In June 2008, Foo Sai Khoon shared with members of Nature Pixels his image of the nesting of the Mangrove Pitta (Pitta megarhyncha).
“As the image was captured at a nesting site, I apologise in advance that I am unable to divulge its location except that the image was taken in Pulau Ubin in 2006.
“Mangrove Pittas are mainly restricted to Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. Globally threatened (due to destruction of mangroves, their living habitat), they are secretive, live in solitude or in pairs and move quietly among the mangroves. They remain an elusive bird… The other two species of pittas that can be found in Singapore are migratory. They are the Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) and Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida).
“Through an informer (a nature loving friend), I was able to observe various stages of Mangreove Pitta nesting process from nest building to incubation of eggs to arrival of the chicks. As Mangrove Pittas are extremely skittish subjects and to avoid the situation where they abandon the nest, I visited the site on weekly basis (weekdays usually). The monsoon rain had also not make things easier. Sometimes, I arrived only to… leave because of the rain, low light situation and risk of fallen trees. Not forgetting those times when I got bitten by ants and even encountering a viper at close proximity.
“For those who may be interested on the technical side of things, observations were done through binoculars or telephoto lenses. Photography was done through a portable hide placed behind some vegetation where a stretch of mangroves run between the vegetation and the nest. All images were captured with telephoto lenses. Due to poor lighting in that area, flash was used but in moderation. In other words on each trip, the number of images captured was also done in moderation. No branches or vegetation was cut or removed. I used nylon cable ties to organise branches that may otherwise block the view of my lenses. These nylon cable ties were removed when I left the site so that the nest continued to be concealed the way it was. No attempts were made to go near the nest as my telephoto lenses provided me the reach.
“Unfortunately, despite all the precautions and efforts, this was the furthest stage I could go to document this species. I received a call from my nature loving friend one day that only one of the two chicks remained in the nest and it was dying. Ants were crawling all over nest and some where biting it. We had no choice but to send it to Jurong Bird Park (JBP). However, it was also through this experience that I learn that if circumstances permit, injured birds should not be sent to JBP…”
Image by Foo Sai Khoon.
This post is a cooperative effort between www.naturepixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.