The fig tree at Bukit Timah: 3. Suggestions for next year

on 10th October 2006

Part 1 of the account on the fig tree at the summit of Bukit Timah lists the 29 species of birds that were documented in and around the vicinity of the Benjamin fig (Ficus benjamina) during its short figging period. The list was compiled by birder Yong Ding Li. In Part 2, our bird specialist R. Subaraj made a detailed analysis of the list as well as adding to the species of birds. In this final part, suggestions are made on what birders can do when the tree bears fig next year.

For the 2007 figging, I would suggest that local birders move on to a higher level of birdwatching. The many old (in terms of experience as well as age) birdwatchers should begin to study the behaviour of these different birds that are attracted to the figging tree. Like when (in terms of time of day and days of the week) these birds visit and whether they all arrive at the same time or at different times? Do these species interact in a friendly manner or aggressively towards one another? Do the different species feast at different areas of the tree (peripheral of the crown, crown interior, branches, etc)? For a specific location of the tree, is there a pecking order of feasting?

In fact there are so many aspects of bird behaviour that can be observed during this short span of less than two weeks the tree will be figging. If different birdwatchers report back on different periods of the day or days of the week, someone can then compile the information. This will help us have a better understanding of bird behaviour when the tree at Bukit Timah produces its next bountiful yield of figs.

Understandably, some of the older and more experienced birders have seen these birds already and may not be interested in spending time at the tree. Never mind. But the newer and younger (and dare I say, more energetic and enthusiastic) birdwatchers should lead the way to the next level of birdwatching in Singapore.

After nearly half a century of birdwatching in Singapore, it is about time we take the challenge to understand the birds that we see everyday, not just keep on listing them.

Input by YC, image of Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus) eating insect (top) by Chan Yoke Meng and Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella) (bottom) by Johnny Wee.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

4 Responses

  1. Hi all,
    In my opinion, i think behavioral observations amd ecological observations are very important. And certainly at any rate, the birdwatching community at large, inclusive of casual observers have big roles to play in this aspect. However, i think much of the time many of us are constrained by personal inadequacies to make just mere listing of the species present, which does not do real justice to what is being observed in front of our eyes.

    At the other end of the scale, lists are just as important, and it is crucial that experienced or even fledging birders make as complete as possible a list of the birds they observe in a locality. While a list by itself may seem insignificant data wise, long term compilations of lists are also crucial indexes to the temporal ecological dynamics of species diversity at any particular place. At the end of the day, it is this ‘cumulative’ monitoring of the total overall species present that would reflect on how changes in ecological, or you can say environmental conditions could have effected it. For example, from my regular census-listing of species in panti over 5 years and some other locales in malaysia, philippines n indonesia, some interesting temporal trends are beginning to take shape…which species arrive which at month? which are outliers? which are april breeders? which month has highest species diversity? why? did a typhoon event affect species?..and much more….

    My conclusion? To carry on making complete lists as much as you can, but do not fail to take note of behavioural patterns. So…bring a notebook and pen along one site!

    Ding Li

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