Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Wherefore art thou now Rosy...(07/02/2015)

Dave and Hor Kee came back from a spontaneous weekday trip to the Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary in Perak with an adult male Rosy Starling record. I have only seen this scarce migrant only once before and it was from this locality as well. But back then, it was just a dull-looking juvenile bird and incomparable to the beauty of the adult male that is worthy of a Shakespearean line. At the break of dawn the following Saturday I found myself scanning the very area the starling was last seen - naturally.

There were plenty of the usual starlings and mynas but no signs of my target bird. Despite a careful sweep, all I could find after an hour were more Jungle Mynas. Where is Rosy, bud?

A pair of Cinereous Tits foraged did come into view while I was waiting for the Rosy Starling but the strong morning sun at their backs and the distance did very little to cheer me up despite their adorable presence.

The Pied Triller is common even in built-up areas but I do not have many good photos of the striking male bird. So when a male happen to alight on the same tree as the Tits, I gave him his due attention.

The mangrove here is the stronghold of the Sunda Woodpecker. Like the Cinerous Tit, it is also a mangrove specialist and is an absolute delight to observe it going about its daily routine.

The majestic White-bellied Sea-eagle is always a sight to behold despite being one of the commonest eagles in Peninsula Malaysia. This individual seemed to favour a perch that was just next to the access trail. But the thing was it is quite skittish and every time a vehicle (or a birder) passes by, it will take off only to come back a few minutes later.

On the contrary, this smaller Black-shouldered Kite that was also perched on a dead tree next the access trail was not the least bothered by human presence. Its confiding nature provided me with some good images and this kite is one of the most elegant-looking raptors around.

During the migratory season, it is not hard to see five different species of kingfishers within the boundaries of this bird sanctuary. The Collared Kingfisher is the commonest one at this coastal hotspot and this pair looks set for the coming breeding season. Love is certainly in the air.

The Common Kingfisher is not as common as its name implies. It is a winter visitor to suitable watery habitats throughout Peninsula Malaysia but rarely found in big numbers.

The largest and loudest of them all is undoubtedly the Stork-billed Kingfisher. With a bill like that, it is almost impossible to miss this stunning species whenever it is around.

And talking about loud, the breeding season will signal the beginning of the persistent, almost to the point of being annoying, territorial calls of the Asian Koel. Anyone in Peninsula Malaysia, birder or non-birder alike, is familiar with the call of this parasitic cuckoo. I mean how can anyone not know the bird that calls loudly throughout the day and sometimes even through the night during the breeding season? However, hearing the bird is one thing. Locating it is another as it is quite efficient at staying out of view.

This exceptionally tame Striated Heron provided one of the highlights of the day. Undoubtedly the commonest heron in Peninsula Malaysia, it occurs in a wide range of habitats from the big monsoon drains of the city centers to the rivers of the lowland forests.

Because of their abundance, this species is usually ignored by birders and I am also guilty of this at times. But I find it hard to ignore any bird that is putting on a performance like this…

Large waterbirds are certainly one of my favourites and here, they are found in good numbers. On this particular trip, there were quite a number of Grey Herons in the vicinity.

The number of juveniles present is a good indication that this species doing well here indeed.

Kuala Gula is the one of the last few places left on Earth where the globally endangered Milky Storks still roam wild and free. The pure, wild birds are usually found deep in their coastal domain and the best way to see them is by boat. However, the Wildlife Department did some reintroduction programs years back and these semi-wild storks can be seen quite regularly near the park headquarters.

In fact, they are so accustomed to humans that they are actually like to be near human civilization.  At times, they can be as tame as domestic pigeons but they are still Milky Storks and some admiration is inevitable.

One last image to wrap up the trip and the honour goes to a confiding Garden Fence Lizard that posed so willingly for me. By the way, I found out at the time of writing that the Rosy Starling was seen again in the same area the day after my visit. Welcome to the wonderful world of birding...


mike kan said...

yes Rosy is also always in my mind....

John Holmes said...

No Rosy Starling, but the "usual suspects" are adequate compensation.

I like the raised crest of the Striated Heron, too.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Yes, Mike. Ain't that the truth.

Thanks, John. It turned out quite good despite the miss.

john said...

I love the photos and the story. Too bad you missed the Rosy Starling. What you wrote about the calling Koels reminds me of the time that I was camping on the shores of a lake in Khaen Krachan NP in Thailand. I was the only one in the campground as dusk fell. I was sitting in a lawn chair surrounded by many Koels calling in the trees all around me. About the time they eventually fell silent, many frogs and toads took up the chorus. It was a noisy, but pleasant night.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, John. Yup, Koels certainly do leave a lasting impression.