The Black-naped and the Roseate Tern

I never had an interest in birds, but since I saw a white-bellied sea eagle near Shek Kwu Chau I have become interested at least in the big raptors. But there are also a lot of seabirds that form part of the ocean ecosystems even in Hong Kong.
And on a recent ferry ride in South Lantau I was treated to a great spectacle of 2 beautiful species of seabirds, the Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii) and the Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana).

I only had my smartphone with me so I shot this slow-mo footage of the terns ducking and diving behind the ferry and occassionaly plunge-diving into the water at high speed and then flying up again with small fish in their beaks.

Along for the ferry ride were three birders with huge telezoom cameras and I thought at the time “I bet these guys are with the HK Bird Watching Society. I must check their forum page later to see if they post the images…” – I haven;t found them yet, but in the meantime I found these stunning images on th HKBWS Forum which are well worth a look.

The Black-naped Tern has white forehead and crown with black nape extending through the eyes. It is an oceanic bird mostly found in tropical and subtropical areas of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and rarely found inland. It frequents small offshore islands, reeds, sand spits and rocky cays, feeding in atoll lagoons and close inshore over breakers, but sometimes also far out at sea. The diet is mainly small fish and they will almost always forage singly by shallow plunge-diving or surface-diving. The breeding season varies depending on locality, usually forming small colonies of 5 to 20 pairs, but sometimes up to 200 pairs. Colonies are often formed on unlined depression in the sand or in gravel pockets on coral banks close to the high tide line. In Hong Kong It can be seen over the sea and aroundcoastal areas in the summer.

The Roseate Tern has white underparts with pink, red bill and legs. It is a cosmopolitan species occurring all the way from the Atlantic coast of Ireland to Australia, although it is split into 3 races by geographical areas. In Hong Kong it can be seen over the sea and around coastal areas of northeastern and southern waters in the summer. According to the WWF, the Roseate Tern is now a rare visitor to Hong Kong with only 10-20 terns coming to Hong Kong, so it seems I was quite lucky to see some of them!

During the summer months from May to September, the Roseate Tern, the Black-naped Tern and the Bridled Tern regularly come to breed on the small and remote rocky islands in eastern and southern of Hong Kong waters. In the last 10 years between 2001 and 2010, summer population of the 3 tern species at these breeding sites ranged at 270 to 990, or 570 on average.

There are a lot of keen bird-watchers in Hong Kong, so there is no shortage of information and photographs of terns in Hong kong on the web, so if you are interested in finding out more about these birds, have a look at:

Turtles Returned to Sea

On Friday (12/8/16) the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) released three juvenile green turtles in the southeastern waters of Hong Kong.
 The green turtles were found by members of the public at Pak Lap Beach and Silverstrand Beach in Sai Kung and a refuse collection depot on Tin Hau Temple Street in North Point between January 2014 and July this year.

After an initial check-up by the AFCD, the turtles were taken to Ocean Park Hong Kong (OPHK) for a thorough veterinary assessment and necessary medical treatment. Since then, they have been looked after at OPHK.

The three green turtles weighed 8.6 kg to 34.5 kg and measured about 45 cm to 66 cm in shell length. All of the turtles were in good condition and ready to be returned to sea. 

Before the turtles were released into the sea, the AFCD tagged each of them with a microchip and Inconel tags for future identification. Satellite transmitters were also attached to their shells. By tracking the oceanic movement and feeding grounds of green turtles, the AFCD can collect data for formulating appropriate conservation measures and share its findings with other conservation authorities for the better conservation of sea turtles.

The green turtle is a globally endangered species. Members of the public are urged to report any sighting of sea turtles to the department via the government hotline 1823 to help protect them.

Another Dead Spadenose Shark Found

Another dead shark was found in Hong Kong waters over the weekend, just days after a dead dolphin and shark washed up on two separate Tuen Mun beaches.

It is believed that the two sharks are of the same, or related, shark species.

At 5:45pm on Saturday, a swimmer told lifeguards at Butterfly Beach about what he thought was a shark carcass floating near the shore.

Around six or seven lifeguards then went into the water, finding and retrieving a dead 36-centimetre-long spadenose shark.

Fourth Dead Cetacean Found in 1 Week

A dead finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) was found in Discovery Bay on Sunday afternoon, the fourth dead marine mammal discovered in four days after the bodies of three dolphins were discovered on Thursday.
It was found in the water and handed over to the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation for an autopsy. The OPCFHK said that the porpoise was a 1.55 metre long female and the body had reached the fourth stage of decomposition. Its cause of death has yet to be determined.

On Thursday, the bodies of three Chinese white dolphins (Sousa chinensis) were found – one entangled in fishing wire near Lido Beach in Sham Tseng, one in waters near Lamma Island and another in Fan Kwai Tong off Lantau Island.

The Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society (HKDCS) estimate that there has been a decline since 2014, when 61 dolphins were estimated to be in Hong Kong waters.

One Dead Dolphin, One Dying Shark

A 60cm-long Pacific Spadenose shark (Scoliodon macrorhynchos) washed ashore at Butterfly Beach in Tuen Mun at about 11.30am this morning. As always when a shark or suspected shark is spotted at beach in Hong Kong,
the warning flag was hoisted and beach-goers are told not to swim there, while marine police and the government flying service scour the area for sharks. No more Sharks were found. The shark may have been still alive when it washed ashore, but is now being autopsied by Ocean Park Conservation Fund.

All of Hong Kongs gazetted beaches are enclosed with shark-prevention barriers of steel wire mesh. The shark nets for the beach were inspected but no damage was detected. It is possible that the shark came ashore during high tide – or it was simply small enough to slip through the mesh.

A similar or possibly the same species was found at a beach on Lamma in August 2014.

Also on Thursday, the carcass of a male Chinese white dolphin (Sousa chinensis) was found on a beach in Sham Tsang in Tsuen Wan district. An AFCD spokeswoman said the department was alerted to the discovery at 11am. The dolphin measured 2.1 metres long and was also sent to Ocean Park for an autopsy.

Sai Wan Ho Dead Dolphin Turns Out To Be Dwarf or Pygmy Sperm Whale

The dead dolphin I posted about yesterday has been reclassified as either a dearf or Pygmy sperm whale by AFCD and Ocean Park Conservation Fund staff. The two-metre-long decomposing whale was found a few metres from the marine police base at Tai Hong Street in Sai Wan Ho.

It is believed it was a male dwarf sperm whale, but a genetic test is needed to confirm its species. The other possibility is its relative, the pygmy sperm whale. Both species are rare in local waters.
Dwarf sperm whales and pygmy sperm whales are extremely similar and usually indistinguishable when spotted at sea. They are widely distributed in tropical and temperate zones of all the world’s oceans.

The first and only recorded local sighting of a dwarf sperm whale was in 1991. There were four previous local discoveries of pygmy sperm whales, with the most recent in 2014.

Dead Dolphin Found Off Sai Wan Ho

A dead dolphin was found by boatman at around midnight off Sai Wan Ho. The dolphin measured about 1.5 m in length. Police recovered the carcass and has passed it to the AFCD for further identification and post-mortem.

Appreciating Hong Kong's Rich Marine Life

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