A simple type of fishing net is the cast net, which consists of a circular net, with metal rings, or other heavy material, tied around the edge, and a rope to the centre. When the net hits the surface, the metal rings pull the outer part of the net towards the bottom, thus trapping the fish, which happen to be under it. Naturally, this method of fishing requires a lot of work, often with a meagre result. Three examples are shown below.



Fisherman, throwing his net into a pond, Angkor Thom, Cambodia. Domestic ducks are feeding in the foreground. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Fisherman, trying his luck in the Rapti River, southern Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Asien 1972-73
This fisherman is throwing his net into a lake at the outskirts of the great marsh area between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, southern Iraq. This interesting wetland is presented in detail on the pages Travel episodes – Iraq 1973: The hospitable mudir, and Iraq 1973: Dust storm and sheep’s head. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Shearwaters are about 31, small to medium-sized, long-winged seabirds of three genera, Puffinus with c. 21 species, Ardenna with seven species, which were previously included in Puffinus, and Calonectris, with three or four larger species.

The name shearwater was given in allusion to the habit of these birds of flying very low over the water, seemingly ‘shearing’ it with their wing tips.

The generic name Puffinus is based on the English word puffin. This word and its variants, including poffin and puffing, refers to the cured carcasses of fat nestlings of the shearwater, which were regarded as a delicacy in the old days. The word puffin dates back from at least 1337, but during the 1600s, the term was gradually used for another seabird, the Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica). (Source: Jobling, J.A. 2010. The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. Christopher Helm, London)


The yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), also named Levantine, or Mediterranean shearwater, was formerly considered a subspecies of the Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), but was then split from that species and regarded as the nominate subspecies of the so-called Mediterranean shearwater. Now it forms a monotypic species, as Balearic birds have been separated as the Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus).

The unusual name of the yelkouan shearwater was derived from a Turkish word, yelkovan, meaning ‘wind-chaser’.

The picture below shows part of a flock of c. 1,500 Yelkouan shearwaters and 1,500-2,000 western yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis), feeding on sardines (Sardina pilchardus) in the Marmara Sea, Istanbul, Turkey. The western yellow-legged gull is presented in depth on the page Nature: Urban nature.



(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Angling is an immensely popular pastime around the world. The word angling is derived from angle, which stems from the 1500s, referring to a bent piece of iron, in this case a fish hook. On my travels around the world, I have often met with anglers of various types.



Californien 2013
Anglers near San Francisco, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Taiwan 2014b
A fishing vessel is passing by an angler, trying his luck at the seashore, Fangliao, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Boy, angling for trout, Lake Isholsvatn, northern Iceland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Taiwanese people love doing things in groups. In these pictures, anglers are enjoying a pleasant morning along The Han River in the city of Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



As a contrast, this angler on the shore of the Fazi River, Taichung, prefers to work alone. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



In spring, huge shoals of sardines (Sardina pilchardus) and other fishes migrate through the Marmara Sea in Turkey. Every day, a large number of anglers gather on the Galata Bridge, which spans the Golden Horn, Istanbul. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Tim Fison and his two sons, Damien and Alastair, angling for sea trout (Salmo trutta) in Loch Hourn, Scotland. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Sydasien 1976-77
This Burgher (a person of mixed Sinhalese and European descent) is angling in the sea at Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



This boy proudly presents his catch, a perch (Perca fluviatilis), Jutland, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Angler on a beach near Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Fishermen, hauling ashore boats or huge nets from the sea, or cleaning nets, are very photogenic motives, which can (still) be encountered in various parts of the world.



Goa 2008
Goa 2008
Goa 2008
Goa 2008
Fishermen at work on Colva Beach, Goa, India, hauling a boat ashore (top), rinsing a huge net in the sea (second from above), hauling a huge net ashore (second from below), and admiring the catch (bottom). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Europa 1972-2005
Europa 1972-2005
Fishermen, mending their nets, Kavala, Greece. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



In southern Nepal, a huge marsh area is found along the great Kosi River. After a night’s catch in these marshes, fishermen are hanging up their nets to dry in the sun. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Sydasien 1978-79
Fishermen, hauling ashore a huge net, Hambantota, Sri Lanka. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Sydindien 2000-01
Fishermen, hauling a net into their boat, Lake Ashtamudi, Kerala, South India. This lake constitutes a part of a huge wetland, known as Kuttanad, or backwaters. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Indonesien 1985
Fishermen, cleaning a net, Padang Bai, Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Sydasien 1978-79
Fisherman, hauling his boat through the surf, Hambantota, Sri Lanka. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Tunesien 1987
Fishermen, hauling in a large net, Sousse, Tunisia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Today, most authorities divide cormorants into three genera: Phalacrocorax (c. 20 extant species), Leucocarbo (15 species), usually called shags, and Microcarbo (5 or 6 small species). According to some genetic studies, five species, presently in Phalacrocorax, should be transferred to Leucocarbo.



This relief from the Khmer Empire (c. 800-1430 A.D.), displayed at Bayon, Angkor Thom, Cambodia, depicts various items, including cormorants, swimming among fish. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The generic name Phalacrocorax is from the Greek phalakros (‘bald’) and korax (‘raven’), thus ‘the bald raven’, where bald refers to the white crown of the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) during the breeding season, whereas raven refers to its predominantly black plumage.

This bird has an extremely wide, but rather patchy, distribution, found all over Europe and most of Asia, in Australia and New Zealand, and in north-eastern North America and Greenland. In the 1800s, it was persecuted all over Europe, partly because it was competing with fishermen, partly because its guano destroyed the trees, in which it was breeding.

The white-breasted cormorant, which is found in eastern and southern Africa, is a subspecies, lucidus, of the great cormorant, identified by its white head, neck, and upper breast. Some authorities recognize this bird as a full species, named Phalacrocorax lucidus.



White-breasted cormorants, subspecies lucidus, resting on a pontoon, Lake Naivasha, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




For thousands of years, fishermen at various locations in China have been using tamed great cormorants, of the subspecies sinensis, for fishing. The pictures below are from the Li River, Guangxi Province.



Kina 1987
(Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Divided into five subspecies, the double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is very common in the major part of North America, from the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea across the continent to eastern Canada, southwards through the entire United States to northern Mexico and the Bahamas. The specific name auritus means ‘eared’ in Latin, which, like the common name double-crested, refers to its twin crests during the breeding season, one on each side of the head.



USA 2000-01
This double-crested cormorant in Everglades National Park, Florida, has just caught a fish, grabbing it with its strong beak, which is equipped with a hook. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Brandt’s cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) is a marine species, distributed along the entire North American Pacific Coast, from Alaska southwards to Baja California and the coast of Sinaloa, Mexico.



Preening Brandt’s cormorants, Point Lobos State Reserve, California. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The Cape cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis) is a southern African species, breeding on coasts of Angola, Namibia, and western and southern South Africa. Outside the breeding season, it has been recorded as far north as Congo Brazzaville on the west coast, and southern Mozambique on the east coast.



Cape cormorant with chicks, Lambert’s Bay, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



When this fishing vessel, anchored in Lambert’s Bay, had been out of use for some time, it was inhabited by Cape cormorants, which built nests several places on the vessel. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Another southern African species is the bank cormorant (Phalacrocorax neglectus), which breeds on coasts from central Namibia southwards to Cape Agulhas. Outside the breeding season, it disperses northwards to north-western Namibia.



Bank cormorants, drying their wings, Kommetjie, Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Yet another species in south-western Africa is the small crowned cormorant (Microcarbo coronatus), which may be identified by its long crest on the forecrown. It is distributed along the coast from central Namibia southwards to Cape Agulhas.



Crowned cormorant, Kommetjie, Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The Indian cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis), also called Indian shag, is predominantly restricted to inland waters, having a patchy distribution from Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka eastwards to Southeast Asia.



Indian cormorants, flying in formation, Minneriya Tank, Sri Lanka. The white birds in the background are great white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The little cormorant (Microcarbo niger) is widely distributed, found from the Indian Subcontinent eastwards to Southeast Asia, with an isolated population on the Indonesian island Java.



The little cormorant resembles the Indian cormorant, but may be identified by being smaller, with shorter bill, and a whitish patch on the throat. – Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The small reed cormorant (Microcarbo africanus), also called long-tailed cormorant, breeds in the major part of sub-Saharan Africa, in Ethiopia, and on Madagascar.



Reed cormorant, drying its wings, Lake Awassa, Ethiopia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Three subspecies of the little pied cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos) are found from the Indonesian island of Lombok eastwards to New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia, in western and eastern Australia, including Tasmania, and in New Zealand. Some authorities recognize the white-throated cormorant, ssp. brevirostris, which breeds in New Zealand, as a separate species, named Microcarbo brevirostris.



White-throated cormorant, Moturere Bay, Lake Taupo, New Zealand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The tiny fishing vessel below was photographed in the town of Mordogan, Karaburun Peninsula, near Izmir, Turkey. Note the faded image of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, birth name Ali Rıza oğlu Mustafa (1881-1938), who was the founder of the Republic of Turkey and its first president 1923-1938.



Tyrkiet 2018a
(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Pearls are formed inside the shell of various types of mussels as a defense mechanism against an irritant, for example a grain of sand or a parasite, which has entered the shell. To lessen the irritation, the mussel creates a pearl sac, in which it deposits calcium carbonate around the foreign body.

 Pearls are formed in both freshwater mussels, family Unionidae, and in oysters of the family Pteriidae, which live in saltwater. Both types of pearls are widely cultivated. The pictures below show cultivation of saltwater oysters in Halong Bay, Vietnam.



The oysters are kept in huge cages, in which each oyster is attached to a string inside a net. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Cleaning the oyster shells. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Opening oysters to extract pearls, or to insert an irritant. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Elsewhere around the globe, oysters are produced for consumption.



Taiwan 2017b
Oyster farming, Cigu Wetlands, near Tainan (top), and Xianxi, north of Lugang, both in Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The Caspian Sea is home to a large number of fish species, including the sturgeon (Huso huso). The picture below shows fishermen on the Mian Kaleh sand spit, northern Iran, who display their catch of sturgeons.

This interesting area is described in depth on the page Travel episodes – Iran 1973: Car breakdown at the Caspian Sea.



(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Pelicans are huge water birds with an enormous bill and a very large gular pouch, which swells tremendously, when the bird is fishing – like some kind of basket. The tongue, however, is quite small, allowing the bird to swallow large fish.

Formerly, the eight extant species, which form a family of their own, Pelecanidae, were divided into two groups, one with four species, having mainly white adult plumage, the great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), the Dalmatian (P. crispus), the American white (P. erythrorhynchos), and the Australian (P. conspicillatus), and one, containing the remaining four species, having mainly grey or brown adult plumage, the pink-backed (P. rufescens), the spot-billed (P. philippensis), the brown (P. occidentalis), and the Peruvian (P. thagus).

However, recent DNA research has revealed that the five Old World species (great white, Dalmatian, pink-backed, spot-billed, and Australian) form one lineage, whereas the American white, the brown, and the Peruvian form another. The great white was the first to diverge from the common ancestor, which suggests that pelicans evolved in the Old World and later spread into the Americas.

Traditionally, pelicans were thought to be related to cormorants, darters, gannets, frigatebirds, and tropicbirds, but genetic research has shown that they form an order, Pelecaniformes, together with the shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), the hamerkop (Scopus umbretta), and herons. Hamerkop and a number of heron species are presented elsewhere on this page. (Source:


The great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) has a very wide distribution, breeding in south-eastern Europe and most of Africa, and thence eastwards to Kazakhstan and north-western India. It winters in a much larger area, eastwards to China and Indonesia, and south to Sri Lanka.



Kenya 1988-89
Black rain clouds are looming on the horizon, as late afternoon sunshine illuminates a group of preening great white pelicans, Lake Nakuru, Kenya. The pink mass in the background is a huge flock of lesser flamingos (Phoeniconaias minor). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Tyrkiet 2018a
Great white pelicans, resting near their breeding colony in Lake Kuş Gölü, north-western Turkey. A colony of great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) is also seen. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Tanzania 1990
Preening great white pelicans, Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. The picture also shows avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta) and African spoonbills (Platalea alba). (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Great white pelicans, Lake Tana, Ethiopia. The bird to the left is an aberrant form, having a reddish plumage and being much smaller than its companions. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The spot-billed pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) is highly threatened, only found in scattered breeding colonies in India, Sri Lanka, and Cambodia. The specific name philippensis refers to the Philippines, where the species was first collected. It was abundant here until the early 1900s, but became extinct as a breeding bird in the 1960s.



Sydasien 1978-79
Spot-billed pelicans, landing in Lake Tissa Wewa, Sri Lanka. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The pink-backed pelican (Pelecanus rufescens) is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, and is also found along the west coast of the Arabian Peninsula. This species has a predominantly grey plumage, but the rump is pink, hence its name.



Zambia 1993
Pink-backed pelican, encountered in the Bangweulu Swamps, northern Zambia. – This interesting wetland is described on the page Countries and places: Bangweulu – where water meets the sky. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Ethiopien 1996
Pink-backed pelican, perched on a dead doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica), Fuloha Oasis, Ethiopia. – Pictures of this palm species may be seen on the page Silhouettes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




As a breeding bird, the American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is widely distributed in the western half of the North American Continent, wintering in southern United States, Mexico, and Central America.



USA-Canada 1992
Soaring American white pelicans, Buffalo Bill Reservation, Wyoming, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



USA-Canada 1992
American white pelicans, Klamath National Wildlife Refuge, California. One bird shows its enormous gular pouch. To the left an immature bird with greyish head. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is widespread in the Americas, distributed along both coastlines, from Nova Scotia, Canada, south to the mouth of the Amazon River, and from British Columbia, Canada, south to northern Chile and the Galapagos Islands.



USA 2000-01
Brown pelicans, resting in a growth of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), Everglades National Park, Florida. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Costa Rica
Brown pelicans, resting on a coastal rock, Capo Matapalo, Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




In former days, the Peruvian pelican (Pelecanus thagus) was regarded as a subspecies of the brown pelican, but today most authorities recognize it as a separate species, breeding along the west coast of South America, from Peru southwards to central Chile.



Chile 2011
Portrait of a Peruvian pelican, Parque Nacional Pan de Azucar, Chile. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Chile 2011
These fishermen near La Caleta, Chile, are gutting fish, throwing the intestines to waiting Peruvian pelicans. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Fishing boats, Halong Bay, Vietnam. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






For thousands of years, a huge marsh area in southern Iraq, between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, was the home of the Madan tribe, whose way of life was completely adapted to the wet habitat. They moved about in canoes, built their reed houses on islets, and made a living by hunting and fishing, growing rice, and raising water buffaloes.

The regime of Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti (1979-2003) put an end to their way of life by draining the marshes, as a retaliation for the Madan siding with the Americans during the First Gulf War (1990-1991).

This interesting wetland is presented in detail on the pages Travel episodes – Iraq 1973: The hospitable mudir, and Iraq 1973: Dust storm and sheep’s head.



Asien 1977-78
Madan tribal boys, fishing with a leister in the marshes of southern Iraq. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Fishing is a very common livelihood in Taiwan. Below, a number of pictures depict carious aspects of Taiwanese fishing.



Numerous fishing vessels in Nanfangao, a large fishing harbor south of Yilan, Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Taiwan 2014b
Colourful fishing boats, Fangliao, western Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Taiwan 2014b
Fishing vessel, Wushe Fishing Harbour, north-eastern Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Taiwan 2014b
Fisherman, cleaning a net on board his vessel, Wushe. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Taiwan 2014d
Fishing vessel near Shengang, western Taiwan. Loosely translated, the text on the boat means: ‘Bring in lots of fish, and you will make lots of money’. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



The bottom of these fishing boats in the town of Budai consists of metal, bent up and flattened at the stern, which makes it easier to haul in a net. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Taiwan 2008
Fishing nets and poles, near Tainan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Bali 2015
Fish cages, Lake Batur, Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Air-drying is an ancient method of preserving fish, in which the water in the fish evaporates, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungi.



Norden 1967-86
Fish, drying on a scaffold, Ekkerøy, Varanger Peninsula, Norway. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Europa 1972-2005
Flat fish, drying on a wall, West-Friesland, Holland. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)





Another common method of preserving fish is to smoke them for a prolonged period of time, which also makes the water in them evaporate. The following four pictures are from the Baltic island of Bornholm, Denmark, which in former times held hundreds of smoke houses. Still today, a number of these have been preserved for the tourist industry, as smoked Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) is a local delicacy.



Jet plane, passing over a smoke house in the town of Hasle. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Herrings, ready to be smoked. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Smoking the herrings. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Bornholm 1977-96
Smoked herrings, placed outside the smoke house to dry a bit in the sun, before being sold. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Sverige 2015
Bruddesta, Öland, Sweden, in evening light. This abandoned fishing village has been preserved as a museum, including huts, boats, and winches, the purpose of which was to haul the boats on land. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The man in the picture below is catching surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) in the surf at Olympic Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington State, United States, using a net, attached to a pole. In the foreground, glaucous-winged gulls (Larus glaucescens) are waiting for tidbits.



(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The Unga is a Bantu people, who live on islands in the great Bangweulu Swamps, northern Zambia. Their main occupation is fishing, and they also grow manioc, or kassava (Manihot esculenta), besides collecting a number of wild plants, such as rhizomes of water-lilies (Nymphaea) and roots of papyrus (Cyperus papyrus). They also hunt birds and antelope.

This interesting wetland is described on the page Countries and places: Bangweulu – where water meets the sky.



Every year, most Ungas spend several months in temporary fishing villages, far into the Bangweulu Swamps. The hut looks primitive, but is wonderfully cool, letting the wind pass through the wall. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




These boys assist a fisherman, removing the catch from a net. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Sydlige Afrika 1996-97
Unga fisherman, hauling up his net. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Unga woman and children, catching fish in large baskets. The children drive shoals of small fish towards the woman, who scoops them up into the basket. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Zambia 1993
This picture shows fish, drying on mats which are placed on a scaffold made from branches, in a temporary fishing camp. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Unga man, mending his fishing net. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






This fisherman in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, is emptying his canoe of water, using a buoy, cut in half. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Many places around the world, fishing is done at night, luring the fish close with the help of illuminated lamps.



Europa 1972-2005
Kavala, Greece (top), and Bitou, Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The Ifugao is one out of a dozen Malayan tribes, who inhabit northern Luzon, Philippines. At least 2,000 years ago, this people constructed fantastic terraced fields on the mountain slopes, irrigated through an advanced system of canals. On these terraces, they grow their main staple, rice, supplied with sweet potatoes, taro, and various vegetables. They also raise chickens and black pigs, and the men hunt wild animals in the jungle.

My adventures among Ifugao people are related on the page Travel episodes – Philippines 1984: Shamanism among Ifugao tribals.



Filippinerne 1984
Using a small net, this Ifugao boy is catching fish in an inundated rice field near Banawe, Luzon. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Tanzania 1988
Fish trap, made from woven straw, Cape Kilwa, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






During the latest 50 years, the herring gull (Larus argentatus) has increased significantly as a breeding bird in European cities, placing its nest on top of high-rise buildings. Many of these gulls feed on offal from fishing vessels.

Other gull species are presented on the page Nature: Urban nature.



Sjælland 1969-2005
Herring gulls, feeding on scraps from a fishing vessel in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Fyn 2005-09
This herring gull is waiting for tidbits beside a fisherman, who is gutting fish in the harbour of Kerteminde, Funen, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






In Lake Bolgoda, south-western Sri Lanka, Sinhalese fishermen produce fish traps, consisting of mats made from split, 1.5-metre-long, thin bamboo stems, which are tied together with string at the upper and lower ends, and in the middle. These mats are tied to poles, which are stuck into the lake bottom, forming two rows. The distance between these rows gradually decreases, with a large sack tied to the opening at the end. During the day, fish are attracted by fodder, at night by lighted kerosene lamps, which are tied to the poles.

My adventures among fishermen in Lake Bolgoda are related on the page Travel episodes – Sri Lanka 1976: Among alcohol brewers.



Fisherman, angling from his canoe, Lake Bolgoda. The boat is an outrigger, with a smaller trunk on one side, attached to the canoe by two branches. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Sydasien 1976-77
This fisherman has caught a spiny lobster in his fish trap, Lake Bolgoda. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Herons are long-legged and long-beaked, fish-eating water birds of the family Ardeidae, comprising about 64 species. Some species are called egrets, mainly birds with ornate plumes during the breeding season, whereas birds of the genera Botaurus, Ixobrychus, and Zebrilus are called bitterns. Several species are presented below, and a number of others are presented on the page Animals: Birds in Taiwan.


The grey heron (Ardea cinerea) is distributed in most of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Madagascar. In America, it is replaced by the similar, slightly larger great blue heron (Ardea herodias).

Other pictures of grey heron may be seen on the pages Animals: Birds in Taiwan, and Nature: Urban nature, whereas the great blue heron is presented on the page In praise of the colour blue.



This grey heron catches a fish in a moat near Christianshavn, Copenhagen, Denmark, and proceeds to swallow it. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The great white egret (Ardea alba) has an almost global distribution, found in the major part of Europe, Africa, and Asia, in Australia, and in the Americas.


The similar, but much smaller little egret (Egretta garzetta) is found in most tropical and subtropical areas of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Since 1994, a small population has also been breeding on the Caribbean island Barbados. – You may read more about this species and its near relative, the snowy egret (E. thula), on the page In praise of the colour yellow.



Numerous great white egrets and little egrets on the lookout for fish along a canal, Cigu Wetlands, near the city of Tainan, southern Taiwan. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The smallish dimorphic egret (Egretta dimorpha) is a coastal species, breeding on coral islets along the coasts of Madagascar, the Comoro Islands, the Seychelles, Kenya, and Tanzania. It mainly feeds in pools in exposed, fossilized coral reefs. As its name implies, this species comes in two morphs, one white, although sometimes with a darker shade, and one slate-coloured.

It is often debated among scientists, whether the dimorphic egret is a separate species, or a subspecies of the little egret (E. garzetta) or of the western reef heron (variously called E. gularis or E. schistacea). A review of the complex relationship between these species has been made by Don Turner. (Turner, D.A. 2010. The Egretta garzetta complex in East Africa: A case for one, two or three species. Scopus. Journal of East African Ornithology, Vol. 30)



A pale phase dimorphic egret takes off, Shungu Mbili Island, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor), also known as Louisiana heron, breeds in coastal marshes around the Gulf of Mexico, in Central America and the Caribbean, south to Peru and central Brazil. A bird, which was banded in Virginia in 1958, was shot in the Bahamas in 1976, thus reaching the ripe age of almost 18 years.



USA 2000-01
Tricolored heron, perched on a dead tree, Everglades National Park, Florida. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Another American heron, which breeds in coastal marshes, is the smallish reddish egret (Egretta rufescens), found in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the Gulf States of the United States.



Reddish egret, squabbling with a young double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), J. N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The white-faced heron (Egretta novaehollandiae), sometimes called white-fronted heron, is a common breeding bird in Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand. Originally, it was placed in a separate genus, Notophoyx, but was later moved to Ardea. Recent genetic studies, however, have shown that its closest relatives are in the Egretta clade.



White-faced heron, about to take off from a huge pine tree, Houhora Head, northern New Zealand. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The smallish black-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) is found in most warmer parts of the world, except in Australia, where it is replaced by the closely related rufous night-heron (N. caledonicus). The generic name Nycticorax means ‘night raven’, from the Greek nuktos (‘night’) and korax (‘raven’), referring to the mainly nocturnal feeding habits of this genus, and their hoarse, raven-like call.



Taiwan 2018c
Taiwan 2015
In Taiwan, the black-crowned night-heron is quite common and often confiding, as these two birds, feeding in park ponds in the city of Taichung. Note the long, white, nuptial plumes on the bird in the lower picture. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Pond herons, genus Ardeola, are six species of small herons, most of which are found in tropical areas of Asia and Africa. One species, the squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides), breeds in southern Europe and the Middle East, migrating to Africa in autumn. Most of the year, the plumage of these birds is buff or brownish, making them extremely well camouflaged among various types of vegetation. When they take to flight, however, they are transformed as if by magic, when their brilliant white wings are displayed.

The generic name is from the Latin ardea (‘heron’) and -ola, a suffix denoting something diminutive, thus ‘small heron’.


The Indian pond heron (Ardeola grayii), also called paddybird, breeds from southern Iran eastwards to the Indian Subcontinent and Myanmar. It is very common, but is easily missed in its drab winter plumage when standing at the edge of lakes, ponds, or paddy fields. It relies on its camouflage to a degree that it can be approached closely before taking to flight. This behaviour gave rise to the Hindi name andha bagla (‘blind heron’). (Source: H. Yule & A.C. Burnell 1903. Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive. John Murray, London)

Formerly, this bird was shot for meat. In his book A New Account of the East Indies, from 1744, Alexander Hamilton writes the following: “They have also Store of wild Fowl; but who have a Mind to eat them must shoot them. Flamingoes are large and good Meat. The Paddy-bird is also good in their season.”



Illuminated by the morning sun, this Indian pond heron is walking on floating vegetation, including leaves of red waterlilies (Nymphaea), Goa, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



This Indian pond heron is walking along the railing of a boat, Phewa Lake, Pokhara, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



While preening, this Indian pond heron displays its white wings. – Dal Lake, Kashmir, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




By some authorities, the small striated heron (Butorides striata), also known as mangrove heron or green-backed heron, is regarded as being conspecific with the North American green heron (B. virescens), as well as the lava heron (B. sundevalli) of the Galapagos Islands, whereas others recognize all three species. If regarded as a single species, it has an almost worldwide distribution.



Striated heron, looking for fish in a stagnant stream, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Tiny, but well-equipped fishing boat, Sougia, Crete. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Malaysia 1984-85
These men at Marang, Malaysia, are fishing in the surf, using a net, which is attached to two poles, tied together at one end. The poles are pushed forward on the sea bottom. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Near the town of Puri, Odisha (formerly Orissa), eastern India, you can still watch fishermen, working the traditional way. Their flat-bottomed boats consist of planks, which are ’sewn’ together, using thick grass ropes. At dawn, the fishermen push these boats through the surf, placing a huge fishing net from the shore, so that it forms an inverted ‘U’. Now follows several hours of hard work, when the fishermen, often assisted by their wives, haul the net ashore. Usually, their catch is rather small, and in later years it has been further diminished due to overfishing by trawlers from Kolkata (Calcutta). The catch is placed in baskets or in carapaces of sea turtles, which the women place on their head, carrying it to their home just above the beach.



Sydindien 1997-98
Traditional Puri fishing boat. Its planks are ‘sewn’ together, using thick grass ropes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Sydindien 1997-98
At dawn, Puri fishermen push their boats out to sea. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Sydindien 1997-98
These women assist their husbands, hauling a huge net ashore, Puri. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Sjælland 1969-2005
Aerial photograph of a huge fish trap, Storebælt, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Kingfishers are c. 114 species of small to medium-sized, often brilliantly coloured birds of the family Alcedinidae, which is divided into three subfamilies: river kingfishers (Alcedininae), tree kingfishers (Halcyoninae), and water kingfishers (Cerylinae). These birds are characterized by having a large head, a long, sharp, pointed bill, and very short legs. As their name implies, kingfishers mainly eat fish, although many species live away from water, feeding on small invertebrates, lizards, etc.


The type species of this family is the widespread common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), of the subfamily river kingfishers (Alcedininae). It is distributed from western Europe across Asia to Sakhalin and Japan, southwards to North Africa, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and New Guinea.



The eastern subspecies bengalensis is fairly common in Taiwan. This one was observed along a drainage canal in the city of Taichung. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




Another river kingfisher is the tiny malachite kingfisher (Corythornis cristatus), which is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa. It was named for its greenish forehead, reminiscent of the colour of the mineral malachite.



Zimbabwe-Kenya 1994
Malachite kingfisher, perched on a papyrus stem (Cyperus papyrus), Lake Naivasha, Kenya. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The white-breasted kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), by some called white-throated kingfisher, belongs to the subfamily tree kingfishers (Halcyoninae). It is widely distributed in Asia, from Turkey east to the Philippines. Its specific name refers to the Ancient Greek city of Smyrna, now called Izmir, in what is today western Turkey. Initially, Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also known as Carl von Linné, named this bird Alcedo smyrnensis, citing Eleazar Albin’s Natural History of Birds, from 1738, which included a description and an illustration of the Smirna kingfisher. (Source:



White-breasted kingfisher, photographed at Dal Lake, Kashmir, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



White-breasted kingfisher, taking off, Van Long Nature Reserve, Vietnam. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




The pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) belongs to the third subfamily, the water kingfishers (Cerylinae). This species also has a very wide distribution, found in sub-Saharan Africa and Egypt, and in Asia, from Turkey eastwards to south-eastern China, and south to Southeast Asia and South India.

The upper picture below is from the great marshes of southern Iraq, between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, where the pied kingfisher is extremely common. The birds in the picture constitute a small part of a flock of 105 birds, gathered on electric wires along the road between the towns of Chibayish and Hamar. – This fascinating wetland is described in detail on the pages Travel episodes – Iraq 1973: The hospitable mudir, and Iraq 1973: Dust storm and sheep’s head.



Pied kingfishers, gathered on electric wires, southern Iraq. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Pied kingfisher, Dal Lake, Kashmir, India. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






This carved wooden figure, depicting a fisherman, has been placed on the window sill of a fisherman’s hut, Kapelludden, Öland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The catch of the day, Lochinwar National Park, Zambia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Bornholm 1999-2005
Fishing vessel, reflected in water, Nexø Harbour, Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Catching fish in an inundated rice field, using baskets, Pre Rup, Cambodia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






In the 1600s, a number of wars were fought between Denmark and Sweden. The Danish King, Christian V, ordered a fortress erected on a tiny islet near the island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea, south of Sweden. Construction took place 1684-1687. This island, which until then had been uninhabited, was named Christiansø, in honour of the king. Later, the neighbouring island was named Frederiksø, in honour of his successor, Frederik IV.



Bornholm 2008-2
At dusk, a fishing boat returns to the harbour on Christiansø, Denmark. In the late 1600s, the tower in the background served as a watch tower, and later it became a prison for enemies of the king. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The brown fish owl (Ketupa zeylonensis) is a large, fish-eating owl, which is distributed from eastern Turkey, eastwards through the Indian Subcontinent to southern China, Vietnam and Myanmar.



Brown fish owl, photographed in Sariska National Park, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






This young man is proudly presenting his catch, acquired with a fishing harpoon, northern Norway. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Atlantic cods (Gadus morhua) in a basket, Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Bali-Lombok 2012
Colourful fishing boat, shaped like a swordfish, Senggigi, Lombok, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Bornholm 1977-96
Cleaning a fishing vessel, Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) is a small, heron-like bird, which, however, forms a separate family of its own, Scopidae. When the Boer people arrived in South Africa in the 18th century, they named this bird hamerkop (‘hammer-head’ in Dutch), due to its maul-shaped crest. Later, this name was adopted by the British.

This bird has a huge distribution, covering most of sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and the south-western tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Traditionally, this species is protected in many places, making it rather confident. An example may be seen on the page Culture: Boats.



Sydafrika 2003
Hamerkop, swallowing a tiny fish, Augrabies National Park, South Africa. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Of the 22 species of albatrosses, of the family Diomedeidae, three species are listed by the IUCN as critically endangered, five species as endangered, seven species as near-threatened, and seven species as vulnerable. The main reason for the decline of these birds is that many are caught in fishing nets, and also on hooks, intended for catching tuna fish.

The family name was applied by Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), also known as Carl von Linné, alluding to Greek mythology, where the companions of the warrior Diomedes were transformed into birds. The name albatross is derived from the Arabic al-qadus (‘the diver’), a name applied to pelicans. In Portuguese this word became alcatraz, a name applied to gannets or frigatebirds. According to W. Tickell, in his book Albatrosses (Pica Press, 2000), the modification to albatross may have been influenced by the Latin albus (‘white’), alluding to the mainly white plumage of albatrosses, in contrast to the mainly black plumage of frigatebirds.


The black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) is the most widespread and common member of the family, breeding on 12 island groups in the Southern Seas. In 2005, the population was estimated at 1,220,000 birds. It often strays to the northern hemisphere.

The specific name is derived from the Greek melas (‘black) and ophrys (‘eyebrow’), like the common name referring to the dark feathers around the eyes.

In the picture below, taken south of Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, a black-browed albatross is competing with a white-chinned petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis, centre), and a Cape petrel (Daption capense), to eat fish offal from a fishing vessel.



(Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Chinese fishing nets were introduced to Kerala, South India, in the 1300s by Chinese fugitives. Each net is tied to a creaking wooden framework, which, by using an ingenious system of levers, large stones, and ropes, and the work of 3 to 5 men, can be raised or lowered into the water.



Sydindien 1997-98
Chinese fishing nets, Kochi, Kerala. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The indigenous population of Taiwan is composed of numerous peoples of Malayan origin, who still live in the mountains. Formerly, these tribes had a rich and colourful culture, which has been partially preserved, for example in their artwork.

Other pictures of this artwork may be seen on the page Culture: Tribal art of Taiwan.



Taiwan 2010
Mosaic, depicting fishermen with a trap and a spear, artwork of members of the Atayal tribe Tian Gou (‘Heavenly Dog’), who live near Dongshih. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Taiwan 2008
Mosaic, depicting a fishing net, artwork of the Atayal tribe Tian Gou, Dongshih. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



Taiwan 2011
This image, made from broken tiles, depicts an old woman, angling in a stream, artwork of the Maopu people, who live near Hsinchu. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






The African fish-eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer), which is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, always lives near water. This iconic raptor is the national bird of no less than three countries: Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Sudan. It was described by French naturalist François Levaillant (1753-1824), who named it vocifer (’the one with a penetrating voice’) – a most suitable name for this eagle, whose scream often resound over the African landscape.



Tanzania 1988
This African fish-eagle, sitting in a tree along the Rufiji River, Tanzania, was so confiding that it remained on its perch, even as our rubber dinghy bumped into the tree. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)



This African fish-eagle has just caught a fish, Lake Malawi. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)






Nowadays, most fishing vessels in Denmark are anchored in harbours. A few places, though, like here at Torup Strand, Jutland, fishermen still haul their boats ashore, using huge winches. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)




(Uploaded October 2017)


(Latest update December 2020)