About Me

Wells, BC, Canada
Richard is a working photographer and writer in B.C. His camera focuses on natural history. archeology, travel, and documentary photography. His photography blog may be found at: http://richardtwright.blogspot.com/

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Photographing Hong Kong birds


Birding with a camera in Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong at sunset from a Harbour Junk. Richard Wright photo

Hong Kong is everything one might expect, and nothing like one expects. The city teems with 7 million people. The north shore of Hong Kong Island is stacked with concrete buildings as high as 118 stories, 1588 feet. There are 112 buildings that stand over 591 feet. Across the waters of the protected harbour Kowloon is fast approaching a similar mass, where the average residential apartment block is over 31 stories with hundreds of apartments of 50 square meters, renting for $3000 to $16,000 (for larger spacious apartments) per month in Canadian dollars. This mass of humanity and architecture is teetered on mountain tops surrounded by water. Imagine an anthill. This is what we expect of Hong Kong. Yet it is only half the picture.
Further, most of us expect Hong Kong to be British in nature, due to the region being a former British protectorate. It is not. This island and the Northern Territories is very definitely Chinese. The region, like Macau, across the Pearl River delta to the south, is now a Special Administration Region of China. While it is not difficult to find English speaking residents it is clearly Cantonese Chinese.
What is more surprising is the green space that surrounds the central core of Hong Kong and Kowloon and the many small villages scattered throughout the region. Trails and sideroads lead to mountaintops, sandy beaches, jungle paths, abandoned wartime defences, deserted Hakka villages, temples and monasteries. Ferries lead to many islands and the bays are scattered with ferries, freighters, fisherfolk, kayaks, water skiers and pleasure boats.

The Giant Buddha on Lantau Island. Richard Wright photo

Hong Kong is much more than the city.
One of the aspects that surprised me on my first visit in January 2011 was the green space, the jungle, the abundance of birds, several world-class refuges and the active birding community. Everywhere I wandered I found new bird species. Breakfasting in my son’s home at Clearwater Bay it was common to see Black Kites, similar to a Red-tailed Hawk in Canada, swooping by or roosting in a nearby tree. In the villages there were many shore birds and the jungle was alive with birdcalls. I spent as much time in the jungle and seashore villages as I did on pavement.

Po Toi O village on Clearwater Bay.

While here I bought a new Nikkor AFS 70-300mm lens - auto focusing, vibration control, light, easy to handle - and I put it to some use on the birds. Here are a few examples.

A Pacific Reef Heron at Stanley. The first bird photo of my visit.

Red Whiskered Bulbul in jungle at Clearwater Bay. I missed getting a good catch light in its eye
 and the auto focus was going crazy trying to separate the bird from the branches and leaves.
Bulbul on a jungle trail.

The Black Kite that greeted me for breakfast most days. It was nesting near my son's home
 but we never did find the nest site.


 Lei Yue Mun village and typhoon harbour turned out to be a great site for larger birds 
such as this Little Egret (indentity needs confirmation).



Spotted Dove at Lei Yue Mun

A juvenal Black Crowned Night Heron, again at Lei Yue Mun. The auto focus of the
300mm locked on and tracked this heron like a Stealth Fighter.


Kandoori Botanical Gardens in the Northern Territories, just south of the Shenzhen border with Mainland China is an old tea plantation, now morphed into a refuge and gardens. Some birds, such as these flamingos, are captive but they serve to attract many other species.

Some photos don't turn out as what we think of as usable or printable, but, with some enlargement, sharpening and color enhancement they can at least serve as a way to later identify the species. A Chinese photographer brought my attention to this little guy high in a coral tree but he was a black blob until I started playing with Aperture 3. Turns out to be Fork-tailed Sunbird.

Similarly this Nuthatch was high in a tree.
Likely a Eurasian Nuthatch it has yet to be confirmed. 

A White Wagtail at Joss House Bay struts its way across a breakwater.

I waited and I waited and stalked this guy for 3 weeks. Son Richard saw him frequently but he
evaded my camera. Finally, on my second to last day, he roosted in our backyard tree.
 I quickly unpacked my D7000, snapped on the 300mm, cranked open a window and had
 time for three shots before he flew off.

 I am returning to Hong Kong this March with several self-assignments in mind. One will be a one or two-day guided tour to the difficult-to-access WWF Mai Po refuge in the wetlands of the Pearl River delta, a site renowned for its shorebirds and waterfowl. This means a longer lens is needed so I will take a 2x tele-extender and likely a 500mm lens of some model.
We will also return to many of the sites of previous shoots. Stay tuned.

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1 comment:

  1. Richard, while looking to identify some birds I just saw in Hong Kong, I came across this post of yours. Interestingly, I am also from Canada (Winnipeg) and here in HK visiting my son (and first grandson). I learned some things. Thank you!

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