Po Toi 蒲苔 Autumn 秋 2007

Po Toi 蒲苔 Autumn 秋 2007

Only visited two days this week, Saturday and today (Thursday). So I missed the Drongo Cuckoo on Sunday (see other posting under Po Toi).

New autumn migrants this week included Striated Heron, Crested Goshawk, Green Sandpiper (being chased by a Peregrine), Common Snipe, Pacific Swift, Yellow and Grey Wagtails. A disappointing week for flycatchers, although this may be because I did not stay overnight. Only a photo of the Crested Goshawk and a Pacific Swift

The S Peninsular has been invaded by grassland prinias and cisticolas, just like September last year. Here a photo of a Plain Prinia in flight, a Zitting Cisticola on a rock and one of what I believe are a pair of Bright-capped Cisticolas, a poor long-range photo but it does show the longish rounded tail, mid-way in size between Zitting and Plain Prinia, and the plain head pattern different to both Zitting and Plain Prinia.

6 Aleutian Terns were seen from the ferry just south of Po Toi today.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:03 ]


Geoff, add 2 Black-naped Oriole for last Sat.


Thanks Owen. First for Po Toi this autumn.

I keep details of all interesting Po Toi records, whether mine or others. If anyone has records of interest from Po Toi, past or in the future, please send me the details by message.

I managed to get better photos of the Bright-capped Cisticola on Po Toi today (Saturday 8th September)

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:03 ]


Second Week in September

Only three one-day visits this week so I will include other observers records in this week's list. Also no photos.
No repeat this year of last year's strong north winds which brought in the Tiger Shrikes. Interesting migrants seen this week include

Yellow Bittern and migrant Cattle Egrets and Pond Heron
Chinese Goshawk, Japanese Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Eurasian Hobby
Red Turtle Dove
Dollarbird, Hoopoe
Wryneck (PWMK)
Black-winged Cuckoo-shrike, up to 4 Brown Shrikes daily
Blue Rock Thrush, the first of autumn
Oriental Reed Warbler, Zitting and Bright-capped Cisticolas and Plain Prinia, all on the South Peninsular
Arctic and Pale-legged Leaf Warblers
Grey-streaked, Dark-sided, Asian Brown and Yellow-rumped Flycatchers
Yellow-breasted Bunting (PWMK)
The first White-shouldered Starlings of autumn
Black-naped Oriole

Only one photo this week - the latest and youngest member of HKBWS, Thomas Welch

This autumn migrant arrived on Thursday and weighed in at 3.1kg. No doubt you will see him on Po Toi soon.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:04 ]


Hi Geoff,

haha....Thomas is the most most special migrant this year, excellent record.          



Dear Geoff
Wonderful news!
Many congratulations

Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee


Hi Geoff

Welcome our newest member !





Third week in September

Firstly, my thanks to all those who have sent me their congratulations on the arrival of Thomas. Very much appreciated.
I am also now able to spend some more time on Po Toi, this is my compensation for being demoted to first runner-up in the family hierarchy.

"Gone a bit quiet" was Richard's comment on Birdline Friday evening, and it certainly had on Po Toi by Saturday. The NE winds encouraged most of the migrants to leave without bring in anything to replace them. These may be the last photos of the long-staying Hoopoe, first year Dark-sided Flycatcher and Yellow-fronted Canary, none of which I saw after Thursday.

Most of the migrants seen on Po Toi in autumn are first year birds, so it's quite rare to see adults in pairs. Here are three pairs from this week, Red Turtle Dove (sharing a tree and a photo with a Black-naped Oriole), Blue Rock Thrush and Forest Wagtail

The male Red Turtle Dove is the first I can remember seeing on Po Toi. I guess the Forest Wagtails are a pair, but can anyone tell which is male and which female? They were only one day birds, just like all previous Forest Wagtails I have seen on Po Toi.

The South Peninsular grasslands are providing some good birds at the moment, although you have to wander around and I probably only see a small proportion of the birds hiding in the long grass. Plain Prinia, Zitting and Bright-capped Cisticola are still there but now very difficult to see, not coming out into the open as they did when they first arrived. So I have to include some earlier photos, but also a Stonechat which has just arrived to join them.

Also hiding in the grass have been Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler (seen twice), Oriental Reed Warbler and Dusky Warbler, and goodness knows what else I haven't seen.

One word of warning, for those wandering over these grasslands. There are several deep holes scattered around, often with water and well hidden by the long grass. These are either collapsed gravesites or waterholes dug by the earlier inhabitants, you can see the outlines of their houses in various places.

Seeing land birds on migration is a feature of autumn on Po Toi. These birds are often flying into Po Toi from the direction of Dangan Island about 1 hour after dawn. I guess they have overshot on their previous night's migration and are heading back to land. Surprise of the week in this category was a Paradise Flycatcher, Japanese I think, which flew in off the sea on Friday morning.

Finally, two raptors. First, one adult of at least 4 White-bellied Sea Eagles to be seen around Po Toi at the moment - 2 adults and 2 immatures. Second, what I think is a juvenile Besra which flew around just as the ferry arrived on Saturday morning. Besra seem to migrate through Po Toi at about this time in autumn.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:07 ]


Last Week in September

3am. The only quiet time in the house at the moment.

An interesting week on Po Toi, with some good birds but you had to work very hard.
Features of the week were the Grey-streaked Flycatchers, at least 4 on some days. Surprise of the week was the Common Rosefinch on Friday, which I did mistake for a Grey-streaked Flycatcher at first. Can you see which one is the real Grey-streaked Flycatcher?

New birds for this week were an Asian Paradise Flycatcher, present all week, an Oriental Cuckoo on Tuesday (together with a Large Hawk Cuckoo - see photo elsewhere), a Purple-backed Starling which hung out with the White-shouldered Starlings on Thursday and Friday, the Oriental Honey Buzzard? also on Thursday (see other photos elsewhere), a superb adult Brown Shrike of the race cristatus (I think), which flew into the south peninsular early on Friday morning and looked so much smarter than the dull first year birds, and finally an Ashy Drongo on Saturday.

Also seen but not photographed were Pechora Pipits, up to 3 daily on the south peninsular grasslands, a Russet Bush Warbler also in this area and a Himalayan Swiftlet seen flying over the same area and straight out to sea early on Friday morning.

Finally, this pigeon taking a well-earned rest on the south coast rocks

is a Taiwan Racing Pigeon - I know because the leg rings match those of several dead birds I found last year. Pigeon racing is a national sport and betting craze in Taiwan. According to the internet, over 100,000 pigeons start a series of 10 races annually to decide the national champion. By the end of the last race, there are usually less than 10 birds surviving. Some of them go to the Po Toi Peregrines for lunch, and I fear this bird may also suffer the same fate.

I am off next week so my next report will be week 2 in October. But please make postings here of any birds seen on Po Toi.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:09 ]


Some species reported, they were seen on 30 Sep 07:

Common Rosefinch x 2
Yellow-browed Warbler x 1
Hobby x 1 (By other)



Blue-and-white Flycatcher (First Winter) 白腹藍姬鶲 x 1
Black-winged Stilt 黑翅長腳鷸 x 1


Second Week in October

I made only two one-day visits this week, but thanks to everyone who updated me on their birds seen on Po Toi over the last two weeks.

No excuses needed to repeat Ah Leung's photo of the magnificent female Purple Cochoa from last Thursday. Another first for Po Toi (I think) last Saturday and more likely to be accepted as a wild bird was a short staying Common Teal, photo thanks to PWMK.

Raptors pass through Po Toi in October, this week a Crested Goshawk last Thursday, Common Buzzard (PWMK photo) on Saturday and Sunday and an Amur Falcon on Sunday

Three species of 'brown' flycatchers in one tree on Sunday gave good comparisons between the species, Asian Brown, Dark-sided and Grey-streaked

Other species seen but no photos include Chinese Goshawk, Eurasian Woodcock, Greenish Warbler and Little Bunting, mostly first records for autumn.

Many species appear to be a week or more later arriving this year than last. Maybe related to the fact that the weather in September and October so far has been a few degrees warmer than last year, with no cold north winds.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:11 ]


Third Week in October

A good week this week, with lots of birds around - one of my best ever weeks for species count. It's a few degrees cooler this week than last.

Autumn is the best time to see visible migration on Po Toi, the best location is the South Peninsular lighthouse in the first two hours after dawn.
Late October is the time for pipits to come in, this week four species, mostly Richard's and Olive-backed with a few Red-throated and three Pechora. Also this Pacific Swift.

This year an added bonus to the species list has been the newly formed grasslands on the South Peninsular following the Ching Ming fire which destroyed most of the heavy vegetation and allowed the grass to flourish. This week, as well as the usual Zitting and Bright-capped Cisticolas and Plain Prinias, I had Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, Lanceolated Warbler, Black-browed Reed Warbler (very rare on Po Toi, perhaps only the second ever record) and another warbler with the shape, size and colour of a Blunt-winged Warbler.
Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to photograph these birds unless you have a camera mounted on your head, something I have thought about trying. They just scuttle from one patch of grassland to another. The worst scuttlers are the Lanceolated Warblers, they are more like mice than birds.

Leaf Warblers are another ID problem at this time of year, when they seem reluctant to call. Here two photos of a Two-barred Greenish Warbler, which did call, and I think a 'Two-barred' Arctic Warbler, which didn't call. The Greenish (a pair) sounded like a Great Tit to me, which is why I was attracted to them - Great Tits are rarer on Po Toi than Greenish Warblers.

Note the black legs of the Greenish, the clean white underparts and the different shaped supercilium compared to the Arctic.

Also arriving this week were buntings, here a Little, Yellow-browed and Chestnut Bunting (just)

Sometimes it's as interesting what you don't see as what you do. In October on Po Toi, I don't see Barn Swallow or Japanese White-eye.
The autumn migration of Barn Swallows finishes by the end of September and from there on, except for a few in November, I don't see any more until spring migration starts in February.
A few Japanese White-eye summer on Po Toi but these leave in September and the wintering birds don't arrive until November - which lends support to the suggestion in Avifauna that the summer and winter populations of Japanese White-eye in Hong Kong are different.

My report this week is almost as long as my bird list.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:13 ]


Your three phylloscs are all Greenish.


Thanks Paul.

It would be helpful to have some comment on the third warbler.

I was going on the pale legs, dark shadow towards the end of the lower mandible, even width of the supercilium and the grey underparts.


The legs do look rather pale, but that is partly because you are looking at the rear of the legs (especially the right leg) which is paler than the rest of the leg.  There is dark tip to the lower mandible, but that it diffuse and within the range shown by Greenish Warbler.  

The supercilium is broadens in fornt of the eye (typically of even width on Arctic W) and (almost?) reaches the base of the bill (you have to zoom in to see this) whereas on Arctic it ends obviously short of the bill.  The lores are rather diffusely marked (more obvioulsy dark on Arctic).

The bill is heavy looking due to the fact that it tapers near the tip (making it look thicker) whereas on Arctic there is a relatively even taper making the bill look finer.  The head is rather rounded with a steep forehead compared to the longer, more gently sloping forehead of Arctic.

The greater covert wing bars are very broad (too broad for Arctic) and obviously extend onto the inner web of the feather whereas on Arctic W the wing bar is typically formed by pale tips to the outer webs only.  Likewise the median covert wingbar in well marked.

Structurally the bird appears rather short winged and long tailed (Arctic looks long winged and short tailed) and the primary projection is obviously short being shorter than the tertials whereas the primary projection on Arctic Warbler is about equal to the length of the tertials.

The first primary is clearly longer than the primary coverts (always shorter than primary coverts in Arctic).

One thing I can't quite make out but may be apparent on other pictures is whether the sixth primary is emarginated or not - on Arctic it isn't and Greenish it is.


Thanks Paul. Can't wait for your field guide.

I'm not quite sure what an emarginated primary looks like but here is a rear view of the bird, plus a full sized version of its head.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:14 ]


Fourth Week in October

Autumn is a time of coming and going, this week saw the departure of the early species and the arrival of some of the later ones.

All the Black Drongo's left over the weekend, to be replaced by Hair-crested Drongos, a much less aggressive and more pleasant species.
Large flocks of migrant Chinese Bulbuls have descended on the island, outnumbering the local birds by at least ten to one.
The first chats and thrushes started arriving as the Orioles and Dollarbirds left, Siberian Rubythroats calling from the scrubby hillsides, a superb male Daurian Redstart on Thursday, and as last year, Blackbirds and Scaly Thrush were the first thrushes.

Arctic Warblers have been replaced by Yellow-browed with one very early Pallas's Leaf Warbler.
Dark-sided and Grey-streaked Flycatchers have given way to Blue-and-white and Mugimaki, together with my first Black-naped Monarch on Po Toi. Here first year male Blue-and-white and Mugimaki Flycatchers with the male Monarch

On the South Peninsular grasslands, grassland warblers have been replaced by buntings, here and all over the island, with a single Japanese Quail on Wednesday.
Photos of Black-faced, Yellow-breasted and Chestnut Buntings

Some odd birds turn up at this time of the year, this week a Fork-tailed Sunbird, a Yellow-billed Grosbeak and a Mountain Tailorbird (no photo - yet) with the first of the Red-billed Starlings which pass through in numbers in November

Finally, I can't resist adding a photo of the Hoopoe that has now been around for two weeks

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:17 ]


Geoff, the extra photo confirms the presence of an emarginated 6th primary which is diagnostic of Greenish Warbler and is never shown by Arctic.

An emargination is essentially the tapering on the outer web of a primary feather (the equivilent on the inner web is called a notch).  On your Greenish Warbler photo these can be seen on five primaries and as the first primary is very short, these are the 2nd to 6th primaries.

BTW, I think your photos of an Amur are in fact a juvenile (northern type) Peregrine (note the very dark underwing and upperparts, extensively streaked brown - not black - underparts and overall impressive of a heavy, rather bulky bird).


Thanks Paul, I have deleted the photos.


Intermediate Week, October to November

A quiet week on Po Toi, with very few new birds arriving. I am hoping the colder weather with north winds will bring in some new migrants for next week.

Quite a surprise to see this Common Teal walking up the path towards the lighthouse on the South Peninsular early on Wednesday morning. It could fly quite well, but seemed to prefer walking, I guess there is something wrong with it. This may be the same bird as photographed on the lagoon on 14th October - where has it been since then? Maybe it walked all the way.

I managed to get a reasonable shot of the Mountain Tailorbird this week. Also the Grey-headed Flycatcher which arrived over the weekend.

The Grey-headed Flycatcher is probably the same bird which spent all last winter on Po Toi - it seemed to know its way around.

Another new flycatcher this week, and the only other flycatcher I could find on the island, was a Red-throated Flycatcher in the same bush as the Red-breasted? last April. This gave me the chance to compare these two birds. Firstly the photos, the first bird is the Red-throated from this week and the second is the Red-breasted? from last April

The Red-throated has much colder grey-brown tones around the head and on the breast, also an all dark bill and a more clearly defined throat pattern.

I also managed to record its voice and compare with the Red-breasted? Here is a recording with one call from the Red-throated recorded on Wednesday followed by one from the Red-breasted? recorded last April. Firstly a sonogram of this recording

The difference is clear, the Red-throated has a much faster pulse rate of clicking than the Red-breasted?, making it sound like a buzzing noise rather than the slower rattle of the Red-breasted? in which you can clearly hear each click. These sonograms match very well the available commercial recordings for these two species.

I don't know if this will work, but here is a sound file of the recording if you can download it

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:19 ]


First week in November

A very good week following the north winds at the end of last week. A good selection of new birds with some of the old favourites like Hoopoe and Mountain Tailrbird still there. One surprising departure seems to be the Grey-headed Flycatcher.

An immature Bonelli's Eagle on Tuesday is almost exactly the same date as a similar bird last year. However, this bird appears to have had a tangle with a bird or animal trap and was carrying what seems to be part of the trap hanging from its leg.

Also new for autumn, a Grey Heron seen to fly in off the sea and later in the harbour on Monday, Red-flanked Bluetail from at least Sunday and two White-cheeked Starlings on Sunday.

At least one, possibly two different Golden-spectacled type Warblers on Monday and Tuesday, together with one of the two Siskins to be seen on Saturday and Sunday

New flycatchers were this juvenile Verditer on Monday, a brilliant male Narcissus on Tuesday (and apparently a female on Thursday)

Finally, the time of the year to start peering into bushes after thrushes has arrived. Here a male Japanese Thrush from Sunday, one of the two now resident Scaly Thrushes and a flock of over 500 of the migrant Chinese Bulbuls now invading the island

Two birds I wish I had seen but missed were the Brambling on Saturday (photo thanks to PWMK) and a Japanese Yellow Bunting on Sunday photographed by Ah Leung, a first ever autumn record for Hong Kong I think.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:38 ]


Second Week in November

A better week than expected this week, some quality birds.

Bird of the week was the first winter Red-breasted Flycatcher on Saturday and Sunday. No excuses for showing the two excellent photos by Owen, firstly the Red-breasted on Sunday and secondly the Red-throated from October. These show the differences very clearly (for details, see Bird Id Section).

My favourite bird was the Eastern Marsh Harrier which flew in off the sea early on Wednesday morning. Here it is, photographed from the lighthouse passing over the fishing boat with my Po Toi neighbours on their early morning fish.

If you think all Hoopoes are alike, look at these two photos. There were two Hoopoes on the island from Tuesday onwards, the first photo is the colourful adult which has been on the island for over a month, and the second is a newly arrived first winter? bird with greyish wash over the breast and neck.

I closed last week by saying I was sorry to have missed the Japanese Yellow Bunting and the Brambling. The Japanese Yellow Bunting was still there this week (possibly more than one) and a different Brambling, this one a first winter/female


Also on the island this week, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Japanese Thrush, Eyebrowed Thrush, Russet Bush Warbler, Black-naped Monarch and Tristram's Bunting.

Finally, it must be the silly season for spending Government budgets. A major construction project has started which seems to involve tearing up the concrete paths and steps near the jetty. So much for a quiet week on Po Toi!

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:41 ]



Chestnut-crowned Warbler 栗頭鶲鶯 x 1
Manchurian Bush Warbler 遠東樹鶯 x 1
Red-flanked Bluetail 紅脇藍尾鴝 x 3
Daurian Redstart 北紅尾鴝 x 3
Eurasian Hoopoe 戴勝 x 1
Pallas's Leaf Warbler 黃腰柳鶯 x 1


Best bird today was a Japanese Robin foraging in leaf litter at the start of the Green Pigeon Walk.

Also seen:

Hoopoe - 1
Barn Swallow - 1
Red-flanked Bluetail - 3
Daurian Redstart - 1
Common Blackbird - 3
Pallas's Leaf Warbler - 5
Dusky Warbler - 1
Red-billed Starling - 1
Black Drongo - 2
Black-faced Bunting - 3
White-rumped Munia - 4

plus Mountain tailorbird - 2h

Others may have seen more, but I had my mum with me so we had to sample the seafood restuarant for a good hour or so!

I think Jap Robin was a tick for her but she enjoyed the Hoopoe a lot more - thanks to all for pointing it out for her!


Third Week in November

If you had asked me 'What grebes could you expect to see on Po Toi?', I would have said 'Any grebe is possible - except Little, it isn't a sea water bird'. So here is the impossible, in the harbour this lunchtime

Definitely not stolen from Ng Tung Chai or Tai Po Kau.

This was a week for skulkers and 'bottom of the bush' birds.
These three chats for a start, Japanese Robin, found by Dave Stanton and his mother on Tuesday (and stolen from Ng Tung Chai), Rufous-tailed Robin also Tuesday and Siberian Rubythroat, which somehow found its way to the top of the bush, today

I'm going to stick my neck out and identify the next two species of skulkers, both bush warblers.
Firstly a Brownish-flanked Bush Warbler on Wednesday

This bird seemed to change colour from brown in the sunlight to grey in the shade but the most noticeable feature was the very soft and continuous 'chack chack' call which attracted me to it.

Sticking my neck out even further, and hoping you can even see a bird in the photo, here is a Russet Bush Warbler (I think) also on Wednesday

Finally, only semi-skulkers by comparison, a Japanese Yellow Bunting (one of at least four on Wednesday) and a Yellow-browed Bunting, both present all week.

Note the Japanese Yellow Bunting does not have the white eye-ring they all have in spring - a first winter bird?

Another skulker this week was a Radde's Warbler which flew in off the sea on Wednesday morning and landed in a bush in front of me. But the Chestnut-crowned Warbler was not seen after Sunday's super photos by Allen.

I'm just off to Ng Tung Chai to steal the Bull-headed Shrike.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:44 ]


Last Week in November

The week started quietly but the change to colder weather brought in new birds on Tuesday and Wednesday night. By Thursday there were many thrushes and over 130 Red-billed Starlings on the island, a largest ever number for this November speciality on Po Toi.

On Wednesday I was attacked by a bush warbler when I started to mimick its 'tack tack' call note. The bird was completely fearless and came right up to me, below focusing distance for binoculars and camera.

You can see my image in the reflection of its right eye.
I guess this is a Russet Bush Warbler because the lower mandible is not entirely pale but any comment by experts is welcome, so I have included a photo of its under-tail coverts.

Another good warbler to come in on Wednesday was a Bianchi's Warbler, the second this autumn, and a good thrush was this Brown-headed Thrush on Thursday, my first on Po Toi for nearly two years

Other birds of interest were a male Grey Bushchat seen briefly on Wednesday evening, at least two Mountain Bush Warblers and Eyebrowed, Japanese, Grey-backed Thrush and Blackbird on Thursday.

More regular birds were this Striated Heron on Tuesday and a fine male Blue Rock Thrush overwintering on the South Peninsular

Finally, a good week for buntings, more birds coming in with the colder weather to give a total of seven species for the week, Tristram's, Little, Yellow-browed (a pair and a separate single), Yellow-breasted, Chestnut (also a pair), Japanese Yellow and Black-faced. Here the Tristram's, Little, Yellow-browed, Chestnut and finally the amazing photo by Owen of the Japanese Yellow with a ring on its leg


This is the last week of Po Toi Autumn 2007. More birds than Autumn 2006, partly because of my greater familiarity with Hong Kong birds and their calls, partly from regular coverage of the South Peninsular grasslands but also because the weather has been more varied with more cold spells than last year.

Po Toi Winter 2007/8 starts next week.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 12:47 ]


A great photo-journal and record, Geoff, and an inspiration to all of us.  Look forward to the next installment in winter.
who sit and watch...


Thanks Geoff, I'm just lucky to have the time to spend and a quality location to spend it on.

I also look forward to more of your composite Lamma journal.


Thanks Geoff for the nice report and photos.

A few species to add in a visit on Thursday:

Scaly Thrush 2
Japanese Thrush 3+
Grey-backed Thrush 3+
Red-flanked Bluetail 1F
Mountain Tailorbird 1