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Fly Like A Bird…

  • Fri 21st Dec, 2018

The archetypal China landscape stretched before me; the craggy mountains shrouded in mist, a deep body of water littered with lone fishermen’s rafts and haunting junks floating along and, ever present, the high call of some water bird, of which many scattered the muddy shores.

Shenzhen bay overlooks the hilly border-land of Hong Kong and even a brief walk along the waterfront will be rewarded with easy views of avocets, sweeping the mud with their curved beaks, or dazzling white egrets stalking for fish. I was charmed the most by the black-winged stilts, whose elegant, delicate shape tilts like a ballerina, whose velvet black wings, so pointed, cut through the air like knives with their flawless shape, and whose dainty, gangly crab-like legs and cheeky chirping made me laugh.

Black-winged Stilt © Richard BainesBlack-winged Stilt © Richard Baines

Kingfishers abound in the rivers feeding into the sea, and great white egrets rival herons in prowess as well as stature. A plethora of ducks and other waders dabble alongside them and when the sun set the mist aglow, so that the grey-white pulsed with orange, the journey to roost began.

At first I thought the large V-shaped flock flying into sight was geese, but as they neared I saw they were cormorants, their long black necks thrust before them, as they made their way home.

And as we watched, V after V came flying over, hundreds upon hundreds of black beating wings, departing the city for a quiet night in. No border control for them.

It was a mesmerising sight to behold.

great Cormorants over Baishizhou © James O'Neill  great Cormorants over Baishizhou © James O'Neill

I saw them again the next evening, as we wandered through the hive of activity that is Baishizhou, with its crowded alleyways of street vendors and cooking aromas, bulging tower blocks and chaotic criss-cross of traffic. There they soared, high above it all, oblivious to the people busy about their lives below, who were equally as oblivious to the hundreds of magnificent fishermen passing silently into the night. It seemed surreal spying them from amongst such urban chaos, but it was a poignant reminder of the freedom we’ve lost, as we’ve walled ourselves up.

Little Egret on Shenzhen Bay © James O'Neill  Little Egret on Shenzhen Bay © James O'Neill

Susie O'Neill

Susie works for the RSPB based at the Bempton Cliffs Reserve. She is also a local author. We are very pleased at YCN to welcome her on to our writing team, look out for more encounters on our news section soon! You can read her YCN profile Click Here.