Thursday, 10 November 2016

A sky full of storks

I found myself back at the base of the Treeswift Tree in Sungai Sedim Recreational Forest again. Nick, my British guest, wanted both species of Treeswifts found here in Malaysia and I thought to myself that this was going to be an easy one. However, I should have known better. There is no sure thing when it comes to birding. The Grey-rumped Treeswifts that usually outnumbers the Whiskered Treeswifts were nowhere to be found. I could feel a sense of embarrassment developing from within as only a handful of the latter were present. Just as I was about to give up hope, an all too familiar silhouette cut through the sky above followed by another and another. Soon the tree was filled with both Whiskered and Grey-rumped Treeswifts. I was back in business. The vicinity was exceptionally “birdy” morning. Species after species popped up as though to greet my foreign guest. The Chestnut-breasted Malkoha is an impressive bird. Brightly coloured and massive, this cuckoo garners affection wherever it goes. Unfortunately, it is shy and good views are hard to come by. On this rare occasion, it alighted momentarily on quite an exposed perch. But even at this far distance, it gave us the eye before disappearing back into the foliage of the forest. Now that is attitude for you...

There was a small fruiting near the base of the Treeswift Tree and the bulbuls were in a very good mood indeed. Any fruiting tree that is attracting birds is a phenomenal occurrence and the size of the tree certainly does not matter here. No less than six different species were recorded and the Finsch’s Bulbul is one of the more confiding ones.

The Cream-vented Bulbul made a few brief visits and this was the only image I managed to obtain.

It would not be complete if the fruiting tree did not have a few Buff-vented Bulbuls gorging on the fruits. This particular individual was taking a breather from the fiesta and the roadside cable was as good as any perch.

The birds were not the only ones performing well today. We also had the privilege to observe a Cream-coloured Giant Squirrel foraging on one of the tall trees nearby. It may lack the colours of some of the other squirrels but it is still an attractive creature and one that you do not come across all that often.

When the noon hour was upon us, it was time for my guest to get acquainted with some of the wintering freshwater waders at the paddy fields in mainland Penang. As we making our way out of Sungai Sedim, a soaring raptor delayed our departure in a good sense that is. It turned out to be a pale morph Changeable Hawk-eagle and as common as it may be, this formidable raptor still evokes excitement for me.

At the paddy fields, Grey-headed Lapwings, Little Ringed Plovers and Long-toed Stints soon found their way into our birding excursion despite the blistering heat. Wintering waders were not the only ones taking advantage of the accommodating conditions found in this muddy terrain. Eastern Yellow Wagtails can be seen in significant numbers here as well. Their numbers are increasing with each passing week thus providing more photographic opportunities.

Baya Weavers are regular patrons to the paddy fields but their penchant for paddy seeds do not make them very popular with the farmers. A lone individual that was resting next to the fields tried to appear as innocent as possible before the next feeding.

Unlike the last trip, the weather held up till the end but the swamp forest of Air Hitam Dalam was exceptionally quiet today. Come to think of it, the birding has not been the same since the uprooting of one the trees last month. They say time heals all wounds and I hope that will be the case here as well.

Anyway, this male Mangrove Blue Flycatcher seemed hardly affected by the tree and continue to excite and fascinate.

The female Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher was not recorded during my last visit but the old girl put my worries to rest today...

Normally, I would be worry when the natural light disappears all of the sudden but not this time. An enormous flock of Asian Openbills darkened the sky with their sheer number. It was a true spectacle. I have encountered big flocks of this stork here in the past but today, their numbers swept me off my feet as a 1000 strong of them rode the thermals above the adjacent paddy fields.

The Asian Koel, like most cuckoos, is more often heard than seen. This male was foraging unobtrusively on a fruiting tree when we spotted him. As the breeding season is still a few months away, his signature territorial call did not echo through the vicinity this time.

The final destination of the day was the mudflats at Bagan Belat. At the high tide roost there were a number of waders but not as many as my precious visits. I guess our timing was slightly off and most of the waders have retreated elsewhere. The direction of the setting sun also made observation difficult. After a careful sweep, only the usual species were present. A couple of Marsh Sandpipers were foraging at a spot where I could still obtain reasonable images and this graceful wader is always a delight to observe.

The waders at this Important Bird Area provided the perfect way to wind down after a rewarding day of birding. Although there were no lifers to be found at the mudflats here for my guest, a number of the waders were relatively rare where he comes from and that is good enough reason to spend about an hour admiring them before calling it a day.


John Holmes said...

Looks like a fabulous day's birding !

A sky full of storks and a Changeable Hawk Eagle were bonuses !

Choy Wai Mun said...

It was certainly a good trip with lots of interesting encounters.