I made my monthly visit to Kapar today with David Lai, Nina Cheung and Yang Chong.
The number of birds had grown massively since the last visit, and there were several roosts within the ashponds, making a total count challenging.
Different roosts tended to be composed of different species. This one was made up of Great Knots, Bar-tailed Godwits and Whimbrels.
This one is composed of smaller calidrids and plovers, while another was made up almost entirely of curlews
Most flocks were rather distant. However, the plover and sandpiper flock allowed closer approach, so that was where we focused our attention.
When scanning a closely-packed roosting flock, more often than not the whole bird is not visible, so you have to try to identify parts of birds! I find that repeated scanning is what yields results. Click on this picture and try to find the odd bird.
Here it is, a Red Knot in non-breeding plumage.
Finding rarities in amongst wader flocks this size is like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack, only there's no guarantee that the needle is there!
Of course, if the needle is white, it helps! This leucistic Redshank has now been around for over a month.
Another lone bird that eventually revealed itself was this adult Sanderling.
Best of all was this Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.
Despite being common on passage in Hong Kong and in the northern winter in Australia, they are an extreme rarity in the Peninsula. This is only the second record in recent years.
Superficially similar to the equally scarce Pectoral Sandpiper, Sharpies can be identified by a combination of features. They tend to look rather capped, and the supercilium flares obviously behind the eye. The breast band is not so densely streaked and clearly demarcated as on Pectoral, and the streaks or chevrons extend down the flanks and onto the vent.
The ventral streaks can just about be seen on this appalling digiscoped photo! Also the pale eye-ring, which is more prominent on Sharp-tailed than Pectoral. Structurally, Sharpies are distinctively short-billed and deep-chested, and look rather portly birds.
This is an adult moulting to non-breeding plumage, as can be seen by the paler-edged scapulars. Here's a bit of video footage.
Total numbers were impressive, as follows:
Pacific Golden Plover 80
Grey Plover 320
Lesser Sand Plover 3800
Greater Sand Plover 400
Black-tailed Godwit 26
Bar-tailed Godwit 1220
Eurasian Curlew 3800
Common Redshank 3500
Marsh Sandpiper 30
Common Greenshank 640
Terek Sandpiper 110
Common Sandpiper 2
Ruddy Turnstone 12
Great Knot 1280
Red Knot 6
Red-necked Stint 200
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper 1
Curlew Sandpiper 500
Broad-billed Sandpiper 20
Lesser Adjutant 1
Striated Heron 4
Cattle Egret 7
Grey Heron 10
Little Egret 47
Gull-billed Tern 250
Caspian Tern 1
Little Tern 500
White-winged Tern 1
Little and large! The lone Caspian and White-winged Terns at the roost fly out to the mudflats together.