Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Sekinchan Bird-watching - 21 May 2016

Besides the paddy fields, bird-watching is the next best attraction in Sekinchan. You don't have to look for them like in a treasure hunt. They're an open secret - tree birds, water birds, migratory birds; in flight or nestings in pairs on naked tree branches or having a fiesta in the fields or simply watching the day goes by on the electrical cables.

A Cinnamon Bittern in the field. 
We saw them often, in pairs usually, feasting in the paddy fields.

A black-crowned night heron amongst the little egrets.

A juvenile black-crowned night heron.

I believe this is still a juvenile black-crowned night heron in transition to adulthood.

A pair of black-crowned night herons at peak of breeding season. Can you spot the difference?

An adult version

We've taken so many pictures of the black-crowned night herons, but there're so many variations. The stocky bird has short neck, is usually active only at night, thus the name 'night heron'. The breeding birds also forage during the day out of necessity to feed the young. The juveniles looked so different from the adults. Eye colour changes from yellow in juveniles to red in adults. The adult bird has a distinct glossy black crown and back whereas the juvenile has brown plumage. During courtship, the lores (between bill and eyes) are black and feet are red to pink. Otherwise, the adult feet are yellow in non-breeding time.

Baby egrets having a bad hair day!

A white-throated kingfisher. We saw 11 kingfishers in this trip alone, so it's pretty common here.

Our unusual find....a large, crow-like bird with chestnut wings, glossy black overall and red eyes. 

...the Greater Coucal 
- from the cuckoo family (like Malkoha and Asian Koel).

Rice bowl in golden glow - 21 May 2016

Sekinchan basked in fields of golden glow and shades of refreshing green against a bright blue sky. We came in time to see the golden crop just a week or two before harvesting. What a glorious sight! 

A hive of activity in Sekinchan fields, with farmers in the thick of harvesting.

A calm moment frozen in time.

I thot the field is always greener on the other side?

In another 2 weeks' time, this will be Yellow.

Meet the Farmers! 

A loyal following of visitors...

Extra income: Tour buggies doing their rounds at the paddy fields...

A new version of the weather-Lollicock

Flying a kite at the overcrowded beach

A good pastime to watch fishing boats returning.

Indeed, there's more to Sekinchan than meets the eye.

A damsel in distress - 2 - 6 May 2016

After the tree sparrow episode, we thought that it's a once in a blue moon happenstance. Lo and behold, the boys found a baby robin a few days later. It's learning to fly, but for a baby, it looked rather huge and fat. The robin parents were around and they made very loud, harsh threat calls like hissing krshhh whenever we went near the little one. 

"Let's be friends!!" Unlike the poodle, Cookie was very aggressive towards the little Robin-hood.

We tried as much as possible not to intervene, except to keep Robin-hood away from Cookie and harms. Cos it remained on the ground, hopping around, it's in constant danger. Fence or no fence, it did't stop Robin-hood from crossing into Cookie's territory. Can you see it squeezing thru? And that spelled trouble!!!! It's very interesting to observe the difference between the little sparrows and Robin-hood. The little sparrows flew almost immediately after they're fledged. Little robin, however, can remain on the ground for 10-14 days before it eventually flies, thus exposing it to all sorts of danger and predators. The survival rate of this specie is therefore low. There're many funny moments with Robin-hood. It entered the house, toilet and kitchen on many occasions and finding it was like a hide-'n-seek game.

One of the parents was always around during day-time, and continued to watch, feed and lead the little one away from danger. Unlike the tree sparrows, the robin parent was less diligent and attentive. Their presence slowly decreased as the days went by, and poor baby had to cry helplessly under the hot sun. Perhaps they have a reason to do so? Perhaps they realised something was wrong with their baby and it won't survive? We tried to feed it with mealworms and other stuff, but it refused everything from us. 

The constant calls from the robin parents attracted many busybodies to our  garden, the bulbul, sunbird, our little Tom and Harry and the evil crows!! 

A graceful, Oriental Magpie Robin. Both the parents did not come back to our garden the next day, as if they knew the fate of their little one. It's so sad, but this is nature. R.I.P. Robin-hood. 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Feathered Friends Tom, Dick & Harry 20-28 Apr 2016

We've been hibernating at home in this crazy tropical heat, which sometimes peaked to 40C. One of those things you couldn't avoid during this El Nino heatwave is 'air-conditioning'. We tried to spend some time in the backyard, so we didn't have to coop inside all the time. Only two of the boys were on holidays, so we couldn't really go away, and mainly cos of the kitchen renovation too, which took 3 weeks. Apart from eating out, we gotta bear with the dust, noise and mess in the house. The boys have to look for their own entertainment in gym, playing football and watching our guests in the garden. Once we're excited by 3 bird eggs on our mulberry tree. The nest was badly built, like half-done. We tried to strengthen the nest, but our action caused the parents to abandon it entirely. Sadly, the eggs were destroyed in a bad storm one night. We also saw a hanging nest, like a wasp nest on a tree branch. But nothing prepared us for the thing that's gonna happened next.

Much to our delight, something unusual happened. Well, not really, we've many close encounters almost every year, between Feb-Apr, but we've never gone this far. One day when I was talking to the contractor, a small lump fell right before my eyes from the kitchen roof! And it was a live baby Eurasian Tree Sparrow! It's still a fledgling, but the eyes were opened with feathers covered in parts of the body. So we guess it should be at least 10 days old. It's quite traumatised at first, and hungry every 1.5 to 2 hours. We gave it some dog food (soaked) and banana, yes it's an acceptable food for a fledgling. Feeding was the most fun part for us. We're so thrilled and amazed that the bird responded to us so quickly.

This was Day 3. Fledgling still responded well to us. It has more feathers covering its body and more alert than before. It would go to sleep when it's full. The best thing was, no feeding was required at night. At this stage, the chick could not take water yet, only soft, soaked food or fruits. We could hear more chirping in the roof cavity, and we knew there're more chicks there.

 It's an amazing journey for us taking care of a young life that's totally dependent on others for survival.

Our contractor took down the nest cos it's in the way of the renovation. Guess how many more chicks we found??? So now we've three. They're Tom, Dick and Harry. We named the first one that we found - 'Harry'. And thus the Three Musketeers were reunited. What a reunion! They snuggled together, just like in the nest before. We couldn't tell their gender, according to Google, there's not much difference in appearance at first. But there's one obviously bigger than the rest, and tougher-looking too. We named it "Tom". Dick was the smallest in size and very inactive. We've to constantly keep them warm, which was not difficult in this hot weather.

Day 5: We did't tag the chicks, but we've no problem identifying them. Harry was the most active and medium-sized, thus that's why it fell off the roof I guess! It's obvious they grew fast, and stronger by the day too. 

We didn't take over the parenting job. When we first had Harry, we've to feed it cos the parents were so focused on the remaining chicks in the nest. Finally, when we took down the nest, the chicks were not responding to us. Perhaps they're still traumatised by the interference. We're not sure at this stage if the parents would continue to take care or abandon their little ones. We put the birds in a container and left it in our backyard. The parents were always there, this was for sure. They're always watching our every move. They let out an excited series of tschip calls, but when they felt threats, they would let out a harsh teck, like Stormtrooper's laser gun and swoop down on the suspects. They would only leave when it's dark, and never fail to be there every morning between 7.00-8.00 am.

Day 7: Tom's first flight. The biggest bird, as expected, was ready for its first flight. It hopped and flew short distance and not so perfect at first. The parents were nearby cheering it on in their harsh teck, probably cos of our presence. A handsome babe indeed!

Parent feeding in action. The parents were always overly cautious and protective of their young. It's so hard to see it feeding at first. We have to trust the order of nature, and we saw the chicks growing day by day, so we knew that the parents were doing their job. Though we kept shifting the location of the man-made nest, the parents would follow faithfully. Ever present, ever watchful, ever protective, ever responsible. Ocassionally, a robin would be curious and tried to approach the nest, but the parents would immediately sprang into action, fending off the robin or crow or human.

Dick and Harry learned to fly on Day 8. Harry was not very good, and ended up in our backyard from time to time. Thanks to Cookie, we tracked it down immediately and put it back into the nest before it fell prey to other birds or animals or even Cookie. Finally, after many attempts on day 9, it was successful. The family flew away together, chirping happily, flying from branch to branch and soon out of sight. We thought we'd never see them again. The thought of keeping Harry was very tempting. But we knew it would be happier with the family. On subsequent days, much to our surprise, we saw them ie with the parents as well. They came back in the mid mornings, for a while and entertained us with their songs, before they disappeared again. Wondered why they would do that. Nature is indeed full of mysteries. Though we don't keep them, it's as though they're always near us, and always happy. It has been a fulfilling journey as an eyewitness.
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