May 15, 2008|
HK Magazine: So, if I look up in the sky and see some birds passing by, does that count as bird watching?
Katherine Leung: It can be! Bird watching varies depending on the individual. Some admire the birds’ physique. Some people like to go further, studying their habits and taking pictures of them. Also, some people who like challenges are particularly into identifying different species or spotting rare birds.
HK: Do birds have different characters?
KL: Yes, they’re just like people. Some like to be looked at and show off all the time. Some can be really shy and fly away immediately once they are spotted. Some are really cunning. They have funny tricks to trap their prey.
HK: If I want to be called a professional birdwatcher, what qualifications do I need? Are there many professionals in Hong Kong?
KL: You have to be able to tell the species from far away, and also know their breeding season, be able to approximate their age, and even sometimes their gender. The Hong Kong Bird Watching Society has about 900 members and that’s a pretty impressive number. I wouldn’t say they are all professional, but there are many devotees.
HK: You’re also a conservation officer in Mai Po. Aren’t you bored of birds?
KL: No, not at all. You know, for research purposes, a lot of time my job involves just counting the birds I see. So what I do in my spare time is totally different from my job. It can be stressful when you have to count their numbers in a limited period of time and in a specific area. Also, some birds only show up at high tide and you might not have time to wait for it during work hours. That’s why even at weekends, I’ll head to Mai Po with my bird watcher friends to find the birds that I might have missed.
HK: Is Hong Kong good for bird watching?
KL: Yes, absolutely! Hong Kong has many different habitats. For wetlands we have Mai Po; for woodlands, although we don’t have huge forests like the ones in Malaysia, we have many country parks or parks in the city like Hong Kong Park and Kowloon Park. The Peak is also good if you can’t be bothered to travel that far. Also, because we have Mai Po, many migratory birds visit us every year. Although they’re likely to stay around the marshes, some of them might visit the city. I’ve heard people saying they’ve seen several two-foot-tall owls at a park next to the West Rail Station in Lai Chi Kok. Don’t look surprised! Hong Kong is actually a really great place for birds.
HK: How does urban development affect the birds?
KL: Eagles that used to hunt mice in the wild have now become scavengers, and so have the worm-eating sparrows. Actually, many birds have adopted the urban lifestyle, but some are affected by light pollution—such as the Koel. They start singing at 3am and they sing louder and louder because they mistake the city lights for daylight. It’s very tiring for them, and sadly many people think that they’re annoying without even considering why they keep singing.