Tag Archives: Bird Blog

Sometimes it is good to get a good hiding…

A trip to Malaysia in April was on the radar for some time and eagerly anticipated, and at the end of it I bought my first portable hide. In May, however, I was treated to an early birthday present which was a trip to a farm in Worcestershire, UK, that had a number of hides set up to both observe and photograph wildlife.

Exciting! ESPECIALLY, as the two hides I had selected were to photograph Kestrels and Little Owls. Both of these species were high on my list of favourite British birds to see, let alone photograph, so this was a treat indeed. I awoke at 4.30 am on the day, having had little sleep owing to sheer enthusiasm and unbridled excitement. The first hide I visited was the kestrel hide. I’d planned to spend an equal time in both hides, subject to the birds actually showing up. The hide was a tad “vertically challenged” for a guy of my height and so making my way into the height took on some strange postural positions. At the time I imagined to an observer, I most likely would have looked like a diseased John Cleese and auditioning for Monty Python’s famed “Ministry Of Funny Walks”. Thankfully, no one was around to witness my contortions and heavy metal-less ‘head banging’. I set up my gear, Canon 1DX body, 600mm f4 lens and bean bag – there was no room for a tripod really, despite me being the only occupier inside the hide.

A39T7761The bird appeared not too long after getting set up, a male kestrel, in stunningly attractive and well conditioned plumage. I’d tried to prepare for Bird In Flight (BIF) shots, yet the proximity of the hose to the bird precluded these, as wings were not accommodated within the viewfinder and subsequent shots.

The bird was truly magnificent and despite me having set up the camera for BIF photography I had taken care to position myself to give a good opportunity for good bokeh.

I wasn’t disappointed and some folks have suggested that i have photoshopped the background. I haven’t… this is straight out of the camera and achieved by shooting with the lens ‘wide open’ for minimal depth of field (this corresponds to high shutter speed and I had selected that in light of trying BIF shooting and the requirement to freeze the wings.

The owner of this place that organised the hides had pointed out probable perches for the bird and i hoped it would be possible to photograph the bird with some prey. My wishes were soon granted as the male kestrel appeared around half an hour later, to make short work of a mouse that it held firmly in its talons.

A39T7922I was lucky to have the bird in front of me and with wings spread, in decent light.

Given the opening for my lens and the range of movement i had with it from the hide, I had resigned myself to the likelihood that my goals for BIF photography were merely aspirational as opposed to realisable. Nonetheless the bird appeared with talons gripping a rodent and I managed to capture a few shots with which i was pleased.

A39T7917The bird used its wings to provide lift whilst its talons held the now dead prey firmly, as if it was thrusting upwards to rip the prey apart. After each “thrust” the male kestrel then proceeded to wield that flesh tearing bill with much gusto, effectively ripping the rodent apart, piece by piece. It’s rare that I get the opportunity to photograph my favourite birds and this was an absolute treat. The bird was visiting in near proximity – not at the minimal focusing distance of my lens, but within a distance where a 600mm prime lens requires managing in order not to cut off part of the bird in the frame.

A39T9008In the early afternoon I went to the Little Owl hide. I did not expect this bird to appear when the sun was still vigorously warming the earth and casting shadows that were extremely short. Unsurprisingly the first bird I was able to photograph was not a little Owl, or any other kind of owl. A male Greater Spotted Woodpecker put in a welcomed appearance and started drumming old logs, posts etc., in search of grubs or whatever food it could find. once food had been obtained, a pattern of behaviour emerged… savour the caught food himself, and then proceed to gather and hold in the bill, accumulating quite a mouthful at times. This always led to a flight, one direction, across an adjacent field. Trademark woodpecker flight undulation was exhibited, with three wing flaps, an undulating down and up ‘dip’ (with wings pulled in), followed by this pattern repeated. Each time the woodpeckers would follow thus route ad the terminus was a bough in a tree around 150 metres away.

A39T8448The woodpeckers definitely had a nest there and chicks to feed.

Whenever “dad” had gotten food and left for the nest, “mum” would appear shortly afterwards, eagerly seeking out food for the chicks on surrounding tree stumps, posts and decaying logs that were on the ground. Once food had been gathered, then the male’s path was imitated with precision and stylistic accuracy.

I’ve always loved seeing woodpeckers, so my far was illuminated just enough to reflect my level of pleasure, but not quite enough to show birds outside the hide that a satisfied and keen observer was in his element.

The woodpeckers cam and went with what became predictable frequency, and I wondered at what time the Little Owl would appear. The farmer began herding sheep in the next field, ably accompanied and supported by a Border Collie sheepdog. What an awesomely skilled dog this was too. Ever rounding them, shaping them, corralling them, until eventually they’d all been accommodated per the farmer’s desires.

A39T9376Only at this point did the little Owl put in an appearance. Not for too long. But in any event, long enough for me to marvel at its beauty and ponder if I had the courage to take my eye off the newly arrived owl, as I began to visit the viewfinder and voce beauty into my viewfinder.

What a little stunning bird!

I’d heard them calling as a boy, on many an occasion. Had seen them take flight too, as they precluded me from close viewing and inspection.

But now, in my viewfinder, this gorgeous little bird as plain to see, my 600mm prime lens gathering detail of the bird, the camera sensor appreciatively subjecting the lens’s capture into a digital reference of the event. WOW!

A39T9377The owl may be ‘Little’, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in stature and grandeur. This bird brought gravitas to the perch and my camera.

I was amazed by the ‘hunting accessories’ and functionality that this bird takes for granted, most likely.

Those piercing eyes that have acuity that most any human would give their right arm for. That flesh tearing beak, singularly designed for tearing prey to pieces, as one might expect for such an accomplished hunter.

A39T9352And finally its talons… gripping and ripping is the name of the game for this piece of equipment…

So despite its seemingly ‘less than potent’ size, this bird is marvellously adapted to hunt at will, easily gaining meal from its choice of prey in general.

A portable hide was obtained. A visit to a farms’ hide made me feel ordained. What a treat! Happy Days indeed…

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.

Joy in the Park, a sunset lark and stars after dark… great fun!

Having “reccied” the park previously, we thought it would be nice to revisit, stay overnight at the local inn (within the park itself) before heading to Margaret River region, shoot birds in the daytime at the park, catch the sunset at Two Rocks and maybe try and capture the starscape at the park that evening.

A39T7555-impThe first bird that really caught our attention were, unsurprisingly, Galahs.

I love the pink and grey colour combination of these birds and hoped to capture them with wings open and crests standing. Despite their commonality, they gave me much pleasure as it is not usual for me to see this bird – there are no such species in Asia, that’s for sure. It was early morning and ducks were in flight aplenty, though at distance.

A39T9192-impI kept my camera settings ready for BIF shots and was happy to see a flock of Grey Teal come into view, though not very close by any means. Those trademark, giveaway teal coloured wing bars gave away the species readily, but then a small group of Pacific Black Ducks winged their way onto the water.

A39T7349-impI was able to shoot these too and was astounded at how pretty the wing bars were – teal coloured too, though far prettier than the Grey Teals. What a lovely surprise that was!

A39T8963-impA White Headed Stilt proceeded to put on a show for me, posing nicely. There were plenty of them though in the main were at distance, so it was nice to see and shoot one a little closer.

A39T9275-impWhen it then proceeding to have a scratch and a stretch, this provided for some less than typical stilt shots…

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At one point a whole bunch of waders and ducks in the distance took to the air en masse. Evidently something had caused them to be disturbed and it was some time before I could figure out what may have done this. Then all became clear and eventually this gorgeous raptor came reasonably close to me, against an unruffled sapphire sky… a Whistling Kite had flushed the alarmed birds, and what a beauty it was too!

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Accommodation for the evening had been arranged at the Yanchep Inn and apparently there’s three levels of accommodation, including one that’s a tad ‘more luxurious’. I opted for that one and was glad I did… if that was luxurious, I shudder to think what the others would have been like. The important thing, though, was to be there.

During lunch at the Yanchep Inn we ate outside. This action alone seemed to provide an alarm call for some of the local birds, who were extremely awake and aware to the presence of humans and the offerings that may follow.

A39T8150-impA few birds came either up close or remained on the periphery, in nearby trees and grass, so see what scraps may be made available. Red Wattlebirds seemed to be everywhere. Pretty aggressive too, as they seemingly drove all but crows away when anything in the way of food had been seen.

A39T7769-impAustralian Ringneck parrots came from far and wide and initially took up situ in nearby flowering trees, proceeding to remove colourful buds and leaves with verve.  At this point we were having coffee after lunch and an Australian Ringneck came close and landed on a chair.

A39T9486-imp I thought nothing of it as there were no morsels to provide anyway as all the meal was finished. This didn’t deter the parrot who simply hopped onto the table and grabbed a tube of refined sugar from the saucer of the coffee cup. I was very surprised but didn’t expect the parrot to be able to do much with a sealed tube of sugar. How wrong was I?!!! He opened the tube with consummate ease and proceeded to enjoy the sugar with careless abandon. I had to chuckle at seeing this.

A39T8866-impI noticed a flash of white on the grass and caught sight of a Little Rosella. I’d seen a few earlier but as they were perched high in trees and against a sky background, couldn’t shoot them clearly at such distance.  This time proximity was less of an issue and aside from having a white bird lit by a brilliant sun (never a winner for bird photographers), I was able to capture this fellow.

It was time to make our way out of the National Park and visit Two Rocks, a nearby location where we thought an ocean backdrop may provide a nice sunset shot opportunity, if we were lucky. It wasn’t a long drive so we left late in the afternoon.

Two Rocks was a rock structure upon which many cormorants had come to roost. Shooting into the falling sun didn’t provide chances to capture them in detail and in any event, it was the sunset I wanted to shoot most of all. Landscape photography is totally new to me and I’d just acquired a new Canon L series 16-35mm f4 landscape lens as the reviews it had received were excellent – apparently this lens is reportedly sharper that the more expensive f2.8 version. I’d also equipped myself with Lee graduated Neutral Density filters and Circular Polarisers, along with all the lens adaptors. Had absolutely NO IDEA how to use all these properly, and figured the experimentation would be fun. It was…

A39T8536-impWe arrived at Two Rocks as the sun was beginning to leave us for the day, illuminating one of the rocks (shot at distance) with a 500mm lens – not exactly the typical landscape set up one might expect!

A39T8539-impI set up the landscape gear and proceeded down to beach level, with the main subject for the sunset foreground already being cast into shadow, revealing the cormorants atop. The sun began to descend quickly and whilst there were no cloud artefacts in the sky to bring greater depth and focal points to the shot, the sky took on beautiful changing hues as each minute passed. I decided to change the perspective of the shot and defocus the gap between the two sets of rocks, bringing into view more of the ocean and the wake of the incoming waves. It was a real “first attempt” at a landscape shot using the tools of the trade and I was desperately trying to recount the articles I’d read and videos I’d watched in order to get a nice rendition of the beauty before my eyes.

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I’d seen many shots taken of Two Rocks before and invariably the sun is depicted setting to the right of the rocks. Personally i liked the view above better, shot a little wider, and with the light from the ebbing sun and the lines from the tidal wash drawing you into the rocks themselves. Like I said, it was an experiment. I envy those that can “just see” the shot without much thought. I have to think a lot, which tells me that I either do not have much artistic ability, do not really know what I am doing with landscape photography, or maybe both. My money’s on both… LOL. Nonetheless, the shot above, whilst the foreground is a little underexposed, is pleasing to my eye. I simply lightened the rock artefact and haven’t changed the colouration or photoshopped the shot to death. A simple ND filter was used to balance the exposure disparity between the shadowed foreground / beach and the highly illuminated sky. It’s pretty much is how I saw it at the time. And it was, beautiful.

After dinner we thought we’d try and shoot “Milky Way” type starscapes at Yanchep National Park, where we were staying. I’d never tried this before, either. All I had done was read some tutorials and watched a few “do’s and dont’s” type videos, and had written key pointers down in the Notes section of my iPhone. After all, how much can any one person remember?

My darling kept reminding me that foreground subjects and artefacts were every bit as important with starscapes as with general landscape photography. And I forgot what she said. So I had lots of shots in the viewfinder of distant tree horizons and a starry sky. It felt bland, empty, lifeless. Nothing was drawing me to the stars when I looked at the shots. And then I remembered what she said – at exactly the point when she said “this bare tree may make an interesting  foreground” … haha. Oops. SO with notes and phone in hand, camera settings were adjusted to give base points for shooting, with experimentation to follow from there. It was a first try, so I had low expectations. But upon reflection, and given I’d never done, nor seen anyone else do this type of photography before, I was very happy what the “noob in me” had managed to capture…

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Sure it could have been better. Yup it would have been nicer if those ambient lights on the horizon, presumably from Yanchep town, had not been in the shot (i couldn’t figure out how to cause a general area power failure and NOT get arrested, LOL). But as a first attempt? I like this. I’m VERY happy with this to be honest. Not because it’s a wonderful picture, even though it’s pleasingly eerie to me. But because of the experience. Coordinating with my darling to make sure we shot at the same time and didn’t introduce any light to the scene at all. Taking note of things around you. Having your headlamps reveal kangaroos foraging in the darkness.

And perhaps most of all? Because this is a type of photography I will now do again in the future. Whenever I see a foreground subject that is distinctive I’ll consider “what if I shot the stars above this?”

A new concept. A new genre. A new challenge. And enthusiasm rekindled anew 🙂  .

Happy Days 🙂

 

Today’s Fotofact – Woodpeckers are amazing!! I didn’t know these interesting facts…

  • Woodpeckers are found globally, except Australasia
  • Many woodpeckers have fine feather bristles covering their nostrils to stop wood chips entering the nasal cavity
  • Woodpeckers have 2 toes pointing forwards and 2 toes pointing backwards to grip trees better – most birds have 1 pointing backwards and 3 forwards
  • Woodpeckers hammer their bill between 8-12,000 times per day!!!
  • Woodpeckers hammer their bill to loosen bark to find insects, to make holes for nesting, and during the mating season, also to communicate with one another
  • Woodpeckers have an unusually long tongue relative to their size, up to 4 inches in some species!
  • Their tongue has a glue like substance on the tip, which aids the process of catching insects

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No light, No Camera, but at least I got some Action!

A few days ago i wrote i was disappointed with the shots I’d gotten of the Blue Throated Bee-Eater. And I was. Hoped to go back and shoot the bird again. And I thought that might be today. but looking outside of the window after sunrise this morning, the weather’s not great. Not raining. But not bright – and to shoot birds in flight (BIF), you need light and plenty of it. Oh well. But I have been looking through the images I shot in the fast hour I spent visiting this bird the other day.

AaAnd I feel a little better now about the outputs from the shots I took.

They’re not Nat Geo quality. They’re not going to win awards (and I don’t enter competitions anyway – I have some way to go before I believe i am a good enough photographer to do that 🙂 ). And the set up for these pics, if I am honest, was not the best it could be.

aBut they’re decent enough images to show you. They’re decent enough for me to look at and bring a smile to my face.

They tell a story. My story of wanting to shoot and then being able to shoot this bird with a more decent background.  The birds’ story… how it flies, hunts, lands and then diligently takes food to the nest.

And considering this bird and its’ beauty, I like this story . In fact, I love it.  Some of the images may well be a little “noisy” because of the high ISO’s, but I guess I did still ‘get the shots’.

A39T8226-impAT least I managed to capture ‘some of the action’.

And I have some shots of this bird now, that I’ve waited to shoot for an awful long time.

Even at a focal length of 700mm, this bird remains small in the frame when it has been shot. So cropping images 100% is a ‘no choice’ type image post-processing action and when you do this much cropping, noise on the images will multiply as sure as a different type of noise will multiply if you enter a school playground at ‘morning break time’. It is what it is.

A39T8331-impI may get the chance to go back and briefly shoot some more frames of this bird. I am really busy this weekend though, so come Monday, the opportunity may have gone.

If I can still go capture some more images, then that will be a mighty fine thing. And if I cannot, then  I at least got to shoot a might fine bird already. Do I have “That Shot To Die For”? Not yet. But it’s possible. Maybe before Monday. Maybe next breeding season. Maybe somewhere else entirely. But whichever… “That Shot” is still possible…

Isn’t that exciting? The quest, as ever, continues…

Happy Days 🙂

 

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 🙂

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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).

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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 :).

 

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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.

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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 🙂