On Saturday I went to Pasir Ris to practice BIF (Bird In Flight) photography, and after a couple of hours my camera shutter was not exactly getting worn out. In fact, it was about as likely to be engaged as Britney Spears at a Mother Of The Year convention.
After a little while, I began to hear whistles. Quite a few whistles. And to be honest, I paid little heed to this, not having won any ‘world’s most attractive man’ awards. But some frantic waving caught my eye from an observation hut around 350 metres away. I trained my lens and saw a few birding buddies, beckoning me to join them. So the tripod and gear was duly slung over the shoulder, and off I went. When I got there it became apparent why I was being beckoned.
Not just for the camaraderie (thought that in itself was enough reason to go join the group), but because an Oriental Pied Hornbill was perched nearby, and providing much food for my bird photographer buddy’s camera sensors. Cool. 🙂 . Happy Days!
So I set up my gear and began to delight in the Hornbill’s coy movements and preening.
I shot the Hornbill quite a few times but in all honesty, it wasn’t THAT close and it was sunbathing. The light was pretty harsh which meant it was difficult to render much detail in the shots I could take from my position. Nonetheless it was great to catch up with a few birding buddies and have a ‘chinwag’.
It wasn’t long before I noticed, some distance away , that a pair of Blue Throated Bee-Eaters were feeding on what seemed like a bounty of various insects. Apologies for the clarity of these shots, taken against a bright sky background, and at distance (not a winning scenario for crisp shooting). I trained my camera on them for a little while, whilst trying to ignore the fact that it was way past lunch and I was getting very hungry. A Coppersmith Barbet joined them soon after, which I told the birders as they were still happily snapping the Hornbill.
I decided to train my lens on the scene, in anticipation of the Barbet getting aggressive. Sure enough it decided to cause both Bee-Eaters to take flight and return to a perch they had occupied earlier, much farther away.
Many of the birders saw this fast sequence of events, though I don’t think anyone else captured this. In any event, I said my goodbyes and headed back to the bridge across the Tampines River, for a final ½ hour and to see if the Stork Billed Kingfisher would return. I’d promised myself that I would go and eat after that. I set up my tripod and all on the bridge and one other bird photographer was present.
I heard a chirping. A loud chirping. It seemed near but I couldn’t locate the source of it. Finally I saw a recently fledged sunbird in-between the wooden slates of the bridge railing and some orange netting that local authorities had placed there. The bird seemed distressed and I could not locate either of its’ parents. I picked the young bird up and returned it to sanctuary in a nearby hedge. It seemed comfortable and continued chirping.
I thought it would be fine and returned to my camera set up. Merely a few moments later I heard chirping again and observed the young sunbird flying towards me. I stood still. It came to rest. On my shoulder! LOL. My goodness. So now I was to become a father again??? The other photographer was kind enough to take a few shots with my iPhone, which are shown here. not good quality, obviously, but nonetheless a record of the event.
I took the sunbird in my open palm and walked. Then stopped. Awaited the fledgling to chirp, which it incessantly did. It took me around 10 minutes of walking and stopping, covering an area of maybe 50 square metres, before the youngsters’ chirps were answered. I placed the sunbird carefully into a bush, and its’ mother was in the top of this plant. The sunbird flew back onto my hand. The mother came down the bush to examine the proceedings. But made no sound. Just watched. Very carefully. Gingerly. I placed the bird back a further 3 times, and each time it flew back to me, landing on each hand and an arm. Still I placed it back in the bush. And FINALLY, ‘mum’ called to its’ youngster. The youngster immediately acknowledged the mother… both were reunited.
Whilst this was going on, i couldn’t carry my photography gear with me, so I didn’t get to shoot them both together; by the time I went back with it, they were both gone. but mum and youngster were reunited, so I was happy. Mum had probably taken the fledgling for lunch. I thought it was time I did the same. So off I went… resplendent with a smile that stayed with me, for quite some time. I’m smiling even now, as I am typing this. I feel very fortunate that this bird ‘took to me’. Animals often do, and I am always grateful for this. They say that creatures can sense whether a human means them harm or not. This fledgling sunbird seemingly felt I’d take care of it. Smart bird, despite its’ immaturity. It could have picked few better people, to transfer it back to its’ mum. 🙂 .
I’m glad it chose me. The bridge has joggers and cyclists passing over it regularly. I couldn’t leave the bird there. It could have been harmed. Killed even. And with the regular human traffic travelling in a variety of ways, ‘mum’ wasn’t going to come and rescue its’ chick. So I thought it best to plan a reunion. I’m glad I did 🙂 .
Happy Days. 🙂