Yap Kim Fatt sent this piece: “I was looking out of my kitchen window yesterday (11.02.09) afternoon and saw this strange happening. A man, whose arms were heavily tatooed, walked to the grassy avenue between two blocks of Housing and Development Board apartments. He had with him a dove (?) chained to a wooden tray. He squatted on the grass, emptied the tray (I think of pelletised food), after that he proceeded to pick things up from among the short grass and placed them into a plastic bag. He then picked up the tray plus bird and left.
“I only had time to squeeze off a few shots with my camera fitted with a 200mm zoom lens. He never once looked up in all of 10 minutes he was there. I believe he lived in the Commonwealth Estate.
“Who and what was he doing? Pictures enclosed. Cheers lah, KF”
We circulated his account and Summerian Turks responded: “My take is this man is a seasoned bird trapper. The Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis) is a common decoy bird used to trap similar seed eating species. The bird on the tray is supposed to attract others.
“What he was picking from the grass is not seeds. It’s actually a fishing line lasso called rachek. This trap is tied to a piece of nail and it is then pressed firmly into the ground. The fine fishline lassos are lined in a maze and seeds will be scattered all over it. This arrangement increases the chance of having the bird legs looped into one. As the bird pulls its leg, the lasso gets tighter. Sometimes no decoy birds are used. Just food will suffice.
“This is one of the most common way of trapping birds here in Singapore. Species caught are usually Zebra Dove (Geopelia striata) or Spotted Dove as they love the millet seeds scattered over the traps.
As you mentioned that he was putting something he picked from the grass into the plastic bag, I guess that area has no luck with birds so he is was moving on to another spot.
“If you look carefully, on the left side of the bird tray, there is a piece of long conical shaped stick. That is used to anchor the decoy bird onto the ground. One of the bird’s legs is tied to a string which is then tied to the stick. Sometimes conical fishing weights are used as anchor too. Using the whole tray may scare off the other birds so trappers are usually very inconspicuous with the decoys. Hope this helps.”