Mai Po Meanderings

When:  December 2015           Weather:  Cool,  20C

Nikon P900, Leica Q

I had a day free on Saturday before my conference and planned to visit Mai Po Nature Reserve, apparently one of the world’s leading wetland reserves for birding, esp in the winter season.   I had been once before maybe 15 years ago but could hardly recall anything about it.  Visiting Mai Po though is really quite a challenge for someone from out of town and the WWF under whose auspices it is run, really needs to make visiting it a little bit more friendly.  It says on their website that you need to apply for a permit to visit as visitors are not allowed to wander around… but on the website I also could not find any option to apply for a permit.  I resorted to the only available option which was to book a guided tour at 1030-1330 for HKD120.  Emailing them to ask if I could arrive earlier and walk around the reserve before the tour started of course yielded no reply.

Mai Po is about 45km from the hotels in Central so it’s a fair way away.  I took a taxi from my hotel and it cost about 300HKD to get there in about 45 min…I arrived at about 8am bright and early before any other soul had arrived…. so I wandered around but everywhere there were warning signs saying no entry without a permit…so I showed my reservation slip for the tour but was told that I could only enter as part of the group and not by myself….sigh. I appealed at the warden’s office but it was no good.   I therefore could only wander around outside the reserve; thankfully there were good birds just outside the office and I made do…. next time, I would just walk in because nobody checks anyway….

L1060493main reception area of Mai Po Nature reserve

This clump of vegetation outside the office where the carpark and toilets are was quite fruitful…

L1060513just observing this patch yielded the following..

DSCN3457red whiskered bulbuls were plentiful…

DSCN3530and were very active..

DSCN3489light vented bulbuls were also common

DSCN3458can you spot the oriental white eye?

DSCN3553masked laughing thrush (thanks to Nishant for the ID)

DSCN3619and the prettiest bird of the morning..the azure winged magpie

DSCN3605brilliantly blue in the morning sun

DSCN3562magpie robin

L1060511as we set off into the reserve, the skyscrapers of Shenzhen in the background were a contrast to the greenery

L1060502-8the main entrance signboard

L1060520our guide explaining to our group of 12..

DSCN3633one of the first lifers was this white cheeked starling..

L1060531attractive vistas

DSCN3500I’ve never seen so many cormorants anywhere before…

DSCN3528black and white….

DSCN3519my love affair with the common kingfisher continues! Almost every walk I’ve taken in the last month has yielded views of this beauty…

DSCN3645our guide tong-tong was most informative in teaching us how to distinguish male from female common KF.  Here is the female which has a red lower beak…

DSCN3649and the male with his all black beak.

L1060521the 3 story hide can be seen beyond this field of reeds..

DSCN3697and from the hide, at a distance perched a majestic Osprey, with his characteristic black eye stripe

DSCN3685with his crest raised

L1060538stopover for migrants

DSCN3768morning light

DSCN3750white throated KF from across the fish ponds

DSCN3502grey heron

DSCN3517perched up high and yawning!

L1060544boardwalk across the water lily pond

DSCN3782water lilies stretching into the distance

DSCN3659rude northern pintails

DSCN3845northern pintail

DSCN3726pied avocet


L1060566a most attractive mangrove forest where there were many white eyes

L1060574mangrove pod

DSCN3843and from a distance we saw this greater egret with something in his mouth

DSCN3832it looked like a big tilapia which he had just caught

DSCN3824unfortunately it appeared too big for the egret and it struggled for a while trying to swallow it..


3 hours had gone by rapidly and it was time to go, tong-tong suggested that I might enjoy the walk from the office out to the main road, a distance of about 1.3km, flanked by fish ponds.  As there were no cabs near the office anyway, I decided to walk out and see if I could find a cab or call an Uber…glad I did…

DSCN3856a white wagtail beckoned

DSCN3891here with a prinia

DSCN3912common stonechat

DSCN3909common prinia

DSCN3946tong-tong had told me that there were some winter migrants on the ponds…the tufted ducks….

DSCN3993Is this a red billed starling? Grateful for any help in ID…

DSCN3932Yellow wagtail

DSCN3927and another view…

DSCN3737and finally, one of my favourite KFs, the Pied Kingfisher….

DSCN3970here, doing its characteristic hover…

DSCN3971before plummeting into the water for its target

Mai Po is a great wetland reserve; cool weather, great location, lots of birds…made for a great morning out.  Access and distance is challenging but worth it.  Oh…and Uber is a great way to get back to your hotel as there are few taxis up there….about 350HKD to get back to central.   The WWF and HK nature society really need to do something about making access to the park more user friendly….otherwise it will remain a great resource that few will enjoy.










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