|Backyard Siena One, Discovery Bay |
(It’s no wonder the human eye is optimised for shades of green)
This is our place in Hong Kong.
We planted the lawn and all the trees and shrubs in 2002, including the Poinciana (Delonix Regia) on the left and Traveller palms on the right. The other side of the hedge is Park Siena, the trees have tripled since we moved in 20 years ago. Our trees have grown even more: the Poinciana was six feet high when we planted it; it’s now 60 feet. This is our own tropical jungle.
Past the apex, in the distance, you can see Central Hong Kong on a clear day. Right at the apex is our fish pond with generations of Koi carp. On the bank our local Heron angles for an easy fish meal. Over the pond, hover our Dragonflies, aerial aces, accomplished killers, mosquito murderers, the crimson dropwings and others.
Dragonflies are my favourite; right up there with Penguins. [Dogs are default]
Turtles visit the pond, from the nearby lake. We discourage them as they attack the fish, tear off their dorsal fins — to eat? for fun? We take one of our finless fish to the vet to ask her, but she says we only do mammals.
In the hedge lurk snakes: Rat snakes, Chinese cobras, Burmese pythons, none really dangerous; we keep out of each others’ way. They eat small mammals and large insects.They feed off our Frogs that come by each spring and croak us awake. We kill none. I ban killing, for here at Casa Siena it’s live and let live. I don’t even kill cockroaches.
Dozens of avian species make our backyard their territory. Speckled doves, Magpie robins, Violet whistling thrushes, Japanese white-eyes, Coucals greater and lesser, Olive-backed Pipitts, and in springtime the Koel — happy to hear him come, happy when he’s gone again— and the occasional Kingfisher. Overhead, the Black-eared kite and Sea eagles float in fresh breezes off our northerly monsoon. Our most common birds, the various Bulbuls — crested, whiskered, red-vented, Chinese — many nearly tame, come by demanding their daily bread, tossed in the air so they can catch it in flight; these are flycatchers. Like the Verditer Flycatcher, which sometimes crashes into our windows. Later on we’ll see if our bulbuls make a nest in our Buddha pine, as they’ve done years past, and raise their chicks in our kitchen garden. And watch “our” thrush find a snail, a favourite meal, and take it to the patio to crack open, just as Australia’s Kookaburras are famous for doing with snakes. And occasionally find a dead dove on the lawn. We presume it’s natural. They have to die somewhere. We bury them under our golden Duranta.
Meantime. our living Doves have been making their way indoors, to hunt for crumbs, any that Basil may have missed. They’re coming in daily, lately, I guess because we’re now leaving the doors open more often as the temps cool and the humidity drops. They just waddle on in. We welcome them, then help them find their way out of this confusing human nest.
I don’t welcome our local house cats.They’re notorious bird killers. Ferocious felines. There’s one I can’t keep away, the next door’s black-cat Micky, who I forgive as she focuses on the field mice that live in our old compost bin. They’re controlled by Micky but not eradicated. When she’s not around they come by and say hi to me, as I bake bread. I don’t mind them. They’re clean. And great survivors. I respect success. Imagine a life of running a Micky gauntlet, a fierce creature 20 times your size, every time you go out to fetch something for the kids.
I like our little ecosystem. It’s not much. But it lives, it thrives, it engages. It engages me and is itself engaged. Great battles are fought, dragonfly v mosquito, snake v frog, cat v rat, thrush v snail. I watch them all, watch them grow, survive, kill, eat, breed… live and die.