There was still time for one more trip to the revered fruiting tree in Sungai Sedim and some unexpected free time provided with just the opportunity I needed to make it happen. I have been keeping tab on the patrons of the tree via social media and a couple of photos of the Thick-billed Flowerpecker certainly had my attention. Although this species is not new to me, it will be great if I could finally have this scarce resident’s image in my collection. I was a little surprise upon arrival to find that I have the tree all to myself this time. It may sound a little selfish but I appreciated the solitude. Anyway, it did not take long for the first batch of birds to arrive and the one that foraged the closest to me naturally was the first to be photographed. The Cream-vented Bulbul managed to slip past my sensor during my last visit but this time, I made sure history will not repeat itself.
The eyes say it all for some bulbuls. The Cream-vented Bulbuls has white irises while the Spectacled Bulbuls, on the other hand, has red eyes with yellow eye rings. However, the latter was a little more wary than usual today and showed off this defining feature from far perches.
To complete the collection of “eyed” bulbuls, a flock of Red-eyed Bulbuls foraged along the lower parts of the tree just like during my last visit. And I welcomed their performance as they gorged to their hearts’ content right in front of me.
The Grey-bellied Bulbul proved to be one of the main highlights at the fruiting tree again. I have admit I have taken numerous images of this striking species before but how can I possibly resist from obtaining a few more - especially when it is so very confiding.
I cannot recall the last time I witnessed Yellow-bellied Bulbuls at this fruiting tree but a flock did make a brief appearance today. Their bright colouration and vocal nature made them conspicuous. And they allowed me to obtain a few of their images before they disappeared back into their realm among the lower storey of the forest.
Another species of bulbul that looks slightly out of place at a fruiting tree is the Hairy-backed Bulbul. A flock came to the tree during my last visit and they were here again today. I guess they find the tantalizing fruits hard to resist.
Bulbuls especially the duller ones are not exactly sought after birds of the forest. Normally, it is not easy to obtain good views as they tend to forage along the forest canopy. The Buff-vented Bulbul is one such Bulbul and to me, it deserves a fair amount of attention as well.
The Finsch’s Bulbuls were quite wary today and I am not sure if the presence of all the picnickers around the vicinity had anything to do with it. They were oblivious of the natural phenomenon that was taking place at a tree close to them. I do not blame them. You have to be a bird person to noticed birds at times even if it involves a dozen species at a single tree. Talking about bird persons, a couple of British birders came and enjoyed the fruiting tree later in the morning. One of them has been staying in the capital city for the past few months and I assume for work. These guys actually took the effort to drive up north to bird and Sungai Sedim was part of their itinerary. Birding sites around Penang are not part of the convention circuit for visiting birders. But who knows? Maybe the sites here are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Flowerpeckers were my main focus today. A rather plain but rare flowerpecker in particular – the Thick-billed Flowerpecker. I was probably at the tree for about an hour and caught a glimpse of my target bird. But that was it. Just like that it vanished and I did not even managed to see the tail wagging habit of this species. I waited for the remaining morning for it to return but determination can only get you so far in birding. Fate determines the rest and it is not to be today. For this visit, I paid more attention to the duller females than their striking male counterparts and the majority present were female Orange-bellied Flowerpeckers.
When you sport a plumage colouration like a male Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, you are bound to attract attention. There were a number of them present today and I tried my best not to let them distract me too much from my quest for the Thick-billed Flowerpecker.
Easier said than done...
The Yellow-vented Flowerpeckers which proved to be difficult during my past visits were more obliging this time...
Most of the time anyway...
As usual, the Yellow-breasted Flowerpeckers were brazen when it comes to gorging on the succulent fruits. With almost total disregard for human presence, these adorable forest denizens provided another memorable photo shoot session.
The Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker is the only other flowerpecker that equals or even exceeds the aesthetic appeal of the Orange-bellied Flowerpecker today. Most of the birds, including this cracking flowerpecker, patronizing on this fruiting tree will usually required a substantial amount of work in order to obtain decent views. It is only at a fruiting tree like this that you are given an opportunity to intimately admire and capture the beauty of these birds without interrupting the natural routine of the birds. This is, after all, Mother Nature’s feeding station.
Leafbirds tend to keep to the top most parts of the tree just like this male Greater Green Leafbird. I can clearly recall leafbirds being bullies at a fruiting tree during my visit a forest reserve in Selangor last year. However, the leafbirds here are about as aggressive as a dove. The only birds being occasionally nasty here are the male flowerpeckers.
A female Lesser Green Leafbird abandoned the safety of the canopy to indulge on the tasty morsels offered by the tree. The green plumage of a leafbird is quite remarkable and photographs cannot completely capture the true essence of this colouration.
Another common forest bird that is renowned for its vivid colouration is the Asian Fairy-bluebird. Even the name itself projects an image of divine beauty and that describes the male bird aptly. However apart from fruiting trees, this species spends most of their time in the canopy level and well out of sight. Unlike the leafbirds, female bluebirds are much duller than their male counterparts and one individual has been visiting the fruiting tree quite regularly. Despite the presence of food, she still held true to shy nature and provided very little photographic opportunities.
An unfamiliar brown bird flitting about the tree above the fruiting tree distracted my attention momentarily. Striking and colourful birds usually do not pose much of a problem when it comes to identification. A dull-coloured one, on the other hand, can very well cause sleepless nights. Thankfully, that was not the case this time. A prolonged look and some images on the camera LCD later confirmed my earlier suspicion. It was a female Zappey’s Flycatcher. And since there is no way of distinguishing her from the much rarer female Blue-and-White Flycatcher, I will leave it as it is. It is a significant moment for me as I have had only a handful of encounters of this scarce migrant and this is my first sighting of a female. No wonder she look unfamiliar at first glance.
A Striated Heron is nothing much to shout about and I have recorded it at this locality before. However, an individual hunting among the rapids did strike me as rather odd. I know that the heron is a skilled hunter but it is certainly pushing its abilities here at this fast flowing river. Anyway, this common waterbird wrapped things up for another rewarding excursion at this fruiting tree despite the frustrating episode with the Thick-billed Flowerpecker.
I have been contributing to eBird Malaysia since it took flight almost 2 years ago. I wonder why I do not make it a point to include a complete checklist at the end of every posting. Besides creating awareness, it might even get others to start contributing as well. All the data collected will certainly be put to good use. That would be good as Mother Nature needs all the help she can get. So here is the complete checklist of the birds recorded at Sungai Sedim Recreational Forest today.