Daisy O’Neill is a feisty Malaysian birder based in Penang. Our association started way back in July 2006 when she sent in her first contribution. It was a fascinating piece on the interactions of five species of birds competing for nesting holes and foraging rights along a rotting tree trunk LINK. Any traditional birdwatcher would have been more than thrilled to see five different species hovering around a trunk devoid of foliage and totally miss the story behind their presence. But then Daisy is not just any birdwatcher. Her interests in birdwatching are deeper than just ticking and listing.
Since then, Daisy continued to regularly send in her observations on all and any aspects of bird behaviour – from leucism in crows LINK to nesting shift duties of the Coppersmith Barbets (Megalaima haemacephala) LINK and their calls LINK; to the sad story of an adult Mountain Bulbul (Hypsipetes mcclellandii) with a prey in its bill trying to feed a juvenile that had recently been killed by a passing vehicle in Malaysia’s Fraser’s Hill LINK.
Daisy does not confine her birding activities to Malaysia. She travels widely and returns not with the traditional lists of species encountered, but with interesting accounts of bird behaviour, whether butcherbirds LINK and bowerbirds from Australia LINK or birds from faraway Antarctica LINK. She even travelled behind the Wallacea Line to seek out the ten species of kingfishers found in Sulawesi’s Tangkoko National Park LINK.
In a number of her posts, Daisy tried to make her story interesting by naming the birds she described. Thus we have Laura’s and Laurie’s fascination with the side mirror of a parked car LINK when describing the antics of a pair of Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pyconontus goiavier). Also, Mighty and Mindy, the pair of breeding Mangrove Pitta (Pitta Megarhyncha) LINK.
Along the way Daisy also contributed a few new records, like a new breeding site of the Blue-Winged Pitta’s (Pitta Moluccensis), the third in Malaysia LINK. And lately, there was her account of the little known Malaysian Honeyguide (Indicator arachipelagicus) from Sarawak and the possibility that it may be a nest parasite, with the Brown Barbet (Calorhamphus fuliginosus) as its host LINK.
One thing that makes Daisy see red is when she encounters poachers in the field. However, she knows when to stay in the background and when to approach them. And many a times she managed to earn the captive birds their freedom by convincing the poachers (at least for that moment) that what they were doing was wrong LINK. With birdwatchers and photographers who get too near to nesting birds or excessively flash nestlings, she may show her displeasure by her loud comments. In this respect she practices what she preaches as she uses a fieldscope (ED82+30x+Digital camera P3. B-8×42) that allows observations and photography from afar. The price she pays is the quality of her images. But then she is just documenting bird behaviour and not out to get the picture of the year.
Styling herself as the Avian Writer, Daisy has so far chalked up nearly 80 quality posts during a period of slightly more than five years. Not content with just documenting bird behaviour, she has unofficially set up the Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund. Her hopes are that with time and the help of generous donors, the trust will grow to benefit bird conservation.