Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Fascinating predators of the night - Part 1

It is now almost routine for me to travel to Pedu in Kedah state way before dawn. The possibility of a Large Frogmouth is something most birders find it hard to resist, especially foreign birders. This striking creature of the night again awed the humans with its presence but provided few good photographic opportunities. Finding night birds in the dark is often difficult and frustrating. Photographing them is even worse. But this one single photo made all the effort of getting here at this hour worth it.


My birding guests this time were from the neighbouring country of Singapore and this is their maiden trip to Peninsular Malaysia. They engaged me for a 2-day photo expedition around Penang and the first destination was proving to be most challenging. A confiding Rufescent Prinia did its best to salvage our visit here. Much to the delight of my guest (and my relief), it knew exactly what was required for a memorable photo shoot.


The Wrinkled Hornbill is one of the rarest of our hornbills and to see a male bird in good light is about as good as it gets. I was given a very small window to capture the moment but thankfully, I managed to obtain a couple of reasonable images before he flew out of view. The head on shot of this impressive bird in the clear blue sky was certainly one of the highlights of the day for me.


Shutter count may have been low at Pedu but our next destination was a different story. The mangroves of Sungai Batu, also in Kedah state, is another one of my regular locations and as expected the birds gave Edward and Teong a very warm reception. The first species recorded was the Abbott’s Babbler. It may not be the most attractive bird around but it still provided an entertaining encounter.


Birders of the north tend to take the Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher for granted because of its constant presence at a couple of sites including this one. However, the beautiful colouration of the bird often makes it a favourite among my foreign guests and for that, it will always be in my good graces.


I do not recall seeing a male Oriental Magpie-Robin at this locality before and that is not a good sign. The population may not be doing as well as I thought. It would a shame to lose this songster here as well to the bird trade.


Of all the rails and crakes that occur in Malaysia, the White-breasted Waterhen is the most often seen. Not only is it bold and common but it also lives alongside humans. The striking colouration makes it rather conspicuous and naturally, a good subject for photography.



I occasionally see this species here at Sungai Batu but it certainly outdid itself today. Being a sucker for waterbirds, the exceptionally confiding behaviour this individual exhibited today was a real treat.


The Mangrove Pitta was sorely missed during my last visit here but it certainly did not disappoint this time. Strutting around the muddy terrain like a model on a catwalk, it had our undivided attention. Despite all the hours I have spent enjoying the pitta’s company, I still cannot take my eyes off it whenever it appears. I guess that is what makes pittas such fascinating and mesmerizing birds.




There is no mistaking the amazing song of the Puff-throated Babbler and like the pitta, it too was not recorded during my last visit. The mischievous behaviour is always a delight to observe and its confiding nature today did not go unappreciated. This adorable and attractive babbler wrapped things up for the first day of our photo expedition. Tomorrow we will be heading to another wild part of Kedah state and that will be covered in my next post.



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