Tuesday, 5 December 2017

stone the crows

Although rice is no longer grown in Hong Kong—I last saw it being cultivated in 1975, and in many cases the irrigation systems that are needed for its cultivation have fallen into disuse—a lot of land is given over to the cultivation of vegetables. There are even ‘farms’, accredited by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, although these would be more accurately described as smallholdings, and they meet only a tiny fraction of the territory’s needs. There are also many small private plots.

Consequently, I’m constantly walking or cycling past cultivated areas, and I’ve long been fascinated by the various methods that are used to scare away birds. The most common is probably the ‘plastic bag method’, which is illustrated in the following photo of a small private plot that I pass on my way into Fanling from the village where I live.

Clearly, the idea is that the bags should move in the wind and alarm any birds thinking of alighting on the crop.

A variant of this method can be seen in the next photo, taken on another private plot that I pass regularly. This is the only instance I’ve come across of plastic bottles full of water being suspended by plastic tape, and I cannot understand the rationale behind this method (the loose ends of the tape will flutter in the breeze, but the weights on the end will have the effect of damping any movement).

A more effective variant is the use of CDs, which reflect light at different wavelengths as they move in the wind:

I don’t see this method as frequently as I used to, presumably because CDs are no longer used in junk mail as often as they once were. However, I came across an intriguing variant of the CD method recently in the village of Tan Chuk Hang, which is located in an area east of Fanling that I’ve been exploring since I returned to Hong Kong in October. It cannot be deduced from the photo, but these discs are constantly rotating in the wind and seem as if they were made for this purpose:

A method I’ve seen only once, in the area on the other side of Sha Tau Kok Road from where I live, involves suspending stuffed toys instead of CDs or bottles of water:

None of the toys look particularly happy!

Another unusual method is seen in the next photo, which is on a route that I walk along almost every day. Note the outsize saucepan, which is suspended next to a metal pipe driven into the ground. It only ever generates a noise when it’s extremely windy.

As you might expect, I’ve spotted quite a few ‘conventional’ scarecrows, most of which are not particularly convincing, although when I saw the one in the next photo on the ‘frontier road’ as I cycled past last winter, I was fooled momentarily:

I took the next photo a few weeks ago in the same location:

This one was taken near the village of Ping Kong, west of Fanling:

…while the next two photos are of adjacent fields between the Sheung Yiu and Shek Sheung rivers, west of Sheung Shui:

I came across the last scarecrow while I was exploring the area around Fu Tei Pai:

However, if you really do want to keep the birds off your crop, you need a superhero. Superman would be excluded from Hong Kong as an illegal alien, so how about…

…Iron Man!

I took the previous photo last winter, but it seems that Iron Man wasn’t quite up to the job. So who are you going to call?

Paddington Bear!

It seems to me that insects represent a far greater threat to the crops being grown here than birds, and even Spiderman wouldn’t be a lot of use in fighting them.


  1. i like the iron man as I can recognize it from a distance!!!!!

  2. I'll look out for methods used in the Delta the next time I visit

  3. I doubt if people in Britain realise how much farming is done in Hong Kong!

    1. I doubt it too Peter, which is one reason I decided to write this post.

  4. I know it can be a major and many times losing battle. Birds are pretty smart. Crows especially. Out here it seems that most plot farmers used a combination of all those things. One other thing they use are pie tins. The type that come with a whole pie. Closer to aluminum foil than a solid pie pan. The larger farms use fake bird calls, propane cannons, and shotgun like devices that make loud noises. I have no idea how effective they are.

    1. I’ve no idea how effective any of these methods are either Pat. I must confess to being just a little facetious in putting together this post.


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