A second business trip to Hong Kong has afforded me the opportunity for further birding within the Special Administrative Region of China. On my previous trip I had wanted to have a trip to the Mai Po Marshes however I was unable to take this trip as the access to the area requires a special permit from the Agriculture, Fisheries & Conservation Department. Further research prior to my second trip suggested that I would need to join a guided tour to allow access to the marshes. I initially tried to book a tour with the Hong Kong Bird watching Society, however their trip was already fully subscribed. The HKBWS suggested that I contact the WWF who manage the reserve; I did so through their website ( www.wwf.org.hk ) and managed to book myself on two different afternoon walks. The first walk on the Saturday was for a mangrove boardwalk to floating hide to view the Deep Water Bay. Not familiar with the route to the reserve I gave myself plenty of time and arrived early. The group consisted of myself an 24 locals; the guide gathered us together and told me that he was going to conduct the tour in Cantonese since I was outnumbered 24 to 1, but that if I wanted any information just to ask. The Mai Po reserve is actively managed by the WWF. It is a biologically diverse area for wetland flora and fauna across six types of wetland including fishponds, gei wai, mudflats, mangroves, reedbed and freshwater ponds. In 1995 the Hong Kong Government designated an area of roughly 1,500 hectares of Inner Deep Bay as a 'Wetland of International Importance' under the RAMSAR Convention. As we proceeded on the walk I realised that birding Chinese style was somewhat different to that which I was used to. From both my trips it has become apparent that it is impossible for a group of Chinese to conduct a conversation quietly and as such the behaviour within the hides would have resulted in some stern words at an RSPB reserve in the UK!! We accessed the mangrove area in the restricted border zone and made and our way to the floating hide. In spite of all the noise, some of the birds still stayed close to the hide and some good views were afforded including Pied Avocet, Common Kingfisher, White Throated Kingfisher, Cormorant and Eurasian Curlew along with a couple of new species; Daurian Redstart, White Fronted Waterhen and Ruddy-Crested Crake. The one bird that I did really want to see at Mai Po was the Black Faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor), a species whose existence Ian questioned and put down to excesses of Chinese beer on my part. These birds are globally threatened with global numbers placed at around 2400 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-faced_Spoonbill ) with approximately one quarter of them wintering at Mai Po. On the return walk a few of the Spoonbills were spotted, but they were distant. The guide indicated that it was likely that we would see some more on the way back and better views were likely. Some good views of other birds were had but the Spoonbills remained elusive. to be continued...

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