One of the things I did yesterday whilst walking myself into the ground was visit the bird market on Kowloon. It gets a mention in the guidebook, and I do like birds. On reflection it was probably a mistake to have gone. I was expecting Parakeets, Lovebirds, Budgies, that sort of thing. However by far the majority of the birds in cages were actually local species. How they ended up in the bird market, who can say, but it was desperately sad to see so many Magpie Robins - rows upon rows of little cages - when I'd seen the same species hopping around on the grass on my walk to the ferry that morning. Japansese White-eye and Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush were also amongst the selection - this latter I've yet to find, and I'm not ticking it in a fancy teak cage!
Imagine my surprise when I found a Sibe Rubythroat though. Whoa!! This bird is a regular winter visitor to Hong Kong, but has already left (as have most things - note to any would-be HK birders, come for winter or migration). It could be mine for 80 HK$, about sixty quid. Tempting.... Amazingly small, much smaller than I had imagined. There must have been about 10 for sale - I could have had a flock.
Birds are said to bring luck - apparently people even take them to the racetrack (going tomorrow so I'll let you know if I see any), and the keeping of birds is clearly big business over here. You can buy a bird in England of course, but typically not Robins, Blue Tits and Blackbirds, which effectively was what was on offer here. Here, anything goes, and who am I to judge what is a very important and historic cultural interest - I just wish it had been exotic birds, strangely, rather than the local stuff. Maybe I'm just bitter as getting photos of birds over here has thus far been a complete non-starter. So, seeing as wild birds seem impossible here, I decided to attempt the caged variety today, but of a different sort. Rather than a tiny structure you can hang from a wire, I went to the Edward Youde Aviary in Hong Kong Park - it's a huge open air aviary filled with exotica right in the middle of the city. I recognised none of it, though there were loads of these zooming about.
It's called the Edward Youde Aviary, and if you're into free-flying displays, is done really rather well. However as mentioned it is open to the elements, and my visit was thus shortlived, as the skies became darker and darker. Looking up at the peak I decided that discretion was the better part of valour - it was ominously dark. I could have spent the rest of the afternoon in malls etc, but God knows I loathe shopping, so I made for the Pier and from there back to Lantau. In contrast to all my previous journeys, this time there was almost no visibility, and as the ferry pulled in it was absolutely bucketing down. I did the sensible thing and took shelter in a local bar. I later learned that an "Amber" rain warning had been issued - this is the lowest, exceeded by red and black, but was still pretty fearsome. Plants and furniture was blown over, and the bar partially flooded. Thunder and lightning, very very frightening. It took over an hour for it to clear sufficiently to walk back to the house, and even then forks of electricity could be seen over the sky to the south west.
Anyhow, here's a wild not-yet captured Oriental Magpie Robin. They're pretty common, and have a lovely song (which probably explains their popularity). This was the male of a pair that are near the ferry terminal to Central, and if the rain ever lets up I may attempt to do a better job.