Wednesday, 27 August 2014

One can always hope...(23/08/2014)

Bukit Palong is a little-known birding site located in the rural district of Baling in Kedah. It used to be a pristine habitat for wildlife - that is until development found its way there. Disheartened, I did not visit the site for almost 2 years. A proposition by Hor Kee to check if there are any Plain-pouched Hornbills passing through the site prompted me for a long overdue revisit. Together with Choo Eng, we made the 2-hour drive from Penang in the wee hours full of anticipation and anxiety.

A substantial part of this ridge is now being replaced with secondary growth thanks to all the deforestation that took place. But there are traces of its former glory left and perhaps, there is still hope for this birding site to recover. In fact, I'm really counting on it because the number of birding sites close to home are certainly not increasing. 


Sad to say we did not see or hear a single hornbill throughout the trip. Hornbills are good indicators of what state the forest is in. A heavily disturbed forest will usually be void of these magnificent birds. So, there you have it. Screw with the balance of nature and lose its precious elements.

But we did manage to observe another family of birds renowned for the shape of their bills but on a smaller scale - broadbills. Banded Broadbills are hard to observe because they tend to keep to the cover of the canopy. Their insect-like calls are usually the only indicator of their presence. Today, however, this individual decided to let us off the hook and foraged lower than it normally does. 



I was hoping for it to wander down a little more because at this distance, all we could muster were record shots. It does not matter if it is still a young bird and the radiance of its plumage is just a little short of an adult bird's. I have been taught to always be happy with what you have. Unfortunately, I have difficulties applying that to birding compared to other things in life.


The Rufescent Prinia replaces the much commoner Yellow-bellied Prinia along the edges of forest. But these two species do occasionally overlap in habitats. Here, both species are found but once you ascend pass the foothill settlements, it is the former's thick of the woods.


The mighty Blyth's Hawk-eagles look over what is left of their domain atop a lofty perch. This pair has been breeding quite successfully over the past years and looks set for another go in the coming months despite all the disturbances. Thank God for that...


The eagles are not the ones that are in for some action. I came across this pair of millipedes in a rather compromising position…


I am not much of a flower person but I guess there are a few species out there that I can safely recognize. Since our Independence Day is just around the corner and all that, here is the Hibiscus, the national flower of Malaysia.


The flower of the wild Ginger is another easy one for me…


At the summit of the hill, we were suddenly engulfed by heavy mist. The mist certainly gave the vicinity an aura of intrigue and beauty. Who am I kidding? It’s a nightmare for any birding activity.


But even in the mist, there is no mistaking the silhouette of the world's smallest bird of prey. A flock of six Black-thighed Falconets was seen hunting from a tall bare tree next to the access road. Don't let their adorable looks fool you. They are very efficient hunters of insects and small birds. These tiny terrors on wings have been my object of admiration for as long as I can remember. I guess being a falcon gets you into my good graces by default - even if you are just the size of a sparrow. Size doesn't matter in this case. It's all about attitude.


I lamented to my companions that I never had the chance to photograph Falconets from close range the day I took up photography and one must have heard me and alighted almost overhead. All you had to do was ask, human...



In the end, a confiding falconet became the saviour of this trip. I will certainly be back again in the near future and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the hornbills and others to return and call this place home again.

7 comments:

Wilma said...

Some reasons to remain hopeful with the broadbills and more still around! Maybe the hornbills will return. The falconet really posed for you.

mike birder said...

Never been there....but the trail/place looks so tranquil i like

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Wilma. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Mike, it used to be so much better.

John Holmes said...

At some of these places I think you've just got to keep trying….anyway, the Falconets are a fine reward.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, John.

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

Wow the falconets are so adorable! It's not easy to see them up close like that.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Ayuwat, I've been trying for a long time. Finally got lucky this time.