well as a Grey-streaked Flycatcher and the two Chestnut Buntings from last week. There have been a number of late records over the last two weeks, a freshly dead White’s Thrush on 21st April, two separate Daurian Redstarts on 22nd April, a singing Siberian Rubythroat on 28th April as well as this week’s Ashy Minivet. The White’s Thrush had the back of its head bitten off so I decided not to report it to AFCD, unless of course H5N1 has assumed a more deadly form.

Here photos of the Ashy Minivet, Yellow-fronted Canary and singing Siberian Rubythroat (some distance away up the hillside)

At sea, a quiet week with just 2 Short-tailed (type) Shearwaters, 3 Arctic and 4 Long-tailed Skuas and 5 species of tern including the first White-winged. I say Short-tailed (type) because the second showed quite bright white on the underwing with more powerful, gliding flight – see the second and third photos

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 5/05/2010 10:35 ]


With reference to late records, I saw a female Daurian Redstart on Po Toi on Sunday's boat trip - 2nd May!


I think that's a latest ever spring record for Daurian Redstart.

Has a list of Sunday's species been posted yet?


A partial list of landbirds on Po Toi on 2 May 2010 from Yu Yat Tung is at this link, but it is not complete.

That list is:
Brown Shrike x 1
Arctic Warbler x 10
Horsfield's/Himalayan Cuckoo (previously called Oriental Cuckoo) x 1
Grey-streaked Flycatcher x 1

+ (from Christina)
Ashy Minivet (Male)x1
Ferruginous Flycatcher x1

I also had a Yellow-breasted Bunting and there was more than one Brown Shrike. Asian Brown Flycatcher was also seen.

Others might like to add to this for Geoff.

Mike Turnbull



You threw away a dead bird without reporting. I did the same when I found a whiskered bulbul with its
head dry of brain and parts below its breast cage gone. I did this to 'protect' our most treasured
birding site from silly, irrational bureacratic intervention. Can you guess where the place?

I might look child-like to be proud of such act. But it is all, albeit an symbolic protestation, an individual could do against an all powerful body which has the law for its wilful manipulation!

S L Tai


Thanks for the list Mike.

As I reported elsewhere, the Daurian Redstart and Ferruginous Flycatcher are latest ever spring records for Hong Kong, as far as I am aware. The Yellow-breasted Bunting is a first for this year on Po Toi.

For Mr Tai. It would have been interesting to see someone try to close Po Toi the week before Festival Week. The words 'just' 'try' and 'it' come to mind.


[ Last edited by wgeoff at 6/05/2010 15:46 ]


Second Week in May

I’ll start this week with seabirds. My focus of attention was on sea watching, and I spent more than 25 hours at it with the objective of seeing large numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters. I saw only one. The background to this disaster of forecasting appears elsewhere.

I did see some other birds worth recording, including a Streaked Shearwater, a Brown Booby, five skuas (2 Pomarine, 3 Long-tailed) and 9 species of tern with over 400 White-winged, 80 Whiskered and 40 Aleutian. In all, it worked out at about one bird for every two minutes but since the White-winged arrived in large flocks, there were many rather boring periods.

Here photos of the Short-tailed Shearwater, the Booby, Bridled, Black-naped and a rather scrappy looking Whiskered Tern

Sea watching in spring usually provides a few land birds coming in off the sea, this week a Striated Heron, a Black-crowned Night Heron, an Indian Cuckoo, two Brown Shrikes, one of which unfortunately ditched in the sea just 100 yards from safety, and three Black Drongos. Here the Night Heron and the Cuckoo.

Usually these birds are prime targets for a Peregrine but for some reason there are no Peregrines around this year

On the land, there were two rainy days, Friday 7th and Saturday 15th. Both caused falls of Brown Shrikes as well as some other migrants of interest.

Bird of the week was the Malayan Night Heron which arrived with the first rain and stayed until at least Thursday. These birds look like chickens, except they can fly. Brown Shrikes could be seen all week, as could Grey-streaked and Asian Brown Flycatchers.

Other good birds included a late Chinese Goshawk which arrived with the MNH and stayed all week, a Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, a Brown Hawk Owl, a very attractive Black-capped Kingfisher, a Pechora Pipit, a first-ever Po Toi Pheasant-tailed Jacana which came in with the Saturday rain together with an Intermediate Egret, and a pair of Hill Mynas – where did they come from?

Here photos of the Night Heron, Goshawk, Jacana and Intermediate Egret

The second half of this spring has been quite dull. This could be saved by a good fall of small bitterns over the next 10 days, but without any rain forecast I don’t think this will happen. Although sometimes my forecasts do go wrong ….

In the past, this thread has occasionally criticized apparently mindless government spending on useless projects on Po Toi – but not any more. Following the spending of $200,000 on securing a regular supply of water, they have now replaced both ageing electricity generators with two brand new machines, total cost in excess of $600,000.

So, $800,000 in total for the benefit of 20 residents works out at $40,000 per resident – does it make sense? Well, maybe it does. Perhaps there is a master plan behind putting solar panels on the toilet or widening the jetty by one foot

– perhaps Po Toi will be the next Discovery Bay?

A multi-storey shopping complex on top of the restaurant, expensive flats with 180 degree sea views around the harbour, a golf course on the football field, and every resident becoming multi-millionaire property developers with the government pocketing billions in land sales. I can see it all.

PS I have been warned that people who spend too long on remote islands can sometimes lose their minds.…..


Since you bird on one small island and live on another, and Bill Bryson famously referred to Britain as a "small island" . . . much is explained!

Mike K
Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee


Yes Mike, we island people are different to you mainlanders.

In fact, I think a species split is scheduled.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 16/05/2010 11:51 ]



There are two weeks left in May...  I'm confident Po Toi - with your help - can still come up "trumps" !!



Thanks John, but you are more confident than I am.

There are two windows of hope. HKO forecast some rain on both Thursday and Sunday this week, although not much. Unfortunately, I can't be there from Friday to Sunday but hopefully someone else can.



Third Week in May

I have decided to stop making predictions about Short-tailed Shearwater migration and concentrate on being wise after the event – much more satisfactory.

After the disastrous prediction of high numbers last week followed by only seeing one, I made the comment

‘It seems sure though, that the main migration is over for this year and I missed the peak which probably occurred last week when I was not there’.

This week I saw 13 birds on Wednesday morning, my highest ever single session count. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to follow this up in the evening or next morning because of the rain so I don't know what the full score might have been.
The cumulative graph now looks like this

I make no predictions on next week’s number.

Here some photos of the shearwaters plus a late dark phase Arctic Skua which passed at the same time. The wind was so light there were no waves so the shears were gliding long distances just centimetres above the sea surface, I guess they are so low that even without any wind they can create lift by compressing the air flow between their bodies and the sea

I was explaining the Shearwater migration to my wife. I said ‘The birds come all the way from Australia. Last year, I saw the highest numbers on 12th May. This year, I saw the highest numbers on 19th May’. She immediately replied ‘Of course. They are one year older, it takes them longer to fly here’. Obvious really – why didn’t I think of that?

On land, the rain significantly failed to create a fall of small herons and bitterns, or Brown Shrikes. Maybe it was the wrong sort of rain. Just one lonely Yellow Bittern and a single Striated Heron in off the sea. Also another Chinese Goshawk and two very late passerines - a Dusky Warbler and a Black-faced Bunting. Like most late spring birds on Po Toi, they were not in the main area but way out on the South Peninsular.

Here a very early morning shot of the Yellow Bittern, also the Striated Heron and the Chinese Goshawk at long range plus the Jacana from last week which was still there on Tuesday of this week

Next week is the last chance saloon for this spring - maybe the rain on Sunday will be the right kind of rain this time

PS I have seen a large wild boar just above the Upper School twice over the last two weeks. This is the first boar I have ever seen on Po Toi. It appears to be establishing a territory' leaving its droppings on various paths. Is this correct? Anyway, just watch out if you are there - it's quite bad tempered at being disturbed

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 21/05/2010 10:36 ]


Last Week in May

Sunday was the wrong kind of rain – the invisible kind.
I am now used to HKO predicting rain which never comes – it’s their policy to be pessimistic, fewer people are upset when it doesn’t rain after they forecast it. I’m one of them.

As a consequence, there were very few migrants on Po Toi this week. No flycatchers or Arctic Warblers, just a single Brown Shrike, the Chinese Goshawk from last week, two Yellow Bitterns and a Striated Heron.
Still a few egrets coming in off the sea, also seven Tree Sparrows coming up from the south west and the bird of the week, a very late Asian House Martin coming in from the east.

Here photos of the Yellow Bitterns and the Martin

The first Roseate Terns passed through on Tuesday morning, but nothing else on the sea. So I called it a day and left early. The second half of spring has been very disappointing.
I’ll produce a summary of Spring 2010 in a few days time.

This week I had the opportunity to sample some of the more unusual Po Toi fare – flying ants. On Sunday evening they descended in their millions. I understand they are quite nutritious but nutrition comes with wings attached. As they hit the ground, or my dinner plate, they shed their wings which immediately become invisible. It’s better not to look and just keep eating.


Flying ants


The ants flew in and sacrificed themselves to make sure you were not under-nurished and not too lonely.
Robinson Crusoe of Po Toi. RCPT, your latest title earned for you Po Toi surveying efforts.

S L Tai


Mr Tai

I think they had other intentions in mind - like finding a female ant.
No luck for them in my dinner plate.


Review of Spring 2010

Another spring migration over and unfortunately the poorest since I started at Po Toi in 2006, slightly worse than 2009 which was my poorest to date. I console myself with the thought that a poor season for birdwatchers is almost certainly a good season for the birds themselves with less interruption to their normal migration.

The quality of spring migrations follows exactly the years themselves, 2006 being the best followed narrowly by 2007, 2008 some way behind with 2009 and 2010 bringing up the rear. This is a subjective judgement and it probably involves an element of ‘familiarity breeding contempt’ although I do consider such things as number of species seen, number of ‘events’, number of rare birds etc. I hope this is a trend we can reverse in 2011.

Spring 2010 started quite well, up to mid-April when it seemed to fall apart. Unlike 2009, there were some good weather systems in the second half but they just didn’t deliver the goods. This may be partly my own fault because I missed being there on two potentially good days, 23rd April and 10th May, because I was following a preset plan rather than the weather. So next year I will follow the weather.

Bird of the spring was undoubtedly the Chinese Goshawk and the invasion which started on 15th April and seemed to result in Chinese Goshawks being seen in everyone’s backyard. This was a classic cold front ‘fall’, here is the HKO Weather Chart for 14th April.

This must have caught a large flight of Chinese Goshawks passing from the Philippines to Taiwan/east China when they were over the sea and pushed them west into south China. 1440 of them poured through Po Toi in a continuous stream between 9.30am and 11.30am on 15th April, a spectacle that will live in my mind and I think those lucky enough to see it. Unfortunately, photographs don’t show it well.

The birds were coming up from the Dangan Islands where presumably they had arrived overnight or the previous day.

My other nine selections for Spring 2010 are Black-legged Kittiwake (23rd to 25th February), Yellow-throated Bunting (25th March to 8th April), Brambling (1st April), Yellow-browed Bunting (12th to 14th April), Himalayan Swiftlet (14th April), Greater Crested Tern (82 from 20th to 22nd April), Malayan Night Heron (7th to 13th May) – photo by Aaron and Brenda Lo, Brown Booby (14th May) and Pheasant-tailed Jacana (15th to 18th May).
I will add one extra – Short-tailed Shearwater. Although these birds are now recognized as regular in spring, it’s still exciting to realize that shearwaters pass regularly through Hong Kong waters

So, a rather boring few months until the autumn starts, hopefully by the last week in August.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 29/05/2010 16:22 ]