The journey from the Royal Bintang Hotel where I picked up Matthew, my latest guest who hails from the land down under, to Air Hitam Dalam did not take as long as I anticipated. Upon arrival, it was still dark but the birding hotspot was far from dead. Large-tailed Nightjars were establishing their territories one last time before seeking refuge from the light of day and Mangrove Blue Flycatchers signal the arrival of a brand new day with their repertoire of sweet whistles. The atmosphere provided the perfect built-up for the birding to come and we waited in anticipation for the break of dawn.
One of the first birds to greet us was a pair of Olive-winged Bulbuls. Occasionally, this bulbul can be rather confiding and this is certainly of those occasions. One of them was calling persistently and I can only assume it is the male establishing his territory. With the breeding season around the corner, it comes as no surprise when throughout this visit we encountered more birds pairing up.
There are quite a number of successful species here at Air Hitam Dalam like the Mangrove Blue Flycatchers. They are truly thriving in whatever is left of this swamp forest and have perfectly adapted to the lifestyle here. The pair that holds the territory at the rear car park area is the one that is most frequently encountered and photographed. And today, as expected, they provided another memorable performance for my guest to enjoy.
The resident pair of Brown Boobooks roosting next to each was the highlight of the trip. No matter how many times I have encountered them before, they still do it for me. Daytime sighting of owls is always exciting to me and photographing two in a single frame, no matter how common the species is, is a treasured experience.
The characteristic calls of the Collared Kingfisher drew our attention to the canopy where we saw a pair also preparing for the coming breeding season. Love is certainly in the air...
There are no woodpeckers in Australia and I really wanted to show one to Matthew. The star woodpecker of the locality, the Streak-breasted Woodpecker, did a fly-by which was too brief to ignite any sense of awe and excitement. The Banded Woodpecker, on the other hand, made sure that my guest goes home with a memorable encounter of an Asian woodpecker.
The male Banded Woodpecker is a beautiful representative of the forest here and his decision to be so confiding today amazes me as well. This close encounter is a great way to wrap things for this time. In fact, it is a great way to end the year as well. 2015 has been an amazing year and I am truly blessed to be able to experience all the excitement, beauty and fascination the birds provided. I also want to wish each and every one a Happy New Year.