Thursday, 27 December 2018

Birdwatching at Hong Kong Mai Po Nature Reserve (2018)

If you wish to learn more about Mai Po Nature Reserve, you may want to read my first article here, or visit their website for more information.

After an interval of 4 years, I re-visited Mai Po this year in the second half of November. Not just once, but 3 times! My sister, who lives in Hong Kong, managed to book me on 3 different tours:
  • WWF - Exploring Mai Po (3 hours)
  • WWF - Mangrove Boardwalk (4 hours)
  • Birdwatching at Mai Po with the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society (6 hours)
The first 2 tours are conducted by World Wildlife Fund - Hong Kong volunteers. You pay a fee, which should be considered more of a donation to the reserve. The 3rd walk with the HK Birdwatching Society includes birding at one of the Mangrove Boardwalk hides and priority is given to members. This is a highly popular walk with serious birders. I was on the waiting list for quite long and lucky me was given a spot a few days just before the walk!

Exploring Mai Po is a walk that introduces the visitor to the main features of Mai Po - the intertidal ponds, fish ponds and bird hides. You get to do a little bit of birdwatching at the only 3-storey hide in the reserve. The walk takes you to the Education Centre and back. Look out for a Pied Kingfisher that shows up frequently at the pond next to the Centre. The Pied Kingfisher has a habit of hovering before diving for fish!

Intertidal ponds.

View from the 3-storey bird hide.

The Mangrove Boardwalk takes you to the famous floating boardwalk in the middle of the largest mangrove forest in Hong Kong. This boardwalk was built by volunteers and floats according to the tide levels. The boardwalk 'floats' because it is supported by floating drums on both sides which are anchored to the ground by chains. On this particular day, it was low tide when we visited the hide and there were not many birds to be seen. But it was still a good day with 36 bird species in my list.

Volunteer guides, Peter and Judy, for the Mangrove Boardwalk tour.

Inner Deep Bay mudflat on a low tide day.

One of the Mangrove Boardwalk birding hides.

The last session in late Nov with the HK Birdwatching Society was the most exciting for me because we spent almost 2 hours at the mangrove hide looking at migratory birds feeding at Deep Bay. It was high tide at noon and was a suitable time for watching shorebirds when we got there. It was such an experience for me because most of the shorebirds were not commonly seen in Singapore and I got to learn from the experts how to identify them. I saw 53 bird species on this day! See list below.

Migratory birds feeding close to the hides during high tide.

The Floating Boardwalk.

Most of these tours are conducted in Cantonese. It does help to speak their language or have someone with you who does. Otherwise, look out for the English tours, which may not be so frequent.

NOTE: This is a restricted area and permits to visit are required, especially to the Floating Boardwalk. Please book the tours in advance or look for professional birding guides who can make all the necessary arrangements for you.

This is my birding list for the 25 Nov 2018 tour with the HK Birdwatching Society:

Spotted Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
Asian Azure-winged Magpie
Oriental Magpie Robin
Siberian Stonechat
Little Bunting
Yellow-browed Warbler
Japanese White-eye
Masked Laughingthrush
Plain Prinia
Cinereous Tit
Common Koel (female)
Chinese Pond Heron
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Great Cormorant
Collared Crow
Black-collared Starling
White Wagtail
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Chinese Bulbul
Little Grebe
Common Moorhen
White-breasted Waterhen
Common Kingfisher
White-throated Kingfisher
Yellow Bittern
Little Egret
Great Egret
Black-faced Spoonbill
Eurasian Spoonbill
Common Sandpiper
Wood Sandpiper
Marsh Sandpiper
Common Greenshank
Common Redshank
Eurasian Curlew
Pacific Golden Plover
Grey Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Bar-tailed Godwit
Temminck's Stint
Pied Avocet
Black-winged Stilt
Dunlin
Black-headed Gull
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Garganey
Tufted Duck
Osprey


Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Why it is good to hire a local guide

If you are a discerning traveller who wants more than snapshots of yourself taken at the major attractions, here are some very good reasons why you should hire a local tourist guide:
  • if you are pressed for time and want to visit only places that interest you
  • if you do not wish to go through the tons of travel information available
  • if you want more of a local experience, visit places that tourists tend not to know about
  • if you want a highly customised experience, for example, a nature tour, food trail tour or a shopping tour
  • if you are here for work and your family members want to explore the city
Tourists guides are not only for tourists. Local residents can learn a lot from them too!
  • if you are new to Singapore and would like to familiarise yourself with the places, people and customs
  • if you have been staying in Singapore for ages and would like to visit an 'unknown' place or try something different
Be pleasantly surprised by all the interesting places and food that Singapore has to offer and return home with something different to tell!