Po Toi Autumn 2011 August/September

Po Toi Autumn 2011 August/September

Just a one-day visit today, my first since May. I have other things to do this week, I will start properly next week.

From the ferry, several Bridled Terns and a migrant flock of 35 egrets, probably Great, heading south-west.

On the island, a Common Kingfisher, a Forest Wagtail, at least two Arctic Warblers and an Asian Paradise Flycatcher. There seem to be many APFs around this autumn.

Here the Forest Wagtail.

The demolition of the School Buildings is about to start. The Lower School is a camp site and protective barriers have been built around several of the nearby houses. Otherwise everything is as normal. The spiders are bigger than ever, the mosquitoes are in good supply. Many of the paths are still passable which is unusual for early autumn, I guess because there's not been much rain this August.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 30/08/2011 16:52 ]


About your latest news posting

Dear Geoff

Welcome back to the forum. This autumn it seems that we almost started birding and reporting here
at the same time. Commonly found birds are APF and Forest Wagtail and Artic Warbler (complex).

By the way, any suggestion why autumn migration finds quite a number of APF passing through HK
but generally scarce in spring?

S L Tai


What is happening to the school site Geoff?


Referring to Geoff information about the demolition of the school, I found that there are no any statutory protection of the island to safeguard the natural landscape and ecological importance of Po Toi Island. Po Toi Island in not included in Outline Zoning Plan from Town Planning Board nor a country/geo-park. Development may be an issue in the future. Are there anything we can do to prevent drastic thing happen?
Tony Hung


Original posted by Tony at 30/08/2011 21:43
Referring to Geoff information about the demolition of the school, I found that there are no any statutory protection of the island to safeguard the natural landscape and ecological importance of Po T ...
Urging for Statutory protection is the best and straight forward way to protect the island. We need a Development Permission Area Plan in the first place, so that Planning Department can act towards unauthorized developments.

HKBWS would certainly express this, maybe in our submission for the policy address or meetings with Planning Department.

HKBWS Conservation Officer


Replying to various individuals

Conservation - Statutory Protection is fine for us, but it's likely to be opposed by the residents and property owners (most of whom are not now resident) who think their land is potentially worth millions for development. Which could cause some unpleasantness between birdwatchers and locals. I think we should continue to register with the Government that Po Toi is a location of great importance but only make a statutary application if a real threat arises.

Dave - What happens to the area now occupied by the School? - I think the original contract was to return it to it's native state but perhaps Wai Yan knows the details, or Beetle.

Mr Tai - Why APS are commoner in autumn rather than spring (the same for Forest Wagtail and many other species)?
It's a combination of where they winter and weather effects. APS only winter in the SE Asia peninsular and not the Philippines. Migrants that winter in peninsular SE Asia tend to by-pass Hong Kong to the north on their spring migration. In autumn migration, they either wander too far south (particularly first year birds) or are driven south by northerly winds and turn up in HK. So we see them in autumn and not in spring.
Many of the birds we see in spring have wintering in the Philippines and flown across the South China Sea. We don't see Philippine winterers in autumn, they pass through Taiwan or well to the east of Hong Kong.
This difference in wintering areas leads to different birds being seen in Hong Kong in spring and autumn. Philippine only winterers (eg Japanese Yellow Bunting and Ferruginous, Narcissus Flycatcher) are seen mostly in spring. Peninsular SE Asia only winterers are seen mostly in autumn (eg Raddes Warbler and Yellow-rumped Flycatcher). Those that winter in both Philippines and SE Asia are seen in both seasons (eg Japanese Paradise Flycatcher)

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 31/08/2011 06:25 ]


Having Planning Control doesn't mean they can't build - but of course, they may need to apply and go through the Town Planning procedures (can be long) and may frustrate some of the villagers.

The Government is pushing forward Development Permission Area (DPA) Plans and we are seeing an increased paced in the recent month (4 plans have been issued in the past two weeks). Po Toi is not in their "urgent" list (of contry park "Enclaves"), and fortunately there isn't yet a development threat / threat from environmental vandalism, so it may not happen for Po Toi in a short time. But eventually there will be one - when public would have many chances to make comments. However it is essential to tell government that the island is ecologically important, not only for endangered Romer's Tree Frog but also migrant birds. It will be better if they know that before drafting a plan for Po Toi.

If anyone is interested the village area may give an impression of a possible "limit" of village expansion.

May Geoff and other birders check regularly for the notice board on Po Toi (i forgot where is it) to see if there is any strange land applications - this may be the only way to know more about possible developments on the island, without proper planning control.

HKBWS conservation officer


migration routes of birds in spring and autumn

Dear Geoff

Well explained by you. many thanks

S L Tai


Po Toi has become a weeds island after a summer time. Many roads are blocked by luxuriant weeds and large spiders.
But today is a good day.

Bridled terns x2
Aleutian terns x7
Forest wagtail x2
Dark-sided flycatcher x1
Asian brown flycatcher x1
Black drongoes x2

On the way to Po Toi, I saw one to two Bridled terns and about 7 Aleutian terns on the sea.
Just arrived Po Toi, I flushed a forest wagtail which was walking on the road.
Afterward, I went to other part of the pier, I got another forest wagtail.
They should be two individuals, because I get them in different places in a very short time.

Other than the wagtails, one dark-sided flycatcher and one asian brown flycatcher were seen.
Two juv. black drongoes called everywhere.

I think thats a good start for Po Toi's Autumn.



Sunday September 4th

Aberdeen - Po Toi
Greater Crested Tern - 3
Bridled Tern - 2
Whiskered Tern - 7ral

Po Toi
Chinese Pond Heron - 1
Lesser Cuckoo - 1
Common Kingfisher - 1
Dollarbird - 1
Dark-sided Flycatcher - 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher - 2
Yellow-rumped Flycatcher - 1
Richard's Pipit - 1

Other observers had Forest Wagtail and Stejneger's Stonechat.


[ Last edited by ddavid at 4/09/2011 18:27 ]


To-day we are waiting for the cuckoo, and saw an Asian Brown Flycatcher staying on a big tree and flying around, and few minute later we found that the flycatcher was trapped, and become the prey of the spider.
we all feeling so sad


First Week in September

I said the spiders on Po Toi are bigger than ever but I never thought they could catch and kill a bird as large as an Asian Brown Flycatcher (see the previous report by Herman). I’ll be more careful in future.

This is nature. Spiders are not as cute and cuddly as an Asian Brown Flycatcher but they have the same right to life. It shows the dangers faced by migrating (and resident) birds, and why only one in three survives the first year of life.

Only a few photos from me this week, I seem to have lost the snapping urge. But I did get the big one – the Lesser Cuckoo. This is a difficult bird, not seen by anyone on either Tuesday or Thursday (bad luck for the day-trippers) but I had it for 10 minutes at 11am on Wednesday around the toilet block.

There are four previously accepted HK records for Lesser Cuckoo, all juvenile (first-year) birds in September/October although Mike Kilburn has reported what must be an adult bird in May this year. The species mostly winters in East Africa so it’s a really long-distance migrant.

Also on my list this week, Yellow Bittern, Grey Nightjar, several Dollarbirds, Forest Wagtail, Brown Shrike, Oriental Reed Warbler, at least six Asian Brown, one Dark-sided and two Yellow-rumped Flycatchers and a single White-shouldered Starling. I disturbed the Grey Nightjar taking a nap on a gravesite and got views down to one metre – not for long though.

Bright-capped Cisticola are already back on the South Peninsular. I shall be surprised if they don’t nest there or at the top of the nearby hills.

Autumn Brown Shrikes on Po Toi are mostly the race cristatus, very different to the grey-headed lucionensis of spring, as you can just about see from this long-distance photo of one on Thursday.

This is another example of the rule – Philippine winterers in spring, SE Asian winterers in autumn.  

Migrants seen in the early morning flying over or off the South Point during the week were Pond Heron, Barn Swallow, Yellow and Grey Wagtails, Tree Sparrow and Black Drongo – a fairly typical assortment for early autumn. Also the only seabird, a single adult Aleutian Tern which flew SW very fast on Wednesday morning, as though it was trying to catch up with others – maybe I’ve missed the main migration this year.

I got it wrong about a team demolishing the School (last week’s report). Actually they are doing ‘slope maintenance’, which probably means even more concrete over the ever-decreasing space for trees. But I have faith in nature reclaiming what really belongs to it, not the Lands Department.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 9/09/2011 05:44 ]



Whilst I agree that cristatus is the commonly occurring Brown Shrike taxon in autumn, the bird you photographed looks more like lucionensis to me (based on the grey tones to the crown, nape and matle and poorly defined mask).

Autumn cristatus look more like this: ... _ID=&pagesize=1

[ Last edited by lpaul at 9/09/2011 08:20 ]


Thanks Paul

I was looking for more grey on the forecrown for a lucionensis. I'll have to beware ascribing subspecies to autumn Brown Shrikes.


10 September 2011

1 Cuckoo sp (seen in flight, probably Lesser Asian but suppose it could have been one of the larger species)
1 Black-winged Stilt (in lagoon, ever seen on the island before?)
1 Pintail Snipe (lagoon)
4 Dollarbirds
2 Yellow-rumped Flycatchers
4 Asian Brown Flycatchers
1 Dark-sided Flycatcher
1 Brown Shrike
1 Grey Wagtail


aside from the birds already mentionned above, we had good views of two Black-naped Orioles on Tuesday 12.


Second Week in September

To start by answering Brendan’s question above, Black-winged Stilt is a regular autumn migrant on Po Toi but not in spring, the opposite of most other migrant waders which are spring not autumn migrants. Why this should be is a mystery to me but there must be some explanation.

A short week as I didn’t arrive until late on Tuesday. Wednesday was full of interest with some new arrivals. The first was a Hoopoe which I found early morning on the south Peninsular, then later in the day around the sister’s café and the school on Thursday.

This is my first autumn Hoopoe since 2008. Previous autumn birds have been long stayers, maybe this will be too.

Bird of the week must be Siberian Blue Robin. I saw two on Wednesday, probably different birds. Once you are familiar with their soft ‘chuk chuk’ call note, they’re not hard to locate but just to see them is difficult and I’ve never previously managed to photograph them so these are my first, a first-winter male just above the upper school

Also new this week, Striated and Black-crowned Night Heron, Pacific and House Swift, Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, a Pallas’s Grasshopper Warbler flushed from the grass on the south Peninsular (there must be many more there), an early Yellow-browed Warbler and a Yellow-breasted Bunting.
There were good numbers of Dollarbirds and Black-naped Orioles all week, as well as Brown Shrikes and Asian Brown Flycatchers. But no Yellow-rumped or Dark-sided after Tuesday. And no sea birds at all.

Here photos of the Yellow-browed Warbler, one of the Black-naped Orioles and a first year Blue Rock Thrush which rather unusually has taken up residence behind the toilet block

Last but definitely not least, a photo of the five-inch long centipede which tried to take a bite out of my head while I was asleep on Tuesday night.

Ouch!   Not a nice way to wake up.

Dangerous place, Po Toi.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 16/09/2011 07:03 ]


Thanks for your report, Geoff.  It's just not a birding report but surely a PT ecological bulletin indeed, even in a regular basis.   An addiction to the readers, hehe.
BTW, that centipede was a danger, though it might not be 100% venomous.  Curious why it approached you?!  You slept like a centipede (don't make any sense at all)? Or those bird friends picked it up and made fun of you?
Manson Tsang


I've been told the centipedes are common on Chueng Chau and are venomous.


Third Week in September

Much cooler this week – the long and very hot summer has come to an end.

Other signs of autumn – egret migration is now in full swing. This comes in two flavours. One group are flying around the coast close to Po Toi heading south-west and are mainly flocks of Chinese Pond Herons with a few Cattle Egrets.

The second group are flying out to sea heading south-east, usually higher up and further out from Po Toi. These are mixed flocks of Great and Little Egrets, probably from Deep Bay and heading – where? I don’t know but if they carry on in the same direction they will make landfall in the Philippines.

No doubt about bird of the week this week. I had hoped for a Baillon’s Crake on Po Toi but when it happened, it was a complete surprise. Heading up the steps next to the demolished house, a starling sized bird with short triangular-shaped wings, rufous upperparts with black and some white streaks and dangling legs flew from almost under my feet and landed on the path about ten metres away. I had time for a good look through binoculars (but not the camera). A new bird for the Po Toi list, now at 304.

Other new species this week included Grey Heron, Crested Goshawk, Red Turtle Dove, Oriental Cuckoo, Black-capped Kingfisher, Grey-streaked and Blue-and-white Flycatchers, Purple-backed Starling and Ashy Drongo, all typical for this time of autumn. Here photos of some of these, plus others.

I was having dinner on Wednesday evening, watching crabs digging holes on the beach through my binoculars, when I noticed a small brown bird skulking under the water tanks. I left dinner and found it a few minutes later – a female Siberian Blue Robin. I’ve had some good dinner birds over the time (I eat all my meals out-of-doors), perhaps the best was an Eagle Owl which flew over one evening.
Even better viewing than the latest TVB soap opera.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 23/09/2011 06:43 ]


24 September 2011

1 Common Kestrel
1 Chinese Goshawk
1 Dollarbird
1 Chinese Grosbeak
9 Black-naped Orioles (flying overhead in a flock)
1 Black-winged Cuckooshrike
2 Brown Shrike


25 Sept, in rainy conditions.
Spotted two Blue Rock Thrushes (one possible philippensis, other pandoo), one Grey-streaked Flycatcher, a couple of Asian Brown Flycatchers, several Orioles (inc. an adult male) flying with the drongos, two Brown Shrikes (one juvenile), one Little Bunting, one pale-legged warbler, one yellow-browed warbler.


Last Week in September

I'm not able to go to Po Toi this week.

I'd be grateful, if anyone visits, to post details here or send me an email.



Oh Geoff,
It's so pity that you can't make it this week. Typhoon in Autumn, the kind of sample data you miss in your study.


Tell that to my wife