“A common winter visitor and passage migrant, the Yellow-Rumped Flycatcher (Ficedula zanthopygia) can be seen during the migratory season. The male is much sought-after by photographers due to its attractive plumage (above left). However, it is not as commonly encountered as females (above right).
“One hot afternoon in October 2012, I was shooting another subject when, by a stroke of luck, I glanced behind to find this Yellow-Rumped Flycatcher about to enter into a puddle of water (above). Yes, a magic waterhole, as has been described in a recent post, must be working its magic. It was one of at least three females spotted in the area. A male was also spotted but it was rather evasive.
“With tail cocked up, this female flycatcher was first at the edge of this waterhole, which was the result of a few days of rain. It entered the shallow water cautiously to quench its thirst by dipping its beak in for a sip of water. The first trace of water that fell onto its dry plumage was water dripping down from its beak after this sip. This darkened the plumage of the slightly streaky throat, forming a ‘beard’. It then tilted forward, exposing its whitish vent and sides of its yellow rump, before lowering its vent into the water (above).
“The bathing commenced slowly as it began by light flapping of its wings against the water (above). The bathing then picked up pace as it dipped its head and shook it furiously underneath the water (below). By the first round, its underside plumage was already soaking wet. The bathing continued with short pauses in between vigorous shaking and lots of splashes. When the bird was shaking its head vigorously in the water, the translucent nictitating membranes in the eyes were seen in action. They were performing their function to protect the eyes.
The entire bathing episode was short-lived; lasting less than a minute. The flycatcher flew out of view immediately. I was lucky enough to observe this bathing beauty but not as lucky to see it preen and dry itself.
Kwong Wai Chong
3rd November 2012