Po Toi Autumn 2010 - October

Po Toi Autumn 2010 - October

A good week this week, the first fall of autumn caused by the change to northerly winds over the weekend.

Tuesday was the best day, birds everywhere but unfortunately the heavy rain which set in by 1.30pm prevented much bird-watching in the afternoon. I thought – ‘it doesn’t matter, the birds will still be here tomorrow’, but many were not and by Thursday most had gone.

October is the best month for raptors with many usually passing through following the coastline. This week, falcons.
Here an Amur Falcon which flew overhead as I was seawatching early on Wednesday morning, showing the fully-fanned tail which seems characteristic of the species

Also Eurasian Hobby, the now resident Kestrel and a pair of local Peregrines which have taken up station on the south coast cliffs and had a terrific battle with a passing, presumably migrant Peregrine.

The South Peninsular grasslands are best in October, with quails, grassland warblers, pipits, buntings and anything else which might decide to stop for the night. I try to spend at least one hour each day wandering over them but even then I only cover a small area. You need to stand on most of these birds before they fly which gives you a big surprise when they do.
This week I was rewarded with three quail species, Yellow-legged, which is annual in early October, a single early Japanese but best of all, a first-ever Barred Button-quail on Thursday. The dark brown wings with speckles of white on the coverts were quite different to the familiar Yellow-legged, but the most obvious difference was bright orange-red under-tail coverts and vent which were easily visible as it flew away. No photos of these birds, I never see them unless they are flying and then it’s all over too quickly for a photo.

Amongst other birds this week, a single Red-necked Phalarope in the harbour on Tuesday was the only seabird, a Forest Wagtail all week (probably last week’s bird), the first Olive-backed Pipit of autumn on Thursday, three Ashy Minivets all week, lots of Arctic, Yellow-browed and Dusky Warblers, Grey-streaked, Dark-sided, Asian Brown, Red-throated, Blue-and-white, Hainan Blue and Asian Paradise Flycatchers and an early Little Bunting. Here photos of the Wagtail, Minivet and an Asian Brown Flycatcher which is hardly out of the nest

Finally, this is the time to see some fabulous little moths which hawk the small flowers and remind me of the humming bird I saw last July in Canada. Anyone tell me what they’re called?

So back to Hong Kong on Thursday. Did I miss anything?

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 8/10/2010 06:56 ]


Geoff, I think the common name is what you said - Hummingbird Hawk moth?!
Manson Tsang


Thanks Manson.

This is a European species, I didn't realise it was the same species over here in Hong Kong.


Your summary of the first week of Oct

Dear Geoff

Your're situated in a unique positiion with birds, place and birder quite well matched.

Po Toi is unquestionably one of the best and easiest places to watch birds, though often overcrowded
with 'cameramen' or 'pseudo-birders' rather than birders on weekends.

Keep in mind your findings and reports are always appreciated.

S L Tai


Second Week in October

Thank you Mr Tai, I’ll endeavour to keep my readers happy.

A quiet week this week, certainly by comparison with last week which was a classic autumn fall. The wind changed to northerly on Sunday 3rd and Tuesday 5th was the best day, on Po Toi and elsewhere.

No such events this week. The second week in October is a transition week between the early and the later autumn migrants and is normally a low-scoring week on Po Toi unless the weather is favourable.

Some of the changes already noticeable – fewer Dollarbirds, no Barn Swallows since the end of September, Yellow-browed Warblers now outnumbering Arctic, the White-shouldered Starling flock dwindling, the first migrant pipits, Hair-crested Drongos, Chinese Bulbul and Tree Sparrows starting to arrive. But autumn is a long season and most of the early migrants still have a presence.

Single Hobby and Japanese Sparrowhawk maintained the flow of raptors, albeit at a reduced rate this week. Best aspect of the week was a total of eight flycatcher species, including the first Japanese Paradise and Grey-headed Flycatchers of autumn.
Grey-headed are perfect photographic material – they’re colourful, easy to see and make so much noise you cannot miss them. Here some flycatcher photos – Grey-streaked, Blue-and-white (first-winter female), Asian Paradise, Japanese Paradise and Grey-headed

And here some of the also-rans, Dollarbird, Olive-backed and Red-throated Pipits, a Red Turtle Dove which made the mistake of thinking sea water was good to drink (I guess it was the first time it had seen the sea) and a Hair-crested Drongo enjoying breakfast on an excruciatingly awful looking bug

I was going to end this account with photos of two different aspects of police work on Po Toi but I left the photos in my computer on Po Toi so they will have to wait for next week. A nervous week for J Holmes.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 15/10/2010 07:01 ]


The Po Toi constabulary

Must be a case of mistaken identity :-

"J Holmes" has a watertight alibi !


I am always suspicious of people who deny it before they even know what 'it' is.


White-throated Rock Thrush

17oct 10

A very boring day on the sea.
But a good tick of White-throated Rock Thrush this morning on the island!!

[ Last edited by Tony at 17/10/2010 14:52 ]
Tony Hung


Any photos?

White-throated Rock Thrush would be a new record for Po Toi.


Original posted by wgeoff at 17/10/2010 15:14
Any photos?

White-throated Rock Thrush would be a new record for Po Toi.

taken in noon.


I thought it was pretty nice to have an Ashy Drongo, a Dollarbird, a Black-napped Oriole and a Black Drongo all in one picture! Don't know how many pictures there are like that.  I wish I could get the Black-winged Cuckooshrike to join them.


Nice Geoff~! Chun and I also thought that it is a new tick for Po Toi too~!
If that's so, this one would be the first photo record of it on the island~~ haha....

I hope I can remove the branch on the photo.....

[ Last edited by Tony at 17/10/2010 20:22 ]


White-throated Rock Thrush-Po Toi-101007-1.jpg (171.03 KB)

17/10/2010 20:20

White-throated Rock Thrush-Po Toi-101007-1.jpg

Tony Hung



White-throated Rock Thrush x 1
Asian Brown Flycatcher x 2
Grey-streaked Flycatcher x 1
Black-napped Oriole x 2
Hair-crested Drongo x 2
Black-winged Cuckooshrike x 1
Blue Rock Thrush x 1
Red Turtle Dove x 1 (I saw it just fly from the sea to the island)
Ashy Drongo x 1
Red-throated Flycatcher x 1 by J. Holmes
Japanese Sparrowhawk / Besra  x 1 (not sure, please check the Bird ID thread)
Finally, It is identified as  a Grey-faced Buzzard
Yellow-browed Warbler x 2
Pallas's Leaf Warbler x 1 H
Artic Warbler x 1
Common Kingfisher x 1

[ Last edited by Tony at 18/10/2010 13:49 ]
Tony Hung


White-throated Rock Thrush.

Great record, number 296 for Po Toi.

Where was it?

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/10/2010 22:39 ]


it was on the woodland on the right hand side of the pier.
In that demolished house.
It looks quite small when I saw it. It seldom moves unless you thrush it. Usually standing on floor or horizontal branch of trees.

Good luck Geoff.

Tony Hung


Third Week in October

I have only been on Po Toi for half a day this week, on Tuesday. I decided to return on the ferry to avoid being stranded if the Thursday ferry did not run – a wise decision, since the Po Toi ferry does not run when T3 is posted so I presume there was no ferry today. Looking at the current weather forecast, the ferry won’t run again until next Tuesday leaving a quite unpleasant weekend for those who stay. My days of birdwatching typhoons on Po Toi are now over – it’s a young man’s sport.

Not much to report from Tuesday. No sign of the White-throated Rock Thrush, just two overflying Hobbies and a good looking male Chestnut-cheeked Starling which Kinni took some great photos of (for photos see elsewhere on the website). Apart from these, just a few of the early autumn migrants left, Dollarbird, Black-naped Oriole, Asian Brown and Grey-streaked Flycatchers, and not much else. Later autumn migrants have yet to arrive in force.

Which gives me some spare time to report on three common Hong Kong birds which show a very different pattern of appearance on Po Toi – Chinese Bulbul, Japanese White-eye and Tree Sparrow.

There is a small resident population of 20-30 pairs of Chinese Bulbul in the main area but this is supplemented by a large wintering population of migrants arriving from further north in late October and November, as shown in my daily records chart (numbers are for migrant flocks only)

While some of these birds continue their southerly migration, some remain on Po Toi for the winter, leaving as late as May.

Japanese White-eye shows a more complex pattern for which I only have two years detailed data, 2009 and 2010. A similar wintering population of northern migrants arrives in late November and stays through to May (this also happened in 2006, 2007 and 2008 although I don’t have detailed numbers) but with none resident over summer. In 2009 only (so far) another population arrived in late August and left again by mid October, perhaps dispersing breeders from the Hong Kong area.

Wintering migrants for both Chinese Bulbul and Japanese White-eye are mentioned in Avifauna.

Tree Sparrow is a clear migrant on Po Toi, with most birds in spring, fewer in autumn, none in winter and very few over the summer

Many of these birds are seen around the lighthouse on the South Peninsular.

My brief visit on Tuesday allowed me to pick up the two police activity photos which I mentioned in last week’s report, so here they are.

The first shows the rare event of a Chinese Coastguard vessel entering Hong Kong waters at the entrance of Po Toi harbour, apparently to hand over an offending fishing boat to the Hong Kong Police. The HK Police boat and the fishing boat appear alongside the Chinese vessel.

The second shows the Hong Kong Police Commandos making a practice assault on a container ship (the boat on the right in the photo). These assault boats are super fast and were up the back end of the container ship within seconds, with men and a dog boarding using hand-held ladders. They had previously been hiding in Po Toi harbour until the container vessel steamed past. A very impressive exercise which was performed twice during the day – good lunchtime viewing.

Finally, it has been said that Po Toi is a desert island but without any palm trees. Not any more. Two have mysteriously appeared on the beach next to the restaurant.

Interesting to see if they survive the typhoon.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 21/10/2010 22:20 ]


23 Oct 2010 - Po Toi

Pretty quiet.  Maybe some of the other birders had some different birds.

1 Eurasian Woodcock (flushed near Mo Old house)
1 Hair-crested Drongo
1 Ashy Drongo
1 Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike
2 Grey-streaked Flycatchers
1 Bunting sp (seen briefly on the trail to Coffin Rock--possible Black-headed?)


23-OCT Po Toi

A quiet day. . .
My bird of the day is Verditer Flycatcher X 1
D 報紙都冇解, 明明蟲友, 做咩叫龍友?

我就影左成十年多雀啦, 香港係近幾年至有D敗類, 放蟲, SET 景去影雀. 可惡!


Last Week in October

A brilliant week this week, 71 non-resident species over the week (an autumn record) with 48 on Wednesday alone, plus a new species for Po Toi, Chestnut-flanked White-eye on Thursday.

Late October is the transition period between early and late autumn migrants and both types were on display following the intense northerly winds which started on Monday night. I was given one day’s compensation leave for my child-minding activities last week so I arrived on Po Toi on Sunday evening and stayed through until Thursday.  

I don’t know how to describe such a week in detail, there was so much going on. A particular focus for me was early morning on the South Peninsular. I  always start the day with an hour or so seawatching – not for seabirds (there are none) but to watch migrants either flying down the coastline and out to sea or coming into Po Toi from the Dangan Islands.

Early on Tuesday morning I spotted a Blackbird flying in from Dangan. I knew there was a Peregrine on the cliffs and guessed she would have a go so I followed the bird with my camera. Shortly afterwards, the Peregrine made her first attack but the Blackbird was up to it. For about 10 minutes the Peregrine made repeated attacks but each time the Blackbird avoided it and eventually made it to the shoreline out of sight below me.
Only later when I looked at my series of photos did I realize the Blackbird was actually a Nightjar, Savanna I think

The same Peregrine later grabbed a passing Pond Heron but the Heron was too heavy and the Peregrine was forced to drop it in the sea, from which it struggled into the air and limped to the rocks. I doubt it survived.

The South Peninsular is a great place for early morning migration under good weather conditions. Overflying birds during the week included Great Egret flocks flying out to sea, Amur Falcon, Hobby (I now see the difference, thanks Paul), Japanese Sparrowhawk, many pipits and wagtails, a Eurasian Skylark, Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, a real Blackbird, buntings and White-shouldered Starlings. A Stonechat and a Black-browed Reed Warbler flew in together from Dangan on Wednesday and nearly landed on my hat. These are just the birds you see (or mostly hear), there must be many others.

The Lighthouse Gully on the South Peninsular is a migrant trap, in particular a small group of shrubs at the bottom. These are impossible to get into, the gully is too steep, and must harbour a lot of skulkers on heavy migration days. Here’s a photo of the gully with the shrubs I mentioned on the bottom left, plus two birds I did manage to see there, a Mountain Tailorbird and one of four Chestnut Buntings. Unfortunately a female, the stunning male in the group refused to be photographed.

Apart from overflying birds like these Great Egrets heading out to sea with a few Little Egrets in tow, the South Peninsular grasslands hold lots of grassland migrants as well as a few unexpected species and many unidentified ‘little brown jobs’. This week, Yellow-legged Button-quail on Monday and Japanese Quail on Thursday as well as this Chestnut-eared Bunting, White-cheeked Starling and a newly arrived Common Buzzard but most birds are unphotographable as they just pop up and down again

Early on Tuesday while walking through the grasslands to my seawatching station, three finches passed me flying inland. Not identified at the time, but seen again later that morning as part of a flock of at least 20 Eurasian Siskins which spent all their time in the tall pine trees above the School. Here 13 birds plus close-ups of singles.

At least fifteen flew off across the harbour at about 1.30pm that day (I saw them when having my lunchtime beer) but some remained into Thursday and some much better photos were taken by the professionals that day.

Wednesday was the day when most birds seemed to arrive, and in short succession when walking a few times around the same 5 minute circular route on the Green-pigeon Path I saw Blue-and-white Flycatcher, Raddes’ Warbler, Stub-tail Warbler, Red-tailed Robin, Black-naped Monarch and Grey-headed Flycatcher.
Here some photos of other birds during the week, Daurian Redstart, Greenish Warbler, Grey-headed Flycatcher, Black-naped Monarch, and one of at least four Mugimaki Flycatchers on Thursday, this one a first-winter male.

But best Thursday birds were a flock of four Chestnut-flanked White-eye which spent most of the day in the central area around the ferry. A new bird for Po Toi, noticeable because there aren’t any Japanese White-eyes on Po Toi at the moment. They don't all have the chestnut flanks but they’re also much softer calling and don’t zip around as much as their Japanese cousins.

Hopefully many of these birds will still be around at the weekend.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 30/10/2010 07:53 ]


From the Report it sounds like Po Toi is going to be birdwatcher trap this weekend too!


Dear Geoff,

Chestnut-Flanked White-Eyes were flying in a group today (29 Oct 2010). They were 30+.



Thanks Thomas. Some great photos.

30 Chestnut-flanked White-eyes would easily be a Hong Kong record number. Perhaps someone can make a count this weekend. Try to be sure they are all Chestnut-flanked and not Japanese.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 30/10/2010 07:51 ]