A Chronological Field presentation in Documentary and Photography.
“Hardly any documentation been reported as to what happened to chicks of Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) after fledging. Was it because further pursuit went cold or came to end after completion of monitoring process – nesting-incubating-nurturing, or pitta family surreptitiously flew/disappeared and no more sightings were had? One article went on to suggest parents and chicks, having conspicuously been around two days and a bit more, suddenly became absent – assumingly they had flown/migrated northbound.
“This year 2017, my fresh pitta sightings yielded a bumper harvest in several locations; despite no birding observations got carried out during early, breeding stages of Blue-winged Pitta on mainland Penang, P. Malaysia.
“In 2016, I had the opportunity to monitor behaviours of parenting birds and fledging process of chicks posted in my article, “In search of Vacated Nest Site of BW Pitta Part 5”.
“I wasn’t too disappointed to be away in April-May 2017. Upon return from Taiwan ROC, I wasted no time to scour prospective habitats of Blue-winged Pittas and eventually yielded new and important clues – another link to the life story of these elusive species.
“‘Hercules, Medusa and chicks-Doe, Ray and Me moved on…’ in my mentioned article, served only to continue where I left off.
“This year, I am truly fortunate to be able to bring more information to the reading audience but do apologise GPS/exact location of monitoring grounds, will not be revealed for obvious reasons- birds’ sensitivities.
It has been observed Blue-winged Pitta’s family are nomadic in nature, moving from one location to another, foraging silently but within breeding zones of their choice. They remain extremely secretive and difficult to find.
“Based on my chronological survey, parents and chicks do not take off quite immediately – to migrate, not until completion of fledglings’ first post-natal moult at earliest generally, unless birds felt threatened or habitat disturbed.
“For easy reference, ages of fledglings were graded on a weekly basis to compare with photographs in correspondence to dates taken.
“Grading by photography was made easier as I had a fledgling day old chick for pictorial comparison from last year’s brood (above).
“Here are my findings by chronological dates: Nesting Batch No: 1
27June-3July (1st week)
29June – “During morning field survey along trail undergrowth, mixed forest, a pair of Blue-winged Pittas engaged in chick feeding was accidentally spooked. Parenting adults took to hasty tree perch nearby, leaving behind two chicks exposed under bamboo tree clump – Pit stop 1.
“Chick 1 appeared to be approximately three days old was observed attempting to forage on its own. Wing flapping and stretching were also noted. I named this Chick, ‘Flappy’ (above, below).
“Chick 2 ‘Sharpie’ appeared a day younger, fed by parent and seen perched stoically on fallen bamboo. Chick kept close to Flappy (below).
“Distance of observation – approximately twenty meters. Both chicks were oblivion to my presence while parenting birds hid from view, kept some distance and remained quiet.
“Nest site of this brood unknown. A discarded, weathered down pitta’s nest was encountered along a quiet trail in subdued lighting, about four weeks later and approximately hundred meters away from Pit stop 1.
1July – “A second visit around vicinity yielded an adult male perched quietly on tree branch but no sign of well hidden chicks.
3July – “Parenting birds had moved family to another foraging site – Pit stop 2 of a wild ginger grove about twenty meters away, opposite to Pit stop 1.
“Flappy and Sharpie chicks were seen foraging together (above).
“Orangey billed tips and fleshy gape of young juveniles remained present for week old chicks (above).
4-10July (2nd week)
5July – “An unexpected sighting was had of an anxious, breeding adult probable male, with nesting material. Bird took a hurried stop at tree branch within breeding zone (below). No sign of Flappy and Sharpy.
10July – “Flappy and Sharpie were sighted in Pit stop 1 again. Growing well and more independent, each appeared to have found own foraging patch and picking up small bites of insects – ants.
“An interesting observation issued whilst foraging. Both met up at a common trail that separated their patch. Flappy gave chase sending Sharpie to retreat.
“Flappy presented an all black bill by end of 2nd week (above). It had lost all orangey colours on its bill tip while younger sibling – Sharpie retained an orangey residue. It was also observed chicks had dark brown, splash patches on both sides of their chests (below).
11July – “On my 6th visit, Sharpie alone was again sighted around Pit stop 1 foraging vermin and flipping over fallen broadleaves nearby.
“It was also observed, its salmon coloured belly-vent had undergone a change to fresh orangey-red. Front and side view (above, below).
“Rapid changes to bare skin and natal plumages of Blue-wing Pitta were quite remarkable. Side view of Sharpie revealed wing coverts, primaries and secondaries with clarity (below).
“My presence was tolerated if remaining as still possible.
13July – “My 7th visit found Sharpie alone but had flown twenty metres further up towards forest edge – marking a Pit stop 3. While dark chest patches had somewhat faded, orangey gape flesh appeared to be less puffy. Three views appreciated here (above, below).
“Sharpie became more aware and alert to surrounding sounds and bird calls.
The three week old young fledgling was observed preening, comfort positioning and finishing off with a poop (below).
“Not too far away it was observed, an adult flew in haste with a beakful of earthworms. But…. they were not meant for Sharpie.
“’Another brood in the making…?’”
Join Avian Writer next to read Part 2 of an eventful, new photographic record event… only at BESG!
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
18th November 2017
Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund