Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Sometimes great things come in small packages (16/08/2014)

With a couple of months to go before we hit the peak of the migratory season, it was back to the forest again. Since Sungai Sedim in Kedah has been delivering quite consistently of late, I found myself back there again on this fine Saturday morning with Choo Eng as my companion. It was no surprise for us to see a Red-eyed Bulbul performing parental duties because this species is one of the commonest residents here. 

The Chestnut-headed Bee-eater occurs only in the northern half of Peninsular Malaysia. Sungai Sedim houses a small population of these aerial hunters but unlike the ones found in open country and scrub habitats back in my home state of Penang, these are a real pain in the neck to shoot - literally. I guess life in the forest edge has taught them to keep to the top most part of the canopy level at the first sign of danger, and birders. 

The Green Broadbill, Banded Broadbill, Rufous-collared Kingfisher and Red-naped Trogon provided us with tantalizing glimpses for a good part of the morning. Sometimes, I swear these guys are just doing this out of fun. Just as frustration started to set in, hope came quite discreetly and restored my faith in forest birds. The Velvet-fronted Nuthatch is charming, adorable and striking. However, it is also active and fast - traits that do not go down well with photography in the forest. I guess it is also these traits that make the nuthatches such fascinating birds. We came across foraging parties a few times throughout the day but this is the only photo that is good enough to see the light of day. 

The drumming of woodpeckers are very much part of the sights and sounds of the tropical rain forest. However, the birds themselves can prove to be quite a challenging to photograph. The Buff-necked Woodpecker that we came across today makes a fine example of this claim. 

This male Checker-throated Woodpecker showed off the bold markings on his throat from which his name is derived from before disappearing into the dense foliage of forest.

There are a couple of woodpeckers in this region that are small in size but remarkably rich in character and appeal. Because of their small size, they are usually hidden from the human eye. The Rufous Piculet is one of them. We followed a pair of these adorable birds for a quite a long period as they went about their business. They seemed unperturbed by our presence and we took full advantage of this rare situation to shoot and observe them. However, I only managed to photograph the female, told by the absence of yellow on fore crown. 

Despite their minute size, they also have the ability to create a surprisingly loud racket whenever they drum. On a few occasions we had to rely on their calls and drumming to relocate when they move and fly about the middle storey of the forest. This is certainly my best encounter with the species and it was a great way to wrap things up for another rewarding day at this recreational forest. 


Phil Slade said...

Choy you really do set yourself some quite difficult tasks. You don't say how many hours and number of shots you take to get such remarkable pictures of such tiny, active and shy birds, but it must be many of both. I would love to see the male piculet as well if its so much "better" than the female. Your next task!

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Phil. We were very lucky. I have not seen this species here before despite having birded here for many years!

John Holmes said...

Either sex of Rufous Piculet will do just fine for me !