Friday, 27 November 2015

A sanctuary, really?

For the second day of their tour, Kumar and Sujatha were feeling a little adventurous and opted for a trip up Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill) - the birding site where the journey there itself is already an adventure. Countless hairpin corners await every visitor as the jeep drivers skillfully shuttle visitors up and down the hill. This site not for the faint-hearted but once the jeep drops you off; you enter a birding paradise that can match any premier site in the country on a good day.

Trogons are in their list of birds to see and I felt a little bad about failing to show them any during yesterday's tour. But when I heard an Orange-breasted Trogon calling very closely next to the access road, I knew this could be a chance to redeem myself. With a little patience, we managed to track down the trogon and it was a handsome male. A confiding one as well and my initial worries of another slow morning was swept away by the fine performance of this trogon.

The call of the birds is what usually gives away their presence especially in a dense forest habitat like Bukit Larut. The persistent calling of the Streaked Wren-Babbler from the undergrowth caught our immediate attention. And when it finally revealed itself, it gained our full admiration.

The high-pitched notes of the Pygmy Cupwing (formerly called the Pygmy Wren-Babbler) are one of the characteristic sounds of the montane forest here in Peninsula Malaysia. The new name may take a little getting used to but it certainly suits the bird. Only an adorable bird can carry a name like this and the Pygmy Cupwing is oozing with cuteness. This little ball of feather is simply a delight to observe and all my years of field experience with it have not change that fact.

The dim lighting and misty condition however made it very challenging for photography despite the fine performance by the little guy. Even when it was on an open perch, most of my photos did not turn out well. But it was an amazing encounter nonetheless and one that certainly had us mesmerized.

Bird waves are natural a phenomenon that occur on a regular basis in montane forests. It may be feast for your sense of sight and sound but the sheer number and rapid movement of the birds proves to be too overwhelming for photography most of the time. Out of the dozen species of birds from this particular wave, I only managed to capture an image of this Mountain Bulbul.

It is very unlikely for anyone to miss out on the Streaked Spiderhunter here or any other hill resort in the country. For such a common and flashy bird, I do not have many photographs of it that I am truly proud of. So when we came across one that showed very little fear of our presence while it was indulging on the flower nectar of a low bush, we responded by showering it with lots of love and affection.

The red legs and vividly-marked plumage makes the Streaked Spiderhunter one of the best looking Spiderhunters in Malaysia.  And I am elated I managed my best effort for this species to date.

Even the commonest of birds, like this Pacific Swallow, can sometimes provide excellent photographic opportunities that cannot be ignored....

Bro, check out the rump on that one...

We were scheduled to take the early afternoon jeep down the hill and that gave us time for a visit to the mangroves of Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary. A confiding Brown Shrike was the first bird to greet us as we entered the boundaries of the bird sanctuary.

The sight of an Indian Roller resting on an electrical pole got me feeling nostalgic because I saw this beautiful bird for the first time many years back at this locality as well. Although it is not as rare as it used to be, any sighting of an Indian Roller is still exciting to me. As the name implies, it is common in my guests' homeland of India and nearly every field there will have one it seems.

When we drove deeper into the sanctuary, I was disgusted and saddened by the number of commercial fishponds being excavated. They might as well rename this place to Kuala Gula Aquaculture Center. A lot of the birds may no longer find sanctuary here and neither will I if this goes on unchecked.

By then weather had changed according to my mood and rain clouds started to form followed by drizzles. The only thing that almost lifted my spirit was this leucistic myna because from far it looked like a mysterious starling to me. With the day drawing to an end, we made our way out but this site did provide some pleasant encounters to both my guests and me despite it all. This time's tour was like a roller coaster ride. It had its ups and downs but in the end, it was still an exhilarating ride.


Wilma said...

The spiderhunter is a stunning bird! Among many other other great finds that you had. Too bad about the rampant aquaculture.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Wilma. Yes, it is a sad sight indeed.