BESG has been in existence exactly six years LINK. The following report, submitted to the Nature Society (Singapore), documents our achievements for the year May 2010 to May 2011.
“The Bird Ecology Study Group through its website continues to encourage birdwatchers to study birds. For the year under review, we posted another 390 new posts. This increases the total number of articles to over 2,000. Since the inauguration of the website in 2005, we have received more than two million hits from all over the world.
“Our contributors were mainly locals – not organised birdwatchers but independent birders. Serious birdwatching requires patience in the field, to stalk and observe species, regardless of whether they are common or rare. Camera and videocams have helped record behaviour for later interpretation by more experienced birders and/or biologists.
“We also see a substantial increase in contributions from Malaysian birders. Of particular mention is Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS from Ipoh, Perak. Since the last report, Amar has posted more than a hundred articles, with many more waiting on the sideline. This has led to prominent ornithologist Dr D. R. Wells to comment that Amar is one rare birdwatcher who returns from almost every trip with interesting accounts of behaviour. Many of these observations have never been reported before. Amar even has photos, sound recordings and video footages to back up his observations.
“The general profile of our contributors has seen a significant change. Photographers were at the forefront initially. Then came independent birders who document behaviour with digital cameras. The latest contributors include videographers. Such a shift is understandable. With only a few hundred bird species around, the behaviour of common ones soon become well documented. Video clips with sound recordings then provide novel posts that cannot be matched by still images. Obviously, there is a need to work harder to document newer behaviour or behaviour of rare species. This is why we must upgrade our birdwatching activities to maintain the interest of members.
“Of late, members of the public are writing in to contribute. Without doubt, they have been enthused by our website to take an interest in birds. This is a development we have been waiting for, where the public comes forward as citizen scientists to share their experience.
“We would like to thank Jacqueline Lau, who continues to generously host our website, even upgrading it to its present attractive format with its own dedicated domain. We are using the latest version of WordPress, with a new theme to make it more compatible with newer browser versions and mobile platforms.
“In line with our efforts to improve activities, we have added a sister site ‘The Birds of Singapore” LINK. This is the initiative of Malaysian ornithologist Slim Sreedharan, who is hosting the site. This ambitious project aims to list, for a start, 100 of the commoner species. This is essentially an online book, which includes checklists, species descriptions, information on behaviour, large images and updated references, with audio recordings of vocalisations and eventually, video clips. It aims to be very much more than what conventional guidebooks can offer. The site is still growing. Viewers will find it useful to visit occasionally, to look up the checklists and growing number of bird species with updated information added.
“BESG has linked up with a host of internet activities. Our involvement with the fortnightly bird carnival ‘I and the Bird’ has been ongoing for some years now. In June 2010, we hosted the carnival which provided us further international exposure LINK. In October we participated in ‘Blog Action Day’ with a post on the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve LINK. In May 2011 we had a post to show solidarity with World Sparrow Day LINK.
“Our involvement with the international blogging community has seen us linked up with GreenAnswers LINK, a site that promotes environmental education through open debates and discussions. With our wide experience in bird ecology and behaviour, we are answering questions posed by readers on this topic. Our participation as guest writer includes an article on ‘Bird Ecology Study Group Brings Scientific Approach in Birdwatching in Singapore’ LINK and ‘From Watching Birdwatchers to Watching Birds’ LINK.
“In our modest way we continued to contribute to ornithology in the two scientific publications:
1. Choy, W. M. & Y. C. Wee (2010). Observations at a mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha nest in peninsular Malaysia. BirdingAsia 14: 30-33.
2. Wee, Y. C., 2011. Citizen science and the monitoring of hornbills in Singapore. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 24: 23-25.
“Finally, BESG will continue to remain dynamic and not stagnate, in both layout aesthetics of our website and in the quality of our contents. Only by doing so will we meet the challenges of the new decade. BESG wishes to thank all contributors who have generously allowed us to make use of their images and observations, as well as those who submitted articles for posting.
Subaraj Rajathurai, Wee Yeow Chin & Richard E Hale
BESGroup, May 2011