Thursday, January 21, 2010

Enkianthus quinqueflorus

Enkianthus quinqueflorus, known as 'Hanging Bell' in Chinese, belongs to the family Eriaceae which is one of the few woody species blooming in late winter. It is protected under the Forestry Regulation Cap. 96A in order to prevent them from being over collected for ornamental uses, which was commonly happened in the past, particularly in the New Terrestories. As its flowering season is near the Chinese New Year, it was logged and sold in the flower markets during the New Year period, threatening the local population. Practically it has a healthy population in Hong Kong which is generally treated as a widespread and common species in Hong Kong's hillside.

Spectacular scenery in Nam Sang Wai

It's not wise to visit Nam Sang Wai during overcast day if you would like to spend a morning there to enjoy photographing birds. They could hardly stand out from the background as sunlight is unavailable. Tide was particularly low during my visit today and it's a pity that fish boat had interrupted and flushed the large flocks of ducks away. Fortunately the early morning light is great enough to paint the sky, offering a special chance of seeing rosy clouds.

Diversity of birds was disappointing today. I personally enjoy seeing Black-faced Spoonbill pretty much and they gave me several decent views which excited me a bit.

Grey Heron seems not easy-going which usually acts quite fierce to other smaller birds.

Black-headed Gull is the most abundant gull species wintering in Hong Kong.

Wake up early and you'll see something different.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Birding at Nam Sang Wai, Hong Kong

Nam Sang Wai is a wetland located at the northwestern part of Hong Kong, which is a part of inner Deep Bay area. It is a famous place for birdwatching which houses quite a lot of waterbirds including gulls, ducks, cormorants, avocets and egrets, particularly in winter. It worths you spending a day there to enjoy the fun of birdwatching as the diversity of the birds is usually satisfactory. Most birds could be seen at low tide, at about 0.5 to 1 m.

Even during the weekday, there are still quite a lot of photographers, carrying loads of gears, stationing at the estuary for bird-photography.

Northern Pintail is a common wintering duck species in Hong Kong. It is comparatively large to other ducks and is recognized by its longer neck, rounded head and pointed tail. Males are distinctive. They usually arrive Hong Kong in late October and leave in early April.

Northern Shoveler is another common winter visitor in Deep Bay. It is slightly smaller than Northern Pintail, reaching about 50 cm length. Its broad spatulate bill is diagnostic which makes it one of the easiest duck to identify.

Heuglin's Gull is the most abundant large gull wintering in Hong Kong. Identifying large gulls is always difficult even to the experts which requires intensive practices.

Nam Sang Wai is one of the magor night roosting sites of Great Cormorants, where generally holds over 3,000 Cormorants in winters.

Black-faced Spoonbill, a well-known endangered species according to the IUCN Redlist, could commonly be seen in Nam Sang Wai during winter. You should grap a chance to see this spectacular species if you haven't seen it yet!

Pied Avocets are feeding on the intertidal mudflat.

Birdwatching in a chilling winter could still be pleasant and enjoyable!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ficus microcarpa and Ficus concinna

Ficus microcarpa taken in Lung Fu Shan, Hong Kong Island.

Ficus microcarpa (Moraceae) is a well known and popular tree species in Hong Kong due to its frequent occurrence near where people lives. It grows and develops quickly and has a broad and dense canopy which makes it particularly good to provide shade. Among the native Ficus species in Hong Kong, it is one of the few species which has small and elliptic leaves with tapering base. Ficus microcarpa is a widespread species in Asia (mainly Eastern and Southern parts) and Australia.

Ficus concinna taken in Sai Kung area, Hong Kong.

There is another small leaf Ficus species which resembles F. microcarpa quite much, which is Ficus concinna. It is a recent discovery which had probably been overlooked in the past. Only a few individuals have been found so far. Its appearance is like Ficus microcarpa but aerial roots are mostly absent. Also, leaf veins of F. concinna is more conspicuous than that in F. microcarpa (See photographs above). By combing these differences you will probably be able to seperate them in the field! Start checking small-leaf Ficus and see if you could find more F. concinna!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Asarum caudigerum

Asarum caudigerum (Aristolochiaceae) is recently discovered growing near an abandoned village in Hong Kong. It is a new addition to the Hong Kong vascular plant list, with an unclear origin. A. caudigerum is naturally distributed in Central and South China, and to Vietnam. However, this species is also used medicinally in the past and only one colony is found so far. Thus, Possibility of being cultivated cannot be satisfactorily ruled out. Being a naturalist, I personally wish this is from a natural origin which further enriches the local biodiversity.

It should be noted that there is no petal in Asarum. The perianths shown in the photographs are indeed its sepal. Its specific name caudigerum is named based on its slender caudate sepal. It's definitely a fabulous species to see!