Cuckoo…Cuckoo…Cuckoo….

April 21, 2010 at 12:02 am | Posted in itchy fingers | Leave a comment
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When we call a person ‘cuckoo’, we mean to say that he or she is foolish or insane. But in real life, Itchyfingers think that the Cuckoos are really smart birds. :p

Itchyfingers were walking in one of our parks recently when we saw some movement on a tree. Looking through the binoculars, we were thrilled to see this bird. It was quite some time since Tisu Boy saw it and it was the first time for me. Yeah! A lifer!


The female Little Bronze Cuckoo or the Malayan Bronze Cuckoo
(Chrysococcyx minutillus). Looks so sweet! :p

It was quite well hidden among the densely-leaved Golden Shower Tree (Cassia fistula). Just when we thought we were lucky to have spotted this bird, another bird flew in. To our delight, it was the male Little Bronze Cuckoo! And boy! Like most male birds, he was so much more gorgeous!


The male bird has such bright red eye-ring!


Somehow, this male Cuckoo likes to cock his tail like the Tailorbird
,
something which we have not observed before in cuckoos. It was much more active than
the female…and we soon found out why…


He was hunting around for food to offer to the female as part of the
courtship ritual! Maybe that also explained the unusual tail posture above?


Can you spot the green fat caterpillar on the leaf? This male was quite
clumsy at times during hunting…


Itchyfingers witnessed it missed its target for about two times before
he succeeded the third time!


But he was way too fast for our itchy fingers…! So the next moment the
fat caterpillar was already in his bill…

We were ready to trigger the shutter for his feasting moment but in a flash, the male flew off from his perch and then offered the juicy meal to the female cuckoo! Damn! We missed the action again! :O


While the male was busy looking for food, the female Little Bronze Cuckoo
just sat on her perch looking pretty waiting for the food offer…Not sure
which caterpillar was that…any guess?

Then, from a demure lady sitting quietly among the dense tree, the female Little Bronze Cuckoo suddenly turned violent! The sequential photos below showed her manipulating, flinging and hitting the poor, half dead caterpillar vigorously against the branch in her bill…


Brushing off hairs and squeezing out the stomach content…


…before devouring the caterpillar! Well, guess nobody can resist a
delicious meal…

Hope the female would be happy with the food offering by the male and the two would proceed to start a family… heee… :p

Well, when Cuckoos do start their families, being smart birds wary of the demanding chores of parenthood, they decided to employ some domestic help. :p Cuckoos are known to be brood parasites, which means they would lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species. Again being smart birds, through natural selection they would lay eggs that closely resemble the eggs of their chosen host. What happens next is that the cuckoo eggs will hatch much faster than its hosts’ eggs, and the cuckoo chick will also grow much faster. The older cuckoo chick will then evict the eggs or younger chicks of its host so he can get all the attention and food from the adoptive parent. The cuckoo chick had no chance to learn all these survival skills, so it must have been natural instinct.

So, you would think that the adoptive parent bird might notice that the grown up chick looks a bit different from herself and would chase it away right? Well, obviously they don’t use much of their bird brains…hahah…. 😀 Strangely and in a most bizarre fashion, the adoptive parent bird would continue to bring food to the young chick, oblivious to the fact that the chick was so much bigger than itself!

You really have to witness it for yourself to believe this! Itchyfingers saw with our eyes how the tiny host bird brought food tirelessly to the ever-begging huge cuckoo chick a couple of times. But unfortunately we could not capture a decent photo of the feeding frenzy… 😦


The Golden-bellied Gerygone
(Gerygone sulphurea) with its gigantic ‘baby’

Now, would you still mind if you are being called ‘cuckoo’? 😀

Also see related post:
> A Rare Visitor – Masked Finfoot

The Fourth Tooth

April 10, 2010 at 10:58 am | Posted in itchy mouth | 4 Comments

Remember our post on about how the Water Monitor Lizard has always been mistaken as the Crocodile by many people? Itchyfingers then showed a cute sign from the zoo on one of the ways to tell the differences of the Alligator, Crocodile, Indian Gharial and False Gavial.

snout
We did comment that it would be so tough to differentiate the crocodile
by looking out for the fourth tooth…
:p

As explained in this site, Alligators have a wide “U”-shaped, rounded snout (like a shovel), whereas Crocodiles tend to have longer and more pointed “V”-shaped noses. The upper jaw of the Alligator is wider than the lower jaw and completely overlaps it. So the teeth in the lower jaw are almost completely hidden when the mouth closes, fitting neatly into small depressions or sockets in the upper jaw. For crocodiles, the upper jaw and lower jaw are approximately the same width, so teeth in the lower jaw fit along the margin of the upper jaw when the mouth is closed. In other words, the upper teeth interlock with the lower teeth when the mouth shuts, hence showing the large fourth tooth.

Itchyfingers found it so amusing to have to look for a fourth tooth of the Crocodile to confirm its identity until one fine day at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves when we were finally convinced that it is possible to see the fourth tooth of a crocodile in the wild…. hahah…seeing is believing… 8)


Can you see its fourth tooth? 8) This was a smaller croc compared to the
ones we saw during other visits


“As the large fourth tooth in the lower jaw also fits outside the upper jaw,
there is a well-defined constriction in the upper jaw behind the nostrils to
accommodate it when the mouth is closed.”

Interesting huh? Haha…. 8)

Also see related posts:
> Living in Cold Blood – Mistaken Identities #1

Aliens Vs Natives

April 3, 2010 at 11:53 am | Posted in itchy fingers | 7 Comments
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Itchyfingers have heard of sightings and seen photos of this alien, but we have never seen it ourselves. So we were kind of surprised to see it during one of our walks.

Ok, the alien species we are talking about here are not the extra-terrestrial beings from outer space… :p Rather, they are the non-native, and often introduced species. One of the best examples of non-native and introduced species in Singapore is the House Crow (Corvus splendens). Originated from countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives, it was introduced into Singapore in the 1940s and its population has since grown and is now considered a pest. Non-native species are often introduced either intentionally to control the population of another species or they could be abandoned or escapee pets, or even released for good karma during certain religious festivals. Most of them either become a threat to the native species, fighting for food and space if they are of a more aggressive nature, or have little chance of survival as they cannot find suitable food for themselves.

So which alien species, or introduced species, as we would prefer to call them, did Itchyfingers see?


The beautiful Variable Squirrel, or Finlayson’s squirrel (Callosciurus
finlaysoni)
. Native to Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam,
they are so named due to the variable colours  – with black, grey or dark brown
above and on the tail contrasting sharply with the cream coloured underside.
They may also be entirely cream from head to tail or uniformly red or black,
or grey-and-red


We saw a total of three very active individuals. The Variable Squirrels are
diurnal and omnivorous, probably introduced in the 1990s. They are about
the same size as our native Plantain Squirrels, except for the slightly longer
tails


Commonly seen in our parks, gardens and forest, this is our native Plantain
Squirrel
(Callosciurus notatus). Diurnal, ominivorous and arboreal, it
can be often seen actively jumping and running from tree to tree


The Plantain Squirrel has a brownish-red belly with a black and white
stripe on each side of the body


Its diet consists of fruit pulp and seeds, flowers or leafy shoots and insects.
Itchyfingers have seen this squirrel biting off the pulp from a coconut on
two separate ocassions…strong teeth!


Next time you see a squirrel, dun be too fast to dismiss it as the more
common Plantain Squirrel. The adult and juvenile shown here are the much
smaller Slender Squirrels. The underside of this squirrel is grey with no
stripes

There is another tree-dweller that you might see if you are lucky, cos this guy seems to be more shy. Itchyfingers had seen it only a few times and each time it ran off so fast before we could take a decent photo of it…It may look like a squirrel at first glance, but look at the snout and you realised you are looking at something else…


The Common Treeshrew (Tupaia glis) has long and tapered muzzle that
looks like a rodent. They have jaws with pointed teeth, short limbs and a long
and bushy tail. It is arboreal but frequently hunts on the ground for insects
and lizards. This was one of the moments when it was looking for food
on the ground, giving us a full and clear view before it ran and disappeared
in the tall trees…

Singapore may be a small country, but we do have quite a number of wild lives in our small pockets of greenery for us to discover and appreciate. The problem of introduced species will always be there if we do not make an effort to ensure that there is no deliberate release of non-native species, and if they are already thriving out there, do we or do we not let nature take its own course?

Also see related post:
> Colours of Spring – Sentosa Flowers 2009

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