Po Toi Spring 2011 February/March

Po Toi Spring 2011 February/March

Third Week in February

Well, maybe not quite spring yet but some early signs. It was quite warm today until the fog came down again early afternoon.

The first Barn Swallow of the year today, a typical date for Po Toi. Also the first Heuglin's Gulls, eight in the East Lamma Channel and south of Po Toi. They should start migrating past Po Toi on their long journey to North Central Siberia within the next two weeks.

It's been a quiet winter on Po Toi, best birds were a Crested Serpent Eagle on 27th January, Black Bulbuls and a Brown-headed Thrush in early January and good numbers of Pale Thrush (12 today) and Daurian Redstart (up to 9) including unusually many males.

Two male Blue Rock Thrush today, one obvious philippensis which has been around the pier all winter and a newly arrived bird also in the same area which looks like a pandoo but a careful look shows red under-tail coverts and some red feathering around the belly.

I was hoping to start staying on Po Toi from next week but an unexpected family problem may ground me for the next two or three weeks. Very disappointing.


Delighted to see the Po Toi season has begun.

Best wishes for a happy resolution of your family matter Geoff.

Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee


Thanks Mike

Not a serious problem, but I'm literally left holding the baby for the next few weeks.

Anyone fancy a spot of baby sitting?


Want an assistant birdwatcher

Dear Geoff

With your arms fully occupied with a modern age homo-sapien, you probably need some assistance to
tally the birds seen during your absence from Po Toi. If the terms are right, you might consider
my help useful.

S L Tai


early listing

Come on, Geoff!

Get yourself a Baby Bjorn carrier, or backpack carrier, and you're good to go.
- I certainly hiked about quite a bit w my little lad.

Mind you, if backpack carrier, beware of going under low bamboo that's only just above your head, but not necessarily the little one's... ...

Should be able to start accumulating a good list, even before proper walking.

Thought I'd add a couple of these hideous and annoying emoticon things, just for the heck of it.
Hong Kong Outdoors enjoying and protecting wild Hong Kong. DocMartin includes H5N1 and wild birds info






[ Last edited by bigfaihk at 23/02/2011 01:22 ]


Po Toi 27th March.


I wish to join the trip on 27th March.

How can I arrange this ?

Chris Rae.


First Week in March

Family problem resolved, I was back staying on Po Toi this week for the first time since last December. The weather was not good, there was very little new in the bird line but at least I was there.

A Little Egret on Tuesday was an earliest ever spring record and a Common Sandpiper on Thursday was the first for this spring but these were the only two new birds. Crested Goshawk, Common Buzzard and Kestrel were wintering birds, as was a single White-breasted Waterhen in the lagoon. Waterhens are all migrants on Po Toi, coming from the north. The numbers of Pale Thrush and male Daurian Redstarts remain high and Russet and Manchurian Bush Warblers and Pallas’s Leaf Warbler have started singing which is a good sign for spring.

At sea, gulls have not yet started migrating and I saw only 3 Black-tailed and 2 Heuglin’s in 8 hours of sea-watching. Two Finless Porpoise cruised past on Thursday heading north east, a mother and calf I think. March is the main month for Finless Porpoise off Po Toi, as this chart shows

So that was it. Not much, but at least I was there.

Regular visitors to Po Toi will notice some changes. The lady who runs the small café next to the pier has moved further down leaving an empty space under the biggest trees – great for photographers but I don’t know how long it will stay empty. The young couple who live near the pier have expanded their farm, clearing areas around all the banana trees and a large part of the football field. It looks quite bare in parts.

I don’t know if this affects the birds but I do know that the quality of spring birds on Po Toi has deteriorated consistently each year since 2006. So far, I have put this down to luck, the weather and a dash of déjà vu but if it continues, I will start to suspect more sinister reasons such as habitat clearance in The Philippines where many of the good spring birds come from. Let’s hope this year reverses the trend.


Dear Geoff

Your worry about what's happening in The Philippines is well-grounded. A six-day visit of
Subic Bay validates your worries. While the former naval half of Subic Bay retains some
former rainforest glory of biodiversity avifauna speaking, the opposite side of
hilly areas were laid bare with deforestation. Our daily count of raptors was simply disappointing on the naval side.

Anyhow, I still hope your spring statistics is still incomplete and trend is reversing in coming years.

S L Tai


Second Week in March

I hope so too Mr Tai. But not this week.

A quiet and very cold week on Po Toi. Some wintering birds have left, the numbers of Pale Thrush and Daurian Redstart were about half that of previous weeks. New species for spring included an immature Black-crowned Night Heron and two Grey Herons, all flying in off the sea while I was looking for seabirds, a flock of 7 House Swifts flying south off the South Peninsular late on Wednesday evening and a Common Kingfisher in the harbour, a typical earliest spring date for both these species.

At sea, Heuglin's Gull migration has started with 101 seen in 8 hours of sea-watching. But nothing else.

Heard in the scrub just around the Ferry Pier, what I think is a Romer's Tree Frog (please correct me if I'm wrong)

This is the first time I have heard this rare frog so close to habitation - mostly they are up the hillside. I understand they are endemic to Hong Kong and only occur on a few islands.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 12/03/2011 04:54 ]


Romer's tree frog


It must be great news if Romer's tree frogs have swum or flown upon Po Toi and settled on the island.
Great odds are against you. Anyhow, nothing is impossible. Perhaps someone has secretly done the work
as an experiament.

S L Tai


I think Romers Tree Frog has been known to be on Po Toi since the species original discovery on Lamma Island in the early 1950's. So I don't think it's recently come here.

AFCD experts have been to Po Toi over the past two years to improve the habitat for the frogs , maybe they have been successful.


Thanks Geoff for your answer as regard Romer's tree frog.

S L Tai


Third Week in March

All the wintering Chinese Bulbuls and Japanese White-eye are now gone, leaving the hillsides and tree tops strangely quiet. Only the resident Chinese Bulbuls remain – there are no resident Japanese White-eyes. Also only one or two Pale Thrush and Daurian Redstart remain. Some Japanese Thrush can still be found, these are usually later departures than Pale Thrush.

First spring records for this week include a single Great Egret in off the sea, some migrant Black Kites, the first Pacific Swifts and a Grey Wagtail. A Siberian Rubythroat around the ferry pier on Wednesday was probably a migrant passing through but best land bird of the week was a Hoopoe. I saw it first on the South Peninsular on Tuesday evening but by Wednesday it had made its way to the central area and it was still on the football field when I left yesterday.

Hoopoes are regular early spring migrants on Po Toi, I have seen at least one at this time every year.   

At sea, only a few migrant Heuglin’s Gulls this week and no Ancient Murrelet as yet. But a flock of five Red-breasted Merganser including at least one male, passed by on Tuesday evening and the first Red-necked Phalarope were in local waters on Thursday

Now Red-breasted Marganser seem to have deserted Deep Bay in winter, spring migrants in southern waters are the only regular way to see them in Hong Kong. They are very consistent with their timing. Over the past five years, I have seen 26 birds in five flocks, all between 12th March and 17th March.  

Maybe the first flycatchers next week with the cold front?

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/03/2011 18:35 ]


Fourth Week of March

The pace of migration started to increase this week. Bird of the week was a male summer plumage Brambling which joined the Hoopoe from last week on the football field on Wednesday evening but both appeared to have gone by Thursday

Other new spring migrants for the week were

Cattle Egret – a few now moving off-shore together with Little Egret. The main egret migration is in April
Common Kestrel – one in off the sea on Wednesday
Oriental Cuckoo – a single early bird near the ferry pier on Thursday, presumably Horsfield’s
White’s Thrush – the first of the year at the lower school, must be a migrant passing through
Tree Sparrow – the first of the year on Tuesday. This species is a migrant on Po Toi.
Large-billed Crow – a group of three birds chased off by the resident pair on Wednesday
White-shouldered Starling – the first two on Wednesday, a typical earliest spring date

No flycatchers although a Narcissus was reported from the school area on Tuesday, I didn’t manage to see it.

Seabirds have so far been disappointing. Just a few Heuglin’s Gulls and Red-necked Phalaropes with no sign of migration as in earlier years. Also no Ancient Murrelet yet.

Advance warning. The dates of this year’s Tin Hau Festival have been set to coincide with Easter. An extended Ferry Service between Aberdeen and Po Toi will apply from Friday 22nd April through to and including Tuesday 26th April. Details later.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 25/03/2011 07:25 ]


27 March 2011

1 Common Kestrel
1 Narcissus Flycatcher
3 Little Buntings
1 White's Thrush
1 Rufous-tailed Robin
1 Grey-capped Greenfinch


I can add a Common Kingfisher and a very likely Peregrine (seemed larger, and very different flight from the Kestrel, which also had a few feathers missing).
Saw also a group of Chestnut bulbuls in the bushes (at least 5) and heard some Oriental White-eyes (are they migrants in Po Toi?).


Japanese White-eyes are migrants on Po Toi. It's also possible that two different populations are involved. I have only been tracking them in detail since 2009, so I only have two years detailed data. See this chart of daily numbers of Japanese White-eye since the beginning of 2009

The main group are winter visitors (presumably from the north) which arrive in late November. Their numbers gradually fall and they are all gone by end May.

In 2009, a second group appeared from late August to mid October. They may have been dispersing birds which had bred in the Hong Kong area. Nothing like this happened in 2010, it will be interesting to see what happens this year.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 28/03/2011 18:51 ]


27/3 蒲台觀鳥活動的紀錄 Records on 27/3 Po Toi outing
018 小白鷺 Little Egret tick
020 岩鷺 Pacific Reef Egret tick
067 黑鳶 Black Kite tick
069 白腹海鵰 White-bellied Sea Eagle tick
085 紅隼 Common Kestrel tick
087 遊隼 Peregrine Falcon tick
112 太平洋金斑鴴 Pacific Golden Plover tick
139 紅頸瓣蹼鷸 Red-necked Phalarope tick
163 黑尾鷗 Black-tailed Gull tick
165 灰氏銀鷗 Heuglin’s Gull tick
173 紅嘴鷗 Black-headed Gull tick
177 三趾鷗 Black-legged Kittiwake tick
194 珠頸斑鳩 Spotted Dove tick
209 褐翅鴉鵑 Greater Coucal tick
226 小白腰雨燕 Little Swift tick
229 普通翠鳥 Common Kingfisher tick
251 家燕 Barn Swallow tick
258 白鶺鴒 White Wagtail tick
270 紅耳鵯 Red-whiskered Bulbul tick
271 白頭鵯 Chinese Bulbul tick
273 栗背短腳鵯 Chestnut Bulbul tick
282 紅尾歌鴝 Rufous-tailed Robin tick
287 鵲鴝 Oriental Magpie Robin tick
289 北紅尾鴝 Daurian Redstart tick
298 紫嘯鶇 Blue Whistling Thrush tick
301 虎斑地鶇 White's Thrush tick
302 烏灰鶇 Japanese Thrush tick
312 黑臉噪鶥 Masked Laughingthrush tick
349 褐柳鶯 Dusky Warbler tick
352 黃腰柳鶯 Pallas’s Leaf Warbler tick
354 黃眉柳鶯 Yellow-browed Warbler tick
373 黃眉姬鶲 Narcissus Flycatcher tick
395 叉尾太陽鳥 Fork-tailed Sunbird tick
397 暗綠繡眼鳥 Japanese White-eye tick
402 小鵐 Little Bunting tick
410 灰頭鵐 Black-faced Bunting tick
415 金翅雀 Grey-capped Greenfinch tick
436 八哥 Crested Myna tick
442 紅嘴藍鵲 Blue Magpie tick
447 大嘴烏鴉 Large-billed Crow tick
448 白頸鴉 Collared Crow tick


For the outing, there was also a Eurasian Curlew that flew by at sea.


actually there were three of them flying together. Managed to confirm other two birds flying further away as Curlew, by heavy cropping...

Plus some Yellow-bellied Prinias.

[ Last edited by Ronaldo at 28/03/2011 22:17 ]


Last Week in March

This year has been the slowest start to spring since I started going to Po Toi in 2006. So far to the end of March, I have recorded just 25 spring migrant species whereas previous years have all been in the range 38 to 44 species by this date. As yet just one flycatcher (a Narcissus which I missed) and no Grey-faced Buzzards or Ashy Minivets, all unprecedented events.

Why? – I think because the last ten days have seen cold and strong easterly winds without any of the warmer, lighter southerly winds needed for birds to start their migration. But all can change very rapidly in spring and by this time next week it may be very different.

The only new spring species this week were waders – two migrating Curlew and a single Pin-tailed Snipe. The regular Hoopoe was still there all week and Jennifer Leung photographed a fine male Japanese Yellow Bunting around the ferry pier on Thursday but I missed it.

It’s also been a quiet month at sea with fewer Heuglin’s Gulls than normal and no Ancient Murrelet as yet – another unprecedented event for the end of March. Partly made up by a flock of five Red-breasted Merganser on Wednesday evening, a latest spring record for me, and a very early Greater Crested Tern on Tuesday

For those visiting Po Toi over spring who want to check what they might see, I attach my weekly colour charts for the years 2006 to 2010. These Excel files highlight the species I have seen each week of the year by colour, red for those seen in 4 or 5 of the years (good chance to see), orange for those seen in 2 or 3 of the years (may see), yellow for those seen in 1 year (possible) and no colour for those not seen in that week (maybe this is the year).

Weeks are as for Avifauna, week 1 is 1st to 8th, week 2 in 9th to 15th, week 3 is 16th to 23rd and week 4 is 24th to end of month. Species are split into two sheets, Land Bird and Seabirds. Current resident species are marked R in red.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 1/04/2011 16:54 ]


Dear Geoff

Though I may not be as free as I want for birding, I still want to thank you very much for the info
you kindly post here.

S L Tai


Very impressive data set!!
I have seen this table before, but this time, with more data collected, the analysis is becoming more robust and the picture is more clear.  
Thanks for Geoff's consistent effort and let's look forward the arrival of Northern Boobook on coming week!



Thanks Gary and Mr Tai.

Unfortunately, based on past experience, my predictions often don't come true.


1 Narcissus Flycatcher
1 Ashy Minivet
1 Peregrine Falcon
1 Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler
3 Sooty-headed Bulbuls (a Po Toi migrant?)
~10 Black-faced Buntings