Fri, Jan 22, 2010
The Straits Times
The self-taught birdwatcher

HUANG JING HUI, 13, Raffles Institution

RAZOR-sharp senses and lightning quick reflexes. That is what Jing Hui needs to catch birds - on his digital SLR camera, that is.

"I keep quiet and listen carefully for the birdcalls," said the bird watcher of five years. "With that, I can judge the distance they are from me." He can recognise about half of the more than 360 species of birds that can be found in Singapore, thanks to near-perfect eyesight and, of course, a good memory.

Related link:
» Simple pleasures
» Miniature General
» Heir to a stamp fortune

"One bird may have different types of plumage, according to season," he pointed out.

Ask the quiet, reserved boy about birds and names like the pied imperial pigeon, orange-bellied flowerpecker, and pink-necked green pigeon roll off his tongue easily. He taught himself about them using the Internet and books.

Patience and endurance help too - his camera weighs more than a kilogramme, but that does not stop the slim-built boy from holding it for up to five hours at a go on his bird-watching trips.

MacRitchie Reservoir Park, the Botanic Gardens and Sungei Buloh are this nature lover's favourite haunts.

He ventures out alone once or twice a month, each time completing a hike of up to 10km at the trails that run through each nature site. His three siblings - aged 15, 17 and 19 - do not share his interest.

Although he might not catch a bird for hours on end, that only makes success sweeter. After each trip, he uploads the photos to his computer.

Despite busier school timetables - Jing Hui has basketball four times a week on top of piano lessons - he is determined to carry on bird watching. "It's better than playing computer games, right?" he smiled.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

  The self-taught birdwatcher
  Simple pleasures
  A 'new deal' for teachers, school staff
  NUS law dean term extended
  School-less girl wants to be a cop
  Furious mum slaps teacher
  Blaze at unlicensed kindergarten kills infant
  357 new teachers graduate
  Why have extra lessons after school hours?
  SMU appoints old S'pore hand as new president