Birding in the tropical rain forest can never be short of surprises. You can walk the same forest trail for years and yet, it still has something interesting for you to enjoy. The forest of Sungai Sedim in Kedah is undoubtedly the best forest birding site that is easily accessible from Penang. It is still a healthy ecosystem and the presence of hornbills is proof of that. Although Hor Kee and I did not encounter any of these majestic birds on this trip, some of the smaller residents did keep us entertained for the entire morning. Babblers are well represented in the forest here. Most will have quite distinctive calls and songs which can be heard throughout the vicinity. Locating these active and skulking birds is another matter altogether. Chestnut-winged Babblers are one of the commoner babblers found here. Despite bumping into them a few times during our visit, the sneaky babblers only gave us this brief moment to photograph them.
A small birdwave brought in Brown Fulvettas. There is not much I can elaborate about the Brown Fulvetta apart that it is brown and it is a Fulvetta. But it does have a beautiful song that pierces through the dense vegetation of the forest like the rays of the morning sun.
The forest is not only a kaleidoscope of sounds but colours as well. The Grey-headed Canary-Flycatcher is an attractive bird and as the name implies, is an accomplished songster of both lowland and montane forests of Malaysia. We came across an individual that was hawking from a low perch but the lighting condition was a killjoy. My gear struggled in the dim lower storey of the forest and this is one of those rare moments that I question my preference to shoot without a tripod.
The Black-and-Yellow Broadbill is about as colourful as it gets for birds. But the call, although unique, is far from beautiful. It sounds more like an insect than a bird and delivered in a magnitude that almost rivals the deafening call of the cicada. Although it does forage closer to the ground level occasionally, the forest canopy is where it finds refuge and that is where you are most likely to see them. Perched 50 feet above the ground is not what one would consider to be a good photographic opportunity but a record shot is better than none when it comes to broadbills.
As far as peculiar calls go, the Sooty Barbet is one bird that will certainly come to mind. If one is not familiar with this species, you would not imagine a bulky bird like this will have a call that is not unlike the squeaking a tiny shrew. The call once learned will give away the presence of this barbet as it forages along the canopy level. It was the call that diverted my attention to a dead tree stump where 3 birds were exhibiting a very keen interest on a tree hole. Nothing much came out from the encounter except for a photo that managed to have all the birds in a single frame.
On the way back, we took a little detour to check on the resident Barred Eagle-Owl of Kulim Hi-Tech Park. During my last few encounters, the owl was resting on a low perch and that provided some very exciting moments and great images. This time, however, it was resting at the top most branches and even almost gave us the slip. I am happy to see that it is still around and the distance, although disappointing, could not deny me of a good ending to this birding excursion.