Up to early 2005 local birdwatchers were simply looking at birds. Their aim was to see who could end up with the most ticks in his or her checklist. And many were good at bird identification. But they were totally uninterested on what birds eat, where they nest, how many eggs they lay, etc. Also, they were ignorant that birds cast pellets made up of undigested food they swallowed, make use of ants to remove ticks and lice from their feathers (anting), lay eggs in the nests of other birds so that the adopted parents take care of their chicks (brood parasitism), courtship feeding and many other interesting behaviours.
Anting by a Vinous-breasted Starling (Photo: Subaraj Rajathurai)
In an effort to encourage birdwatchers to study birds instead of just looking at them, a few members of the Nature Society (Singapore) got together and formed the Bird Ecology Study Group (BESG). This was in July 2005.
After 15 years of postings involving hundreds of articles that include every aspects of bird behaviour, it was natural to assume that local birdwatchers were no more simply looking at birds. In other words, the BESG website had served its purpose. Hopefully, birdwatchers had at last ditched their checklists. After all, many were seen bringing their cameras when out in the field, not just their pair of binoculars.
Black-crowned Night-heron casting pellet (Photo: Sin Chip Chye)
Around 2015 BESG linked up with BICA (Birds, Insects N Creatures of Asia) when the latter burst onto the birdwatching scene. Under the leadership of Jeremiah Loei, BICA members photographed numerous aspects of bird behaviour that BESG incorporated into its website.
When BESG finally stopped postings in December 2019, the website was placed under the care of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum at the National University of Singapore. There it remains a valuable archive not only of birds but also the various aspects of nature related to birds… like plants, insects, arachnids, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
Ashy Tailorbird feeding a large Plaintive Cuckoo fledgling (Photo: Johnny Wee)
I had a pleasant surprise early this month when two nature lovers, K-LW (who had contributed many articles earlier) came forward to volunteer reviving the BESG website. Of course, we welcome them. Once they become familiar with the software, I am sure they will start posting.
I take this opportunity to thank Prof. Peter Ng Kee Lin, Director of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum for maintaining the BESG website within the museum and Dr Ang Yuchen for providing technical support.
16th July 2021