Well the Tiger Shrike post was a wow, at least in my terms and was my most visited blog post yet. However I had been on the reserve for over 8.5 hours by the time I photographed the shrike. The mudflat hides at Mai Po are only accessible after 6am as they lie within the no man’s land of the Frontier Closed Area between HK and Shenzhen. I arrived at the gate at 6.10am and the gate was still locked. I called the police number and in my worst Cantonese asked them to open up. Only 5 minutes later a cheery policeman arrived, greeted me and let me through. He didn’t even ask to see my permit. It is a fair old yomp from the car park to the gate carrying all the kit and then another 10 minute hike down to the furthest hide. By 6.30am however I was, not unexpectedly the first person in the hide. Sunrise was officially 6.00am I think but already there was a lovely warm glow on the mudflats. The tide was along way out but early in the morning many birds are moving about their business. I was surprised to see 8 parakeets flying off to my right. I learned later these are Alexandrine parakeets.
The soft glow however does not translate into fast shutter speeds and the exposure readings of the camera need to be used in conjunction with the histogram. Otherwise I find the meter under exposes. Here are two images I took in the first half hour or so. Both very common birds but looking good in the golden light.
This was my first frame of the day. Shortly afterwards a Grey Heron flew past me.
I have not changed the colour balance here – this is what the RAW file recorded.
As the sun rises and the shadows start to become harsher the images lose their magic. At this stage I am looking for interesting birds and / or behavioural shots. It was nice to see Broad-billed Sandpiper and Terek Sandpiper together:
And I wanted a shot of the Broad-billed Sandpiper’s underwing.
The distances over which these images were shot meant I am using heavy cropping and the quality reflects that. This bird puzzled me but is now tagged as Lesser Sandplover, juvenile.
Compare the LSP with a more confiding Kentish Plover.
And a Greater Sandplover that even has its own leg-tag. Everyone in HK needs an ID card of some sort.
If there isn’t much happening you can resort to photographing the regulars.
And maybe admire the odd fly past.
So all in all, even when the light has past its best there is always something to photograph at Mai Po and who knows, when you are trudging wearily back to the car park after 8+ hours, out of water and hoping for better luck next time, you can be skipping like a new-born lamb in seconds if somebody calls “Tiger Shrike”. And that was me on Monday, the oldest skipping lamb in HK 🙂