The Road to Ma On Shan (No Hope – or Crosby)

Occasionally photos appear on the HK bird forum with the location tagged as “Sai Sha Road”. Not very helpful as the road runs from Sai Kung to Ma On Shan, some 10km. However they are usually waders so it was always clear that it must be a coastal site. The other day someone tipped me off that a very short path from a car park I know takes you directly on to the shore path. This morning I set off to explore with no great expectations.

As it turned out the stretch of accessible coastline is probably only 1km tops but it is very open and seemed quite birdy. I saw White and Grey wagtails, Greater Coucal, Yellow-breasted Prinia, Common Sandpiper, a Collared Crow, a distant falcon, Common Kingfisher, Japanese White-eyes and probably several other very common species that I don’t immediately recall. A few specks sitting in the distance had all the hallmarks of Grey-tailed Tattler. Quite promising really. I took a few shots along the shoreline (see below) and was then contemplating going back to the car when………. whoosh! Three Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus, shot past me. Ooooh!! Nice bird. Not rare but a good find so close to home. I have seen them off Sai Kung pier but never so close as this for they landed about 50m away. I took some record shots and started to approach. RNPs can be quite confiding but two were not up for it. One allowed me to get a decent ‘context’ shot, feeding in the mangroves.

Phalaropus lobatus

Phalaropus lobatus

Migrating birds are hungry so minimal disturbance is the order of the day. I left this one in peace. Or so I thought. I paused on the small bridge that leads from the shoreline to the path back to the car park. And …… plop! The phalarope landed on the water about 10m away. That sounds close but I only had a 400mm lens and a full frame sensor camera. But this gave me much better images. And it came closer. And closer. Until I couldn’t focus. Phalaropes are tiny birds. About 8″ from top to tail. They spin on the water when feeding and they are sexually dimorphic. The female is the gaudier of the two, somewhat unusually. Normally the missus is cryptic so she can stay hidden on the nest, whilst her hunter gatherer mate rolls off every day to bring back food for her and junior.

This Phalarope did not spin much. I don’t know why. Perhaps it suffered from motion sickness. Oh my giddy phalarope! Anyway, here are some bigger images.

RNP1K25 RNP2K25 RNP3 They look lovely from behind, too.RNPback But eventually all good things must come to an end. This is actually an earlier shot and when I left the bridge the bird was still present.RNPflightI really could not believe my luck. First visit here and I get frame filling phalarope. Yee ha! as I believe they say in the USA.

The other images I took were less impressive, but in the interests of full disclosure, here are a few. It started with a kiss moth. Nomophila noctuella in fact. Rush Veneer is the vernacular name. Also on migration believe it or not. Found flitting about on the shoreline.


Poles I was surprised by a set of colourful poles along the path, purpose unknown. Perhaps put there to attract photographers.And the some rock art.Rock-art


ShorelineMOSAnd that is it for today. Hopefully better weather tomorrow. Where to? I’m sorry,  I haven’t a clue.

13 thoughts on “The Road to Ma On Shan (No Hope – or Crosby)

    • I saw my first in Shetland, Stephen. Here they are easier to see but not necessarily up close. They have lots of charisma or such small birds.

  1. Busy busy shoot eh?(Bang). S/he is well camouflaged in the mangroves, apart from the bill. A bit like those carrot birds from a few posts ago. Love the water on that rear shot.

    Meanwhile I was busy writing my post about the road to hell – or nowhere – so I didn’t reply to your mail. Strange this blogging lark. Two roads to wherever in one day.

  2. I agree with Mrs Storm, sorry Mrs Rough. A nice arse on that last bird but I’m also quite interested in the yellow floater? I’m guessing that it’s a flower…please don’t say that it was a screwed up sweetie wrapper.

  3. I”m laughing too much, re. Lottie and “Lady Gib.” It is supposed to be roughly not rough, Mrs. Malaprop. 🙂 Really I can not resist trying to be funny. I should leave that to Andrew. Anyhow, I have come up with Lady Gib (sounds better) for it twas I, I think, who began calling her roughy and then roughly and now it is back to rough again.

    Back to you, Andrew. Did you keep up with all of that goofiness? I like “that there bird” that spins in the water. I once had a nice pic ( different species but same genus, I think) of one done with my Canon 35mm using slide film and a 400mm. It was taken at the local lake eons ago. Have no idea in which box that slide is hinding.

    Actually the rocks are very pretty. I Iike the colors a lot. Beautiful.

    One last thought. I hope you don’t mind all the goofiness. As for me I would not even attempt this on anyone else’s blog. But with 3 Brits in one place, this old girl just had to jump in the middle.

    • Yvonne, goofiness is almost a requirement on this blog. Serious contributions are also welcome but not to the point of hijacking the general tone. I am very happy with the balance I see and appreciate everybody’s comments. I feel most fortunate in the quality of the readership.

      The phalarope has not been seen since Monday. I called in on the way home from Mai Po today but drew a blank. Birdless Wednesday. You may see Wilson’s Phalarope in the USA. Might that have been your bird? I am not sure on its distribution.

      Feel free to referee in case of need. We may need the wisdom of Solomon if things get tricky.

  4. I am trying to think of a Phalarope limerick, but all that comes to mind is “rope a dope” so maybe someone else can do better. Sweet little birds and you were treated to a great view.
    I really like your rocks there, very artistic, and probably endless compositional possibilities.

  5. Thanks, Andrew. I am glad for I really like reading your posts and the comments. Sometimes the comments get truly funny as in the case wirth this post. I too like the tone of your blog now. You have actived what I always thought was within your ability as a writer and as a photographer. You now have a decent following and i see that you contiune to garner new readers/ subscribers. I am pleased for you.

I'd be delighted to hear what you think

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