Videography and documenting animal behaviour

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Traditional birdwatchers depend on their pair of binoculars when out in the field. Any observations would be fleeting and subsequent documentation would have to depend on memory. Anything that could not be identified in the field (the bird itself, the animal predated or even the plants taken as food) usually ended in the field. Should there be subsequent controversies regarding the identity of the bird, it would be difficult to verify with conviction in the absence of detailed field notes.

Armed with a camera, observers have at least photographic evidence to back up his or her claims. When plants and animals cannot be identified in the field, their images can always be sent to people with the relevant expertise later on – see HERE. Examining the images on the computer can also reveal details not noticed in the field.

Video documentation can do all the above and more. With video facilities present in many digital cameras, recording videos is generally not a problem.

The first posting in this website using a video clip was sent in by Steven Chong on a termite hatch, posted on 17th May 2008. The excitement surrounding the hatch was caught on video that showcased the many birds scrambling for the numerous alate termites flying out of their underground nest.

In 2010 there was an attempt at convincing bird photographers and birdwatchers that videography is a powerful tool in the documentation of bird behavior (as well as other groups of animals) – see HERE. The following year there was another call on videography HERE.

The number of video submissions increased from 8 in 2010 to 90 in 2011. From then on the number increased to a little more than a hundred for each year to the present. So far we have in excess of 500 submissions indicating that nature enthusiasts are increasingly indulging in videography.

There are altogether 30 video contributors, with Lena Chow topping the list, followed by Sun Chong Hong, Dr Leong Tzi Ming and Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS.

To demonstrate the dynamism of videography, consider the following posts:

1. Kumchun Chan’s clip of the courtship dance of the Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura) where a string of words or even a series of images cannot replace the “eloquence” of the action on video.

2. Dr Leong Tzi Ming’s video showing the White-crested Laughingthrushes (Garrulax leucolophus) indulging in anting need no explanation.

3. The termite hatch video by Lena Chow clearly shows the many alate termites leaving their subterranean nest, documented in Chitwan National Park, Nepal (see image at top and reproduced video below).

4. The video showing birds feeding on alate termites by William Susanto, taken in Etosha National Park, Namibia is another classic.

5. Dr Leong Tzi Ming’s series of 5 video clips showing “cicada rain” – excreting excess fluids as they feed on the tree sap – in the midst of the incessant screeching of these insects, is another excellent example.

Videography is the way to go but photography still has its role. Both can work together to provide better documentation.

YC Wee
Singapore
December 2015

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