Po Toi Spring 2010 - April

Po Toi Spring 2010 - April

First Week in April

The cold front this week seemed to come through in two stages. The first, last Friday, was a mild affair but still produced a very good selection of species for the Easter holiday as well as some good weather in which to watch them. The second, which arrived early on Wednesday morning, was a quite different affair. A stonking force 6 NE wind with horizontal rain which barely stopped until mid-day on Thursday.

I arrived late on Tuesday to avoid the crowds of day-trippers and Ching Ming celebrants and had the island to myself on Wednesday and early Thursday – except, of course, for the birds, which kept arriving throughout. I’m still amazed that small birds can manage to fly through such terrible conditions but from first light on Wednesday morning, as I sipped my tea wondering whether I could possibly venture out with three layers of clothing, rain gear and an umbrella, I could see egrets flying into Po Toi harbour directly into the wind and rain, desperate to make the sheltering trees. Much smaller birds as well, although I couldn’t see them, but by the middle of the next day I’d seen the following new species which must have arrived during the period – Little and Cattle Egret, Pond and Night Heron, Osprey, Grey-faced Buzzard, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Oriental Pratincole, Oriental Turtle Dove, Dollarbird, Yellow Wagtail, Red-throated Pipit, Brown Shrike, Eyebrowed Thrush, Greenish Warbler, Mugimaki and Blue-and-white Flycatchers, Little and Black-faced Buntings, Black-naped Oriole and Black Drongo. I managed the top species count of the year so far on both days, with some of the highest ever species counts on Po Toi, in spite of the weather.

Some of the birds I saw as they were arriving, some just after they had arrived. Many in unusual places, Grey-faced Buzzard in grassland, Japanese Sparrowhawk on the south coast rocks, a pair of Greenish Warblers in the lighthouse gully. This is what makes Po Toi so exciting – the weather/bird combination, and never knowing what you may see around the next corner. It’s my weekly drug.
And throughout Thursday morning, Grey-faced Buzzards were flying overhead coming up from the south in small groups after having reached land earlier maybe on Wednesday on the Dangan Islands. I counted 34 passing over Po Toi but as the weather cleared on Thursday and you could see long distances, I could see Buzzards in small groups way out over the sea, many missing Po Toi altogether and heading for Lamma and Hong Kong Island.

Not a week for photographs. Anyway my camera gave up under the conditions so here are just a few poor efforts which I did manage – the Japanese Sparrowhawk on the south coast rocks, one of two female Mugimaki Flycatchers which suddenly appeared together with a male Narcissus and a male Blue-and-white all in the same small tree which only 30 minutes earlier had nothing, and an obviously newly arrived Dollarbird looking cold, wet and thoroughly fed-up

Not a week for sea-watching either, but when I did reach the south point on Thursday morning I found five Great Crested Terns and a Little Tern fishing off the point – a regular feature of very strong NE winds on Po Toi

Another cold front in the middle of next week – just in time to dry out from this one.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 9/04/2010 09:11 ]


The most interesting thread in peak season. It derseves a place in "Hot Topic", as previously suggested.
Can it been arranged?



Thanks Geoff for the wonderful report.
The following birds were seen on 8Apr10:
Ferruginous Flycatcher x1
Narcissus Flycatcher x2
Japanese Yellow Bunting x1 (female)
Ashy Minivet >10
Black-naped Oriole
Yellow-throated Bunting x2
Asian Brown Flycatcher x3
Japanese Sparrowhawk x1 (by Chiu)
Pacific Swift >10



Thanks everybody but it's Po Toi and the birds which make it such an interesting story.

Japanese Yellow Bunting - I didn't see that, congratulations.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 9/04/2010 18:47 ]



Highlight of today
yellow-throated bunting
Black-faced bunting
Yellow-rumped flycatcher(immature male or female)
Ferruginous flycatcher
Asian brown flycatcher
Japanese paradise flycatcher (two male)
Black-winged cuckoo-shrike
Blue rock thrush (pandoo)
Two kinds of falcon, one is Peregrine falcon and another one is not confimed but bigger than peregrine...
It is not denied that these two are male and femal peregrine.
Chinese goshawk
Grey-faced buzzard
And the lovely Dollarbird

[ Last edited by fatchun at 11/04/2010 21:33 ]


Second Week in April

Another week full of interest with the amazing climax of 1440 Chinese Goshawks on Thursday morning (see elsewhere).

I thought it would be a case of ‘wait for the cold front to come through’ but buntings provided some interest in the early part of the week – a pair and then a single male Yellow-browed, a single Tristram’s with it's wonderful moustache and a small invasion of 9 Little Buntings with a few Black-faced. Here photos of them all in that order

The arrival of the cold front at about 4.30pm on Tuesday was quite dramatic. It was warm and sunny as I was sea-watching at the south point when I heard the twittering of swifts overhead. Looking up, I saw a flock of about 30 House Swifts directly over me. I stood up to watch them and then saw the cold front coming in, a dark mass of low cloud approaching fast from the north east. I quickly abandoned looking at the swifts and packed my gear to leave before what I assumed was the approaching rain. Actually there was no rain but the cold air hit like a wall and with the swirling cold air, a pair of Grey-faced Buzzards. This is only the second time I have ever seen migrants actually on the frontal line, the first being a Brown Hawk Owl on 3rd April 2007. It seems the Buzzards chose to stay with the front, I don’t know why, I think they could have easily flown into the wind and landed on Po Toi if they wanted. But they passed over, heading in the direction of the southern Dangan Islands. I hope they stopped there, because if they didn’t the next land was back to the Philippines which they had no doubt left many hours before.  

Swifts with the cold front are very interesting. I wonder where they had come from? - they are not Po Toi residents. I read somewhere that swifts will often travel hundreds of miles in front of bad weather, feeding off the insects which swarm just in front of the weather system. Maybe these birds had come from Nanjing. Or maybe they had just come from Sheung Shui. It would be nice to know.     

The cold front produced many new species for the spring (for me), but not all the expected ones. Grey-headed Lapwing, Himalayan Swiftlet and Savannah Nightjar were not expected, Brown Hawk Owl and Grey-streaked Flycatcher were, but surprisingly no other flycatchers. Here the swiftlet with a last-gasp photo of the nightjar before it disappeared (Black Kite in the background) and the first of no doubt many Grey-streaked Flycatchers.

Highlight of the week was obviously the passage of 1440 Chinese Goshawks in two hours on Thursday morning, an event witnessed also by the Thursday ferry group. Photos and a video (thanks to Neil) appear elsewhere. With the Goshawks were 9 Grey-faced Buzzards and at least 30 Pacific Swifts.

Sea-watching this spring so far has been beset by low visibility and fog. Also this week, but I did manage a single flock of 4 Arctic Skuas on Sunday, 3 Long-tailed on Monday with Great Crested Terns every day with a maximum of 9 on Tuesday and the first Aleutian Terns on Thursday. Also many fly-by waders including this group which I think is 3 Ruddy Turnstones and a single Red Knot and Red-necked Stint – but I leave you to decide which is which

For the first time in several years, the Government is doing something useful with the Budget Bonus - they are constructing a water tank near the demolished house. This is intended as a reserve supply to ensure the island does not run out of water in the dry season (which is now). A good idea, let’s hope it works.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 16/04/2010 06:58 ]


Third Week in April

A short week this week, Tuesday to Thursday, I’m now sure the birds which should be arriving today (Friday) after yesterday's rain will be well covered by others this weekend.

South winds usually mean low migrant land bird species counts on Po Toi as birds depart on their northerly migration and this week was no exception. I averaged 27 species per day this week versus 40 last week, a quite typical result. A few Chinese Goshawks are still around, I’ve now managed to see the Common Moorhen which seems settled in the lagoon, the first Indian Cuckoos of the year, a single Eyebrowed Thrush and female Narcissus Flycatcher on Tuesday, a single Oriental Cuckoo on Wednesday and two Red-rumped Swallows on Thursday. So only a few images to show, here the Narcissus Flycatcher, a male Blue Rock Thrush and one of two Blue Magpies which are now very audible on the island.

One of the privileges of staying on Po Toi is to see birds on or starting their migration. The Eyebrowed Thrush, which we all first saw sitting on top of the tall tree as the Ferry arrived, left at dusk that evening flying across the harbour calling, and on Wednesday evening, after an hour calling from the top of a tall tree, Mr Big, the Grey Heron, set off with a round tour of the harbour before heading off in a north east direction. Au revoir, see you in October.

I spent much of the week sea-watching. Here is the list of species seen in a total of nine hours watching

Shearwaters, Streaked (1), Short-tailed (3), Sooty? (1)
Skuas, Pomarine (7 in one flock), Long-tailed (10)
Gulls, Heuglin’s (1), Black-tailed (3)
Terns, Gull-billed (27), Common (29), Black-naped (8), Aleutian (10), Bridled (2), Little (3), Greater Crested (82)
Ancient Murrelet (1)
Waders, Red-necked Phalarope (225), Oriental Pratincole (1), Greater Sand Plover (7), Curlew (11)

So, the migration of shearwaters has started and should be with us for another five weeks, something to look forward to. More terns also, the Greater Crested were passing in fairly continuous small flocks of up to four birds. I guess with these numbers, Chinese Crested is possible, but not for me from the land, I think this is a bird for the boat watchers to look out for.

Here some photos of Short-tailed Shearwater, Long-tailed Skua, Black-tailed Gull, Gull-billed and Greater Crested Tern, Oriental Pratincole and Greater Sand Plover. Photos of the possible Sooty Shearwater appear elsewhere. As you can see, they don’t often come too close to land but a telescope helps

I’m thinking this should be a good weekend, particularly for the HKBWS Boat on Sunday

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 23/04/2010 17:51 ]


Fourth Week in April

Should I be disappointed in a week which brought seven species of flycatcher and four species of leaf warbler? Probably not, but the fourth week of April is usually a special week on Po Toi, with a good variety of species, a fall of Brown Shrikes and a biggy like Blue-winged Pitta.

But not this year. Only 54 land bird species, no falls or biggies. As usual in spring, the weather can make or break and this year there was no weather system to bring in the birds (until one hour before the Ferry left on Thursday, of course). Maybe next week will be better.

Seven species of flycatcher? – Asian Brown, Grey-streaked, Ferruginous, Narcissus (male), Mugimaki (female), Red-throated (male), Japanese Paradise (female). Nothing really special, and I missed getting photos of the best, the male Red-throated and Narcissus, both in full breeding plumage, as well as the Japanese Paradise. So here just the two Ferruginous and the Mugimaki. The second Ferruginous had lost its right eye, so was christened ‘one-eyed Jack’ by the photographers

And the leaf warblers – Dusky and Yellow-browed, a few of both still left, now many Arctic with two Pale-legged, here a photo of the Pale-legged

Other special birds? Well, I liked the Hill Myna, a first record for Po Toi and not seen after Monday, and also two Chestnut Buntings

The sea was better. I was lucky to be in the right place to see the Greater Frigatebird from the Stanley to Po Toi Ferry on Sunday afternoon, and then an Ancient Murrelet spent from Sunday evening to Wednesday fishing off the South Point

I think this bird may have some wing feather problems.

Many fewer terns this week, only ten Great Crested with a few Gull-billed, Common, Aleutian and Black-naped, and also five Long-tailed Skuas. Here a Great Crested, Aleutian and a pair of Long-tailed Skuas

But numbers of Short-tailed Shearwaters are building, eight this week, here photos of a pair and three other all different birds

Past records suggest that the peak daily numbers will be around 15th May – any boat trips scheduled for that weekend?

Next week is Festival Week on Po Toi, Chinese Opera, Dragon Boat Racing on Wednesday (I think), crowds of people but also a special Ferry Service all week – see posting elsewhere for details

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 30/04/2010 06:45 ]


A rather quiet day on the island, but the Great Crested Tern viewed from the ferry made my day!!

Great Crested Tern x1 ferry
Far Eastern Curlew x8 ferry
Red-necked Phalarope x1 ferry
White-bellied Sea Eagle ferry
Indian Cuckoo heard
Chestnut-winged Cuckoo heard
Common Kingfisher x1
House Swift
Pacific Swift x6 ferry
Barn Swallow
Grey Wagtail x6
White Wagtail x2
Brown Shrike x6
Dusky Warbler
Yellow-browed Warbler x1
Arctic Warbler x2
Pale-lagged Leaf Warbler x2
Asian Brown Flycatcher x2
Grey-Streaked Flycatcher x3
Ferruginous Flycatcher x1
Hari-crested Drongo x2
White-shouldered Starling x3
As The Crow Flies- a Hong Kong Birding Blog