I was a man on a mission. During my last excursion, I literally ignored the female Scarlet-breasted Flowerpeckers due to the mesmerizing beauty of the male bird and the time constrain as I had to attend to my Taiwanese guests. So, it was back to the now-famous fruiting tree at Sungai Sedim in Kedah where at least two pairs of Scarlet-breasted Flowerpeckers have been performing well for birders all over Malaysia for the past week and that meant I still had a chance to make things right.
I arrive at the locality just after dawn and I was determined not to let anything distract me from the mission at hand. Just as the flowerpeckers started to gather at the tree, two Rhinoceros Hornbills had to swoop into the other fruiting tree across the river just to show how easily I can be seduced by their magnificence.
The male Scarlet-breasted Flowerpeckers were easily picked out from the rest and it is all because of that piercing red breast patch!
The females, on the other hand, required a little more attention. They were outnumbered by the similar-looking immature Yellow-breasted Flowerpeckers which made my task more difficult.
I had no choice but to use my bins in order to ascertain the identity of the female Scarlet-breasted Flowerpeckers before I put my camera on them. I did manage to obtain their images in the end. Despite the females not showing as well as the males, I am rather please with the results.
I have to admit. I am weak. In between shooting the females, I could not resist taking a few shots of the males. How could I possibly ignore such a wonder of nature whilst keeping my sanity? Truly striking...
For this trip, I had the luxury of time. The sun finally hit the foliage of the fruiting tree around mid morning. And I now also have images of this forest jewel glittering in the sun.
But to be fair, the commoner male Crimson-breasted Flowerpeckers gave a memorable performance as well. Totally unperturbed by the presence of birders (naturally I was join by a few other birders within the first hour of daylight), they foraged right to the lowest and nearest branches.
Even the much larger bulbuls were not as confiding as these flowerpeckers but this Buff-vented Bulbul came close to matching their bravery or should I say gluttony?
The Grey-bellied Bulbuls kept to the top most part of the tree throughout the morning...
The Hairy-backed Bulbuls foraged along the lower part of the tree but never once in full unobstructed view...
When it comes to identifying brownish bulbuls, the eyes say it all most of the time. This would have made a good shot of the Spectacled Bulbul if not for the darn leaves.
A young Blue-winged Leafbird provided some variety to the feast dominated by bulbuls and flowerpeckers. The slight presence of blue on the plumage made my task of identifying it a little easier.
When all the birds have had their fill, the activity level at the fruiting tree dropped significantly and I decided to try my luck along the Gunung Bintang access trail. Am I seeing things because of late I have been seeing a lot of scarlet breast patches in Sungai Sedim. For example, this male Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker foraging on another fruiting tree way up in the canopy. He is probably the same individual as the one I encountered last month. It was very near the vicinity of the very first fruiting that drew out this elusive species and till now, he was still shy as hell. But nevertheless, he is the prelude to the Scarlet-breasted phenomenon at Sungai Sedim.
One month ago, I would have been happy as a lark with a shot like the above of the Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker. But now, nothing less than this will do. But seriously, we humans have a tendency to take things for granted once we “have” them. The fruits are not going to last forever. Once they are depleted, these flowerpeckers will disappear back into the cover of the forest. I may have to wait another fifteen years or so for another opportunity like this if I am lucky. That is why I made sure I took as many shots as possible and enjoy this phenomenon while it lasts.
The call of the Red-naped Trogon that sounded really close made me freeze immediately. Surprisingly, it did not take much effort this time to locate the trogon. It was a male bird calling persistently along the canopy level but with his back towards me.
When he finally shifted position, I could see his underparts that suggested that he was still an immature bird. However, his new position was beyond the comfort zone of my gear.
While making my way back home, I made a little detour to check on the roosting Barred Eagle-owls. I only managed to locate one this time but it was perched much lower and closer to the access road. So close that I actually feel a little uneasy as the owl was looking at me intently. And to make things worse, I used my bike for this trip so I was not surrounded by steel and glass.
All of a sudden, the cries of a Changeable Hawk-eagle got both owl and birder looking towards the direction of the eagle. It turned out to be a juvenile taking full advantage of the blistering heat to ride the thermals. Interestingly, the owl seemed to feel that I was the lesser of the two evils and stared at the eagle until the latter gradually circled away. Then it was back to me again. Anyway, I live to 'blog' the tale and the owl was certainly a great way to wrap things up this time.