The long but awesome 5-day birding trip with the international delegates from the Asian Bird Fair is finally over. It was time for the long drive back alone to Penang from Fraser’s Hill and I thought it would be best to make a stop somewhere along the way. Somewhere I could spend a couple of hours birding just to rejuvenate my senses. Somehow, the Kek Loke Tong Temple at the outskirts of Ipoh in Perak kept popping up in my head. The compound of temple does provide sanctuary to a number of birds including the temple thrushes – the Blue Rock Thrush. It is also about the halfway point for the journey home anyway. After considering a few other possible localities, I decided to follow my instinct took the Ipoh exit from the highway.
It has been a few years since my last visit and to my dismay, the temple thrushes were no where to be seen. During my last visit, the Blue Rock Thrushes were found in good numbers and very confiding. Like I always tell myself – never take things for granted and enjoy it while it last. Just as I was about to curse myself for choosing this locality, I caught some movement at the edge of the secondary forest. Upon further scrutiny, it turned out to be a Drongo Cuckoo. I decided to spend a little more effort with it as there was nothing else about. Much to my delight, it was quite confiding and I managed to obtain some really good shots.
Halfway through my observation, it flew down to the ground and caught something. The action was a little too quick for me and I could not determine what it caught and ate. From the ground, it flew up and alighted on an even lower perch, just under the crown of a dense tree.
I did finally find a Blue Rock Thrush as I was about to exit the temple grounds. It was a stunning male resting on a rocky outcrop. The angle was a little steep and I had no choice but to make the best out of the situation.
As I was driving along the outer perimeter fence of the temple, I thought to myself – well, at least I got a Drongo Cuckoo. Suddenly, a few small greyish birds flew across the path of my car and landed on the roadside grass straight ahead. I jammed on the brakes and had a quick look through my bins. My initial guess was right on the money – Java Sparrows! Locally common in only a few localities in the country, this area is one of its known strongholds. I have only one other encounter with this species and inevitably, I had a tough time trying to contain my excitement. Is it possible for sparrows to be sexy? If they look like this – absolutely!
Soon, I realized there was a small flock of them around and I slowly drifted my car towards them. The sparrows appeared quite comfortable with my stationery vehicle and I also made myself comfortable and proceeded with the photo session. I concentrated most of my efforts on two particular individuals that appeared to be more confiding than the rest. They seemed to have a thing for the perimeter fence and frequently alighted on it. No doubt that the fence is a man made object but if my subjects have no issues with it, why should I?
It was only natural that I ignored the duller juvenile until I started to breathe normally again. Don’t worry, bud. It's your turn now...
At one point, they did alight on natural perch and I must say the image turned out better than expected. So, the detour to this temple cave was the right decision in the end. I should learn to trust my instincts more often in future.