Sekinchan is better known for its seafood restaurants than its bird life. But when it comes to Heron nesting sites it’s one of the best we have come across.
For the past few weeks we have been following developments at a particularly busy nesting colony comprising at least a hundred Black Crowned Night Herons and Little Egrets. The interesting thing about this location is that it is right next to a busy side road in the center of town. The birds are oblivious to the buzz of motorcycles and smoking trucks and are not fussed at all by our standing on the side of the road less than 10m from the messy bunch of sticks that make up the nests. Better still, many of the nests are at eye level so it is easy to photograph the action.
Whilst many of the Night Herons are still constructing nests, most are sitting on eggs which should start hatching any day. While one Heron sits on the nest the other brings back food or sticks to reinforce the nest. The stick is gently passed from the carrier to the sitting bird that twists and weaves it into place. Any intrusion near the nest by another bird is met with an aggressive fighting stance of puffed feathers and rebuffed with a sharp stab of the beak.
Fortunately there are a few early born Heron chicks to be seen. These young birds are a photographers dream. They are so ugly they are beautiful. They are also extremely ungainly and its breathtaking to see them balancing on thin branches as they wait for a parent to return with food. Just as it seems they are about to tip off and fall to earth they manage to recover their balance and composure. A ritual of cheating death that is repeated for hours and hours.
This mixed nesting activity makes for interesting photography. In between shooting birds as they glide into land with sticks in their mouth there are squabbling neighbors fighting over a preferred perch to photograph. Then when the parents return with food for the young chicks, it’s all go to reposition the camera in time to catch the feeding frenzy.
Watching the young hatchlings as they scramble to be first to the parents beak full of food is watching nature at its cruelest. It is an ungainly mad scramble across small branches to be first. Coming second is not an option as it means no food. More often than not the stronger of the chicks prevails by simply overpowering the weaker sibling. The parents don’t seem concerned at all. Whichever of the chicks is first gets the meal. So, unless the weaker one manages to get something, it is condemned to a hot and hungry short life that ends when it can no longer balance itself and falls from the tree to be picked off by the monitor lizards waiting below.
The activities of the Little Egrets is different. All are sitting on eggs with only one nest so far having hatched a very young pair. These are gentle and graceful birds and their nesting plumage is spectacular. The challenge is to photograph them in flight. Unlike the Herons that prefer a long slow gliding descent, the Egrets opt for a steep twisting descent that is very difficult to catch, track and shoot.
The activity at this site is so interesting we will continue to watch it over the next few weeks and hopefully be able to record some shots of the Egret chicks. Incase anyone is interested the GPS coordinates of the site are N03-30.289, E101-06.018. Don’t expect jungle, this is Malaysian small town photography at its best!!