22 May 2012

The Promise of Youth

The First Cricket Test between England and the West Indies has just concluded, with a win for England.  (After, it must be said, a bit of a "wobble" ! )

Stuart Broad took 11 wickets for 145 runs in the match..  a splendid achievement.   Comparisons have been made with Ian Botham's "Eleven-fer.." feat in 1978; - 11 for 140 to be precise.  Which is my excuse to trot out this photo I took of Ian Botham at Lord's in that very match.

I used a Russian MTO mirror 1000mm lens, with a Practica Super TL camera, rigged up on a home-made rifle mount.  The photo was taken on Ilford FP3 and all the processing was done with my own fair hands.

By late Saturday afternoon, when this photo was taken, New Zealand had been "skittled" to end the day at 37 for 7, a position they did not recover from.  I remember a forlorn Mark Burgess (the NZ Captain) trudging back into the shadows of the pavilion.

England's highest wicket taker was just at the beginning of his Test Match career and, in a way, that summer marked  a "beginning" for me too.

I had just received an appointment letter to join the Royal Hong Kong Police, and 1978 was my last full summer in the United Kingdom. Aged 22, I flew out to Hong Kong a few weeks after this photo was taken.

But I'll never forget Ian Botham - in full of a packed house at Lord's - showing the kind of irresistible bowling form that was to define his career.  It's nice to see a brief echo of it in the performance of Stuart Broad this week.

13 May 2012

Red-footed Booby

Yesterday I went with Chris Campion to "have a go" at sea birding from one of Hong Kong's "Overnight Cruise" liners, namely the Star Pisces. Mid-May is the peak migration time for skuas and shearwaters in the seas near Hong Kong.

I had never been on one of these jaunts before, and it turns out that "Overnight Cruises" are popular with mainland Chinese tourists. In the past, people in China who lived far from the sea have actually told me how much they would like to experience the open ocean from the deck of a ship.

A dinner buffet, karaoke and stage performers all add to the attraction for the general tourist, but another factor is that - when the boat leaves Hong Kong's boundaries - casino-style gambling is no longer illegal, and those that want to can "have a flutter".

An "Overnight Cruise" was certainly a way of bringing some variety into our birding lives.  The boat is a huge floating platform and we were up before the sun rose with commanding views of the South China Sea.  We knew that nothing we saw was "countable" on our Hong Kong lists, but there was the prospect of possible additions to our China lists.

As it turned out, our most exciting birds were seen within the first hour…. one - probably two - Red-footed Boobys (we didn't really get onto the first one well.)

Red-footed Booby- Sula sula  (VERY distant !)

There are a handful of Hong Kong records of Red-footed Booby, and an account of the last one Jemi and I saw in Hong Kong is here : -

We also had five Bridled Terns and a single flock of eight White-winged Black Terns, but no Skuas or Shearwaters, indeed not even a Phalarope.

So, a bit disappointing… but if you don't go, you'll never know.

9 May 2012

Caspian Terns - taking the plunge !

A variety of Terns seasonally patrol the fishponds of Hong Kong's northwest New Territories.  Whiskered, White-winged, Little and Common are among the more frequent takers of small fish. 

This low-key theft is usually a discreet business, but the World's Biggest Tern doesn't do "discreet".

This Caspian Tern managed to look like a jumbo jet crashing as it went in head first for whatever it could get, and it came out of the water with a lot of droplets shaken and scattered all over the place….  but don't take my word for it…

Caspian Terns - Hydroprogne caspia

A "Good Spring" for admirers of this species. In mid-April there were nearly two hundred of them at Mai Po Nature Reserve.