A group of 5 birders from Penang including yours truly made a trip to the Bukit Wang Forest Reserve in Kedah hoping to end our birding year on a high note. I know it is vital to start off any birding trip just after dawn when the birds are most active and most of the time we (well, I do) will be rushing to reach the birding locality just before the dawn chorus commences. But I guess sometimes you just have to stop and smell the flowers. In our case, it was the aroma of a hearty breakfast at the Gurun rest stop along the North-south highway. Choo Eng swears that this is the only rest stop that serves giant prawns!
Our journey veered slightly off track when we took the wrong exit from the highway. The lapse of concentration must have something to do with our full stomachs. As we traveled along the old trunk road, we decided to take the road less traveled and it cut across what used to forest. It is sad to see hectares of forest being replaced with plantations, orchards and scrub lands. Now, only the adaptable species survive like this Lesser Coucal sunbathing just next to the road.
One of the first birds to greet us when we finally reached our destination was an Oriental Honey-buzzard and it was also enjoying the warm rays of the morning sun.
Bukit Wang is remains one of the best places to observe the enigmatic Bat Hawk in its natural environment. This resident pair has been performing well for almost every visiting birder since the discovery of this locality.
And for the record, they still receive our attention and admiration till today. My birding companions for the day – (from the left) Kanda Kumar, Kheng Hong, James Ooi and Choo Eng.
On the contrary, this is the first time we have ever seen a Crested Goshawk here. It just goes to show the seemingly endless supply of goodies forests have to offer. Anyway, it was perched way beyond the reach of my gear and inevitably, I had to settle for record shots only this time.
But for how long?
The photographic highlight of the trip was this male Orange-breasted Trogon. He was a little more accommodating than usual but unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the lighting condition. But I still managed to capture my best image of this beautiful species to date and I guess that will do for now.
I almost had a belated Christmas when we came across a Rhinoceros Hornbill and a Great Hornbill alighting on the very same tree. As fate would have it, the tree was again beyond the reach of my gear and it was an encounter best enjoyed through my bins than my camera.
The forest here is home to a few extremely rare species. One of them is a little-known brownish bird called the Malaysian Honeyguide. It has a long time since the last time it was sighted and on this trip, we only managed to hear to its signature call from deep within a small valley. The other local celebrity is the Dusky Eagle-owl and we had the good fortune of observing one half of the resident pair roosting on a tall leafy tree. The foliage was so dense that it had the bird slightly obscured from every possible angle. Despite all the frustration, this encounter turned out to be the main highlight of the trip. Happy New Year, buddy!
There is another thing worth mentioning and that is the authorities have erected a gate to prevent cars from going in the back entrance. I suppose it is a good thing. Hopefully, it will help to keep the chastity of this beautiful place intact for a long time to come.