When starfruits fall from the sky and rare birds just fly by

Love MacRitchie Walk with NUS Toddycats
Sunday 9 Apr 2017
Text by Teresa Teo Guttensohn
Photos by Chloe Tan

Why do we gals look so exhilarated? Next time you are out taking a morning walk at MacRitchie Forest, and you hear crunching-and-a-munching, and starfruits begin to plop down from the sky, make sure to hang around and look up!

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Teresa Teo Guttensohn (Cicada Tree Eco-Place) and Chloe Tan (NUS Toddycats) with freshly chomped starfruits (Averrhoa carambola), that plopped right in front of them during a free public Love MacRitchie Walk on Sunday, 9 Apr 2017.
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Blue-rumped Parrot (Psittinus cyanurus)

Here’s the cute culprit! After patiently craning our necks for some time, we saw two gorgeous Blue-rumped Parrots (Psittinus cyanurus) sitting apart happily breakfasting on green starfruits. While trying to get to its favourite part of the fruit – the seeds, the parrots drop bits of starfruit flesh and sometimes the entire fruit. Watching these nationally critically endangered forest birds dining contentedly in their native element was pure joy! Blue-rumped Parrots are also globally near threatened owing to the extensive loss of lowland forest habitat in Southeast Asia, making the protected forests in the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Nature Reserves very important habitats for this species.

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Long-tailed Parakeet (Psittacula longicauda)

Joining the starfruit breakfast buffet party were some adorable, cheeky Long-tailed Parakeets (Psittacula longicauda) with their distinctive green caps and rosy cheeks.

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This one’s mine! Are you watching me? See, I can hold an entire starfruit with one foot!

Just when we thought the morning wild bird parade couldn’t get any rosier, something relatively large and dark flapped by. I looked up eagerly and could not believe that sitting calmly overhead was my first sighting of a Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus)!

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Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus)

I had been longing to spot one in our forests! My friend Andrew later told me that the Raffles’s Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus chlorophaeus) and Red-billed Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus javanicus) are sadly extinct in Singapore. Hopefully, the last surviving Malkoha species still to be seen here, the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus), will not be sharing a similar fate.

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Forest-dependent native species like the Blue-rumped Parrot and Chestnut-bellied Malkoha are a part of our ever-dwindling natural heritage, which we must strive to protect before they are gone forever. To do so we must conserve our last remaining precious rainforests.

For the next 15 minutes or so, whilst the charismatic bird fluttered nonchalantly from branch to branch alongside the trail, calling softly and looking about for insects and lizards, I was underneath hopping excitedly with a non-stop litany of “WOWs”! It didn’t matter that my mobile telephone was not up to the task of capturing it on screen, witnessing it up close was a dream for me. Fortunately Chloe and others had whipped out their longer lenses.

WATCH IT ON TV
The only regretful thing was that the TV media crew that had followed us out for the volunteer-led “Love MacRitchie” free public walk had actually missed the whole rare winged parade! Catch the interview to be telecast on Tuesday, 2 May 2017 on Channel 8 Morning Express at 9.15am to 9.30am. Watch it on Toggle HERE.

JOIN “Love MacRitchie” Free Public Walks by Cicada Tree Eco-Place
Registration: email Teresa at contactCTEP@gmail.com with your full name and contact number.
Sat 13 May 2017 (fully subscribed) and Tue 23 May 2017 (led by Vilma D’Rozario; fully subscribed)
9am to 11am
Windsor Nature Park and Venus Loop
Registration required, capped at 20 pax per session
Meet 15 minutes before at 8.45am at Venus Drive Carpark

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