All fall down

Temporarily confined to barracks.

Not a bad place to be honest but wandering the paths of Lung Fu Shan is better. Soon I will have to start planning how to keep my fitness regime going when the temperatures top 30C and the humidity approaches the level when I can resemble a wet rag by the time I have gone a mile or so. Perhaps I need to turn into a vampire naturalist. I shall spend my day in a coffin (or perhaps hanging upside down in a wardrobe) and only venture forth after sundown. Sometimes I look in the shaving mirror and wish there were no reflection but I suspect it is not a good sign. And the only stake I want is a medium rare Wagyu. With apologies to all vegans but I can’t live off limp lettuce and nuts. If the taxonomy of Iberico pork is changed to something akin to a vegetable then sign me up. (Editor’s note: the spell check suggested Liberace for Iberico. Play it again, Lee.)

The birdlife of LFS has been a bit elusive recently. Loud yet elusive. And although the insects are certainly in the ascendance they have yet to burst forth as they doubtless will after a few decent downpours. The ground is dusty, dry and unforgiving as I recently found out. There is a good argument to be had for calling Spring in Hong Kong Fall. With no rain the trees shed their leaves like the cast of Oh Calcutta flinging off their inhibitions. That helps me hear the rustle in the leaf litter that can betray the lizards or a foraging bird. I can think of no other advantage.

The Koel has started calling and whilst it may be the harbinger of Spring it also annoys the wotsit out of Mrs. Ha. Heaven forbid we should have a Large Hawk Cuckoo nearby. All night long… brain-fever, brain-fever. I heard it first on a trip to Nepal in the early 90s. I suspect it is the same bird that has followed and taunted me ever since.

My highlight recently has been a (probable?) Besra dog fighting with a Black Kite. Not much of a contest as the kite dwarfs the accipiter. Still, it added another raptor to my LFS list. The wasps are starting to emerge and the first couple of dragonflies have graced us with their presence.

I continue to grapple with the dilemma of how much camera gear to carry. My Fuji kit is lighter but less flexible. The long lens is reasonable for birds but useless for butterflies in confined spaces. It just does not focus close enough. The Canon lacks the reach of the Fuji but has excellent close focus. Weight however is a problem. For close ups either macro kit is fine but if I really want to be serious I need to add the tripod. More weight. Then I need spare batteries, lots of drinking water and a few more bits and pieces. Plus my binoculars. If I am willing to forego the hope of good quality photos I can chuck the lot and carry a bridge camera. These actually do a decent job if something wants to be photographed and the light is excellent. At some point that tipping point will come.

The astute among you (well one out of two ain’t bad) will be wondering why I am confined to barracks. Sadly I had my second spell in hospital of the quarter. I seem to be up and down like the S&P at the moment. A recent fall has apparently disturbed the balance mechanism in my ears. It was originally suspected that I had had a stroke but the brain scan revealed nothing (pause for reader to insert amusing comment here………). Had it been 30 or 40 years ago I would have attributed it to a veritable mammoth of a bender but since the liver handed in its pink ticket 12 years ago I can discount that. The only logical conclusion is that when cranium and rock come into rapid and unplanned contact the cranium comes off worse. I was out faster than an English batsman in NZ. At some point I am assured I will be able to see straight, walk straight and possibly even talk straight. Will I be able to play the piano afterwards? Who knows? I couldn’t beforehand.

So there we are. LFS will have to do without me at least for a few days. I suspect Mrs. Ha will geo-track me from now on, lest I should make a habit of somersaulting base over apex again, auditioning as it were for The Rocky Horror show. If I could do the time warp I would probably go back to about 1990 and make sure that wretched Brainfever Bird never caught up with me.

Iberico pork on the hoof.

Pig on a Po Shan Road

Smile though your head is aching….

Smiley the Spider

The Skinks

How did I ever find the time to work?

We have turned the page from February to March. Nature was a day ahead of the calendar as there was a noticeable change in weather and activity on February 28th. Butterflies flew, ants scuttled, skinks darted around and the birds filled their tiny lungs and sang their cardiac muscles out.

I was especially pleased with the skinks. Blue-tailed. I had never seen one in Hong Kong before to my best recollection. The first taunted me. I saw the skink and the skink saw me. Gone with the wind and frankly my dear, I did give a damn. The head went down. Mine, not the skink’s. Forlornly I shuffled on. Better, I thought, than shuffling off.

Barely three paces along the path another Blue-tailed Skink was sunning itself on the fringe of the leaf litter. I paused and pressed the shutter button. I fiddled with the camera and clicked again. I held my breath and edged forward, Tonto on the trail of the bad guys. Click again. Bad angle though. I wanted to get low. I start to lean forward. I think my bones must have clicked or the skink heard my brain pulsating in my cranium. The crinkling sound of skink retreating through dry leaves. I peered into the undergrowth, hoping to pick out a glimpse of electric blue. No luck. After a while I remembered it was safe to breathe again. I move on.

Plestiodon quadrilineatus

In the next half hour I see three more Blue-tailed Skinks. None waited for its portrait to be taken. At least now I know roughly where to find them. I need a warm sunny day, a rock for them to bask on and some glucosamine to stop my knees waking the dead when I try to kneel.

Since then opportunities to walk have been restricted. People passing through Hong Kong I really want to meet. Family commitments. We have even ordered a car at long last. I have to wait until August or, heaven forfend, September to be mobile but Mrs. Ha has signed off on the expenses claim.

This hiatus has coincided with warmer, muggier weather. The Peak is shrouded in low cloud. Visibility is poor. Just what the insects like. Already the clowns are crawling up the Longan trees. Lantern Flies, crazy, gaudy, bizarre creatures that appear on the tree trunks, passed by and overlooked by most of the hikers and dog-walkers.

Lantern Fly - Pyrops candelaria

The frogs are croaking and the cicadas are doing whatever cicadas do to make such an infernal racket. The mozzies have started to remind me that I am the only free lunch. No snakes yet, which is odd because Hong Kong is full of snake-oil salesmen. Just look at Nathan Road or the stock exchange.

So much to see and so little time to see it all in. Today is another no-walk day but tomorrow I have a free schedule. Weather permitting I will see what has joined the rites of spring. Never mind Christmas, now ‘tis the season to be jolly, tra la la la la and all that jazz. The future is bright, it may be orange.

Podontia lutea