24 Feb 2021

“Do you have Conservation in Hong Kong ?"



I was asked this while overseas a couple of years ago, and was a bit taken aback.  The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society was founded in 1957 - it has lobbied Government ever since - and persuaded the Government in the early 1970s to set aside a part of the Mai Po area as a Nature Reserve. the local branch of WWF was set up in 1981.  


Worldwide Fund for Nature Hong Kong manage Mai Po Nature Reserve and it now costs them, as an organisation, several million HK dollars (almost three-quarters of a million US dollars) a year to do so. Maintaining a seaside artificial wetland requires labour and earth-moving equipment. Boardwalks, paths and hides need to be maintained and vegetation has to be controlled where necessary.   Old reed beds need to be periodically ripped out and replanted. Mangrove grows rapidly anywhere its seeds can float to, often in places where Reserve Management might not want it.


Even if enough visitors paid more entry fees to cover more costs, the presence of more people would compromise it’s usefulness to wildlife.  So entry/guiding  fees will help, but  the value of a place for nature is beyond price.



WWF HK has held fund-raising Bird Races in most years since 1984.


“Bucks for Mai Po” was  the mantra in the first dozen years or so of the event, and, pre-handover, sums raised were close to two million HK dollars. 



A Bird Race always was a memorable, but exhausting day out.  As as birder, though, I wasn’t the only person who saw Mai Po Nature Reserve as the best of good causes…Having done about twenty of these over the years I thought I had passed the baton to a newer generation of birders.


However, I  joined this year’s WWF Big Bird Race event when someone had to drop out at the last minute.  Not just driving, I actually had to help find some birds, too. 




Due to Covid-19, Teams of two were the rule, and Tim Woodward and I became “All Stars B” .


These are a few mobile phone shots that might give some flavour of the day. Obviously, it wasnt practical to carry the “proper” camera and long lens.




We experienced dry late winter weather, being cool in the morning but appreciably warmer at mid-day.  It’s that time of the year when some winter birds have fled back to their breeding grounds, and the main cohort of passage migrants haven’t arrived yet.


 

A hundred and umpteen birds in twelve hours didn’t win the race, but we certainly covered a few habitats.

28 Jan 2021

On the beach at Pak Nai, northwest New Territories

 A couple of days ago we bashed out to Pak Nai in the Wild West of the New Territories, to try to see the Oystercatcher first reported there some weeks ago.

Pak Nai overlooks Deep Bay, famous in Hong Kong for its’ cultivated oyster beds. The Deep Bay water quality has plummeted in recent decades, and the oysters can now contain more heavy metals pound-for-pound than a Tesla car battery.


But I digress.  But anyway, where else should an Oystercatcher hang out ?


On a hazy morning we searched in vain for the target bird, but the conditions were favourable to photograph two Black-faced Spoonbills, feeding in a shallow creek beside the beach; -












....and a couple of other characteristic “winter seashore” species besides, Little Ringed Plover,  two ocularis” White Wagtails, and a Grey Plover.










Lunar New Year (and the official Cantonese spring) is only days away.


13 Jan 2021

Mid-winter ground frost

We’re at sea level here, but several kilometres from the nearest warming ocean at Mai Po.

Frosty plants are a novelty to photograph, but cold weather can be an extra hazard for wildlife.





Wood Sandpiper





Still cold in the shadows, but Blue Magpies were active.




Green Sandpiper



Masked Laughingthrush



Ground frost can damage winter crops like lettuce.  Frost is relatively rare (we’re in the tropics, after all) so not many field areas in the New Territories are protected against it.

We’d had a clear, cold night, but a warm sun was coming up !



4 Jan 2021

New Territories, New Year

Clear and cool, and we enjoyed the view of Ma Tso Lung, here with Shenzhen in the background,



House Swift, one of the first birds of the New Year....


At Mai Po in the evening, Pied Avocets in a frisky mood.





Some of the thousands of Great Cormorants now wintering at Mai Po.





Eurasian Wigeon on Pond 11, Mai Po.




And January 3rd we “Twitched” the Greater Scaup in the river at Shatin.






 Happy New Year !

5 Dec 2020

Raptor Rapture in early Winter

Blogger has put these in reverse order and I’m demonstrating my maturity by not being fagged to try to reverse them back...

Anyhow, a close-ish Black-winged Kite fly-by gave a short thrill.







And a late-autumn Pied Harrier....







And “not a raptor at all..” Stejneger’s Stonechat