Blood pheasants

15 01 2017

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Night stirrings

4 01 2017

As a child, I remember camping out on our dining room floor on hot Summer nights, the back doors to the garden thrown open, lying in wait for a dim shape to emerge from the backyard foliage: possums on the prowl for food. Both common species of Australian possum are commonplace in Melbourne, from the smelly, hissing larger brushtail possums to the agile little ringtails, often seen scurrying along power lines.

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But there are other creatures of the Melbourne night, almost as common, which I have never glimpsed. The city is, surprisingly, sometimes said to be the world’s urban fox capital. Researchers recently discovered that in the suburb of Port Melbourne for instance, the creatures live at a density of up to 20 animals per square kilometre – and yet they are invisible during the day and almost as invisible at night.

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Jenny Brompton, Sea Country Spirits at the Ian Potter Centre for Australian Art

Another tribe of foxes is more visible though,  the flying foxes – a colloquial name for the squawking fruit bats with a wingspan of up to one metre – which migrate into the city in the warmer months. They provide a surreal and beautiful spectacle, streaming out of treetops at Studley Park in Kew at sundown to fan out in the search for food, over the river and the inner Eastern suburbs. I loved to watch them. It is a sight both beautiful and awe-inspiring.





Urban invaders

14 12 2016

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I had a shock encounter at work this week, slipping out for a quick coffee only to be confronted by a stray boar that had wondered down the mountains towards Wong Chuk Hang! The large, placid pig eyed my unconcerned as it rooted around for food by a busy road. Later that night I came across the sad, mangled body of a porcupine by Pok Fu Lam Road – only my second porcupine in five years in Hong Kong – and saw on the news that a three-metre long Burmese python had been captured in Tseun Wan: animal intruders!

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Strange beasts and where to find them

28 11 2016

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An undoubted highlight of the trip came while returning to the campsite late at night in a taxi. Suddenly a strange shape appeared in the headlights – a lumbering family of porcupines, surprisingly big, ambling across the road at night, shining brightly in the headlights before slinking off again into the night.

I was amazed. It was such an unexpected encounter with this strange creature – apparently still fairly common in Hong Kong but rarely seen as it forages at night. One specimen was photographed last year outside the Bank of China building in Admiralty.





10 10 2016

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Leopard tears

21 09 2016

 

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The Formosa cloud leopard is a sad case, officially declared extinct in 2003. It had once been the second-largest predator to stalk the Taiwan countryside, after the Formosan black bear which still haunts some of the island’s lonelier mountain stretches. The leopard however has been reduced to a single specimen, which sits stuffed, in Taipei’s Taiwan National museum.

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Above, a photograph taken in 1900 shows an indigenous Taiwanese person wearing a snow leopard pelt. Below, the stuffed specimen in Taiwan National Museum today.

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Taiwan blue magpie

21 09 2016

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