Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Feathered Gargoyle

Predawn birding can be exhilarating. It brings out the primeval instincts in you. Hunting in the dark and overworking all your senses in order to cope with the challenging conditions.  But it can also be boring with nothing but the sound of crickets to keep you company. The forest of Pedu is one of the few localities here in northern Peninsular Malaysia that has a proven record for owling and there is where I made way to for my latest nocturnal excursion with two other companions – Hor Kee and James. The last time I visited this locality at this ungodly hour was 2 years ago. Our efforts to locate the Large Frogmouth proved futile again whereas its smaller cousin the Blyth’s Frogmouth, rose up to the occasion just like that faithful trip back then. A pair filled the vicinity with their eerie calls and naturally, they got our undivided attention. When I think back to my Boy Scout days of all those campfire stories about encounters with supernatural beings sitting on trees in the forest, I guess these nocturnal birds are one of the reasons behind them. The call which I described to be not unlike the wailings of a banshee in my earlier post and the sinister look can certainly scare any non-birder senseless. Although it is not easy to actually see these feathered gargoyles in the wild, just imagine a non-birder coming face to face with this in the forest at night...



But for this trio of birders from Penang, it was a sight that they were hoping for. This female Blyth’s Frogmouth was perched on a low branch at the edge of the forest while her mate remained hidden close by. As we slowly edged closer, she remained unperturbed. I do not have many encounters with frogmouths. Perhaps it is because I do not go out owling as often as I should. But this confiding female provided one of the best owling encounters for me. She may look terrifying to some but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To me and I reckon most birders, she is absolutely beautiful.



A few more images from this fantastic encounter before I carry on with the rest of the trip...



It was a bright and sunny morning. The landscape of lush greenery set against the beautiful blue sky was a breath taking sight. The birds were certainly out and about but most did not provide good photographic opportunities.


Among the forest canopy, I caught sight of a pair of Lesser Cuckoo-shrikes. This species is not a common bird as I do not come across it very often in the field and I took my time to relish this encounter.


Deep inside I wished for the pair to come closer in which they did eventually. But only to fly overhead...


The diagnostic call of the Black-capped Babbler can be heard on every visit here but to obtain good views is another matter all together. However, today the call sounded really close and it was next to a forest trail. We set up our hides and hoped for the best. Moments later, it strolled into view. Apart from the Malaysian Rail-Babbler, this species is the only other passerine in Malaysia that walks and that makes it special in my book.


Anyway, I was only allowed one single shot before it disappeared back into the forest which it calls home. And we were left watching the sun trying its best to penetrate through the dense foliage of this tropical rain forest for the rest of our time in the hide.


Our next destination of the day was the mangroves of Sungai Batu to spend some time with the star bird of this locality – the irresistible Mangrove Pitta. As usual, it took a little while to gain the trust of this beautiful swamp dweller. Our patience were duly rewarded with another starling performance...



The supporting cast did their part to further enrich our visit here with the resident pair of Mangrove Blue-Flycatchers leading the way. Today, both sexes were very obliging. The female with her whitish eyes lores mesmerized us with her sultry beauty.



The male with his intensified plumage colouration charmed us with his rugged looks.




To wrap things up for this rewarding but taxing trip (I guess age is catching up with me), was a confiding Abbott’s Babbler. It may lack the colours of the flycatcher and all babblers have a certain charm to them and this common species is no different.

4 comments:

Wilma said...

That frogmouth!

Choy Wai Mun said...

Yes, I know! It is an amazing bird,Wilma.

kezonline said...

Another interesting episode and what great pics of the Blyth's frogmouth and do I detect an incredible 8 colours on the beautiful mangrove pitta. One must always be privileged to see such birds, even for me from just your photos.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thanks, Keiron. Both these birds are remarkable creatures and it is certainly a privilege.