This is a continuation from the previous post… Raising Kings I.
The chicks continued to be fed dependant on their parents in the first two weeks. When Zena gave the rattling ‘come and get it call’ with rations sandwiched in her beak, hungry chicks usually responded quite immediately. She made them fly and scurry along the tight wire to reach for their food. Feeding stopped when Zena received no more response. She swallowed the left over.
Zena, having gone slimmer would then partake of a late, deserving breakfast alone. See how soiled her beak showed after a tiresome morning of chick feeding? No different from human parents who had to attend to their school children’s needs (left top).
It was also observed that parents practiced selective feeding to ensure survival of their brood. At times, Zena would turn away an approaching, begging chick only to call to another or fly off to feed another (left bottom).
Consistent observations provided opportunities to differentiate behavioural patterns of each chick. I soon learnt to tell them apart from one another.
On the 7th day, while half the world slept or rested, Modesto was seen exercising and testing out her beak and figuring out how to use it like Mom and Dad (below: left, middle).
She put her skills to test, staring into the water for any edible movements that may have caught her eye but saw nothing except murky water. “How on earth did Mom see those juicy river snails?” she wondered (below right).
Modesto is recognised as the slimmer chick female with an attitude. She was observed to be facing away from the river frequently and preferring to stare into a grass sprouted river edge. On the 11th day, she made her first brave attempt to dive from the tight line for an insect- perhaps a grasshopper. She came up with a beakful of mud instead feeling fuzzed.
Allegro was making speedy progress on day eleven. He finally succeeded in fishing for a river snail but had yet to acquire the skill of keeping it in his beak. He cringed when he saw his precious catch dropped into the river (below: left, middle). Whenever food became available from parents, his response was indeed swift.
Piccolo, the last chick fledged was lagging behind in maturity and at times was observed to be still hiding under her roost. Zena had to fly in to feed him. Being the youngest, the apple of his father’s eye, protector Hector made a point to be all seeing and all hearing. He was quick to replenish an overdue feed to his favourite. The image above (right) shows Hector overlooking Piccolo.
A surprise observation was made when a fourth fledgling was sighted very briefly on only two occasions. The prodigal fledgling stayed only for a very short moment for roll call. I called him Prodigo. The fledgling was swift and flighty with highly sensitive, predatory instincts and he/she truely was born to be free and wild. I had neither photo opportunity nor a chance of a better glimpse of this fourth.
From day 12, the chicks were beginning to look smart with more changes seen to their feet, downy feathers turning darker and colour of pink breaking through grey beaks. White eye rings were fading away (above).
Images of Allegro and Piccolo on the 17th and 18th day showed the body language of the chicks. One was looking confident, the other- still unsure and timid of himself (below).
It became clear that it was increasing difficult to photograph family feeding times together as the chicks became more independent and scattered. Window period of stealing a glimpse of them during roll calls became shorter by the day. To be able to chance seeing them, I had to be at the feeding site by 7.30 am each day.
The last opportunity to observe and to photograph the avian family came on the 17th day. It was also observed the fledglings had learnt the skills of survival and self sustenance and soon to be known as juveniles. It was also the last time I was able to see the trio-Allegro, Piccolo and Modesto perched together (above).
A quiet moment saw Hector with two river snails- a goodbye, love package. He flew in and perched beside Piccolo. It was the 21st morning (right).
“Here Pico, this is the last time I can be feeding you. Here is one and the other is for the road”.
Piccolo never flew far and was seen in the following days alone on the feeding wire. He waited and waited but food never came. Zena would still be around somewhere and occasionally flew in to offer a treat now and then. It was hard to let go, hard to see her chick go hungry alone. Piccolo was simply… not quite ready. Hector watched with self restraint (below top).
One day, Piccolo was seen attempting to chase a small moth. He was weaving for his breakfast in the air. The moth was desperate to get away. So was hungry Piccolo for the moth. They both disappeared behind a bush in a rising cloud of moth dust.
D-day came on 31st day. Mom kept a little distant. It was time to see her last chick fly to independence. To fly he must for he was born to be free… (left bottom).
Hector, the White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) moved on and was seen no more. Both parents have done exceedingly well in successfully bringing up a fine brood to propagate their species.
Observation came to an official close on 1st March, 2008. It has taken two months of observations and time consuming effort in documenting Hector and Zena breeding and nurturing their young.
Committing my time to follow through to the finale with Hector and Zena, have been fulfilling moments. To be able to write about it, only serves to substantiate credibility to these photographic bird images, making them ever so worthwhile to dwell in the art of digiscoping birds in the wilderness.
Hector and Zena have both given me this privilege to be a window opener into their lives, to reach readers, share, understand and enjoy them in the wild from an armchair. I am grateful. All they ask in return is, “Please save my habitat and admire us from afar”.
I am glad I do not have a problem doing just that. The latter at least that is within my control……
(Most images had to be taken more than 50 feet away from a river bank by digiscopy method. While they are not really of photographic quality, they are just about satisfactory to substantiate this article. I hope readers have enjoyed them).
AVIAN WRITER DAISY O’NEILL PENANG MALAYSIA
© RAISING KINGS