For The Love Of Feathers

Our chirpy neighbours

My name is Rod Gowen…

I am a retired British Telecom Health and Safety Manager, raised in a small seaside town called Ilfracombe, on the North Devon coast in England. My interest in watching birds started when I was young. At school, when I was ten years old, I won first prize in an art competition and with the prize money, 10 shillings, I bought my first bird book which I still have.


So I was delighted, when I was invited to Tropical Spice Garden to make a list of birds that can be seen there. My first visit was on 6th March 2015.

My name is Steven Struyck…

I am a retired Export Manager and was born in the eastern part of Holland. I used to register meadow birds in Holland which meant watching birds over the expanse of meadows without trees. My local experience in Penang covers five years of watching birds in the skies and on tree tops. In both situations, the watching concerned mostly medium to large size birds.

Armed with a new camera, I discovered I had a “talent” to make rather good photos of animals which can be spotted here in Penang

For the first time, Rod and Steven met at the entrance of Tropical Spice Garden on 2nd February 2016. Having exchanged some information on each other’s background, they clicked right away over their common fondness for feathery friends!

Rod, being more familiar with the grounds of Tropical Spice Garden, introduced Steven to the various locations ideal for bird spotting. They decided to use the tea kiosk in the Bamboo Garden as their common spot as they both agreed that bird watching is a matter of endless patience to be exercised in a central location.

For Steven, it was a new experience because bird watching in Tropical Spice Garden consists of looking mostly upwards into the foliage of trees. Also, listening to the songs of birds in order to locate the -mostly- tiny birds is essential. Shooting photos of such small and fast moving creatures is an art by itself and not easy, but slowly and surely some progress was made.

Good ears are needed to follow the flight path of birds by means of detecting the change of direction and distance of the incoming sounds. As a certain degree of concentration is needed, the both of them try to avoid being distracted by tourists and hence, start their bird watching at about 8.30am; Rod arrives a little earlier to register the birds at the beach in front of Tropical Spice Garden. They finish up about noon as it gets too hot and the presence of birds declines for the same reason.

Recognition is mostly visual although sometimes the call of a bird is enough to identify it. Rod and Steven each carry illustrated books with them so that possible guessing can be eliminated. So far, they have seen over fifty different species. Each visit has been recorded on a database called “Bird Jar”.

The Tropical Spice Garden is a very beautiful place and we have enjoyed every minute we have spent there…while watching birds, one can really get involved with Mother Nature


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