It was nice to be back photographing birds again though by now I feel that I am exhausting my Nikon P900. It could be due to cycling with the camera on the back wheel and going on rather bumpy roads. Today, I forgot to bring the used toilet rolls to cushion my camera. I taped about four of them in a row to act as a cushion for my camera case to rest on. Primitive, but I would like to think that it works. Since I forgot, I had to carry the camera when we were going on the bumpy (off)road.
It is now the monsoon season and it has been raining. This morning’s session was challenging as many of the photographs were taken while I was being bitten by mosquitoes. It was a matter of holding still long enough for the shot, then swiping to kill the mosquitoes! If it were not the mosquitoes, it was small black ants that were crawling up by leg and biting me as I had accidentally stepped on one of their trails. Despite the bites – and I have not been bitten as much as I have been today – it was a good morning.
The birds at Coney Island looked lovely and healthy. I was amazed at their beautiful colours and just how lovely their feathers looked, compared to stressed birds that I have seen elsewhere. Also, the birds here seem more undisturbed, despite the noise from the fighter jets flying overhead on training sessions. Whether it was an oriole, magpie robin or kingfisher, they all looked well. I hope it stays that way.
It was a hot day. The birds were away, probably due to the noise from humans visiting that day. My friend and I found a quiet spot. There was no one there. Looking out over the pond, watching the dried leaves and twigs drift slowly was therapeutic. It was when I saw beauty in a way that I had never seen before. Dragonflies tend to land on the same perch time and time again. In these pictures, one of the main characters kept perching on the main branch while other dragonflies darted and hovered around it. Because the backdrop was constantly moving as the leaves and twigs drifted away, the scene played out like a slow movie and it was mesmerising even. And I saw beauty that I had not seen before, in less than 1 cubic m of a pond.
I went back to the place a week after my last post but because I needed more time to find the names of the birds, this post is delayed until now.
The afternoon’s visit was happy sad. Happy because I got to photograph the elusive blue-eared kingfisher, sad because the fantail’s nest looked like it had been meddled with. There were no more chicks and the fantail mother was nowhere to be seen. Just a week after the last visit, the mother and father bird were always near the nest, protecting and feeding the chicks. The next day, however, there were no adult fantails and no chicks. Instead there were mynas and bulbuls flying about in that tree, where they would not have been able to go near to before. I did spot a fantail a short distance away and it could have been the same one I had seen a week before. The law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest and strongest seems like a pretty cruel way to live.
I have seen birds that are gangster-looking, with missing feathers from the fights they have been involved in, and angry eyes. Their feathers were not well groomed, unlike birds I see in the heartlands. In the wild, I wonder which bird preyed upon the fantail chicks. I hope the next batch will make it.
It is amazing what a day’s difference makes. I had come the day before and decided to return today to photograph the elusive kingfisher. Well, it eluded me anyway. I headed there in the evening again. It looked like it was going to rain but fortunately, the north was not affected. Towards the evening, the area in the north seemed to light up while dark clouds gathered towards the south of the island.
The smell took me by surprise. Animal dung was everywhere. I thought perhaps the wild boar the evening before had decided to make its presence known after we left the place. Apparently, this is not necessarily the case as some photographers who were there told me that the place is sometimes fertilised with animal dung. Perhaps the workers had kept the dung away the day before as they were expecting visitors on a public holiday.
I greeted the fantail who was still hard at work raising her young and proceeded to look for the elusive kingfisher. It was nowhere in sight though there were ready photographers. After a quick shot of the juvenile starling, I proceeded up the tower again, hoping to find the brown throated sunbird. Instead I found this fella. It was the sweetest thing.
Pleased with my photos, I started to leave the place. The kingfisher stalkers were still there waiting for it. One man decided to play bird sounds from his mobile phone to try and draw the bird but I am not sure if he succeeded. As the sun was setting, I struck up a conversation with another photographer who was also leaving. While leaving we heard a sound in the canal and saw a white-breasted water hen.
Kranji Marshes is really quite beautiful and the place does not see as many visitors as some of the other places. It still has a feel of undisturbed nature to a certain extent and the sheer number of birds in the tall trees make this place feel like it is still part of a forest. The sound of wild boars rummaging through the undergrowth adds to the wilderness aspect of it. I was told that wild boars can end up charging out at people but if one is quiet and is not provocative towards them, I think they will not be startled or bothered by us. In any case, we got ready our tripods to use as sticks, just in case.
It was while we were leaving the place that we met the other photographer’s friend who had been photographing the fantail when he chanced upon a blue-tailed bee eater. So we set up our cameras and waited for the bee eaters to fly back again. Having the longest lense around, I was able to get these shots of the beauty. The setting sun gave them a nice hue.
And then we struck gold, figuratively. Another bee eater decided to fly to a stone’s throw away from us and we got these photos. From the colours, I am guessing it was a female.
The evening finally ended with silhouette shots of the fantail feeding her chicks, a dragonfly against the moon and a beautiful sunset.
Another beautiful day at the marshes and another day the kingfisher eluded me.
I had never been to photograph birds in the evening before. It was raining very heavily on the Hari Raya Haji public holiday and it was really on a whim that I wanted to just get out of the house and do something. So I decided to go to Kranji Marshes. I had not been there before until then.
Armed with my camera, tripod, hat, water bottle and together with a studying accomplice (she was going to study, walk, take photographs and admire the birds). Being a public holiday, there were a few photographers, armed to the teeth with their DSLRs and loooong lenses. In fact, the late afternoon turned out to be a lot of fun as we talked to people, made friends and pursued birds. I actually felt like I was on a hunt somewhat.
A lovely, majestic-looking parakeet greeted our entrance into the marshes. It was such a lovely sight.
A short distance from the entrance, there were four photographers pointing their cameras in the same direction (of course!) but I could not see what they were all looking at. A kind young man quietly told me they were watching a fantail which was less than a stone’s throw away. He showed me his pictures and I still could not spot what they were looking at until the bird appeared at the nest and the sound of a thousand machine gun shots being triggered filled the air. I quickly aimed my camera at the sight and asked the bird to stay long and still enough for me to capture some nice single shots, which she obliged. The nest was surprisingly low and if one wanted to touch it, one could. But looking at the expression of this very protective mother, one would have to fight tooth and nail to get near it. I wonder if the parents regretted building the nest so near the pathway but being good, decent beings that we were, we were quiet and made sure we did not encroach on their space.
The bird was used to being photographed enough to go about her business, feeding and accompanying her young, all the while keeping a watchful eye on everyone — the chicks, insects she had to catch for food for her young and predators. The bird was very flighty and fast, the speed amazed me. I am quite sure she flew back and forth several times, under a second each time. (See video here.)
Further along the trail, I spotted this little fella up in the tree, who clearly spotted me too! It was a Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker. The last time I took a picture of one, it was about half the size, with my lense fully zoomed in. These pictures are a little clearer but they were still small, hence their name.
While pigeons are commonplace in urban Singapore, green pigeons are not seen that often. This pair was taking an afternoon nap in a tree. I was quite fascinated to see their eyelids closing over their eyes.
And this handsome little fella was perched way up a tall tree.
I climbed up a birdwatching tower and saw a couple of guys looking at something in a nearby bush. The guy told me it was a sunbird. Thinking that it was a sunbird I had taken before, I did not pay much attention to it until I saw it. It was simply beautiful! The different colours on the feathers were amazing! It was very hard to photograph as well as it was moving so quickly (yes, birds move quickly, especially small ones!). Fortunately, I was near enough to it to get some larger shots but because of the setting sun and the bird’s speed, the shots were neither sharp nor clear. I was determined to return with my faster camera on another day to capture this little fella.
As with birds, they seemed to be in pairs, from my observation, anyway. There was a female nearby. The laws of nature are such that the male species tend to look very colourful and well-groomed, while the females look less spectacular and even a little shy. If I thought the brown-throated sunbird was hard to capture, the olive-backed female was even more difficult to capture.
In the distance, I could hear something rippling the water. Is it a snake? A monitor lizard? I thought it looked like a snake but folks there whom I showed the photos to told me it was probably a lizard. Whatever it was, I was glad I was not near it.
As the sun set further, the bull frogs were out in force, bellowing their tunes to each other.
It was a lovely evening indeed. Even the moon was nice.
The nice young man had earlier told me about a blue-eared kingfisher which several people were trying to photograph but he had given up after waiting for a while. I met him a while later and I had just been in the area where the kingfisher had been spotted (you can always tell by the machine gun shots being triggered) but I was not in the right position to see it and soon gave up trying to spot it. I told him that the bird had been spotted and he immediately left to look for it. I was halfway up the tower when I realised that I had not told him the direction to go. So when I spotted him going in the wrong direction, I ‘pssst’ him and pointed him the other way. On meeting him a while later, I asked him if he had been able to capture the kingfisher. He was happy and showed me his shot. This being my first time, I did not want to spend so much time waiting for the kingfisher to show up. If I had stayed on to wait for the kingfisher, I would have missed the brown-throated sunbird. But looking at his photograph and happy face, I started to wonder if I had indeed missed my chance.
On the way out, I saw a drove of Malaysian photographers making a beeline for the spot where the kingfisher had been spotted. They had just arrived and were rushing to take their shots before the place closed for the day. I concluded then that I would have to come back for the ‘king’. I never thought I would end up chasing birds but I think I am starting to show signs of being a bird-chaser. As my young accomplice so aptly put it, it’s like playing Pokémon Go! Perhaps.
With birds, one can never tell how many photographs one would get. Hence I was glad to have gotten this lot of pictures today. Happier still that they can still be found in this fast-changing, rapidly developing island of a country.
This was taken this morning at Changi Village. Two hungry baby parakeets patiently waiting for their mama to bring them food. The mother parrot actually regurgitates the food to feed the parakeets. Click here for a video of the feed.
Red breasted parakeet chick
Red breasted parakeet chicks
Red breasted parakeet feeding her chicks
Red breasted parakeet feeding her chicks
On another tree, a female flamed woodpecker could be seen on the tree. We saw her yesterday as well, and she looked like she was actually feeding off stuff from the cracks in the bark of the tree.