JIMMY AND JULIET – LOVEBIRDS OF PIASAU NATURE RESERVE
Piasau Camp, back in the 60s’ was once a housing estate for expatriate staff and senior Malaysian employees of Sarawak Shell Berhad. Surrounded by casuarinas and other major secondary forest vegetations, Piasau Camp harbours a viable biodiversity of small mammal species, and herpetofauna.
Back in 2008, a small interest group had worked closely with SARAWAK FORESTRY to monitor a small population of Oriental-pied hornbills. The sightings of the species have since then been vigilantly documented by nature lovers which in turn took a serious turn in 2012. Impactful interest by public at large had driven the living estate into Miri city’s very own green lung, Piasau Nature Reserve.
We, the citizens of Miri owed Jimmy and his family of 19 and counting for making Piasau Nature Reserve to. Jimmy, a handsome male Oriental-pied hornbill is in his tender age of adulthood had been the leader of this community for the past couple of years even before PNR’s gazettement in 2013.
Like any hero in big screen movies, Jimmy himself faired in the looks department with a solid cylinder shaped like casque above its bill, he has got the looks worth salivating for. Jimmy however has got his eyes fixed only to his long – time partner Faridah. We all know that hornbills are meant to mate for life and indeed they took the oath “till death do us part” earnestly. With Faridah, these dynamic couple had altogether produced approximately 56 offspring since 2005 till the day Faridah’s life was brutally taken by a group of delinquents in September 2013.
Jimmy, defenseless and for the first time in his life, without a partner roamed alone around the reserve. Calling and yelping helplessly, constantly searching for Faridah. Fortunately, Faridah did not die in vain. In the wake of her death, the camp had finally been gazetted as a Nature Reserve on the 31st of December 2013. Faridah’s carcass which had been preserved by the Museum Department had been returned back to us here in Miri and is now kept safely at SFC’s Ranger Post, H58 of PNR.
For the first couple of months, still mourning over the death of Faridah, Jimmy continuously call and yelp making so much noises and he was observed as very restless. When Faridah’s carcass was being displayed by the window of H58, Jimmy would come by and perched on the window ledge from the outside. Not only did he perched, he will also pecked on the window screen probably with the hope that Faridah can come back to life and fly away with him again. This act of desperation prove that the bond established between both Jimmy and Faridah was indeed very solid and strong.
Not too long after the gazettement of PNR, Jimmy was then observed to have taken a new love interest. Which lovely female had managed to capture his eyes we wondered? Juliet, a juvenile OPH, prettier than most females in the hood had captivated Jimmy with her mesmerizing brown iris. After several attempt in courtship and mating, Juliet had finally produced a pair of offspring namely Musa and Cecelia.
The young OPH fledged their nest in March 2015 and since then, they were always seen flying, roosting together in a family of four around PNR. Jimmy, a very protective partner and parent had never leave his small family out of sight. Displaying his defensive tactics, he will maneuver evasively in defense of his family yelping loudly whenever he sensed some dangers in his surrounding. Constantly ‘rubbing shoulders’ with the brahminy kite communities in the park, Jimmy can be quite a gangster himself.
Where there is Jimmy perching, there will always be Juliet and their young nearby. Feeding on leban, ficus and palm fruits, the young had grown up well and progressively. Still under close supervision of both parents, the young are learning to find their own food. Frequently observed to be perching on the rooftop of H58, Musa will always peck on the roof probably searching for bugs and insects to eat. Cecilia too were observed to display the same behavior.
Occasionally this little family are seen to roost on top of our cars and were seen playing around with pebbles at the compound of H58. A very amazing sight indeed knowing that we can see these birds very closely compare to some people unfortunately can only admire the beauty of these birds in the zoo or enclosure. On certain days, when the weather is fine, Jimmy and his family would come by H58, perching on the window ledge and would just ‘peek’ inside the office. Not disturbed by our movements in the house, the birds can stay at the spot for a max of 7 minutes before flying off to the dead Acacia tree behind H58.
Recently, we had noticed that Musa, one of the young had started to grow its casque. Although not prominent, but this shows that Musa will soon grow into adulthood and knowing how territorial Jimmy can get, Musa’s time in PNR are numbered. We know what their activities are in the daytime, however where they are and what they do at night remained a mystery. As off now, we had little information of what happens when night falls, but we will soon find out through further surveys.