Po Toi May 2009 蒲台島春季鳥況直擊(五月)

Po Toi May 2009 蒲台島春季鳥況直擊(五月)

Birds seen at Po Toi and in southern & eastern waters during HKBWS outing of 3 May

Migrants at Po Toi:

Cattle Egret 1
Chinese Goshawk 1
Pacific Swift 8
Blue-winged Pitta 1 seen, possibly another heard
Brown Shrike 4
Arctic Warbler 6
Grey-streaked Flycatcher 1

Birds seen at sea from Geoff Carey's boat (two boats were hired for the outing):

Brown Booby 1
Short-tailed Shearwater 1 (2-3 others from Yu Yat Tung's boat)
White-wqinged Tern 14
Aleutian Tern 29
Common Tern 3
Black-naped Tern 3
Bridled Tern 2
Little Tern 6
Oriental Pratincole 2
Red-necked Phalarope 109



Black Drongo
Common Sandpiper x1
Cattle Egret x1

Arctic Warbler
Brown Shrike
Masked Laughingthrush
Black-naped Tern x 2

Lastly, I dnno I heard an Indian Cuckoo call correctly???? Most likely, I'm wrong.


First Week in May

To answer Dick's question above, yes, it would have been an Indian Cuckoo. There are at least two calling on Po Toi at the moment, even through the night.

As is usual, the daily count of migrant species fell abruptly from 35 in the last week of April to 25 in the first week of May. But among the 25, some good finds, particularly on Tuesday with an immature Malayan Night Heron (bigger photos elsewhere), a Swinhoe's Minivet (found by Cherry Wong), a Lanceolated Warbler and again the Blue-winged Pitta. Also during the week, the first Black-capped Kingfisher and Large Hawk Cuckoo, and my first sighting of a Yellow-fronted Canary, earlier this year than usual but the big surprise is that it was feeding a juvenile!

Here photos of the Malayan Night Heron, the Swinhoe's Minivet and the Canary and offspring. No photos of the Pitta, the Po Toi bird is definitely not movie star material unlike the Futian bird, and none of the Lanceolated Warbler of course - are there any photos of this species in the field?

The Swinhoe's Minivet only stayed one day but the others were still there on Thursday.

The first two weeks of May are usually the best for sea birds, particularly terns. Not so prolific this week, but 2 species each of Shearwater, Short-tailed and Streaked, and Skua, Arctic and Pomarine and 6 species of Terns, White-winged, Common, Black-naped, Aleutian, Bridled and Great Crested. Plus a good migration of Egrets, all flying east to west across the south of Po Toi and straight up the East Lamma Channel. Mixed flocks of Little and Cattle Egrets, plus a few Great and Intermediate. They seem to know exactly where they are going - Deep Bay.

Here photos of a Short-tailed Shearwater, a Pomarine Skua and a flock of Little and Cattle Egrets.

There have been no Long-tailed Skuas this year, normally the commonest skua. Is it related to a poor Lemming year or some other natural phenomenon?

Finally, the Grey Heron which has been terrorising the Po Toi Fish Farms since the beginning of January is still there and has now qualified for a Resident's Fare on the Ferry, should it ever choose to use it. The locals call it Mr Big and seem quite unconcerned by its behaviour. Will it stay the whole summer? - it doesn't look like a fully mature bird.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 15/12/2009 05:49 ]


Today, the Malayan Night Heron was seen. Here is a very poor record shot.

Besides, a cuckooshrike sp. was making a loud three-note call on the island. This bird is unexpectedly darker than the Black-winged Cuckooshrike i saw, and it seems that it is a little bit smaller (but i am often wrong with size and color judgement). Anyway I was lucky to take a record shot of it.
I would like to leave the identification to experts.


[ Last edited by shey at 9/05/2009 22:39 ]


Mike Kilburn and i also saw this dark cuckoo-shrike. I think it should be Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, but not the normal sub-species we saw in HK. Should be another sub-species. Anyway, a bird new to HK.
reference as following: ... =190&pagesize=1


I'm attaching some more pictures of the cuckooshrike taken today. Hope these can help for getting its identity. Thank you so much.


And here is the sound recording of the Cuckooshrike heard today.
CuckooShrike Call_PoToi_9May09_SYH.mp3 (18.37 KB)



This bird must have been Black-winged Cuckoo Shrike and the call/song fits descriptions for that species.

HBW refers to a dark race saturata which breeds as close as Hainan.

It was still a bizarre bird in having a white rump band.

Mike Turnbull

[ Last edited by tmichael at 10/05/2009 06:30 ]


Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike is rare on Po Toi in spring. I have only one previous record, 21st May 2008.

According to Robson, Birds of SE Asia and Birds of Thailand, this could be the race saturata from North Vietnam and Hainan.

(Later. I see Mike Turnbull has reached the same conclusion)

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 9/05/2009 23:36 ]


I and Peter Chan Kai Wai also had views of a black-winged cuckooshrike last time on 3 May. Don't know if it is this one, we haven't noticed the colouring of the bird we saw.


Small Dark Stranger

Here is my "Ten Cents' worth"..

It looked darker than the photoshopped image here, which I lightened to bring out the detail. I agree with others that it is likely to be a dark race of Black-winged Cuckoo Shrike.



Thanks to Hey & Chiu for posting photos & a sound recording of this intriguing bird.

It was certainly a very small & slim Cuckooshrike, with blackish upperparts & a narrowish pale rump band which contrasted very strongly when the bird was in flight, and a strange call or song. This was a simple 3-note phrase frequently & without variation for 1-2 hours (as on on Hey's sound recording).

I want to comment especially on voice. I don't recall hearing Black-winged Cuckooshrike vocalising in Hong Kong either on passage or in winter, but I have heard  & recorded on MD one singing in late April at Ba Bao Shan, northern Guangdong, presumably on territory. I don't know how to transfer an MD recording to computer, so here's a verbal description. The main phrase is a fairly loud, rather high-pitched and clearly-separated 2-note whistle "gee-heu", uttered once or repeated 3-4 times. When repeated in a series, each phrase descends in pitch. Also, there is sometimes an introductory phrase - a faster & slightly quieter 3-note "Whi-hi-hi" which preceeds the main phrase, so the whole song is "Whi-hi-hi ... gee-heu ... gee-heu ... gee-heu... gee-heu", which is very different from the Po Toi bird.

Robson's (2009) description of voice of Black-winged Cuckooshrike, whilst matching the Ba Bao Shan bird, does not sound anything like the Po Toi bird: "Series of 3-4 clear, well-spaced, high-pitched whistles: "wii-wii-jeeu-jeeu", "wi'i-wii-wii-jeu", and "witi-jeeu-jeeu-jeeu" etc; slower & more measured than Indochinese (Cuckooshrike)".

So, size, upperpart appearance & voice of the Po Toi bird all seem wrong for Black-winged Cuchooshrike!


Quick reply: voice as heard fits the description for Black-winged in HBW with "three or more high-pitched, descending, downslurred whistles" (though as I too recall from Ba Bao Shan, birds there do sing differently from this) and the dark saturata form from Hainan/Vietnam is said to be smaller.

Since nobody else is here to do so, can I just say that this bird had some feather damage (in the primaries, as seen in the photo) and some slight dishevelment in the upper parts, where, somewhere in the scapulars region or thereabouts. one feather seemed to be standing proud. There also seems to be some damage to an outer tail feather, and the possibility that it was simply missing some rump feathers might explain why it seemed to have a white rump band.

I therefore believe this is a Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, probably of the form saturata from N Vietnam + Hainan (where maybe a short-distance migrant), with some question marks about how precisely it arrived here.

Mike Turnbull


I've just got back from China (working unfortunately not birding) so missed the controversy. However I agree with Mike T that feather damage points strongly to this bird being an escape. No small passerines should be undergoing primary moult at this time of year and a moulting passerine would not be migrating. Also, if it is the Vietnam/Hainan race of Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike (which seems quite likely) I doubt that it should be a (late) migrant; more likely a resident. So, an interesting bird but, even if identity is proven I suspect that it is heading to Cat E.

Mike Leven


Recordings of Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike can be found on xeno-canto Asia ... racina+melaschistos

These fit fairly well with the recording of the Po Toi bird: a descending sequence of three clear notes. It also fits with the descriptions of the call I have seen (including, in my opinion, the Robson description). I have not heard the species in China (or anywhere!) so cannot comment on Richard's recording.

As seems to be general opinion, I think the bird must be Black-winged Cuckooshrike, probably either the SE Asian (saturata) or Indian (melaschistos) subspecies, which are apparently both dark. Like the two Mikes, I think there is evidence of feather damage (an obvious missing primary, probably also damage to the tail and body feathers) which must cast doubt on the origin of the bird.


Have there been any records of cuckoo-shrikes in the bird markets?  It is not a bird I have seen in the local bird trade.  Is it implausible for a bird to arrive on Po Toi via a ship? There are certainly plenty passing.  I imagine a few days at sea would roughen a bird's plumage... what category would it fit into then?


Second Week in May

Two weeks ago the weather, strong easterly winds and rain, created an influx of species on Po Toi. This week was exactly the opposite. Light winds and clear skies are the conditions for a big drop in numbers as birds leave and none arrive to replace them.

This chart of species numbers from 23rd April through to yesterday show both the influx and the drop. Actual species numbers are compared with the number I would expect to see at this date under normal weather conditions.

Many birds left on Sunday night – the Malayan Night Heron, the unusual Cuckoo-shrike and also a Blue Magpie (first record for Po Toi), none of which I saw this week. The only land birds of note – a Dollarbird on Wednesday, 2 Chinese Goshawks and a late Dusky Warbler on Thursday.

At least this week there were sea birds to find. The second week in May is Short-tailed Shearwater week on Po Toi. Over 60% of all records for the last 3 years have occurred in the second week of May, and I saw 17 birds this week although none on Thursday which was a real disappointment. I estimate from my records that between 50 and 100 of these birds pass through Po Toi waters each spring.
Also migrating were terns, mostly White-winged and Aleutian with good numbers of Greater Crested and Bridled plus a few Arctic Skuas and a single distant Frigatebird which looks like another Lesser from the photo and size.

Here photos of a Short-tailed Shearwater, about as close as they come from Po Toi, an Aleutian Tern with their long scythe-shaped wings and a pair of formation-flying Greater Crested Terns, the Frigatebird and two unexpected vsitiors – a 4 foot Rat Snake which shared my sea-watching position for an evening, and a long distance view of one from a large group of Dolphins – species?

If it really does rain heavily on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, there should be bitterns and small herons on Po Toi for a few days afterwards.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 15/12/2009 05:51 ]


Third Week in May

I am not able to visit Po Toi this week. I hope to go back on Sunday for the last week of spring.

I hope anyone visiting on Thursday or this weekend will report their findings. Although there has not been as much rain as forecast, there may still be some bitterns or other late migrants around.


Is there any chance we can split this topic, say by month.  It now seems to take an age before the page fully loads, and photos from the first week of March are 'old news' by now!


Sure we can split the post.
Geoff, do you mind splitting the post into 3 posts (Mar, Apr and May)?


Original posted by lpaul at 22/05/2009 14:14
Is there any chance we can split this topic, say by month.  It now seems to take an age before the page fully loads, and photos from the first week of March are 'old news' by now!
i've set my forum view to 10 replies per page, so that i can read long posts more comfortably. You may try.


I agree - split it at least by month.


I'm sorry for the late action.
The post is now split into 3 sub-posts - March, April and May.
Please kindly let me know if the splitting is wrong.
Thank you very much!


Fourth Week in May

I went to Po Toi early on Sunday expecting to find a fall of bitterns and other species after the rain of the previous days, similar to the third week in May in 2007 and 2008.
But nothing there - no bitterns, and only a very few other migrants.

Why? Three possibilities are
1. The weather system was not quite the same
2. It was a few days later than in 2007 and 2008
3. The first half of May was quite different this year, the weather being very good for birds to migrate and most of the birds have already passed through overflying Po Toi altogether because the weather was too good

My conclusion is that it was mostly 3.
From Birdline reports and my own observations, bittern migration was earlier this year, at least for Black and Schrenck's Bittern although I didn't hear many reports of Yellow Bittern and I'm still surprised to see only one Yellow Bittern this week.

I also saw two Red Turtle Doves and a Dollarbird on Sunday, a Striated Heron, two Himalayan Swiftlets and an Arctic Warbler on Monday and two Brown Shrikes on Tuesday. But nothing like the numbers and variety of migrants seen in late May in 2007 and 2008, which supports the conclusion that almost all migrants passed through earlier in May this year.

Here photos of the Striated Heron coming in off the sea, the Yellow Bittern and one of the Himalayan Swiftlets (more photos elsewhere).


Seabird migration has also slowed. Still a few Short-tailed Shearwaters passing through, together with a few of the late migrant tern species, White-winged, Common and Aleutian.
Bridled and Black-naped are now regular around Po Toi, although I have yet to see any Roseate.

Photos of one of the Short-tailed Shearwaters showing the dark cap and pale underwing that many of them have, and a Bridled Tern

This is my last report from Spring 2009 on Po Toi. It was not a vintage year but always with some interest. I will produce a summary next week.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 15/12/2009 05:52 ]


Spring Summary

Another spring come and gone – my fourth on Po Toi.

Not the best, in fact, probably the worst, slightly behind 2008 with 2006 and 2007 some way ahead. But still plenty of interesting events.

Some statistics for 2009 vs 2008 and 2007

March and April were about average but May was poor, which shows in the low numbers of late migrants like Yellow Bittern, Yellow Wagtail, Brown Shrike, Arctic Warbler and Grey-streaked Flycatcher. The biggest influxes were all in late March and April, with March 30th to April 1st and April 27th to 28th being the best periods.

Now my selection of the 12 best birds of spring. In order of appearance, Red-breasted Merganser (flock of 11 on 14th March), Red-breasted Flycatcher (a male on 26th March), Green-backed Flycatcher (first seen by PWMK on 29th March), Lesser Frigatebird (31st March, one of three during the spring), Orange-headed Thrush (a male on 1st April, first since 2005), White-throated Needletail (a photogenic bird on 16th April), Forest Wagtail (first ever spring record on 22nd April), Yellow-browed Bunting (27th April, one of three during the spring), Blue-winged Pitta (first seen on 28th April and the only photograph of this difficult-to-find bird), Malayan Night Heron (5th May to 10th May), Swinhoe’s Minivet (a male on 5th May) and Himalayan Swiftlet (two on 25th May).

But surely the event of spring has to go to an honorary bird, the Humpback Whale, first found by the Water Police on 15th March and unexpectedly seen from the Po Toi Ferry on 17th March, and a first record for Hong Kong

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 15/12/2009 05:54 ]


An interesting summary Geoff.

Agree that the Humpback Whale takes the top prize.

Its also interesting to have a few years of data and to begin to discern some patterns. I guess what May really lacked was rain - even though late NE wind should have been dropping lots on us!

Still there were still some pretty god birds - a BW Pitta would be a mind blower anywhere else!


Mike K
Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee


Thanks Mike.

The first three weeks in May had very little rain and mainly clear skies - perfect weather for migration, and the birds made best use of it. When the heavy rain did arrive, on 26th May, it was too late. So I guess we should be pleased, for the birds sake.

I am told that the Green-backed Flycatcher was first found by Ms Helen Chan, so correction to the above.