“Blue-winged Pittas (Pitta moluccensis) are known to be breeding visitors to Peninsular Malaysia. Their range and status are best described in several field guides, bird journals and observatory notes; to include some specific locations where sightings and nesting sites have been found.
“Mainland Penang Peninsular Malaysia is divided into three zones- Seberang Utara, Tengah and Selatan (North, Central and South region) respectively.
“I am able to confirm regular sightings of Blue-winged Pittas in several favourite areas and habitats in Central Mainland Penang. An active nesting site was also discovered as recent as May 2013.
“Being shy and elusive, ground dwelling birds, sightings were brief, far and few in between – at best, during their window breeding periods. My personal sightings over a seven year period in Central Mainland were, the earliest arrival date being 9th April and latest on departure date 10th August.
“My odyssey with Blue-winged Pittas will take readers through many parts. Each part article is substantiated with images to describe various behaviours, habitats, sexing the partners, breeding birds, nest measurements, forensic photography, monitoring techniques, disciplines in nesting photography etc… and presenting images perhaps little/never been captured in camera before or under documented.
“Much sort after by birders/photographers, Pitta spp. are high on the ‘must see’ bird list. There are some excellent pictures from various photographers available for gallery view at various bird blogs/websites to include propped, professional model poses.
“Observing these creatures have been both a boom and a bane to many birders and B-photographers. Try too hard looking for them… only to be eluded. Uncanny it has been seen, and be fore-warned, to compromise birds’ well being, is to see retribution comes a knocking, to include broken bird fraternity to say the least.
“On better days, they have a playful sense to appear least expected and find you for a game of ‘Hide-N-Seek’ to challenge one’s patience. Their smarty ways, stubbornness and humongous patience simply frayed mine.
“What is it about these enigmatic ‘ground jewels’ that so capture the attention of birders/photographers, bring forth so much passion to pursue them, to the extent of some humans become so obsessed to covet their image, only to make these birds curse humans to death and make the latter their No.1 top predators?
“There is still a great deal we don’t know about this elusive species. It appears these birds are willing to yield… to reveal their secrets, but only a little at a time – at their time convenient, to the not so faint hearted, lucky few present at the right time and place.
“All observations were monitored by me alone. All images in the series were taken under natural conditions using digiscopy technique. Few were hand held shots. No flash used.
“All care taken to observe appropriate practice in bird ethics and photography. The use of electronic devices such as playback recordings, setting up props and sprinkling of baits like meal worms to lure birds to the open was not practiced. Nor any manual executions to correct obscured views in photography attempted.
“It was more important to observe and document what these elusive birds did naturally behind the ‘studio’ scenes undetected; to capture their behavioural actions in photography less or not seen before to a wider audience; to appreciate, understand, respect and leave Blue-winged Pittas alone; to do what they are designed to do best….TO BREED; and to be given the best chance possible to FLEDGE their young with least duress.
“Do join me in my odyssey, to begin a visit to those secret habitat sites in Part 2 coming up. (This odyssey article is made up of 14 Parts).”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
7th September 2013
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund