A Mai Po day out.

Out at 5.45 (am) to hit sunrise at Mai Po. Spot on time as the first paper chains of red hung over the horizon.

Dawn at Mai Po

A few silhouette shots were really wasted. Nothing really caught me. I was heading for the Tower Hide and I had made a big decision the night before that would both liberate and frustrate my photography for the day.

I could not face lugging the 800mm lens around so I settled on the 300mm F2.8 on my 1D mk IV and reconciled myself to more ‘birdscapes’. I packed the 1.4x teleconverter and that was to be my load for the day. Along with a back up body, macro lens, spare battery, Lumix P&S, a 2x TC and last but not least a few sandwiches and 2 bottles of water. The lens was still tripod mounted and at the end of all the packing I doubt I saved too much weight but it certainly made me think differently.

As I walked down the path to the hide a rag doll fell out of the low branches and landed at my feet. It ruffled itself, looked up, started in shock and legged it into the reeds. Juvenile Night heron. No need for any lens for that one.

Inside the hide one birder had beaten me to it. On your marks, get set……. He of course had a big lens. Lots of egrets, herons and gradually a few raptors emerged. They seemed to take a corner each. Far left, Eastern marsh harrier. Active, quartering the reeds. A 300mm lens with any TC is useless at that distance and the atmosphere was not good enough for sharp images – too much haze. I clicked a few times but could already tell it was pretty futile. Oh well, the egrets and herons were at least big enough to fill half a frame.

Let me introduce you to Geronimo. I don’t really know that that was his name but I am sure I heard him shout that as he launched himself at the underling.


Back to the raptors: far right, osprey. Putting on a great display of plunging and missing. Working itself high above the water, taking aim and down it went, totally submerged. Surfaced, seemingly gasping for air, flapping laboriously and feverishly to take off again and the fish…….. well the fish was having a jolly good laugh somewhere below. This cycle was repeated several times, outcome the same.

Near right. Spotted eagle. I don’t know when it arrived but there it was. Bournville brown. Sat tight for a while then decided that it was time for breakfast. Reddy Brek in fact as the first meal of the day came prepared by our friendly harrier. I think I’ll have that, mused the eagle. And he did. Harrier 1 – Eagle 2 – Fish 0. Catch of the day indeed.

Near left. Nothing. Well it can’t always be a perfect square. And I’m sure you all know that a perfect square is a number that has a rational number as its square root. The raptors didn’t give a hoot let alone a square root.

With ducks paddling about, moorhens, coot, little grebes that really were extremely little (through the viewfinder) I was beginning to feel a little jaded just photographing pond herons, egrets, herons and the occasional cormorant. The Moorhen was just about within range.

Common moorhen

Through the side window of the hide a Dusky warbler and soon a Yellow-browed warbler taunted me. Calling away but unwilling to show half decently. They knew I had the ideal lens but they weren’t playing ball. I did get some decent heron shots as I posted last time but the jury was out at this stage. Pied kingfishers were too distant and a Siberian stonechat was a speck on the binocular glass.

After 4 hours I left the hide for a wander around other areas of the reserve. As soon as I did so an Imperial eagle drifted over. Two kites made half-hearted attempts at mobbing it but the eagle just ignored them and was soon out of sight. Like a shot at goal by a Hereford striker it was high, wide and handsome. A gaudy male Daurian redstart jinked about in the bushes but it was all rather fatiguing as I headed to the Frontier Closed Area fence to exit Hong Kong and enter wonderland.

To be continued.


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