Unfortunate Changes (and some waders) at Long Valley

It seems that the long arm of urban development has finally reached Long Valley. Once-hailed as an oasis for migrating waders and buntings, this quaint and invaluable stretch of farmland and shallows is beginning its long and unfortunate process of development.

Why just a few weeks ago when I went to visit the visiting Asian dowitcher, there was overgrown farmland adjacent to its favorite pond that is now fully demolished and excavated. Last year as well I saw a plaintive cuckoo in this very field of what I believe was okra. What a shame to see such a fragile and valuable ecosystem being so encroached upon.

The entire road to the entrance point that I usually use is walled-off as well. Currently workers utilize that access point, but I’m not sure for how much longer I will be able to use it. I really don’t know much about what or how Long Valley will be developed, but no matter what I imagine things will be tougher for birds, birders, and farmers alike during this fast-approaching autumn bunting migration season.

(Added 14-9-2020: It turns out that much of the development of the main farmland patches at Long Valley are largely ecological. The farmland and valuable patches of wetland will be largely preserved, but access in the future will be limited to certain areas. This is ultimately better for the birds, though it may make certain records more difficult to make with limited public access. Ultimately, I’d say it’s a good thing. Details on the development of Long Valley can be found here.)

Adding to the unpleasantness of the experience were looming thunderstorms–a real worry if you’re romping around in Long Valley’s open fields with a tripod!

In terms of birds, there was only one noticeable addition to last time. In the first place, there were many more black-winged stilts. I counted nearly 30, a marked increase from last time’s mere handful.

I don’t really have much luck with taking photos of stilts. Their plumage makes them rather difficult to expose properly, and they’re rather loud and annoying when they notice you and plan to flee if you get too close. Either way, I’m still happy to see them in decent numbers here.

Among the stilts though was also a solitary common greenshank. They’re also not the most exciting of waders to see, but it’s the first time I’d seen one at Long Valley.

The most numerous birds were the wood sandpipers. Personally I counted at least 30, and I’m sure there were others hidden in the far reaches of the ponds.

I noticed these birds last year when I visited Long Valley for the first time later in the season, though I don’t recall them being so numerous. Perhaps this really is the peak of their migration through Hong Kong. If so, I hope they enjoy their stay, and I”m happy that I got to take at least a few somewhat respectable record shots.

Wood sandpipers, black-winged stilts, and common greenshanks each have corresponding entries in my Hong Kong Bird Log.

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