Hong Kong has a rich diversity of species owing to its geographical location, topography and wide range of habitat types. 11 Environmental Conservation Studies students, led by Dr. Stephen Cartwright, lecturer of Division of Applied Science, took the opportunity of the cooler weather to explore nature close to home.
Winter is the domain of migratory birds that come to Hong Kong for a break as they feed and rest along their long arduous journey – and Nam Sang Wai is a perfect spot that is easy to access, to spot these winter migrants and observe different species and their feeding behaviours. Students were able to appreciate the patience required in bird observation – as well as the random chance encounters of more unique birds that were spotted in the distance using pro-gear. For some of the students it was certainly a first.
A break in the clouds and rainfall afforded another group of students to explore the country parks. Conquering Pyramid Hill in Ma On Shan Country Park afforded an impressive vista of the natural area surrounded by the urbanisation of Ma On Shan and Sai Kung town. The juxtaposition of the two, highlighted the fragile balance between nature conservation and urban development. From the peak the journey descended into the more woodland areas where a natural stream course pass – and sighted in the pristine running waters of Mau Ping and Mui Tsz Lam, were a large number of Hong Kong Newts （蠑螈）– Paramesotriton hongkongensis（香港瘰螈）– currently in their breeding seasons. These newts are the only salamander species found in Hong Kong, and are denoted by a colourful pattern on their underbelly that is unique to each individual like a fingerprint.
Dr. Stephen Cartwright shared that the cooler weather and winter period masked the potential biodiversity that could be observed in this region, as it was marked as an area of high biodiversity, known for its flora and fauna. It is certainly a place worth visiting again when the weather warms a bit – and an easy trek for family and friends.