Friday 23 April 2010

22/04/2010: Past reflections re-visited

When I was first started to photograph birds during birding trips, I was using a modest digi-scoping setup. Good images were hard to come by due to the moderate quality of my telescope and compact camera. And to make things worse, I had to hold my camera against my telescope with only the aid of a home-made adaptor. Despite all the hassle, I was quite happy at the time that I was able to capture permanent memories of my birding trips. With time and a whole lot of practice, I did manage to make the best out of my setup like this shot of a resting Black-winged Kite taken at Kuala Muda.

Digi-scoping active moving birds can be quite frustrating as it was quite difficult to follow the movement of the birds. I considered myself quite lucky when this image of a male Blue-winged Leafbird taken at Temenggor forest reserve turned out better than I had expected.

One of the advantages of using a digi-scoping setup is the reach of the optics when compared to a DSLR setup. I can still recall the time I had to photograph this foraging male Laced Woodpecker from quite a distance at the mangroves in Kuala Gula and thanks to the reach, I was quite happy with the images.

Sometimes I do regret not venturing into bird photography earlier because there are quite a number of species that presented themselves to me only once so far like my one and only sighting of the Indian Roller at Kuala Gula – a species that is locally common only at the north-eastern region of Peninsula Malaysia.

And how can I forget about my Hoopoe sighting in my home state. The same individual was seen only twice in the same season at Sungai Burung. This is not only an attractive species but it is also a rare one as well. Now all I can do is hope that one day I will be able to capture its images with my current DSLR setup.

The Indian Pond-heron is one of the more recent additions to the Malaysian checklist. I had the privilege of photographing the first ever record for Penang Island and of all the places, this mega rarity decided to winter at the air field of the Penang International Airport. It took a while for the airport security to realize that it was the “feathered birds” that I was after.

As per Choo Eng's request, here is my natural shot of all 3 species of Pond-herons in a single frame...

Here is a digitally altered shot to show the differences between the Chinese (L), Indian (M) and Javan (R) in full breeding plumage - the only time when you can safely tell the 3 species apart.

The Milky Stork is a globally endangered species and encounters with this species were far and few. However, I did manage to enjoy a few close encounters and capture quite a few decent shots of the birds that were re-introduced back into wild at Kuala Selangor Nature Park and Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary. These birds are quite accustomed to humans and are not as wary as the completely wild birds.

Monday 12 April 2010

10/04/2010: Pondok Tanjung (Perak)

This locality is one of the last few remaining swamp forest and it has been a few years since my last visit. This used to be one of my favourite haunts but my last visit was not a happy one. There was a new road cutting through the forest reserve and I could not even locate the forest trail that I used to bird along.

Anyway, together with Choo Eng and Muin, we decided to try out this locality and see if there is still hope left for this once excellent birding site.

Parts of the old road can still be seen as we drove along the new one and it brought back memories of another time where I spend hours in the leech infested forest trail observing fascinating species like the Rufous-tailed Shama and Grey-chested Jungle-flycatcher. I really regretted not being able to capture any of the images as I was still with my digiscoping set-up at the time.

This road always had its share of road kills in the past and today was no different. The unfortunate casualties this time was a Collared Scops-owl and a Banded Krait. What an undeserving end to such fine specimens.

We also found a few logging trails in the area and that is not a good sign.

This female Bronze Grass Skink kept us occupied for quite a while.

The highlight of the trip was this handsome Pig-tailed Macaque and he really put on a show for us. All the shots were taken from the safety of our vehicle…

And those fangs are the reason why…

We recorded almost 40 species of birds but most only provided glimpses and sound. With my telephoto lens still at the service centre (Come on Sigma. It’s been a month. You’re killing me here), it is no surprise that I did not have a shot worth showing except for this female Whiskered Treeswift taken at the Batu Siputih Forest Reserve. This locality is about 20 km away from Pondok Tanjung which looks quite promising and I can foresee a full day’s trip in the near future.