“There are days when birding finishes on a high note and this eventful day – end of August 2012 has to be one of them.
“As I was about to return my DGscope to my rear vehicle parked off road in a foothill village, short bursts of ‘yic-yic’ sounds of woodpecker like calls came from the direction of a small holding oil palm plantation behind me.
“A pair of Laced Woodpecker (Picus vittatus) was busy prospecting at my eye level, an oil palm on the roadside – a sighting not commonly seen easily and not usually in commercial, oil palm plantation vicinity foraging food (below left).
“Out came my Fieldscope again and I had a field morning following and observing the pair, as they flew in and out of the plantation like new, happy couples venturing excitingly to fresh places for their sightseeing trips.
“The pair wasted no time to seek out those huge clumps of un-harvested ripened palm fruits that clustered in the middle of the palm trees.
“The grey-faced female in particular with white streaks over black crown-nape and moustache stole the show (above right).
“She provided very decent field identification views of her upper ochre chest in comparison to her often confusing cousin – the Streak-breasted Woodpecker (Picus viridanus).
“Call locating to each other was heard and mainly initiated by the leader male.
“This captured image (below left) saw the dark eyed female responding to her partner’s call while engrossed in a heavy breakfast of rich oil-palm pulp- with evidence smeared all over her bi-coloured bill.
“Of further interest, is the light blue-grey eye-ring of the female Laced Woodpecker Picus vittatus as shown in [the earlier two images] not mentioned in any field guides in my possession.
“The female was much curious over this broken frond that held a potential choice of food source (above right).
“Most of my woodpecker sightings in Peninsular Malaysia had birds either drumming, nest excavating or food prospecting tree branches. I don’t remember witnessing any incident of woodpeckers foraging on ground apart from my first pair of Pale-headed Woodpeckers (Gecinulus grantia) seen one predawn and was pleasantly surprised on a preview Vietnam birding trip some moons ago.
“The pair of Laced Woodpeckers made that exception by flying across the road and took a landing on the foot of a fruiting tree and began a short series of ground foraging on the move for a change of dining venue.
“Here is a quick opportunity, blurry shot of the female foraging- what looked like an orangey remnant of a wilted durian bloom amongst un-swept, fallen foliages next to a village house (left).
“I could be wrong as I failed to approach the site for a closer inspection. My feet had frozen at the thought of cobras lurking in oil-palm plantation that I just came through unscathed. Foot of oil palm trees surrounded by tall weeds are favourite cool, hiding sites for these long fellows…
“The chiselled bill of this male showed his prowess at destructively dismembering tough, nutty skins of the palm fruits to access the succulent orange pulps. Fibrous remnants show woodpeckers of this species, do enjoy a different diet in addition to the usual grubs, excavated from dead trees (above).
“His calls to his mate were well received. They soon met up over a sumptuous breakfast at ‘The Palms’.
Note: In the image above-left, the female is partially hidden behind palm fronds. The female, having taken her fill, took to a nearby tree for a symbolic climb. She soon settled for a rest at the branch stump, spread in comfort position and basked in glorious morning sunrays before flying away (above right).
“The question brought to mind for readers is why is it in large commercial oil palm estates, hardly do woodpeckers or a variety of insectivore bird get seen around; where else here in small holdings, where trees are left to self nurture attracts?
“I have a pertinent answer to that question. It deserves a separate article Avian Writer will take up to speak for the birds in due course and perhaps… if I may, press a few sore points on my keyboard to get some attention.”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
8th February 2013
Copyright Article and all Images:
Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund