“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Famous words from the Water Rat. What, I wonder, would Ratty make of Sai Kung harbour. It is after all a place where the boats come, go and well and indeed just hang about. Leisure craft destined for the GeoPark tour or perhaps a fishing trip. Maybe a booze cruise. Working boats out for small-scale commercial fishing, cuttle fish boats, probably a few ladened with lobster pots….. Sampans shuttling between the town and the islands. Some collecting refuse from the islands. Canoes being paddled, pedalos for the less energetic and sadly even a few water-skiers.

I would never buy seafood from the harbour-wall vendors. [To clarify, these are folk selling seafood off their boats at the promenade wall. They are not selling the wall itself. I had a feeling some pedant might try to argue the contrary so there, I get my retaliation in first.] And of course the reason why is that the inner waters are covered in a shiny rainbow of oil. I have seen people swimming off the pier and all I can say is that I hope they have very sound constitutions. What though, you may justifiably ask, has this got to do with birds? We are now up to BAD 5 and so far no sign of a bird today.

Well on my walk along the promenade yesterday I noticed the usual gang of egrets, loitering with intent. Great and Little, they hang out on the boats, loafing around with all the nonchalance of Flash Harry. All they lack is the cigarette, the moustache and the hat. The St. Trinians Academy for Egrets would accept these guys in a wink. Of course they shrink back a little when the Grey Heron flaps past but when they are at a safe distance they strut their stuff and then revert to loaf mode.

I rarely bother to watch the egrets for long as they are, well, common. And that is what BAD was about. Give the ordinary birds a chance for a change. So yesterday I sat myself down on the steps at the far end of the harbour and watched. Have you ever noticed how refined the egret is when it jumps?


LEgret takeoff LEgret landingAnd I promise you I have not messed around with the colour – the egrets are of course white and the water unfortunately is brown with a rather shiny, smooth surface. Look carefully at the second image where the egret’s foot touches the water. An oily splash as the surface tension breaks and the Little Egret lands in the soup. Fish soup of course.

Even so close in to the wall there are plenty of fish. Tiny little things but pick off enough and an egret can survive. Two questions bother me. How do fish survive in such water and why doesn’t the egret keel over dead when it ingests them? Need proof?

Fish oilThe fish even looks as if it has just come out of a can of Castrol GTX. More oil than a can of John West’s best sardines. Down the hatch. These egret look rather grubby. None of the pristine whiteness that we see at Mai Po or Nam Sang Wai. None of the Daz Extra effect or Fairy Snow  washes whiter look. There is no better word than grubby. A trip to the egret parlour for a beauty session and a facial seems to be in order. Perhaps even some colonic irrigation. Anything to clean the egret inside and out.

And yet they seem happy enough. Surrounded by the boats.

Pier parkI wonder if anybody will ever do research into the comparative lifespans of egrets with and without their daily Castrol supplement? I feel a PhD coming on.  Perhaps like me they read The Wind in the Willows when they were recently fledged and came to the same conclusion as Ratty.

“Believe me, my young egret friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

But note! No mention of Castrol or even Omega 3. Perhaps it is time for the tale to be rewritten.




14 thoughts on “Oil

  1. My best guess would be an acquired taste and slow build up of immunity ala iocaine in my favorite tale. As well, their plumage is so soiled, grubby as you tell, that they also may be spared from any future thought of millinery. Genius.

  2. I think this is one of your best posts – very humorous yet dealing with a serious problem. The photos of the elegant but soiled birds tell the story in pictures so well.
    We enjoy watching the egrets in Mexico (soon now), they may be ‘common’ but they are very refined as you note.

  3. Egads- the poor birds that fish for a living are in a hellish situation. Is there nothing free of polution anymore? And do the Hong Kong officials prefer to stick their heads in the oily water rather than deal with pollution.?

    Very nice pics of the egret that should be fishing in clean water. I like all the captures. Some of the shots I’ve not seen before in any magazine or what ever. Interesting indeed.

    • Thank you, Yvonne. Pollution is one of our biggest headaches. Primarily air borne. Sai Kung is a working harbour so some pollution is inevitable. Many boats and their motors are very old. The egrets could hunt elsewhere but choose not to do so. Further out away from the harbour the water is crystal clear in some areas. Sea life thrives. I don’t know whether the egrets adapt in some way or are slowly poisoned. It’s very odd. I really don’t think anybody in authority is bothered. They have bigger fish to fry.

  4. Maybe the imbibing of Castrol GTX + fish for egrets, is the equivalent of us ingesting cod liver oil? Lord only knows what Ratty would make of all this. He was speaking from his river bank in what was at the time, an un-polluted and environmentally sound, England-shire. Oh how times have changed!

      • It does of course, but I was thinking of the oil slick oceans and the fish that we eat from them – we’ve probably got more Castro XTX floating around in us than we know 😦

  5. Was that a springboard in first pic that egret jumped off?
    What’s wrong with common and ordinary? doesn’t that describe most of us? Not that I want my photo taking while I’m loitering.

  6. Yes, the egrets do look grungy. Their “yellow slippers” leave much to be desired. Laughed out loud at the suggestion of a colonic cleanse. Am enjoying your BAD posts.

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