Birds of Lion Head Mountain and Ngong Ping on Lantau, Hong Kong

In spring 2022, thanks to birding naturalist Paul Aston, I helped discover that the hills near Ngong Ping on Lantau island are good places for observing migrating birds of prey – especially Grey-faced Buzzards and Chinese Sparrowhawks, along with seeing other migrants, and some resident birds of prey. The best lookout is evidently atop Lion Head Mountain; as well as being a great vantage with panoramic views, this sometimes affords superb views of birds passing close by, sometimes below hilltop height.

For information on the spring raptor migration here and elsewhere, including in spring 2022, see Spring Migration of Grey-faced Buzzards and Chinese Sparrowhawks in Hong Kong.

The resident birds of prey include Bonelli’s Eagle [spring 2022, but not 2023], Crested Serpent-Eagle (maybe at least some passage migrants), Crested Goshawk, Besra and Black Kite, with White-bellied Sea-Eagle also seen at times. Other passing raptors in spring have included Osprey, Eastern Marsh Harrier and Eastern Buzzard; swifts and swallows occur, and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters on two spring days. Hence, watching for visible migration in spring can be rewarding here.

Autumn perhaps also productive, as indicated by observations in early October 2022 after relatively quiet September: included Hong Kong’s second Booted Eagle, along with several Crested Honey-Buzzards, Japanese and Chinese Sparrowhawks, Eurasian Kestrels and Northern Hobbies; and White-throated Needletails [more in a day than all past HK autumn records!].

Locations of Windy Gap and Lion Head Mountain; with indications of best views from these vantages

Windy Gap is the easiest vantage to get to – there’s a lookout pavilion beside Ngong Ping Road, affording superb views to the south and east; it’s about five minutes’ walk from a bus stop.

Watching from Windy Gap, we noticed birds of prey sometimes passed close to a somewhat higher hill, Lion Head Mountain (Sze Tsz Tau Shan, 492m). I’ve tried this, and found it a better vantage – with 360-degree views, and more chance of birds passing at head height. Though only a narrow footpath heads here, via a narrow road through the Tea Gardens, it is only around 15 minutes’ walk from the Ngong Ping bus terminus.

Panorama looking south from Lion Head Mountain

Also in autumn 2022, some migrant songbirds in Ngong Ping area, including Yellow-rumped Flycatcher and Yellow-browed Bunting; birds in winter 2022/23 included White’s Thrush, Japanese Robin and Red-flanked Bluetail.

Below is a gallery of some photos taken from these vantages and in the nearby woods etc, to indicate the birds seen.

Soon after I arrived or just as I arrived at Lion Head Mountain on three mornings in 2022, a Large-billed Crow perched/landed on rocks close to me – to within maybe four metres. As if curious what I was doing on “his” mountain. Soon flew off, didn’t return even tho I spent several hours there [males generally bolder, so perhaps male?]. Phone shot here; Colin the Curious Crow! I’ve since seen other crows very close here, too; and in spring 2023 a bold crow readily ate bits of bread dropped by a human.

Below, some butterflies at Lion Head Mountain on 17 May 2022. These are males of species with “hill-topping” behaviour – head to peaks to show off, establish small territories, and perhaps meet females to mate: like a singles bar/pickup joint for butterflies!


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