Thursday, 3 December 2015

Where raptors roam (Part II)

We were back at the grasslands the next morning after a hearty breakfast at one of the local eateries just outside our lodging. Convenience is the reason why I chose to spend the night in Changlun which is about 15 minutes' drive from Chuping. No harm for an occasional indulgence during a birding trip.

As far as swallows go, the Rufous-bellied Swallow is probably the one that will get my adrenalin pumping the most. The contrasting colours of the body plumage and long forked tail do it for me every time.

Quite a number were resting in between sallies for breakfast on a recently ploughed field and as long as there were not too much movement from inside the car, the swallows were quite accommodating. Expecting a car full of bird photographers to remain still in the presence of these swallows is a very tall order. Luckily, the swallows will come back to the same perch time after time.

The Brahminy Starling is back for the second consecutive season as reported by Dave and Hor Kee a few days before our trip. Despite a careful sweep of the area, the only starlings we had were Asian Pied Starlings. A whole lot of them I might add.

The guys also came across a family of Bronze-winged Jacanas during their visit here and relocating the jacanas took some effort because they were quite wary of our presence. We managed only distanced shots and any attempt to stalk closer will put these peculiar but striking waterbirds into flight mode.

The juvenile does resemble a Pheasant-tailed Jacana at first glance. I saved myself the blushes when I corrected the mistaken identification of the youngster almost immediately.

While attempting to regain the trust of the jacanas, this Rusty-rumped Warbler decided to hop out of its hidden world among the undergrowth and showed off its rarely-seen cryptic plumage. This is my first photograph of this species that has a complete view of the torso and the softness of the image, was never a concern.

The Pied Harriers were encountered more frequently at this section of the grassland. This juvenile, typical of youngsters, was showing off his aerial agilities in the presence of a group of overseas birders.

Very few raptors can match the beauty of a male Pied Harrier. The striking colours and buoyant flight pattern is certainly a sight to behold. Unfortunately, the lighting and distant of the bird in this photograph could not capture the true essence of the encounter.

After lunch, we headed towards Perlis State Park which is about an hour's drive away. I wanted to give my guests a fuller experience by spending some time in the forest. It was a decision I live to regret. There were hardly any birds present and the forest was exceptionally silent. A lone Dark-sided Flycatcher soaking in the soothing rays of the evening sun is probably the only bird that is even worth posting here.

A pre-dawn birding session the next day produced at least 3 Blyth's Frogmouth from which not even one made itself visible. At times, these stealthy nightbirds were reasonably close but we just could not trace the eerie call back to the source. Evolution has made the frogmouth perfectly adapted in its nocturnal domain and I guess the only time we can see it is when it wants us to. A dawn chorus of only two species of birds was the last straw and we were back at Chuping in time to watch an elegant Black-shouldered Kite hunt above the grassland.

By the time we saw a Short-toed Eagle riding the thermals on its impressive wingspan, the washout at Perlis State Park became a very distant memory.

When the scorching sun was at its zenith, more raptors came out for our admiration. A second Greater Spotted Eagle for the trip would have been a much sweeter experience if it was slightly lower.

Before we could completely recover from the Greater Spotted Eagle encounter, a large raptor glided very low overhead and it was our second Short-toed Eagle of the day. At this distance, even the harsh midday sun could not deny us some outstanding shots from the encounter with this rare raptor.

We saw this Osprey at the same pylon for the second time this trip. The pylon was an ideal perch to rest as it is located well beyond the reach of any harm. A distant flight shot was the only thing that ever came out of that encounter.

A Common Kestrel shunning away from all the attention it was receiving us wrapped things up for our 3-day birding adventure at the northern tip of Peninsular Malaysia. My guests managed to record 3 raptor species at Air Hitam Dalam and an additional 10 more at Chuping. Now, that is something that exceeded even my own expectations. 


Sridhar Chandrasekaran said...

You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing. I'm a self-help blog author and reading blogs is my hobby and I randomly found your blog. I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging endeavors. Please keep in touch with me in Twitter, @selfhelpnemonik

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Sridhar

Jack Leong said...

Great adventure and great shots.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Jack.