It was back to the revered fruiting tree at Sungai Sedim in Kedah state again. My last visit here was not quite up to expectations. The feeding frenzy ended earlier than usual for no apparent reason. This time, I am hoping for uncompromised birding euphoria synonymous with this fruiting tree. Flock after flock of feathered denizens descending from the forest canopy upon the tree to satisfy their hunger leaving the observer with very little time to catch his breath. That is what makes active fruiting tree so irresistible. With my optimism high, I prepared myself for the first wave of patrons. Shortly after first light, the wait was over. Among them was a species so stunning that even a seasoned birder like me struggled to regain composure. Unfortunately, this lone Scaly-breasted Bulbul did not provide any good opportunities to capture its true splendour and the brief visit was the only one it made for the rest of the morning. Not quite the start I was hoping for.
Eleven species of bulbuls patronized the fruiting tree this time. It is incredible that such variety of the same family of birds can coexist in perfect at one single location. Natural, they each have their own niche to fill in this ecosystem but a fruiting tree will be bring them all together and feed like one single super flock. I guess gluttony is a deadly sin that even the most elusive species will give in to. Lucky for me, not all of them are as frustrating as the Scaly-breasted Bulbul. The handsome Black-headed Bulbul did alight on an exposed perch at one time but the distance proved just too great for my photographic gear.
The characteristic nasal calls of the Finsch’s Bulbuls filled the vicinity when a few birds arrived on scene. The puffy yellow throat make them rather distinctive and the birds lingered at the fruiting tree after feeding instead of retreating back to the cover of the forest like the last time. This goodwill gesture certainly did not go unappreciated.
With their vibrant colouration, the Grey-bellied Bulbuls are always a welcomed sight. They visited the tree several times. The succulent fruits proved to be too tempting and they abandoned their habitual preference for the canopy level in order to indulge in this feast.
A few species almost completely forgo their natural instincts to evade man and gorged on the fruits without the slightest concerns. Today, the Buff-vented Bulbuls were most prevalent and this plain bulbul provided the best photographic opportunities.
Red-eyed Bulbuls, despite their plain colouration, were the other conspicuous patron this time. Bold and confiding, they ventured onto any branch where they are fruits and some of these branches did make it easy for me to photograph this common resident.
Flowerpeckers were the other family of birds present at the fruiting tree today. Three years ago, Sungai Sedim was made known to every birder in Malaysia because this very tree managed to lure out one of the most elusive forest gems. Every passing year, I hope for the return of the gorgeous male Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker but I guess it is time to face reality. This scarce resident may not patronize the tree again and the piercing red breast patch may be all but a distant memory for this location. I am grateful that I did not take the phenomenon for granted back then and made several visits to photograph and observe not one but at least four birds. The Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker is another striking representative of these tiny fruit eaters and it performed well enough to help ease my disappointment.
Gorging on the fruits were a few Yellow-breasted Flowerpeckers as well. Their slightly duller colouration inevitably make them less appealing in the presence of the Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker. However, close views like this do not happen all that often and they gradually received their due attention.
The Yellow-vented Flowerpecker felt that I needed more challenge than shooting at unobstructed flowerpeckers from close range. It decided to keep to the top most part of the tree and partially hidden each time it raided the fruiting tree. Which was more than I say for the fourth species present today – an unbelievably shy Orange-bellied Flowerpecker that provided no images in the end.
A walk around the nearby vicinity within the reserve yielded nothing of significance. With the temperature soaring to almost unbearable conditions, I decided to call it a day and had a sumptuous feast of my own with James, Wilson and Adrian whom I bumped into at the fruiting tree. Choice of food is not really a priority for me when I am out birding but it does not hurt to indulge and pamper one’s self once in a while.
The checklist of birds recorded:
1. Sungai Sedim