Tag Archives: adehallblog

The sun sets on the breeding Whydah for another year…

What joy to see a male breeding Whydah displaying for it’s mate, with that aerial dance, that stupendous display, gravity defying and aeronautically bewildering.

I revelled in this sight. I revisited the place in Punggol where I photographed this beauty on Sunday, but I’d gone with the intention of shooting other waxbills if i am really honest. The location was awash with avid bird photographers. Many were seemingly far too near to the birds’ aerial stage. It was a lens rich zoo, to all intents and purposes. Others were taking shots with all manner of devices, including cell phones. One young girl that was there with a group was particularly annoying. She was in ‘let’s do selfies’ mode and then proceeded to join her friends for snaps with her, as if some natural beauty had reached unassailable levels. Beauty was indeed, all around her, but it came from a bird. She was merely, Wet, Wet, Wet. Had all the ability for noiseless behaviour as a male elephant briskly charging forward – on bubble wrap, underfoot.

5O8A2610I gave up trying to photograph the waxbills amid all this hullabaloo and noticed the sun was setting rather splendidly. Most of the noise providers had gone, leaving few photographers to try and capture the day’s final Whydah mating dances, before light called a close to further aerial displays of majesty.

I noticed the sun was getting pretty. Really pretty. And so I approached this birds’ preferred landing perches, and resplendent in camouflage clothing, lay down on the bare dirt where water once was in wetter months and now mere contoured reminders of evaporation remained. I waited. Patiently.

Watching a distant silhouette etch itself into the skyline, a rhythmic contortion of flight, aimed at a female showing abject disinterest.

5O8A2615-2I hoped the male bird would venture towards me. In pursuit of the female, most likely. And eventually they did…

I captured a brief mating display in silhouette and the female left as abruptly as she arrived, leaving the male alone, his outline framed by an ebbing orange orb set to soon slip away for the day as night emerges strong and shadows abound.

5O8A3035I won’t get a chance to photograph this male display again until next mating season perhaps. But what a show I’d seen, captured, and revelled in. So bye for now Mr & Mrs Whydah, as the male sheds respondent tail feathers until next year, when amorous pursuits recommence and aerial concerts once again, command the skies.

Happy Days.

Wetlands hors d’oeuvres and more to observe… 90 minutes until the hunger pangs kicked in :)

Took a few days annual leave recently and decided to head out to Lor Halus, Singapore. I’d planned to be there the whole day but somehow the hunger gremlins gained hold at one point and hunger pangs needed satisfying.

I love Lor Halus. It’s like the place in Singapore that Forrest Gump’s mum would go to if she was into bird photography, a box of chocolates in tow. “You never know what you’re going to get” when you visit Lor Halus. So off I went, with no real preconceived ideas as to what natural bounty et al, might await.

A39T7354On the way into Lor Halus I DID expect to be greeted by one, or more, of Halus’s sentries… the birds that seeming stand tall, ever watchful from their perches and guardians of all they survey.

Sure enough, several White Throated Kingfishers were seen in small trees along the roadway, seemingly omnipresent and always vigilant.

I walked around the pools next to the main entrance this day, which I do not usually do. I’m unsure what possessed me to go take a look there, but in any event, I did.

A39T3207-impI noticed what I thought was  Little Tern diving in a nearby pool, so I hurried over to try and grab some of the action. I only managed 3 shots of this bird and the one here was the best of them. The bird didn’t hang around after that and I saw it diving in distant pools, never to return to where i was near. Oh well…

A39T8000-impNot much else was visible save for some nice water lilies.

One happened to have been happily used as a perch by what I believe is a Scarlet Skimmer dragonfly, and quite a nice pairing they make too. So the visitor centre part of Halus was left behind and off I went towards the famed dam and surrounding ponds.

A39T7576-impI decided to make a bee line for the ponds. No sooner had I arrived than a male Golden Backed Weaver was seen, with his carefully prepared torn off strip of foliage, to use for nesting purposes.

I thought I’d try and follow the bird along the pond, but with a camera, long lens and tripod to schlep, this wash’t possible.

A39T8763-impSoon after I saw a male perched (same bird?), and watched eagerly where he flew.

Off to the nest he flew and I quietly began to set up my tripod and camera equipment, to fire off a few shots of these pretty birds.

I’d seen males put on quite a vibrant ‘mating show’ previously, as the male seeks to attract a mate. A previous blog posting recounts this.

A39T7859-impSure enough, this male was also in ‘mate attraction mode’ and proceeded to visit a newly formed nest.

Again  the repeated and energetic flapping of the wings revealed those beautiful yellow shades of the underwings, and a yellow tinged outer wing respondent with the most gorgeous shades of brown and olive green.

A39T7561-impA nearby female, meanwhile, seemed unimpressed by all this ritualistic show of feathers, and then took flight. She’d clearly already made up her mind as to what nest, and mate, was her choice.

Much to my surprise, the male I had been watching briefly joined her and they flew off together. It seems the male had ‘gotten his mate’ and was now looking for another. What a cheek 🙂 !

A39T8773-impI left the weavers and deeded to go have a wander.  I noticed a water bird diving in a different part of this pool, and chose to await the re-emergence from beneath the surface. I thought I recognised the bird but wasn’t absolutely sure, then a little while later, a Little Grebe (or Dabchick as we all know them in the UK), made an appearance at distance. It was several minutes before this bird’s diving adventures brought it sufficiently close to photograph it.By this time I was getting hungry and decided to leave Halus for the day and go get a bite of lunch before going to shoot elsewhere.

A39T8777-impI’d almost reached the road when I saw a familiar shape. A lovely shape, and I have to say one of my favourite bird shapes.

A long tailed shrike was perched a little above longish grass and was carrying nesting material. I was keen to shoot the bird, as left, but was equally keen to see where the nest might be. I’ll never know; the bird flew deep into a wooded area which had no path laid out into it. So thinking of all manner of ‘nasties’ that may have been along that path, I decided to not follow the bird. You know what i mean by ‘nasties’, don’t you? Just natural  minor nasties. Like Cobras. Or Spitting Cobras. Trivial creatures like that 🙂 .

A39T8822-impOff I went walking back to the car, leaving he Shrike in peace and potential nasties undisturbed. I’d packed down the tripod and removed the camera from it, when some Baya Weavers showed up.

A39T8804-impThey were near too, so I thought I’d shoot them ‘handheld’, despite my 500mm prime lens causing suitable reason from me to utter audible groans and for my arms, after a while, to shake a little.

A39T7950-impNonetheless, I managed to get a few decent shots away and was very happy to have been around to see a mother weaver feeding her hatched fledgling. Happy Days :).

It seems some food had been left on the floor to feed dogs. I have no idea who’s dogs these were, they may have been wild as far as I know,  and all I saw were puppies periodically emerging to eat bread, dog biscuits and drink water that someone had left for them.  Once the dogs had disappeared, then the weavers would move in. the mother shown above was feeding the fledgling morsels of dried white bread.

All that feeding made me feel hungrier, so without further adieu I went in search of an early lunch. The afternoon was reserved for practicing BIF Birds In Flight photography, and that’s for a later posting.

But the brief trip to Lor Halus? As ever, a pleasing appetiser. Several species and Mrs Gump’s ‘box of chocolates’ were savoured fully. I may well have not known what i was going to get, but what was offered was definitely satisfying for all but the sweetest of teeth.

Happy Days 🙂

When is a common kingfisher not a common kingfisher?

The answer is simple… when it is not a Common Kingfisher, but actually is a common kingfisher. Confused? I’m not surprised…

In Singapore, we’re blessed with several species of Kingfishers. Recently I posted a blogpost about a River Kingfisher, the “Stork Billed Kingfisher” whereas today’s subject is a Tree Kingfisher, the “White Throated Kingfisher” (WTKF). In Singapore they’re very common, whereas the Common Kingfisher, a completely different bird, ironically isn’t so common and only graces our shores between September to March.  So what’s in a name?

A39T2957-imp
Common Kingfisher, migrant in Singapore

Common Kingfishers in Singapore are the same as we see in the UK… after all, the UK really only has that one species of kingfisher.

These birds are sadly not with us year round, as they are really pretty.  The example (left) was taken earlier this year and shot from a distance of around 30 metres.

C11Z7329-imp
White Throated Kingfisher – Singapore’s most common kingfisher species.

Singapore’s “common” kingfisher, from a frequency of distribution perspective,  is called the White Throated Kingfisher and they are very widespread indeed. As they have evolved into “tree kingfishers”, WTKF’s are happy to take fish, though they more commonly dine on other prey. This includes large insects, amphibians, small reptiles such as ghekos and other lizards, to name but a few.

A39T2043-imp-imp
The “sentry” stands guard on a man made perch…

Most anywhere you go around the island, you’ll see these birds, whether in urban, forest / jungle or around waterways. The bird is highly adaptable and for its’ size is sufficiently aggressive to stake out territories in which it hunts and feeds.

They’re most commonly seen perched, as if ‘standing guard’ over their hunting areas that have been staked out as their own.  They’ll happily be every bit as at home perched on a man made structure, such as steel fencing, street signs and the like, and this is where they are often seen most.

A39T7366-imp
A ‘more natural’ perch and pose.

Additionally,  they’ll undertake their guard duties and hunting activities from natural perches, and often within proximity to urban life and dwellings.

There are rich pickings to be had in such habitats for a bird such as this, who despite its’ hunting skills, has evolved to master scavenging type feeding activity without any problems whatsoever. I imagine this is why its’ distribution across the island is so widespread.

Some of these WTKF’s live in very close proximity to waterways and in these instances have a greater affinity to behave more like a river kingfisher. Fish becomes elevated as a food source… not to the exclusion of other food, but as a higher priority.

I’ve been watching WTKF’s fishing for some time now, and unlike river kingfishers, it is clear that the WTKF does not prefer to get itself wet. As a result it has developed hunting strategies and techniques that differ materially from river kingfishers. The latter dive with extreme gusto, causing the water to erupt, the bird to momentarily disappear, to shortly thereafter emerge from the water with either its’ prey, or obvious disappointment. WTKF’s do not undergo this perpetual diving / emerging / feeding / drying / preening / diving cycle; their hunting forays seem less ambitious, more conservative, perhaps practical even, and definitely less flamboyant. Or so I thought…

A39T9986-imp
Low Trajectory flight over water espying fish close to the surface.

The WTKF chooses to have a very flat trajectory over the water, as it searches out fish that are either on, or very near to, the surface. The bird has seen activity when perched and then proceeds to “zoom in” for a closer look in the place(s) where they believe their prey will most likely be able to be caught.

A39T0001-imp
Fish jump out of the water in alarm as the WTKF embarks on its’ hunting foray…

At times the bird is in such close proximity to fish that are near the surface that the potential prey is clearly visible. In the picture (left) you can clearly see the fish jumping out of the WTKF’s flight path as they deploy their avoidance strategies in order to avert becoming the ‘next meal’.

C11Z6846-imp
Hunting by “touch”, skimming the surface with dexterity and precision of flight.

The bird at times adopts strategies somewhat similar to “Skimmers” in India, for example, and upon seeing prey on its’ flight path, proceeds to dip the bill in the water in order to locate and entrap their prey.

C11Z6847-imp
An “in motion, fly-by catch” sees a fish captured with some precision.

When prey is located, the WTKF will then proceed to arch the head backwards to catch the fish, all whilst still I’m motion, and all the time remaining as dry as possible! The flight may be slowed at this point  to enable the subtle entrapment of the fish in the birds’ mandibles (kingfishers typically fly at around 40- 50+ Kmph in a straight line).

A39T0512-imp
Gotcha!

Once the prey is caught, then the bird adjusts its’ posture to remain in flight and regain a more traditional flight pattern, all the time making sure that the prey is held onto tightly.

The prey is pulled free from its’ watery home and both bird and fish take to the air, one willingly and the other with far less enthusiasm :).

 

C11Z6713-imp
OK… let’s go eat!

After that it’s merely a case of returning to a perch where the meal can be enjoyed in peace.

These birds may well be common, but I never tire of seeing them proudly perched aloft, surveying their patch, hunting therein and defending their territory with vigour and astonishing volume when agitated or angry.

A39T2311-imp-imp
On lookout duty…

So there you have it.

A common kingfisher in Singapore that’s not actually a Common Kingfisher.

And certainly one that does not behave in traditional kingfisher ways in its’ pursuit of prey.

 

 

I hope I get more chances to photograph these birds in future…

Happy Days 🙂