Aberdeen Country Park Biodiversity
When most Hong Kongers talk about animals in Aberdeen, odds are they’re talking about the ones in Ocean Park. But just a 10-minute drive away lies another park with plenty of animals, facilities to help children learn about nature, and no small amount of water: Aberdeen Country Park.
One of the oldest country parks in Hong Kong, this place is a patchwork of habitats; from forest to shrub land, valley to mountainside, and of course, the Aberdeen Lower Reservoir. So naturally it is home to a wide variety of wildlife and while some rare, others are much easier to see than you might expect. Those with young children may be interested in checking out the Aberdeen Tree Centre, an education centre where children can play 3D model videos and interactive games to learn about the importance of tree conservation. Meanwhile those with an interest in plants should definitely come during the spring when the trees put out blossoms and the hillside changes colour. Here are some species to look out for:
Eurasian Wild Pig (Sus scrofa): By now reports of wild pigs wandering into shopping centres and injuring people on campus have brought this large hairy hog into infamy in the minds of many local residents. This image is not helped by the tendency of herds to overturn rubbish bins in search of food. But while they may be big, powerful animals with some very bad press, wild pig attacks don’t happen without reason. If you simply keep your distance from them (especially when they have young), keep quiet and don’t block any potential escape routes, they may head back to the undergrowth, you’ll be able to watch these animals in peace and go home with a photo; not a tusk wound.
Large-billed Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos): Also known as the jungle crow, this bird is very common in forested areas of Hong Kong partly because, like most members of the Corvid family (crows, magpies, jays), it is a very unfussy, very bold eater. These crows will feed on anything, from fruit to small reptiles, but will also take human food waste. Having few known predators also helps their numbers. In Aberdeen Country Park, they can frequently be seen perching on powerlines, often in large groups.
Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis): Blink and you might miss the flash of orange and electric blue of a common kingfisher flying over the waters of the Aberdeen Lower Reservoir. In spite of its name however, it is not that easy to see. But if you do find one perched on a branch above the water, keep an eye on it. If you’re lucky you might just catch it diving for small fish.
Chinese Hwamei (Garrulax canorus): While this bird is not shy, it is common in hillside shrub land across Hong Kong. With its distinctive whitish-blue eye ring (its Chinese name means “painted eyebrow”), it can be hard to spot one as it tends to forage in deep undergrowth. The bird feeds mainly on insects and fallen fruit on the ground, which is also where it nests from May to July.
Hong Kong Rose (Rhodoleia championii): Those with an interest in native flowers should definitely come to Aberdeen Country Park for the chance to spot this beauty, which despite its name, is actually not related to true roses. First discovered in Hong Kong in 1849, ironically it is now so rare here that it is protected by law, although it is not considered endangered globally. Despite its rarity, it is easily recognisable by its pink bell-shaped flowers, which are often visited by birds (its main pollinators), such as the Japanese white-eye and the fork-tailed sunbird.