Friday 15 June 2012

An evening by the swamp (14/06/2012)

I decided to do a short visit to the swamp forest at the Air Hitam Dalam Forest Reserve in Penang as I was quite curious as how the upgrading construction works are getting along. The rotting wooden boardwalks are now being replaced by concrete ones. Although it loses the “wild” look, I feel that it is the right way to do it as the wooden ones will not last long. I have been birding at this locality since it first opened its “doors” to the public and that was back in 1996. Through the years, this locality has provided me countless memorable experiences. It has also gone through and endured a lot – including having a road cut right across the center. Despite all that, the birds are still there and this area still remains as one of the main birding locations in the state and my heart.

The Spotted Wood-owl is one of the many alluring residents that draw me and my fellow birders back here time and time again. Although it is a relatively large bird, it can remain undetected at times because it prefers to roost well hidden among the tall densely crowned trees.

The Crested Serpent-eagle is another predatory bird that calls this forest home and their piercing cries are very much a part of the sights and sounds here. 

Although the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo is quite a common bird, it still does it for me. Not only because of the racket tail but its “charming” personality as well. However, this subadult bird is little scruffy or it would have been a really nice capture.

Just who do you think you are calling scruffy? It has been a really rough day. That’s all.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

In search of the Barau (31/05/2012)

The Royal Belum State Park is part of the Belum-Temenggor forest landscape located at the northern-most corner of Perak state and is one of the largest forested areas in Malaysia. This was my third only visit to this particular area and every single one of them concluded quite satisfactory. 

Unlike Taman Negara, it has managed to maintain accessibility by boat only and this helps to keep the park relatively as wild as it should be. Anyway, the four of us chartered a small boat for the day to explore this pristine birding locality and most of the birding and photography from this trip were done from the boat. 

The Lesser Fish-eagle is rather scarce everywhere and the Temenggor Lake is probably one of its last strongholds where it can still be seen quite regularly. Unfortunately, it is rather shy and I was only able to obtain record shots despite crossing paths with this eagle a couple of times throughout the trip. And the constant movement of the boat did not help much in improving my photographs.

If you are a big fan of hornbills, and to be totally honest who isn’t, Royal Belum is one of the best places to observe these majestic and regal birds. It is the only place in Malaysia where all the 10 species of hornbills have been recorded. On this trip, we managed to record 3 species and obtained record shots of 2 of them – a flying male Wreathed Hornbill…

And a resting Black Hornbill.

We had our lunch at Sungai Kejar base camp. It is one of the few basic accommodations can be found within the park. There are no big resorts here and I sincerely hope it will stay that way. 

Anyway, the base camp was quite rich in bird life and a nearby fruiting tree was really luring in the forest birds – much to our delight. Unfortunately, the tree was quite tall and good photographic opportunities were rare. A rather confiding male Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher eventually prevented me from leaving the base camp empty handed.

The indigenous people of Belum-Temenggor are also one of the attractions for visitors to the park but not quite so for a quartet of birders from Penang. We are solely here for the feathered residents only.

The star performer of the trip is a species of bulbul that I have not seen in more than 17 years and one of the main targets for this trip – the Straw-headed Bulbul. By the way, the local name is Barau and hence, the title of this post. It may be the largest of all the bulbuls in Malaysia but sadly, it is also one of the rarest as well. Being a highly-prized songbird in the illegal bird trade is the main reason for its scarcity. And that is a real shame because not only does it sing beautifully but it is also visually stunning. This bulbul favours riverside vegetation and it is not particularly shy as we were able to approach it reasonably close by boat.

Despite all the threats that this bulbul is facing, we discovered that there is still hope…

Like all young birds, this fledgling had a ravenous appetite and the parents had to work hard to keep it happy.

A Praying Mantis is certainly not beyond their means. 

Before I end this post, I would to share this image of a family of Black-thighed Falconets taken along the Kupang-Gerik highway a few days before our trip to Royal Belum. The birds were having some quality time together as the day draws to a close but like all loving families, occasionally there may be one that is just not in the mood to cuddle up.