Monday, 28 February 2011

26/02/2011: Sungai Burung (Penang)

I decided to do a quick session at this local patch as it has been quite a while since my last visit. Most parts of the paddy fields have been recently harvested and that left me with little hope of finding any surprises. Just then a falcon flew across overhead and my senses were back into birding mode again. It turned out to be a Peregrine Falcon and it is always great to see this beautiful raptor.

However, I don’t think this Common Myna that was foraging nearby feels the same way…

The Asian Glossy Starling is best enjoyed in good light. This is when the bird displays its true beauty as its green iridescent plumage usually appears black in the field.

It is another common species that I still don’t have a comprehensive collection of images and this confiding individual was more than happy to help me out on that.

While photographing the starlings, a Collared Kingfisher alighted momentarily on the same tree.

A little too close for comfort, perhaps? Well, the White-throated Kingfisher certainly felt so and re-positioned itself a few meters down the cable from the pair of Blue-tailed Bee-eaters.

A detour to the mudflats provided me with a breathtaking view of a huge mix flock of waders. I have reduced birding for waders along mudflats ever since I took up DSLR photography because the reach is usually insufficient. Come to think, I do miss just sitting by the coast with my scope and put my identification skills to the test as I slowly go through thousands of these similar looking birds. There is always the possibility and anticipation of finding something rare among the commoner ones. Anyway, the majority of the waders here were Lesser and Greater Sand-plovers.

A group of Common Redshanks were foraging slightly closer but not close enough for photography.

A Striated Heron with quite a mouthful quickly moves to a safer distance to enjoy its meal in leisure.

Monday, 21 February 2011

19/02/2011: Mainland Penang with a guest

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!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

07/02/2011: Mainland Penang

It was been about a month since my last visit to the marshlands at Pulau Burung. As my long festive holidays are drawing to an end, I decided to make a visit to this locality before stepping back into the working world and face yet another year of unreasonable clients and crazy datelines. Anyway back to the birds, the Lesser Whistling-ducks and their ducklings are doing just fine.

The Pacific Swallows are preparing to breed as a couple of birds were seen collecting nesting materials together.

Although I did not come across anything out of the ordinary this morning, I still had quite a rewarding time photographing the regulars as the lighting conditions were simply just right. Even the common Pond-heron provided some killer shots.

The Wood Sandpipers, as usual, are one of the best models around.

A Common Snipe foraging unobstructed by the vegetation is not something that is regularly encountered of late and deserves my undivided attention.

The White-browed Crakes were a little reluctant to forage in the open areas and remained partly hidden most of the time.

The Collared Kingfisher was the only one of the five kingfishers that I came across this morning that allowed me to take a few shots of it.

At the paddy fields in Permatang Nibong, the Asian Openbills are settling back again and have been recorded more regularly. Two of the storks still remained whiter than the rest of the flock.

Whenever I see an Aquila eagle circling in the sky, I would say a little prayer and hope to see a white pale bar cutting across the underwing. But the Steppe Eagle still remains elusive to me as another Greater Spotted Eagle gradually soared into full view.

Both the Eastern Marsh-harrier and Pied Harrier were seen hunting in the vicinity but I only managed to capture the latter. The female Pied Harrier can be a little confusing at times with the females of a few other rarer species but that was not the case today. Clear views cast away any doubts about her identity and hopes for a lifer.

The Tricoloured Munia is not that frequently encountered anymore in the field but the lighting conditions hindered my aim for obtaining better images of this species.

A confiding White-throated Kingfisher wrapped things up for my Chinese New Year birding excursions.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

05/02/2011: Bukit Wang (Kedah)

I finally found the time to some birding in the midst of celebrating the Chinese New Year. In my younger years, I would have plans like social functions, visiting of friends and families or even dating lined up for every single day of the New Year. Anyway those days are long gone and nowadays, I will usually have a couple of days to visit my feathered friends and spend some quality time with them instead. Anyway, Choo Eng, Kheng Hong and Hakim were my companions for the day as we headed up north to the forests of Bukit Wang.

We were delighted to come across the resident pair of Wallace’s Haw-eagles that Choo Eng and I discovered nesting last season. They were resting in the canopy level of a tree and at this distance the birds know that we are no threat to them. Fortunately for us, the foliage was rather sparse and we could observe these striking raptors with relative ease.

The juvenile from last season was in great condition too and still keeping itself close to the parent birds.

We spend quite a period of time with the family as this species is rather scarce and before the discovery of the nest, I have had only a handful of encounters. Hopefully, we would be expecting another successful season soon.

The resident Bat Hawks were also seen resting in one of their regular haunts. Typical of raptors, the male is slightly smaller than his mate.

A Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker offers a glimpse of the colourful birdlife that are regularly encountered at this locality but unfortunately not photographed often enough.