When I was in high school, I started to develop my passion for birds and birding. At that time, birding was something most folks in Malaysia are not familiar with. I was the only one among my peers that does this insane activity of going to God forsaken places to record and observe birds in their natural habitat. I suppose this is an universal thing but whenever I tell someone I am into birding, a smirk or even laughter is the usual reaction. And of course, there is always the typical 'Oh really - what kind of a bird?' response with the sly smile. Nowadays more Malaysians are aware of the existence of birders and sometimes, I don't even get the bewildered stares when I stalk around a bush with my gear in semi-military attire. Through social media, I have come to know that a few of my former schoolmates are now also into birding. Well, what do you know - I'm not alone after all.Victor, a schoolmate that I have not seen for more than 20 years, was back in town for a couple of days and I took him to experience a little taste of birding around Penang as he now resides in Kuala Lumpur.
The first location we visited was the recreational forest of Sungai Sedim in Kedah. It was a reasonably good visit as we came across no less than 3 separate birdwaves. I did not have much luck shooting during the waves but this rather obliging Eastern Crown Warbler was the only exception. Leaf-warblers are a difficult group when it comes to identification and photography. But the yellow vent and dark crown should be sufficient in saving me the embarrassment of another misidentification - I hope.
A pair of Scarlet-rumped Trogons was also out and about on this beautiful morning. Unfortunately, I have only the duller female to show in the end.
As we were making our way out of the reserve, the striking colours of a male Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker momentarily postponed our journey to the paddy fields of Kubang Semang in Penang.
The first bird to catch our attention at the paddy fields was a lone raptor circling high up on the sky. Buzzard was the first thing that came to mind. Looking through my images after the raptor was gone triggered alarm bells in my head as the plumage was similar to that of a juvenile Bonelli's Eagle - a species yet to be recorded in Malaysia. A quick check there and then with Chaiyan and Hor Kee (the wonders of modern technology) put me back to my place. It was only a juvenile Oriental Honey-buzzard sporting a plumage variance that closely resembled a juvenile Bonelli's Eagle. So much for saving myself from the embarrassment of another misidentification! Anyway, I am truly grateful of having birding buddies both locally and abroad that are willing to put up with me when my enthusiasm gets the better of me. Thank you, guys. You know who you are.
The paddy fields provided a couple of hours of rewarding car-birding. The Long-toed Stints were still in high numbers and some of them came rather close to my stationery vehicle this time.
The diagnostic call of the migratory Yellow Wagtails filled the vicinity and the newly planted fields are certainly their preferred habitat. Rarely have I seen a wagtail in such a vertical posture. Ten-hut!
Grey-headed Lapwings are commoner in northern Peninsula Malaysia and for Victor, this migratory wader was one of his target birds for this trip up north. A small flock resting among the young paddy stalks was a little more tolerant than usual towards human presence and provided a fitting end to this short but rewarding birding excursion.