Monday, 12 May 2014

Change is the only constant in life (10/05/2014)

It has been more than a year since my last visit to the Bintang Hijau Forest Reserve along the Kupang-Grik Highway in northern Perak. This must be one of the most remote and wildest locations in the list of birding spots that I do my Saturday birding. Access to the forest is via the network of both active and inactive logging trails. That means you will not find any picnickers or day-trippers here. And inevitably, it is one of the best localities for forest birding.

So, you can imagine my dismay when I discovered that parts of this forest reserve (reserved for logging that is) are being converted into rubber plantations. And I thought the scheduled logging (sections of the reserve will be logged and then allowed to recover as other sections are logged) activities was bad. This is even worse. Rubber trees will be the only trees left in these areas from now on. Welcome to my world. 

Anyway, change has always been a part of life. May it be in work, relationships and yes, birding. You either deal with it or let it put you down. So, we dealt with it and made the best of whatever that is left - which is still quite a vast area of pristine tropical rainforest.

I have always lamented on the difficulty of obtaining great shots of forest birds and today, is certainly one of those days. Do not get me wrong. I love forest birding also and we had a great trip today. We recorded about 70 species in 6 hours. It is just that I wish I was able to obtain more images to show at the end of the day. I guess that is why this post is rather wordy - to make up for the lack of images.

The Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike is an adorable and striking little bird that tends to be quite restless when foraging. Coupled with the fact that the lighting was not on my side, this was the best I could conjure.

A male Orange-backed Woodpecker on an exposed trunk and in good light...but way up in the canopy and well beyond the comfort zone of my gear. 

The same goes for this Grey-bellied Bulbul...

Choo Eng lifted my spirit when he found a male Rufous-collared Kingfisher just next to the logging trail. This forest kingfisher is not that uncommon but it is more often heard than seen. Its mournful, persistent call gets even the most experienced birder excited. Relatively confiding, he performed well enough given the habitat he was in.

Here is the habitat. All you need to do now is to trace the call back to the source; find an angle that is not blocked to shoot the subject; make sure you do not accidentally step on a snake or any deadly creature that may be lurking while you are at it; and all this time try to be as silent and inconspicuous as possible so as not to spook the subject to disappear into the vegetation and never to be seen again for the rest of your life. Maybe I should take up an easier hobby like skydiving. 

We also recorded a few raptors today including this Oriental Honey-buzzard circling above the forest. It does appear to be the migratory subspecies and by right should have taken the spring passage back north.

The resident race of the Striated Swallow is the best looker among all swallows and martins that occur in Malaysia. Here are a few of them taking a breather at the top of a sparsely crowned tree. Unfortunately, this stunning species does not occur in my home state of Penang and I have not really had any good photo opportunities with it. 

Another noteworthy find for this trip was the tracks of a Malayan Tapir. This unique but endangered mammal is active at night like most large mammals found here in Malaysia. The tracks were quite recent and the animal had most probably crossed this trail the night before. 

Since we are on the subject of Tapirs, we saw a new set of traffic signs depicting tapir crossing on the way back. This is new to me because the usual signs that we see on Malaysian highways are deer and elephant crossings. But this is a good thing. The forest here is home to the tapir long before we humans built a highway right across it. A little respect and caution when you drive here at night is not too much to ask I reckon.


Stewart M said...

Great set of pictures - the woodpecker is a remarkable looking bird.

For once these birds are almost close enough to me for me to hope to see them one day!

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

PS: you would be very welcome to join in with WIld Bird Wednesday that runs on my photo-blog on (!) Wednesdays!

holdingmoments said...

I can understand your dismay at the logging and rubber trees. I think humans are doing far too much damage to the world.

Some beautiful birds as always though.
That Woodpecker looks pretty special.

Wilma said...

Almost criminal to make a rubber tree plantation there. I hope it takes a long time to happen. Lovely shots of lovely birds. Get them while you can!

Wilma said...

Almost criminal to make a rubber tree plantation there. I hope it takes a long time to happen. Lovely shots of lovely birds. Get them while you can!

John Holmes said...

Pity about the rubber plantations, still, I really like those Actenoides forest kingfishers.

I agree about the beauty of the swallows, too. I recall those at the Gap Rest House, once upon a time.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you all for your comments. Hopefully, the rubber plantations won't cause too much damage to this locality.

Izzat said...


This is seem like a great locality for birding. My friends and i will be heading to Gerik on August, and we are planning to stop by along the way for light birding. Bintang Hijau Forest Reserve seem like a good plan since its not that far from gerik town. I f u dont mind, could u share with me the direction to the logging trail or the general area u do bird. U can reply me here or to my email, Again thank you very much for your blog since it seems like your blog is the only one which talk in details about this birding locality.

Happy birding.