Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Up close and personal (19/07/2014)

As soon as I got down from my bike, I was greeted by one of the best good mornings I could have asked for - a Blue-winged Pitta foraging in full view. Pittas are usually secretive birds but here at Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest in northern mainland Penang, this pair of Blue-winged Pittas has become rather accustomed to human presence and bold. However, the lighting was still a little dim at that time and good shots were hard to come by.

Reluctantly I left the car park, and the pittas, and made my way to the boardwalk that cuts through this swamp forest in search of better prospects.

It was here along the boardwalk that I heard faint but distinct calls of the Brown Hawk-owl. Although it was not calling as frequently as my last encounter with this species here, I still managed to trace the call back to the source. The reason for the less persistent calling is because the bird was getting ready to roost.

The angle was a little steeper this time but it was still a delightful and memorable experience. The owl was just as confiding as the last time but with its feathers all puffed up for 'the day', it certainly looked much more adorable. Sweet dreams, bud...

The Jungle Mynas nest in holes among the trees and this year looks set to be another successful season. This juvenile bird is proof of that.

The mynas are not the only ones that are increasing the local population here. The Mangrove Blue Flycatchers are also doing very well. This young male gave me a model-like pose from the shadow of the under storey. The photo came out reasonably well despite the lighting condition.

While I was been distracted by the performing flycatcher, a curious Plaintain Squirrel came quite close to investigate what was going on. This species is also doing very well at the locality and on every visit you are bound to bump into one or two of them.

The second most common bulbul in Malaysia is the Olive-winged Bulbul. Although it sometimes overlaps with the commoner Yellow-vented Bulbul, it thrives in more rural and "greener" habitats. Despite the abundance of this species, I do not have many images of it in my database. I was pretty excited to manage a few good shots today and it does not really matter if it was perched on a man-made structure.

It was great to be able to shoot Greater Coucals that are not trying to get the hell away from you for a change. This pair sunbathing in the open was quite accommodating at first. But then one of them gradually felt uncomfortable with my presence and disappeared into the undergrowth.

As I was about to stand upright, the other coucal decided to put on a performance and I for one is not about to turn down an offer from this large but shy cuckoo. So, I got back down into my crouching position and enjoyed the show.

When you gotta go, you gotta go...

I went back to the car park area at noon and not surprisingly, the pitta was there to greet me again. As it is much brighter now, I was able to capture much better images of it as well.

The pitta was not alone. Moments later a juvenile Mangrove Blue Flycatcher came into view. I could see from what I assumed are the parent birds among the nearby vegetation, trying to keep the youngster in check but to no avail.

Being young and rebellious, it came ridiculously close a few times.

I was about to chow down lunch when I caught sight of an unfamiliar bird foraging near the under storey of the swamp forest. A quick glance through my binos revealed that it was a stunning Red-whiskered Bulbul. And this is the first record for me at this site. It is possible for it to be a feral bird because this species is a very popular song bird. It behaved very much like a wild bird to me. It sure the heck was not feeding from the palm of my hand. It was rather wary of my presence and difficult to approach. Anyway, it was a good bird to wrapped things up for another fine trip at this birding hotspot.


Russell Jenkins said...

Wow! What a tour. Spectacular pictures and many prized species. Beautiful pitta pics. I wanna go! Thanks for the tour, Choy!

Ronnie Ooi said...

This place had always been a hit. Very sharp photos you have there. I guess F2.8 is the way to go at this location!

Wilma said...

Amazing birds. The hawk owl is most impressive.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks everyone for your comments.

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

That looks like a great morning birding! It's always a delight to see the Blue-winged Pitta, such a wonderful common species. Interesting to see the Red-whiskered Bulbul there too!

John Holmes said...

Lovely, saturated-looking colours on the Pitta.