Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The mythical one...

My subsequent trips to Pedu in Kedah came much sooner than I had anticipated. So, exactly one week after our last outing to this location, I traveled once again into one of the remotest parts of northern Peninsular Malaysia and was greeted by a pair of Oriental Pied Hornbills upon arrival. 


The Hooded Pitta and Diard's Trogon are quite regular at this birding site but the birds provided only glimpses of their true splendour so far. This lone Hairy-backed Bulbul that was foraging near the access road was slightly more obliging. Well, at least I managed a single shot before it vanished back into the forest.


Some movement in the gloomy middle storey of the forest did gain our immediate attention and it turned out to be Buff-necked Woodpecker.


Just as I was about to get down to some serious birding with the woodpecker, I picked out a faint but distinct whistle. A whistle that will make even the most experienced birder weak in the knees and nauseous. Hor Kee heard it too and signalled to me. The mythical Giant Pitta finally revealed its presence and I now have the chance to photograph the biggest and shyest of all the Malaysian pittas. We trekked around that patch of forest and could pinpoint that the call was coming from a shallow ravine. But one does not simply trek into the forest and expect to see the Giant Pitta. It is no ordinary bird. It is a bird which legends are made of.

After an hour-long game of hide-and-seek around that particular spot, it seemed that I was not going to get my photos and Hor Kee, his lifer. But the hypnotic mournful whistle had us spellbound. Desperate times calls for desperate measures. We decided to split up and flank the pitta. At least this way, one of us stood a good chance of actually seeing it. Hor Kee saw it first and it was a superb male bird. I saw him minutes later but both of us never had the chance to even lift up our cameras. But we saw him. The mythical Giant Pitta and a male bird I might add. I am unable to describe the moment when I put my bins on his blue back and black crown just before he disappeared into the vegetation. It is beyond words. There are times in your life when something truly extraordinary takes place that it leaves you astounded and unsure if you are awake or dreaming. Well, this Giant Pitta encounter is certainly one of them.

The Raffles's Malkoha is a dwarf compared to all its much larger relatives. But that only makes it so much more adorable and the colours of the male bird, like this one, are quite remarkable to say the least. This species frequents the canopy levels as well and good views are hard to come by. This encounter was during my third visit to the forest of Pedu. Yes, I tried for the Giant Pitta again the following week. And no, I did not get another chance - as I half expected. When a bird has obtained mythical status, I guess one is given just so many chances to encounter it in a lifetime. Last week's sighting was my third in 25 years. Now, I fear that I may have run out of chances to see this legendary bird ever again.



I was quite pleased to see the White-rumped Shama doing relatively well here unlike other forests in Kedah where it is being trapped to extinction. This young bird was very inquisitive and came quite close to our position. Maybe it has not learned to be wary of humans yet. I may not have that many photos to show for the two trips to Pedu but it has been an excellent experience. I am not sure why I did not visit this area that frequently in the past but the results from these three consecutive trips certainly changed my perception of this site. I got a Giant Pitta here for crying out loud.

6 comments:

Robin Leow said...

Brilliant writing of the legendary Giant Pitta at Pedu, Kedah. Love your blog.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Robin!

Russell Jenkins said...

Congrats on the Giant Pitta. Sometimes the view through the bins is more valuable than trying to capture a picture. Love the light on the Shama. I hope it has a long and free life.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Russell!

John Holmes said...

Raffles Malkoha is my "Bird of this Post" - great birds, male and female.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, John.