I managed to wrap things up early at the office which was itself a miracle to begin with, before the start of the long Chinese New Year break. I took this as a good sign and with a few hours of daylight left, I decided to visit the Penang Botanic Gardens. I shunned the main gardens to avoid the usual horde of visitors to this tourist attraction. This landscape bamboo garden at the fringe of the gardens can be relatively good at times and I decided to try my luck there.
A pair of large raptors riding the thermals caught my immediate attention. The colouration was quite distinct and it was a pair of dark morphed Changeable Hawk-Eagles. The main breeding season has commenced and it is not unusual to see birds pairing up in preparation. Coincidentally, it is also Valentine’s Day and love was certainly in the air.
As I walked along the access trail surrounded by clumps of bamboo whispering in the soft breeze, a feeling of serenity started to develop within me. But it did not last long. A striking male Crimson Sunbird darted across my path hardly an arm’s length away. This is one bird, despite being common in Penang Island that I could do with more images. Much to my delight, he alighted nearby and started to forage among the bamboo shoots.
The lighting was dim, vegetation was dense and the sunbird was constantly on the move. It was both exhilarating and frustrating at the same time. This is one of my target birds for my visit to the gardens and it looks like the Lunar New Year came early for me this year with this offering of an auspiciously-coloured feathered gem.
As I was recovering from the encounter with the Crimson Sunbird, a second male bird came into view. At this spot, the lighting was better and this casual visit to one of the closest green areas to home elevated into quite a rewarding one.
I guess there is a reason why he is called a sunbird. When he briefly alighted in direct sunlight, his colouration radiated and almost rivalled the intensity of the sun. My beloved hometown which I often lament is poor in birdlife, left me struggling for air this time as it was truly a breath taking experience.
Crested Mynas are striving here in the gardens and they outnumber the Jungle Mynas, Hill Mynas and even the Common Mynas. Anyway, the crest and character of this species always do it for me.
One species that does not share the same fate as the Crested Myna is the Oriental Magpie-Robin. It is always good to see one close to built up areas. There was a pair present and hopefully, the coming breeding season will be kind to them and the next generation of these famed songsters will emerge successfully and safe.
A number of water birds were encountered as well with the Striated Herons being one of the most conspicuous species. At least 2 birds were foraging along a small stream that skirts this landscape garden.
The much larger Little Egret also finds sanctuary here although it looked a little out of place. The white plumage does not exactly blend well with the environment but it is a regular winter visitor to this locality.
A family of White-breasted Waterhens was also out and about. The recently fledged chicks keep close to the parent.
Well, most of the time anyway...
Although not as abundant as the marauding Long-tailed Macaques, troops of Dusky Leaf-Monkeys can be seen here on a regular basis. I came across a small troop foraging on the ground which was not their usual practice and they were surprisingly confiding. The morsels found here must be very succulent to be able to entice these canopy dwellers to feed in this manner.
A young one trotted across the access road hoping that the grass is greener on the other side and it was not disappointed. With the evening light rapidly diminishing, I decided to make my way home. This short excursion turned out better than expected and a perfect way to unwind after days of near impossible deadlines at work.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all those celebrating a Happy Chinese New Year.