Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Beginner's luck

Rain was forecast for this morning but luckily, it was not accurate. Bright blue skies greeted us when we arrive at the mangrove belt along Sungai Batu in Kedah state. However, the heavy downpour last night almost ruined my guests’ maiden birding trip to this part of Peninsular Malaysia. There were just enough patches of dry mud for us to continue with our quest to seek out the alluring birdlife found here. And just like my last visit, the striking Forest Wagtail with its signature sway was the first bird to catch our attention.

It took a while for the Mangrove Pitta to show off its splendour this time but better late than never. As usual, it mesmerized my guests with its charm. My guests, who hail from Kuala Lumpur, are relatively new to the world of birding and the Mangrove Pitta is certainly an awesome bird to have under one’s belt.

The resident pair of Mangrove Blue-Flycatchers was much more obliging this time. We had plenty of opportunities to enjoy their vivid colouration.

This locality still has a small population of Oriental Magpie-Robins and a young female made a brief appearance today. This famed songster has suffered tremendously in the hands of man and it is getting quite scarce in certain areas like my home state of Penang.

The Puff-throated Babbler was sorely missed during my last visit. Fortunately, we managed to record it this time but it was a brief encounter.

Its cousin, the Abbott’s Babblers, were all over the site and I just could not resist taking an image or two.

As we were making our way out, a lone raptor perched majestically on a dead tree caught our immediate attention. It was a young Crested Serpent-Eagle and on this occasion, the strong backlight hindered me from obtaining any better images.

I had no choice but to stop on the road side just short of a few hundred meters from the junction to Air Hitam Dalam. A huge flock of Asian Openbills were in flight and it was a breath taking sight.

Quite of a number of them were circling quite low overhead and I managed to obtain several good images. It is more than four years since the first Asian Openbill appeared in Penang and I am still fascinated by them.

Part of the flock alighted on a tree just beyond the reserve. It is not often you get to say a tree full of storks unless you are here in mainland Penang where the Asian Openbills continue to congregate in their hundreds.

These enigmatic storks are not the only birds taking full advantage of the hot air thermals. The migratory Black Kite is back in good numbers but the lighting condition is a little challenging.

It was nice to see Dusky Leaf-Monkeys chilling along the elevated boardwalk instead of the usual marauding Long-tailed Macaques.

This Greater Racket-tailed Drongo was feeling a little camera shy today…

There are very few birds in this freshwater swamp forest that can outdo the Black-and-red Broadbill. Not only in terms of aesthetic appeal but charm. The resident were exceptionally affectionate today and a brood of young ones will not be too long to take.

I know the broadbills can be exceptionally tame at times and today, they did not disappoint. And with a colour combination that only the Almighty can conjure, the pair provided the perfect ending to this time’s birding adventure.

Checklists of the birds recorded on this trip:
1. Sungai Batu
2. Air Hitam Dalam

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