As posted recently, I went in search of Bee-Eaters on several occasions, now that the Blue Tailed variety has migrated and the Blue Throated variety has inevitably revealed itself within Singapore’s shores.
So one gloriously sunny recent weekend, I went back to Lor Halus for an hour or two and despite having Bee-Eaters in mind, ending up shooting a totally different species of bird, purely by accident, in more ways than one. Not only had I not planned to shoot this bird, and hence the ‘accidental reference’ on my part, but the bird is and of itself, in Singapore at least, an accident too.
This is because originally, the bird is not a resident here. Nor anywhere else in Asia, either. The bird in question is a Golden Backed Weaver, often referred to as “Jackson’s Weaver”.
This male shown on the left is in ‘tip top’ condition, resplendent with his breeding plumage for maximum effect with his potential female partners.
The bird is a resident of East Africa and Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan and Burundi in the main. But, having either escaped, or having been released, this bird has established itself locally in Singapore, bred successfully in the wild, and in localised places is now a fairly regular sight, if you know where to look.
These birds build interesting nests, as most weavers do. At the outset, the nest shape looks like a carefully knitted ‘parcel’ and reminds me of a Lo Mai Gai ( 糯米鸡) dim sum parcel, to begin with.
But it seems that whilst the nest is constructed with characteristic Weaver bird precision and dexterity, the nest isn’t completed until the pairing of male and female is complete.
So a parcel it remains, and the male then seeks to attract a female, with a ritual that’s gorgeous to watch.
Whilst shooting this bird, females came and went regularly and I could always tell when a female was in proximity as the acrobatic ‘mating display’ began in earnest and for quite some considerable time. I was really stunned by the beauty of this little bird, that in size proportions, is roughly equivalent to a common House or Tree Sparrow…
The male would suspend himself from under the partially constructed nest or different branches in proximity to the nest, and then unleash a breathtakingly stunning wing beating display, hanging suspended himself for maximum effect and visibility to females.
Well, as a casual observer ( on this intimate scene, an intruder, perhaps?), all I can say is that this “yellow fest” ritual would be hard to miss.
The male would suspend himself in all manner of gravity defying positions, seemingly to ensure that the unleashing of his spectacular display, whilst frenetically beating the wings, would be seen from many different angles by a potential mate. He’d periodically stop to look eagerly around, scanning the nearby branches and bushes, to see if he was being noticed by a suitable and interested mate.
The male would also fly here and there, to maximise the visibility to a potential partner that may be casually observing nearby.
I do not know how long this ritual goes on for, days wise. I know I looked on and was aghast by this beautiful yellow spectacle that was gracing my viewfinder and became a feast for my eyes.
I saw another nest that was some way ‘down the track’ towards completion, as it had begun to dry out already and more of a weaver ‘nestlike shape’ was emerging.
The female of the species is comparatively drab compared to the male with all that wonderful breeding plumage to literally, ‘show off’. I wonder how many of these ‘initial par built’ nests the males have to construct, before the females finally succumb to, or apply their selection criteria towards, the males’ antics and exhibition?
The females don’t just sit back and relax throughout the entire nest building process though…
It seems that once selection criteria has been applied to get the right mate, the partner has been chosen, and the basis for the nest has been built and also selected, then she too gets in on the act of helping to construct the final nest.
I guess I got lucky to be able to witness this awesome display of colour and mating ritual from these Golden Backed Weavers. I definitely did not go in search of these lovely little birds, that’s for sure. And I didn’t really get my ‘close up’ shots of the Blue Throated Bee-Eater either.
But that’s fine. it was a privilege to witness those birds displaying and building a new platform for the next generation. And even though this bird is theoretically an escapee, a released bird, an “accident”, well that’s of little interest to me. It’s display was not an accident and when I saw the beauty of what was unfolding before me, the photographing of this Golden Backed Weaver wasn’t an accident either… 🙂
How lucky was I on this day?