Po Toi 蒲台 2006 Winter 冬 (06/07)

Po Toi 蒲台 2006 Winter 冬 (06/07)

Visited on Tuesday and Thursday this week.

Three good sights from the ferry this morning.
Firstly the superb replica of an 18th C sailing ship, the Goteburg, which has been in HK harbour this week, now anchored in Stanley Bay. This ship is making a two year journey by sail from Sweden to Shanghai and back.
Secondly, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers flying around the Stanley peninsular. Where were you Graham?

On Tuesday, a female Brown Shrike and a male Grey Bushchat with buff under-tail coverts.

Five species of winter Thrush on the island, Pale, Grey-backed, Japanese, Blackbird and Scaly. Of these, the Pale is by far the easiest to see and photograph, and the Japanese by far the most difficult - hence no photos of this one yet. From this week, Pale, Grey-backed and Blackbird, the Blackbird showing the long thick legs and large bill which makes it so different from the English Blackbird more familiar to me.

Finally, after nearly 3 months effort and no doubt great expense, the new jetty on the SE peninsular is finished. It has no path to access it and is about large enough for a small motorboat - I don't think a ferry or tourist boat can get in, the rocks are too close.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 13:53 ]


Third week of December

My first visit to Po Toi today after nearly two weeks absence overseas.

Not much has changed, still five species of winter thrush (Scaly, Japanese, Blackbird, Grey-backed and Pale) with other winter regulars such as Siberian Rubythroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Japanese Bush Warbler, Pallas's Warbler and Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.
Bird of the day was a Hoopoe.

Here the Hoopoe, Japanese (at last a photo), Grey-backed and Pale Thrush, Red-flanked Bluetail and Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher.

And the Swedish sailing ship Goteburg leaving Stanley under sail for Singapore from my last visit.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 13:55 ]


Last week in December

Nothing very exciting to report for this week.

There seem to be more thrushes around this winter than last, particularly Japanese and Pale, or is it just my greater familiarity? Over 40 in total on Tuesday, but only half that number on Thursday and also fewer of the smaller species. So birds are still coming in and moving on, on Po Toi at least.

Unusual winter species for Po Toi this week were Crested Goshawk, Brown Shrike, Asian Stub-tail Warbler, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Little Bunting and Red-billed Starling.

No photos can be loaded this week due to the cable problem, so I leave you with a Seasonal Quiz with Po Toi connections

Q1. How many different bird species have been seen on Po Toi this year?

Q2. What was the largest number of people to eat in the restaurant on a single day in 2006? And which day?

Q3. How many people were living on Po Toi in the 1950’s? In the 1970’s? And today?

Q4. Mr and Mrs Ng own the house just below the school. They spend half the year on Po Toi and the other half in their other residence. Where is their other residence?
Q5. In which well-known English novel does Po Toi feature?

And very finally

Q6. What is the real purpose of the new jetty recently built on the SE peninsular?

Answers early in 2007.


a Rufous-Gorgetted Flycather record in Po Toi on X'mas Eve by fsp:


Another good record for Po Toi in 2006.

If all records are accepted, this will be the 16th species of flycatcher on Po Toi this year.

Add 1 to Q1 above.



How about these for some answers

1 172 Species including R G Flycatcher

2. 600 people

3. 1950 -4000
    1970 - 1500
    Today - 4

4. Canada

5. No idea

6. To waste my tax money

HK Twitcher


Q5  - The Honourable Schoolboy


Q5  - The Honourable Schoolboy published in 1977, is the second novel of the Karla Trilogy, written by spy author John Le Carr

I may be nearly 16 years old and a dog but I still know how to use "Google" , also my fingers are too big for the keyboard and I hit the enter key twice by mistake


So far, only the answer to Q5 is correct.

As Bob says, John Le Carre's second novel in the George Smiley/Karla trilogy of spy novels is set mostly in Hong Kong and the final and most important part of the novel is set on Po Toi on Tin Hau Festival day. A spy was landed in 'a small cove on the east side of the island', which resulted in the hero of the novel, the honourable schoolboy himself, being shot on the beach there.

I have yet to find the body, but I guess John Le Carre visited Po Toi in his research for the novel since his descriptions of the walk up to the highest part of the island, including Mo's Old House, is very authentic. Le Carre is obviously not a birdwatcher however, he describes 'the colder air filled with screaming wheeling gulls' when he reached the top. I guess he was thinking of Cornwall, or maybe he mistook the Black Kites? Incidentally, this novel was the only one of the three not serialised by the BBC, because of the expense of filming in Hong Kong. Otherwise Po Toi would be on TV also.

Graham's answer to Q2 is half correct but he failed to answer the second part of the question. The answer to Q6 is true but not correct. All other answers are so far also incorrect.


Answers to the Christmas Quiz.

Q1. How many different bird species have been seen on Po Toi this year?

Subject to acceptance by the Records Committee, I have seen 195 species and I know of at least 14 seen by others, making a total of 209. This excludes the chicken.

Q2. What was the largest number of people to eat in the restaurant on a single day in 2006? And which day?

Monday 30th October, Chung Yeung Festival Day, a hot and sunny day, brought out three types of visitors, boat people, hikers and grave sweepers. Of the several thousand people on the island, at least 600 ate at the restaurant.

Q3. How many people were living on Po Toi in the 1950’s? In the 1970’s? And today?

Over 1000 in the 1950’s, about 200 in the late 1970’s and 17 regular residents today. Which explains why there are so many grave sweepers on Chung Yeung and Ching Ming Festival Days.

Q4. Mr and Mrs Ng own the house just below the school. They spend half the year on Po Toi and half in their other residence. Where is their other residence?

Mr and Mrs Ng’s other residence is in California. They also have a flat in the Aberdeen area. Which all adds up to a lot of seaweed.

Q5. In which well-known English novel does Po Toi feature?

John Le Carre’s spy novel, The Honourable Schoolboy. See above.

Q6. What is the real purpose of the new jetty recently built on the SE peninsular?

Health and Safety. An inspection of the old jetty showed it to be unsafe and so it was necessary to rebuild it. In case anyone wanted to use it, I guess. I think Graham’s answer is more accurate.

At this time of the year, it’s customary to look back on the highlights of last year. So here are my best ten photos from Po Toi in 2006, others had some better photos and birds. And very best wishes for 2007, let’s hope it can be as good as 2006.

1.        Chinese Thrush – the first photo taken, 16.2.2006
2.        Black-legged Kittiwake, 2.3.2006
3.        Orange-breasted Green Pigeon – surely the most unexpected bird of 2006, 10.3.2006 (date when this picture was taken)
4.        Chinese Goshawk flock over Po Toi, 16.4.2006
5.        Yellow-throated Bunting, 24.4.2006
6.        Yellow-rumped Flycatcher, 29.4.2006
7.        Lesser Frigatebird attacking Black Kite, 3.5.2006
8.        Brown Noddy, 17.5.2006
9.        Tiger Shrike, 14.9.2006
10.         Peregrines fighting, 7.11.2006

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 13:58 ]


A fantastic year on Po Toi Geoff. Congratulations on a terrific list and some fantastic records, (especially whenI managed to see them too!)

Looking forward to more of the same in 2007.

Mike K
Mike KilburnVice Chairman, HKBWSChairman, Conservation Committee


First week in January

Thanks Mike, I'm really looking forward to spring this year.

Today, a Cormorant on the small island just south of Beaufort Island, seen from the ferry. This is the first time I have seen a Cormorant in waters around Po Toi (other than overflying migrants). Only seen briefly at a distance and unfortunately not there on the return journey when I was more prepared. I suppose it's a Great but the white face-patch was very extensive, I don't know whether that is significant. Any Cormorant experts?

On the land, many fewer birds as it gets colder, although still quite a number of thrushes particularly Pale, which I didn't see at all last winter.

Photo only of a Tristram's Bunting, but the best sighting was not a bird but a Python, and quite a large one, lying in wait in a waterhole presumably for some unsuspecting bulbul to come down to drink.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 13:59 ]


Second week in January

Stayed on Po Toi this week for the first time since November, to do a census of wintering birds.

Wintering species other than normal residents are Sparrowhawk sp, Buzzard, Kestrel, Oriental Turtle Dove, White Wagtail, Richard’s Pipit, Chestnut Bulbul, Rufous-tailed Robin, Siberian Rubythroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Daurian Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Scaly, Japanese, Grey-backed and Pale Thrush, Blackbird, Asian Stub-tail, Japanese Bush, Dusky, Pallas’ and Yellow-browed Warbler, Grey-headed Flycatcher, Black-faced Bunting and Red-billed Starling.

Resident birds have already paired off and are establishing territories, including at least three pairs of Black Kites. Flocks of Chinese Bulbuls are still migrating in the early morning, also now some flocks of Japanese White-eye doing the same.

Sea Birds

At last, some sea birds to see. Small flocks of Heuglin’s type Gulls, all first or second winter so far, appear to be moving NE past Po Toi. On Wednesday. an Ancient Murrelet, fishing about 100 yards off-shore, made a brief flight before plunge diving and disappearing. And early on Thursday morning, what was possibly the same Cormorant as last week, flew across from Dangan Island and around the south of Po Toi into the channel between Po Toi and Beaufort Island. Try again next week.

Finally, if anyone is thinking of landing their boat at the new jetty on the SE Peninsular, they should study this picture carefully.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 14:00 ]


Third week in January

A variable week for weather, with the cold surge passing through on Wednesday.

Tuesday was warm with light winds and many birds around including a count of over 40 thrushes. The best bird was a Spotted Eagle which flew in off the sea from the NE, unfortunately I was too excited to take a photo. Also that day, the first Barn Swallow of the year, a first winter Common Rosefinch with an olive-brown tinge and at 5.15pm, the Orange-breasted Green Pigeon flew into the tallest tree next to the school.

I think the pigeon had been feeding during the day somewhere in the valley behind the restaurant and was flying back to its roosting tree somewhere around the football field. The first sighting since 22nd November but it must be wintering on the island.

Wednesday was a complete washout, raining most of the day. By Thursday the temperature had fallen several degrees and some birds had left the island, thrushes, Yellow-browed and Pallas's Warblers, just like last year.

Land birds on Thursday were a Crested Goshawk and 2 different White-breasted Waternhens, one at the lagoon and one in the gully next to the jetty, possibly the same bird in the lagoon as last seen on 19th October 2006.

Sea Birds

The Temminck's Cormorant appeared at 8.10am on Wednesday but the photos were too blurred to use. Praying for it to re-appear on Thursday, I was distraught when an obvious Great Cormorant flew exactly the same route at 7.35am. So, not every cormorant on Po Toi is a Temminck's! Fortunately, the Temminck's followed 10 minutes later, the photos contrast the different shape of the two birds. In the Great (first photo), the head and neck are the same length as the rear and tail so it looks balanced, with the wings in the middle. In the Temminck's (second photo), the head and neck are longer than the rear and tail so it looks front-ended and the wings are in the second half of the body, more like a goose. Also the yellow face skin on the Temminck's is pointed at the gape and goes all round the eye, and the bill has a pale lower mandible with a darker upper mandible.

Also a few immature Heuglin's Gulls feeding on ship waste in the Po Toi/Dangan Island channel.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 14:02 ]


Excellent bird observation report and thank you for sharing.



Thanks Anthony.


Last week in January

This week is all about singles and pairs.

For the past 13 months, there has been one Common Magpie on the island. This week - there were two! Where the second one has come from, I don't know but it must be a migrant of some sort. And it must also be the right sex because the two are now inseparable.

One bird I confidently expect to forever remain single is the Orange-breasted Green Pigeon. It now seems easier to see, spending time sitting in tall bare trees. I saw it twice on Wednesday, 9.45am by the football field and 4pm at the school


Two birds that were inseparable last year are now never seen together - the White Wagtail pair, one leucopsis and one baikalensis

An argument? Or just problems with competition for food?

Also a pair of Common Rosefinches in the football field area

Sea Birds/Visible Migration

No sign of the Temminck's Cormorant on either Wednesday or Thursday morning. Japanese White-eyes are still migrating S early morning in small groups, and this morning (Thursday) 9 Black Kites flew past in just 10 minutes from 7.15am, in singles heading NE . By their flight and behaviour, they were migrants.

Finally, the new wooden house next to the beach, which was apparently built without planning permission, is being demolished. A gang from the Ministry of something arrived this morning and started pulling it down, much to everyone's surprise.


The rumour that this was intended to be my retirement home is without foundation. I believe it was built by a HK surgeon for his weekends. I trust Donald Tsang does not need any invasive surgery in the near future.

This is my last report for two weeks as I will be away in UK. Good birding to everyone.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 14:04 ]


Third week in February

A very quiet week on Po Toi this week.

Most of the wintering thrushes have left. From a daily maximum count of 31 in the last week of January, down this week to only 8. But still four species, Scaly, Japanese, Grey-backed and Pale. Also most of the Daurian Redstarts have gone, counts down from 10 to 4. I guess because of the warm weather last week.

A few migrants are starting to appear. Barn Swallows in off the sea on two days, three migrant Large-billed Crows at the lighthouse on Wednesday (a very warm day) and a migrant Black Kite over the sea on Thursday. The Large-billed Crows were soon chased off by the resident pair.

No sea birds at all.

Three photos of an exceptionally grey and washed-out Yellow-browed Warbler (id with thanks to Paul Leader) which reminds me how difficult leaf warblers can be to identify from field guides

All that remains of the wooden house on the beach is the foundations and the toilet - presumably not an illegal building. I guess they wished they had built a larger one.

As there is nothing else to report, I will end with an article from Birdguides UK.

Bird-eating Bat

The Giant Noctule Bat has now been proven to feed on birds migrating over the Mediterranean Sea. To quote from the article

'The ability of Giant Noctules to prey on the wing upon nocturnally migrating passerines appears unique not only among bats but also within the whole animal kingdom. Although carnivorous bats that feed on small vertebrates are not unknown, they all live in the Tropics and feed on non-flying prey. The few falcon species that capture migratory birds along Mediterranean and African coasts are exclusively diurnal. Owls, typical nocturnal predators, never forage in open space: they listen passively for rustling noises made by terrestrial prey.

The unique ecological niche of the Giant Noctule may explain some of its peculiar traits. First, the species occurs almost exclusively in certain restricted parts of the Mediterranean where major streams of migrating birds congregate. Second, it is one of the largest Palearctic bats and among the heaviest aerial-hunting bats in the world. A large body mass (up to 50 g for 45 cm wingspan) is probably required to subdue prey items as large as passerines, which weigh about the same as other European bat species.

The extraordinary predatory specialization of the Giant Noctule may be shared by the few other big aerial-hawking bat species that exist elsewhere in the world. Are some of them similarly stalking unwary songbirds during their massive nocturnal migrations? The foraging habits of these rare bats still remain mysterious, as was the case with Giant Noctules until recently. Stable isotopes could be a promising tool for unravelling their furtive ecology.'

Who'd be a migrant bird??

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 14:06 ]


Third week in February (again)

This is the real Third week in February. Last week's posting should have been Second week in February.

Another quiet week. Thrush numbers now down to a few with Japanese and Pale the only species seen. But a definite increase in the numbers of Chestnut Bulbuls, Yellow-browed and Pallas's Warblers, birds passing through on their way north?

New arrivals were a Hoopoe and a Little Bunting.

No sea birds again. So reduced to boat watching. The large Police Boats are so heavy and powerful, they just power through the waves.

If you are on a ferry and one of these passes in front, watch for the bow wave and hold on tight when it hits your boat. They really are quite dangerous for small boats.

[ Last edited by wgeoff at 18/08/2010 14:07 ]


Last week of February

Another quiet week on Po Toi with falling numbers of species as the winter visitors leave before the spring migrants arrive. See below for some data on this.

Lower numbers of thrushes and chats, with no thrushes at all seen on Thursday and no Daurian Redstarts or Red-flanked Bluetails since last week. Both the Hoopoe and the Little Bunting from last week appear to have left. New spring migrants took the surprising form (for Po Toi at least) of waders - a Common Sandpiper on the rocks at the S point and a Common Snipe flushed from a gravesite, both on Thursday.

No seabirds again this week - no Heuglin Gull migration yet this year, and none to be seen in the E Lamma Channel, unlike last year when there were more than 100. Is it a weather-related issue? Migrant Black Kites and Barn Swallows seen on most days from the S point.

At least some Finless Porpoises to watch. These are very difficult to photograph because they only come to the surface for a very brief time, always in a different place. I remember the brilliant photo of one by Pippen Ho last spring. Photos of the Common Sandpiper and one of the Finless Porpoises

A local fisherman saw a wild pig swimming across to Po Toi from somewhere last weekend - that would have been a spectacular photo. Or is it just another fisherman's story?

This is the last week for Po Toi 2006/7 Winter for me. Spring 2007 starts next week.

For a discussion of weather effects on the birds of Po Toi in February 2007 vs February 2006, please see the following file

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