Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The flying jewel (21/03/2014)

My luck with forest bird photography did not improve much from my last excursion as I ended up with another “one-bird” trip. This time it was at the forest of Sungai Sedim in eastern Kedah state. Forest birding is indeed very challenging and forest bird photography, even more so. But it is only in the forest that one will get to witness some of the true wonders of the natural world – like the stunning Green Broadbill. Since I do not have anything else to post for this trip, I will dedicate it to the Green Broadbill.

The Green Broadbill occurs in both primary and secondary forests of Southeast Asia. Occasionally, it might wander into adjacent orchards and plantations as well. It is not a rare bird but typical of the genus and like most other denizens of the forest, it is more often heard than seen. The call, like the bird itself, is rather unique and that makes identification rather straightforward. What is complicated is the fact that the bird is about the size of a leaf, has colours like a leaf and the tendency to remain still among the leaves at the canopy level. Successfully locating a Green Broadbill among a sea of leaves is an achievement all by itself. Obtaining reasonably good photographs is another matter altogether. I will not be going into detail about the habits and characteristics of the bird. This will be more like a personal account of this fascinating and beautiful species.

I recorded my very first Green Broadbill at Air Itam Dam in my home state and it was the year 1990. In fact, the Green Broadbill is the only broadbill to occur in Penang Island. Its unique call was the first thing that caught my attention. At that time I was still quite new to birding and did not know that this call belonged to the Green Broadbill. Intrigued, I slowly trace the call to its source. Then a "leaf" suddenly took off from the tree in front of me and darted through the forest. In a blink of an eye, it was gone but the image of the striking emerald green plumage remained fresh at the back of my mind till this very day. A little homework helped me identify this forest gem on wings. Determination and luck helped me obtain better views of this species at this locality in the years to follow after that faithful day. 

Throughout my bird photography life (which is after more than a decade after being converted into birding), I have successfully captured images of the Green Broadbill only on a handful of occasions. Not exactly a record I can be proud of but it is the honest truth never the less. Here is a male bird in his comfort zone - at the very top of the canopy level and well away from any intruding birders. This image was my first of this species and was taken at Merapoh Taman Negara back in 2009. 

My next photographic opportunity, if I can call it an opportunity, came about 2 years later. The forest at Sungai Sedim in Kedah is one of the strongholds of this species and it has been recorded here on a regular basis. Despite all my efforts, this was the best I could manage of a male bird foraging at the very top of the canopy level.

In 2012, the confiding nature of a female bird absolutely took me by surprise. Green Broadbills are omnivorous by nature and the availability of food at a fruiting tree was the reason for her memorable performance. But her mate was not as obliging and remained partly hidden most of the time. This encounter took place at Bukit Palong in Kedah and I made an entry into my blog about that trip entitled The Natural Bird Magnet. 

My latest Green Broadbill encounter took place last Saturday at Sungai Sedim again. It was a male bird, in all his glory, belting out his territorial call from a relatively low and exposed perch. The breeding season must have made him a little bolder than usual and I was lucky enough to enjoy his performance before he hopped back into the cover of the canopy. My only qualm is that I did not have time to adjust the exposure on my camera before he disappeared from view. But it is by far my best effort and I guess it will do – for now.


John Kooistra said...

An absolute gem of a bird! Thanks for sharing your brilliant images and story.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, John!

Anonymous said...

Nice write up. Andy Lee

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Andy!

John Holmes said...

Thanks for a reminder of a great species; a "jewel" it certainly is !

Choy Wai Mun said...

Yup, John. I just adore this little fella.