Bird Brain?

May 27, 2010 at 10:55 am | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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People like to use ‘Bird Brain’ to describe a stupid person. Well, Itchyfingers never think that birds are fact, if you study them more carefully, you would realise that some of them are really quite intelligent, judging from the way they build their nests, the courtship, the hunting tactics etc…

But this particular day after seeing this particular bird’s behaviour, couldn’t think of any more appropriate words to describe…other than ‘bird brain’…hahah…

We were returning to the carpark after our birdwatching session when we saw this White-crested Laughingthrush near a car looking very busy. When we got nearer, immediately we knew what was going on. Itchyfingers have seen photos of similar bird behaviour, but it was the first time we witnessed it ourselves…

A White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus) standing on the
front window of a car…looking very curious…

Then it flapped its wings curiously…with eyes constantly fixed on the

Then it started pecking onto the window while flapping its wings…

So, have you guessed what was happening?

The bird was challenging another huge and intimidating ‘rival bird’ that he saw on the car window…

In short, he was simply pissed off by his own reflection…. :D!

Now, can you blame Itchyfingers for thinking of “Bird Brain”?

Yes, sometimes, some birds do feel threatened when they saw another bird in mirrors, without understanding that it was their own reflection! Observations and photographs by fellow birders proved this behaviour, but it was the first time we saw it happening. Couldn’t help but felt quite amused by it…especially when it ran down the bottom of the window and then ran all the way up while still pecking and flapping its wings…looked like someone practising gung-fu…hahahah..Wow…but really pity the car owner cos not sure if there would be any damage or scratch caused or not…

See this short video to understand what we mean… 8) You can see the ‘rival bird’ clearly… 😀

He continued ‘practising many more rounds of gung-fu’ before deciding to fly off… 8)

But he flew back shortly, but this time, to ‘attack’ another ‘rival bird’ on another car…

Not sure if this was the same bird, but he was poking and pecking at the
reflection on this car….

“This bird looked dare he challenged me!” Hee…see how clear
the reflected ‘rival bird’ was? Maybe it is not such a good idea to polish
your car too shiny…hahah….

A lady park visitor who drove a posh convertible quickly ran back to cover up her nice car in case the bird flew in to do his stunts there… :p

Caught another video of him pulling one of the loose rubber part of the car…he should be thinking that was the leg of the ‘rival bird’….

The White-crested Laughingthrush is a babbler that exhibits brief chatter, often followed by a chorus of cackling laughter. Their calls are quite melodious and thus they are also kept as pets. They are not native to Singapore and those in the wild were probably released, abandoned pets or escapees. Their population seemed to be growing quite healthily, spreading from the nature reserves and lately, we just saw a pair at the Botanic Gardens. At the canal where I frequently jog, their calls were often heard and occasionally they would show themselves among the foliages. Once, I even saw an individual perching on the big tree just outside my block! This is another example of alien species invading into our nature areas. Beautiful though they are, their more aggressive nature may threaten the survival of our own native bird species.

Also see related posts:
> New Lease of Life?
> Cuckoo…Cuckoo…Cuckoo…
> Aliens vs Natives
> Love is in the Air


New Lease of Life?

May 24, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | 1 Comment
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Vesak Day is around the corner. It is one of those times where devotees will release animals to accumulate good karma. But do you know that most of these released animals will not be able to survive in the wild and die within a day of two later? Some of these animals were domesticated pets all their lives, and having no appropriate survival skills, would die soon of hunger. Others are newly imported to pet shops, equally unequipped to fend for and feed themselves in the wild. Some animals are specialised feeders that would only feed on certain food, which may not be available locally. Worse thing is, some animals were released in the wrong habitat – fresh water fish or turtles could end up in the sea and die. Then there are others that may survive because they are of a more aggressive nature than our native species, hence become a threat to our native animals as they compete for food and space.

Buying animals (eg. birds and fish) in bulk from pet shops encourages more import of such animals during these ‘peak seasons’ – when there is a demand, there will be a supply. Some people may poach animals from the wild or breed large quantity of animals to sell to people for releasing. Who knows, once you released them, they would be immediately caught back again for another round of selling.

So, it is really not a wise choice to release animals, thinking that it is a merciful act; giving the animals freedom and a new lease of life, when in actual fact, more harm is made.

An exhibition panel in the Amphibian and Reptile House at the Taipei Zoo.
The crying tortoise is asking, “Release to live or release to die?”

A closeup of the write-up…

So instead of releasing animals in the hope of accumulating better karma once a year, wouldn’t be it better to treat animals and fellow human beings with more respect in all other days? Pets should never be released in the wild and being responsible owner means taking good care of them once you have them or making sure you find them a better home if for whatever reasons you have to give them up. A pet is a life-long commitment. They are not play thing or toys that you can dispose off once you are tired of them.

Think carefully and make your choice.

Also see related posts:
> Aliens vs Natives
> Respect for Life Begins with Concern for Animals

‘Leaf’ Me Alone…

May 14, 2010 at 12:31 am | Posted in itchy fingers | 6 Comments
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Recently while looking for birdies at Sungei Buloh, Itchyfingers had a surprise find. Initially we did not know what exactly was this, cos we have not seen anything like this. Tisu Boy speculated it could be some kinda ant mimicking some other insect, but the more I looked at it, the more familiar I found it…It looked remotely familiar as somehow it reminded me of the ones I have to handle at the volunteering programme I joined…I even cut up one dead specimen…But I couldn’t be sure at the moment…cos we really did not know or heard of its existence in Singapore.

So what did Itchyfingers find?

It was tiny…I wouldn’t have spotted it if not for the fact that I was bored while waiting for the nearby pair of nesting birdies to show themselves and started looking around the foliages for interesting insects to shoot. I was shooting a tiny grasshopper when suddenly I saw this guy on a thin vine…

It was motionless…this tiny guy looked flat from the side…its limbs
were also broad and flattened

The antenna were short and the rear end was in a curled up posture. Now
this posture certainly looked very familiar! It was one of the tactics used in
my other more familiar insect when it feels threatened. By curling up the
tail, they look bigger, like that of an attacking scorpion about to strike…

Tiny it might be, he was obviously trying to tell me not to mess with him and leave him alone…and it started to move very slowly towards the leafy part trying to hide itself…now could my suspicion be correct?

A Leaf Insect!!! It had to be a Leaf Insect! Who else looked so similar? This
should be a juvenile?

I was so excited! We didn’t know and have never seen a life Leaf Insect other than captived ones in zoos or dead specimens in museums; neither did we hear of anyone in Singapore finding one in our forests or reserves. So it was such an exciting moment for us! By now the tiny guy was motionless again…he must have been thinking that he’s well camouflaged and with his scarily curled up tail, he would be left alone now… Too bad we didn’t have the correct lens to take macro shots of this interesting guy – Tisu Boy had his long lens for birdies and all I had was the compact digital camera…No choice, gotta make do and keep taking more shots in order to get at least one decent shot… 😮

My little itchyfinger as a scale of measurement against the Leaf Insect…
it should be around 2 cm from forelimb to tail, if uncurled….

Well, we left him alone when the birdies came back…after they flew off again, I went back to check out the Leaf Insect only to find him gone… 😦

To confirm our findings, Itchyfingers headed for the library after lunch and checked out the local guidebook, “The Stick & Leaf Insects of Singapore” by Francis Seow-Choen. I was right! It was a nymph of Phyllium siccifolium, or Linnaeus’ Leaf Insect. It says that, “the females of this species create a stridulating sound when handled and will also use her legs to grip tightly around any intruder attempt to pick the insect up. This species is usually green although yellow specimens have also been found. Males are 53 – 57 mm and females are 70 – 90 mm in body length.” Wow! That is big!

Leaf Insects and Stick Insects belong to the order Phasmatodea (or Phasmida). As the names suggested, Phasmids are insects that look like leaves, twigs and sticks. Because of these resemblances and the fact that they are nocturnal, it is very difficult to find  phasmids when they are so well camouflaged in the wild. Itchyfingers have only saw a wild Stick Insect in Singapore twice, and once in Malaysia while we have never seen a wild Leaf Insect.

A walking stick found at Taman Negara some years back…Twice when I
saw them in Singapore, they all flew off before I could take any photos.
Most (but not all) of the flying ones are males. This one should be a female
looking at the rear end now – it has a ovipositor for laying eggs…
If not for the fact that she made a mistake by staying on a piece of leaf
and swaying left and right the way twigs move when blown by wind, we
would not be so lucky as to spot it! Notice the first pair of legs are longer
and stretched out…an attempt to look even more like a stick…Sometimes
they are so stretched that they looked as if they only have four legs

She realised her mistake and moved underneath the leaf looking for a twig.
Itchyfingers, being itchy fingers, remembered this very first time stroking
a life and wild stick insect..Feel exactly like a stick! 😀

A captive Giant Prickly Stick Insect from Australia on my hand…See how
the lobed legs resemble that of the Leaf Insect nymph? They may look
menacing, but Stick Insects are harmless…

The head also look similar…Like Leaf Insects, the chewing mouth parts
of Stick Insects consists of four long, thin jointed hairy structures at the bottom
used to taste leaves…Itchyfingers showed the picture of the mouth part of
another species of stick insect, the Jungle Nymph on our earlier post here

Like some species of Stick Insects, some species of Leaf Insects will lay their eggs in moist soil. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs look like miniatures but not exact duplicates of the adults. They would hurry off to look for their food plant in order to feed, and would gradually change into a green colour within a few days. Maybe that explained why when Itchyfingers went back the following week we couldn’t find any more nymphs…It could have already turned colour and so well camouflaged or it could have found its food plant elsewhere.

A beautiful Leaf Insect, Phasmotaenia lanyuhensis, from the Insectarium
of Taipei Zoo. The nymph we found would have grown into a similar leaf-
like adult…

Itchyfingers certainly hope to see the adult Leaf Insect one of these days! And we shall definitely keep our eyes wide open for any suspicious leaf movement from now on! :p

Also see related posts:
> Master of Disguise and Camouflage
> Touch No Evil
> Attaining Immortality – Body Preservation

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