Monday 6 May 2013

Shades of brown (04/05/2013)

The Bukit Hijau Recreational Forest is a birding locality in the state of Kedah that I have not been for quite a long while. So today, with my birding companions Choo Eng and James, I revisited the area with much hope and anticipation - as always. And I was not to be disappointed. Right next to the car park was a fruiting tree and the birds were just starting to feed. 

Although the fruits were a little too high for good photographic opportunities, we had a delightful time just recording the different species drawn in by this natural banquet. In fact, the only patron that I actually took a few shots was not a bird but an Agile Gibbon. Normally shunning human, I guess the temptations of the fruiting tree was a little strong for this graceful but shy primate to resist.

I was momentarily distracted from the fruiting tree when a family of Checker-throated Woodpeckers foraged quite noisily nearby. Although not that rare, it is not often that one gets to observe a whole family interacting and going about their routine. Little did the youngsters know that all their begging and whining not only got them the attention of the parent bird but a few visiting birders as well.  

When we made our way deeper into the forest, we came across another fruiting tree. The majority of the patrons here were Bulbuls. Your identification skills are usually put to the test when the time comes to differentiate brown Bulbuls. Often, the distinguishing features are found on the head region and that can be a problem if the bird is just being plain difficult...

But nothing a little perseverance won't overcome. White iris...Cream-vented Bulbul.

A male Tiger Shrike in breeding plumage is something that I still can never get enough of. As he is a pure carnivore, the fruiting tree is of no interest to him. Most probably, he was just passing through or perhaps the presence of quite a number of small passerines at a single tree caught his attention. 

It was truly a handsome bird but I had to get off the beaten trail to reduce the distance between us. My over-zealousness to obtain better shots resulted in me getting more than just shots of a Tiger Shrike. Leeches! Well, you know what they say - you haven't really "bird" in a tropical forest until you get your first leech bite.

With midday approaching we took a little breather from all the "hard work" of identifying brown Bulbuls. Midway through our brunch at a little F&B stall near the car park, a flying lizard decided to join us. 

Our next destination was Choo Eng's estate which was only a few kilometers away. What makes this rubber/palm oil estate any different from the rest? Well, it belongs to a birder and the thriving bird populations there are probably aware of that as well.

A confident Rusty-breasted Cuckoo got the ball rolling. Belting its territorial call persistently from the foliage of the rubber trees, it performed well for us and finally, I have added this beautiful parasitic species into my digital photo album.

Like the similar looking Plaintive Cuckoo, it is also more often heard than seen. However, its preference for more forested areas makes it even more elusive which explains my futile attempts in the past. 

The Brown-streaked Flycatcher is a rather scarce resident in Malaysia and can be easily mistaken for the much commoner Asian Brown Flycatcher due to its uncanny resemblance to the latter. I have had only about a handful of encounters with this species in the past and thanks to Choo Eng's keen eyesight, I got my second photo lifer of the trip. One of the advantages of taking up bird photography is having photo lifers. Although not quite the same magnitude as real lifers, it is nevertheless exciting and gives me yet another reason to venture out into the field whenever I have the free time.

My third and final photo lifer was a foraging Mangrove Whistler that totally ignored our presence altogether. Don't be misled by the name as the signature whiplash call of this species can be heard quite far inland and in various habitats. I never had any luck with this species until today and although the lighting condition was a little less than desirable, I am quite happy with my images in the end. Like the Brown-streaked Flycatcher it was another dull brownish bird but this duo helped turn ordinary to extraordinary and I guess this time brown is all the colour I need.