“A fruiting fig tree never fails to disappoint in bird-digiscopy.
“One such ficus species made its fruiting debut near the foothills of Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Perai, Penang. Hosted by an oil palm, the parasitising tree was displaying a generous food source of orange, juicy figs in early February to no less than ten species of frugivorous birds (above left).
“One bird in particular with brown, mottled-buff look caught my attention on 6th February 2011. It perched shyly still on a neighbouring, Indian cherry tree (Muntingia calabura). I was staring at a passage migrant, non-breeding visitor with rusty looking malar stripe- a Siberian Thrush (Zoothera sibirica) (above right).
“A total of five consecutive mornings were made to the site. With overall plumage of olive brown and slaty grey, the bird was well camouflaged amongst tree branches (below left).
“I found her to be a habitual, early bird visiting somewhere around the same spot. Extra efforts were made to beat her to breakfast routine. These are the following observations made:
9.30am 6th February 2011
“One bird briefly perched quietly still on an Indian cherry tree and subsequently flew off with no calls heard.
8.30am 7th February 2011
“Two birds sighted. One larger than the other. The larger was seen prospecting the fig tree but was chased away by resident bird species. The smaller, a first winter male, was waiting on another tree nearby. There were no opportunity shots to be had that morning.
For notable mention, sighting of a first winter male was my lifer bird. It eventually provided me some rare shots as Malaysian first batch for contribution to Oriental Bird Images (OBI)
8.30am 8th February 2011
“I waited and at 9am the birds showed. I felt sure they were around earlier but camouflaged and hidden from view amongst thick foliages and tree branches.
“Feeding habits noted. One bird picked a fig and flew to a safe branch to partake of its breakfast. The bird waited on the quiet for another half hour or so before it retrieved another berry. Unlike regular visitors, Gold-Whiskered Barbets (Megalaima chrysopogon) and Lineated Barbets (Megalaima lineata) who simply dived into the fig tree and gluttony gorged their fruits as much and as fast as they could pack into their throats.
“This bird was a gentle feeder and was in no hurry.
“I had little opportunity to produce a photo-feeding confirmation shot as picking of the fig fruit was so quick and partially obscured by thick foliages. I was getting desperate. I needed a smoking gun shot at least.
“I was looking out to chance a sighting of a black male, Siberian Thrush. I literally looked into each eye of the many black birds that continuously feasted on the fig tree. But… all I saw were red eyes… red eyes of Asian Glossy Starlings (Aplonis panayensis).
Observation time: 2hr.45min
8.30am 9th February 2011
“This time I planned on not going home until I had this bird performed. I would be disappointed if having sighted this uncommon, non-breeding, vagrant visitor daily for the last three days and with nothing substantial for documentation.
Plan B went into action-One bird showed again. I directed my 3rd eye at the posterior end of the perched bird, zoomed my camera, literally closed to planting my eye-balls on the LED camera of my field scope.
“I waited and waited without blinking my eyes until some contractions of the bird’s anal sphincter showed. Released trigger went into action. Camera went on a continuous mode to catch this firing orange, poo shot (above right).
“The smoking gun shot came at 9.11am confirming that Siberian Thrush took early breakfast of figs and defecation showed ingestion of similar afterwards.
8.30am 10thFebruary 2011
“Siberian Thrush – none seen.
“Reference: The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula by Dr David R. Wells page 487 provides a good description of the bird and reads well to mention there is hardly any foraging and food records of Siberian Thrush eating figs.”
Submitted by: AVIAN WRITER Daisy O’Neill Penang Malaysia
Article title: © Confirmed Photographic Food Record of a Passage Migrant 2011- Siberian Thrush Zoothera sibirica- Daisy O’Neill