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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Birding Hong Kong & Mai Po Marshes


Some years ago I took a trip to Hong Kong I wanted to visit the Mai Po marshes for the birds and of course in and around the rest of Hong Kong. When I arrived at the reserve where I had booked accommodation at the research centre there, after I paid the cab driver his fare, I turned around and literally bumped into two German friends Andreas and Alfons, how random is that. They where staying a short distance away on an estate, so I pitched up with them for the duration of my stay there.

Mai Po holds many of the worlds rarities, in particular the Black-faced Spoonbill other endangered wetland species that visit the marshes are Dalmatian Pelican and Saunders' Gull. Spotted and Imperial Eagles are among the birds of prey that spend winter in the area including the Eastern Marsh Harrier.

On one of the many islands there I had great views of White-bellied Sea Eagle fishing quite amazing to watch. Songbirds include Olive-backed Pipit, as well as Styan's Grasshopper Warblers though the latter are tough to see I got lucky and had two brief views of one. On one of our trips out to the hills we got to see the Red headed Tits with 4 young that Andreas discovered, this is a rare sighting for Hong Kong and I believe it was the first breeding record for Hong Kong?

Chinese Egret is another spring migrant. The more common species include Curlew and Terek Sandpipers, Red-necked and Long-toed stints, Greater and Lesser Sand plovers and Red and Great knot; there are also globally rare Asian Dowitcher, Spoon-billed Sandpiper of which I saw a good number and Nordmann's Greenshank. The lagoons had Whiskered and White-winged terns also Pied Harrier. Mai Po is home to four species Kingfishers namely Black-capped, White-breasted, Common and Pied.

I was allowed to enter the fenced off area to gain access to the hides, for this I needed a permit and you have be out by 18:00 hrs, the fence has towers along it length every so often. On one of the days I was with my friends watching a log-billed Dowitcher just as it was getting dusk, I checked my watch and found that it had stopped, so we decided to make our way back only to discover the Gurkha's had locked the gate. I became a bit worried as I was still serving in the army and now I was locked out on the Chinese side.

Andreas said not to worry follow me, we turned right and walked until the fence stopped, at which point we just walked around the fence, there was a tower a short distance away and no one was manning it. I thought to myself, what was the point of locking the gates if you could just walk around the end of the fence.

While spending time near the mist nets at the ringing station fortune looked down on us, with a Black headed Bunting caught in the nets. Some months after our return I met with Andreas and Alfons and we talked about the next trip we were planning independently of each other. It turned out that we had decided to go to Nepal on the same day and to the same location, again how random is that.

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