Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Natural Born Models

I embarked on another birding adventure to central Peninsular Malaysia and it was back to the chilly montane air of Bukit Tinggi in Pahang. I was here back in March to experience the Mountain Peacock-pheasant phenomenon that has put this hill resort into the world birding map. This time, I was not after the endemic pheasant. This time, it was the resplendent Ferruginous Partridge. Gamebirds by nature are shy and elusive. And I thought my brief glimpse of the bird along the Gap Road in Fraser’s Hill will be as good as it will ever get for me. When news broke of a family of these partridges are showing well at the pheasants’ locality, it was only a matter of waiting for the right time for a revisit.

The Mountain Peacock-pheasants were the first to arrive and the two males put on a good performance. Although this is my second time with the pheasants here, my hands trembled with excitement as I followed their movement with my photographic gear. I guess it will take some getting used to.

How can anyone ever get used to being so close to these majestic creatures? Just look at him…

With my main target of the trip nowhere in sight, the other birds present were given their due attention. The Ochraceous Bulbul is not uncommon especially in montane forest. Its vocal nature tends to give it away quite easily whenever it is presence. However, it is not easy to photograph and a confiding individual should never be taken for granted.

In fact, the bulbul was a bit of a show off and it certainly received everyone’s attention. Yet again, I had to share the locality with other birders. It seemed like you can never be alone here – especially on weekends.

The Oriental Magpie-robin is certainly doing well in this hill resort. You can see this striking songster throughout the vicinity. A family was foraging at the pheasants’ locality and the fully fledged chick was just starting to find food on its own. Whenever the opportunity arises, it would still take full advantage of its parents’ maternal instincts and receive the handouts.

Making decisions is very much a part of life. Sometimes we make good decisions and sometimes, we make bad ones. And then there are times we make horrendous ones. With the disappointment of the partridges not showing clouding my judgement, I left Bukit Tinggi at mid-morning and headed towards Lanchang for my secondary targets of the trip only to find out later that the partridges came out an hour after my departure. All three of them. Well, you might as well kick me in the groin because that was how it felt like. Lanchang is also located in the state of Pahang too and it was about an hour’s drive from Bukit Tinggi. Unlike the later, it was hot and humid but none of that mattered when a Black-throated Babbler hopped into view at the stake out area. This babbler is not new to me but I have no opportunities to capture its images till now.

I spent a considerable amount of time observing, shooting and admiring the Ferruginous Babbler during my last visit to the forests of Taman Negara Sungai Relau but the bird has not lost its novelty with me. I still find it to be a delightful species with a large dose of character and beauty.

Another familiar species was the Yellow-bellied Bulbul. Like the Ferruginous Babbler, Taman Negara Sungai Relau provided plenty of quality time with this species as well. However, its presence did not evoke as much emotions. Maybe it is because it also occurs in good numbers in the forests of Kedah where I often find myself birding.

A screen has been put up to accommodate the high number of birders and photographers (individual hides would only take up more space) to the site. This location is probably the hottest birding spot in Peninsular Malaysia now.

The one species that stands out from the rest is the enigmatic Malaysian Rail-babbler and there are at least 2 individuals frequenting the area. The birds here have grown accustomed to human presence and that gives both birders and photographers a rare opportunity to enjoy them for prolonged periods of time.

The walking gait of the babbler reminiscences the catwalk of those slender-limbed female models as they showcase their beauty and sensuality through graceful and provocative movements of the body anatomy. This is Mother Nature’s version and unlike its human counterparts, no training is required. Well, you will not find me driving more than 400 kilometers just to ogle at female models in a fashion show. But as you can see, I would for this alluring species.

Before I could fully recover from the Malaysian Rail-babbler’s performance and regain my composure, a female Banded Pitta came into the picture. There are a small number of sexually dimorphic bird species here in Malaysia where the female is just as attractive. The Banded Pitta is certainly one of them and although she is not fully matured yet, she is absolutely gorgeous. What she lacks in colour is made up by the striking black and yellow stripes on her underside.

This is the second time this year that I have the privilege to spend time with this extraordinary species and for that I am most grateful. The light was slightly behind the Banded Pitta but it did not matter. I am satisfied with how the images turned out. The colours of the bird are so radiant that even the setting sun could not drown them out.

To wrap things up for my first day of birding in Pahang is a little rodent that I cannot be certain if I have it in my photographic database – the Low’s Squirrel. The disappointment with the Ferruginous Partridge was a bitter pill to show and I hope to make things right the next day. The outcome of day two will be covered in my next post.


Bob Kaufman said...

Wow! Amazing photos! Drooling right now. :)

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Bob!

Nigel Oh said...

Nice narration. Beautiful birds, worth the long painstaking wait..

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Nigel