Return to Mai Po

Following on from last July's trip to China, I had a follow-up trip planned for April combining it with the Hong Kong Rigby 7's tournament for which my company, Kukri, do all the merchandising. Of course, such a trip gives me the opportunity to do some birding in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar (and some more recognisable) birds. So I decided to go a little earlier with my wife, Bernie, to explore the area.

The first couple of days were spent acclimatising and doing some of the touristy bits, enjoying the Star Ferry and some of the parks amongst the stunning skyline. Bernie was surprised about how hilly and verdant the territory was. Common birds in the parks were the ever present Chinese and Red-whiskered Bulbuls alongside Oriental Magpie Robin, Crested Mynas, Black-collared Starlings and Masked Laughing Thrushes. We got some decent view eventually of Red-billed Blue Magpies at the HK Stadium but the bird that we came across all over the place was Yellow-browed Warbler - calling everywhere!
Oriental Magpie Robin
I had organised permits for Mai Po on Monday 3rd April and we arranged to meet up with Matthew Kwan (unfortunately his dad couldn't make it). Thankfully, though it was warm, the weather was nowhere near as hot and humid as last July but certainly warm enough.

Stejneger's Stonechats and a White-breasted Kingfisher along the access road was a nice start whilst the car park held the usual Azure-winged Magpies, Bulbuls and several YBWs calling. We collected our permits and entered the reserve almost immediately coming across a Black-faced Bunting and Long-tailed Shrikes. Plain and Yellow-bellied Prinias were very ugh in evidence everywhere we went.
Chinese Pond Heron
The pools had many Egrets and Herons and a few sandpipers (Common & Green). We made our way through to the main scrapes where there were good numbers of waders. A few Oriental Pratincoles dropped in but the numbers of Greensanks and Marsh Sandpipers were amazing. In amongst them were Spotted Redshanks and Wood Sandpipers as well as large number of Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits.

We worked our way to the security fence area, passing lots of Dusky Warblers checking in the undergrowth. We also came across an Olive-backed Pipit bring back memories of last autumn at Spurn.
Deep Bay looking towards Shenzen, China
One area I hadn't visited last time was Deep Bay as the tide wasn't right. This day it should have been so we passed through the fence and made our way over the floating boardwalk through the mangroves out to the hides. As we got to the farthest one, we soon realised we should have been there about 30 minutes earlier as the extent of mud was getting very limited. We still had good views of Terek Sandpipers and the Black-faced Spoonbills as well as several species of Gull - Hueglin's, Vega, Mongolian and Black-tailed.
Black-faced Spoonbills, Caspian Terns, Mongolian Gulls, etc
As the water flooded the area, we made our way out of that hide and back to the one at the head of the bay but again the water had reached there and most birds had moved away. Still we got an immature Saunders Gull and some great views of the waders.
A very large 2cy Vega Gull with Heuglin's in foreground
So back to the scrape and an amazing site greeted us with hundreds of Black-tailed Godwits and Avocets covering the water. We also had more Greenshanks and in amongst them some Nordmann's Greenshank - quite difficult to tell apart but eventually I got my eye in on their jizz; lower in the water and rather pot-bellied as well as the curvier bill. There were also many Great Knot, Red-necked Stints, Broad-billed Sandpipers and Greater Sand Plovers. We also had Far-eastern Curlews in amongst the more numerous Eurasian Curlews as well as the odd Grey Plover and Pacific Golden Plover.
Black-faced Spoonbills
Through the day we recorded 105 species with that huge variety of shorebirds. A splendid day all round.