Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Feathered squirrels...

The weather has not been exactly peachy of late and that was a reason for concern as I made my way to the famed golden beach of Batu Ferringhi to pick up my latest guest, Stuart, who hails from England. It was a pleasant drive at this ungodly hour and we reached the forest surrounding Pedu Lake in good time. Despite all our efforts, the Blyth’s Frogmouth remained out of sight during our predawn excursion and its eerie call was our only consolation. The dawn of a new day turned our fortune around and the alluring bird life of this birding paradise came to life. Malkohas are remarkable birds. Big, beautiful and somewhat mammal-like when moving about the forest canopy, these feathered squirrels were out in full force today. I never had much luck photographing the Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. Despite its size, it is a shy bird and tends to keep to cover of the forest vegetation. This individual popped out into the open and revealed its true splendour. Naturally, it had the undivided attention of both host and guest.

The Red-billed Malkoha on the other hand, satisfied the birder in us. But from a photographer’s point of view, it could not have chosen a more frustrating perch to rest upon.

Like the malkohas, the trogons that call this place home are certainly out and about today. On one occasion, both the Scarlet-rumped and Orange-breasted Trogon were calling from the same vicinity. With a little effort and patience, good views were obtained of a male Scarlet-rumped Trogon.

As for the Orange-breasted Trogon, we were made to work hard in order to finally locate the male bird among the lush vegetation of the forest. It was a world tick for my well-travelled guest and I am quite certain this forest denizen is one of the highlights of his maiden birding trip to Peninsular Malaysia.

Pedu is the only site I frequent where the Thick-billed Spiderhunter is regularly seen. However, this uncommon species is never an easy subject to shoot. As usual, it was actively foraging along the canopy level and I tried my best to capture some images that has almost the whole bird in view.

It was equally frustrating trying to photograph a pair of Plain Flowerpeckers foraging at the canopy level. I am not sure if it is due to its dull colouration but I do not come across this species all that often in the field.

The broadbills of this region may not be new to Stuart but he still finds them irresistible. And I do not blame him because so do I. Two pairs of Black-and-yellow Broadbills were having a territorial disagreement and we just sat back and enjoyed the drama.

Bulbuls are one of the commonest and conspicuous birds of the Malaysian forest. To come across half a dozen species is quite normal but the challenge of identifying them accurately is another thing all together as a number of them are drably coloured. However, there are Bulbul species which identification is never an issue like the stunning Black-crested Bulbul.


As we were making our way home, a handsome male Japanese Sparrowhawk stopped us at our tracks along. Unfortunately, the abrupt stop of the vehicle sent him into flight and that was the end of it. Also perched along the electrical cables were Rufous-bellied Swallows and these swallows are the most striking species here in Malaysia. They also provided an ideal end to our adventure birding adventure in the wild interiors of Kedah. The skies held up till the evening and that was a good sign as we will be exploring birding sites in my home state of Penang tomorrow. That will be covered in my next post.

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