Thursday, 13 August 2015

Birding is like a box of chocolates ((09/08/2015)

Tom's first visit to Sungai Sedim in Kedah must have made quite an impression on him. And since he had to say back another week to complete his working assignment here in Penang, he made arrangements with me for a second trip. I usually do not take visiting birders to the same location twice but I had to agree with Tom's decision because this locality is really happening of late. As we made our way into the recreational forest, we just had to make a quick stop at the Treeswift Tree to admire the usual big number of roosting Grey-rumped Treeswifts.


While being entertained by the Treeswifts, a pair of Lesser Cuckooshrikes came into the picture. I have seen this species in this particular spot quite a few times but they are always at a distance. I cannot say that it is common anywhere in the forests that I frequently bird and any encounter is a good encounter.


We did not even manage to walk far from my parked car when a pair of Rhinoceros Hornbills decided to fly over the car park area. The male led the way and I was only fast enough to capture his female companion. When these huge hornbills are in flight, they are truly majestic. Now, this is what I call a warm welcome...


Before we could fully regain our composure, a flash of bright emerald flew across our path and alighted on a nearby tree. We traced the Green Broadbill to a small fruiting tree and much to our delight, there was not one but four of these resplendent birds in the vicinity. Unlike the other Broadbills here, Green Broadbills are omnivorous and a fruiting tree is just as inviting as swarming winged termites. Just this week alone, I have witnessed both these behaviours and these four birds are probably the same individuals that provided the experiences.


The Green Broadbill was one of Tom's main target birds for his trip to Malaysia. We were not given any photographic opportunities during his first visit. Today, it was a whole different story. Despite the dim lighting conditions, I am quite pleased with how the images turned out.


The fruiting tree also attracted barbets. We recorded a total of five different species in the vicinity but I only managed to obtain decent images of three. Forest barbets spend most of their time among the safety of the top most canopy levels. More often heard than seen, it is only at suitable fruiting trees like this that you can truly admire the beauty of these birds. The Blue-eared Barbet is the smallest of all the forest barbets and is common throughout its range.


The Red-throated Barbet is one the largest and most striking barbets in the forest here. It has a tendency to forage lower than most barbets and I encountered it on more than a few occasions. The availability of food made this male bird even more confiding and provided the best photo opportunities.


Here he is showing off his brilliant plumage in the sun...


The Yellow-crowned Barbet may not be as vividly coloured as most of the other barbets but there is also beauty in simplicity and subtlety. This may not be the best of images but I have not photograph this species before and that naturally made it a keeper for me.


We could have spent the entire day at the fruiting tree but the urge to explore deeper into the forest was too strong to resist. As we made our way up the Gunung Bintang access trail, we found a blue morph Rufous-winged Philentoma resting at the middle storey of the forest. Here in Sungai Sedim, this colour morph is not that uncommon but it has been years since my last sighting. 

The Olive-backed Woodpecker is scarce throughout Peninsular Malaysia. This is my third only sighting so far and was determined not to end up without any images from this encounter. This pair of Olive-backed Woodpeckers made their intentions clear right from the very beginning. Keeping to the top most part of the canopy and well hidden most of the time was absolutely disheartening. But through a little perseverance, I managed this record shot of the female at the end.


Hor Kee recorded a Rufous-tailed Shama here a few months back. That is another species I have not seen for many moons. Although it does not sing as well as the White-rumped Shama, its vocal capabilities are good enough to stop me at my tracks. Well, maybe not so much the song but the status of the bird that got me all excited. Unfortunately, this encounter was only for the enjoyment of my ear drums as the bird did not reveal itself in the end.

You can never know what to expect in birding. The last thing I expected to see here in Sungai Sedim was a flock of Long-tailed Broadbills moving through the canopy level. These gorgeous birds are usually found high up in the montane forests and this is the first time I have encountered them at such a low elevation. It is also my first record for this site. It is unfortunate that the flock was travelling at such a rapid pace. They really caught me by surprise and my slow reaction sealed the outcome of the encounter.

We visited the swamp forest at Air Hitam Dalam later in the afternoon and was greeted by a few confiding Abbott's Babbler at the rear car park.


The one species that you are almost guaranteed to see at this location is the Mangrove Blue Flycatcher. Best of all, they are often very obliging for photography. That's a good boy...


The Pin-striped Tit-Babbler is another regular babbler species found within this small patch of forest. Their loud and persistent vocalisations give away their presence every time. Obtaining clear and prolonged views is somewhat of a privilege due to the active and skulking nature of this species.



The resident Brown Boobooks have been keeping themselves well out of sight these past few weeks. But I guess today is no ordinary day based on the great results from Sungai Sedim earlier on. And true enough, we managed to see a lone bird on their usual roosting tree. A number of branches and leaves were in the way but it does not really matter. I was glad just to know that it is still here. The owl was a great way to wrapped up a rewarding and exciting trip. Disappointments and frustrations are aplenty in birding but the unexpected surprises will certainly balance things out and they have kept my passion for this hobby going even after all these years. 

9 comments:

digdeep said...

Love the barbet shots and of course, the broadbill!

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Dave. It's a good time to make a visit now.

John Holmes said...

Rhino Hornbill and the Green Broadbills would make a special day for anyone... pity about the Long-tailed Broadbills, but I've done the same thing, let a whole flock get by with no in-focus shots !

Choy Wai Mun said...

John, this is not the first time the Long-tailed Broadbill has outwitted me.

john said...

You got some exceptionally good photos to go along with your compelling narrative. It is a pleasure to read your blog.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, John. I do what I can. Glad you liked it.

Robin Leow said...

Another exciting and rewarding bird study trip, Master Choy. With so many barbets and treeswifts, cuckooshrikes, green broadbill, and others at Sungai Sedim, I shall follow your trails and would probably make my way to Sungai Sedim before the end of August. Shall also stop at Air Hitam Dalam for the babblers and mangrove blue flycatcher and probably the brown boobooks. Let's see :)

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Robin. All the best for your mother excursions.

Robin Leow said...

Master, Choy, I hope on 29th August 2019 (Saturday), Penang would not rain in the morning just like on 11 August 2015 (Tuesday). On 11 August it rained all morning until 2.00 pm! :)