“One never knows what may show up when bird-walking alongside a boundary stream edged by primary forest or small pools. Understorey habitats are good, potential areas of holding many interesting creatures in North Borneo.
“I prefer the use of this name state – ‘North Borneo’. It sounds exotic, old fashion and a name older generation would remember by. May I to add, naturalists and scientists would prefer to associate with it as – the disappearing lushness of last remaining world virgin, primary forests and its unique flora and fauna.
“I personally associate its new and present name, ‘Sabah’ primitively equating to an ecological disaster of expanding oil palm plantations, saluting like green, tin soldiers marching on short cut paths of wealth to meet their ugly outgoing sisters – ‘Timberlogs’ to sunset.
“A yellow-orangey dot suddenly appeared and perched on a dead tree branch across the stream. Along came a mate and suddenly courtship feeding took place. Within that split second, without time to focus on the bird, I sent my Digiscope around and pressed the trigger release.
“A blurry courtship feeding image of a pair of Black-backed Kingfishers (Ceyx erithaca) issued at 1232hs in mid- April (left).
“Let the male be called ‘Nero’ and the female – ‘Nepenthes’.
“The pre-Valentine’s crab gift arrived cleaned, stripped off its shell and was readily relished by Nepenthes (below left).
“Lunch snack was swallowed in one minute (below right).
“Having regained my composure, I had a little more time to focus on Nepenthes, who chose to remain on her perch for whatever reason. This opportunity provided further observation of the female bird and its behavior.
“Nepenthes wore a blackish, deep blue dot or putu on her forehead. (A red putu on the forehead of a female in Indian practicing culture usually signifies a married woman) (below left).
“It was then obvious. The crabby gift offered was insufficient to placate the rounded belly Nepenthes to raise an eyebrow to her suitor.
“Nero waited in vain for some response. A hasty departure to dig deep into his treasure trove of forest might just meet Nepenthes’ approval.
“The unexpected showed up. This time, Valentino Nero flew in with a huge and impressive skink – a fresh kill longer than his beau! (above right).
“My nerves frayed by surprises of unequal proportions and my hands trembled under such rare observation opportunities. I executed the next blurry, consecutive moving shot as Nepenthes tip-toed and gleefully lurched forward to receive the catch for the day (above left).
‘Thank …kee luv’, muttered Nepenthes. With beak full, she struggled to figure out how to handle this generous, overwhelming and disemboweled gift (above right).
“The suitor’s body language simply answered coyly. ‘UR welcome…!’|Plate 8|
“Having consumed a full lunch, Nepenthes too decided to fly off tailing the direction of the assuming victorious male.
“[The above image] is a treasure and rare image to be had where courtship feeding captured on camera could affirmatively determine gender of the breeding pair of Black-backed Kingfishers. (This image is severely cropped my apologies. Original copies are being reserved for bird frames and available for commission by purchases as donation into my Fund.)
“While field guide books hardly mention or describe differences between male and female gender, readers might like to take note of this image (above)) – the presence of a large pair of yellow, circular loral patches, one on each side of the female’s forehead. They appear to be rudimentary or much reduced in the male.
“The base of the upper mandible of the male is coloured almost black. The female has only a blackish, dark blue dot right in the middle of her forehead. The male’s body appeared more streamlined as compared to a more round bodied female- taking into consideration it had earlier ingested a crab (left).
“Hybridisation is common amongst Oriental Dwarf Kingfishers-Black-backed and Rufous-backed (Ceyx Rufidorsa) in Borneo. As such, care and due consideration need be given to set apart what a gender difference marker is and what just a hybrid plumage variation is.
“No two foliages of trees are 100% identical, neither are identical twins. I am quite sure there has to be some differences some where between the male and female Black-backed Kingfishers; if only more frequent opportunities of courtship feeding pairs show themselves to be observed and photographed together.
“To share this exciting, rare field observation in photography, readers are welcome to dust out if any, images of courtship feeding pairs of Black-backed Kingfishers for a similar comparison to substantiate gender differences.
“The provided images depict a smart, endowed female who knows how to get the most and best in courtship feeding. The male appeared to have been skipping some meals, looking a bit unkempt, dehydrated and sunken. Hard work maybe?
“Perhaps, engaging in courtship offering is… after all, a compulsory but tiresome short affair-an act of self-sacrificial love by the male gender in procreation.
“And LOVE can be… and IS… blurry blind like most of these images provided to challenge mankind’s sanity or stupidity.
“Enjoy while it last!”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Optics used: Fieldscope+30x+Digital Camera P3, Binoculars 8×32
Copyright Article and Images copy:
Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund