When news broke out of a fruiting fig tree at the car park of this locality was being patronized by hornbills for a couple of hours on a daily basis, I was both excited (because you don’t come across an occurrence like this every other day) and frustrated (because I was tied-up with work and other matters – even on the following weekend) at the same time. Anyway, this was way too big a thing to be missed especially when it is taking place in one of my usual birding areas. I took leave from work as soon as I could and made my way to the locality with Choo Eng who has had the opportunity to observe the hornbills on three separate visits since then. Upon our arrival, much to my dismay, we were greeted by an “empty” fruiting fig tree.
We then took our time to set up position and hoped for the best. All my disappointment and sorrow immediately vanished the instant Choo Eng alerted me of the presence of a family of 3 White-crowned Hornbills on the fig tree. I was somehow distracted by something else and the hornbills managed to slip past and landed on the fig tree. I did not even hear the diagnostic wing beats typical of this family of birds. After years of pain-staking effort to try and get close to these wonderful animals, I was finally the chance to photograph them up close and personal as they gorged themselves on the Myristicaceae Figs. And no, I did not suddenly become an expert on plants and I still know very little about identifying them. I got a little help from the Forestry Department as the tree was labeled with this name. Although this particular hornbill is not new to me, the encounter is certainly one that I cherish for life. This is the stunning adult male bird with the white underparts.
Despite of the fact that the Rhinoceros Hornbills (which are the more regular patrons to the fig tree so far) did not turn up at all, one word can sum up the whole experience – AWESOME.
This is an immature male that is gradually attaining his adult plumage. Young birds will usually perform better for the camera and this fellow was no different as it went about feeding without the slightest worry of our presence.
However, my moment in sun came to an abrupt halt when a worker wandered to close to the base of the tree while performing his maintenance duties and put the hornbills to flight. Well, in life not everything will go exactly as you have planned or hoped. You just have to roll with the punches.
After the hornbills disappeared into the forest, I hung around the area hoping for them or any other hornbill to come flying back in. During the wait, I had a flock of Red-eyed Bulbuls to keep me occupied…
As well as a foraging Asian Brown Flycatcher that has probably just arrived from its breeding ground up north.
I eventually gave up on the hornbills and joined Choo Eng for more birding along the access road next to the river trail. Sungai Sedim may be well-known among the local birding community for its birds but for the adventure seeking community, it is rafting down the ferocious white waters…
As usual, the forest residents were making me work really hard to obtain good images like this Chestnut-breasted Malkoha.
But when it all do come together, you will get a overwhelming sense of satisfaction like what this confiding female Banded Kingfisher provided me - the success of capturing one of Mother Nature’s gems permanently in my memory and photography gallery.
The Scarlet Minivet is by far one of the most striking birds of the forest. A male bird darting around reminisce a burning arrow cutting through the forest vegetation. Unfortunately, this species spends most of its time in the canopy levels and photographic opportunities are far and few. So when this male foraged lower than usual, I helped myself to a few reasonably good shots.
An adult Rufous-bellied Eagle is always a welcomed sight due to its attractive plumage.
We can only guess that this aerial maneuver was an unsuccessful attempt to capture swifts in mid flight. Either that or this fellow is simply a show-off and wanted to give 2 tired birders a good performance.
When an animal dropping suddenly seemed to have a life of its own and started to move by itself, a chilly feeling ran down my spine. After all, it is now that time of the year when the Chinese celebrated the month of the hungry ghost. It is like Halloween but the gates of underworld will remain open for the entire month and not just for a day. My mom used to discourage me from birding during this period of time because of all the wild and lonely places I to go in search of birds and nowadays, the responsibility seems to have been passed down to my wife. Anyway when I regained my composure, there can only be one logical reason for the phenomenon – the Dung Beetle. The dropping was so big that from certain you just can’t see the beetle at all. These little workers of the natural world are simply amazing in terms of strength, tolerance and determination. I guess to each its own when it comes to survival and that includes us humans too.
A flycatcher that was foraging among the dense mid level of the forest captured our undivided attention because we were having a tough time identifying the species. Its active nature and the dim lighting conditions only made matters worse. After much scrutiny, it turned out to be a male blue morph Rufous-winged Philentoma. This colour morph is considered rare when compared to the typical male and it is the first for the both of us. Here are a few shot taken by Choo Eng who always seems to be faster with the camera than yours truly.