A few weeks ago, Brooke signed us up for a ‘Mangrove Walk’ at Mai Po nature reserve through the WWF. It was only the night before that we figured out the scope of what we were in for… a four hour tour over the China/Hong Kong border through an that required multiple sets of permits. Great to have a tour guide, otherwise we never would have seen any of this stuff.
The first bit of the walk was alongside some working fish farms. The guide explained that a lot of this wetland was landscaped and carved into farms by refugees in the 40’s. Much later it was set aside as a wetland preserve (mostly as spoonbill habitat) but the farming is allowed to continue as long as the farmers don’t alter the landscape or change their farming practices. There were lots of shorebirds (mostly egrets and herons) patrolling the edges of the fishponds — the guide had a telescope on a tripod and he kept setting up perfectly-framed views of various birds for us to peer at.
Of course my camera skills aren’t good enough for bird photos.
After the fishponds there was some less-intensively managed wetland, used to cultivate tiger prawns but mostly managed by the preserve for shorebirds. All along the shoreline were these weird pink blobs.
Apple snails were introduced into Hong Kong as a food species but turned out to be both a) not very delicious and b) full of parasites. So, useless as a food crop, they’ve invaded all the wetlands in the area. They lay their eggs above the waterline, giving this pink styrofoam look to everything. Sometimes the WWF people go on snail patrol and try to thin out the population in an area… seems like a hopeless task.
After the shrimp and bird ponds were a couple of great-looking lily ponds, followed by a nice shady patch of mangrove.
After that patch of mangroves things got weirder. First there was this scary border fence:
And then a very wobbly walk along this floating, very narrow pontoon boardwalk:
The boardwalk ended in what looked like a fence, but was actually the side of a bird-watching blind. The blind was dark and stifling. But, the view…
In that last photo you can see little lumps on the mudflat in the foreground. That’s hundreds of mudskippers rushing around, flashing their fins and doing their clumsy, leaping territorial dance. Among the mudskippers are thousands of little fiddler crabs. And, off in the distance, that’s Shenzhen. There weren’t a ton of birds, but I didn’t mind.