Saturday, November 01, 2008

Blue-winged Pitta at Bishan

I was busy going through the draft of one of our latest publications on Wednesday night, when I received this comment on my blog on the Mangrove Pitta:

Hello, I am from singapore, but apparently I think a mangrove pitta flew into my house in Bishan! It looks almost exactly liek the one in your pictures; i found ur page from googling mangrove pitta. I dont know what to do with it ! its now in a basket with a blanket. It makes a LOUD sound , goes, KAAAK KAAAK, but it has a brilliant blue colour. i thought it was a kingfisher. Should I just let it out onto the road area???!?!?!?!?! i stay along a terrace road , and actually, I hope u do read this on time, so you could offer some advice.. it doesnt seem to be able to fly that steadily yet. WHAT DO I DO WITH IT??

Mangrove pitta in Bishan??!!??!! He later also posted a note on my chat box. Hmm... Could it be a blue-winged pitta instead? I quickly responded to him.

Hi! Thanks for leaving a note here! It could be a blue wing pitta which looks very similar except for a more distinct black band on its head, but can't say for sure unless you can send me a good photo. The mangrove pitta is usually found in the mangroves, but the blue wing pitta is a migrant and can be found in other wooded areas. If it is healthy, you can just release it in the wooded areas.

Anyway, we eventually exchanged emails and that guy (I shall refer to him as two dollars, or $2 for short from now on) emailed me a photo of the bird. Sure looked like a blue-winged pitta to me.

According to "An Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Singapore", the blue-winged pitta (Pitta moluccensis) is an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant. It breeds in Southern China, Vietnam, Mynanmar, Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia. In Singapore, dead or injured birds have been picked up from suburban areas throughout mainland and Jurong Island. It can be spotted in Singapore from October to April.

Managed to chat with $2 (make a guess why I call him $2?) on MSN later, and found out that the blue-winged pitta flew into his house and actually knocked into the windows a few times.

$2 (yah, I didn't want to use his real name for privacy reasons, but why $2?) was thinking of sending it to Jurong Bird Bird. But I was thinking, if the bird appeared healthy, then it might be better to just set it free, but perhaps not at his house but in a park in case it crashed into something again.

The thing is, it was rather late, and $2 (no, he didn't sell the pitta for $2... he's a rather nice person actually, or at least from first impression... haha) was worried that the pitta might get eaten by cats or what ever. So I suggested that he could release it the next morning.

Frankly speaking, I was getting rather excited by this actually - I also wanted to see the blue-winged pitta!!! So I asked him if i can meet him early Thursday morning when he's going to release the bird, and he agreed!

He also asked what we should do if the pitta can't fly tomorrow and ended up hopping around. I told him I can bring it to NUS to nurse it back to health, unless he wanted to do it himself. If the bird didn't survive (touch wood), I can get my colleague (who else but LK) to stuff it with cotton wool and immortalise it. Wahahahahaaa...

We do have a few blue-winged pitta specimens in the museum. I guess many of them were not so lucky when they crashed into glass windows - they ended up with cracked skulls and died...

I later also found out from $2 (no, I didn't have to pay him $2 to see the pitta) that he's studying in NUS! What a coincidence!

Anyway, the next morning, I quickly made my way to Bishan before I went to work. And in a nearby park, I saw $2 (no, I didn't spent $2 on transport to get to Bishan) and his mum. He was holding a big basket with the pitta inside.

The bird was getting very restless then, and I only managed to get one miserable shot. As it was like movinig around a lot, so the photo was a little out-of-focus.

Anyway, $2 (last chance to guess why...) removed the blanket covering the basket, and off it went! Disappeared in a flash among the trees...

Well, what a way to start a morning! Thanks to $2 for contacting me about the blue-wing pitta, allowing me to use your pitta photo, let me see the pitta, and also didn't mind that I called you $2. Haha...

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