Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose (13/02/2016)

This is the final trip of my festive birding spree and it was to the forest of Pedu in Kedah state which has all the ingredients of a premium birding site. I had the companionship of Choo Eng this time and as usual, we left the comforts of home way before dawn in order to reach our destination at first light. The forest came alive as we were unpacking our gear. The dawn chorus itself was enough to get our adrenalin pumping because it consisted of some very interesting species including a Rufous-collared Kingfisher. Although he (yes, it was a striking male) was reasonably tame, I failed to obtain anything that resembled a bird photo due to the dim lighting. In fact, that was the story for the rest of the day. During our 6-hour excursion, we recorded almost 70 birds in which only a handful had photos to show. But my biggest disappointment was missing out on photographing a pair of Jerdon’s Bazas because I was simply too slow. When I finally had the rare raptors in focus, they had almost flown past the gap between the forest canopies. The Jerdon’s Baza was not unexpected but it was still a new record for this site. The forest here is indeed sanctuary for countless species – both common and rare. The views here are picturesque but somehow ‘reflections of leaves and inspiration’ do not evoke the same quantum of emotions...

We had a good haul of raptors on this trip. Unlike the bazas, I managed to shoot both the Rufous-bellied Eagle and Crested Goshawk. Unfortunately, they were miles away and I do not think sharing photos of a dot in the sky is going to do anything for this post. An Oriental Honey-buzzard almost slipped past my radar too but with the lighting condition being much better now, my gear was fast enough this time.

There is no way to improve this photo unless we took a boat out and positioned ourselves with the sun behind us. It is a little far fetched because after all, it is just an Osprey. From the look of things so far, chances are the Osprey will take flight by the time we get there anyways.

Shooting babblers in the forest is never easy and that is an understatement. These birds get a kick out of frustrating birders and bird photographers alike. Their preference for dense vegetation and their inability to stay still make them one of the most challenging birds to photograph. The Chestnut-winged Babbler is common at this locality. I hear them on almost every visit. This is the first time I managed to capture its image. Although it is far from perfect, I more than happy to add this species to my collection finally.

This was more of an act of desperation rather than a deliberate attempt to capture a Black Magpie in flight...

A huge tree that towered over most of the other trees was flowering and it was a big feeding station. Due to the distance, some of the birds were beyond recognition especially the dull coloured ones. The Blue-crowned Hanging-Parrot is one of the patrons of this tree. Identification was not much of any issue due their distinct shape and splendid colouration. But if I wanted to obtain better images of it, I will need to master the art of levitation. As for now, this image will just have to do.

The Van Hasselt’s Sunbird used to be common in Penang Island. Back then, I did not even own a camera but I have plenty of memories of this dazzling species. And memories are all that I have until today. I have not seen this species ever since I took up photography. I do not think it has become that uncommon. It is just fate and the alignment of my stars. Anyway, at least two pairs were feeding on the nectar of the flowering tree. These sunbirds are tiny birds and at that distance, all the splendour and details of the male birds are all but lost. A record shot is only the right thing to do. I just hope I do not have to another decade before I get to photograph this species again.

So far, I have not had too much luck with photography and naturally, I did not put much hope on a Black-bellied Malkoha that was resting at the canopy level. It was a little far to start with and the sun cast an awkward shadow on the bird.

I got distracted by another bird but I cannot recall which species. It could be age catching up or the fact that after I was done with the bird, the lone Black-bellied Malkoha had me under a spell by shifting to a position that was almost ideal for me to shoot. It was perched much lower down and in the sun. I am not sure if birds can read the minds of humans because this, the smallest of our malkohas, read mine like a book. It stayed long enough for me to capture a few shots before it took cover in the dense foliage of the forest.  And that minute of staying put was all that I could ever ask for.

The bubbly call of the Green Broadbill will betray its presence and for that, I am truly grateful. A silent bird is usually overlooked despite its striking plumage. Like the malkoha, the first image was nothing more than a record shot.

However, it did move to a better position and provided the perfect end to the trip. It was still a good one despite the shortage of good images but then, that is forest bird photography. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose but the anticipation of what you may encounter will lure you back time and time again.


David Gascoigne said...

I find Broadbills as a family fascinating birds. The only ones I have ever seen were in Vietnam.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Yes, David. They certainly are and striking as well.