The re-creation of freshwater habitats in the Mai Po Nature Reserve has resulted in the first-ever recorded breeding of black-winged stilts this summer. The birds are normally only seen in Hong Kong from autumn to spring, but this year they have stayed longer. A small flock of about 20 to 30 birds took up residence in the reserve this spring, and towards the end of May, representatives of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) located seven nests on small islets. Five new chicks have since been seen on the reserve. Black-winged stilts usually breed in wetlands, in shallow areas of fresh or slightly brackish water. WWF manager Lew Young said that while there was no shortage of brackish water at Mai Po, the WWF had, in 1998, decided to make more use of its many abandoned shrimp and fish-farming ponds. They allowed the ponds to fill with rainwater as a means of attracting more freshwater species to the reserve. 'The original idea of the ponds was to attract frogs and dragonflies and other freshwater wildlife, but we unexpectedly found that birds were also attracted to the ponds,' Dr Young said. 'We're always trying to see how we can enhance the ecological value of the Mai Po nature reserve.' Two of the chicks have been marked by the WWF with numbered metal leg rings in order to study their movements and growth. Dr Young said: 'We are hopefully expecting more freshwater wildlife now the freshwater marshes have been re-created.'