This morning, I was finally able to get a couple of pictures of this beautiful bird behind my house. I spotted it many times but was always too late to bring out the camera. It would appear in the early morning, upsetting the yellow orioles as well as the koels. There would be an intense chasing around with loud calls echoing through the tree tops. This morning I finally had a chance to hear the deep call of the Turaco. I've previously mistaken it for an alternative repertoire of the koel.
My pictures are far from the clear shots of an expert photographer so please accept my apologies.. I will try again with my simple camera. I may get lucky one day.
I've always thought that it is a big black bird with red wings and a head crest. After consulting with my colleague who is a bird watcher, he positively identified it as a Turaco and the next picture gave more details. It is in fact greenish on top, and has white bands around the eyes. My colleague explained to me that the bird appeared black because I was always watching it from below against the light!!
Last year Jason gave me a chili from India. The friend who gave it to him said it is very hot so I presume it must be one of those chilies related to the "Devil's Chili" (Bhut Jolokia). After a year in the pot, the seedlings are now quite matured and are flowering and fruiting now. The very first pod is still green though but already looking like a devil.
The open-air market from the airport to the city looks interesting so we couldn't resist asking the driver to stop there. We Singaporeans never miss any shopping opportunity!
This is an interesting bird call Hoopoe. Found it foraging among the grass in the Folk Heritage Musuem on my first day in Bhutan. The little boy is doing what boys do - harass the poor bird.
Near the entrance there are many beautiful roses growing. Roses have never been my favourtite flower but the roses in Bhutan are really huge and colorful.
On the second day of the trip, we had to do an introductory hike which would help us to acclimatise to the high altitude. Along the way, there were interesting finds too. I spotted a clump of Bulbophyllums at the bottom of the trial.
There is also an interesting bird which was not really afraid of humans. It stayed on its perch for a long time despite me snapping away just a few feet away.
On top of the trail is the Chagri Dorjen Monastery and Tango University of Buddhist Studies. Beautiful flowers are everywhere!
These are some of the plants belonging to the Piperaceae family. I find them quite fascinating becasue they are used in many of our local cuisine so i grow some of them in my little backyard.
The most famous of them all is non other than the Pepper vine (Piper nigrum) where black pepper and white pepper comes from. This is a very easy plant to grow and produces many bunches of green pepper seeds which turns red if left on the vine. I got interested in the pepper vine not because of the ground pepper that we use in many of our dishes but after a visit to Chiang Rai. At Chiang Rai we booked a tour to the Golden Triangle and had lunch at the food stalls beside the Mekong River. One of the dishes we ordered was a local Northern Thai dish with sliced pork belly, thai ginger, vegetables and strings of green pepper; all fried to perfection in a savoury thai-style sauce. So i must get my hands on some bunches of green peppers in order to re-create the dish at home. After growing the vine for about 6 months, it produced about 10 strings of peppers which is not too bad. The pic below shows the strings of peppers near the base of the vine.
The next Piper is Piper sarmentosum, also known as Piper lolot probably because the Vietnamese name for the leave is 'la lot'. This is an important plant used in many South-East Asian dishes where the leaves are used as a wrap or in salads. It is also known as 'Cha Phlu' in Thai and 'Kadok' in Malay. It is the leaf used in the popular Thai dish call 'Mieng Kham'. In Singapore, we hardly use this leave in our diet ( our greens are quite limited ) but we see lots of this plant in our parks and gardens, thanks to Npark and our many Landscaping contractors. This plant is not only easy to grow, it can become invasive if allowed to roam freely.
My last Piper is the stimulating betel, Piper betle. This is an extremely important plant for many cultures where betel quid is consumed. It contains betel leaf, areca nut (Pinang), slaked lime and often tobacco as well. This is the stuff that stains the saliva and makes the mouth red; a stimulant that keeps many long distance truck drivers awake in Taiwan. This leave has a lemony acidic taste, stronger and sharper than Kadok and leaves a trail in the throat. I've used the tender young leaves to wrap pieces of fish meat and the combination is very good and healthy as well. The pic below shows the beautiful young leaves climbing onto a pvc pipe.
At last, the true identity of the little hovering visitor. It is a Hummingbird Hawk Moth!(Macroglossum stellatarum)
No wonder we were all mistaken. It is called the Hummingbird Moth because it really looks like one. But on closer observation, the antennae and proboscis immediately gives it away. This time, i am prepared and after taking about ten shots, i managed to find a few decent pics which shows more details of this wonderfully deceptive insect. I am using the Panasonic Lumix G1(on built-in flash, Sports mode and auto-focus).
I am of course disappointed that it turns out to be not a bird but a moth instead but this only goes to show how successful this little insect is at keeping up its deception.
But the good thing that came out of this encounter is that i learned how to take pics of insects in flight instead of the usual stationary flower. In fact, the previous pics were all taken with my macro lens fitted - no wonder there was not a single useful pic.
It is a little tricky trying to photograph this moth because it comes at about 7.20 pm when the sky is getting dark. The timing is almost the same everytime. That's the general comment about wildlife - if you see it at a spot today, take note of the time cos tomorrow it will be there at the same time.
7.20 pm is a bit late for a bird - I should have known.
These are some of the clear shots:
I happen to take the underside of this moth too.
This is another shot with the wings on the upsweep.
I am sorry i did not manage to get a clear pic of this little bird. I was so excited that i forgot to set it to high ISO. The bird is slightly longer than an inch and was ziping around so fast that i had a hard time catching up with it. The wings are a blurr but the body can still be vaguely visible.If you compare the bird to the size of the "shui mei" flower then you get a good idea how small this bird is. I hope nobody would think it is an insect and bring out the baygon.
Can you see how small this little bird is. It is the size of a bee!!
I believe this is known as Japanes Sweet Potato is supermarkets here. I replanted the vine about 4 months ago and the vines were soon going everywhere so i decided i better harvest whatever there is and replant again.
I grow the vine in a planter so the vines have nowhere else to deposit the tubers except inside the planter. So when the time
for harvesting comes i simply tip the planter over and look for the tuber. The down side of this method is that the soil soon loses its nutrients and needs to be replaced.
I used to plant the vines directly in the ground but what happened was i got a lot of small tubers and it was really difficult to dig them out of the ground. So i thought i rather have one large tuber than 20 to 30 small ones after 3-4 months..
The leaves are also edible but if you cut away too many then the vines won't produce big tubers.