Sunday, 23 August 2015

From this weekend: Taichung power plant, a praying mantis, an eagle and a full Baihe reservoir.

Last weekend, I had a bit of an accident - or more accurately, my phone did. Water was involved. It turned out that repair costs were so high I might as well buy a new phone, which is what I did. But a new phone (another HTC) comes with the inconveniences of losing some data which hadn't been backed up. Not to worry...

On Saturday, I finally got back up to Taichung. The black motorbike had been left there for the past two months and I'd been expecting the worst: fallen over, flat tyres, flat battery etc... but actually it was fine. Started first time and just needed some grease on the chain and an oil change. I had only intended to use the trip for repairs, but finding that none were needed, I drove around for an hour or so out to Longjing near Taichung port to have a quick look at the power plant, and then back to the HSR station for a quick train back to Tainan.

This morning, I took the two girls out to Baihe reservoir for their first time. The weather wasn't particularly good (overcast with occasional showers), though it was mercifully cool for most of the time. We walked down the central peninsula at the east end of the reservoir and took the boat through the central channel from east to west. Just as I was about to get everything ready, I found something amazing (for me at least)... a mantis had attached itself to my kit bag. In ten years of living in Taiwan with much of it spent out and about in the hills and mountains, this was nevertheless the first time in my life I had seen one of these things in the wild. I was absolutely transfixed...

You learn something new everyday: previously, and probably since childhood, I had always assumed that this was a "Preying Mantis" because it feeds on other insects and small reptiles or amphibians. I only just found out today, on checking the wikipedia page, that this is wrong and that it's actually a "Praying Mantis" because of the "praying" like posture of its "raptorial" front legs. I'd only ever read about these creatures as a child - I cannot even recall seeing them in a zoo.
These pictures were taken on my new phone, and in this one the creature's pseudopupil eyes and mandibles are very clear. 
I wonder if he would have bitten me if I'd put my finger close enough to his mandibles?
Later, once we'd waited out a quick shower, I paddled the boat through the enclosed central channel and spotted an eagle in the same corner I had found one last time I was here, though this was almost certainly a smaller bird (it's quite possible some of them died during typhoon Soudelor two weeks ago). I pointed the eagle out to Ruby and Niki and allowed the boat to drift closer and closer to the corner so I could take pictures through the 300mm lens...

Despite the weather, it was an enjoyable little trip and I gathered two bits of new data: first, this was the highest I'd seen the water level at Baihe reservoir, and this was made apparent by the less than two meter gap between the water surface and the old, rotten suspension bridge (which is usually a good four or five meters above the surface), and second, the reeds polluting the front end of the reservoir are now far more extensive than they were a couple of years ago such that it is no longer possible to navigate around the corner from north-west to south-east. It's just not possible. It was two or three years ago.

The rotten old suspension bridge with missing planks; the gap between it and the water surface was less than two meters; if I could walk on water, my head would probably touch the beams.

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