Mai Po: In Search of Black-faced Spoonbills (and more)

Sorry for the lack of update – first term of my final year at university had a lot of writing involved, i.e. my dissertation, and a lot of editing to do for the development portfolio.  I haven’t been able to get out much with the camera as a result, although I did (somehow) manage a small getaway to London to photograph the annual deer rut, which was something I’ve been wanting to see for a very long time.

I headed straight back to Hong Kong after the hand-in in December to continue shooting my final year project, a documentary film (details to follow in late February).  Although I am busy shooting the project, I still took some time out to explore the terrestrial side of nature in Hong Kong.

The weekend before last I volunteered to be a surveyor for the International Black-faced Spoonbill Census, which was carried out at the same time in different locations in Asia, including Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and mainland China.  It was a promising first hour, when we counted 20 Black-faced Spoonbills 黑臉琵鷺 as well as 1 Eurasian Spoonbill 白琵鷺.  However, a black kite decided to drop by, spooking all the ducks to panic and they took to the air, and a little while later, the spoonbills decided to leave, perhaps feeling slightly lonely and exposed.

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Black-faced Spoonbills 黑臉琵鷺

I always had the impression of spoonbills being nice to each other, scratching each other’s neck, or just keeping each other company.  It was a really amusing scene when one of the black-faced spoonbills woke up before the others and started to feed – it then started to annoy the others as if they were in its way, biting another spoonbill by its leg (OUCH!!!).

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Black-faced Spoonbills fighting 黑臉琵鷺打交

Red-whiskered Bulbuls 紅耳鵯 and Chinese Bulbuls 白頭鵯 filled the trees on the road-side of the Gei Wai 基圍, as well as great numbers of Great Cormorants 普通鸕鷀, stripping the trees of their leaves with its acidic white poo.  Between them were smaller birds such as warblers and white-eyes, travelling from tree to tree over our heads and chattering all the way.

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Red-whiskered Bulbul 紅耳鵯

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Japanese White-eye 相思

A male Daurian Redstart 北紅尾鴝 kept me entertained between the set times for the survey.  He liked to perch on manmade objects like the poles, the lines that run between the poles, or a rusty metal stick in the dried fishpond.  The females were not as bold, I found them staying within the trees, only occasionally coming out onto a bald branch.

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Daurian Redstart (Male) 北紅尾鴝 (雄)

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Daurian Redstart (Female) 北紅尾鴝 (雌)

The Plain Prinia  純色山鷦鶯 pictured below interrupted our lunch break when it came out, from the long grass it had been hiding and singing in, to have a preen.  It chose the long stick to clean its bill, and as it ruffled its feathers I could see how incredibly soft and fluffy the bird was.  I quickly stuffed the rest of the sandwich into my mouth and snapped away.  I always cherish moments like these when wildlife decides to come out and meet you!

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Plain Prinia 純色山鷦鶯

Whilst Great Cormorants 普通鸕鷀 darkened (or rather whitened…) the treelines between ponds, Little Egrets 小白鷺 dominated the trees closer to the sidewalk.  Closer inspection sometimes reveal surprises, on the last day we spotted a White-throated Kingfisher 白胸翡翠 (too concealed for a photo) and a Common Koel 噪鵑 (juvenile judging by its plumage and pale beak).

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Little Egret 小白鷺

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Common Koel 噪鵑


A few lifers for me, a good start to 2018:

An adult Imperial Eagle 白肩鵰 with an impressive wingspan of 2 metres soared overhead –

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Imperial Eagle 白肩鵰

We were very lucky to have one of the stars in the reserve that week, a Greater White-fronted Goose 白額雁 landing and staying in one of our survey ponds after another chaos caused by a black kite.  We were all very excited, but then the goose decided to tuck in and sleep for the rest of the hour.  Note the size difference with the Northern Shoveler 琵嘴鴨 in front of it.

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Greater White-fronted Goose 白額雁

Cannot be mistaken for any other bird because of the unusual blue-green plumage and the scaling under tail, I was very excited to see the Verditer Flycatcher 銅藍鶲 in Mai Po, as I didn’t get to see one at Bride’s Pool in December.  The bird only stayed for a second though.  Hopefully I will get to see another one soon!

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Verditer Flycatcher 銅藍鶲

On a less happy note, at least 2 Black-faced Spoonbills were spotted with illegal animal traps, one clamped onto the bird’s bill, another the feet.  Sadly the bird with the trap on its feet was found dead a few days after.






Thank you for reading and I hope you have enjoyed this post!  I will be heading back to university to finish my final year very soon and will have lots of exciting projects and outcomes to share.  I will try to update my blog as much as possible, but if you have instagram, please follow me at @daphnewongphoto for weekly updates!

All Images © Daphne Wong Photography All Rights Reserved.
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