Happy Moth-ers Day…

Went to Malaysia to do some bird photography with a group of acquaintances. Fabulous trip. The birding was good. Many of the acquaintances have since become friends, which is even better (you know who you are guys and thanks for the camaraderie and warm welcome to the group 🙂 ).

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Singapore to Genting route, around 5 hours by car (courtesy of Google Maps)

In the Genting Highland region of Malaysia the birds are unsurprisingly very different from those I traditionally shoot in lowland, tropical Singapore. Many were common for that region of Malaysia, but were new species for me and I loved  them.

8D3A9192 - Version 2A friend had suggested I should take a short lens with me and in typical “Adrian will remember to do that” mentality, I forgot to take one in all the excitement of preparing for the trip. So my weapon of choice was a Canon EF500mm f4, with Canon Teleconverters 1.4 and 2x with me, ‘just in case’, suitably attached to my Canon1DX body. All that secured on a Gitzo series 4 tripod and with a Cartoni HD video head. I was a ‘man on a mission’ and really raring to go.

I’d settled to commence shooting and it didn’t take long before I noticed that so many species of birds were happily and actively feasting on moths. It was early morning, the weather was kind and didn’t obscure our views of the birds through fog or low-lying clouds, so I got to observe freely what was seemingly MOTH-ers Day.

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Chestnut Capped Laughing Thrush with moth ‘brekkies’

I don’t think I’d ever seen birds catch so many moths in such a short space of time ever before.

What a splendid surprise for my eyes and my camera sensor!

I welcomed the opportunities to photograph this spectacle.  I didn’t see any moths flying around, anywhere. But the birds seemingly just kept hunting and catching them with ease and commitment.

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“Hmm… now which are the tastiest parts”?..

As far as I had previously considered, a bird will merely just ‘eat the moth’ – I paid little heed to whether there needs to be ‘a plan’ or process as to how this is done.

This Minia (left)  shows that not all the moth’s parts are valued – it seems some parts are tastier that others. You can clearly see here that the body of the moth has been devoured, with wings, legs and all left behind.  Typically the bird will kill their moth meals by hitting the moth onto a branch – in much the same way that a kingfisher stuns its’ fish.

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Killing the moth by smashing it into a branch releases detachable pigment cells from the moths’ wings… here a Sibia does so and the cells can be seen being dislodged from the moth.

When this happens, then cells from the moths’ wings get dislodged. These cells are pigmented and quite loosely attached. In fact if a moth flies unwittingly into a spiders’ web, then as long as the abdomen, legs and antennae are not entrapped, then the moth can release these cells and simply escape through normal flight. These cells are actually tiny hairs that form a complex structure that affect how light is diffracted  off a moths’ wings and whilst perhaps subtly affecting the aerial dexterity of the moth through affecting airflows, do not play a huge part in a moths’ ability to fly.

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This Minia has literally, “powdered his nose”

At times the ‘moth eater’ gets a fair amount of these pigmentation cells from the wings all over itself, as seen here with this Bar Throated Minia’s close up shot.

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A ‘lightened” beak once the cells of the moth meal stick to the predators mandibles, in this case a Long Tailed Sibia. They fall off naturally or come off during preening.

Typically the bird feasting on the moth will have residues of this “powder”, the moths’ wing cells, left on its’ beak more than anywhere else.

This Long Tailed Sibia (left) has much residue on its’ beak, further to dining on a moth breakfast.

The moths seem to provide easy pickings for the birds I was observing and I noticed that feeding on  the moths was not merely limited to the earlier parts of the morning, as one might expect.

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Late morning and still the moths provide nourishment…

Later in the morning I photographed a Scaly Breasted Wren Babbler still enjoying its’ MOTH-ers Day…

Later in the afternoon I left Genting Highlands and whilst still remaining in the same general mountainous area of Malaysia, descended down to Berjaya Hills. I’d really enjoyed that morning and watching so many different birds feast on all those moths.

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well, I guess MOTH-ers Day is an “all day affair”…

The very first shot I took in Berjaya Hills was of a Tiger Shrike. Another Food In Mouth (FIM) photograph… and guess what this bird was eating… LOL.

It really did seem as though this was definitely “MOTH-er’s Day”… and as we all know, Mother’s Day is always an ‘all day affair’.

Happy Days 🙂

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