Barbets as Participants in Mixed Species Aerial Insect Feeding

posted in: bird, Feeding-invertebrates | 0

Birds feeding on termites or flying ants is an experience I have enjoyed since childhood. I occasional get to see these mixed species aerial insect feeding in forest locations. At 7.45am on 4th August 2022 at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, I had an opportunity to observe another occurrence. 

On this occasion it comprised a number of Greater Racket-tailed Drongos (Dicrurus paradiseus), Asian Fairy Bluebirds (Irena puella malayensis), Red-eyed Bulbuls (Pycnonotus brunneus) and Yellow-vented Bulbuls (Pycnonotus goiavier). All these were expected birds. The surprise was seeing a number Gold-whiskered Barbets (Psilopogon chrysopogon) also feeding on these insects. They were not as competent as the Greater Racket-tailed Drongos (see image 1) in catching prey but did manage to get some insects (see image 2).

Image 1: Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus) with insect prey. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 4 August 2022.
Image 2: Gold-whiskered Barbet (Psilopogon chrysopogon) with insect in beak. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 4 August 2022.

 

Birds seen in the past at mixed species aerial insect feeding include:

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus)

Other Drongos (Possibly Black Drongo)

Asian Drongo Cuckoo (Surniculus lugubris)

Indian Cuckoo (Cuculus micropterus concretus)

Common Flameback (Dinopium javanense)

Green-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus tristis)

Dollarbird (Eurystomus orientalis orientalis)

House Crow (Corvus splendens protegatus)

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)

Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica javanica)

Unidentified Swifts

Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus)

Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis)

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti)

Purple-backed Starling (Sturnus sturninus)

Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica)

Pied Triller (Lalage nigra)

Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)

Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis maculates)

Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis saularis)

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis tristis)

Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier)

Asian Glossy Starling (Aplonis panayensis strigata)

Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus malaccensis)

Baya Weaver (Ploceus philippinus infortunatus).

  

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

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A Note on Oriental Pied Hornbill reintroduction in Singapore and its dispersal from 2010–2021

posted in: bird, Oriental Pied Hornbills | 0

This paper was published in Hornbill Natural History and Conservation vol. 3: 28-31, 2022

Bee Choo Strange1 * and Tony O’Dempsey2

 

1 Hornbill Research Foundation, Bangkok, Thailand & IUCN SSC Hornbill Specialist Group

2 Nature Society (Singapore)

*Corresponding author: Bee Choo Strange (bcngstrange@gmail.com)

 

Background

Three species of hornbill have been recorded in Singapore: Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris, Rhinoceros Hornbill Buceros bicornis (locally extinct), and Black Hornbill Anthracoceros malayanus (recent record). The Helmeted Hornbill Rhinoplax vigil historical record in Singapore is considered doubtful (Poonswad et al., 2013). Other species of hornbills recorded such as Bushy-crested, Great, Narcondam, Northern Red-billed, Trumpeter, Southern Ground, Wreathed and the White-crowned are considered escapees from captivity.

The Oriental Pied Hornbill (OPH) ranges from northern India, south Nepal, Bhutan, southeast Tibet to south China, and across Southeast Asia to Java and Bali. The OPH is a forest edge species occurring from coastal lowlands up to 700 m in elevation. This species is found in parks, plantations, wooded areas and near mangroves. Considered as medium size, the male is about 70–85 cm (700–900 g) and the female 60–65 cm (500–800 g) in length, with the male having a larger casque (Poonswad et al., 2013).

The renowned naturalist, Alfred R. Wallace, recorded this species in Singapore in 1855 and it was probably still in Singapore in the 1920s; however, there are no breeding records. Gibson-Hill mentioned that there was no record of hornbills in Singapore in the 1950s (GibsonHill, 1950). A small population recorded on the main island of Singapore in the late 1960s to late 1970s are presumed escapees. Some individuals were recorded in Pulau Ubin since 13 March 1994; they were believed to be visitors from Malaysia and the first local breeding was observed at Pulau Ubin on 26 April 1997 (Wang and Hails, 2007; Lim, 2009).

The breeding season of the OPH in Singapore generally starts from December and ends in March or April. Each clutch consists of one to four eggs, but usually only one to three chicks will fledge successfully (Teo, 2012). A paper (Ng et al., 2011) presented at the 5th International Hornbill Conference, held in Singapore from 22nd to 25th March 2009, documented camera surveys of five nests of wild Oriental Pied Hornbills in Pulau Ubin over four breeding seasons between 2005 and 2009, and one nest in the southern part of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve from 2008 to 2009 of a captive pair taken from Jurong Bird Park. The nests in Pulau Ubin were in natural cavities of Durio zibethinus trees and in artificial nest boxes, and 14 breeding cycles were recorded over four years. In the southern part of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, two breeding were observed. Out of the 16 cycles, a total of 51 chicks hatched. The observations showed that the mean number of eggs laid in the wild was 3.3 and number of chicks fledged was 1.8 giving an average fledging success of 55%. Most of the chicks that were lost were due to cannibalism and infanticide.

In order to encourage wild hornbills to breed, more than 20 artificial nest boxes were installed all over Singapore from Pulau Ubin in the east to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in the west (Cremades and Ng, 2012). The population has subsequently increased significantly throughout Singapore. In 2012, the population of OPH in Singapore was estimated to be between 75-100 individuals, with 19 nesting pairs recorded, of which 10 pairs were nesting in Pulau Ubin (east), two in Changi (east), two in the Istana (central), and one each in Turf City (central), Sungei Buloh (west), Seletar (north), MacRithchie (central), and Pasir Ris (east). The number of progeny in 2012 was estimated to be between 35 and 60 (Cremades and Ng, 2012).

Methods

In order to find out more about the current distribution of the OPH in Singapore, the first author downloaded eBird (https://ebird.org), iNaturalist (https://inaturalist.org) and other records from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) portal (GBIF.org 2022). There were 5177 occurrence records of OPH from Singapore in GBIF, of which 4533 are from eBird and 569 are research-grade observations on iNaturalist. As sightings prior to 2010 were considered to be very sparse, 4901 records ranging from 2010 to 2021 (including 4311 eBird and 518 iNaturalist records) were chosen for analysis. The sighting records were segregated into a selection of time periods and a kernel density filter was applied to each to create a series of sighting density maps that illustrate the dispersal of the Oriental Pied Hornbills from 2010 to 2021. Seven sighting density maps were generated for the periods 2010-2015 inclusive and one for each year from 2016 to 2021 (Figure 1).

Results and Discussion

The maps (Figures 1) show how the OPH has spread in Singapore over the past 12 years and that the dispersal of the hornbills are in areas near the reintroduction sites, with more sightings in the eastern part of Singapore. A pair of captive OPH from Jurong Bird Park was chosen to be bred in an artificial nest box in the southern part of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve for two breeding cycles in 2009, resulting in three chicks fledging (Cremades et al., 2011). It is of particular interest to note that subsequent sighting records from 2010 to 2021 did not show any OPH in the forests, and no hornbills were reported in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Poonswad et al. (2013) indicated that the preferred habitats of this species are forest edges, open woodlands, coastal and riverine scrub and cultivation. We can speculate that this species may disperse further in the future, if their survival and dispersal in Singapore is encouraged by planting of food plants in various parks and gardens. We note, however, that the increased dispersal of OPH denoted on the maps may be partly due to increased reporting and records by observers on eBird and iNaturalist in recent years, and this needs to be studied and corrected for observer effort in different areas in future studies. To find out more about the dispersal and estimate the current population of the OPH in Singapore, a citizen science project was started in February 2022 in collaboration with Nature Society (Singapore), for which a part-time researcher was hired. Dr. Yong Ding Li of the Nature Society (Singapore), Dr. Rohit Naniwadekar of the Nature Conservation Foundation (India), and Assoc. Prof. Dr. George Gale of the King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (Thailand) provided advice about survey methodology and information to collect. The survey is underway and will help better understand hornbill distribution and abundance in Singapore.

 

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Dr. Yong Ding Li, Dr. Rohit Naniwadekar and Assoc. Prof. Dr. George Gale for their invaluable advice. Mr. Evan Landy has been very helpful in setting up the transect survey grids and communicating with over 90 volunteers and assigning them their transects. Thanks also to Mr. Morten Strange, Dr. Shawn Lum, Dr. Jessica Lee and Mr. Lim Kim Chuah of the NSS bird group who have helped with this project. The base habitat map is derived from A High Resolution Map of Singapore’s Terrestrial Ecosystems (Gaw LY-F, Yee ATK, Richards DR, 2019). This project is funded by the Nature Society (Singapore).

References

Cremades M, Lai HM, et al. 2011. Re-introduction of the Oriental Pied Hornbill in Singapore, with emphasis on artificial nest. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 24: 5–10.

Cremades M and Ng SC. 2012. Hornbills in the City: A Conservation Approach to Hornbill Study in Singapore. National Parks Board, Singapore. Gaw LY-F, Yee ATK, Richards DR. 2019. A high-resolution map of Singapore’s terrestrial ecosystems. Data 4(3): 116. https:// doi.org/10.3390/data4030116

GBIF.org. 2022. Oriental Pied Hornbill GBIF records. Downloaded on 16 May 2022 https:// www.gbif.org/occurrence/search?taxon_ key=2475991&gadm_gid=SGP

Gibson-Hill CA. 1950. Ornithological notes from Raffles Museum, No. 14, Annotations, Addenda & Corrigenda to the Singapore Checklist. Bulletin of the Raffles Museum 23: 132–183.

Lim KS. 2009. The Avifauna of Singapore, Nature Society, Singapore.

Ng SC, Lai HM, et al. 2011. Breeding observations on the Oriental Pied Hornbills in nest cavities and in artificial nests in Singapore, with emphasis on infanticide-cannibalism. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 24: 15–22.

Poonswad P, Kemp A and Strange M. 2013. Hornbills of the World: A Photographic Guide. Draco Publishing.

Teo R. 2012. Special Ecology Feature: Conserving Hornbills in the Urban Environment. A Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology Publication City Green #4, 130–135.

Wang LK and Hails CJ. 2007. An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement No. 15.

 

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Nesting Building Initiation by Whiskered Treeswift Hemiprocne comata

posted in: bird, Whiskered Treeswift | 0
Image 1: The female Whiskered Treeswift had a feather in its beak. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 4 August 2022. 

Whiskered Treeswifts Hemiprocne comata are common forest birds, often seen at the open edges or trails. I have observed nesting in the past but not the initial first step in nest building. On 4th August 2022 at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, I had an opportunity to observe nesting building initiation.

Earlier in the same day, I had spotted a female Whiskered Treeswift that had occupied a branch for a considerable amount of time with intermittent foraging. As I was watching birds in that area, I kept an occasional eye on the bird.

At 9.15am the bird flew off the perch and landed on the bare branch of another tree. It had a feather in its beak (see image 1). It then proceeded to consider that branch as a potential nesting location (see image 2). I continued watching as it brought the feather to the branch a number of times but there was no nest building. It then flew back to the original branch that I had seen it on. I wondered if my observations, at 8-9 meters, could have hindered nest building.

Image 2: The female considering this branch as a potential nesting location. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 4 August 2022.

It then began nest building at the original perching or ‘support-branch’ site. The feather was used as the first nesting building activity. It was brought down to the branch, held with a foot and anchored with salivary cement (Wells 1999). Saliva was added a number of times (see composite image 3). The bird then flew off and came back to add more material. The male was located about 10 meters away on the bare branch of another tall tree, possibly on lookout duty. I also wondered if the feather used was taken from the bird itself or found in the forest; I am inclined to think it came from the bird.

Image 3: The feather was used as the first nesting building activity. It was brought down to the branch, held with a foot and anchored with salivary cement (Wells 1999). Saliva was added a number of times. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 4 August 2022.

The location of the nesting site was 10 meters up, on a very thin bare branch of a forest tree, species unknown (see Image 4). Wells (1999) notes nests are usually “9-40 m above ground” and “fully exposed, allowing unobstructed access and an all-round view”.

Image 4: The location of the nesting site was 10 meters up, on a very thin bare branch of a forest tree, species unknown. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 4 August 2022.

I decided to leave so as not to impair the nesting activity and so did not observe further activity and any male involvement (documented in literature).

I reelevated my observations and realised that the first branch choice was abandoned, not due to my presence, but as an inappropriate site. The branch was possibly too thick and perhaps sloping too steeply. In my own observations, and from images of nesting by others, the nest site is usually located on a ‘pencil-thin twig’ (Wells 1999). This may be as a deterrent from mammalian predators.

My observations suggest that nest nesting building initiation may begin with the use of a single feather.

 

References:

Wells, D.R. (1999). The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Passerines). Christopher Helm, London.

 

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

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Food for Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex Juveniles

posted in: bird, Feeding chicks, Plain sunbird | 0
Image 1: A single Plain Sunbird, adult male (in feather moult) caring for and feeding a single dependent juvenile. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 4 August 2022.
Image 2: The juvenile Plain sunbird, Anthreptes simplex, would follow the adult around, from perch to perch, and demand food with calls and fluttering of wings. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 4 August 2022.

I recently reported the Plain Sunbird Anthreptes simplex male’s role with fledglings (https://besgroup.org/2022/06/27/plain-sunbird-anthreptes-simplex-males-role-with-fledglings/). On that occasion, the adult male was feeding the juvenile the fruit of the Macaranga bancana.

On 4th August 2022, at the Kledang Saiong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia, I had an opportunity to observe another fledgling feeding event. A single adult male (in feather moult, see image 1) was caring for and feeding a single dependent juvenile (see image 2); suggesting brood division for post-fledging care. The adult female and other juvenile(s) were not observed. On this occasion the adult was collecting the small flowers of the Poikilospermum suaveolens to feed the juvenile. As usual, the juvenile would follow the adult around, from perch to perch, and demand food with calls and fluttering of wings. 

It is clear that adult males are involved in feeding fledglings.

NB: Birds feed on flowers of Poikilospermum suaveolens to get to the nectar.

 

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

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Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum’s Oral History Project

posted in: Miscellaneous | 2

Kathy Poh – Wee Yeow Chin

The Lee Kong Chian Naturel History Museum runs an Oral History Project whose aim is to capture stories of people who have close connection with the museum and the Zoological Research Collection. In June 2022, Kathy Poh from the museum visited me to audio-record my stories on how I became involved with the local natural-history activities. The audio-recordings and transcripts will be archived by the museum in collaboration with the National University of Singapore’s libraries for research and publication purposes. Access to the materials need the permission of the museum.

Below is the summary of my story, highlighting only the interesting aspects:

What sparked my interest in nature: A biology teacher at Raffles Institution sparked my interest in botany. A Botany Honours project at the National University of Singapore that required me to survey the fern flora of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve got me interested in field work.

Working life:  An academic career was out of the question. We were told in no uncertain terms by our lecturer Dr. Anne Johnson, that if she was to leave her job with the university, her replacement would be recruited from the United Kingdom. My first job was as an agronomist with the Malayan Pineapple Industry Board in Johore, Malaysia. Within a short while I took charge of the research in pineapple. The work was interesting and we were eager to publish our findings. The non-scientific members of the Board of Directors were unsupportive, being afraid that our findings would be “stolen” by foreign pineapple growers. The Johor State Agricultural Officer, the only technical member of the Board, failed to provide support. To him publications only benefitted the authors of the paper. But we persevered and finally got permission to publish. Eventually I registered with the National University of Singapore to do a part-time PhD program on pineapple flowering under the supervision of Prof. AN Rao. I was awarded the degree in 1976.

Finally, an academic career: With a PhD I succeeded in obtaining a post of lecturer in the Department of Botany to teach cryptogamic botany or non-flowering plants. Singapore had then gained its independence. I remained with the university until my retirement at age 60 years. It was at the university that I got involved with the then Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch) as the Hon. Secretary for the next 12 years.

Part of the article on nature areas in Singapore – The Straits Times of 9th August 1982.

Nature Society: Activities were mainly educational – giving talks on nature, conducting nature walks and contributing to the local literature on nature. Ilsa Sharp helped initiate my first ever account on the local nature spots in Singapore that was published in The Straits Times of 9th August 1982. This was followed by the Singapore Science Centre’s series of guide booklets on plants, animals and their habitats and other books.

Select Singapore Science Centre’s guide booklets on local plants and their habitats.

Nature advocacy and the Conservation Committee: Richard Hale’s success in persuading government to conserve a piece of mangrove that became the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve helped thrust the nature society into the role of nature advocacy. A Conservation Committee consisting of birdwatchers was formed that subsequently lobbied government to conserve any and every piece of area with plentiful birds – from grassland to grove of trees to graveyards. With absolutely no knowledge of nature conservation, the last straw was lobbying for two ponds that developed in a recently reclaimed land at Marina South. Even after the Minister’s veiled insult, the committed continued lobbying for areas from grassland to graveyards, always without success.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (courtesy of Wang Luan Keng).

Minister of National Development’s reply to the request to conserve two ponds that developed after Marina South was reclaimed.

From Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch) to Nature Society (Singapore): In 1990, on the advice of the newly appointed Patron Prof. Tommy Koh, the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch) was re-registered as Nature Society (Singapore) or NSS. As the then Chairman was on sabbatical and I was the Ag. Chairman, I ended up being elected Founding President of the newly formed NSS. I stepped down as President after five years as I strongly believed staying too long would not allow the society to progress.

The proposed golf course at Lower Peirce Reservoir.

Proposed golf course at Lower Peirce Reservoir: During my tenure as Founding President of the newly formed society, there was a proposal to build a 36-hole golf course in a protected water catchment forest. As we had a so-called Conservation Committee, I directed Ho Hua Chew who was then the Chairman, to deal with the problem. He flatly refused and until today continue to deny ever being asked. I had no choice but to take charge. This forest was more than a 100 years old unlike all the patches of young vegetation that the Conservation Committee had clamored for preservation that could easily be replicated.

Video of White-breasted Laughingthrush indulging in anting (Courtesy of Dr Leong Tzi Ming).

Bird Ecology Study Group: In 2005 I became aware that members of the Bird Group were only good at bird identification. They were totally ignorant of bird behaviour. When a non-biologist encountered a myna using ants to rid its feathers of ectoparasites, known as anting, no birdwatchers had any idea what it was doing. It took 17 years before birdwatchers were made aware of this phenomenon. This triggered the formation of the Bird Ecology Study Group (BESG) to make birdwatchers aware that they need to observe bird behaviour when out in the field looking at birds.

Police report on insulting Muslim members of the Bird Group: In August 2011 the Bird Group persuaded Lim Kim Seng, a Muslim convert to make a police report when BESG made a reference to the group as not being the top dog with the formation of the BESG. I was summoned to the police station to respond to the accusation. I was told that this was just a formality, as the accuser probably did not understand English. I complained to our Patron Prof. Tommy Koh who directed me to Dr Shawn Lum who was and is still the President of the Nature Society (Singapore) to solve the matter. Shawn told me that being an American Citizen from Hawaii, he knew nothing about dogs being haram to Muslims and as such he would have nothing to do with the matter. So much with having an American citizen to lead a Singapore NGO. However, at the Executive Committee meeting, Tony O’Dempsey, also a Muslim convert, lashed out at the Bird Group for hijacking his religion for such an absurd accusation. Ho Hua Chew formally apologised on behalf of his group. I was thinking of informing the press of the incident but was dissuaded from doing so as it may have negative repercussion for the society.

NSS’s loss-LKCNHM’s gain:

Because of the continuous bickering with the Bird Group, culminating in a police report, BESG cut its links with the Nature Society and got affiliated with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. Some years earlier, the Bird Group annoyed a major donor in Lady YP McNeice with its obnoxious behaviour. Now history repeats itself and NSS lost another potential donor. But then NSS’s loss is LKCNHM’s gain.

 

YC Wee

4th August 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White-bellied sea eagles of Pasir Ris Park, Singapore

posted in: bird, Nesting, Reproduction | 0

Derek Yeo has produced another 2 videos which document the White Bellied Sea Eagle, Haliaeetus leucogaster, of  Pasir Ris Park.  He has always been fascinated with raptors since young but what he encountered at Pasir Ris Park in December 2021 would be one of the most exciting days of his life.

Video 1: This video documents the graceful and skilled hunter which can sometimes be playful too. A pair of juvenile siblings, which sound like ducks, engage in aerial battle with other birds, call for their parents in moments of boredom/uncertainties, and learn to hunt with guidance from their majestic parents.

Video 2: This video documents a pair of this raptor raising 2 chicks and facing off a nest-intruder.

 

Derek’s videos are self-explanatory. So watch his videos for the full story.

 

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Scandinavian Nature Trip 8 – 22 June 2022

posted in: Nature trip | 0

A Scandinavian nature trip.

It has been some 20 years since Bee Choo and I last had a holiday together – just the two of us! If you don’t believe me, look above at Hong Kong (Feb 2001) and Andaman Hotel, Langkawi, Malaysia (Jan 2002), the last trip being our de facto honeymoon. After Mark came later in 2002, we either took him along or Bee Choo and I travelled on our own.

As you know, I love Alaska and I still feel I owe Bee Choo a road-trip on the Dalton Highway up to the Arctic Ocean, we cancelled that part of our 2008 Alaska visit because we had limited time and the poxy Rent-a-Wreck I was driving at the time wasn’t quite up to the challenge. But this year we will do something slightly less ambitious: A trip to the North, yes, but to Sweden/Norway this time, a presumably less demanding environment, so I expect. We will start at the Runde, Norway Atlantic bird cliffs and spend some time exploring Sonfjallet in Sweden. This is the planned schedule, there are some details below.

THE GREAT PLAN

Runde and I go back some 51 years!

In fact, I allude to this in the opening chapter of my book The Ethical Investor’s  Handbook (Marshall Cavendish, 2018). Here I use Runde as a case story of the decline in biodiversity, not just in the tropical rainforests and mangroves of the over-populated global South, but right in the heart of civilized, prosperous northern Europe.

In 1971 I visited Runde in late June right after graduating from high school. At that time you had to take a ferry to the island, and there were no restrictions regarding access to the bird cliffs; in fact I didn’t see many other people on the island that year. I have heard that sea bird numbers have come down since then throughout the North Atlantic region, but it will still be fun to see the place today and compare.

The island of Runde.

Runde is just about 2×3 km in size, so 2-3 days there should be enough for Bee Choo and me to see what the island has to offer. Most of the birds will be on the steep west coast, I am not sure how much is open to the public during the breeding season or how crowded it will be. Check out the ‘Bird Cliffs 1971’ chapter for details about my first visit.

Sonfjallet NP, Jamtland, Sweden.

I have been to Sweden a number of times, as you can see in the chapters above (1961-73 and such), but never to the Sonfjallet National Park. The spelling varies from source to source, I will stick with the ‘o’ spelling. The latitude is about 62 degrees North, i.e. equivalent to half-way between Anchorage and Fairbanks in Alaska, in other words: The Boreal Forest belt habitat. The park is about 10×10 km, it is surrounded by roads and has marked trails, so unlike the Brooks Range you cannot get lost (see Alaska 2021 for details!). I picked this place because the hiking looks manageable and there is a good variety of habitats such as lakes, mixed woodlands and some high country. There are mammals like Brown Bear, Moose and Lynx; I couldn’t find a bird list online, Bee Choo and I will make our own!

Itinerary and budget.

We have flights and wheels arranged but didn’t book any accomodation; we will camp and find rooms as we move along. The $272 extra charge is for reserved window seats – that expense is worth it to me! The SEK and NOK are nice and low to the SGD at the moment! The itinerary is flexible, Bee Choo wanted a day sightseeing in Stockholm on the way back. Sorry family (in Norway and Denmark …), we couldn’t fit in a family link, it is enough driving as it is; Bee Choo works full time, we could only be away two weeks. Next time!

Re-cycling my Alaska gear.

My packing list is much like the one I used in the Brooks Range last year. We hope to camp for a few nights in Sonfjallet, weather permitting, but the hiking will be less taxing of course. If you keep walking in one direction you will get out of the park in 1/2 day! This is just a chance for Bee Choo and me to spend some quality time together in Nature!

If my legs perform as I hope they will, I will do a longer hike back in Alaska next year, 2023!?

Wheels arranged!

We have reserved a small family saloon auto for the duration, it should be enough to take us over the Norwegian hills to the Scandinavian west coast and back.

As it turned out, when we got to Arlanda, we didn’t get a Toyota Corolla, but a ‘similar’ model, which turned out to be a Hyundai Hybrid Plug-in of some sort. The car included a bunch of electric cables which I never used; I have no idea how this plug-in nonsense works, and I am not really interested in sucking the Swedish power grid dry. The car performed OK on the trip though, we ended up putting 2,515 km on the clock, and dealing with Budget/Avis was very easy – I love easy!

So that was the plan; below you can see what really happened.

HEY, WE MADE IT!

Sonfjallet, Sweden 17 June 2022, near the summit.

It took a lot of planning, packing and travelling, but we made it: Here we are on Day 10 of our trip. After two days of camping off the trail, we hiked all the way to the peak of Sonfjallet mountain that day and back to rural civilization for a hot shower and a firm bed to sleep on.

AN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF HIGHLIGHTS

Runde island

My main target for the trip was Sonfjallet; but Bee Choo wanted to include a North Atlantic bird cliff island in the itinerary, mainly to see the Atlantic Puffins. Here she is in Runde looking at them. That day, Day 4, 11 June, was one of the best of my life: Seeing her enthusiasm and sheer happiness while watching the puffins and the other sea birds was worth every penny I spent on the trip.

I cannot play guitar, and I cannot sing or write songs like Eric Clapton. But if I could, I would write something like:

And then I tell her
As we head back okay
I say, “My darling you were wonderful today”
“Oh, my darling, you were wonderful today”

The star bird of Runde

And here it is, the bird that has captured so many people’s imagination and heart: The Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica. Photo Ng Bee Choo. When I visited Runde the first time, in June 1971, I was the only one on the cliffs for a week. It turned out, that today a regular eco-tourism industry has sprung up on the island and hundreds of visitors walk up every day, mainly to see the Puffins. In the evening, tens of thousands of Puffins come in from the sea, they swerve around and land on the upper parts of the bird cliffs to roost in their burrows.

Another star: The Northern Gannet

As I will cover in more detail later, most of the sea birds in Runde have crashed since the 1970s, numbers have declined dramatically and some have virtually disappeared. But not the Gannet, they are doing fairly well, thank you. Here is Bee Choo’s photo of the core congregation of Gannets on the cliffs, close-up at nest, a sight worth travelling a few thousand miles to see, right?

And the star mammal: A young Moose

It was only Day 2, 9 June, we had just crossed into Norway, when Bee Choo spotted this animal deep down in one of the river valleys. “I think it was just a Moose”, she said. I said: “Just a Moose?!! Do you know I have lived two years in this country, visited countless other times, and I have never seen a Moose here?”. I slammed the brakes and doubled back, Bee Choo took this photo from the road of a young bull feeding on the wet plants. It was the only Alces alces we saw on the trip! Somewhat confusingly called the Eurasian Elk in Europe, while the Red Deer is called Elk in North America!

Hiking across Sonfjallet

Just like I had expected, Sonfjallet National Park was ideal for beginner-to-medium level hiking. All the trails were well marked, there were clear signage at the major trail junctions, you could never get lost, in any weather, and our weather was good (mainly …). Here Bee Choo is on Day 8, 15 June, coming out of the forested zone; we made it to the barren peak in the background by circling around the mountain, two days later.

A local star: The Reindeer

Day 9, 16 June; just as we were about to set up camp, a small herd of Reindeer, Caribou to the Americans, came out on the mountain hill-side; Bee Choo captured this nice bull (I think … Reindeer is the only deer in the world where both sexes grow antlers!). Brown Bear with cubs had been seen off ‘our’ trail the week before, but we didn’t find that one – not for lack of looking around for it though! Some 20 bears roam the park, and they even come into the buffer zones and the villages around it now and then. But we enjoyed seeing the Reindeer, they came out well again the next day. At Sonfjallet, the Reindeer are not domesticated, they have lived here wild since the Ice Age!

Camping off trail

At Sonfjallet you can camp and build a fire anywhere you like. This is our second campsite near a beautiful small stream with the poorest water you can imagine. It rained heavily that night, but my tent is double-layered and well built. At 2.7 kg it is a bit on the heavy side, but when I hike I value a good, comfortable night’s rest! Bee Choo was good at finding accomodation for us from day to day during the whole trip – she even had a nose for soft, level and picturesque campsites!

At the peak!

Trekking for three days around the mountain, we made it to the top 17 June. I put my camera on a rock to take this obligatory selfie with auto-release, the back-drop is looking east across the forested parts of the reserve. The elevation is 1,250 m.a.s.l.; strictly speaking the peak a km or so to the south is 28 m higher, but the view from here is better, so most people go to this one!

My Stockholm favorite!

From Sonfjallet we made our way south, back into more urban parts of Sweden. Since Bee Choo had accompanied me on what I wanted to do: Backpacking 10-12 km per day in sun and rain and across 1,200+ meter elevation rocky mountains, I accepted her suggestion, and so we added an extra day sightseeing in Stockholm before our flight home. Right, the grand parliament and royal buildings were OK, as were the funny narrow streets of the old part of town. But for me, this Great Crested Grebe, excellently captured with a young on is back by Bee Choo, won the prize as the sighting of the day!

Stockholm Day 14, Tuesday 21 June 2022

This was the longest day of the year in Sweden in 2022. We spent the whole day in endless sunshine sightseeing in the city, and at the end of it I was as exhausted as if I had been backpacking on the trails all day! Another guest kindly took this photo of Bee Choo and me having dinner next to a tidal canal, before heading back to our hotel near the airport north of town.

Border crossing Norway/Sweden

This is what it looks like driving from Sweden into Norway, Day 2, 9 June 2022. Near Eda on E2 toward Kongsvinger. Not much of a check-point; but they do watch it, because just as Bee Choo took this photo with her phone, a border cop pulled up and asked us politely what we were doing there!? We played the naive tourists from Asia and avoided getting arrested!

I have been asked if it is right to visit NATO and EU countries in these times, while they are ganging up to destroy Russia in a senseless and unprovoked assault, using poor Ukraine as a proxy. Right, I can sympathize with that view, but personally I believe we should ALL be friends, even with the Scandinavian failed states!

The final itinerary and expenses

As you can see, if you compare this final version of events with the original plan, we pretty much did what we set out to do. Maybe we didn’t camp as many night as I had expected, but staying in those rural cabins with shower and kitchen was OK as well, for both of us.

As it turned out, we were under budget on most items, partly because of the ridiculously low NOK/SEK exchange rate to our base currency, the Singapore Dollar. Rather than take the near-worthless funny-money back, we spent most of our excess cash as we left each country, therefore the ‘supplies & gifts’ item was a bit more than expected!

Ant-like Crab Spider, Amyciaea forticeps

posted in: Ant-like crab spider, Arthropod, mimicry | 0
Amyciaea forticeps is a spider that mimics weaver ants (Oecophylla sp) .  The spider holds the first pair of legs in the air to make them look like the weaver ant antennae. Two black spots on the spider abdomen mimic the compound eyes of ants. These spiders stay a distance from the social ants by hanging from silken threads and bite ants on the head before feeding on the paralysed preys. It is easy to mistake the spider for an ant. Soh Kam Yung’s sharp observation netted him these three beautiful photographs of a crab spider feeding on a weaver ant prey.
Photo 1: Amyciaea forticeps spider on left, weaver ant prey on right of picture. Spider holds up first pair of front legs to imitate weaver ant antennae. Soh Kam Yung. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore. 3 July 2022.
Photo 2: Dorsal view of Amyciaea forticeps with a shrivelled weaver ant prey (Oecophylla). Soh Kam Yung. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore. 3 July 2022.
Photo 3: Weaver ant prey has been sucked quite dry by the the spider on the left. Soh Kam Yung. Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. 3 July 2022.

 

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Journey of a pair of Crested Goshawk siblings

The Crested Goshawk, Accipiter trivirgatus, has been established residents of Pasir Ris Park, Singapore for some years now.  They build their nests of twigs high  up in the trees. A regular visitor to the park, Derek Yeo has been documenting these bird denizens and  amassed plenty of video footages and photographs.  He has painstakingly pieced many of these digital treasures into captivating videos on You-tube. Derek documented the birds feeding on rodents like rats, squirrels, jungle fowl chicks, bats, coppersmith barbets, mynahs and changeable lizards. His awesome narration and informative tidbits will enthrall viewers.

View the You-tube videos below and learn more about the journey Mel and Ginger undertook from hatching to achieving  independence.

Screengrab of Mel(left) and Ginger(right) taken from You-tube video by Derek Yeo. Pasir Ris Park, Singapore. January 2022.

Video 1: Footages of the parents mating ( July 2021), egg incubation, processing preys to feed the hungry chicks, parent-chick bonding moments and tender moments shared by the parent birds.

Video 2: This video is a first person account by Mel relating to the juveniles learning to fly, dangers posed by crows and hornbills  and the varied diet the parents bring to the growing youngsters.

Video 3: Derek Yeo shows beautiful footages of the juvenile Crested Goshawks learning to be independent, including their comical failures and playful antics.

 

BESGroup thanks Derek Yeo for his generosity in sharing his work on our platform.

 

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Field Observations on the Rufous-fronted Babbler Cyanoderma rufifrons poliogaster

The Rufous-fronted Babbler (Cyanoderma rufifrons poliogaster) is aptly described as unobtrusive by Wells (2017) and there is limited information on the species in our region. Having observed a number of these babblers in 2022, especially in the past few weeks, I would like to add to what we know about C. r. poliogaster. 

The babbler has been observed by myself as a pair; no social groups seen. It has been seen as part of a lowland mixed foraging party with Chestnut-winged Babblers (Cyanoderma erythropterum) and Pin-striped Tit-Babblers (Mixornis gularis); other birds were present but not identified. 

The Rufous-fronted Babbler tends to forage fairly low down (1-3 meters) and there appears to be a preference for bamboo clumps. They look under leaves, occasionally acrobatically hanging upside down. I presume they are looking for invertebrate prey but have yet to observe feeding clearly. They are often in dark parts of the forest, which make observations challenging.  

I have observed nesting material being collected on 18th July 2022; on both occasions dried bamboo leaves (see Image 1 and 2). Breeding is as yet undescribed in our region (Wells 2017).

Image 1: Rufous-fronted Babbler collecting dried bamboo leaves as nesting materials. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 18 July 2022.
Image 2: Another image of a Rufous-fronted Babbler collecting dried bamboo leaves as nesting materials. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 18 July 2022. 

 

These babblers tend to be better heard than seen. I often hear the classical “hu hu hu hu…” calls (Wells 2017) in the later parts of the mornings; although I have occasionally heard them earlier. Wells (2017) only describes this one type call, although the duration and speed can vary. I have heard the “hu hu hu hu…” being given in a slow, measured pace as well as a fast pace. Most times I have heard 5-10 notes; more often on the higher end of the range of notes. These types of call are often initiated by a single note before the burst of notes. 

A second call I have heard is a responsive call from the ‘partner’. These calls are given at the tail end of the “hu hu hu hu…” calls and are a rough, dragged our “she-she-she” notes. They can be brief or extended. A call recordings of this mixed type of call can be heard here: https://xeno-canto.org/736798 and here https://xeno-canto.org/736797. Two sonograms and waveforms showing these mixed or responsive calls are attached (see Image 3 and 4). Observe the introductory note, followed by a varying number of the classical notes and then the responsive notes which are also variable in length. In the field these responsive notes by the second bird are very soft and easily missed (call recordings have been amplified). 

Image 3: Sonogram and waveform of Rufous-fronted Babbler. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 18 July 2022.
Image 4: A second sonogram and waveform of the Rufous-fronted Babbler. Kledang Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. 18 July 2022.

 

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

 

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26 Responses

  1. kris

    I just found a young dollarbird in the garden.. It seems to have left the nest too early and cannot fly yet. How am i to keep and feed it for a few days untill it can fly.???

  2. Iwan

    We have a small pond in our garden surrounded by trees and steep bedrock. The other day we saw a heron flying over and attempting to land – I guess to try to eat our small stock of fish. We managed to frighten it away before it landed, and have since installed trip wires around the pond in order to dissuade the bird. The amount of shelter around the pond means that a heron would have to land practically vertically. Does anyone know whether these birds have the agility to hover and land in this way, or do they always need a “glidepath” in order to land successfully?

  3. Khng Eu Meng

    Today, at the former Bidadari Cemetery, there was a buzz about a sighting of a Grey Nightjar (Caprimulgus jotaka). I heard some birders say this nightjar isn’t commonly seen in Singapore. After some hunting, we spotted it asleep on a tree branch, some 15 m above ground. This was rather interesting as my previous encounters with nightjars have been on either terra firma or on low branches.

    Is this perching so high up the tree normal or is it unusual? I have posted a photo of it on my Facebook Timeline: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151125012234135&set=a.108191464134.96538.617499134&type=1&theater

  4. Jess

    Bird Sanctuary At Former Bidadari Cementry

    1)Which is the best spot in Bidadari cemetery for bird watch?

    2)Where this bird usually resident at?

    3)What are some of the rare bird species that can be found at Bidadari?

    4)Where is the particular hot spot for the hornbills, eagles, kingfishers and some of the rare migratory bird?

    5)Which part of Bidadari are richest in it wildlife?

    6)Can you name me the 59 migratory bird species found?

  5. YC

    Why not search the website using the word ‘Bidadari’ to obtain the information you need. There should be sufficient info in past postings to satisfy you.

  6. Firdaus Razak

    Hai, I just want to ask did anybody had an experience bring bird from oversea via MasKargo? Did the bird will stress at high altitude?

  7. Chung Wah

    Hi, I am new to bird photography! Could anyone advise a good pair of binoculars to get for this hobby?

  8. Geam Liang

    I ‘acquired’ a female Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot 5 days ago – was in a public place when the bird flew overhead hit the wall and dropped right in front of me dazed. I picked it up, it appeared unhurt but could not sustain it’s flight. I have since constructed a fairly large ‘cage’ for it, about 4ft x 2fx x 2ft and placed it there last night. I temporarily placed her in a normal bird cage until I had completed the build.
    From what I have read up, it’s a fruit, seed and insect feeder and also nectar, flower buds. It’s doing as well as it can on bananas, papaya, jack-fruit (didn’t touch the grape) and seeds (black and white sunflower and other smaller ones). It loves to bathe so I’ve gotten it a tray and from what I read it’s important to keep things clean as it easily succumbs to infection.
    Does anyone else have any useful experience and sharing on it’s upkeep? I suspect this bird is an escapee – as far as I can read up, it’s not common, if at all, found in Georgetown, Penang where I am. I’m also not optimistic that it can survive if I were to set it free – assuming it can sustain it’s flight and not go crashing down and if there were dogs/cats around that would be the end of it.
    I can attach some pictures but not sure how to do this…
    thanks.

  9. Lee Chiu San

    The blue-crowned hanging parrot, even though very closely related to the lovebirds, is a nectar feeder. You would raise it the way you raise a lorikeet – which is a messy process. And because you are mixing batches of food for just one little bird, whereas I used to do it for about half a dozen pigeon-sized lorikeets each morning, I don’t know how you are going to get the portions down to manageable sizes. Anyway, here goes, with my recipe for feeding big lories. You can adjust the proportions down accordingly for your little bird.

    The staple diet would be a couple of slices of soft fruit (papaya, apple, grapes, even though I am surprised that you said the bird would not eat any) and a mixture of cooked rice sweetened with nectar mix.

    How to make nectar mix? Go to a pharmacy and get a can of food for invalids or infants. I use Complan, but I am sure any good baby formula would do. I usually make up enough to fill a beer mug, but there is no way you need that amount for a day’s feeding. If in doubt, make the mixture thinner, not thicker. Birds cannot digest baby formula that is too thick. If it is too thin, they simply have to consume more to get the required amount of energy. Then to this mug, add half a teaspoonful of rose syrup. Also stir in about a cup of cooked rice, well mashed up.

    In the case of your bird, I suggest that you pour this lot into an ice-cube tray, freeze the mixture, and defrost one cube to feed it each day.

    Now, you said that this bird eats sunflower seeds. This is most unusual for a blue-crowned hanging parrot. Are you sure that this is actually the species you have? Could it be possible that you have actually got a pet lovebird that escaped? There are so many different artificially-created breeds of lovebirds in so many colours that you might have been mistaken.

    If you actually have a lovebird, feeding is much simpler. Just go to the nearest pet shop, buy a packet of budgerigar or cockatiel seed of a reputable international brand, and offer it to the bird. You can supplement this with a couple of slices of fruit each day, and that will be all. Plus of course fresh water and a piece of cuttlefish bone to nibble on.

  10. Lee Chiu San

    About nectar feeding birds. I forgot to add that feeding nectar is messy, and it goes rancid very quickly in our tropical weather. Feeding containers have to be removed and thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day. The birds also splatter the mixture and wipe their beaks on perches and the bars of the cage. All my lories and lorikeets used to be housed in outdoor aviaries which were hosed down daily.

    If Geam Liang does not think the bird will survive if released, I really hope that it is a case of mistaken identity, and that you have a lovebird, rather than a blue-crowned hanging parrot. In our part of the world, all available lovebirds are domestically bred, take to captivity readily, and are easy to feed with commercially available seed mixtures. Yes, and being domestic pets, they would not survive if released.

  11. Geam Liang

    Thank you Chiu San for your inputs. Thus far, bananas and papayas work well. I’m not sure why it did not take to grapes – will try again. Am I supposed to peel it? I didn’t the last time, basically skewered a couple of grapes to a satay stick and positioned it as I did for the sliced and skinned papaya and peeled bananas.
    I have yet to try rice and certainly not nectar but will try out your concoction – have half a mind to go to a pet shop to see if they carry nectar for birds. The ice-cube freeze method is a good one, will try that. I might be mistaken on the sunflower seeds… not touched but it did eat the much smaller roundish, mixed colored seeds. Will remove the sunflower seeds.
    I’m sure it’s a female blue crowned hanging parrot.. it sleeps like a bat every night.

  12. Lee Chiu San

    When feeding local birds which are unfamiliar with imported fruits such as grapes, it helps to split the fruits to expose the edible parts. As to your remark that the bird sleeps hanging upside down like a bat, yes, that is the way blue-crowned hanging parrots sleep.

  13. Geam Liang

    Thanks… I need to think like a bird – yup. She has probably not seen a grape much less know that it’s edible, unless the previous owner has fed her with grapes… even then… Today she’s done pretty well making the most of the banana and all of the papaya plus quite a bit of seeds. Will try the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup.
    Will regular honey do instead of rose syrup?
    Thanks.

  14. Lee Chiu San

    About making nectar to feed birds. Most aviculturalists do not use honey for two reasons: 1. It is expensive and does not seem to give any added benefits. 2. Honey is made by bees, and the composition varies wildly. Some honeys are also known to cause fungal infection in birds.

    If you do not want to buy a huge bottle of rose syrup just for one tiny bird, there are cheaper alternatives. The first is plain table sugar, though most don’t seem to like it very much.

    What many birds will accept quite readily as a sweetener is condensed milk – the type with sugar that coffee shop owners use.

    Many, many birds have a sweet tooth (or should I say sweet beak?) Besides the usual suspects of lories, lorikeets, sunbirds and hummingbirds, for whom it is an essential part of the diet, nectar mixture is readily consumed by mynahs, leafbirds, fairy bluebirds, barbets, doves, parrots of all kinds, and a whole host of other species.

  15. Geam Liang

    I tried the condensed mild, placed in in a small bottle cap.. only the ants showed interest. Am I supposed to dilute it? I didn’t =( I took you advice and refrained from honey. Have yet to find Rose Syrup from the shelves of TESCO… will try to mix the baby food + mashed rise + rose syrup/sugar syrup this week…

  16. David Thackray

    Can anyone help me identify a bird I saw in Singapore last week. Size of a smakll dove or thrush. Dark metallic back. Grey breast with red throat, chest.

  17. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers

  18. Emily Koh

    Lately I bought a bird feeder which I fill with 4parts water n 1 part white sugar. Sunbirds come regularly to drink and they are really lovely to watch. May I know if it is bad for them to feed on this? Previously they would sometimes pierce and drink from my potted flowers.

  19. Mahadevi Bhuti

    One of best souce for the bird watcher’s enjoying knowledge about ornithology

  20. Martin Nyffeler (PhD)

    Dear Sir / Dear Madame,

    I am a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at a University in Switzerland and I urgently need to get in touch with photographer Chan Yoke Meng, who takes beautiful photographs of birds near Singapore. Would you please mail me the email address of this photographer!

    Thanks,
    Martin

  21. Wee Ming

    Hello Besgroup,

    Trust this email finds you well. We chance upon your photograph on your website and found the amazing image of the Laced Woodpecker and durians. We would like to explore the possibility of getting permission to use them for a new Bird Park in Singapore.

    Spacelogic is a company based in Singapore and we have been contracted by Mandai Park Development to carry out design and build works relating to the exhibition interpretive displays in this new Bird Park.

    Some background of the new Mandai Bird Park project; it will build upon the legacy of the Jurong Bird Park – https://www.wrs.com.sg/en/jurong-bird-park.html by retaining and building upon a world-reference bird collection and creating a place of colour and joy for all visitors. The new Bird Park will have a world-reference ornithological collection displayed in a highly immersive way with large walk-through habitats. To enhance visitors’ experience with storyline and narrative of the bird park, transition spaces are added to display exhibits that provide a varied type of fun, intuitive, interactive and educational experiences for all visitors. One of the habitats features the Laced Woodpecker on a flora panel It is in this flora panel that we are seeking your permission to feature the Laced Woodpecker. We are looking to use the first image on the link here.
    Link can be found here: https://besgroup.org/2012/06/28/laced-woodpecker-and-durians/

    We would like to ask if this is something that we can explore further and if yes, how can we go about with putting through a formal permission request. Thank you so much for considering our request and we look forward to hearing from you.

    Warmest Regards,
    Wee Ming
    SPACElogic Pte Ltd

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