“Scarce passage migrant, mainly in autumn: much decreased, previously a breeding species.”
(The Avifauna of Hong Kong, Carey et al, 2001)
The Pheasant-tailed jacana is a beautiful bird. I had seen it many times but never photographed it before. This morning I rose at 5.30am and drove to MPNR. I arrived at dawn.
As I drove along the access road I passed about 20 other early bird paparazzi waiting for a Black-shouldered Kite’s alarm clock to go off. I ambled along to the Tower Hide and was second man in at 6.30am. This is the view from the front of the hide:
The light was soft, warm and inviting as I settled down to wait. Even the Grey herons had been too sleepy to flap off as I walked along the pathway. Normally they make a loud gracking call and fade into the murk. Somehow it felt it might be a good morning.
I noticed a large raptor nesting platform had been erected at the far end of the pond but apart from a large jumble of twigs I could see nothing that resembled an eagle or osprey. A flotilla of Little grebes drifted past and looked almost aglow as the sun stretched its arms, yawned and peered around.
And the jacanas appeared early. Not the best light for photographs as it was still a bit gloomy but off we go:
There used to be a TV series called Knot’s Landing I believe but frankly this is much better entertainment. You can see that the bird has lowered its undercarriage in good time and arguably has a better safety record than Garuda. If you are reading this on Bali, take my advice, fly Jacana Air, it is safer.
Having landed, time to settle down after all that exertion.
By this time the hide was filling up as the Kite chasers had presumably either hunted down their quarry or given up. Either way the excitement now was focussed on Jacanas, Purple herons, Pied kingfishers, Easter marsh harriers and a few other passers by. I was watching the bushes out of the corner of my eye as they were full of acrocephalus warblers but my big lens was too bulky to move and probably too close to focus.
By 9am most of the morning action was over. Just time for another Jacana shot though.
As you can see the light was now brighter and much better for photography – less noise and this was also much closer – not much of a crop here from the 800mm lens. Note the way the bird blends beautifully into the reeds. Nature’s camouflage skills at their best. Then the biggest surprise in 14 years of visiting MPNR although I confess I visit very sporadically because of work commitments. Someone checked our permits! Quite right too. But seriously from 1997 to 2011 one check is really a bit on the infrequent side. And I actually missed the harrier because I was texting my wife. Bum.
I left the Tower Hide at 10.30 and made my way slowly back to the car. I don’t do early mornings as well as I used to so I needed a break. I bumped into a group of photographers marching off in pursuit of the next bird. I asked the tail-ender what they were chasing. He showed me a speck on the screen of his camera back. Black-shouldered kite, he announced. “Ho yuen” I sympathized (very far way). “Ho yuen” he agreed and tramped doggedly after his comrades. In days gone by I might have chased the bird too but I have nice enough shots of Black-shouldered kite.
A grand day out indeed and just as a bonus, when I arrived home there was a Hwamei under the garden hedge.