Po Toi Autumn 2010 - August/September

Po Toi Autumn 2010 - August/September

Last Week in August

My first week back on Po Toi since June. Most paths are open (with difficulty) but beware – there is a large wild pig roaming around the football field area.

I was prepared to start this report with ‘a quiet start to autumn’ until 10.15am on Thursday when I heard a bird fly up from the ground in the wooded area near the upper reservoir. I nearly ignored it, thinking ‘another bulbul’ but fortunately I waited a few seconds to see it and it revealed itself as – a Fairy Pitta. It moved around on the same branch for about one minute, enabling me to take more than 20 photos at short range, only to find later that my camera settings were wrong. Here are two images, four more appear in the photo section.

Wednesday night was very calm and clear, perfect for migration and I think this bird must have arrived overnight. Birds like this are always easier to see after they have just arrived and are finding their way around. But I think there’s a good chance it will stay for a few days in what must be a good area for a Pitta.

Apart from that treasure, it was a fairly normal late August week, with a mixture of summering birds and early migrants. Amongst the summering birds I would count Koel, Pacific Swift, Barn Swallow, Plain Prinia, both Munia species and Black Drongo. A Bright-capped Cisticola on the South Peninsular may also have been over-summering, or even breeding?

Amongst the new migrants or dispersing birds, two Great Tits continued the August tradition – I have seen Great Tit on four out of the last five Augusts, usually two juveniles together. As far as I know, they don’t nest on Po Toi and they usually leave in early September and I never see Great Tit in other months.

Also regular arrivals at this time were Common Sandpiper, a single Pintail Snipe and a Common Kingfisher with both Grey and White Wagtails. An early Blue Rock Thrush on Wednesday was probably passing through since I didn’t see it again, but the most unusual event was a pair of Buff-bellied Flowerpeckers which flew over my head calling when I was sea-watching on Wednesday morning. Buff-bellied Flowerpeckers are almost annual autumn birds on Po Toi but these were very early, suggesting maybe a local area origin.

Only two seabird species, two migrant Common Terns and a few Bridled Terns still feeding between Po Toi and Dangan Island. Seabirds are much less numerous in autumn, but they also pass much further off-shore than in spring, more in the centre of the Dangan channel which makes them very difficult to identify.

This is compensated by the early morning visible migration of land birds in autumn. These fly down the east coast of Po Toi, often passing directly over my head and out to sea as I sea-watch. The migration is heaviest in late September/ early October but even this week I saw Barn Swallow and White Wagtail, as well as the Flowerpeckers. Also, for the first ever time, 5 Black-crowned Night Herons and 4 Eurasian Curlews flew out to sea heading due south-east on Thursday morning. This pathway, on a direct heading to the  southern Philippines, is the same as that used by Great and other egrets later in autumn but this is the first time I have seen waders or other waterbirds. I think these birds leave Deep Bay at dawn on days with light winds as was the case on Thursday morning.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 4/10/2010 15:43 ]


A great start with the pitta Geoff! - and it's great to have your Friday morning reports to look forward to for the next few months.

Mike K
Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee


Thanks Mike, let's hope the birds keep up this standard


Transition Week August into Spetember

This was the hottest week I have ever spent on Po Toi. All the excess from a summer of indulgence was sweated out over three days. But it was worth it. Not only can I wear last winter’s trousers again, it was a good week for birds as well.

Nothing of the quality of last week’s Fairy Pitta, but well made up for by quantity. Wednesday’s score of 24 non-resident species was 70% higher than my expectation for that date. The total of new autumn migrant species seen over the three days was 17, many of them earliest autumn records for Po Toi.

The reason – northerly winds and good migration weather. Tropical storms passing up the south-east and east coasts of China create northerly winds across southern and eastern China and this week there were two of them, one off the south east and one off the east coast. Northerly winds spread right up into north-east China as this HKO Weather Map and Back-trajectory for Wednesday shows

This causes birds migrating south-west across China to drift south and end up in Hong Kong or on the coast to the east, then moving along the coast to find their way into Hong Kong.

Wednesday saw a spectacular arrival, including four species of warbler (Arctic, Eastern Crowned, Pale-legged and Pallas’s Grasshopper) and two of flycatcher (Asian Brown and Yellow-rumped), as well as odd species like Striated Heron, White-breasted Waterhen, Black-capped Kingfisher and Brown Shrike. On Thursday there were two Himalayan Swiftlets and a Forest Wagtail. Here some photos

At sea, at least five species of terns including the first Aleutian and a group of 4 Roseate using a man-made island for transport

Also the first egrets migrating south, here a flock of Chinese Pond Heron led by a Cattle Egret

This year has seen a great start to autumn. Next week is Tiger Shrike week in Hong Kong – could we have another week like 2006 which saw five different birds in various locations around Hong Kong? The weather forecast doesn't look good but who knows.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 3/09/2010 06:52 ]


First Week in September

The week started very slowly, almost no land bird migrants on Tuesday, I think the result of Tropical Storm Lion Rock passing across Fujian and north Guangdong last weekend and cutting off the migrant supply. Numbers gradually built up over the week, but no leaf warblers and only two flycatchers (both Asian Brown) in the whole week was quite unusual for this time of the season. Hopefully, the numbers will increase for the weekend.

There were some migrants to be seen, mostly what I think of as ‘short-distance’ migrants. A Chestnut-winged Cuckoo on Wednesday was the first autumn occurrence since 2006, also two Dollarbirds and a Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, both first records of the autumn. More species on Thursday including Plaintive Cuckoo and Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler but I was embarrassed to meet Herman Ip on the ferry back and he showed me photos of Oriental Cuckoo, Brown Shrike and Asian Paradise Flycatcher, all of which I had missed. I did see at least one Daurian Starling among the White-shouldered Starling flock, and a Himalayan Swiftlet which has probably been around for a week or so.

Very few good photos from me (more from Herman), so I’ll show two waders, Wood Sandpiper and a first year Grey-tailed Tattler plus one of the Swiflet.

Himalayan Swiftlets are regular late spring and early autumn migrants on Po Toi so it could be they nest somewhere quite close, in Guangdong?

The best birds this week were at sea, unusual for autumn. On Thursday morning a large movement of Aleutian Terns passed south in a steady stream from 7 to 8am. I counted 430, there must have been many more further out. Here a photo showing at least six with a close-up of the closest two which shows an adult in the bottom left and a juvenile in the top right. Also with the Aleutians, a few Common Terns and a single Greater Crested Tern.

No birds were close enough to see rings, but as geolocators have been fitted to 100 Aleutian Terns (see here), I’m hoping Hong Kong will appear in the results.

Early morning visible migration at the South Point is picking up, this week movements of Barn Swallows (45 in one hour) and Yellow Wagtails (25 in two hours), both typical for this date.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 10/09/2010 14:33 ]


Himalyan Swiftlet breed in North west Hunan,and can be easily seen breeding in the control tower of Zhang Jia Jie airport. I also allready see some on migration in Dong Ting Lake, more east, i guess the birds you see there should belong to this population.


Second Week in September

This week started quite slowly, but Thursday was a very good day for numbers of different migrant species.

Egrets are now migrating past Po Toi in the early morning – mixed flocks of Little Egret, Cattle Egret and Pond Heron flying south west along the coast and the first flock of Great Egrets flying due south east towards the Philippines. A few birds from the coastal flocks sometimes drop off on Po Toi, this week an Intermediate Egret on Thursday was an unusual autumn record but 30 minutes later a Purple Heron flew around the harbour area. I don’t know if it set foot on the Island, but it doesn’t matter – it was my first record for this species, although there is already one on the Po Toi list from autumn 2005.

Here a typical mixed flock with three Little, one Cattle and four Pond Herons, the Intermediate Egret on the south coast rocks and a distant view of the Purple Heron.

The first migrant raptor arrived on Tuesday, Chinese or Japanese Sparrowhawk (see elsewhere). Also on Tuesday, an Emerald Dove and the second Forest Wagtail of the season. Emerald Dove is an annual September visitor to Po Toi, presumably dispersing birds.
The numbers of Dollarbirds grew daily to four on Thursday, together with Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, Brown Shrike, Black-naped Oriole and a single Ashy Drongo.

Warblers and flycatchers were still in small numbers, only Arctic Warbler and three species of flycatcher, Asian Brown (at least two), Yellow-rumped (also at least two) and an Asian Paradise Flycatcher. The first Lanceolated Warbler was flushed from the South Peninsular grassland on Thursday.

Here photos of the Sparrowhawk, a Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and the Asian Paradise Flycatcher.

Finally, the White Wagtail baicalensis is still on the Island, together with the male leucopsis. Here some closer photos than those previously published.

At sea, just two Common Terns and a single second-winter Black-tailed Gull, another regular September migrant.

For the HKBWS trip on Sunday, the best areas are around the ferry pier and up to the sister’s café, and the tall trees behind the restaurant from the concrete helipad right along the beach front to the very far corner where the path goes up to the right.

One of the pleasures of staying on Po Toi is to see the night sky on clear nights, particularly in autumn. A clear night on Wednesday evening this week gave a superb view of the International Space Station passing overhead. This will be repeated on Sunday, at 18.26pm, coming from the NW and passing directly overhead to the SE. You should be able to see it from the front of the ferry just before you reach Stanley and coming from the direction of Stanley (or anywhere in Hong Kong, coming from the NW). Look for a bright light passing steadily across the sky – its not an aeroplane.
(Also tonight, Friday, at 19.07pm, same direction, passing almost overhead at 19.10pm)

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/09/2010 06:35 ]


Nice report as always, Geoff. Where and what time of day is the best to watch for terns and other seabirds at Po Toi?


Thanks Brendan

The best time of day for seabirds is either early morning, the first two hours after sunrise, or late evening, the last two hours before dusk. Which unfortunately means you have to stay on the Island to be there at the best time.

More important is the time of year. Spring is the best season, much better than autumn for both numbers and variety. This graph shows the number of seabird species by week in the year (over the past 4 years)

We are just about to enter the poorest period of the year for seabirds (unless a typhoon comes). The very best weeks are the last two weeks in April and the first two weeks in May, for terns, skuas, phalarope and shearwaters. Another good period is the middle of March when Heuglin's Gulls and other wintering species such as Red-breasted Merganser and Ancient Murrelet are migrating north east.

The best location is the southern tip of Po Toi, Nam Kok Tsui

There is a concrete path almost all the way, starting from the far side of the sister's cafe at the top of the concrete steps. It's about a 20 minute walk from there, then a short scramble across the rocks at the end to get to the farthest point.

The grasslands between Ngong Chong and Nam Kok Tsui on this map have Bright-capped Cisticola and at this time of year, maybe Yellow-legged Buttonquail, Japanese Quail, Pallas's Grasshopper and Lanceolated Warbler. The problem is to find them.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/09/2010 06:52 ]


I have an afternoon visit to Po Toi today (friday) (Don't ask me how could i get onto the island)
-at least 4 Dollarbirds
-Hair-crested Drongo
-Brown Shrike x2
-Arctic Warbler
-Asian Brown Flycatcher
-Dark-sided Flycatcher
-A nice hot day
-Lots of mosquitoes

seems these migrants may not stay long in good weather...


Third Week in September

The ferry did not go to Po Toi yesterday due to high winds coming from the south, which make it impossible to land or pick up passengers at Po Toi. So I will not be making any report for this week.

I would be grateful if visitors going tomorrow or the weekend could publish any interesting records here.


How unfortunate, that you should miss out on possibly a very interesting week. Hopefully the migrants will stay until the weekend or next week, when others can find them...


Geoff where’s your dedication I would of thought you would of put your bathers on and swum across



I might have done so a few years ago. I'm too old (and wise) to do that sort of thing now.

I think the best days will be the weekend and early next week. A cold front is due through today and in autumn it usually takes a few days before all the migrants arrive (unlike spring when they arrive the next day) - see these charts based on actual data from 2006-2008

The autumn time delay was first noted by Lam and Williams in their article 'Weather and Bird Migration in Hong Kong' in the 1993 HKBWS Report, p163. This article is very perceptive and matches most of my experience on Po Toi. The delay is probably due to migrants flying over land making shorter daily journeys and so taking longer to arrive after the start of a new weather system. Migrants which arrive with a weather system in spring are flying over the sea and have to carry on flying.

I'm hoping to go early next week, from Sunday to Tuesday

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 23/09/2010 08:15 ]


Po Toi
23rd Sept, 2010.

- Asian Brown Flycatcher x2
- Dark-sided Flycatcher x4
- Brown Shrike x1
- Dollarbird x4
- White-shouldered Starlings x8
- Chinese Goshawk x1
- Eurasian Wryneck x1
- Black-naped Oriole x1
- Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike x2
- Arctic Warbler x6+
- Eastern Crowned Warbler x1
- Great Tit x1

Geoff don't worry, you didn't miss anything!



Po Toi 23 Sep 2010

Add a)1X Intermediate Egret (circulating a bit and perching on trees obviously just arrived on migration)
    b)1X Chinese Egret (can't be certain whether how long it's been on the islan)

S L Tai


Correction of birds added to Peter's list

Sorry the Chinese Egret means Chinese Pond Heron.

Such a blunder, apology to all!

S L Tai


A good list, thanks.

Including Wryneck, my Po Toi bogey bird - not yet seen one there.


Po Toi
25 Sept, 2010
A very hot day!!

- Asian Paradise Flycatcher
- Verditer Flycatcher
- Grey-streaked Flycatcher
- Dark-sided Flycatcher
- Asian Brown Flycatcher
- Black-naped Oriole
- Dollarbird
- Eastern Crowned Warbler
- Arctic Warbler
- Siberian Stonechat
- House Swift
- Barn Swallow



Last Week in September

Thanks to Peter, Michelle and Mr Tai for their records which help fill in the gaps in my own.

A good list of late September migrants this week, a total of 44 species not including residents, although nothing extraordinary.

A Yellow Bittern on the foreshore of the harbour on Monday is the first for autumn, but a typical date. Migrant Black Kites are now passing through in small groups around mid-day on hot days. The resident birds usually go up to let them know the territory is already occupied. The first Kestrels have arrived on the South Peninsular, at least one week late this year.

Four species of dove during the week is a first ever. Spotted Dove is resident but Emerald Dove, Red Turtle Dove and Oriental Turtle Dove are in turn dispersing birds, passage migrants and winter visitors. The Oriental Turtle Dove was particularly early, birds don’t usually arrive until mid October. These birds moult on Po Toi in November with many becoming flightless during this period and victims of rats and snakes.

At least two Black-capped Kingfishers passed through with up to five Dollarbirds. One Dollarbird was seen leaving early on Monday morning heading towards Lamma Island. Four species of wagtail during the week included the fourth Forest Wagtail of autumn and the now regular White Wagtail baicalensis which has been aged by Paul Leader as a first winter bird.

Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike and Brown Shrike should be around for a few weeks and Tuesday saw my first Siberian Blue Robin of the autumn. These birds can be followed around by listening to their soft but continuous ‘chack chack’ calls. Blue Rock Thrushes are now back in numbers on the South Peninsular.

Among the warblers, Zitting Cisticola, Dusky Warbler and Yellow-browed Warbler have all returned for the winter and six species of flycatcher was normal for this time of the year, Grey-streaked, Asian Brown, Dark-sided with single Blue-and-white, Hainan Blue and Asian Paradise. Almost all flycatchers at this time are first winter birds, which is typical of most of the autumn migrants seen on Po Toi

The large flock of White-shouldered Starlings contain at least one and probably several Daurian but they are very difficult to pick out. Several Black-naped Orioles include at least one male and Hair-crested with an unusual (for Po Toi) Ashy Drongo have joined the Black Drongos.

Here photos of some of these birds, Oriental and Red Turtle Dove, Grey-streaked, Dark-sided, Blue-and-white and Asian Paradise Flycatchers, Daurian Starling and Ashy Drongo

No seabirds at all this week. Visible migrants included Yellow Wagtail, Tree Sparrow and one of the Black-capped Kingfishers.

Finally, at last a clear view and photo of the Wild Boar. This animal has now taken up residence around the concrete helipad and is becoming bolder in the presence of humans. It should be careful – the islanders may decide that pork would make a welcome change from the usual fish diet.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 29/09/2010 07:46 ]