Tuesday, 19 December 2017

It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas - Part I

I have been spending a considerable amount of time at the forest surrounding Pedu Lake in the interiors of Kedah state and the reason is quite simple – the birds have been showing really well of late. This time I was with brothers Nigel and Jimmy, one of my regular guests. It was a beautiful morning as we wandered into the lush landscape of this birders’ paradise and the local birdlife serenaded us with their divine vocals. However, one particular call stood out from the rest. It was definitely not for its musical capabilities and the croaking notes are far from pleasant to the layman’s ears. But to birders, it belongs to one of the most stunning birds found here – the Red-bearded Bee-eater. Since Christmas is just around the corner, the shaggy beard and plump body reminded me of a certain someone who resides in the North Pole. Anyway, the confiding nature of this handsome specimen provided me with one of my better images of this forest dweller.

In view of the number of rare brownish flycatchers popping up this migratory season, every brown flycatcher I come across nowadays are scrutinized. The plumage of this Asian Brown Flycatcher was so typical, I could not even try to imagine it being any other species. Anyway, the background was pleasant enough to have my attention.

During my last visit here, the Red-billed Malkoha came tantalizingly close in providing images I could be proud of. I came across one yet again today. Initially, it appeared to be another frustrating encounter in the making as it scurried along the forest canopy at breakneck speeds. The dense foliage and harsh lighting were no help at all either.

Then, a spilt second of sheer luck and Yuletide magic produced my best image of this sultry species. Yes, it is starting to feel a lot like Christmas...

It is understandable when a small passerine is overlooked even after numerous excursion to a birding site. However, birds as big as a Greg-headed Eagle can sometimes remained hidden from view within Mother Nature’s embrace as well. Today is the first time I have ever seen a Grey-headed Fish-Eagle here in Pedu Lake. And to commemorate the moment, the uncommon raptor made sure I do not screw up its identity by providing prolonged views of both its upper and lower tail colouration (one of the more distinct field characteristics of this species). And nothing else - literally.

We made our way to the coast next as the alluring bird life of the mangroves of Sungai Batu beckons. True enough, a male Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher greeted me and my guests with much enthusiasm. As it was late afternoon by the time we arrived, lighting was a bit of a challenge at times.

The Mangrove Pitta had my guests grasping for air as usual with its electrifying presence. There are very few birds that can stir one’s emotions as vigorously as pittas. And to have one performing well is about as good as it gets in the world of birding.

Babblers are another group of birds that can elevate your senses. Despite their vocal nature, they are usually hard to observe due to their preference for dense undergrowth and constant movements. A pair of Abbott’s Babbler inquisitively foraging in front of us were given ample attention despite their dull colouration.

The Puff-throated Babbler, unbelievable as it may seem, provided the best encounter at this swampy domain. Its combination of aesthetic appeal, amazing vocals and charming character managed to pip past the pitta this time. Just in case you are wondering why it is called the Puff-throated Babbler...

This terrestrial babbler wrapped things up for day one of my clients’ birding adventure around Penang. I have to say it was another memorable and exciting day. But what does the future hold for the birding brothers on day two? That will be covered in my next post.

No comments: