WWF-Hong Kong’s annual bird-watching event, the Big Bird Race 2015, came to a successful close last Saturday, 17 January. The Race attracted over 80 participants from 16 local and overseas teams who competed for several prizes. Five of these teams came from China, Korea, Taiwan and Macau. The Deadset Drongos, a first-time team, won the champion by recording 157 species over the course of the 12-hour race.
WWF has been organizing the Big Bird Race since 1984, raising funds to support the management of Mai Po Nature Reserve and education programmes held at this world-famous wetland reserve. Bird-watchers work together in teams of four to six to record as many bird species as they can anywhere in Hong Kong, and complete the race at the Reserve.
The winning team, Deadset Drongos, won the championship by recording 157 species. They spent two days before the race visiting different parts of Hong Kong and studying different bird species in various habitats. On the race day, they used their study results to plan a route around Hong Kong – a highly successful tactic!
This year’s race introduced two new prizes, the “University Cup” and the “Overseas Cup”. The winner of the Overseas Cup, Magic Scops Owl from mainland China, was also new to the Race. Led by a bird expert from the mainland and an associate professor from the College of Ecology and Evolution at Sun Yat-Sun University, Dr Yang Liu, the team recorded 123 species during the Race. Swire Birdbrains, formed by teachers and students from the University of Hong Kong, won the University Cup.
Our honourable guests, Dr Philip Kwok, Trustee and Big Bird Race founder, and Mr Adam Koo, the Chief Executive Officer of WWF-Hong Kong, officiated at the kick-off ceremony held the day before the race. Dr Kwok reviewed the history of the Big Bird Race, and Mr Koo introduced the theme bird, the Collared Crow, informing the guests that due to the overuse of pesticides and rodenticides, its population has been continually dropping in mainland China and Southeast Asia. In fact, the Collared Crow was listed as “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List in 2008. However, regular monitoring at Mai Po has indicated a gradual increase in Collared Crow numbers over the past 10 years, and the Mai Po population now boasts one of the highest counts anywhere in the world for this species in recent times, with a record of 173 individuals recorded last summer. These figures show that Deep Bay is a global stronghold for the crow and underlines the importance of the wetland conservation work performed at Mai Po over the past 31 years.
Mai Po provides food and shelter for as many as 60,000 waterbirds in mid-winter. This year, the funds raised by the Big Bird Race will be allocated to further enhancing the southernmost floating bird hides overlooking the mudflats of Deep Bay, which are old and have long been in need of renovation. The hides’ ventilation systems will also be upgraded. The renovation would certainly better facilitate Mai Po visitors and birdwatchers to enjoy their time with the nature.
World Wetlands Day marks the date of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands, and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has designated that this important day will fall on 2 February every year. WWF hopes that as we approach this day, the participants and fans of this year’s Big Bird Race will continue to keep birds as a top priority by raising public awareness about the importance of wetland conservation.
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