As part of the course criteria in my Ecology and Biodiversity degree, I underwent an internship at Putrajaya Corporation, where I worked with the City Planning Department, under the Environment, Lake, and Wetland Division for two months.
One of the main tasks I was given during my term of internship at Putrajaya Corporation was to conduct a mini project based on an approved topic of my choice. I decided to study why some migratory birds those come to Putrajaya Lake and Wetlands end up overstaying or nesting instead of migrating back to their place of origin.
From my discussions with Cik Normaliza Noordin, my supervisor at Putrajaya, I learnt that most migratory bird species that overstay or nest concentrate on the Upper Bisa area of the wetlands. I decided to concentrate my research on Upper Bisa because of the isolated nature of the man-made islands in the first wetland cell of Upper Bisa.
The man-made islands of Upper Bisa, circled in red. (Image credit: Google maps)
There are no human-related activities there, as kayaking, fishing, swimming et cetera, are strictly prohibited, thus allowing for a more secure environment for the birds to stay and breed without human disturbance or interference. This is as natural as it can get in a man-made environment, allowing me to observe the birds’ natural behaviour. I was keen to ascertain the reasons why ‘migrant’ bird species become residents.
I got in contact with Mr. Mike Chong, a freelance contractor who conducts bird surveillance for Putrajaya. I interviewed him and joined him on one of his surveys to observe how bird surveillance is done. I learned how to observe both visually and by ear, and to be quick as some of the birds are quite fast. Mr. Mike Chong taught me how to examine the subtleties that distinguish bird species that seem similar.
There were four species that were overstaying/nesting, namely the Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Great Egret (Egretta alba), Intermediate Egret (Egretta intermedia) and Little Egret (Egretta garzetta). I then tracked all of their flight paths from their country of origin, and documented their stopover areas and their final stop, Putrajaya.
A Little Egret stares out into the distance. (Photo credit: Siti Norasiah Abd Kadir)
According to Mr. Mike Chong, most of the migratory birds usually just stop over in Malaysia on the way to Australia, New Zealand, or the Pacific Islands. Since the establishment of Putrajaya Lake and Wetlands, many species have opted to continue living on in the lake and wetlands area of Putrajaya instead of ending their layovers and moving on. Putrajaya Lake and Wetlands may function as a new niche for these ‘visitors’ to occupy, with a large amount of resources and lack of human interference in their habitat.
From what I have researched so far, these species look for the areas where the conditions are tropical or sub-tropical of climate. Putrajaya, besides providing an ideal area fitting the criteria, is also free from natural disasters such as hail and hurricanes, which adds to the incentive for the migratory species to stay on at Putrajaya Lake and Wetlands.
The significance of this study is that I was able to observe how Putrajaya Lake and Wetlands area is akin to a ‘living lab’, where I learned how migratory species came little by little and fully conquered the available niches in a new area. This is also a chance for species that cannot thrive in their native areas to find a better life in an area with less or no competition.
Future developments can take note: integrate the green concept with modernization, in accordance with the sustainable development concept that prioritises the preservation of nature. It would be interesting to study whether areas that are devastated of their ecological richness may be recovered by establishing man-made wetlands, or other forms of natural environment.
Wetland habitats provide ideal conditions for the breeding and support of mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and invertebrates. This photograph depicts the central wetlands in the Rimba Ilmu Botanic Garden. (Photo credit: Benjamin Ong)
Diyaa Mani is a fourth-year Ecology and Biodiversity student at the University of Malaya.