Almost exactly one year ago today I set out to seek a wintering Black-backed Kingfisher at one of my local patches, the Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest, in conjunction with the annual Global Big Day. The dwarf king managed to elude me on that occasion. And now, here I am again, attempting to locate another or possibly the same Black-backed Kingfisher during a Global Big Day. They say lightning never strikes the same place twice. Well, I can pretty much guess they are not birders and have no idea how cruel birding can be. Yet again, this spectacular little bird refused to reveal itself and lightning certainly struck twice – thrice in fact if I really wanted to lament about another failed attempt two years ago. However, it was not all gloom for despite the wet and cold week that was, it was a surprising beautiful morning today.
This birding location has lost much of its lustre and the dawn chorus is noticeably less impressive of late. One species that is still prominent is the Olive-winged Bulbul. Its bubbly territorial call filled the vicinity of the concrete boardwalk. In fact, one was using the boardwalk ropes as a stage for its post-dawn repertoire.
It may not be uncommon or exceptionally striking but the Olive-winged Bulbuls put on a grand performance today and that certainly provided some cheer.
Some cuckoos have the tendency to be unobtrusive. I would have walked passed this one if not for the exposed perch it alighted on. It was very cooperative and I had ample time to observe and photograph. And yet, I was indecisive of its identity. Juvenile cuckoos can be difficult to distinguish and this youngster was putting me to the test. It boiled down to either a Plaintive Cuckoo or a Brush Cuckoo and I was leaning towards the latter.
After consulting my buddies, my initial guess was right and it was indeed a Brush Cuckoo – a species that I have not recorded before from this location.
As it was a Global Big Day, I tried to record down as many species as possible and stopping only when good photographic opportunities presented themselves. However, the peculiar call of the Black-and-Red Broadbill immediately halted my efforts. For this bird does not required any good photographic opportunities to have my undivided attention. It is probably one of the most striking and charismatic feathered denizen at this locality. And a pair was frolicking about the forest canopy.
Unfortunately, the lighting condition was unforgiving and I was struggling to obtain any decent shots.
Meanwhile, a Common Myna was happily singing as it foraged close to where I had positioned myself below the broadbills. This bird is just so full of character and I cannot help thinking it is somewhat amused by my desperate attempts for better images of the broadbills.
The sweet song of the Mangrove Blue Flycatcher which was missing from the dawn chorus started to serenade the surroundings later in the morning. It has been months since I last saw this stunning species and this confiding male reminded me why it is such a favourite with my foreign guests. The pandemic has prevented any foreigners from entering Malaysia and my guiding endeavours for now are nothing more than memories. The recent spike in the number of coronavirus cases has covered my country with a cloud of uncertainty again and we can only hope and wait for the sun to shine through once more.
Another soothing moment was the encounter with the sole female Indochinese Blue Flycatcher of this locality. I am not certain of the lifespan of this flycatcher but this girl has brightened up my trips here often enough to have me missing her due to my inconsistent visits to this site nowadays.
The minute Black-thighed Falconet is a regular feature here in Air Hitam Dalam. Something in the lower canopy level caught the interest of this individual and made it dived down from its lofty vantage point. Now within the range of my camera, I was presented with this unexpected opportunity to capture some images of this beautiful raptor. Well, at least I can take comfort that one dwarf was showing well enough.
As the temperature rose, the migratory Black Kites started to soar above their wintering ground. For years these graceful raptors have taken refuge here and from the looks of things, this season will not be any different. The kites wrapped things up for this time and despite missing out on the kingfisher again, it was a relatively enjoyable day out in the field with a decent count for my Big Day as well.