© MY ODYSSEY WITH BLUE-WINGED PITTAS PART11: Forensics in Nest Predation

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“I returned after an absence of 28hours and parked myself at the usual observation post. The forest was exceptionally quiet at 1630hs. I proceeded to the use of my Fieldscope.

“I saw nothing …I looked harder if chicks would by any chance be huddled deep in the nest. Not satisfied, I took to my 8X32 binoculars and stood at edge of 20feet (6metres) ‘NO GO’ zone for closer look.

“Then… I saw everything – an empty nest broken into at front entrance. That was a sorry sight and rather difficult to reconcile a disappointing discovery.

“I proceeded with some forensic photographs for comparison and collected educational materials.

“Here are two hand held photographs for a pre and post comparison of the 20feet (6metres) ‘NO GO’ zone. (Nest location marked with red arrows. X in yellow marked as reference location point of same dried leaf with pictures shown at different angles).

“Forest floor before chick predation -0932hs. 28May 2013 (below left).

“Same forest floor after chick predation- 1646hs. 30May 2013 (above right).

“Floor vegetation after chick predation appeared to have been slightly disturbed, not heavily trodden.

“The ‘NO GO’ zone turned ‘GO’ and I approached the predated nest for a closer examination. Five photographed images of nest etc… taken before and after chick predation presented here.

“Before predation: Extracted video shot of nest -(Below left).

“Digiscopy image, no zoom with hungry nestlings waiting feeding and show of intact structural nest position, foliages, twigs and surrounding features documented (above right).

“A 0843hs. morning shot, zoomed a little showed same nest with chicks huddled from view and rested in between feeds. A horizontal, brittle branch indicated by red arrow at nest’s entrance functioned ingeniously like a security seal and toll barrier.

“To note, behind the barrier are horizontal twigs used as feeding platform by B-W Pitta pair-Scarlet and P10.

“Keen readers interested to undertake a CSI walk, rest assured, no twig, foliage or any object pertaining to nest and surrounds was touched before and after unless indicated.

“After predation: Hand held shot taken 1647hs. 30May (below left).

“I approached the crime scene that revealed the brittle, barrier branch and feeding platform that had been broken into an empty nest.

“That was my first, close encounter with the nest.

“After predation: Hand held, zoomed shot taken 1648hs 30May.

“I scouted around and found on left side of nest nearby, scattered remnant feathers equivalent to one Pitta chick – confirming chick predation (above right).

“Enlarged view of remnant feathering is shown here (left).

“Now, those pictures have spoken and showed the smoking gun. Who was the ‘shooter’ that came for dinner?

“Join me again in Part 12 to analyze and measure B-W Pitta’s nest and some more interesting detective work.”

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Penang, Malaysia
6th November 2013

Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund

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