Monday 30 November 2009

28/11/2009: Kuala Gula (Perak)

Choo Eng and I decided to visit this locality at the northern coast of Perak which is basically mangroves and mudflats for a day trip.

As it was high tide, some of the water birds can be seen resting along the canal like these Common Redshanks.

In the case of Purple Herons, you have to be "quick on the draw" or you will end up with only "butt" shots...

We came across quite a number of Silver Leaf-monkeys on this trip, including this troop that was foraging along the access road.

A rather confiding Drongo Cuckoo was a much welcome sight as there was nothing much about. As the name implies, it is a cuckoo that looks very much like a drongo.

And this is the real deal - an Ashy Drongo.

This foraging female Ashy Tailorbird was a little too active for me to capture any good images although she was just on the bush in front of me.

The Peaceful Dove on the other hand, remained perfectly still...

One thing about birding in the mangroves is that you must be able to bear the heat. As noon approaches, your tolerance level is really put to the test. Anyway, 3 Lesser Adjutants were making full use of the heat and were seen riding on the thermals quite high up in the sky.

What does a bunch of dead trees at the fringe of the mangroves hold for a couple of tired birders?

Well, that's the beauty of birding. You just don't know what to expect. And which winged jewel could be waiting for you to discover around the next corner. In this case, it was a handsome Large Hawk-cuckoo.

I can still remember my first encounter with this species and the first word to come out from my mouth was "Sparrowhawk" because this species has a distinct similarity to the raptor especially in flight. Well, 14 years later and I still blurted out the same mistake to Choo Eng. The only difference is the time it took for me to rectify the error was almost immediate.

Although it gradually moved deeper into the vegetation, it remained in the vicinity for quite a while - much to our delight. The encounter alone made it worth the while to travel here all the way from Penang.

The lake was particularly deserted this time round...

The only consolation of walking all the way to the lake was this group of about 30 Black Bazas circling in the sky above.

Brahminy Kites are a common sight here as well...

One individual really put on show and came so close to me that I couldn't fit the entire wing span into frame.

Saturday 21 November 2009

21/11/2009: Nesting Rhinos

I had the opportunity to observe a pair of Rhinoceros Hornbills nesting earlier in the year thanks to Choo Eng. Hornbills are certainly one of the most magnificent of our forest birds. Sadly, their numbers are declining and even more so at places like Bukit Larut in Perak where in the past, it was very likely to see hornbills in every visit. It was at this locality that I saw my first wild hornbill. I can still recall hearing the "locomotive" flight of these impressive birds for the first time. The moment is embedded permanently in my memory. Anyway over a period of 2 months, I managed to make a few trips to observe the nesting rhinos. Here's the proud father at the nest...

The feeding intervals was about an hour and berries were the main food source. This is how the male regurgitates the food...

During my first visit, the female was still sealed up in the nest together with the single chick. In my later visits, only the chick was left in the nest.

Both parents shoulder the responsibility of feeding the chicks. On a few occasions, I was lucky enough to capture both parents at the nest together. All the effort by both the parents paid off in the end because successfully brought another hornbill into this fragile world they call home.

Thursday 19 November 2009

19/11/2009: Bandar PERDA (Penang)

I had another go for the Greater Spotted Eagles again but unfortunately, without success.

There were plenty of egrets in the vicinity as usual and more so where the farmers are ploughing the paddy fields. A pair of immature Brahminy Kites were circling menacingly low above a mixed flock of egrets at such an area. They pose no danger to the egrets as these kites will only take small birds. But the kites are not after the egrets - not directly anyway. They are after the prey that the egrets catch. I have seen this pirate-like behaviour by this species before. Whenever an egrets catches a prey, the kite will swoop down and try to snatch the prey from the egret or make the egret drop the prey.

Anyway, the great images I managed to obtain helped me recover from the disappointment of dipping out on the Aquila eagles again.

Grey Herons are not a common sight in Penang and this immature bird, in the company of Little Egrets, was foraging a bit too far for me to obtain any good images.
Quite a good number of Black-winged Stilts were also seen foraging at the vicinity. I'm not sure if they are part of the same group I usually observed in the adjacent fields but one thing is for sure and that is these graceful waders are now a normal sight in Penang - much to my delight.
If the Brahminy Kites had done their part to cheer me up, the Brown Shrikes almost made me forget why I am here in the first place. This lovely female is as tame as any wild shrike could ever get. She alighted on a rock just next to my stationery vehicle and just stood there for me to photograph. I, for one, most certainly will not turn down an offer like that.

This day surely belong to the Brown Shrikes because I came across another confiding individual and this time, it was a handsome male. Brown Shrikes hold a special place in my heart because it is one of the birds that made me take up this religious hobby of birding. I can still remember that back in my childhood days, I will occasionally come across a bulkier and more aggressive looking Yellow-vented Bulbul (although I don't know the exact name for even the Yellow-vented Bulbul at that time, it is common enough for even a non-birder like me to recognise) around my housing area. It was my Godfather that eventually told me that it was a Brown Shrike and I was truly fascinated with the idea of observing and identifying birds. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

16/11/2009: Bandar PERDA (Penang)

I scouted around this vicinity for about an hour or so hoping to capture some images of the Greater Spotted Eagles that was seen here a few days back. The illegal mist nets were a troubling sight and hopefully the Wildlife Department will take the appropriate actions as a few birders have already reported it.

The only raptors that crossed my path today were Brahminy Kites, including this immature bird.

Although there were no eagles around, there were certainly plenty of egrets. I think plenty is an understatement though...

All 4 species that occur in freshwater habitat were seen foraging together in this vicinity. The largest of them all is of course the Great Egret.

I was fortunately enough to come across this fellow having breakfast...

As the name suggests, the Intermediate Egret in the second largest...

Although this species is called the Little Egret, it is only the second smallest of the lot...

The smallest of them all is the Cattle Egret...

While observing the egrets, a female Cinnamon Bittern surprisingly alighted on an exposed area of the paddy field. She gave me enough time to take a few shots before she moved into a more hidden position.

This Zitting Cisticola rushed for cover upon my approaching vehicle. Sorry, buddy...

A flock of foraging White-winged Terns were seen at a flooded patch of the paddy fields. However, the images I obtained did not turn out as good as I had hoped for.

I feel that of late, the Common Moorhen is no longer a common species in Penang. Well, that's usually the story with wild birds here.

A rather confiding immature Black Drongo was the last bird I managed to capture before I decided to call it a day.