“One of the easiest places to watch birds in Singapore is the Promenade Deck of the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun. This deck is located right next to the well-equipped Cafeteria, and beside the Medicinal Garden inspired by the good webmaster of our site, Dr Wee Yeow Chin. All these areas are open to the public.
“The management of KTPH have made a deliberate attempt to attract wildlife to their premises. Fruiting trees have been planted, native fish have been stocked in the streams and ponds, and artificial floating islands have been anchored in the Yishun Lake, just beside the Promenade Deck.
“From the Deck, you can see quite a number of different species of large birds at fairly close range. On one of my regular visits there I saw this Grey Heron (Ardea cinera) sunning itself. It was turning to expose as much of itself as it could to the sun, which was blazing down.
“The bird had obviously been doing so for quite a while, because it was panting heavily, as can be clearly seen in the video.
“I observed it for a few minutes, then went, with a member of the Hospital staff, to attend to other matters around Yishun Lake. Upon returning about half an hour later, the bird was still standing out in the open.
“But shortly afterwards, it began hunting. This did not last long, and the bird did not enjoy any success as far as I could see.
“The heron must have found that getting overheated earlier on had been a half-baked idea.
“And as hunting had been an effort, It then decided to cool off and settled down in what would normally be a brooding position onto the wet surface of the floating island.
“I know that reptiles thermo-regulate their body temperatures by moving in and out of the sun. And birds do sun themselves for both enjoyment and to get rid of parasites. But the behaviour of this heron does raise some questions. Did it start out to sunbathe, begin hunting and then overheat, requiring it to cool down before carrying on? Anyone care to venture an opinion apart from the observation that mad dogs and Englishmen are not the only things that stay out in the noonday sun?
“Grey Herons are the tallest native birds in Singapore, with adults standing up to one meter. They are general feeders, consuming any fish or small animal that they can overpower. There is both a resident breeding population as well as a migrant group that visits from further north in Asia during the winter months.”
Lee Chiu San
24th January 2015