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Wednesday June 12, 2013

Observe birding ethics and etiquette, please

No cakes. No fruits. No water.

These are simply reminders to the public not to leave food or water for a female Oriental Pied hornbill, known to locals as Faridah, currently nesting in Piasau Camp, Miri.

The people are advised not to get too close to the hornbill or disturb it as this will only cause stress to the bird.

The same rule applies to other birds found in the camp, said Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Miri Branch chairman Musa Musbah.

He said although some people meant no harm when they approached the nest up close, they need to be educated on some bird-watching ethics and etiquettes.

MNS Miri Branch members had been observing Faridah or the mama bird, and Jimmy the papa bird, from a safe distance and recorded on video several people going too near to the nest a few days ago.

“A family came bringing fruit to feed the bird. My friend who was there told them not to do it. Last year someone brought cake for the bird. Seeing the bird panting, some even brought mineral water,” he said.

“People do not understand nature. They thought the bird is friendly and needs help to get food like those living in cages.”

From MNS’ observation, the public could bring all the food they like — papayas, bananas and grapes — but the mama bird would never take it, he pointed out.

Instead, Faridah would scream for help from Jimmy, he said.

“Mama bird will not take food from anyone except from papa bird,” he told The Star in Kuching.

Video recordings showing Faridah’s distress calls when approached by people can be seen at Save Piasau Oriental Pied Hornbill new nestings page on Facebook. The purpose of these video recordings is to educate the public, not to penalise anyone captured in the video.

Among other things, there are healthy debates between netizens on the need for relevant authorities to put up a strong message telling people not to feed or get too near to the nesting area.

Musa said Mirians were actually concerned about the birds’ well-being and were anxious to see a successful hatching.

He said MNS Miri would continue to educate the public on the dos and don’ts on bird watching and nature appreciation.

He explained that it was normal for the female bird to gasp while incubating her eggs and therefore, there was no need for the public to give it water.

He said such good intention was not necessary as Jimmy was a good provider to Faridah which could not leave the nest for the time being.

The hornbills picked the dry season to lay eggs because it would be good for hatching, he said. Faridah has been incubating her eggs for about a month and expecting some young chicks anytime soon.

Piasau Camp that covers about 100ha is synonymous with Miri’s oil and gas industry development. Just a 15-minute drive from Miri city, the quiet residential area is home to expatriates who work for Shell. With no fencing, unlike other housing estates, it consists of mostly wooden houses in a natural environment close to the beaches.

A study by Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, MNS and local community showed that the camp was a habitat for 41 species of birds, 25 mammals, 10 butterflies and five amphibians.

Presently, there are 15 Oriental Pied hornbills including a few juveniles.

Some of the universal birding etiquette and ethics are as the followings:

·Be mindful of the birds’ welfare as their welfare comes first.

·Do not harass and disturb their nests, chicks and eggs. Always keep a distance from nesting and feeding birds because if one gets too close to them, one may cause the bird parents to abandon their nests.

·One should minimise movements and keep quiet especially when there are other birders around.

·Photographers should not go too close to the nests and keep each photography session brief to avoid stressing the birds.

·Learn to recognise stress behaviour in birds and move away immediately if they exhibit any sign of it.

·Wear dull-coloured clothes such as dull and dark green, brown or grey to blend in with the environment.

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