It has been quite a while since I last took someone I hardly knew birding. I know that I am not much of a talker and my social skills certainly need some work. However, I feel that we don’t need to socialize much when we are out birding and I’m pretty comfortable with taking birders around because it is a known fact that the less you talk, the more birds you are likely to see. Even when I do need to talk, it will be about the birds and certainly I have more than enough things to talk about when it comes to that particular subject. Anyway, Dave asked if I could take a Scottish birder around since he and Choo Eng have other commitments to attend to. So, I met with Alastair at his hotel and our first destination was the swamp forest at Air Hitam Dalam. At this locality, the target bird was the Mangrove Pitta. Alastair has birded in the Asian region many times before and his Malaysian list is already at around 350 birds. So, my task was made easier as I did not have to stop and show him the commoner species. Unfortunately, it was a no-show for the Mangrove Pitta but a rather confiding Indian Cuckoo did provide us with a rather memorable performance.
There was nothing exceptional around the mudflats of Bagan Belat and we turned to the paddy fields at Permatang Nibong next. A juvenile Pied Harrier and a couple of Greater Spotted Eagles did save me from the embarrassment of ending up empty-handed here as well. However, the Asian Openbills were my true saviours in the end and at least I got to show Alastair a truly rare local species.
We continued on birding after a quick lunch and the next destination was the marshlands at Pulau Burung. Being a keen photographer himself, I thought he would really enjoy the confiding nature of the birds found there and the abundant of photographic opportunities. The highlight of the trip here, I guess, was trying to explain to Alastair why I think that this Pond-heron is a Javan Pond-heron when the tell-tales signs are still not very obvious.
At the end of the day, I think we had a reasonably good trip but it could have been better. I did manage to help him slightly in achieving his current target of 3000 birds in his global life list by adding the Lineated Barbet into it. Now, he has only to see another 40 or so species!