100 Years of Bauhaus - a photo exhibition

100 Years of Bauhaus
100 Years of Bauhaus - Photo exhibition as a highlight

Over the past two months, I have had the precious chance of being immersed in the lights and shadows of a photo exhibition here in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. After I finished off my work, I take a bus from Tai Po, heading straight to Wan Chai. That is my Friday routine. Walking along Fenwick Street toward the seashore, I would find my way to Hong Kong Arts Centre, where I take my regular German class.

Erich Consemüller
Art lovers - Appreciating the masterpiece

Every week I arrive so early that I have to kill my time, only when the homework is finished. One day, outside the Goethe Institut library on 14/F, a series of photographs were seen being put up on the wall. My curiosity lingered until I saw the words “100 Years of Bauhaus”. These photographs were all taken by the Bauhaus artist Erich Consemüller (1902-1957), who worked on documenting a school where he was in 1927. This batch of records amounted to an overwhelming collection of 300 photographs.

The visitor-friendly photograph exhibition was accompanied occasionally by interpretation of artists thereby. There was no price for admission, meaning that there is no barrier to arts. If the event-goers were lucky, they might even seize the opportunity of a casual chat with the German teachers and instructors there. Talking with native Germans about Bauhaus must be a culturally-rich and informative experience.

These historical photographs were permanently lent by a generous Berlin private collector. Art lovers in Hong Kong have enjoyed this monumental event “Picturing Bauhaus: Erich Consemüller's Photography of the world's most famous design school". Apart from Goethe Institut, the remainder of the collection was put on show in the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong and University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong. Together these exhibitions allowed an insightful representation of Bauhaus architecture and products.

Goethe Institut Hong Kong Bibliothek
Geothe Institut Library - A great place to be


Farewell, Glossy Ibis!

The last trip to Tai Sang Wai was brief but successful. The two Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) were located just when I arrived. But I still hoped for better weather conditions which would give me a better chance to take pictures that show the metallic, colourful wings under sunlight, from which the species got its common name. So I headed for Tai Sang Wai again on 17 April. Unfortunately, some photographers told me that the two birds had been absent for a few days.

Glossy Ibis in Tai Sang Wai
Glossy Ibis - Bye
No Glossy Ibis? So I wander around the fish ponds. Interestingly, a male Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) was guarding over a fruiting ficus tree. This is my first time seeing one demonstrating such an aggressive territorial behaviour. He was constantly driving away birds of other species which were drawn by the bright-red fruits on that tree. The fruits were so abundant that all birds joining the party could have no difficulty feeding themselves. The male koel also devoured those fruits actually.

Asian Koel in Hong Kong
Asian Koel on fruting fig tree
Other birds did not fight back when the koel charged them. Rather, they would fly to nearby trees and wait for the koel to hide deeper in the tree crown. After the pause, they were ready to feed again. Among them, the most cunning would be the Azure-winged Magpie (Cyanopica cyanus). They landed on the tree in a small flock. One of them kept the Koel irritated while others seized the chance to pick the fruits. They took turn in doing so. How intelligent!

Things were getting complicated. A female koel flew into the tree crown. She seemed to be aceepted by the male as she also enjoyed those food at the side of the male. No mating or courtship behaviour was observed. The female was not interested in privatising the fruits as she did not disperse the other birds.

Female Asian Koel in Hong Kong
Asian Koel - Female
Other birds also took part in the feast, including Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus), Chinese Bulbul (Pycnonotus sinensis), Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus) and Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis).

Azure-winged Magpie fighting for fig fruits
Azure-winged Magpie

Acridotheres tristis
Common Myna

Pycnonotus jocosus
Red-whiskered Bulbul
Other birds were seen collecting nest materials and courting. Low-frequency, deep calls of Greater Coucal (Centropus sinensis) were heard throughout the afternoon. Smaller passerines were gathering dry grass to build nests. This Plain Prinia (Prinia inornata) posed for quite a few seconds.

Plain Prinia collecting nest materials
Plain Prinia - collecting nest material
While waiting for the van, I saw two White-shouldered Starling (Sturnia sinensis

Sturnia sinensis
White-shouldered Starling - male
The whole journey of the search of Glossy Ibis is an invaluable lesson. If I were a perfectionist, extreme disappointment could linger in my mind for a week or two, engendering unlimited regret over the poor quality of the photos taken during the rain. But for an optimist, catching a glimpse of the two rare visitors to Hong Kong would bring immense joy. As a birder, I have to face the constant fate of finding nothing despite a strenuous search. If you were me, what would your face look like in front of an empty field when the weather presents huge photographic opportunities?


A taste of success!

If you have been following closely, you might understand how desperate I have been since the discovery of two Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) in late March. Their whereabouts is a mystery to me. Luck was away from me when I spent two days in Long Valley and Nam Sang Wai. The latest news showed that they were in Tai Sang Wai. Judging from the name, one can be sure how Nam Sang Wai and Tai Sang Wai are related.

In that morning, only light drizzle prevailed, so I could keep my umbrella in my rucksack. But as I got off the van, I had to run for cover from the worsening sky conditions. Soon, the fishponds and fields were enshrouded by dark clouds up above. But I was not unprepared. Umbrella proved rather inconvenient for birding. That was why I brought my raincoat. And my camera and lens were waterproofed in an improvised manner.
Glossy Ibis in Tai Sang Wai
Finally seeing the Glossy Ibis

The rain was heavy but did not deter my motivation to find both Ibis. I could have reached the field if I had topped up my Octopus Card earlier. I had to find a Circle K or 7-11 to top up my Octopus Card. After messing with the Octopus Card, I headed for the minibus.

Two Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus) stood beside the Ibis, providing size comparison. The two heron might have never realised how famous their new neighbours are among Hong Kong's birders.

Glossy Ibis beside Chinese Pond Heron
Size comparison with Chinese Pond Heron

Glossy Ibis in rain
Glossy Ibis in Tai Sang Wai

The two Glossy Ibis were not afraid of my presence. I was able to approach them slowly. But as the wind got more ferocious, they took off and landed on the top of a Red Kapok (Bombax ceiba).
Glossy Ibis flying
Glossy Ibis in flight

Glossy Ibis resting on treetop
Glossy Ibis on Red Kapok tree

Non-stop raining meant that I could not wait for them to land on the field. Standing in the middle of an open rural area under thunderstorm is surely not a recommended practice by my insurance company. A Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) stood on a floating hose on the nearby fish pond.
Little Egret hunting for fish
Little Egret
Other birds were also seen there, including Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) and White-shouldered Starling (Sturnia sinensis).

As I was leaving, it rained more heavily. I discovered my wallet was soaked with a few banknotes hanging like wet drapes. Luckily, credit card and ID card were intact. And most importantly, I have seen the two rare Glossy Ibis.


Not again! Another failed attempt...

My mother just had her birthday last week. She wanted to go to Nam Sang Wai, not because of its nature but the fact that it was a frequent filming location of local TV drama from TVB. So the primary objective of the trip was to accompany my mother in the outdoor walk. The secondary one was to locate and photograph the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), which has been reported in Nam Sang Wai.

Nevertheless, four Black-faced Spoonbills (Platalea minor) were seen feeding in shallow water. I wished to find a Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia) among them but to no avail. Thanks to determined efforts in conservation, the number of Black-faced Spoonbill has already stabilised in recent years despite seasonal fluctuations. An uncertainty ahead would be the fate of their breeding sites in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) between North and South Koreas. While the media focus on the peace talks led by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, we are quite interested on the future of the wildlife habitats as well. This is a perfect example of how international politics and the survival of an endangered species. 
Black-faced Spoonbill with breeding plumage
Walking hilariously.
Couples of Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) were sighted. Just like the spoonbills, the redshanks are starting to wearing their distinctive summer plumage. Their dark colour with pearly spots made them unmistakable among the sandpipers. Some birders called them "Spotshank". Another similar-looking species was Common Redshank (Tringa totanus).

Spotted redshank in breeding plumage
Black and white breeding plumage - spectacular contrast 
Spotted redshank in flight
Equally spectacular in flight
Common redshank in Nam Sang Wai, Hong Kong
Common Redshank looks stouter with a less slender bill.

One or two Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) was spotted steadily hovering above the river. Shortly after aiming for the fish, they dive into the water at top speed for their prey, putting on a fascinating show.
Pied Kingfisher finishes catching fish
On the way to another hunt
Pied Kingfisher hovering above river
Aiming at its prey
Other commonly seen waterbirds included Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Chinese Pond Heron (Ardeola bacchus), Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis).

Black-winged Stilt in Nam Sang Wai
One of the most common waterbirds - Black-winged Stilt

Chinese pond heron in Nam Sang Wai
Breeding plumage that is attractive to both human and herons

Common greenshank in flight, Nam Sang Wai, Hong Kong
The slightly up-turned bill suggested that it was a Common Greenshank
Marsh sandpiper, identified by its needle-like, thin bill.
But the needle-like bill suggested this is a Marsh Sandpiper.
Walking along strips of short shrubs and long grasses, many Plain Prinia (Prinia inornata) were either seen or heard. When discovered, they swiftly shifted position. But they could not escape my camera.

Plain Prinia calling loud
Standing on a stalk conspicuously

Plain Prinia stands in open position
A small bird with loud call

Upon leaving, a Super Puma, the workhorse of Hong Kong Flying Service, was carrying water to extinguish the blazing fire left by inconsiderate grave sweepers.
Helicopter fighting fire with aerial water bomb
Fight fire with aerial water-bombing
Deflated rubber duck
No luck for Glossy Ibis, maybe next time!


A failed attempt in locating rare birds

On 21 March, photos of two Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) appearing in Long Valley were uploaded to the online forum of the bird watching society. News spread quick! The next day dozens of photographers lined the fields, waiting patiently for the two recherché birds to land on the shallow water. This was how the third record of glossy ibis of Hong Kong was made with ravishing photos.

Bearing in mind that these two epic birds were recorded a week earlier in Mai Po, I made my decision on Friday to visit Long Valley on the ensuing Monday. A reason was that my schedule is not as flexible as before. Unfortunately, this is a regretful decision.

On 25 March, I arrived Long Valley in the morning. But the absence of crowds was a bad sign, meaning the pair of rarity was long gone. Nevertheless, there were seven Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) swimming in an open pond, a photographic opportunity. These migratory birds fed frantically before resuming their journey to the breeding ground.

Red-necked Phalarope Standing
Active in water so shallow that they could actually stand
Red-necked Phalarope swimming
Constantly swimming.
Bathing and feeding in the same pond.
Four Red-necked Phalarope swimming in numbers
Safety in numbers
Two of them were already putting on mesmerising chestnut-red feathers around their neck. To take better photos, a number of photographers, including me, brought their tummy to the ground.

Red-necked Phalarope in Hong Kong
The breeding plumage was reflected on the water surface.
Red-necked Phalarope in Long Valley
Different individuals displayed slightly different breeding plumage.

Next to the neighbouring pond, a lonely Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) was sighted.

Pacific golden plover in Long Valley
Someone reported seeing two golden plovers.
On the way back, I walked along Sheung Yue River. Two Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) were active near some cattles. Spring is near, so the egrets' heads and necks are starting to turn orange.
Cattle egret with cattle nearby
Cross-species communication with psychic power.
A Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata) seemed to be sun-bathing on a rail, the skill to take this picture was to approach the bird and put the camera on the rail slowly.
Spotted munia standing on a railing
Impressive depth of field.
Spotted munia jumping from stalk to stalk
Jumping from stalk to stalk.
An Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) was calling so hard that I could hear voice crack miles away. Its black plumage suggested it is a male specimen.
Asian Koel calling loudly
Loud calls gave away its position.
Some water birds preferred Sheung Yue River to Long Valley. Among them were Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) and Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia).
Green sandpiper in Long Valley
Why do you stand on the railing?
Common greenshank on a rock in a river
Why do you stand on the rock?
Update: On 27 March, one glossy ibis re-appeared, but this time in Nam Sang Wai. How important these wetland are to these pulchritudinous creatures. Let's see if I can sniff the whereabouts of the rare birds.

Friendly dog in yellow colour
A much more friendly dog than those seen over the years.