Wednesday 24 August 2011

20/08/2011: Sungai Dua (Penang)

Initially, I wanted to pay a short visit to the swamp forest at Air Hitam Dalam but accessibility to the site has gotten much worse since the last time I was here. The boardwalks certainly look fragile and are very much overgrown. So, I decided to get back into my car and check out the adjacent scrublands and paddy fields instead.
The Black-thighed Falconet is the smallest raptor in the world - a title it shares with its Borneon counterpart, the White-fronted Falconet. Like its larger relatives, this minute falcon is an accomplished and deadly predator as well. I have been waiting for an opportunity to photograph this species from close quarters since the day I took up photography but it has always remained beyond my equipment’s "comfort zone". Despite having to shoot against a dull sky, I am still rather happy with the images I have managed to obtain as this is the closest distance so far.

A stretch of barbed wire fencing appeared to be a favourite haunt for a couple of Plaintive Cuckoos. Although it is quite a common species, it is more often heard than seen. In fact its old name was the Brain-fever Bird and that particular name is also used by a few Hawk-cuckoos as well. When I was young, I have the good fortune of being able to experience this cuckoo’s namesake which at that time, I found it to be both humorous and fascinating. There was a resident pair that made their home within my parents’ neighbourhood and their persistent calls during the breeding season can be heard throughout the day and even the dead of the night. Lucky for them, they usually stay out of sight because I am pretty sure there is a bounty on their heads for all their midnight choruses.

Suddenly, I picked out a Greater Coucal foraging nearby and decided to try my luck with it. Since I have touched on the subject of old names, Crow-pheasant is an apt name for the Coucal. It certainly looks like a Crow but it forages like a Pheasant. Hence, the name. Life was certainly much simpler in the olden days. Anyway despite its large size, it is also more often heard than seen - typical of the Cuckoo family. Although it was rather confiding this time, the dense vegetation and its constant movements hindered my efforts tremendously. At the end, there was only one single shot that I could be slightly proud of.

When the Coucal made its way deeper into the scrub vegetation, I found that one of the Plaintive Cuckoos was still on the wire. I re-positioned my car as close as possible to it and gave it my full attention this time. The vicinity was certainly good for hunting because I saw it taking at least 4 caterpillars from the ground during my watch.

It tolerated my presence throughout my observation. I really wish I could get a little bit closer but the terrain was a little steep for my car and I doubt it will still be as confiding if I made my approach on foot. So, I made the best of what is being offered and here are a few more images of this beautiful cuckoo.
The successful forays of the Cuckoo must have attracted this White-throated Kingfisher and it alighted on a nearby post – hoping to get in on some of the action.

This Cattle Egret is gradually moulting into its duller non-breeding plumage. Cheer up, buddy. They will grow back next year.

I just had to be sure that there is no hidden surprises among the flocks of domesticated ducks making their way into the paddy fields to forage. I know that it is just wishful thinking but if I were a wild duck and instead of chilling out on a lake in central Thailand for my winter vacation, I somehow ended here in a paddy field in Malaysia, I would follow the locals closely and try to blend in.

Thursday 18 August 2011

The Openbills are back in town (13/08/11)

A quick visit to the paddy fields at Permatang Nibong produce the first sighting of Asian Openbills for the season. For the third consecutive season, these enigmatic storks have chosen my home state of Penang as their off-breeding vacation destination. This flock appears to be the same five individuals from the previous season and there is not much difference in terms of colouration and plumage. Anyway from the look of things, the status of Asian Openbills in Malaysia could well be on the way in becoming regular non-breeding visitors in small numbers. Welcome back, my friends.

Thursday 4 August 2011

30/07/11: Pulau Burung (Penang)

I decided to make a short visit to this locality although it is still a little too early for the migratory waterbirds. As I was making my into the site, I was greeted by a lone Brahminy Kite having some breakfast on one of the overhead electrical cables.

And just a short distance away was a Stork-billed Kingfisher on the very same cable. I guess the hunting must be good along this stretch.

Long-tailed Macaques are a common sight here especially along the mangroves. This mother and child are enjoying the warms rays of the sun after a rather chilly and wet dawn.

In the absence of the migrants, I focused my attention on the residents like this young adult Purple Heron. It is rather uncommon to see this species right in the open and I took full advantage of the situation and took as many shots as possible. Most of the images did not turn out as good as I was hoping for due to the poor lighting conditions.

The number of Little Grebes within the vicinity has increased due to the influx of young birds from this year’s breeding season.

I did come across a few early arrivals to this locality including this juvenile Little Ringed Plover.

On one of the side roads leading to the coast, which I shall christen Fantail Lane, has at least 5 Pied Fantail feeding the flies and other insects along the road. The insects were attracted by the rubbish and they provided an endless supply of food for these flycatchers. Three of the fantails, immatures of slightly different ages, were rather confiding. My stationery car soon became just a part of environment to them.

One of them even came as close as the base of my car tires…

A small flock of Baya Weavers caught my attention as they foraged along the tall grass. The males are showing signs of moult signaling the end of this year’s breeding season.