I arrived very early at the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, Perak on 2nd February 2023; it was still dark at 7.00am. There was a male Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus) calling out while perched on the electrical wires, with some street lights nearby. The Nikon Z9 camera I use has an electronic viewfinder that allows for the brightness levels to be set higher. This enables good observation in very low light settings. I noticed that the throat and neck of the bird would get considerably distended when calling. I used high ISO settings (51200) to document this (see image, cleaned using Topaz Denoise).
In addition, the white throat patch would be expressed better as the bird called out.
There was a female Large-tailed Nightjar watching nearby. The calls made were those I have previously observed as part of courtship behaviour (Amar-Singh HSS 2019). A call recording I made from Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, Kuala Sepetang, Perak can be heard here: https://xeno-canto.org/778223
Once the series of calls was completed the pair flew off together.
I wonder if the white throat patch that ‘flashes’ as the bird calls (much better appreciated in person) is part of the courtship display? It is a feature that can be appreciated in low light, especially by these nocturnal birds.
I was at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve on 30th January 2023 when I spotted this female Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus percussus) collecting spider webs for nest construction. It was not looking for spider prey. It would extend the body forward, open the beak wide, then brush it through the spider web and snag some strands. It did this action a few times and then went to another spider web to get more material. The nest and the male partner were not observed.
First image shows the behaviour. The second image shows the collected spider webs in the beak.
Birds are well recognised to use spider webs as part of the nesting structure (see a previous record from me: Amar-Singh HSS 2016). Spider silk acts as a ‘glue’ or ‘tape’ to hold parts of the nest together and allows flexibility for some expansion.
Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker nests are poorly described. Wells (2007) states “notdescribed” locally; Cheke and Mann (2001) say nest “unknown”. Birds of the World (2020) offer a description of the nest as “a pear-shaped bag, circular entrance 2·5 cm in diameter, protruding rim around entrance (but no porch), constructed from reddish vegetable down, lined with fine roots, and decorated with caterpillar excreta, lichen, moss, roots etc.” No mention of the use of spider web in the construction.
2. Wells, D.R. (2007). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 2 (Passerines). Christopher Helm, London.
3. Robert A Cheke, Clive F Mann (2001). Sunbirds: A Guide to the Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spiderhunters and Sugarbirds of the World. Helm Identification Guides.
4. Cheke, R. and C. Mann (2020). Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus percussus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.crbflo1.01
Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
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Wong Kais spotted a single male Blue-billed duck at the Warrnambool Botanic Gardens on 30 October 2022. It was very avoidant in behaviour and only a few quick shots and a short video were obtained after 30 minutes. The photo gallery below is a sample of the photos of this elusive duck.
photos, videos, texts by Michael wong
( 1 ) Birds of Australia – A photographic guide by Iain Campbell, Sam Woods and Nick Leseberg
( 2 ) Australian Wildlife by Leonard Cronin
( 3 ) Fleurieu Birds by Peter Gower
( 4 ) Field Guide to Australian Birds by Micheal Morcombe
( 5 ) Wildlife of Australia by Iain Campbell and Sam Woods
( 6 ) The Robins and Flycatchers of Australia by Walter E. Boles
( 7 ) Handbook of the Birds of the World vol. 1 edited by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliott and Jordi Sargatal
( Lake Pertobe, Warrnambool, Australia. 6th November 2022 )
During my holiday at Warrnambool, I strolled around placid Lake Pertobe a few times and noticed the grebes going about their nest-building. The breeding plumage made them stand out from the background. I noticed a pair of these birds returning to a particular point amongst the plants growing in the middle of the lake. Close observations for a period of time revealed a floating nest, with a bird sitting in it for varying lengths of time.
The photo gallery and videos documented the grebes’ activities amidst the goings on of other birds that shared this living space.
Video 1: A grebe goes about its nest-building with great urgency.
Video 2: It was a windy day and the nest bobbed on the water.
A group of Australian Magpies (Gymnorhina tibicen) was observed gathered in the shade of a large tree at King’s Domain, Melbourne. Wong Kais observed them from a distance and decided to train his camera on them. They were rolling on the grass, leaping at each other, chasing, kicking, pecking and wrestling. There was an absence of sound and fury and Kais concluded that it was not a bird battle. By the time Kais was ready to roll his camera, there were 2 birds left continuing with the friskiness.
When viewed on the computer back home, the 2 birds could be seen to have grey scalloped patches on the white back, indicating juveniles or females. There were moments when one bird rolls onto its back and sticks its legs up straight into the air.
“A magpie, particularly a juvenile, may also fall, roll over on its back and expose its underparts. Birds may fluff up their flank feathers as an aggressive display or preceding an attack. Young birds display various forms of play behaviour, either by themselves or in groups, with older birds often initiating the proceedings with juveniles. These may involve picking up, manipulating or tugging at various objects such as sticks, rocks or bits of wire, and handing them to other birds. A bird may pick up a feather or leaf and flying off with it, with other birds pursuing and attempting to bring down the leader by latching onto its tail feathers. Birds may jump on each other and even engage in mock fighting. Play may even take place with other species such as blue-faced honeyeaters and Australasian pipits.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_magpie
Kais concluded that he had witnessed a family group enjoying a bit of family time in the cool shade.
On 7 November 2022, Wong Kais witnessed an epic bird battle that lasted 30 minutes. He was walking along Liebig Street, Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia when he heard a lot of bird flaps and flashes of black and white darting across the top of a roof. He stepped off the pavement and found a position that allowed him to film the kerfuffle.
Two little birds, Willie wagtails, were taking turns to attack an Australian raven, Corvus coronoides. At other times both willies attacked at the same time by swooping down in mad-hatter fashion. The raven stayed put and defended itself against the determined willies. Sometimes the raven turned around to fight off the feisty little birds, at other times it tried to peck at the pesky attackers. For a short while, a third willie joined in the affray but eventually went on its way.
Willie wagtails, Rhipidura leucophrys, breed from August to January. The willies were probably defending their nest nearby. These little birds have been documented to fight off Magpie Larks, Magpies, and even Wedge-tailed Eagles. Wong Kais observed a pair of these little birds harassing a Kookabura at the Blue Mountains and tt Continental Park, Port Elliot, South Australia he witnessed a pair of Willie wagtails mob an Australian magpie (2 July 2022).
Below are photographs of a raven and a Willie wagtail snapped at Victor Harbor, South Australia.
View the following You-tube clip documenting the fierce battle launched by the wee little birds against the bigger raven.
Wong Kais explored Warrnambool, Victoria, Australia from 25/11/2022 to 8/11/2022. Warrnambool is a city along the Great Ocean Road, sandwiched between the famous towns of Port Fairy and Port Campbell. A V/line train service runs from the Southern Cross Station, Melbourne to Geelong and terminates at Warrnambool. During his stay he was soaked and inconvenienced by the frequent spells of rain drizzle which hampered his photo taking, and had to don a raincoat whenever he stepped out of the accommodations. On the few days when clear skies appeared, Wong Kais took in the scenery from the Cannon Hill Lookout as well as visit the Botanical Gardens designed by William Guilfoyle, who was then the Director of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.
The city is laid out neatly in typical style seen in Australian towns and cities. Warrnambool has round-about at almost every road junction and this makes the city stand out from other towns/cities he has visited so far. Drivers are law-abiding and considerate, always giving way to pedestrians who cross at designated spots near the round-about.
The city is well served by the usual big players : IGA, Aldi, Coles and Woolworths supermarkets. The fresh local produce requires little cooking and flavouring to bring out the best. Visitors are spoilt for choice of cuisine. Even Penang delicacies prepared by the son and daughter-in-law of a Penangite Peranakan can be savoured here in Warrnambool. Wong Kais tried the delectable nasi lemak: amazingly fragrant rice in Malaysian style, the usual condiments and a side of fork-tender, juicy rendang from another cooking era. He indulged in lamb shanks at the Whalers Hotel and stuffed his face. He would like to try other cuisines such as Mexican, Italian and Vietnamese offerings on his next trip.
Tourist spots are within walking distance. In this post, he shares photos and observations he made at the Cannon Hill Lookout and Botanical Gardens.
Cannon Hill Lookout
Cannon Hill Lookout offers panoramic views of Lake Pertobe and distant views of the Foreshore Promenade and Lady Bay. Visitors can view a display of cannons used during World Wars I and II, monuments commemorating Portuguese exploration of the South West and The Dirty Angel statue installed in 1925 in tribute to war veterans. Beautifully maintained footpaths with a downward gradient lead towards Lake Pertobe and Foreshore Promenade. Tour buses unload tourists at the spacious carpark here; locals take their lunch and tea-breaks while feasting on the views from the refuge of their parked cars.
At Cannon Hill Lookout, a fledgling Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen) was seen begging its father to feed it; and probing the soil successfully for earthworms. A pair of hares shared the grass turf with the magpies. View the following You-tube shots and the You-tube video.
We entered a quiet and tranquil garden on a Sunday morning. Beautiful tall trees, spring flowers in full bloom, a rotunda built in 1913, wide lawns and a pond populated by ducks and frogs, are all packed into 8.1 ha. Visitors can walk a circuit of the gardens in half an hour but there are plants spaced out in little niche corners that are worthy of one’s attention.
Wong Kais is hoping to visit Warrnambool again during the whale sighting months of June- September. The water off Logans Beach is a renowned whale nursery and thus a whale watching hot-spot. He also hopes to trek the Foreshore Promenade to Thunder Point and the breakwater. Maybe he will share more photos with BESGroup in the coming months.
These beautiful birds possess brilliant blue and yellow bills which are easily recognised in the field. The females are similar to the males except for a slightly smaller size.
Residents of forests and prefer areas with access to rivers, water edges, mangrove areas with Sonneratia trees and salt-water plants like Pandanus sp. Untidy nests jointly built by mating pair.
Feed on arthropods, berries, molluscs, crabs and small fish.
Locally extinct but rare visitors from Peninsula Malaysia drop by Singapore precincts, sending bird photographers into wild excitement.
Sim Chip Chye was tipped by his buddy Art Toh of this rare sighting at 1600 hrs. Since he had missed the opportunity at Pulau Ubin’s Chek Java, he hurried to record this birdie in the mainland. By the time he picked up his gears, travelled there and brisk walked to the location, he walked pass many of his birding friends who assured him that the bird was still around. He reached the location around 1700 hrs! Lighting had diminished somewhat and the bird was rather fleet-winged and flying all over the tall trees. With the help of some buddies, he managed to take home some records of this lovely avian species that he had also missed during a trip up north some years back.
Hoverflies, also known as droneflies, belong to the Insect Order Diptera characterised by one pair of wings (di: two; pteron: wing) and one pair of tiny wings known as halteres. The halteres are modified hindwings which have flight mechanosensory functions and stabilise flight events. Many of them hover around flowers and feed on pollens or nectar. They are good mimics of wasps and bees.
These flies have been known to pollinate orchids like Epipactis veratrifolia and slipper orchids. Their larvae, known as maggots, may be terrestrial and perform pest control of aphids or feed on decaying plant matter; or aquatic e.g. rat-tailed maggots found in water bodies polluted with organic matter like sewage. Larvae of Microdon are adapted to live in ant nests and feed on ant larvae, their faecal pellets and pupae.
Soh Kam Yung shares his photographs of these flies, Monoceromyia javana, taken at Lim Chu Kang and Chestnut Nature Park.
‘Monoceromyia javana, a Drone Fly (subfamily Eristalinae) spotted in Singapore (Kranji Marshes) on 25 Dec. 2020. Soh Kam Yung thought it was a wasp at first until he took a closer look and realized what it was. Good mimicry.’
Dave observed a lone Long-tailed shrike Lanius schach in the vicinity of Bishan MRT station on many occasions (Image 1). The bird is unafraid of people and allowed the photographer to approach it to a distance of 2 m. It is often seen around noon, perched on the tallest wire of the fence (Image 2). On 31 December 2022 Dave observed it perching and scanning its surroundings in the shade of small shrubs in the same vicinity.
At approximately 5 pm on 1 January 2023, Dave documented the shrike diving into the grass to catch insects. Below are some videos that he shared with BESGroup.
Video 1: The shrike flying down to the grass to foray. The sound of a passing train did not perturb the bird at all.
View the following shorts taken of the bird going about to catch its dinner.