Slowly the world settles back into clear view and my imitation of a drunken sailor fades back into sobriety. My balance has been restored.
I walked 7 km yesterday and enjoyed it. A slow, almost funereal wander. People pause and wonder what I am peering at, fiddling with camera settings. Then, the inevitable “how on earth did you see that?” The answer, my friend is not blowing in the wind, it is simply looking. Familiarity does not breed contempt. It heightens my awareness of what looks different, out of place and therefore is to be explored.
That is how I found the moon moth, Actias ningpoana a few days back. It is a large and quite beautiful moth. It draws ooohs and aaahs from all that see it. This one was sitting right next to a busy path. It was resting on the underside of a hanging leaf so perhaps it is excusable that people just walked past. But each side of the leaf were two paler patches sticking out and to my eye they said two things: that was not how a leaf should look and the shape, colour and size meant it had to be a moon moth. So I gently turned the leaf around and revealed the glamorous creature, a little blusher and some very fine eyebrows. A cross between Julia Roberts and Mariel Hemingway. It also has some slight wing damage. A bird has probably seen the eye spots and attacked them, saving the moth to fly another day.
For 15-20 minutes I stood, took a few photos and shared the star with the passers-by. Each and everyone took their own phone pictures to show their friends, children, students……. And maybe one or two will catch the nature bug. This segues neatly into a few words on the iNaturalist City Challenge.
Between April 27-30th people in 64 project areas around the world went out to record what they could find in their area. They logged observations, identified species and the number of participants was logged. Hong Kong took part and as it stands this is where we stand.
This merits a moment to pause and reflect.
Hong Kong is perceived as a financial centre, a shopping paradise (surely an oxymoron) and an urban jungle. Originally described as a barren rock. It is constantly in need of land for development. Why this should be the case crosses a range of issues that are controversial, emotive and frequently distorted. Currently there are 18 proposals up for consideration as to how the ‘crisis’ should be resolved. The list does not include further restrictions on population growth but does include encroaching on designated Country Parks and building on the Fanling Golf Course.
Surely there can be little of ecological value in Hong Kong? Well finding roughly 2,500 species in just 4 days suggests there is a vast amount to protect. And with well nigh 20,000 observations there is still a substantial amount of evidence to be scrutinized and identified. I would be amazed if we did not end up well above 2,500 with a few new species for the SAR in there. My health was not good enough for me to make much of a contribution. I did attend one local moth trapping session and I ventured out on my first longer hike in 7 weeks. I certainly found something that has yet to be identified and has left me smiling for over 24 hours since I took the photo yesterday. I wish I knew what it is. I originally thought it was a jumping spider but someone rather gently pointed out that spiders have 8 legs and my species is deficient to the tune of 2. It has only 6 legs. With even more tact they assured me it is a leafhopper. And there we stop. The decidedly colourful, funky even, leafhopper is the bug with no name.
I have posed the question of the organizer: what next? What do we do with the data? How will it be used? Can we monitor trends over time? Data is interesting but arguably useless unless put to work. How do we live in harmony with our fellow Hong Kongers, big and small? How do all these species fit together and which fights, for fights there will be, are worth the effort?
I do not have the answers but I hope the barren rock is worth fighting over in ecological as well as political, social and economic terms.