© 43Days Breeding Moments in Blue-winged Pitta (Batch2) Part 2

Continued from Part 1 HERE.

27July-2Aug (1st week)
31July 2017 – “My 19th visit since monitoring began a month before. It has been observed parenting birds made no calls unless necessary and hungry fledglings did not beg loudly to be fed. They were absolutely secretive and quiet creatures during this period.

“Their presence felt mainly by ground movements betrayed by soft rustlings of crisp foliaged floor cover/or dried twig cracking as they foraged on the move.

“Endowed with acute sense of hearing, it is unlikely anyone on foot be successful to approach less than 10m of adult birds, while stalking on same ground level undetected. At best, presence of quick getaway in rapid flutter of classical, white winged- patch feathers seemed more likely!

“While birds remained unseen, movements of observers were being constantly watched quietly by parenting birds from above- amongst the trees, not too far from their fledglings.

“Poculars-a fledgling of parenting Blue-winged Pitta (Pitta moluccensis) pair found new freedom. While foraging, wondered off alone into a bamboo grove-Pit stop 1 (below).

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“Poculars still in 1st week fledgling stage was about to encounter a new experience. I sat quietly at edge of bamboo grove and observed with least movement possible. Fledgling was going about confidently foraging, hopping amongst fallen bamboo and taking to low perch for rest and preen.
I decided to set a test in motion by twig cracking with my foot. Alerted by sharp sound from my direction, Poculars cranked its head up and froze. I proceeded to stage a moon walk towards fledgling and that motion sway sent chick to scurry off and flew perched onto low bamboo branch.

“Exasperated and felt helpless, Poculars revolved its head like radar looking for parents and began sending out ‘SOS’ intermittent calls. Video recordings were made and clipping available here (below).

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“Distress calls sounded like soft whistle blows, ‘Pee…pee…..pee.’ Those calls became recognised to be that of a chick that got lost. To my surprise, across the trail about 20m away, distress calls were answered in similar manner.

“Eventually, rescue came when a parent bird flew into the open. Upon sighting of its parent, Poculars flew toward and was led away to safety.

2Aug – “My 20th visit saw two fledglings relocated back to canopy pit stop.
Ravenclaw- sibling2 was spotted resting over a fallen log. My brushing against bush branches alerted Poculars 10m away. Fledgling proceeded with caution, cowed and scurried towards Ravenclaw to warn and for group protection. Ravenclaw rose and stood up upon sensing potential threat (below).

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“Opportunity to photograph two fledglings together at end of 1st week old, allowed comparison and more accurate description. Lighter orangey bill tips suggested Poculars likely to be the older sibling (below).

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“Another profile of siblings together showed contoured differences in post ocular bare skin eye lids (below).

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“Poculars had picked up an opportunistic tick hanging off and feasting from fledgling’s jugular (below).

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“Sensing no further threat, Ravenclaw proceeded to foraging and eventually took a low flight into overgrowth cover (below).

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“Poculars remained. Still aware of my presence, proceeded to feather maintenance and revealed a possible clue to its gender. Eventually, week old fledgling flew with parasitic jewel, studded tick to a precautionary tree perch 4m above (below).

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3-9Aug-(2nd Week)
9 Aug – “21st visit saw progressive and healthy growth. Both fledglings were sighted at pit stop 1 and foraging independently with parenting birds remaining close by (below).

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“At times, roots were mistaken for vermin and ingested (below).

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10-16Aug (3rd Week)
10Aug – “Being nomadic in foraging nature, the family of Blue-winged Pitta found fresh foraging grounds deeper into mixed palm forest edge. Poculars observed with natal plumage at its best (below).

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13Aug – “23rd visit saw no Pittas. Heavy rainfall recorded two days before.

16 Aug – “24th visit to frequent visited areas of fledglings yielded no sign of chicks. Extensive search issued. Eventually single alarm call rang out from isolated forest area behind a stream. An adult had spotted me from a tree above that gave its new location away.

“Was that a ‘hello…I am here’ or a warning call to get chicks to hide?
Search in the stony forest eventually located a fledgling minus featherings on head, face and neck. Minimal orangey bill tips remained (below).

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“Post natal moult phase for 2nd batch of fledgling had begun for this end of 3rd week old chick- Poculars/Ravenclaw.

“No further encounters with Poculars or Ravenclaw to be had. They have gone into hiding and the trail went cold after 43days. (5July-16Aug)

18Aug – “A follow up survey made. Lo…and behold! a two week old Blue winged Pitta chick showed up at pit stop 1.

“A 3rd batch ‘hat trick’ in the making?”

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Penang, Malaysia
19th November 2017

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

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