Monday, 30 March 2015

Why, Murphy? (28/03/2015)

The mystery of the male hybrid Red-backed Shrike has yet to be solved and on this beautiful morning, Hor Kee and I were back at the UniMap Guesthouse compound to try and obtained more images of the shrike - hopefully with his moult completed. Unfortunately, he was no where to be seen. Thus began our trip with a considerable amount of Murphy’s Law involved. After a futile search, we diverted our attention to the adjacent mudflats where a number of Javan Pond-Herons were foraging. Although the herons were foraging at a distance, the good lighting helped me in obtaining some reasonable shots.

Any attempts to try and reduce the distance were met with much resistance.

Most of the Pond-Herons that are showing partial or full breeding plumages here are Javan Pond-Herons. This is probably one of those rare occasions where they outnumber the more numerous Chinese Pond-Herons.

The Chinese Egret and Little Stint that were recorded on the last trip were absent this time as well. Luckily, there was a lone male Swinhoe's Plover to keep us occupied. Although this species is not recognized by everyone as a full species, I feel that it should be. The male Swinhoe's Plover was among a flock of Kentish Plovers, the species that some consider it to be a race of. Well, based on appearance alone, you be the judge. It is the second peep from the left.

This is the best image I could conjure up in the end showing the side profile of this uncommon wader that seems to have a preference to winter along the north-western coastline.

We decided to check out the rest of this stretch of mudflats that goes all the way to the Kuala Perlis jetty. As we were making our way to the car, we saw a parent Malaysian Pied-Fantail attending to a juvenile bird and it reminded me of those single parents trying to control a hyperactive child at a departmental store. The only difference here is this parent is just as hyperactive as the child!

At least two Black-capped Kingfishers were seen along the coast here. These beautiful but shy birds are getting ready for the passage back north to breed. Despite the approaching breeding season, they are still as skittish as ever.

Timah Tasoh was our next destination and we were lucky enough to stumble upon a fruiting tree. This year, I have the good fortune of enjoying quite a number of fruiting trees and the birds that came with them. Despite the absence of rarities at this tree, it was still a rewarding encounter thanks to the adorable Coppersmith Barbets.

My only qualm was the tree is very sparse and the harsh mid morning sun does not compliment the images well. There is little much I can do about the back lighting and since I have had little luck with this common but attractive species in the past, I made the best out of the situation.

Although there are more than enough fruits for the two pairs Coppersmith Barbets present, squabbles occasionally erupted and one bird will end up being chased by the other around the vicinity.

A flock of Large Woodshrikes announced their presence with their signature vocalizations. Photography was a challenge as the flock was on the hunt and was constantly moving about.

For the second trip in a row, I crossed path with the diminutive Grey-capped Woodpecker. Perhaps this species is doing better here than in my home state of Penang. This pair was foraging along the canopy level of the scrubland trees and was not really in the mood to be photographed.

A female Plaintive Cuckoo taking a breather from the overwhelming hot and dry weather that we have been experiencing here for the past month or so. With the sun at its zenith, there was no better time for us to seek some shelter, food and a cold drink to rejuvenate before proceeding to our final destination for the day - the grassland of Chuping. 

The Green Sandpiper and Racket-tailed Treepie again got the better of my camera. However, I did not feel much disappointment for missing the latter again. Perhaps, I have accepted the fact that I will never ever photograph a Racket-tailed Treepie. However, Chuping has so much more to offer than just a couple of rarities. A flock of eleven Little Cormorants resting at their usual haunt is one fine example of the magic of this locality. This is by far my biggest count of this recent colonizer.

One of them eventually alighted on the near side of the pond for some reason that I have yet to fathom because this species is relatively shy. Although this was the closest I have ever been to a Little Cormorant, I still could not obtain the type of images that I have been wishing for. This is Murphy's Law at its best. I will not dwell on this any further and the photo says it all.

Foraging along the floating vegetation was the same Pheasant-tailed Jacana that we have been recording here for the past few months. The encounter would have been much sweeter if the Jacana was a little more tolerant of our presence and foraged a little closer. It is has even started to moult into breeding plumage. Now, it would have been quite a sight to see it in full breeding plumage because it is one of the most stunning water birds in the world.The heat wave also affected the outcome of most of my images at Chuping. The result appeared like the subject was out of focus and there was blurred movement. None of which are welcomed in any photograph.

Well, at least the jacana was still within reasonable reach of my camera. Our first record of a Ruddy-breasted Crake in Chuping satisfied only the birders in us.

The heat wave together with the harsh lighting made today one of the most testing days in terms of photography in Chuping. There were around 80 Eurasian Moorhens present at the ponds and that figure was another highlight of the trip. But due to the shooting conditions, I only have this one image that I can be proud of.

The Little Grebes are also in their usual numbers and with their breeding season in full swing, they are a lot more tolerant to human presence.

I then decided to drag Hor Kee to that faithful copse that provided such a rewarding experience during my last visit. For our efforts, the only thing worth mentioning is that we heard the Collared Kingfisher again. Although it is mainly confined to the coastal areas, it is not unheard of for it to occur far inland.

One of the highlights of our trip this time was a dark-morphed Booted Eagle. This scarce winter visitor has been recorded a little more regularly in recent years and most of the sightings are from the northern region including here in Chuping. The height at which the eagle was soaring was beyond my gear’s comfort zone and the harsh afternoon sun only made it worse. But it is still my best image of it to date.

Do not be fooled by the Plain-backed Sparrow's name. If you are not familiar with the species, you might envision it as another little brown job. But the male Plain-backed Sparrow will rock your world if seen well. I am quite ashamed to use this image. It does no justice to the bird at all although it was quite near to our vehicle. I should have done better but this was my best shot.

The female is no push over in the looks department as well but incomparable to the handsome male. Naturally, her image turned out better than the male’s. Here you go. Murphy's Law at work again. But one thing Mr Murphy could not deny us was this one last rewarding birding trip to a little state up north called Perlis - until the commencement of the next autumn migration that is.


digdeep said...

Great account of another fruitful trip Mun!

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Dave!

Wilma said...

Beautiful shots with such interesting commentary - I expect no less from you, Mun! So often with the crakes, you just have to take what you can get. Cheers!

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Wilma!

John Holmes said...

A tremendous range of species, as usual. Seeing Booted Eagle in your part of the world makes me hope it might turn up in mine..

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, John.

Who knows? Maybe the Booted Eagle might want to experience some HK hospitality next season.