Po Toi Autumn 2008

Po Toi Autumn 2008

My first week back on the island after an extended holiday in Europe.

Bird of the week was an Emerald Dove which flew past the sister's cafe on Tuesday. Only the second Po Toi record, the last was on October 19th 2006. There may be a regular small autumn passage of these birds through Po Toi.

Three species of flycatcher this week, Asian Brown, Dark-sided and Yellow-rumped.

Like most autumn migrants on Po Toi, these looked like first year birds. First year birds are not so good at orientation and fly too far south on migration across China, hitting the south China coast somewhere to the east of Hong Kong and then following the coastline into Po To. Adult birds, having made the trip before, are much smarter at taking the direct route to SE Asia and tend to stay north of Hong Kong.

Also this week, 2 Pintail Snipe, an Indian Cuckoo, 2 Dollarbirds, a Hoopoe, several Black-winged Cuckoo-shrikes, an adult lucionensis Brown Shrike, several Blue Rock Thrush, up to 4 Arctic Warblers, a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler, at least one Purple-backed Starling with the White-shouldered flock and several Black-naped Orioles. Here are some photos for you to sort out, my photos are always a challenge


The South Peninsular grasslands already have grassland warblers, Plain Prinia and Zitting Cisticola, also a pair of Bright-capped Cisticola last seen on April 10th (I'm sure they are the same birds now returned for the winter). And on Thursday, a first year Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, without the rusty rump.

Finally, on a very hot Thursday, a flock of 40 migrating Pacific Swifts appeared over the island, followed at about 1pm by a flock of 16 migrating Black Kites. At least they enjoyed the super-hot weather, wheeling around in the thermals.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:01 ]


Welcome back Geoff!

I look forward to your tantalising updates over the autumn

Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee


Today's record

Yellow-breasted bunting


Black-naped Oriole



very hot day

-Asian Brown Flycatchers
-Dark-sided Flycatcher x 1
-Grey-streaked Flycatcher x 1

-Warblers, including Arctic
-Possibly Pale-footed Bush Warbler, i saw a greyish warbler which wagged its tail like a robin

-Dollarbird x 2
-unknown Bunting (Yellow-breasted? same one as the post above)

-Forest Wagtail (not seen by me) x 1

[ Last edited by Beetle at 15/09/2008 21:57 ]


The warbler wagging it's tail is a Pale-legged Leaf Warbler - tail wagging is characteristic for this species (see HKBWS 1992 Annual Report, p158 - PJL).

The bunting is Yellow-breasted - quite early.

Thanks to all for the records.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 16/09/2008 03:35 ]


Third week in September

Another hot week this week - for weather, at least.

Six species of flycatcher seen during the week, five species on one day, Thursday - Asian Brown, Grey-streaked, Dark-sided, Yellow-rumped and Asian Paradise Flycatchers. But the best was on Friday, a (first-year, I think) Ferruginous Flycatcher. Here are photos of all six

Ferruginous Flycatchers are very rare in Hong Kong autumn presumably because their autumn migration route does not take them near Hong Kong. Unlike other migrants seen in spring but not autumn (e.g. Narcissus Flycatcher, Japanese Yellow Bunting) which breed in Japan, winter in north Borneo and pass well to the east of Hong Kong in their autumn migration, Ferruginous breeds in western China and some winter in north Borneo. Its autumn migration route must be different. I guess it passes well to the west of Hong Kong, reaching north Borneo via Vietnam, where it is seen regularly, not via Philippines where it is vagrant except in Palawan.

The only other Hong Kong land bird, I think, which migrates between west China and north Borneo like this is Blue-winged Pitta. If Blue-winged Pitta spreads its distribution further east in China, it may become a more common spring migrant in Hong Kong.

Also seen this week, Dollarbirds, at least seven Black-naped Orioles, a Siberian Blue Robin on Saturday and a pair of Forest Wagtails on Friday, always worth a photo or two

No cisticolas or prinias on the South Peninsular grasslands this week - have they moved on? Instead, two Pallas's Grasshopper Warblers, a Lanceolated Warbler, a pair of Richard's Pipits, which appear to be a first-year bird with one of it's parents, and an Oriental Reed Warbler

A storm is due this week - you never know what might arrive in those conditions. At least it will cool things down.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:04 ]


Geoff, a Blue-and-white Flycatcher was seen on Sunday (21 Sep).   But it was not willing to look at me...

[ Last edited by Allen at 23/09/2008 10:52 ]


Nice one Allen.

Looks like a first year male.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 23/09/2008 13:37 ]


hope the storm will bring more seabirds to HK


Fourth week of September

I was disappointed when the ferry would not go to Po Toi on Tuesday due to the T3 signal – I was looking forward to my first autumn typhoon staying on Po Toi, and maybe some interesting sea birds. But when I did eventually get there on Thursday and saw the damage done, I was not so disappointed.

Large branches and half trees are down everywhere, one large tree behind the toilet block has been torn from the rocks and is lying on its side. The tidal storm surge had dumped tons of beach sand inside the restaurant and wrecked the kitchen where I am living. The locals, who have seen a few typhoons in their day, thought Hagupit was a big one. So maybe a good one to avoid.

It seems crazy to say ‘a quiet week’ after a typhoon like that, but it was quiet, for birds at least. Two Black Bitterns, one in off the sea on Saturday, the first Kestrel, Yellow-browed and Dusky Warblers of autumn and a stunning male Blue-and-white Flycatcher with a first year male on Thursday were the pick of the few migrants.

Photos here of the Black Bittern coming in off the sea, a Brown Shrike cristatus, the male Blue-and-white Flycatcher and a first year male Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, one of the several Black-naped Orioles and a fine male Purple-backed Starling in amongst the flock of White-shouldered.

North winds next week - usually good for migrants in autumn.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:07 ]


A Yellow-billed Grosbeak was seen this afternoon (27 Sep).


Transition week September/October

More species around this week.

Tuesday was a particular highlight with migrants seen from the South Peninsular both coming on to Po Toi and flying past. Black Drongo were the most evident, also Pond Heron, three species of Wagtail, a Hobby, a Red Turtle Dove, several Ashy Minivets and a Black-naped Oriole.

Here a photo of part of a mixed flock of Ashy Minivets (6 in the photo) and Tree Sparrows (5 in the photo) flying overhead at the South Peninsular, one of the Ashy Minivets later on the island and a long range photo of a Minivet in the tall tree which suggests that some of the Minivets may have been Swinhoe's.

Visible migration is a feature of autumn migration on Po Toi. The migrants are following the coastline and coming in from the north east, heading south west. As they reach the South Peninsular, they often change course and head into Po Toi, presumably because they can't see any further land ahead.

Bird of the week was a female or first year Watercock which flew up from the vegetation patch just outside the sister's cafe on Thursday. The only previous record is one in exactly the same place on September 21st 2006. Given the difficulty of seeing this species, these records suggest a regular migration through Po Toi around late September. Also another Forest Wagtail on Thursday.

Here some photos of species during the week, Dark-sided, Grey-streaked and Red-throated Flycatchers, Brown Shrike (compare with last week's bird), Dollarbird and Eastern Crowned Warbler.

Another storm due this weekend - will it be as bad as last week's?

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:09 ]


First Week in October

A short week for me on Po Toi this week.

I arrived late on Tuesday in order to miss the crowds of hikers and grave-sweepers. Unfortunately, I also missed the bird of the week, a male Narcissus Flycatcher photographed by PWMK near the upper school. I believe this is only the second ever autumn record of Narcissus Flycatcher in Hong Kong, the first also being a male on Po Toi on 6th November 2007. Here is PW's photo from Tuesday and mine from 2007.

I was tempted to think this may be the same bird in both years, even though the dates are different. Migrating birds are known to use the same stop-over sites each year. However, having compared the photos, I think they are different birds.

Bird of my week was a male Japanese Paradise Flycatcher in the tree next to the Narcissus on Thursday morning (unfortunately, gone by midday)


This is the eleventh flycatcher species on Po Toi this autumn, still some way to go to match the 15 species seen last year in autumn.

Watching migrating birds flying in to Po Toi off the sea in the very early morning is a magic highlight of autumn. Here is a Black-crowned Night Heron, first seen far out to sea in the NE, eventually landing on the rocks quite close to me.

Also seen flying in to Po Toi this week, Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Asian House Martin, a selection of wagtails and pipits and Black Drongo.
All under the watchful eyes of a pair of Peregrines which take a heavy toll, particularly of Drongos.

For anyone tired of the continual noise of credit crisis, stock markets and financial bailouts, this is the ultimate therapy. Two days on Po Toi without TV, radio and mobile phones. I can recommend it.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:11 ]


Today: 14.10.2008
2 Dollar birds
1 unknown raptor(possibly a falcon) which try to catch a dollar bird
2 blue and white flycatchers (photo was taken while it was eating a fruit of the tree, is it usual?)
5~6 black drongos
1 hairy-crested drongos
2 buntings (can't see clearly)
2 Black naped orioles


2008 Oct. 11
1 female Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike at School


Original posted by nlinyau at 14/10/2008 23:20
2008 Oct. 11
1 female Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike at School
same cuckoo-shrike was seen today at same place.
I suspected the raptor to be a Kestrel, i could only see its brownish back.


Second Week in October

Autumn has moved into a new phase with new species replacing some of the September birds.

Raptors are now passing through, this week Osprey, Japanese Sparrowhawk and Amur Falcon, and Buntings are arriving in numbers - Yellow-breasted and Little so far. Yellow-browed and Dusky Warblers are back with us again, the Yellow-browed now outnumbering Arctic Warblers, and Hair-crested Drongos are becoming more common as the Black Drongos move on. Oriental Turtle Doves are replacing Red Turtle Doves and the numbers of White-shouldered Starling have dropped to only a few with a White-cheeked Starling coming through this week.

Here the Osprey coming in off the sea from the direction of Dangan Island where it probably roosted overnight, Little Bunting, Yellow-browed Warbler, Hair-crested Drongo, Oriental Turtle Dove and White-cheeked Starling.

Still many Asia Brown Flycatchers this week, a few Grey-streaked, up to 3 Blue-and-white, a female Japanese Paradise and the first Mugimaki, probably a first winter male from the bright throat colour

To answer the question above, Mugimaki eat fruit but this is the first time I have seen Blue-and-white doing it.

Also new this week, a Woodcock, always a few on Po Toi between now and the end of October, and a Spectacled Warbler of undertermined species (could it be the Bianchi's from last winter now returned? - we will find out over the next week or so).

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:13 ]


Mugimaki Flycatcher 鴝姬鶲
16 Oct 2008
Po Toi 蒲台

Thanks geoff lead me to take this bird.


Third Week in October

This is normally the best week in autumn, and it was this year also.

Bird of the week was a Bull-headed Shrike seen late in the evening of Wednesday and photographed looking directly into the sun (that's my excuse anyway)

This has not been a good autumn for species numbers, with 89 migrant species so far this autumn which is 12 species behind the same date in 2006 and 20 behind the same date in 2007.

But for one family, flycatchers, it has been good. Eight species seen today (Thursday), Asian Brown, Grey-streaked, Dark-sided, Mugimaki, Blue-and-white, Narcissus, Verditer and Grey-headed and another two yesterday, Japanese Paradise and Red-throated. Here are six of the best

The annual autumn invasion of migrant Chinese Bulbuls has started this week. These birds arrive in flocks of around 50 on the South Peninsular. Some find their way inland and remain on Po Toi for the winter but most continue their migration southwards, often in flocks of over 100 birds.

Here a photo of at least 150, plus a Common Snipe (new for me this year on Po Toi) and a last photo of the adult Dollarbird. The two Dollarbirds, adult and first winter, which have been on Po Toi for the last 4 weeks and have had more photos taken than Lady Diana, finally left on Tuesday evening - good luck to them.

Other interesting species this week - Chinese Goshawk, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Hobby, Woodcock, Ashy Minivet, Buff-bellied Flowerpecker (migrant), Yellow-breasted Bunting.

The first cold front of autumn tomorrow, it may bring some new birds into Po Toi over the weekend.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:16 ]


Last Week in October

A transition week as the mid-autumn birds move on and the late autumn birds start to arrive. By the end of the week there was only one Asia Brown Flycatcher to be seen, and Japanese Thrush (male), Blackbird (also a male), Red-flanked Bluetail and Siberian Rubythroat had arrived. I think the days of large numbers of flycatchers have now gone for this autumn.

I was about to say the birds of the week were Bramblings until I saw Isaac's photo of the Japanese Yellow Bunting. I confess to have seen this photo on the ferry coming back and incorrectly dismissed it as a Chestnut Bunting. Well done Isaac, and Japanese Yellow Bunting back on the autumn Po Toi list for the second year running. But I doubt we will get another ringed bird like last year.

Back to the Bramblings. On Tuesday there were three, a male and a first year together and a separate female. It seems the female left that night but the other two remained throughout the week. Here the male, first winter and female separately, then the male and first winter together.

Also seen this week, a flock of 9 migrant immature Night Herons, an Amur Falcon, several Japanese Sparrowhawks, a Crested Goshawk, a Brown Hawk Owl (also rare in autumn), a Lanceolated Warbler, several Chestnut Buntings and the first Red-billed Starling of autumn, as well as the thrushes and chats mentioned above. Here photos of the Blackbird, the Red-billed Starling hanging out with a White-cheeked Starling and a Verditer Flycatcher from early in the week.


Correction to an earlier report – Third Week in September

In my report for the Third Week in September, I suggested that the Ferruginous Flycatchers we see in spring in Hong Kong had originated from their breeding grounds in SW China.

Paul Leader has pointed out that they are, in fact, from the Taiwan breeding population, a different subspecies, which migrates to the southern Philippines and north Borneo for the winter (I had thought it was a resident population). This is a much more logical explanation than mine, and shows why, for example, this species sometimes turns up in Korea and Japan.

The Migration Map for the two species, Ferruginous and Narcissus Flycatcher, should look like the following

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:18 ]


First Week in November

A very poor week this week for species numbers - only 29 compared to 47 in 2006 and 54 in 2007.

Why? Because many species are late this year, I still haven't seen any Common Buzzard, Daurian Redstart, Scaly Thrush, Pallas's Leaf Warbler (all at least 2 weeks late) and no Buntings at all this week. As species move on, nothing is arriving to take their place. This must be related to the very warm October we have just had, and still the temperature is way above average for this time of year. I'm hoping the cooler weather forecast for the weekend will bring in some more birds next week.

The Bramblings must have left on Monday, they obviously gave a lot of pleasure to many photographers. Looking at the photographs posted, there were at least 4 different birds, 2 males, a female and a first winter.

Bird of this week was a Red-breasted Flycatcher which I saw on Thursday but which may be the bird reported a weekend ago. Unfortunately my camera settings were wrong so the photos are poor, but it had all the features of a Red-breasted including the call.

Also this week, probably two Japanese Sparrowhawks staying on the island. I'm always uncertain about identifying Japanese Sparrowhawk, they look so much like Besra, but I think these have the correct features.

Unusual for them to stay so long on Po Toi, they are normally just fly-overs.

Three more photos from a poor week, a male Blue Rock Thrush near the lighthouse, a first winter male Mugimaki Flycatcher which arrived on Thursday and a first winter or female Red-flanked Bluetail which has been on the island for over 1 week

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:21 ]


2008/11/11 Po Toi
Wrong setting
Very small size, is it a Japanese Sparrowhawk?

as well as,
Dusty Warbler
Red Turtle Dove
Oriental Turtle Dove x 6
Blue Whistling Thrush
Hair Crested Drongo x 2
Mugimaki Flycatcher
Daurian Redstart
Black faced Bunting

[ Last edited by dick at 11/11/2008 22:27 ]


Looks like Chinese Sparrowhawk to me. Pointed wing and pale underwing covert favour Chinese to Japanese.

HF Cheung


I think it's a female Japanese Sparrowhawk. The structure (short tail, fairly pointed wings) looks right, and it is described as being very small. Plumage is difficult to tell because of the light, but it seems to be finely barred on the breast, bellay and underwing coverts and lacks the dark primary tips of Chinese.


I would also go for Chinese Sparrowhawk (immature male), based on several features.

1. Japanese seem to consistently show 5 protruding primaries while Chinese have 4, resulting in rounder, broader wingtip in Japanese and more tapered wingtip in Chinese; this bird shows typical Chinese wingtip with 4 fingers, the 3rd from above being the longest;

2. Japanese has a somewhat smaller secondary 'bulge' than Besra, but this is definitely bigger than that in Chinese - in this bird I think we could agree that the rear wing edge is straight and the bulge is not too prominent, suggesting Chinese;

3. Immature Chinese shows no dark wingtip. They do however show heart spots on the chest, but considering it's late November I wonder about the possibility that the immature -> adult transition results in this hybrid plumage that fits male Chinese (entirely white underpart with no obvious patterning) apart from the wingtip.

Having said that I'm not very experienced in Chinese Sparrowhawk - would love to hear more opinion from experts. =]



Also saw on yesterday:

407 Chestnut Bunting 栗鵐
427 Red-billed Starling 絲光椋鳥

And a strange Chinese Bulbul ... 6511&highlight=

[ 本帖最後由 isaac_chan 於 13/11/2008 03:44 編輯 ]


A much better week this week.

As hoped, the colder weather brought in new species, many thrushes and buntings on Tuesday. The thrushes were mostly Blackbirds but with Eyebrowed, Japanese and Grey-backed also seen. The buntings were mostly Black-faced, in large numbers, but with some Chestnut and a pair of  Tristram's. Here photos of Black-faced, Chestnut and Tristram's Buntings.

Also among the buntings, a possible Yellow-throated seen on Tuesday and today. Visitors over the weekend should look for the bunting with a  permanently erect crest in the school area or in the scrub on the sea side of the footpath between the ferry terminal and the restaurant. Please get a good photo.

Bird of the week (if not the Yellow-throated Bunting) was a 'first ever for Po Toi' Eurasian Skylark on the South Peninsular very early this morning. As you can see from the photos, it was a very dark brown - seems much darker than the birds I have seen at Long Valley.

Also seen this week, apart from the birds mentioned above, a Grey Nightjar (not Savanna as I incorrectly reported to Birdline), an Ashy Minivet, several Daurian Redstarts and Red-flanked Bluetails, a Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler, Asian Brown, Narcissus (male) and Mugimaki Flycatchers, the family party of 3 Bramblings (so they didn't leave after all), and a Common Rosefinch.

Here photos of the Ashy Minivet, the Narcissus and Mugimaki Flycatchers, the female Brambling and a very photogenic Hair-crested Drongo.

PS I have started a daily bird log on the noticeboard on the ferry pier. You are welcome to add records (if the pen is not removed).

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:24 ]


Third Week in November

Bird of the week, if not the autumn, was a Black Stork, first seen circling over the sea far out to the north east in the company of a pair of Black Kites at 7am on Friday morning.

It slowly drifted towards Po Toi but just as I started to hope it might come right over, it headed off to my left towards Hong Kong Island.
The photos are taken looking directly into the early morning sunlight.

Three good species of finch this week.

Firstly, a pair of Siskins in the fir trees at the Upper School on Tuesday. These birds were filmed by RTHK and should appear in their documentary on Po Toi due to be screened next January - watch this space for details. My own photo is up to my usual standard - a hardly recognisable male bird.

Then on Thursday, a brief view of a Common Rosefinch near the football field. This bird had red around the head so is probably an immature male. And finally, on Friday and Saturday, the male from the ever-present group of Bramblings

Also seen this week, a White-breasted Waterhen (rare migrant on Po Toi), many thrushes, Japanese, Grey-backed, Blackbird but also one Brown-headed, Asian Stub-tail and Brownish-flanked Bush Warblers, now here for the winter I hope, a single Russet Bush Warbler and several buntings. Not as many as last week, and not including the possible Yellow-throated Bunting which seems to have left before anyone could get a photo - regrettably.

Here a photo of the Brown-headed Thrush, taken in very low light at 6.30am on Saturday (that's my excuse for the camera shake) and the only male Daurian Redstart out of about seven birds in the main area

PPS I have had to cancel the bird log on the pier since I could only remove the 'temporary' ink markings with an industrial cleaner! I may try again with a proper whyteboard next spring.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:26 ]


Last Week in November

A quiet start to the week, but an influx of thrushes and buntings with the north wind on Wednesday night.

A Hoopoe on Tuesday was the first since 9th September, a poor autumn for this species as with so many others. A large phylloscopus warbler on Wednesday appeared to have no wingbars, but I think it's just a very late Arctic. The latest autumn record in Avifauna is 30th November.

Also this week, the annual arrival of Japanese White-eye is in full swing, with small parties all over. This species is mostly a winter visitor to Po Toi, arriving in late November and staying until early April with a very few over summer and none at all in September and October.

The thrush influx on Thursday brought the first Pale Thrush of the season, together with at least some Eyebrowed and more Japanese. The Brown-headed remained for the whole week and I was at last able to get a reasonable photo of this, together with a male and female Japanese

The bunting influx included more Little, together with at least three Yellow-browed and one Tristram's

This is nearly the end of autumn 2008 for me, I'm not expecting to stay on Po Toi through December.

Not a vintage autumn, so many species missing which were seen in both the previous two years, both common and rare - Himalayan Swiftlet, Pechora Pipit, Oriental Cuckoo, Ashy Drongo, Greenish Warbler, Scaly Thrush (where are they?), White-throated Kingfisher, Collared Scops Owl, Red-throated Pipit, Raddes Warbler, Grey Bushchat, Bonelli's Eagle, Dusky Thrush etc etc....
But at least the Flycatchers were in good numbers and kept everyone entertained.

From what I see reported here and hear on BirdLine, it's been the same everywhere.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 17/08/2010 18:28 ]


Geoff, I saw a Greenish Warbler on 2008/10/28


Thanks Isaac. I'm also aware of an Ashy Drongo seen on Po Toi this autumn.

But it's still been a poor autumn, except for flycatchers.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 28/11/2008 07:58 ]