Thursday, June 13, 2013

Slow Birding But With Perks!

Jops and I scheduled a quickie birding morning at the La Mesa Ecopark with friends Tito Bob and Tito Chin. It was raining hard the night before but we decided to push through the next day and we were rewarded with a rain-free morning.

It was a bit difficult spotting the birds in the mini-forest. We caught a glimpse of a Red-bellied Pitta but it hopped out of view almost immediately and didn't show itself again. No Hooded Pittas either. An Ashy Ground Thrush would hop around the dark undergrowth, unmindful of a foraging Common Emerald Dove and a group of chickens scratching at the wet soil.

Handsomely speckled Ashy Ground Thrush

We all went our separate ways in the mini-forest, I'm sure with different target birds in mind. I personally wanted to see (and try to) photograph a Grey-backed Tailorbird. They were singing loudly in one patch of trees and I immediately saw some movement. There were three Tailorbirds chasing each other around, but they would not stay put long enough for me to even focus my camera on them. It was a bit frustrating firing some shots and only to find you got a sharp enough photo of the bird's perch... without the bird. Sigh. I just contented myself with superb, in-your-face views of the Tailorbirds instead.

Jops went in search of the Slaty-legged Crake which snuck up behind him the last time we were in the park. I caught up with him but he unfortunately didn't see the bird. We did get our wish to see an immature Mangrove Blue Flycatcher though! Unfortunately, we didn't get any photos as it was continuously hopping from one branch to another and flying from one side of the trail to the other. We did get to see the adult bird and it posed beautifully for a photo.

This adult Mangrove Blue Flycatcher sang a bit on this branch
before flying off into the trees

The Lowland White-eyes were still busy building nests. We observed at least two nests being built, the birds coming and going, trying the nest on to see if it is snug enough (as in the bird would sit in it) before flying off in search of more nesting material.

A blurry photo of a Lowland White-eye "trying on" its nest

Towards mid-morning, we got a text from Tito Chin saying that he and Tito Bob would be leaving already. Jops and I decided to do the same but of course, bird along the way out of the trail. We were sidetracked by a very bold Grey-backed Tailorbird who inspected the nest of the Ashy Thrush. It managed to actually enter the nest before mama (or papa) Thrush landed on the nest and drove it away. The mama (or papa) Thrush then shimmied itself onto the nest before it left again.

Jops and I were really curious about the behavior of the Tailorbird. We decided to wait a bit and see if the small bird would come back to the nest. We positioned ourselves a distance from the nest and waited. The Tailorbird did not come back, but the mama (or papa) Thrush did and with a mouthful of worms! It was feeding time! Immediately, three beaks shot up into view from inside the nest, waiting for the plump worms to be deposited into their mouths.

Breakfast time! Or was it a morning snack?

The parent then suddenly picked up a fecal sac and swallowed it! It was so cool to watch! Actually, if you come to think of it, it is a bit gross. Fecal sacs are whitish mucous membranes which surround the feces of most nestlings. These are produced almost immediately after the chick has been fed. Not all bird species produce fecal sacs, mostly passerines, and not all the time do the parents eat them even though they are believed to have some "nutritional value" for the adult bird. Most of the time, and when the chicks are older, the adult bird picks up the fecal sac and removes it from the nest. This keeps the nest very tidy and ant-free!

We were lucky enough to have the Ashy Thrush come back again for another round of feeding. This time (with a reminder from Jops that my camera had a video function), I was able to video the process including the parent taking away another fecal sac (I guess eating one was enough =P)

When the parent left the nest, so did we. It wasn't a jam-packed birding morning but the clear views of the Tailorbirds and the Ashy Thrush observations were enough perks =)


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