Central Ridge and West (!) – further info

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    I wrote a fair chunk of text – but not the title!, I’d suggested Hong Kong’s Dragon Hills plus subtitie – for Central Ridge and West, just published by the Friends of Country Parks and Cosmos Books. (Available from Cosmos, at least: in the Johnston Road store, there’s section w books from their collaboration with Friends of Country Parks, downstairs. Costs HK$80) Several omissions from draft text by me; reasons as yet unclear, but lest of some interest to you – especially if you have the book – some of the info is below.

    Also, I’ve done webpage on Tai Po Kau Forest Reserve, a key area for wildlife in the central New Territories, with draft chapter.

    Biodiversity chapter oddly omits plants. Here (from draft text I wrote) is some info on trees and other plants in the area covered in the book:

    To date, 2135 species of native vascular plants – plants which, unlike moss and algae, transport fluids through veins – have been recorded of Hong Kong. Most of these can be found in the highlands and foothills from Ma On Shan west to Tai Mo Shan. With species ranging from grasses and ferns to tropical trees, and including several world rarities, the hills are fine haunts for botanists; while even if you know little about plants, their variety greatly enhances views. But while the diversity is impressive, it’s also somewhat misleading. For after centuries of extensive deforestation, and only decades of reforestation in some areas, many of the species are concentrated at relatively small sites.

    Swathes of hillsides are now covered in grass and low scrub, with frequent hillfires slowing or halting any possible succession to woodland. These grassy areas are most evident during the dry winter, when the blades of grass turn warm brown. During all seasons, the grassy hillsides make for impressive scenery – you can clearly see boulders, and rough-hewn hills, but as you walk through them you will also find there is little variation in the plant life. Melastoma Melastoma sp. is one of the commonest shrubs, and in summer its bright pink blooms add splashes of colour to the trailsides. A fern known as Hong Kong bracken Gleichenia linearis is plentiful in areas with scrub – it looks like the bracken ferns of more temperate latitudes, and likewise grows in dense clusters, but the fronds don’t die in autumn.

    As dense natural scrub matures in areas that don’t suffer frequent fires, there’s a transition to secondary woodland. Gordonia Gordonia axillaris is one of the commoner pioneer trees, growing even on degraded hillsides. It blooms in late autumn; the large flowers with yellow stamens and white petals are conspicuous amidst the dark green leaves, and soon fall to the ground, perhaps decorating paths that pass through these trees. There are plantations, dominated by non-native species such as Brisbane box Tristania conferta and, on damp ground, paper-bark trees Melaleuca leucadendron. Though few tree species were planted – except at Tai Po Kau – the plantations are mainly undergoing transformations, as they are colonised from trees from more natural woods.

    The wilder woodlands – in fung shui woods, Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve, high ravines such as Ng Tung Chai, and resurgent secondary woods – support the highest diversities of trees and other plants. Here, you can find groves of bamboos, creepers snaking across tree trunks and branches, occasional large trees, and glimpse how Hong Kong’s original forests may have looked. At higher elevations, notably on the northern slopes of Ma On Shan, plants include rhododendrons, including the Hong Kong rhododendron – which is known from only a handful of sites in Hong Kong and southern China.

    Bibliography omitted from published book; lest of interest, here’s the list of books I’d found most useful in research: Hong Kong Country Parks by Stella L. Thrower (Government Printer, 1984) Although over 20 years old, this is the definitive work on the country parks in Hong Kong, and is a mine of information . Hong Kong Landscapes: Along the Maclehose Trail by Bernie Owen and Raynor Shaw (Geotrails, 2001) A hiking guidebook focusing on geology, with information on a host of points of interest along the trail. The Quaternary Geology of Hong Kong (Hong Kong Geological Survey, Geotechnical Office, Civil Engineering Department, 2000) Not light reading, but highly informative. Hills and Streams: An Ecology of Hong Kong by David Dudgeon and Richard Corlett (Hong Kong University Press 1994) Focuses on ecology in Hong Kong’s semi-natural uplands, covering aspects including seasonality, climate and feeding, and aiming to inspire conservation measures. Mammals of Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve by Gary Ades, Michael Lau and Paul Crow (Cosmos Books Ltd/Friends of the Country Parks, 2002) A slim guidebook, covering 15 species of mammals, most of which are widespread in the Hong Kong hills – albeit also mostly hard to see! The Avifauna of Hong Kong by Geoff Carey, Mike Chalmers, David Diskin, Peter Kennerley, Paul Leader, Mike Leven, Richard Lewthwaite, David Melville, Mike Turnbull and Lew Young (Hong Kong Bird Watching Society, 2001) A tome covering the occurrences of all species recorded in Hong Kong to 2001. Hong Kong Amphibians and Reptiles by Stephen Karsen, Michael Lau and Anthony Bogadek (Provisional Urban Council, 1998) Comprehensive field guide, illustrated with photographs. Venturing Fung Shui Woods by Joseph Yip, Y. N. Ngar, Jackie Yip, Eric Liu and Patrick Lai (Friends of the Country Parks, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, and Cosmos Books Ltd, 2004) Guide focusing on botany, with accounts covering some characteristic plants of fung shui woods, as well as five of the best fung shui woods in Hong Kong. War Relics in the Green by Ko Tim-keung (Cosmos Books Ltd and Friends of the Country Parks, 2001) Guide to defensive structures built during the Second World War that can still be seen in Hong Kong, especially in country parks.

    Also included some Activities, inc useful websites; the sites were omitted (tho perhaps as websites can be ephemeral).


    Looking through Central Ridge and West, a few errors are apparent (sadly, I didn’t have chance to check text during production).


    p157: a “Grey Treepie” photo actually shows an Azure-winged Magpie.
    There’s an introduced note saying “The uplands are good places to observe migratory species, such as Grey-faced Buzzard, Brown Shrike, Blue Rock Thrush and Asian Brown Flycatcher.” This is not true; the uplands are, overall, v poor for observing migrants. Blue Rock Thrush indeed occurs – it’s a bird of open country with boulders, though can also be seen along coasts here. However, Grey-faced Buzzard, Brown Shrike and Asian Brown Flycatcher are all best seen at lower elevations – including on islands such as Po Toi.

    Aha, mea culpa! added August 2022: last autumn, Crested Honey Buzzards were seen passing Pat Sin Leng Range; and in spring this year, birds included needletails [swifts]. Plus, spring this year, Grey-faced Buzzards seen in good numbers high over Lantau – Ngong Ping area, so may well pass Pat Sin Leng uplands too.

    Some high woods do attract migratory forest birds – as along Kap Lung Forest Trail, and at Ng Tung Chai; seem better for seeing some local rarities such as Siberian Thrush than lower elevation places.

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