Po Toi Autumn 2010 - November

Po Toi Autumn 2010 - November

First Week in November

Much quieter this week than last week, also for bird watchers and photographers as everyone was at Mai Po while I was at work on Po Toi - how can everyone get time off so easily and I can't? I must be in the wrong sort of job.

Chinese Bulbuls are now in much greater numbers as large flocks start to arrive from the north. This is an annual event in early November (see my report for Third Week in October). The resident colony is overwhelmed by noisy invaders and flocks in hundreds fly off the South Peninsular every morning heading south west. I think there are at least 200 in this photo if anyone cares to count

These flocks start by circling around, making lots of noise and getting higher as they attract more numbers. Then the ‘leaders’ move off, the rest follow maybe 100 yards but a few at the end start to move back and the whole flock moves back 50 yards. This cycle repeats itself several times, the flock gradually getting further out to sea until eventually the collective decision is made to go and they are off.

Tuesday and Wednesday mostly showed the birds from last week but new species were starting to move in again on Thursday. Three Eurasian Siskins were present all week, as was the Black-naped Monarch, with two Chestnut-flanked White-eye on Wednesday. A bird I missed altogether was the Black Baza seen on Sunday. A pair of Brambling on Tuesday may have been new but I didn’t see them again. New species on Thursday were Ashy Minivet, Scaly Thrush, a fine male Red-flanked Bluetail, a late Dark-sided Flycatcher and a very colourful Asian Paradise Flycatcher. Here some photos, including one of those Asian/Japanese Paradise Flycatchers which I think is female Japanese

The first wintering thrushes should be arriving next week, also bush warblers and hopefully some interesting buntings

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 5/11/2010 08:24 ]


Second Week in November

This is a frustrating time of year – a lot of time spent chasing shadows, birds half seen or half heard in the middle of a bush or the top of a tree. The three b’s – ‘b’ thrushes, bush warblers and buntings - I’ll leave you to decide what the first ‘b’ stands for. It’s made worse by an insect which starts to call in November and sounds just like a bunting. Graham Talbot and I spent most of November 2007 chasing this particular shadow.

Birds of the week, for me at least, were two Scarlet Minivets on Tuesday, a first record of this species for Po Toi. Both birds were yellow, but I think they may be first-winter birds since one had orange rather than yellow on the forehead and throat – first-winter male? I don’t know whether they were dispersals from Hong Kong or elsewhere but they were with an Ashy Minivet, so maybe from elsewhere.

All the ‘first half’ autumn migrants are now gone and we’re well into the second half of autumn with the arrival of chats, thrushes and those other two ‘b’s already mentioned.

Red-tailed Robin can be seen quietly getting on with their business on the ground, one around the Upper School. Daurian Redstarts are in most places, more males this year and all seem noisier than usual. Siberian Rubythroats remain hidden but calling in the scrub and a few Red-flanked Bluetails are now under the canopy.

White’s, Eyebrowed and Japanese Thrush are already on the island, Grey-backed are usually mid-November birds and Pale Thrush arrives in the last week of November. Blackbirds are at their peak now. Why these birds with their bills the size of sledgehammers are still considered part of the Common Blackbird tribe is a mystery to me but they don’t look much like the birds I used to see on my lawn in UK. Like the Eyebrowed, they will mostly be gone by the end of November but the others should stay for the winter.

Bush Warblers – well named. Asian Stub-tail are in some numbers, the first Russet are back, one even singing, also Mountain ticking away. Next week for some Manchurian.

Only the winter flycatchers and leaf warblers now remain – this week two very bright male Verditers were the photographers target – very good looking in the sunshine. Pallas’s Warblers have now joined Yellow-browed and will be with us until next March.

This week at least two Tristram’s Buntings, a regular in early November, together with the usual Black-faced and Little. Also one of the Eurasian Siskins is still in the smaller pine tree between the Lower and Upper School, joined briefly on Wednesday by a Chinese Grosbeak.  

Here some photos of a first winter male? Red-flanked Bluetail, Blackbird, Asian Stub-tail, Verditer and one of the Tristram’s Buntings.

What we need now is a really cold blow of wind from the north to bring in some unusual birds (like last year) – but nothing forecast for next week.

Finally this spectacular fish appeared in the harbour just off from my place . I don’t know what they are called here but we used to call them Lion Fish in Sri Lanka. The locals warned me (in sign language) not to touch their ribbons - it looked very painful.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 12/11/2010 12:48 ]


We also call it Lion Fish in chinese.


Geoff, I can't help but get the impression that birds tend to arrive early on Po Toi than most other places in HK? Have you ever compared your arrival dates to arrival dates of other locations in HK?


Yes, you are right Brendan. Po Toi is often up to one week earlier than the rest of Hong Kong.

I think as Annual Reports start to be released for the years 2006 to 2010 you will find that many first records for land bird species come from Po Toi in both spring and autumn. The reason is fairly obvious for spring when birds are coming in from the south although perhaps not so obvious for autumn when birds are coming from the north or north-east.

It happens with specific events also. Falls of migrants in spring are very often first seen on Po Toi and move inland to Hong Kong over the next few days. A classic case was the fall of Chinese Goshawks this April, which occurred on Po Toi in the morning of 15th and moved through Hong Kong over the next few days, presumably many of the same birds being involved. A similar event was a fall of Yellow, Schrenck’s and Black Bitterns which occurred on Po Toi on 21st May 2008 and was followed by high numbers elsewhere in Hong Kong in the following days.

I’m even tempted to believe sometimes that the same bird is involved. A gorsachius Night Heron was seen on Po Toi this year between 10th and 14th March, an earliest ever spring record by around 4 weeks. Subsequently, one was recorded at Shing Mun on 18th March.

More frustrating was a ‘banded’ crake which was reported to me separately by two people on 30th April 2009. I didn’t see it and it wasn’t clearly identified but I assumed at the time it was Slaty-legged, which would have been a first record for Po Toi. The Band-bellied Crake appeared at Lung Fu Shan two days later on 2nd May.

Good to see Po Shan Road is back in action.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 12/11/2010 18:02 ]


Yes it's quite interesting regarding the timing. This would support your speculation that Po Toi birds follow the costal route. I have the impression that migration on Po Shan Road tends to be rather late.  The November Arctic Warblers, Blue-and-white Flycatcher and Japanese Paradise Flycatcher would examples of birds I have had which seem a tad bit late.


I always assumed the relatively early dates were a combination of the attraction of the island to migrants and the high levels of observer coverage - regular migrants probably also pass through the rest of HK outside the main period of passage, but these are not detected because they are present in such low densities. This is similar to the fact that rare migrants are more often detected on Po Toi than elsewhere.

There may also be an element of whether or not birds are reported elsewhere in the same way - for example, it seems that Grey-backed Thrush and Manchurian Bush Warbler are not yet on Po Toi (or perhaps this week). I have been seeing small numbers of these in the Northern NT but have not been reporting single birds to Birdline or posting on the forum.


Yes, I agree that Po Toi gets more coverage than everywhere else in HK after to Mai Po and LV.  However, if early arrival dates were a function of the greater observer coverage I would expect an equal number of late migration dates.  Geoff can correct me if I am wrong, but this does not appear to be the case.


The attraction of the island to migrants is due to its location relative to migration direction and the multiplying effect of the Dangan Islands, plus a few other factors such as good feeding habitat and even overnight lighting of the village in an otherwise dark area. The small size of the main area makes it easier to see anything which is there.

Location is more relevant in spring than autumn, but in both seasons migrants can be seen flying in from Dangan Island where they probably arrived.

More observers will inevitably mean more sightings although it's underwatched in mid week with nobody there on Monday and Friday and only one lonely soul on Wednesday. One of the attractions of Po Toi is that, with a high throughput of species, people can often find their own birds.

There are probably relatively more early records than late records but it still has a fair share of late records.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 16/11/2010 07:37 ]


Third Week in November

Bird of the week this week, a Pygmy Wren Babbler seen skulking around Green Pigeon Path on Thursday

A new species for Po Toi, this brings the Po Toi list to 299 species. So, in keeping with tradition, I am offering a free night on Po Toi in January to the finder of number 300. If it’s a really good bird, I may include dinner at the restaurant.

Of course, I might win it myself.

Apart from that, a fairly quiet week with no weather to bring in migrants.

The number of thrushes continues to increase and I saw my first Grey-backed on Thursday (rather late) shortly after seeing my first Pale Thrush (the earliest ever for me). Also two White’s Thrushes, one behind the toilet block and one in the main area, an increasing number of Japanese Thrushes and only my second autumn Dusky Thrush, the first being on 14th November 2006. This one was a fine male but unfortunately the light quality at 6.40am on Wednesday morning defeated my rudimentary photographic skills

Blackbird numbers are falling but still common and the occasional sighting of Eyebrowed brought the thrush species total for the week to seven.

This is a good year for Daurian Redstarts, especially males which are unusually outnumbering females. Here a fine male which is quite tame and sits just inside the sisters’ café together with a Red-tailed Robin which also seem to be in good numbers this year

Japanese White-eyes have arrived in numbers and flocks are now zipping noisily around, a great contrast to the Chestnut-flanked White-eyes of three weeks ago which just quietly got on with their business. The difference in behaviour and call are quite noticeable when the species are separate but I’m not sure whether it would work for mixed flocks.
Japanese White-eye and Chinese Bulbul are winter visitors to Po Toi, see the charts I posted for Third Week in October.

Buntings were disappointing this week, just a few Black-faced and a single Chestnut on Thursday. An Asian Brown Flycatcher on Wednesday was a late bird and the Eurasian Siskins were a bit of a puzzle. Having seen only one first-winter bird last week, suddenly this week there were five on Tuesday including an adult male. I think at least two were new birds, possibly all five, but I saw none on Thursday so maybe they have gone.
Here the male Siskin plus a photo of the resident male Peregrine having a go at a passing much larger migrant bird and getting two 'high fives' in return.

And now for something completely different.
The International Space Station made a direct overhead pass at about 6.20pm on Wednesday night, a clear night, and I managed two rather shaky photographs, the first at 400mm and the second at 100mm as it moved across the sky between the Moon on the left and Jupiter on the right.
Of course, it travels in a straight line, the wobble comes from me hand-holding the camera.

The size of a football field, it’s easily the brightest object in the sky on a direct overhead pass and can be seen for about four minutes from anywhere in Hong Kong as it crosses the sky about 300 kms above your head and moving at 28,000 kms per hour. Well worth showing the kids.

You can get details of ISS passes and maps of the night sky by going to the following website and entering the co-ordinate details for Hong Kong (22.283 N, 114.15 E)

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 19/11/2010 06:33 ]


Fourth Week in November

Autumn is quietly coming to an end – unlike last year when the last two weeks of November were full of action. It needs a strong cold blow from the north to do that (technically, a ‘strong northerly surge’ I believe), no sign of that for the next week at least. No sign also of the Rustic Bunting seen last Sunday. This is the fourth good bird of autumn to be seen on a Sunday and not stay into the following week – White-throated Rock Thrush, Brown Hawk Owl, Red-breasted Flycatcher and now the Rustic Bunting.

Instead, bird of the week was a small owl which seemed to respond to my pishing by flying towards me, then past and up into a tree 30 yards behind me. Apart from the small size and owl shape, the most noticeable feature was a line of large white spots running along the scapulars of the upper wing – distinctive of an Oriental Scops Owl according to the texts. The right time of year for this species also.

Strangest bird of the week was a Common Teal found sitting on a concrete path on the South Peninsular early on Wednesday morning. Even more strange is that this is a repeat of a similar event almost exactly three years ago when I found a Common Teal walking along the same path.
Both birds could fly, so what is it about Common Teals and concrete paths? Or even Common Teals and Po Toi? – these are the only two ducks I have seen on the island.

Chestnut Bulbuls are now in quite large numbers, suggesting another invasion similar to winter 2006/7 and 2009/10. Chinese Bulbul numbers have now settled down with no large early morning migration flocks this week but Japanese White-eye continue to increase and should do so throughout December.

Wintering thrush numbers are slowly rising just as the number of Blackbirds declines. Japanese Thrush are usually the commonest winter species on Po Toi, followed by Pale Thrush with just a few Grey-backed. A few Eyebrowed Thrush are still around but mostly stay further up the hillside than the other thrushes. Here a Pale Thrush and an Eyebrowed Thrush from this week

A single Emerald Dove on Thursday was a surprise for November – these are usually September/early October birds. More normal for this time of year are the Mountain Bush Warblers and Mountain Tailorbirds, both in good numbers this year but very difficult to photograph. Up to five Eurasian Siskins were present for the fifth successive week, together with one Chinese Grosbeak on Tuesday.

Buntings have been disappointing this year – this week just one Little and a few Chestnut together with the Black-faced. Here a Little and a Chestnut.

Not much more to add for the week. The nights were cool and clear giving great night sky views without the lights of Hong Kong to interfere. The International Space Station made another highly visible pass, this one at 5.45am on Thursday – maybe a few minutes too early for the rest of Hong Kong to fully appreciate. This time my hand was a bit steadier.   

I have been asked by several people about viewing the International Space Station so here is some info, to avoid you having to go to Google.

It doesn’t have light of its own but reflects the light of the sun, just like the Moon and planets, so is only visible for about one hour before dawn and one hour after dark when it's still in the sun and the earth isn't (it's about 300kms above the earth). However, its size (including antennas and power panels, about the same as a football field) means that it is very bright under the right conditions. These occur about every two months on Hong Kong, but you need clear skies also so this is the best time of year to see it. A good pass takes about 3 minutes and it’s easily visible as a bright dot moving across the sky.

I'll let you know when the next good pass is due.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 26/11/2010 07:58 ]



If you decide to "go firm" on Oriental Scops Owl - enjoy your "Po Toi 300" champagne !

I shall be toasting you and Po Toi from the N.T.



Number 300 has already gone John - you must have been taking a short nap

The 300 list is here

The observant may notice two species not (as yet) on the Hong Kong list - Bulwer's Petrel and Brown Noddy. I'm still uncertain what their status is with the Hong Kong Rarities Committee but they have already been accepted by the Po Toi Committee and so will stay on the list. This is the priviledge of owning your own list.

Oriental Scops Owl is still under discussion but will probably join the list as 301.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 27/11/2010 16:48 ]


Lots of Bush Warblers on Po Toi today--even managed to get a shot of both species.

5 Pale Thrush
1 White's Thrush
1 Japanese Thrush
1 Common Blackbird
2+ Manchurian Bush Warbler
2+ Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
2 possible Chestnut-flanked White-eyes (they did not seem to have any chestnut on the sides.  Yet there call sounded so much softer than a normal White-eye. Do Chestnut-flanked White-eyes always have chestnut flanks?)

On HK Island Blackbirds numbers are still rising and will peak around the end of December but on Po Toi they seem to have all left.


BrBushWarb.JPG (87.14 KB)

27/11/2010 22:22


JapBushWarb.JPG (71.8 KB)

27/11/2010 22:22



1 White-spectacled Warbler was found on Po Toi today (28/11/10)


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28/11/2010 22:52


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28/11/2010 22:52



Original posted by cywong at 28/11/2010 22:52
1 White-spectacled Warbler was found on Po Toi today (28/11/10)
Good Finding


Nice bird, good find~~


Great find.

I hope this is not another Sunday bird which doesn't stay through to Tuesday.


Transition Week November to December

At last. For the first time this autumn a good weekend bird stayed into the following week. The White-spectacled Warbler was exactly where Cherry said it would be (thanks Cherry – great find) and performed well throughout Wednesday, very confiding and easy to photograph, even for me.

This is not a first for Po Toi, Koel Ko had one on 5th December 2009 so the first week in December may be a regular date for them. It wasn’t there on Thursday (sorry Herman) so maybe it has already left.

Supporting cast in the same place were a selection of thrushes, White’s, Japanese, Grey-backed and Pale plus several Eyebrowed and at least one Brown-headed, the first of the year on Po Toi

Other birds of interest seen during the week included a Woodcock, a single Grey-headed Flycatcher, two very late (for Po Toi) Hair-crested Drongos and a good flock of eight White-rumped Munias joining the Scaly-breasted to feed on the seeding elephant grass.

Here photos of the flycatcher, one of the munias and a Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, one of several now in the scrubby areas around the School and elsewhere

A cold blow is forecast for next Tuesday. This is near the death of autumn migration for land birds but it should bring in something new towards the end of the week and the following weekend. I’m getting all my winter woollies prepared.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 3/12/2010 06:08 ]


Geoff, do you have additional photos of the White-spec?  I may be wrong but they look like different individuals.  Your bird looks more like a 'cognitus' phase individual in which the grey on the head is lacking and lateral crown stripes are not pure black.  It also looks as if the finer detail of the eye-ring and loral pattern are different.  However, given that they were in the same location, this is perhaps unlikely.


I have sent you five full-size images by email.

Cherry's photos are better quality than mine, but even on hers the shape of the loral spot appears to change depending on the view.

It would be an amazing co-incidence if these were different birds.


First Week in December

The cold front which passed through Hong Kong overnight on Monday was not as severe as originally predicted, a regular occurrence with HKO forecasts. They like to prepare us for the worst, I guess for them it’s better to over-predict than under-predict. I must be one of the few people in Hong Kong who prefer the worst.

As a consequence, the birds were not quite as good as I had hoped. But not too bad, with quite a big influx of thrushes overnight on Wednesday, particularly for Pale and Eyebrowed Thrush which were both widespread on Thursday. Also seen during the week, the Brown-headed Thrush present all week with a Dusky Thrush on Tuesday, Radde’s Warbler, Grey-headed Flycatcher and Chinese Grosbeak on Wednesday and Tristram’s and Yellow-breasted Buntings on Thursday. Here photos of the Grosbeak and Tristram’s Bunting.

Also a tantalizingly brief view of a bunting on Wednesday which I thought at the time could be Rustic. On the ferry back on Thursday, Eliza Hui showed me four photos of a Rustic Bunting she had taken last Saturday but hadn’t fully appreciated the significance of (two are posted elsewhere) – a really great find and the second Rustic on Po Toi within two weeks.

This is the last week of Autumn 2010 on Po Toi for me, I will only go for odd days now until next March. Also nearly the end of my fifth year on Po Toi. I think five years detailed data on land birds is enough - next spring I will focus more on seabird watching and then maybe see what the rest of Hong Kong looks like. But only maybe – the lure of Po Toi is very strong.

Autumn 2010 was about average – not as good as 2007 and 2009 but better than 2006 and 2008. Here are my top ten moments of Autumn 2010 on Po Toi as captured on photo – many by others, my thanks to them for posting their photos on the website

1.        Fairy Pitta – 26th August
2.        A passage of 430 Aleutian Terns in two hours on 9th September following Tropical Storm Lion Rock. Yu Yat Tung tells me this is more than 1% of the official world population of this species
3.        White-throated Rock Thrush – 17th October, photo by Tony
4.        Peregrine attacking Savanna Nightjar – 26th October
5.        Eurasian Siskins -  from 26th October to 24th November
6.        Chestnut-flanked White-eye – from 28th October to 3rd November
7.        Brown Hawk Owl – 7th November, photo by Cherry Wong
8.        Red-breasted Flycatcher – 14th November, photo by Helen
9.        Rustic Bunting – the first bird, 21st November, photo by ctakming
10.      White-spectacled Warbler – 28th November to 2nd December, photo by Cherry Wong

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 10/12/2010 12:41 ]