Spectacular heron gathering in Tseung Kwan O after heavy rain delights local community

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20th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Following the first Red Rainstorm Warning of the year issued by the Hong Kong Observatory on 4th May, Tseung Kwan O was transformed into a strikingly beautiful wildlife spectacle. The aftermath of the storm saw over a hundred herons congregating in the local grasslands, a scene eagerly captured and shared by residents on social media.

The community’s online forums and Facebook groups, particularly the ‘Tseung Kwan O Hub’, were abuzz with excitement as images and videos surfaced showing large numbers of Chinese Egrets—locally referred to by some as “Tseung Kwan O’s signature bird”—gracefully foraging for insects in the soggy fields. Community members noted that both young and mature birds were present, suggesting a healthy, thriving population returning to the area.

The photos uploaded depicted a diverse assembly of herons, including the distinctive Black-faced Spoonbill and the Yellow-billed Egret, some sporting vibrant yellow plumes—a telltale sign of the breeding season. A standout moment for the community was the capture of a video by a local, showing the herons braving the windy conditions, their feathers fluttering dramatically.

The online community, particularly local nature enthusiasts, have been vocal in their delight. One moderator of the ‘Tseung Kwan O Hub’ noted that this year’s count reached a record 145 birds in a single frame, marking the highest number observed in over a decade. Another post in a similarly themed group highlighted nearly 190 sightings, including both the Golden-headed Cattle Egret and the smaller Chinese Egrets, hinting at a possible ‘summer vacation’ migration to the area.

Local residents expressed their admiration for the unexpected natural showcase, with comments ranging from joyful surprise to a renewed appreciation for the area’s ecological diversity. “If it weren’t for these posts, many of us wouldn’t realise the natural beauty Tseung Kwan O has to offer,” commented one local.

The event has not only provided a visual treat but also sparked interest in local wildlife, with discussions emerging about other bird species spotted in nearby locations, such as Tsing Yi. The enthusiasm was palpable, with residents sharing their own photographs and queries about the different species observed.

This remarkable congregation of herons in Tseung Kwan O highlights the region’s critical role as a habitat for migratory and local bird populations. The Hong Kong Wetland Park, in its official literature, describes the Cattle Egret, in particular, as a fascinating species due to its unique behaviour and vibrant breeding plumage. During migration seasons, these birds are a common sight, often seen resting alongside cattle, from which they get their name.

The Sustainable Lantau Office also notes the symbiotic relationship between water buffaloes and Cattle Egrets, a dynamic seen not only on the vast plains of Africa but also locally on Lantau Island, where the birds help control insects around the buffaloes.