Confessions of a Hong Kong Naturalist is a natural history memoir, tracing the journey from novice to expert of an aspiring naturalist, Graham Reels, as he follows a trail of discovery into the miraculously fascinating and diverse world of Hong Kong’s wildlife.
The memoir falls naturally into two parts, the first covering the seven-year period 1988-1995 in which Reels gained the knowledge and experience that qualified him to undertake the Hong Kong Biodiversity Survey in 1995-1998. Early chapters include descriptions of work as a research assistant at Hong Kong University, an M.Phil. study from a hut at Mai Po Marshes Nature Reserve, a survey of Hong Kong’s freshwater wetlands, and work at Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden. The territory-wide Biodiversity Survey is covered in the second half of the book.
Throughout the memoir, different animal species that Reels encountered (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects) are named and described, and their ecological or behavioural attributes discussed in a lively and informal manner. Similarly, a range of fascinating human characters whose lives intersected with the author’s in his study of Hong Kong’s wildlife are introduced and engagingly portrayed.
“Reels is an accomplished naturalist and a captivating writer. [He] blends the logistics, the wildlife and the wild nightlife skillfully into a very readable life story. Anyone familiar with Hong Kong is going to find Reels’ confessions an enthralling read. And for those interested in Hong Kong wildlife, Confessions is a keeper.” – Bill Purves, Asian Review of Books
“From a zoological view point, this book is peerless … a gripping memoir of ten years as a field naturalist … massively entertaining … Reels is not just an accomplished naturalist, he’s also a damned fine writer. His pen portraits of the people that he met, worked with and had adventures alongside are priceless. This is a remarkable book.” – Jonathan Downes, Animals & Men
“[Reels] writes well. He does dialogue far better than many big name authors. The escapades … read like scenes from Barry Crump’s A Good Keen Man or Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men In A Boat. Aside from the laughs, the best take-away from his book is renewed awareness of the wonderful diversity of fauna in the bush and right around our homes.” – Roger Medcalf, Sai Kung Buzz
“I cannot recommend it too highly. [Reels’] story of the wildlife observed, of the surveys for the wide biodiversity survey, of his colleagues (many of whom remain in Hong Kong engaged in conservation), of students and of his personal life is well worth reading.” – Malcolm Peaker, Zoology Jottings