A Chronological Presentation in Documentary and Photography
Continued from Part 1: LINK
11-17July (3rd Week)
16July –“8th visit saw Sharpie wandering around Pit stop 3 (above, below).
“My presence was detected but tolerated as it continued with foraging in vermin enriched grounds.
“Opportunities were had of getting closer too without disrupting Sharpie’s daily routine- to include observing bird performing feather maintenance (above) and the unavoidable poop videography extract (below).
17July – Pit stop 1 appeared to be favourite, foraging haunt for both Flappy and Sharpie (below).
“At times, Sharpie crept forward to forage at two metres where I stood. I played dead wood. A hand shot videography extract provided (below).
“It wasn’t a peaceful day for Sharpie after having defecated on a rock.
Rear view (below).
“Flappy – the older, prodigal chick finally showed but no longer the sibling that fed together. By end of 3rd week, it appeared each was to its own. Flappy sneaked behind and confronted Sharpie with raised wings and sent latter to a sprint retreat into forest edge (below).
“Flappy having bullied Sharpie, occupied Pit stop 1 (below).
“Seeing both siblings again in one frame confirmed my suspicion, Sharpie was a probable female chick. An opportunity image of Sharpie here suggests a more definition of its gender (below).
18-24July (4th Week)
18July – 10th visit to breeding grounds grew more challenging. For three whole weeks, no calls heard from any chicks. Unseen parents if calling, were far and few. They were mainly warning or of contact in nature from tree perch, hidden and never too far away from chick/chicks.
“Pictures of adult parents were hard to come by once taken to high tree perch. Two flee/flight sightings spooked accidentally upon my approach were had only that day. Short/partial glimpse of chicks in separate locations, in hidden ground cover, further into the forests, were noted earlier in the morning.
“As I packed up and ready to leave, movements amongst ground cover caught my eye at Pit stop 4. Partial view of a Blue-winged Pitta came into view. A chick it was in hiding but with a difference! It has lost most of its head feathers. Feather moult has begun.
20July – “My 11th visit survey saw a change in trend of Pittas’ observations. Forest was gravely quiet. No calls /sightings came from adults while juvenile Sharpie, upon sensing my approach, responded to scurry and took short flights for a quick get away. Alertness and response of chick have somewhat upgraded several notches.
“No photography opportunities were had except an alarm call- first time heard and sounded like angry cat from direction of Sharpie’s hideout.
Like Medusa in Greek mythology of Hercules’s beau, a female cursed with a head of hungry serpents went into hiding. So did punky Sharpie.
21July – “My 12th visit. I had to see more of plumage changes in the chicks. Having unsuccessfully scoured the forest floor earlier, I finally caught up with sibling chick in partial moult at Pit stop 1 later morning (above). (A separate article with more images in preparation on post natal moult). I was spotted. Alarm call shot out from an adult sending embarrassing chick to flee towards a watering hole, deeper into the forest – Pit stop 5.
23July – “Observation grew more interesting as within the 1 ½ sq. km breeding area, fresh breeding activities of a pair of Blue-winged Pitta were on going. Parenting birds were collecting earthworms, making quick sorties and sending misleading flight destinations (above).
“Pit stop 6 became the next favourite grounds for collecting vermin and many observations were had to include one of Sharpie’s. While foraging along a small trail, she suddenly took a swerve respectfully to avoid confrontation with a female adult with beakful of earthworms.
“Those pickings were not for Sharpie. Could this parenting female be same parent to Flappy and Sharpie while parenting a successful second brood before breeding season came to close?
24July – “14th visit. The fourth week ending saw chicks well into their post natal moult (moulting from nestling into juvenile plumage) – the first moult. At Pit stop 1, Sharpie underwent plumage transformation; wearing a creamy, light- brown crown, fresh black head featherings with remnant white needle- like shafts on head sides. While retaining an atrophied, orangey gape, initial covert feathers that had moulted away, exposed wings of black and blue (above).
25-31st July (5th week)
25July – “On my 15th visit, I stepped up visiting frequencies to have more opportunities in observing moulting progress. Sightings became increasingly difficult as chicks had become more mobile, flighty and shy but was lucky to meet up with Sharpie again. A side and rear view provided (below)..
“My survey took a turn and found myself being scolded by an adult male, for having intruded into his breeding territory. Confirmation of another nesting activity: – came in a form of an adult female, who flew in bearing a beakful of earthworms. I pretended don’t know…
“Where the nestlings/fledglings were…., I had no idea for the decoy specialists’ pair was simply too smart and hid their investments well from view. I decided best not to pursue.
27July – “17th visit. 5th week chick-Sharpie was still in forest vicinity but observation remained difficult. Intuitive birding went into action mode.
Bonus came in the form of an accidental encounter of female parent feeding new fledgling perched on fallen branch, twenty metres away off trail. Hell broke loose when spotted by adult who fled immediately, sending two young fledglings to scurry into hiding amongst ground vegetation cover.
28July – “Flappy and Sharpie had taken me on a ‘Hide- N-Seek’ adventure. They outwitted me of course and no where seen. I took consolation and set my eyeballs on 2nd batch of fledglings.
31stJuly – “19th visit and Sharpie age- 5th week ending showed up.
She was about 33 days old (below).
“It was also the last time I saw Sharpie before observation came to close for 1st successful batch of Blue-winged Pitta for 2017 on mainland Penang, Peninsular Malaysia.
“But…I t doesn’t mean if no sightings were had, meant juvenile birds had flown. 2nd batch of Blue-winged Pitta’s fledglings soon will attest to that statement.
“More pictures, more revelations and record sightings of this elusive and ground dwelling species coming up before year 2017 comes to close….
To Avian Writers’ reading audience… Stay tuned!
Notes: Optics used: Binoculars 8×32, Digiscope ED82+Camera P300
NO flash photography, baiting or bird recording call back practiced. (Strictly not suitable, not recommended once breeding Pittas have commenced nesting).
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
18th November 2017-11-18
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund