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A day of birdwatching, stunning scenery, and great company.

I had the great pleasure recently of a guided tour of MaiPo, in the company of (Doc) Martin Williams. But first, lets get our terminology straight. Martin is an expert Birder, whereas I am a Bird-Watcher.

Here a Whiskered Tern, looking scruffy as he moults in the summer. I love the way you can see the bones in his wings, as i shot this against the light.

As per Birding magazine, 1969.

Birder. The acceptable term used to describe the person who seriously pursues the hobby of birding. May be professional or amateur.

Bird-watcher. A rather ambiguous term used to describe the person who watches birds for any reason at all, and should not be used to refer to the serious birder.

Birders in general are sometimes (inappropriately) called "twitchers", which is quintessentially a British term. However, the correct use of "Twitching" is a British term used to mean "the pursuit of a previously located rare bird."

Ok, back to Martin, who is a a writer, photographer and expert on nature tourism, with a lifelong passion for birding. He has been based in Hong Kong for 30 years, and helped pioneer birdwatching tourism in China and Hong Kong. Martin can lead private tours in Hong Kong (like the one I did in MaiPo). See his contact details at the end of this blog. Here a Grey-tailed Tattler, on the hunt for crabs.

First thing he told me was that this was a bad time to go, as most of the interesting migrating birds would have gone...and it would be hot, hot, hot! Of course he was right, but he planned our visit with the tidal flow to ensure we got the maximum viewing possibilities, and we had a great day out. We saw terns fishing; hundreds of Egrets and Herons of all kinds; many, many shore birds; an Osprey feeding on a his fish, and one also flying; huge leaping mudskippers; and the highlights were Black-winged Stilts buzzing an Egret that was after their chicks; and a Grey-tailed Tattler that grabbed some mud, which turned out to be a crab after some washing! All of this in glorious live colour, close up from inside the various hides, with a continuous expert commentary from Martin. On the left a Great Egret. On the right, a Whimbrel (looking very much like a curlew to me...just as well i had Martin to point out the differences). Click on the images for a larger view.

He is every patient with newbie bird-watchers, and never loses his Yorkshire sense of humour, even with the daftest questions like "why is the bird so small?" to which he replied "'cos its a long way away!", a comment that will remain with me for a while.

Martin was very excited by this sighting - and picture by him - of a Nordmann's Greenshank, which is highly endangered [perhaps even Critically Endangered), so see them while you can! He explains for the identification, that the legs are very short to the bend/tibia, and looking yellowish rather than dull green like the similar Common Greenshank; Also there is a unique feather pattern on the folded wing above tail. It is the pale bird at the back left. The other birds are A black-tailed godwit scratching and the others are common redshank.

I ended up with tons of material, photos, fascinating facts and anecdotes for my amusement, and also for my blog, so look out for birding features coming soon (or birdwatching features anyway).

One of the highlights was seeing 6 Black-faced spoonbills, including this one that came quite close, and did some interesting nesting behaviour.

As I have mentioned, Martin caters for experienced Birders and Twitchers, but also is excellent for people who want a great nature tour, with a focus on birds.

To contact Martin for tours tel 96291824; and also check out his excellent website which has a huge amount of useful information and things to do.

The end(s).... Doc and Robert taking pics of the Whiskered Tern as it dives and fishes.

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