There is a part of me I rarely mention in my postings. Birding is my one true passion but it does not really put food on the table. My life in the often-overrated and insane world of advertising does. Most of the time, I run things from command central and do not get to see our finished products in the flesh all that often. Anyway, I picked up my latest guests from one of the latest hotels to spring up on the island and it so happened that my company was responsible for their signage works. Well, the hotel certainly has one of the trendiest lobbies I have seen here in my home state and I cannot help but to feel proud that we played a role in it.
With the fruiting tree at Bukit Wang still bringing in the birds, I decided to take another trip up north to the locality with my Australian guests. For the third time in recent weeks, I had to wade across the stream to get to the forested area. I expected the Dark-sided Flycatchers to be at their usual haunt and I was right. However, this one looked a bit different and it turned out to be a juvenile bringing the total now to three birds at this spot.
Juvenile birds usually cannot measure up to the beauty of the adult birds. But they sure are adorable and confiding as well. The youngsters went about its routine without any hesitance despite the presence of human birders.
Another drab little bird caught my attention as it scurried about the nearby understorey. Upon further scrutiny, it was a she and one confiding girl if I might add. The Dark-necked Tailorbird may be common throughout the country in suitable habitats but it is no easy bird to photograph.
The fruiting tree was disappointingly quiet upon our arrival. I find this particular fruiting tree a bit odd. The bird species recorded at the tree varies quite a bit the two times I have been here. And this morning, there were no birds at all until a pair of Buff-vented Bulbuls came along later in the morning.
The fruits were far from depleted and yet, it was about as cheerful as a cemetery here. A short while later, a pair of Cream-vented Bulbuls decided to pop in. Unfortunately, the one bulbul I wanted to reshoot never gave me that opportunity today and the Puff-backed Bulbul keeps its place securely in my priority list.
A skulking flycatcher in the forest understorey next to the fruiting tree turned out to be a female Chinese Blue-Flycatcher. When a second bird was heard calling, the encounter was taken to a whole new level. And my hunch was right. The second bird was indeed a male and he was a fine looking bird. When he finally alighted on an exposed perch, he had his back towards us which was his least appealing side.
Patiently we waited. I even said a silent prayer and on this rare occasion, the Almighty heard me. The male Chinese Blue Flycatcher turned around to reveal his true splendour. This was undoubtedly the highlight of the visit here for me. Even the absence of the male Pale Blue Flycatcher was no longer a thorn at my side.
Our next destination was the mangroves of Sungai Batu and the birds here gave my guests a very warm reception indeed. It did not take long for the male Mangrove Blue Flycatcher to show off his vivid colouration and captured our undivided attention.
The Forest Wagtails casually strolled into view and another strikingly marked feathered denizen gets a tick in my guest’s field guide. My guests this time were old school birders armed only with binoculars and field guide. While they were savouring the wagtail visually, I tried my best to capture at least one photo was that does not have a prominent motion blur anywhere on the bird.
I was delighted to see the Stripe-throated Bulbuls again and from the looks of it, this attractive bulbul will be regular feature in the trips to come. The face markings of the Stripe-throated Bulbuls reminded me of the villain Bane from the Batman movie but there is nothing sinister about them. In fact, they are the exact opposite.
With such an array of colours and splendour around, the non-descript Abbott’s Babblers were finding it tough to gain attention. Striking an unusual pose will usually do the trick though...
But when the star bird finally made an appearance, all eyes were on it. I may be somewhat immune to the charm and beauty of the Mangrove Pitta but to my guests, it was magical. My guest even describes the encounter later using that same word. That, ladies and gentlemen, are pittas in a nutshell. Magical creatures that will always evoke a sense of awe and admiration with such magnitude that very few other species can conjure.
The White-breasted Waterhen’s comical appearance is a welcomed sighting to any excursion. And to have one at such close proximity is an added bonus.
Scything through the skies above the adjacent paddy fields, the Dollarbird can still be an impressive sight despite being a common species. However, good lighting is required to capture its iridescent plumage and this image is not quite up to mark.
Our next stop was the industrial park in Kulim. Here, we hunted for roosting Savana Nightjars along the cemented embankment. I knew where the birds usually roost but that knowledge almost got me nowhere as I failed to locate a single bird on the way in. I had to dig deep on the way out. The harsh midday sun offered no comfort to my squinted eyes. Then among the long grass area, I noticed what appeared to be hope nestled among the vegetation. A sigh of relief escaped my lips as hope turned into reality and I began the tedious task of describing the location of the nightjar to my excited guests. To a couple of old school birders, a Savanna Nightjar partially hidden is still a mesmerizing encounter.
Next in line were the paddy fields of mainland Penang. I was feeling a little lucky having recorded my first Greater Spotted Eagle of the season just a few days ago and decided to scan the pylons for any signs of its majestic presence here as well. Sure enough, my second Greater Spotted Eagle of the season was resting on a distant pylon. Distance was a huge hindrance to my photographic efforts but I am just delighted to see this eagle back here for another winter.
There were a number of waders present at the fields today. Several patches were now in a state that was ideal foraging grounds for them. However, nothing out of the ordinary was recorded and the diminutive Long-toed Stint was as rare a wader as I could get.
I have not taken a shot of a Wood Sandpiper for quite some time but it is not a common species in Australia. Naturally, it received a share fair of love and affection from my guests. And I guess their excitement was contagious. Hence, this photo of a resting Wood Sandpiper will take an unexpected place in this post.
Common or not, an adult Purple Heron against a green backdrop is still a sight to behold. Being a sucker for big water birds, a photography opportunity like this will not be shunned.
At the swamp forest of Air Hitam Dalam, the male Violet Cuckoo proved elusive yet again. Some of the commoner species did provide brief encounters but the highlight for my guests here would be the adorable but deadly Black-thighed Falconet. Unfortunately, a pair of these tiny raptors that was perched on a dead tree did not stay long enough for a good view. But sometimes in life you are given second chances and this time, the falconets remained until all three of us were contented. The distance may be a little too far for shooting something the size of a sparrow. But the falconet is no sparrow and it provided a fitting end to another rewarding day of birding in the north.