“What are the factors that had contributed to the success of Blue-winged Pittas’ (Pitta moluccensis) nesting by Hercules and Medusa, while other pairs failed miserably|(below)?
“Here are my observations and constructive analysis:
a) The choice location of nest in private orchard was hardly disturbed or trespassed by bird poachers, birders cum photographers. Added security to its property by 24-7 watchdogs helped kept Homo sapiens’ species away.
b) Animal predators – Feral cats add bird sushi to their favourite diet and their prowess in stalking birds is renowned. There is no specific kampong (village) community, in vicinity of these ground dwelling, breeding birds, with feral cat population. Feral dogs were seen but kept their distance from territory of orchard where security dogs lay. Common Primates, especially Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) are egg raiders and observant creatures to movements of human beings. None of these pesky animals were seen; except, a small family of herbivorous, arboreal Dusky Langurs (Trachypithecus obscurus). Potential predators commonly known as monitor lizards, civet cats, mongoose (rare) not encountered. If there were any lurking around or others I was unaware of, I left no trails or scent to make easier for any to detect nesting site.
c) Parenting birds played their role in nest chamber maintenance and hastily disposed faecal sacs of their young before predators picked up scent.
d) Habitat location and surroundings where parenting Hercules and Medusa picked to breed was ideal. Food source of vermin were abundant and nesting materials easily obtainable.
5) With nature’s providence and predators’ destruction at play, I undertook the responsibility to monitor nesting behaviours of Blue-winged Pittas by taking measures to ensure my field observations or any acts I carried out, did not hinder, made harder for parenting birds nor compromised their safety, their eggs or chicks.
“What were these measures?
a) Monitoring from a safe distance with minimal distractions to parenting birds. Gauge tolerance of these birds in my presence and respectfully take frequent breaks, to avoid prolonged delay in chick feeding. All field observations were carried out solely by Avian Writer; with no obligatory pressure to mention nest location, please anyone, be in any competitive league to post pictures or articles into websites during active nesting periods that would arouse the congregation of keen twitchers and bird-photographers to scout site.
b) Exercising self restraint by refraining from walking up to nest site. Walking to nest leaves trail and body scent behind. ‘Check the nest’ is a mere excuse of human curiosity to see how many eggs lay or chicks inside nest. Curiosity kills and a walk to nest is not a walk to fame and glory but a potential doom to nest contents –an invitation to predators for an open house feast. ‘Sniff your way in’ so to speak.
“Exercise self restraint calls for mental maturity and common sense. Sadly, such disciplines are not consistently seen amongst birders and bird-photographers, be they graduates of different professional disciplines or not, newly fresh or experienced seniors.
“Oriental Bird Club (OBC) -The Chairman’s opening letter of Birding Asia (No:25-June 2016) timely addresses the growing problem of unacceptable field behaviour and continuous playback of tape recordings. The message reminds to refresh and encourage adoption of the Code of Practice for its members.
“It is time to bring out some photographs recently taken, to substantiate a chronic, perennial and infectious problem, plagued by some practicing, experienced and fresh birders/photographers, peer groups locally or overseas visitors alike.
“A photograph taken on 10th May 2016 of two photographers, seen sprinkling commercial mealworms, at a popular birding sight on mainland Penang, Malaysia, to bait Blue-wittas. Behind location, lives a local village community with large feline pet population (above).
“26th May 2016 – Led by unfamiliar local guide, a small group of foreign bird photographers at same area, sat awaiting the appearance of Blue-winged Pitta, with an on going playback recordings of calls. The guide sensed being watched, mummified himself to conceal identity.
“Image above shows scattered mealworms and bird lured in- same morning.
“Bird took bait of mealworm (above).
“Let readers decide if what gets seen is appropriate or to extol ‘wow’ photographic bird images obtained under such following circumstances.
“Let fresh birders/photographers initiated into their birding fraternity groups by their ‘sifus’ (master) think if such practices is the norm or inappropriate and insensitive thing to do while enjoying the providence of nature outdoors.
“Lastly, an advice to new breed of birders/photographers, of 21st century planning for such specialised, serious, life long and enjoyable hobby:
“The best sifu is your own good self, to firstly embrace and honour the Code of Birding Practice (COBP) before raising your new camera to the first bird in photography. Respect these living creatures of nature, contribute and be part of the equation to help keep their species alive, by initiating own conservative efforts. Let COBP be a ticket of admission provided to fellow new members. A simple act like this is surely a good, respectable and responsible sifu would do, be looked up or to become one some day.
“Here are some references of COBP to refresh and use as guidelines published by clubs/society/organisations. It is available to anyone interested in birding and bird-photography the right way. Each country would have their own defining list but basically, it is all about exercising consideration, bird protection and keeping their species alive.
a) The Code of Practice HERE.
b) The American Birding Association’s Code of Birding Ethics- HERE.
c) The Ten Commandments of Birding by New Jersey Audubon Society
d) RSPB Birders’ Code of Conduct
e) Conservation India-Ethics in wildlife photography
f) Code of Birding Ethics- Malaysian Nature Society (MNS)-Bird Conservation Council December 2006!.
“In keeping to birding and photography trends, I recommend a periodical, international update with additional inclusions into the COBP.
X) Abstain from habit of feeding wild birds especially in areas they be vulnerable to predation by e.g. feral cats, monitor lizards.
Y) Do not go looking for birds’ nests as a hobby or check contents of active nests when accidentally encountered during field trips. Trails and body scent left behind attract predators to nest site.
“Pittas are smart, elusive birds with small windows of opportunity to observe their behaviours undetected. With time and patience, finding one’s presence to be of no threat, will these ground creatures permit brief moments into their private life.
“It has taken exactly ten years to finally be allowed that privilege to observe their fledglings. Many pieces of a large jig-saw puzzle still missing.
“Like Hercules, the male Blue-winged Pitta of 2016 said, with curtain spreaded wing, ‘Small moments in time shared’ (below).
“Readers still wondering how Avian Writer could tell their sex apart, well that’s another story…”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
24th September 2016
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund