Tuesday, 8 June 2021

photographic highlights: 2020–21 (part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

I was walking down the path that connects Tung Kok Wai, one of five walled villages in our neighbourhood, with Sha Tau Kok Road, the only road out of Fanling to the east, when I was startled by an egret that popped up in front of me from the stream about two metres below the path on the right. Egrets are the most common large bird in Hong Kong, and this is a lesser egret, identified by its black beak:
The next photo was taken somewhere in the vicinity of Hok Tau Country Trail #2 and shows a pond heron walking casually down the path:
Grass flowers are a rarity in England, where grass is either mown, scythed down or eaten long before it has a chance to flower. However, I often see entire fields of grass flowers here in Hong Kong, as in this photo, also taken in the vicinity of Hok Tau Country Trail #2:
I can tell when the next photo was taken by its subject. Small kumquat bushes in pots are very popular at Chinese New Year, as a symbol of prosperity, and this nursery on Hok Tau Road is getting ready to ship out its latest crop:
At the start of the path from Chi Wo Road to the village of Shui Mei, there is what would once have been a shipping container with eccentric artwork on two sides. I’ll leave you, the reader, to comment on these bizarre images:
I’ve written about cotton trees before (A Blaze of Glory), but this next photo illustrates perfectly two features that are unusual for broad-leaf trees: (1) like many conifers, cotton trees have several branches from the trunk at the same height; and (2) the flowers come out before the leaves:
When we cycle upstream along the west bank of the Kam Tin River, we pass an inflatable dam on a major tributary that seems to be a popular venue for black-winged stilts. You can see why they’ve been given this name in this photo by Paula, although we will continue to refer to them simply as ‘red legs’:
It’s now March, and Paula and I have just had our first covid jab. We decided against going cycling, because we’d heard that tiredness is a common side effect, so we walked up to Lau Shui Heung Reservoir the following day instead. This photo was taken on the banks of the reservoir, and I was tempted to overprint it with the word ‘Anon’:
Close to where the last photo was taken, I noticed these strange excrescences rising from the ground. The two larger objects in the background are actually trees, and it looks as though the smaller ones will become trees, eventually:
Also in the same area is this bridge, which carries a country trail over a stream that runs into the reservoir and according to the Chinese inscription is ‘Dragon Mountain Bridge’:
Guan Gung (‘Old Man Guan’), with his fierce expression, is a popular inhabitant of wayside shrines, but why three figurines of this legendary character have been dumped in a plastic basket I cannot explain:
Nam Sang Wai Road, which runs along the bank of the lower Kam Tin River, is widely touted as ‘a good place to cycle’. It isn’t (it’s boring), and Paula concurs, but I spotted this shipping container alongside the road when we checked out this road recently:
Unlike the images on a shipping container that I included above, this one reflects what people once did for a living in this area: fishing.

A few years ago, I described a mural that I’d come across in a quiet road east of Fanling in Zoological Garden. Apart from the rooster, the rest of this artwork is now obscured by vegetation, but recently I spotted a new, and unrelated, addition:
I’ve included a view from the side because the bougainvillea obscures part of the image from the front. Notice that the flowers at the base of the mural are part of the mural, although clearly they are meant to appear as though they’re growing out of the flower bed at the bottom. The tiny red flowers are real though.

The next image is another from the Kam Tin River with quite a few egrets. The floating vegetation on the far side of the river is the result of Drainage Services Department operatives clearing large quantities of water hyacinth, which tends to clog up the river, upstream. I’m not sure why they simply allowed it to float out to sea. Laziness?
The remaining photos in this collection were taken on a walk in the Ko Po North area, east of Fanling, a few days ago. We spotted a dead tree stump adorned with bracket fungus, and we both took a photo. The first one is Paula’s:
“They’re fake!” exclaimed Paula when we spotted the subject of the next photo. But they’re not, although I’ve never seen another example of this tree, with its vicious, spiky thorns on the trunk, anywhere else:
Believe it or not, these are flowers:
previous highlights collections
Photographic Highlights: 2015–16
Photographic Highlights: 2016–17
Photographic Highlights: 2017–18
Photographic Highlights: 2018–19
Photographic Highlights: 2019–20 (Part 1)
Photographic Highlights: 2019–20 (Part 2)

photographic highlights: 2020–21 (part 1)

I shall be heading off to the UK for the summer in a few days, and as I’ve been doing for several years, I’ve put together a collection of the best photos taken over the past eight months. And although there aren’t as many photos in this collection as there were in last year’s, I’ve decided, nevertheless, to split it into two parts.

Following my usual practice, I haven’t included any photos that I’ve used to illustrate other posts, and the photos appear here in the order in which they were taken. Clicking on a photo will bring up an enlarged version.

When we walk into Fanling from our village, we pass a tiny pond in which someone has been keeping goldfish. However, the pond has also been colonized by toads, and Paula took the first photo while I was still under home quarantine after returning from the UK:
If I were to suggest a caption for this photo, it would be ‘toad in the hole’.

I took the next photo shortly after ending quarantine. It is a view of the Kam Tin River, looking downstream, and as you can see, there are a lot of egrets:
The next photo was taken in North District Park, by far the largest urban garden in Fanling/Sheung Shui. There are several trees like this, which have been deliberately planted on small knolls to emphasize their roots. And these roots have definitely been emphasized!
Whenever we cycle ‘out west’, we invariably detour down Tunafish Road, even though it’s a dead end, just because it’s quiet and relaxing, with no traffic. Just before the road reaches the frontier, there is a footbridge over the unnamed river that runs alongside the road, and I took this photo simply because I like the perspective effect, which focuses on a mysterious dark square in the distance:
Incidentally, to the left of the footbridge it’s Hong Kong, while to the right it’s China, hence the fine-mesh fence that you can see in the photo, to keep out intruders, one assumes.

Although I was never able to match Paula’s photo, this is my best photos of toads in the pond:
You can’t keep a good tree down. This tree stump, in North District Park, has clearly survived being cut down, and if it is left alone for a few years, then it will regenerate:
When its ‘frontier closed area’ status was rescinded in 2013, the ‘frontier road’ became a regular part of any cycling excursion. However, we’ve tended to avoid this road this year, because construction of a new science park has meant frequent encounters with eight- and ten-wheeled tipper trucks, which have created a huge number of potholes on a road that was never built to carry such heavy vehicles. This is a view from the road, with Shenzhen on the horizon, taken on one of the few occasions when we’ve cycled this way:
It would be easy to suggest that I took the next photo somewhere in England, but for one thing: there are at least half a dozen cattle egrets in the photo:
I used to think that these cows were feral—there are feral cows in other parts of the New Territories—but in this case it would be more accurate to describe them as ‘free-range cows’, because I have seen them being herded from time to time.

Although our flat faces east, I’ve never been able to take any decent sunrise photos, so this is one taken by Paula:
Another reason for cycling along Tunafish Road is the opportunity to photograph wildlife. There is a large pond just before the road reaches the border, and although I’ve taken quite a lot of photos of grey herons here, I’ve chosen to feature this one taken by Paula because of its atmospheric qualities:
The next photo is a view of the river that runs alongside Tunafish Road, looking towards Shenzhen. You will probably have to look closely to spot the flock of ducks coming in to join the black-winged stilts in the water:
Back in November, I was sitting on our balcony when I heard the sound of a truck around the corner to the left. When it appeared, I noticed that it was towing a car, and I assumed that the car had broken down and was being towed to a garage for repair. Then two more tow-trucks appeared, and I rushed indoors to get my camera. I don’t think I’d have been able to take a decent photo if there hadn’t been a cyclist coming the other way (you can see him in the passing place), forcing the procession to wait:
And these cars aren’t being taken for repair. I come across scores of abandoned cars in almost every location I’ve ever visited. It appears to be the go-to option for someone who wants to get rid of their old car.

This photo of a relatively young banyan tree, which I took in a small park in Fanling, illustrates a key characteristic of the species: prop roots. Thin tendrils, which function as aerial roots, hang down from the branches, but once they reach the ground, they quickly thicken up:
I would be surprised if you can identify the subject of the next photo, which I took on a walk down our local river before everything was ripped down recently in the name of ‘development’, unless you’ve seen one before. It’s a tree ants’ nest, and it’s newly constructed. You can tell this because the white areas are secretions produced by the ants that darken quite quickly:
The next photo was taken in the village of Heung Yuen Wai, which we visit regularly as part of ‘the final frontier’ bike ride. It was in the frontier closed area until 2016 and is an interesting location primarily because of this tower, which I assume performed some kind of defensive function in more lawless (i.e. pre-British) times, although towers like this are extremely uncommon. The village shrine can be seen in the bottom right of the photo:
I was walking along a path in our neighbourhood when I saw what I thought was some kind of seed head, like the English dandelion. So I stopped to take a photo, but it was only when I looked at the photo that I saw the tendrils leading off the edges of the flower’s petals. Strange!
I’ve no idea where I took the next photo, which shows a tiny butterfly that is dwarfed by an elephant’s ear:
Although I wrote about ‘the gates of delirium’ in 2017, this gate, located on Ngau Tam Mei Road, is now the leading contender for this title:
Continued in Part 2.

Monday, 31 May 2021

lots more lotus

Earlier this month, I posted an account of a location near the western end of San Tin Tsuen Road that offered quite an impressive display of lotus flowers. We didn’t pass that way again until Saturday, and as we approached, I suggested that we see whether the display was still as vibrant as it had been on that initial occasion. It was!

In fact, the display was even more spectacular than it had been two weeks earlier. Here are two photos looking up the small stream, which as you can see is choked with lotus plants:
Naturally, I wanted to scramble down to the bank to see whether I could get some closer shots. Here is a selection:
The red colour near the top of the previous photo is from a large bougainvillea on the other side of the road:
As you can see, even though it was before 10 o’clock, quite a few other people were also there taking photos. Some were ‘serious’ photographers armed with tripods and 400mm telephoto lenses.

I finished by taking a couple of photos from the side, looking down from the road:
This is an enlarged version of part of the last photo:
We shall be heading off to the UK for the summer in a couple of weeks, and I don’t expect to pass this way again during that period, but we shall be looking out again for this lotus garden next year.