Monday, 29 March 2010

27/03/2010: Pulau Burung & Permatang Nibong (Penang)

It has been a very hectic month for me in terms of work and on the very last weekend, I finally managed to find the time to do so birding. I decided to give Pulau Burung a visit and upon my arrival, I received a rather rude reception. The local authority had conducted a cleaning up operation and quite a big part of the marshlands lost its habitat especially at the edge of the access road. To them, it is maintaining the place. To the birds, they lose part of their home. To me, I lose my little piece of heaven on earth. The best thing about this locality is the birds here can be unbelievably tame at times. The clearance of the habitat will now force the birds to keep further away from the access road. This could spell an end to all those fantastic close encounters if the locality fails to grow back to its former state.

The birds were much fewer than usual "thanks" to the maintenance work. With my telephoto lens away for repairs, I had to rely on my 200mm lens for the time being and I'm really struggling. It is times like this that I truly miss my beloved lens. Anyway, the Lesser Whistling-ducks were still in their healthy numbers.

The White-browed Crakes were still foraging in the open but much further away from the access road.

The Black-winged Stilts performed their marshland ballet to help brightened up a gloomy day and I don't mean the weather.

However, there is still hope for the place with this image of an extremely confiding juvenile Paddyfield Pipit. Even with my short lens, I could obtain reasonably good shots. The magic of Pulau Burung...

I also came across a pair of Mangrove Pittas calling from across the river. The distance and shy nature of the birds prevented me from obtaining any good shots. But like I always say, any sighting of pittas in the wild is a magical one and this one is no different.

Later in the morning, I decided to visit the paddy fields at Permatang Nibong. Among the commoner Chinese Pond-herons, I managed to pick out single birds of both the Javan Pond-heron and Indian Pond-heron.

I also came across a striking male Watercock in full breeding plumage but he was extremely shy – typical of the species.

The word must be out that Penang is ideal place for Asian Openbills because the lone Asian Openbill here was joined by 9 other companions recently.

I am not sure if the storks are here to stay but the sight of 10 Asian Openbills soaring about in Penang skies is something I would really love to get used to.

Monday, 1 March 2010

20/02/2010: Pulau Burung (Penang)

Initially, I thought I wouldn't be able to bird this morning as I had my annual Chinese New Year poker night with my buddies the night before. I guess age must be catching up with us as we called it the night much earlier than usual. The dilemma of choosing a site to bird at the last minute did not surface as the thought of possibly having a Red-throated Thrush was good enough a reason as any. I arrived at the locality slightly later than usual to conduct my second attempt in finding this rare vagrant but it was another letdown. However, you'll never end up empty handed from any trip to this birding paradise. Not when you have elusive species behaving like this - a White-browed Crake right out in the open...

Later on in the day, I did bump into a few more and they were in their more typical behaviour...

A pair of Collared Kingfishers provided me with a very memorable encounter by being extra confiding...

Now if the Black-capped Kingfisher was to follow them, then I'll be pretty worried...that I'm dreaming all of this.

This Blue-tailed Bee-eater alighted so close to me that I could even get a clear head shot...

Quite a number of birds were taking advantage of the beautiful weather to get a good sunbath like this juvenile Large Hawk-cuckoo.

I found another cuckoo enjoying the same activity further along the mangrove access road and it was a beautiful Green-billed Malkoha. The long tail of this species has always intrigued me from the days when I first started birding. In fact, it was at this locality that I saw my first Green-billed Malkoha about 2 decades ago.

I waited patiently in my car hoping that it will gradually move to a better position for me to photograph but when it finally did, it had its back towards me.

My favorite Black-winged Stilts were also out and about and with such great lighting conditions, I couldn't help myself but spend some time photographing them. I even managed to capture all 3 different plumages of this graceful wader - breeding male, breeding female and non-breeding plumage.

The ever-confiding Wood Sandpipers are always in the mood for photography.

I came across a resting Crested Serpent-eagle immediately after taking a bend along the access road. I was just as surprised as it was and I left it is peace after taking a few shots as the angle was little steep.

I did come across a pair circling low above the mangrove forests later on and despite the almost overhead sun, I was rather happy with how the images turned out.

19/02/2010: Kinta Nature Park (Perak)

With 2 more free days left in my long break from work, I decided to take a rather long drive south to this locality for the day.
The heronry was bustling with nesting activities as the breeding season has commenced. There was no way of getting close to this “island” heronry and my camera setup can only obtain shots like these.
This locality is certainly one of the best places to observe and photograph 2 of the largest herons found in Malaysia – the Purple and the Grey Heron. The herons here are quite accustomed to human presence and are not as wary when compared to most other localities. It is not easy to approach a Purple Herons but over here, it is a slightly different story. They will usually tolerate human approach as long as you don’t cross over into their comfort zone.
Collecting of nesting materials is a normal sight during the breeding season.
I also came across an immature bird foraging at the water’s edge.
The Grey Heron is the other conspicuous species at this locality. As with the Purple Herons, this species is also much friendlier here.
It is always a delight to capture this heron in flight...

I did not realize that this individual had a deformed leg until I started to look through my images back home. I felt sorry for the fellow but then, life is never fair. Nor is it easy. Apart from the missing foot, it looks pretty healthy to me. I guess the only thing it will be missing out on is finding a mate to breed.
Photographic opportunities of the Black-crowned Night-heron is not as numerous as the larger herons and I had to work extra hard to obtain their images.

Being smaller and slightly more wary of human presence were significant factors as well...
Once you finally unblock a bird from your life list, they start popping up all so often as in the case of the Pheasant-tailed Jacana. How did I not come across this species all these years? I guess that’s the mystery and wonder of birding.
However, the highlight of the trip was surprisingly not a water bird but a raptor – a handsome raptor as a matter of fact. Of late, my encounters with the Black Baza were always from a distance – which produced shots like this individual soaring in a distance.
I struck the jackpot when I came across a rather confiding individual resting on a tall tree. Although the distance was still a little too far for my liking, the good lighting enable me to capture quite some decent shots in the end.
A flock of resting Purple-backed Starlings stopped me in my tracks but my presence did go well with them. I only managed to shoot a few shots before the whole flock decided to take flight.
And I thought photographing a flock in flight instead of one would be easy…
This would have been a great shot of a striking male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker if the light was behind me…
I have been paying extra attention to Paddyfield Pipits ever since Dave discovered Malaysia’s first ever Blyth’s Pipit in Perlis recently. I feel that I have a better chance of spotting a Blyth’s Pipit rather than the almost identical Richard’s Pipit from the ever-abundant Paddyfield Pipit. Anyway, this is a Paddyfield Pipit posing elegantly for my camera.
This Garden Fence Lizard wandered quite close to where I was having my lunch but I don’t think it was interested in my sandwich…
I did make a detour to the adjacent Malim Nawar ex-mining pools but only the commoner species were around like this flock of Black-winged Stilts.