Chan Yoke Meng has a passion for birds. He is not a run-of-the-mill birdwatcher who keeps checklists to tally up the number of species seen. Nor does he maintain a portfolio of bird images in his iPad to show to whoever is interested. To him these are akin to stamp collecting LINK.
Meng’s passion is photographing birds. He is not interested in taking portraits of different species. Rather, his focus is documenting bird behaviour.
I distinctly remember way back in October 2006 when a group was observing a Ruddy Kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda) manipulating a snail to remove its shell. The group gathered around was visibly excited. After all, the kingfisher was a rare winter visitor and passage migrant LINK. Immediately after the kingfisher swallowed the snail, birdwatchers and photographers alike moved on. Not Meng. He stayed behind and waited patiently for more than an hour to photograph the bird casting a pellet LINK.
Meng then was in the know about birds and pellets. After all, some six months earlier he documented pellet casting by a Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus) LINK, probably the first local to do so. At that time most local birdwatchers were unaware that species other than owls and raptors were involved in casting pellets (Wang et al., 2009).
Meng’s secret to success in documenting bird behaviour is not going into the field with a group. He believes in stalking birds alone or at most with wife Melinda. She acts as his extra pair of eyes and during the time when he used a 600mm lens, she served as his porter, carrying the heavy tripod. Now he uses a 300mm lens for his fieldwork and does not lug a tripod.
During his decade long involvement with birds, Meng has documented numerous items of bird behaviour – a selection is listed below:
1. Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda) invading Dollarbird’s (Eurystomus orientalis) nest cavity LINK.
2. Black-shouldered Kite’s (Elanus caeruleus) revenge on the crow
3. Baya Weaver (Ploceus philippinus) nesting near a hornets’ nest LINK.
4. Grey-rumped Treeswift’s (Hemiprocne longipennis) flimsy nest LINK.
5. Tailorbird’s nest architecture LINK.
6. Little Tern’s (Sterna albifrons) courtship LINK.
7. Red-breasted Parakeet’s (Psittacula alexandri) mating behaviour LINK.
8. Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) regurgitating food for the chick LINK.
9. Red-crowned Barbet (Megalaima rafflesii) feeding nestlings LINK (Wee et al., 2012).
10. Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus) chick’s fledging LINK.
11. Tiger Shrike’s (Lanius tigrinus) unusual feeding behaviour LINK.
12. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) dispersing seeds LINK.
13. Nectar harvesting by Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) LINK.
14. Pollinating flowers by Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot (Loriculus galgulus) LINK.
15. Long-tailed Parakeet’s (Psittacula longicauda) feeding behaviour LINK.
16. Orange-bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonestigma) manipulating a fruit to get at the pulp LINK.
17. Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopacea) feeding on exotic fruits LINK.
18. Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis) manipulating a cocoon LINK.
19. Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) hunting fish LINK.
20. Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela) feasting on a toad LINK.
21. Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus) manipulating a beetle LINK.
22. Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus) at play LINK.
23. Female hornbills’ aberrant behaviour LINK.
24. Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) sighting LINK.
And after more than a decade stalking birds, Meng’s passion is still burning strong. His latest interest was a pair of Black-shouldered Kites that had recently completed nesting in Tuas. For a month he was at the scene every morning at around sunrise to observe and photograph the nesting pair. His dogged persistency was rewarded with numerous images of the nesting behaviour of the kites – the above image shows the four chicks that successfully fledged around mid-February. As Meng was concentrating on the kites, Melinda was collecting the many pellets scattered on the ground around the nesting tree. The bone fragments of the mice were later dissected and examined – see HERE, HERE and HERE.
The series on the nesting behaviour of these kites and their pellets will be gradually posted under the series “Pellets from Tuas”.
Note: All images by Chan Yoke Meng. Top image courtesy of Melinda.
1. Wang, L. K., M. Chan, Y. M. Chan, G. C. Tan & Y. C. Wee, 2009. Pellet casting by non-raptorial birds of Singapore. Nature in Singapore 2: 97-106. PDF available HERE
2. Wee, Y. C., Y. M. Chan & M. Chan, 2012. Feeding regularity and waste disposal by a pair of Red-crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesii. BirdingAsia 17: 111-114.