Mai Po Marshes birding, Hong Kong

Experience Hong Kong’s internationally renowned Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve, winter home and migration stopover for tens of thousands of wetland birds

mai po cormorants

If you would like a private birdwatching experience at Hong Kong’s Mai Po Marshes nature reserve, consider booking the Mai Po Wetland Experience, with Martin Williams or another experienced Hong Kong birding guide.

Here’s an introduction to Ma Po, from a film on HK nature tourism I co-produced, Explore Wild Hong Kong!:

The visit will take you to the heart of the Mai Po reserve, which is managed by the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong.

Though the itinerary is flexible – so you can enjoy the very best experience of Mai Po on the day you visit – you can expect to:

• walk trails by fishponds and old shrimp ponds
• watch birds from hides (blinds) overlooking landscaped lagoons.
• head along the border fence road within the reserve, to access parts of Mai Po that are too remote for regular visits; these include a lagoon that is often the most rewarding place for experiencing Mai Po and its birdlife in winter.

mai po boardwalk

• if the forecast tide seems promising, head through the border fence, and along a floating boardwalk that leads between mangroves to a hide on the edge of the Deep Bay mudflats bordering Hong Kong and mainland China. Here, if time and tide are right, you may witness one of Asia’s finest bird spectacles.

The relatively wild marshes, bird flocks, and gorgeous species like kingfishers can entrance everyone with an interest in the natural world.

In winter, Deep Bay hosts thousands of ducks, gulls, herons, egrets, shorebirds and cormorants. There are also world rarities, most notably one of east Asia’s star birds, Black-faced Spoonbill, of which there are around 1000 known in all, and for which Deep Bay is one of only three major winter sites. Other endangered species that are annual here are Dalmatian Pelican (rarer nowadays) and Saunders’ Gull. Spotted and Imperial eagles are among the birds of prey that spend winter in the area; songbirds include Red-billed (Silky) Starling.

mai po shorebirds

Autumn and spring, especially, bring a host of migratory shorebirds, with the commoner species including Curlew and Terek Sandpipers, Red-necked Stint, Lesser and Greater Sandplovers and Red and Great Knot; there are also global rarities like Asian Dowitcher, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Nordmann’s Greenshank. There are other migrants, too – Little Swifts may occur in thousands; there are songbirds such as flycatchers, warblers, and buntings.

At all seasons, Mai Po is home to kingfishers, and if you are really lucky you could see four species in a day here – Black-capped, White-breasted, Common and Pied. Other residents include Long-tailed Shrike, Japanese White-eye, and Plain and Yellow-bellied Prinias. Highlights of tours, from autumn 2003 onwards.

The following figures may help give you an indication of cost: Birding guide fee: HK$2800. Permit fees, for WWF Hong Kong: HK$150 each. Plus transport.

Article on visit to Mai Po w Martin, by Charlie Moores of 10000 birds: