Draw a squawk that squawks for the sheer love of squawking.
Roll it into bird-shape.
Dip it in a paintbox.
Set it loose in the trees.
Red-breasted parakeet – Singapore
Red-tailed black cockatoos – Litchfield National Park, Australia
Sulphur-crested cockatoo – Mary River National Park, Australia
Galah – Kakadu National Park, Australia
Little corellas – Mary River National Park, Australia
This, too, is Singapore.
Before the skyscrapers came, there were kampongs. On the little island of Pulau Ubin, old times are still here, and narrow roads shadowed with tropical forest twist between the village and the sea. You cycle up them, pausing to swallow buko and listen to the insects buzzing in abandoned fruit plantations. There is no mains electricity or tap water on Pulau Ubin, but there is something wilder, quieter, hotter.
It is not so many years since tigers and black leopards swam in these turquoise straits, but the largest predators today are white-bellied sea eagles.
It is stifling – always – and the skies are stiff and sullen.
Red rocks, smooth beach, hot waves – this is Singapore.
Long-tailed macaques exploiting the human presence – this is also Singapore. Nobody likes to see wildlife handling plastic, and it is rather depressing that monkeys are still affected by it even in the most anti-litter country on Earth.
Like wildlife conflict everywhere, it can be avoided with a little common sense.
But the crabs of Chek Jawa concentrate on the tides rather than people.
Pulau Ubin knew granite mining in the past. Picturesque quarries are silent reminders of an era of Chinese secret societies and massive construction in Singapore proper. Lighthouses on the main island were built out of Pulau Ubin’s bones.
The industry fell apart decades ago, and rain filled up the quarries. But nature, as ever, just carries on.
King of birds.
I rarely photograph captive animals, but made an exception at this moment.
This majestic Philippine eagle is part of the conservation programme run by the Philippine Eagle Foundation in Davao City, southern Philippines. According to the order of wild things, the Philippine eagle is the undisputed apex predator of the sweltering tropical forests of this complex archipelago. Unfortunately, like top predators everywhere, they have not fared well in human company and their status in the wild is now extremely precarious.
The foundation where this eagle lives is the species’ lifeline. Hopefully, one day it will be easier to see them in the wild again.
‘Wild’ still exists elsewhere, of course. My recent travels slipped briefly into northern Australia, a land of fire and termites which I will relate in later posts.
And over those flickering forests soars another of the world’s great raptors – the wedge-tailed eagle. I spotted this one perched on the carcass of a roadkilled-wallaby, and it flew calmly into the tree.
It is related to the golden eagle of the northern hemisphere, and has been heavily persecuted by Australian farmers in the past, although the Northern Territory protects them.
Two eagles but one sky. It would take a lifetime – many lifetimes – to learn all the living things in the forests of south-east Asia and Australasia. This journey only caught a snapshot, but I will relate its highlights over the next few days.