Tag Archives: Nature

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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What? I’m going to be a father again? You gotta be kidding me!..

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.

A39T0265-impNot 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’.

A39T0353-impIt 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.

A39T0379-impThe Barbet wasn’t content, evidently, with these Bee-Eaters sharing its’ perches, and took an aggressive stance.

A39T0381-impI 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.

photoI 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.

photo 4I 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. 🙂

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 🙂

It’s Sunday in Singapore and it was Sunbird Saturday at Satay by the Bay

When you know that birds have been busy making nests, making out, laying eggs and finally rearing young, it’s always nice to go back to a place and see how youngsters are doing. Yesterday, I thought I’d go and see how Sunbird youngsters that had recently fledged were doing…. just for a couple of hours.

A39T0119-impIt amazes me how such a beautiful bird can construct a nest that’s pretty messy, AND with total disregard at times for the proximity of humans and their potential interference.  This nest (left) was suspended from a plant that meant the nest was literally less than 3 feet beneath an HDB ground floor apartment window, in Tampines.  Whilst I saw the ‘messy nest’ here,  out of respect for the birds and not wishing to disturb them, I made this nest’s location known only to the occupants of the apartment; that way their children could marvel at what was so near to them, and hopefully encourage them to keep the sunbirds and their nesting process ‘dear to them’. They hatched successfully 😉 .

So, back to yesterday, Saturday, August 2nd.  I made a quick trip for a couple of hours at Satay by the Bay, in Singapore, to see how youngsters that had fledged the nest were doing. Ran into a birding friend too, Vincent Ng,  🙂  . It’s great when you meet up with someone who is just as passionate about nature photography as you are and especially if you enjoy their photography skills. I certainly enjoy seeing Vincent’s shots.  So meeting him for the first time in quite a while simply made the morning even nicer as we caught up for a good old “chinwag” in between shots, sharing tips and tricks, places, faces and all… really nice 🙂 . Not all photographers are willing to share and when someone does, it’s kind of special… thank you Vincent, as always!

Aside from an impromptu catch up, the morning presented some nice photo opportunities. Nothing overly spectacular, but nonetheless most enjoyable. Those of you who regularly follow this blog will know how much I love sunbirds here in Singapore. They’re beautiful, have great character and are reasonably abundant; I’d say we are blessed to have such birds here and I have blogged about them a few times. So today I wanted to get a “little practice” with a new video head I had placed on my tripod and at the same time take a few shots of the sunbird ‘youngsters’ that maybe I’d see. I was in for a treat…

I threw all traditional “rules of ⅓ ” out of the window today. I thought it may be a pleasant change to show you these lovely sunbird youngsters ‘up close and personal’ given their relative proximity to where I was standing much of the time. In fact, the camera lens was most often set to minimum focal range, i.e. within 10 metres, for much of the practice shoot.

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Male Olive Backed Sunbird some way along the journey to getting the renowned “iridescent blue throat”.

Our most common sunbird in Singapore is the Olive Backed Sunbird (OBS) variety.

It was little surprise that I saw so many and that the youngsters were doing well. Most were feasting on nectar from Heliconia and Ginger plants in the main.

A39T9468-impWhilst the male OBS (above) has gotten much of its’ blue throat in place, it was nice to see other males that were ‘not so far along that journey’, with those trademark blue hues only just beginning to emerge.

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Male Olive Backed Sunbird along the way to developing a vibrant plumage.

I saw quite a few males throughout the morning, in varying conditions of development and corresponding plumage development too.

At time those radiant hues ‘weren’t quite there yet’ for some of the birds.

 

A39T9580-impFor others, that transformation into sheer beauty had taken shape and so a spectrum of plumage development was seen… not perfect yet, but getting there.

On some of the shots, nature’s wondrously engineered sunbird tongue, specifically geared to extract nectar from chosen plants with supreme dexterity, could clearly be seen.

 

A39T9604-impAs the rising morning sun began to kiss the various plants, the sunbirds were extremely active in securing their energy needs, as more and more plants produced nectar under the sun’s encouragement.

The birds were flitting and skating to their hearts content, from one flowering bud to another, repeating that same pattern of relieving the plant of their nectar.

 

A39T9415-impFemale OBS’s were in abundance too, as you may expect. It was interesting to see them at various stages of their development too, and all  too often whilst they were in ‘nectar gathering mode’, a male would show up and they both would leave the scene together, aerobatically playing games of ‘cat and mouse’.

(Left) is a female about to take flight under the distracting influence of a male in proximity. If you look carefully you can even see that this startled female has lost some of the nectar droplets she was gathering.

A39T9274-impIt wasn’t long after that another (perhaps the same?) female arrived at a nearby ginger plant.

I expect this is possibly the same bird, having returned once the male’s attentions had been suitably dealt with by eluding him in the playful chase.  Whichever, the bird seemed unperturbed.

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This female bird stayed around a little longer, unharried by others, and took full advantage of this period of ‘solace’.  She was happy flitting from bud to bud, uninterrupted.

A39T9671-impA male OBS did put in an appearance after 5 or so minutes, but this time the female seemed less playful and merely retreated to a nearby branch and let out calls that surely confirmed a lack of engagement and a ‘leave me alone’ intent.

A39T9178-impOBS’s were not the only sunbirds to put in an appearance. I was lucky enough to see the Brown Throated Sunbird (BTS) variety too.

This species were also in the ‘plumage development phase’, as can clearly be seen (left). That gorgeous natural palette around the throat is some way along the path towards splendour, but as yet, the journey remains in progress.

A39T9595-impI only saw one BTS male; all other birds of this species were female.

They’re identifiable through the prominent ‘half eye ring’ and also the red eye itself.

Whilst vey young, it has to be said that female BTS’s have yet to become attractive. That red eye and evolving plumage presents a somewhat foreboding appearance to any observer. Several came and went whilst I was watching; they often chased off OBS’s yet that ‘male/female’ cat and mouse behaviour wasn’t seen with males of their own species.

A39T9787-impThe chasing was more of a ‘warding off’  towards OBS’s, in order to gain sole access to nectar providing plants.

Once the other sunbird species had been ‘encouraged to leave’, the BTS’s would arrive back at the ginger plant to begin their own nectar gathering.

A39T9766-impThey regularly ‘came and went’ as the morning progressed, though not with the frequency of the more common Olive Backed Sunbird variety.

So all in all the morning was very pleasing. It was good to catch up with a birding friend, lovely to see the sunbird youngsters flourishing and developing nicely, and a pleasure to shoot a few frames to share with you.

If you get the chance to see a sunbird or two today, then Happy Sunbird Sunday. If not, then have a great Sunday in any event and I hope your binoculars or DSLR are graced with some natural images to bring a smile to you.

Happy Days 🙂 .