No one thought that the inauguration of the village gate by Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X in 1997 was the beginning of a new life for the residents of Ketingan Hamlet, Tirtoadi Village, Mlati, Sleman.
The reason is, a few days after that, a unique phenomenon occurred. Thousands of egrets suddenly came and made nests in almost all the tall trees in the village.
Uniquely, these birds only live in Ketingan, not in other hamlets even though the neighboring hamlets have the same vegetation. The arrival of the birds, which number in the thousands, inevitably changes all sides of the lives of the residents, from ordinary to extraordinary ones.
Initially, the residents considered the presence of these birds as pests. They are afraid that the melinjo fruit production will decrease because the tree is used as a place to put a nest. They are also worried that their health will be affected by bird droppings that are abundant in the yards and in the streets of the hamlets.
That is why some residents tried to get rid of the herons. Instead of leaving, they multiplied and multiplied in number. Until finally, the residents realized and wanted to share their living space with them. No one wanted to hunt these birds anymore and signs warning not to hunt birds in Ketingan were installed in several corners. In fact, when the herons fell from their nests, the residents were willing to take care of them until they recovered and were ready to be released back into their habitat.
For animal researchers and bird lovers, Ketingan is heaven. Observing the behavior of the herons, which number 7,000, is never boring. Even the local people who have lived with them for years still observe it. The people know very well when these herons look for food, make new nests, mating season, hatching season, and migrating.
In September these egrets will migrate, leaving Ketingan for a while. Their voices will not be heard loud and no one in the morning accompanies the farmers to cultivate the fields. They disappeared for a moment, allowing the residents to return to normal life as they were before these birds arrived. It is only in mid-October that these herons come home, return to nesting and live as usual.
Apart from bird watching, Merti Bumi’s routine event which is always held in September also attracts attention. At the event, various art and cultural performances such as puppet shows, kirab and feasts as a form of gratitude to the Creator for the abundant produce of the land can be witnessed.
Deciding to stay there a few days and immerse yourself in the euphoria would have been nice. If you don’t have time to come in September, try live a few days before the main harvest period and celebrate wiwitan (thanksgiving before the rice harvest) or come before planting and follow the angler tradition (salvation before the rice planting period).
Apart from these events, Ketingan Tourism Village remains open to those who want to know and learn a lot about these birds while enjoying traditional arts such as gejog lesung, jathilan to performances of pek bung (traditional musical instruments that are beaten and made of kerosene).
When visiting there, don’t forget to wear a hat or head protector so you don’t get bird droppings. Photography lovers should bring a telephoto lens to take pictures of birds as they are always a considerable distance away.
In order not to lose the moment, try to come in the morning or evening when these birds are looking for food in the fields and then return to their nests. It will be even more fun if we visit it during the season for farmers to plow their fields.
These herons will be clearly visible without being hindered by the rice plants. It feels like having the opportunity to visit and see this unique phenomenon makes us realize that sharing life with other living things is beautiful and fun.
Location: Ketingan Hamlet, Tirtoadi Village, Mlati, Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Ketingan Tourism Village Opening Hours: Monday – Sunday: open 24 hours