In his book The Seashore Ecology of Hong Kong (co-authored with John Morton), Brian Morton – dubbed the father of marine ecology conservation in Hong Kong – wrote:
Of all soft inter-tidal shores these are the richest in life; and of the beaches visited in Hong Kong it is perhaps the sand-flats of Shiu Hau [Shui Hau] on south Lantau that are the most attractive and engrossing.
If you visit, you might wonder about this – perhaps finding it an unassuming looking bay on the south coast of Lantau island, with silty tidal flats that may be swarming with clam diggers, or maybe with tens of kite surfers zooming about at high tide.
But Shui Hau can indeed be rewarding, including for birdlife – especially shorebirds in spring, which are in small numbers but with a very good variety including sand-plovers, stints, and Grey-tailed Tattlers.
It’s perhaps best early morning, with a tide not too high, not too low [maybe around 1.6m; check Shek Pik tide here].
The marshy abandoned fields to the south are also well worth checking for birds; Cattle Egrets generally accompany the water buffalo here, wagtails and more also occur. Plus the trees can attract flycatchers, and there are tiny vegetable plots where there might be buntings, Chinese Grosbeaks or even Scarlet Rosefinches.
Sadly, for all its importance, Shui Hau is not a protected area. It’s importance is recognised, along with acknowledgement the clam digging is excessive [will also harm other marine life, including horseshoe crabs, which nowadays nest in few places in Hong Kong]. There are even some projects supposedly aimed at conservation – such as by WWF Hong Kong with government funding, but as far as I can tell these haven’t made the slightest difference for the better.
Here are some shots of birds, taken at Shui Hau: