BESG to expand its coverage beyond birds…

on 13th May 2013

The Nature Society’s Bird Group started with the aim of attracting locals to birdwatching so that they can become citizen scientists and contribute to ornithology LINK. Unfortunately when locals took over the leadership, activities became totally recreational. As a result the Bird Ecology Study Group entered the scene to encourage birdwatchers to focus back on bird behaviour. So far we have succeeded as seen in the many contributions by photographers and independent birdwatchers. And many birdwatchers are now aware that there is more to watching birds than merely looking at birds.

[Varanus nebulosus or clouded monitor on a tree trunk at Hindhede Nature Park, Singapore]

We are now expanding our coverage to include the habitats as well. After all, birds are closely associated with habitats. We will thus cover the flora and all faunal groups as well as their interactions. Bird behaviour will remain our main focus. This move will provide a holistic view of nature in general rather than remaining lopsided in dealing only with birds.

Now why the sudden change in focus?

Lately we have been alarmed at the lopsided views of many of our local nature enthusiasts, and this includes seasoned birdwatchers affiliated to the Nature Society. Their writings published in The Straits Times expose their lack of knowledge and understanding of the nature around them, except perhaps the recognition of the different species of birds. Their basic knowledge of the habitat and plants in particular leaves much to be desired.

We have a nature enthusiasts who is also a birdwatcher alarmed when suggestions were made to introduce trees like the Common Mahang (Macaranga bancana) to the urban environment LINK. As this plant harbours ants inside the hollow of young shoots, there is a genuine fear that one may encounter a rain of ants when standing below the tree.

We also have a seasoned birdwatcher, one of the leaders of the Bird Group, who was against the introduction of forest trees to urban areas for fear that such trees may prove attractive to roosting birds LINK. Are veteran birdwatchers unaware that it is not the species of trees but where they are planted that attract mass roosting of birds? Can it be that birdwatchers are only interested in birds and not paying attention to anything else? Can this be why they are also unaware that most of our urban trees originated from the forest?

Most surprising of all, we have a veteran conservation activist who is unable to distinguish “his forests from his trees” LINK

Since the early 1990s the number of local nature enthusiasts has grown, thanks to the Nature Society. However, because the society’s activities have always been based on special interest groups, members fail to have a holistic view of nature. Plant enthusiasts are pointed out this plant species and that while those interested in birds are only shown the different species of birds in field trips. Seldom, if at all, are members told of the interactions between plants and birds.

In posting accounts of habitats that would include the flora and the fauna, we hope to share such knowledge with nature enthusiasts, birdwatchers as well as current and future conservation activists so that they would have a more holistic knowledge of the natural environment.

Contributions are welcome.

YC Wee
May 2013

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

13 Responses

  1. Congratulations YC for broadening the BESG purpose to the study of interactions of life forms in the ecosystem. This should have taken place long ago. One cannot isolate a species from the ecosphere, while ignoring the rest in Nature, without the subject selected getting totally egocentric. Life is interconnected. It is an interection of all things big and small. One cannot exist without the others. Such knowledge gives us a better understanding of the world around us all. Keep it up YC. That’s the way forward for BESG.

  2. Thanks KF and Am. BESG will always try to improve… be innovative, etc., not stagnate. This is the only way to go…

  3. Yeah. Thank you for taking things up another notch. Citizen scientists are ready to embrace new frontiers.

    1. Yes, we need to constantly reinvent ourselves. Otherwise we will become irrelevant. Thanks for the support.

  4. congrats, dr. wee, would you consider re-joining the nature society – to put things back to it’s original purpose ? some bird watchers in the nss seems to be a noisy lot, especially that old fatman, mimicking calls and talking really very loud, whilst conducting walks. Is this normal behaviour ?

  5. HaHaHa. I know the character. He is harmless and echo his master’s voice. You cannot change him. Rejoin? When they are all sucking up to the ‘top’ SIG, afraid that without it there would be no NSS?

  6. what’s SIG ? Somehow I seem to get the impression that the NSS is tilting towards political-themed causes,…recently during one of the hong lim protests, kok peng, han chong was there with the ‘save bukit brown” banner,… are these two chaps, the masters of nss ? sad to see the original noble intent of a national society ( “N S of “SINGAPORE”)being handled in such poiticised’ ways,…

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