Heavy traffic on flight path
Excited birdwatchers observed a record number of migratory birds at the Mai Po nature reserve this winter.
But the rare black-faced spoonbill, whose presence has attracted enthusiasts from around the world to the wetland, was fewer in number.
The species is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but a growing number have been seen in the city in recent years.
Bena Smith, manager of the Mai Po reserve, said preliminary observations showed this year's figure could be down 10 per cent on last year's.
Some 462 of the rare birds were sighted in Hong Kong last winter, accounting for one-fifth of the black-faced spoonbill's world population, according to an international survey released in April last year by a collection of birdwatching societies around the globe. The worldwide population showed a 15 per cent increase to a record high of 2,346.
'I suspect they have been using other new wetlands along the eastern and southern coasts of China this year,' Smith said, adding the population in Taiwan also dropped by 30 per cent this winter. The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society would soon release a more concrete figure, he said.
Global conservation body WWF, which manages the reserve, is to spend HK$1 million raised from public donations to create and restore habitats for the spoonbills. Areas of shallow water were planned for the northern part of the reserve to provide food and a roosting ground for the birds, Smith said.
He said the number of ducks spending the winter in Mai Po had increased by about 40 per cent this year. A similar increase has been recorded for some eagles and cormorants.
In the longer term, the green group said it would come up with recommendations for improving the environment of the Deep Bay area with conservationists in Shenzhen.
But Smith said the area was still under threat from development. 'The fringe of Deep Bay is being developed, including the Lok Ma Chau Loop, which will create an accumulated impact on the wetlands in the long run,' he said, referring to a government plan to develop the area into a hub for universities and research and development.