Wednesday, 4 October 2017

A lifer is a lifer

This is probably the worst photo I have ever chosen to be used to start off a post - out of focus, wrong exposure and motion blur. However, it is of a female White-tailed Flycatcher and I have been looking out for this species for many years. This encounter completes my life list of flycatchers found in Peninsular Malaysia and that is certainly cause for celebrations despite the absolutely horrid attempt to capture her image. But a lifer is a lifer and this turned out to be the highlight of the trip for me.

I was with a family of birders from Hong Kong and it is just wrong to spend too much time chasing after a better image of what is to them an uncooperative little brown job. It was a half day tour to the forest of Sungai Sedim in Kedah state and the gloomy weather truly tested my skills and knowledge as a bird guide. The number of species recorded was lower than usual and I could only pray for a better excursion tomorrow.

A beautiful sunrise greeted our convoy as we made our way across the Penang Bridge the next day and the promise of better weather lifted my burdens for the trip quite significantly. The first destination was the extensive mangroves of Sungai Batu in Kedah. The Forest Wagtail has been performing relatively well since its arrival from its wintering ground this year and inevitably, it was the first bird to greet us. However, it has an issue with staying completely still and the constant body swaying does it affect our photographic efforts.

The one bird that my guests were really looking forward to was the Mangrove Pitta – naturally. When it appeared, it grabbed everyone’s attention. Its plumage was far from perfect and the vibrancy of its colouration was somewhat lacking. I guess its moult has not completed its full cycle. Anyway, much better than the bald-headed look it was sporting a few weeks back.

The Mangrove Blue-Flycatchers are back to their usual splendour as well but the pair was a little shy today. Only the male bird provided me with an opportunity to actually have time to squeeze the shutter. However, I am not complaining. If compared to yesterday, today has been incredible so far.

The resident pair of Puff-throated Babblers was sorely missed today. The Abbott’s Babblers did their best to fill the void and these natural performers charmed their way into my guests’ birding experience in Malaysia. When things started to sizzle down, it was time to proceed to our next destination.

We barely had time to gear up after our arrival at the Air Hitam Educational Forest when we were greeted by a spectacle of nature. A flock of Asian Openbills was taking advantage of the thermals and although they were not in their usual big numbers, it was still quite a sight to see how many large waterbirds in flight.

The female Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher was her usual confiding self and her performance was certainly a breath of fresh air. The weather today was indeed significantly better today and naturally, so was the birding.

A flash of green at the canopy level diverted our gaze from the sultry looks of the female Tickell’s Blue-Flycatcher. The Lineated Barbet may not be as elegantly built as the flycatcher but being bulky does have its own appeal. This individual chose to rest on any open perch which they occasionally do and we took the time to soak in the view.

The Brahminy Kite may be one of the commonest raptors in the country but to my guests, it is one striking raptor that they do not have the chance to observe back in Hong Kong.

To wrap things up for the trip, the resident pair of Black-and-red Broadbills doing what they do best – mesmerizing my foreign guests with their beauty and manner. I was so relieved with the results of our second tour. Their teenage son somewhat reminded me of my teenage years as a birder and I am glad eventually I did managed to show him the true wonders of birding here in the tropics. 

The complete checklist from this time's birding excursion can be found here:

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