Good Friday farewell to Hong Kong with some excellent birds

Having enjoyed a few days sightseeing and birding around Hong Kong, it was to 'work' for me and the preparation for the Hong Kong 7's tournament followed by a trip to a factory in Dongguan, China. I've got to say that our preparation for the event must have been good as everything went as planned and Bernie and I got some splendid views of Red-billed Blue Magpies from the back of the Stadium as well as a fleeting glimpse of a Blue Whistling Thrush as it dived for cover. We also managed to watch quite a bit of Rugby 7's too! :)
Box seats weren't too bad ;)
Bernie had headed back to England whilst I was in China but upon my return to HK, I had a day before my flight so arranged with Matt for another day's birding. I hadn't done any forest birding at all before - just had headed for Mai Po - so the promise of Tai Po Kau's established forest was an instant draw.

Matthew kindly collected me from my hotel in Kowloon - the roads were quiet on a holiday morning as we made good time to the foot of the valley. I should have realised that this was going to be a bit of a steepish walk up along the road to where the forest tracks start. Immediately we were hit with the song of birds - Great Barbets were calling in the distance (but didn't see them) and the ubiquitous Japenses White-eyes were buzzing along with Silver-eared Mesias. I didn't have my camera so I'll refer to Matthew's blog for the pics! (
He's got a bigger lens than me - and a steady hand. Matthew photographing Eagles.
As we wandered along, more and more calls came from the forest and the tall trees around us - we eventually got some excellent views of several species including Chestnut-winged Cuckoo, the dazzling Hainan Blue Flycatcher and the equally impressive Orange-headed Thrush. We had excellent views of Crested Serpent Eagles as well as a Mountain Tailorbird and Plain Flowerpecker - the latter being the rarest and dullest of the three flowerpeckers that I hadn't seen.  Huet's Fulvetta, Fork-tailed Sunbird, Blue-winged Minla, Chesnut capped Babbler, Scimitar-billed Babbler (belter of a bird!) and Chestnut Bulbul all made their way onto the day-list. We also heard Yellow-cheeked Tit, Pygmy Wren Babble and Black-throated Laughing Thrush. It was just wonderful and I could have stayed a lot longer but we had other places to be.

I'd got another permit booked for Mai Po and as the tide was relatively early, there was no chance of me seeing it come in over Deep Bay so we made our way to the scrape hides where we were met with a wonderful sight of hundreds of Black-tailed Godwit in amongst which were several Asian Dowitchers.
View from the main scrape hide - birds continue left and right and well into the distance.
What can you say - the sight of so many wader species all relatively close at hand being occasionally spooked by a Peregrine and an Eastern Marsh Harrier as well as Black Kites was wonderful. Loads of Greenshanks, Marsh Sandpipers and Curlews with the odd Far-eastern Curlew, Nordmann's Greenshank, Terek Sandpipers, Mongolian Plovers and a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper. Not to mention the Great Knots in their beautiful breeding plumage.

Great Knot in amongst the Black-tailed Godwits
We moved around to another vantage point to get closer to a few birds - an Intermediate Egret posed nicely as well as more obliging waders.
Intermediate Egret
It's not just size that separates Far-eastern Curlew from Eurasion as the latter can be just as big and long-billed. Look at the spots on the vent feathering - Eurasian are clean white.
Far-eastern Curlew
Nordmann's Greenshank

Then we heard the call of a Large Hawk Cuckoo. It was something we'd heard on several occasions and it sounded relatively near. I was sure it would be visible and my mimicry was perfect! We searched for ages from the raised viewpoint of the hide but didn't see anything - then I looked a little farther away and saw an interesting blob in a tree a few undred yards away. I got the scope on it an - et voila! Matthew had never photographed one so he managed to sneak up to the tree a little later to add that missing piece to his collection.
Large Hawk Cuckoo (Iphone7 through Swarowski ATX95)
It seemed I wasn't the only one who didn't see these birds even though they're big and common as a procession of locals had a gander through the scope.

It was nearly time to head to the airport so we made our way back past several Dusky Warblers.
Dusky Warbler
Our last stop was the "Magic Roundabout". Now I'm an aficionado of the "Magic Hedge" in Chicago but this? Essentially, it was the only bit of greenery and trees in the Airport complex - an area 'discovered' by a birder who took his breaks from working at the airport and found several good birds here. Matthew parked up and we made our way past the massed ranks of taxis into a becalmed area - Long-tailed Shrike, Hair-crested Drongo, White Wagtail, Olive-backed Pipit and an overflying flock of Oriental Pratincoles was a nice end to my sojourn to Hong Kong.

I hope to be back again in the not-too-distant future, whether with work or on a long-haul to somewhere else but there are certainly good birds to be had with a little planning. If anyone is looking for a guide, then I'm sure Matthew would be happy to help; his expeditions are taking him all over SE Asia and I'm sure that guiding will be one of the many strings to his bow. Add Hoiling's passion for moths and how could you go wrong?

Now it's back to a UK spring and masses of Redpolls and Chaffinches in the garden. The Blackbirds are singing (not quite ".... in the dead of night") - birdsong I recognise again :)