Hong Kong. Eastern Promise. December 2017.

Flights from Dublin to Hong Kong via Heathrow took about fourteen-fifteen hours. Upon arrival in Hong Kong we bought an Octopus card which is essential for travel on the local buses and MTR, which we used daily. We bought mobile broadband for €50, this was important to navigate the transport system, unfortunately our mobile phones were locked into our local networks and needed to be open for a local sim card to work. We stayed in East Kowloon which was handy for most of the better birding sites.

Sites visited were Kowloon Park to familiarize ourselves with the common birds, we saw nothing here that wasn't available elsewhere. Hong Kong Park just to tick off Yellow crested Cockatoo, only reason to go there. Victoria Peak, Gardens and walking trails best early morning for thrushes and before tourist to Peak filter out. Tai Po Kau Park which is a must do for jungle birding and is just fantastic, beware we visited three times and twice got several lovely waves of forest birds but on our third visit the forest was poor. Long Valley for water birds, Pipits and Wagtails, I could have spent a week there. It has fantastic western pal species, lots to be taken from here. San Tin fish ponds for Siberian Rubythroat and Black faced Bunting with David Diskin, both of which we got several. Tai Wo drainage channel for Plumbereous Water Redstart and got two. Mai Po again with David Diskin for Black faced Spoonbill, Saunders Gull and wetland birds in general, the tides were low and did not produce much but still well worth seeing as most of the regular winter waders were still present as were the gulls, just more distant than one wished for.

Most sites took between one to two hours to get to on the MTR even though some were only 20K away, while the MTR arrives every minute it stops everywhere. Rush hours can be hectic and the locals are not shy about quietly slipping ahead of you to embark MTR, one has to adapt and push back without words - no offense is taken. Locals do not talk to each other and appear ignorant but if you approach them for directions or anything really they are friendly and will always try to help, it's a matter of being open- minded. Most people speak English and will engage if approached.

Most people do their own thing and pay no heed to birders at all. The parks are worth visiting just to watch the numerous people practicing Tai Chi. A fitness and form of fighting which must be admired, they start young and are very skilled at this form of martial art. Don't think we observerd any over weight people in Hong Kong. I must mention if one does not walk a lot don't bother going to Hong Kong. We walked about twenty km per day between MTR connection's and birding of course, be prepared to walk a lot.

We hired David Diskin for Mai Po and Tai Po Kau Park as to introduce us to the local birds and calls, he can organize passes for Mai Po. This is the best introduction one can do to eliminate common species quickly, his skills are well noted via trip reports on the web and well earned. David is very well clued in to local taxon and areas to find difficult birds. His contact details as follows. dadiskin@netivgator.com or visit his website www.birdinghongkong.com His website has plenty of information on birds and sites so worth a look. We used the resources of The HK Bird Watching Society which gives plenty of site guides and expected birds, they also have an app Common Birds of Hong Kong field guide which is free to download, handy on the phone to say the least.

Birds not photographed but worth a mention. Pallas's warbler, rather localised perhaps twenty or more observed usually within waves of birds. Goodson's Warbler, one confirmed by David Diskin, basically Yellow-browed with some yellow on belly and feeding like a Nuthatch. While we only saw one they should be looked for among waves as they are not uncommon. Pale Thrush, one Tai Po Kau not uncommon but secretive. Black faced Bunting several San Tin fish ponds. Eurasian Spoonbill Mai Po, just one with the regular Spoonbills. Greater Spotted Eagle and Eastern Imperial, one of each Mai Po confirmed by David Diskin. While tides were low at Mai Po it did produce two Great Knot, Greater Sandplover, Pacific Golden Plover, Four each of Red necked and Temminck's Stints, Broad billed Sandpiper and the usual common waders. Two Saunders and a Pallas's Gull. We observed a total of 140 species, weather was pleasant 15-20 degrees every day with no rain. Apart from public transport which is cheap Hong Kong is expensive in general.

Paul and Andrea Kelly 2017

Black faced Spoonbill (100) Mai Po Scarler Minivet (C) Tai Po Kau Park. Common Tailorbird (C) Everywhere.
Black crowned Night Heron (C) Kowloon Park Long tailed Shrike (C) Anywhere. Masked Laughingthrush (L) Victoria Peak.
Chinese Pond Heron (C) Near water. Brown Shrike (C) Kowloon Park. Red billed Leiqthrix (L) Tai Po Kau.
Eastern Cattle Egret (L) Long Valley. Mai Po. Ashy Drongo (C) Tai Po Kau Park. Japanese White eye (C) Everywhere.
Great Egret (C) Azure winged Magpie (C) Mai Po. Velvet fronted Nuthatch (L) Tai Po Kau.
Intermetiate Egret (L) Long Valley. Mai Po. Collared Crow (4) Mai Po. Bkack collared Starling (C) Kowloon Parks.
Crested Serpent Eagle (1) Tai Po Kau Park. Cinereous Tit (C) Anywhere. Oriental Magpie Robin (C) Everywhere.
Black eared Kite (C) Anywhere. Yellow cheeked Tit (L) Tai Po Kau. Small Niltava (1) Victoria Peak
Eastern Buzzard (L) Anywhere. Red vented Bulbul (C) Everywhere. Rufous tailed Robin (1) Victoria Peak
White breasted Waterhen (C) Long Valley. Mai Po. Chinese Bulbul (C) Everywhere. Red flanked Bluetail (1) Victoria Peak
Black winged Stilt (C) Long Valley. Mountain Bulbul (L) Tai Po Kau. Blue Whistling Thrush (L) Anywhere.
Green Sandpiper (C) Long Valley. Chestnut Bulbul (2) Tai Po Kau. Daurian Redstart (L) Anywhere.
Wood Sandpiper (C) Long Valley. Japanese Bush Warbler (1) Mai Po. Plumbeous Redstart (2) Tai Wo drainage channel
Red Turtle Dove (4) Mai Po. Dusky Warbler (C) Everywhere. Stejneger's Stonechat (L) Anywhere.
Spotted Dove (C) Everywhere. Yellow bellied Prina (L) Mai Po. Scaly breasted Munia (C) Only Long Valley.
Plaintive Cuckoo (2) Long valley. Rufous capped Babbler (4) Tai Po Kau. Eastern Yellow Wagtail (C) Near water.
Kingfisher (C) Near Water. Heut's Fulvetta (C) Tai Po Kau. Olive backed Pipit (C) Anywhere.
Yellow crested Cockatoo (20) Hong Kong Park. Blue winged Minla (L) Tai Po Kau. Red throated Pipit (C) Anywhere.
Grey chinned Minivet (C) Tai Po Kau Park.