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Birdbrains in Big Bird Race 2006

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Birdbrains in Big Bird Race 2006 (pdf)

by Tony Hung (ENS 2)

The Big Bird Race 2006 was held from 5 pm on Friday 3 March 2006 to 5 pm the following day. This year, our team - the Swire Birdbrains (Fig.1) was led by Dr. Billy Hau and our team members included Yu Yat Tung (ENS graduate), Tony Hung, Cindy Yuen, Vivian Fu, Vivian Lam, Hey Sung, Philip Yip and Gracie Liu (all ENS Year 2 students). The weather was perfect for birding - a cool, yet sunny, day.

Fig. 1.Swire Birdbrains finishing the Race at Mai Po.

We started at Tsim Bei Tsui, since Mai Po was closed this year due to the avian flu. We arrived at Tsim Bei Tsui earlier, at 3.30 pm, to check out the birds first. We started the race at 5 pm sharp and recorded a Grey Bushchat, which is new to all members except Tung and Billy. We were thrilled to have recorded 71 species in Tsim Bei Tsui and then continued with our "night journey", searching for nocturnal birds such as owls and nightjars. We stayed up until 11 pm without wanting to go back, as the feeling was one-of-a-kind - everything was pitch black and silent until we saw two big "light bulbs" flashing at us, which turned out to be birds! It was definitely worth it despite our weariness. We saw the species, a Savannah Nightjar and a Barred Owlet, several times, raising our count to 73 species on the first day. Although we failed to hear the calls of a Collared Scops Owl we saw it on the morning of the second day. We stayed over at Dr. Hauís place at Morrison Hall and got up at 5 am in the morning. We are immensely grateful to Dr. Hau, he got up earlier than the rest of us to prepare a scrumptious breakfast! The first stop was at the Peak at 6 am to listen for bird calls and then we went back to HKU where we saw our first bird of the day Ė the Brown Headed Thrush which we had seen every day for two weeks before the race. Then, we went to Tai Po Kau to look for forest birds. Birding at Tai Po Kau is always unpredictable and we were not so lucky this time - recording only 9 species in 2 hours! Undaunted by this setback, we then moved into full throttle at Lam Tsuen, Shek Kong, Long Valley, Nam Sang Wai, Kam Tin and Tam Kong Chau.

We ended up with 138 species which ranked us 6th amongst the 11 competing teams. We were also lucky to have recorded some unique species that other teams did not record in the race like Brown Headed Thrush, Mew Gull, Eyebrow Thrush, Hainan Blue Flycatcher and Humeís Leaf Warbler. Although Mai Po was closed this year, the winner had a total of 158 species which was more than last yearís number when Mai Po was one of the observation areas! We raised more than HK$22,000 this year and had tremendous support from 133 sponsors (second highest number of sponsors). A big thank you to all the sponsors and to Professor Dudgeon for sending pledge forms out to staff in HKU. We had lots of ups and downs during the bird race and enjoyed every single minute of it. As a bonus, each of us got "ticks" for spotting new bird species.

We would like to take this opportunity to show our greatest gratitude to Billy and Tung; Billy for giving us the opportunity to participate in this race and driving us, although he didnít have enough sleep before the race, and Tung for helping us to find so many birds through his amazing bird watching and listening skills! We all canít wait for the next BBR in 2007!



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