Hong Kong Island – To peak or not to peak

With your kind permission, I shall leave Australia in the dust and report instead directly from Hong Kong before returning to our Australian adventures in their proper chronological order. For me as a German, such things as timelines and labeling are, after all, of the utmost importance.

The other day we wanted to go sightseeing in a big way. We left early-ish in the morning to hike over to the Peak Tram Terminus on Garden Road to take the funicular train up to Victoria Peak for the famed view over the entirety of Hong Kong Island.

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Apparently not early enough.

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Overflow line-up for the tram to Victoria Peak

About 20 minutes into our wait, we were all herded into a covered area across the street from the ticket booth. On the far side of our cattle run I noticed a colorful staircase leading up to a woodsy area. Holding my camera high above my head, I zoomed closer to the stairs leading to Hong Kong Park.

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I learned later that for this year’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to the Motherland, twenty public staircases across Hong Kong were painted as “Blooming Stairs”. The traditional designs were taken from fabrics and ceramics of antiques housed in the Hong Kong Museum of Art, which unfortunately is currently closed for major renovations.

Meanwhile, nothing had moved in our holding area for a further 20 minutes and we decided to quit the lofty peak endeavor. Instead, we worked our way through the patiently queuing crowd, ducking under rope barriers and finally escaping toward the intriguing staircase.

Having just abandoned our plan for the day, we entered into Hong Kong Park without expectations, simply enjoying the peace beneath its rich greenery before climbing steep stairs up to an aviary.

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Before entering the 32 000 sqft. hillside aviary, we checked out fancy pigeons and hornbills in their separate enclosures. Unfortunately, those spacious cages were constructed of heavy gauge wire mesh seriously impeding camera focus.

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Home to more than 600 birds of ~80 species indigenous to South East Asia, Indonesia & Australia

When you first enter the aviary the impression of jungle green is overwhelming. One has to make an effort to focus on specifics, like birds. A good start for bird watching are the feeders suspended below the raised walkway.

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A female Blue-winged Leafbird lapping up dragon fruit juice
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Who can identify this parrot? Thank you!!
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Black-capped Lory, Lorius lory, Psittaculidae; native to New Guinea & assorted smaller islands nearby.

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Mystery bird. Any idea?
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Coconut Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus, Psittaculidae; native to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, Vanuatu and several other small South Pacific islands 

Coconut lorikeets are very closely related to the Australian Rainbow lorikeets, as you can see in the picture below. That lorikeet was munching in a tree in Pelican Waters, QLD, Australia.

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Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus moluccanus, Psittaculidae; Australia

Another striking bird in the aviary was a starling, Passeriformes, from New Guinea with rather unusual facial coloring and a neck ruff. May I present to you the Yellow-faced Myna, Mino dumontii, Sturnidae. As far as starlings go, this mynah is rather large with a body length of 26 cm.

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Another Green Imperial Pigeon, Ducula aenea, Columbidae
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And another Imperial Pigeon, Ducula bicolor, Columbidae
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Racket-tailed Treepie, Crypsirina temia, Corvidae. This arboreal olive-green crow with startlingly turquoise irises [which we can’t see here, unfortunately] lives in bamboo forests in Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.
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Crested Pigeon, Ocyphaps lophetes, Columbidae; it’s a born Aussie.
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A Bali Myna, Leucopsar rothschildi, Sturnidae

The Bali myna(h) or Rothschild’s mynah or Bali starling is the only extant endemic vertebrate species of the island of Bali, Indonesia. The Jalak Bali, as it is called locally, is critically endangered, and I mean critically. Despite several breeding programs, the illegal bird trade has decimated the numbers in the wild to less than 100 adult Bali mynahs, with around 1000 birds kept in [sanctioned] captivity globally. Stupid cage-bird collectors!!

These dire circumstances notwithstanding, I was privileged during my visit to the Edward Youde Aviary to observe several birds close up during a Mynah counseling session with the local Hong Kong Mynah Whisperer.

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Note the whisperer’s sleeve on right
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Suddenly a woman lunged in front of me and tried to grab the birds. I pushed her back and she walked off laughing loudly.
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Luckily, he wasn’t to be deterred from his conversation with the whisperer.

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Just hanging out
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Lil’Buddy came back shortly after the crazy lady’s attack.
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Mutual Admiration Society 😊

And then there are these rice-eating menaces. They’re gregarious grain and seed-eating finches and people who make a living growing rice hate and hunt them. They are Java Sparrows, Lonchura [Padda] oryzivora, Estrildidae, with 15cm body length the largest of all tropical estrildid finches. Java sparrows are listed as vulnerable across their Indonesian breeding range.

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I can’t help but think they look like miniature penguins.

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Tranquility ruled at ground level of the aviary,

while at mid-level colorful residents continued to visit wildly spinning suspended feeders offering equally colorful fruit. Like this Golden-fronted Leafbird, Chloropsis aurifrons, Chloropseidae, munching heartily on a papaya.

Our unplanned journey through the aviary was delightful. If you’ll ever visit Hong Kong, don’t miss Hong Kong Park and the rare Bali Mynah!

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One thought on “Hong Kong Island – To peak or not to peak

  1. The Bali Myrna is outstanding in loveliness; and the starling certainly has it over our European starlings that are really pesky here, and in an over abundance. I do not support birds, or any animals in cages, but in some instances it is the only way to ensure their livelihood. Looking forward to your next stop!

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