Birding is more than a hobby to most hardcore birders. It is more like a religion. And like all religions, there will be times when your faith gets tested. The morning that I spend birding at the Bukit Panchor Forest Reserve in the southern tip of mainland Penang on this beautiful Saturday morning was one of them. This reserve is prime habitat as the forest is still quite undisturbed. Along certain stretches of the jungle trail, the forest literally creeps right into the trail itself. Do not get me wrong. I do appreciate that a habitat like this still exists within the borders of my rapidly developing home state. By right, it should be a birder’s paradise and it is – just not all the time. The birds are there. The only problem is finding them and convincing them to stay put long enough for you to have a decent view – let alone photograph. It all boils down to your field craft, effort, timing ands a whole lot of luck. Did I mention a whole lot of luck?
One of the reasons I have this blog is to try and keep my birding experiences and memories alive through words and photography. I can consider myself lucky that I usually have enough material for my blog from all my birding excursions. This trip had me braving the onslaught of leeches, mosquitoes and scorching heat in the humid tropical rain forest. All I have for show is a single bird – a Malaysian Hawk-cuckoo calling from an exposed perch. The encounter with the cuckoo was a good one and I manage to capture some pretty decent shots.
But the trip was as bad as it seemed. I did record a fair bit of good forest birds which unfortunately, did not give me the opportunity to photograph them. Then I thought perhaps I could put it in words and describe the encounters. But how can I describe the feeling of seeing of a Rufous-collared Kingfisher darting through the middle storey of the forest. How do I tell the frustration of having a Buff-necked Woodpecker play a little hide-and-seek with you around a tree trunk at eye level and well within your gear’s shooting capability? I am also at lost with words about the sudden rush of adrenalin that jolted through my body when an Emerald Dove decided to fly off from the ground just a few steps ahead of me. And the disappointment of yet another failed attempt to relocate a creature of almost mythical stature called the Giant Pitta.
But this is the reality of birding in the forest. Sometimes, everything just comes in place perfectly and sometimes, your faith in this so-called hobby gets tested. Despite all my grumbling, I will be back again at this locality in future because I just cannot deny myself the opportunity of what I may encounter in the next trip. It could be yet another letdown or it could be a trip filled with memorable encounters that will last a lifetime. To wrap things for the day is a photo of a skink hunting for breakfast among the undergrowth of the forest.