Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Must be my lucky day...

The Sungai Sedim Recreational Forest is the closest good forest birding site to home. Despite having to cross over the state border, the drive there is not strenuous. Or perhaps I frequent the lush surroundings there too often to feel it anymore. This time, I hosted a birding couple originally from England but now residing in Penang under the Malaysia My Second Home program. We took the usual trek up Gunung Bintang and it did not take long for the first resident here to capture our attention. A Purple-naped Spiderhunter was flitting about under the cover of the forest canopy and from this angle, the gender of this active little bird could be ascertained. Judging from its inquisitive behaviour, I would put my bet on a male.

Trogons are one of the most striking birds of the tropical rainforest. It was only natural the call of a Scarlet-rumped Trogon gave the trip a much required lift as things were relatively slow. It took some effort to locate the bird and the distance was a little too far to my liking. However, this handsome male was resting on an exposed perch and I could feel the exhilaration escaping from my guests. I would be lying to state that I was not a bit influenced.

One particular bird that has frustrated most of my photographic attempts of it thus far despite being quite a common forest bird is the Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. A pair moving along the canopy level naturally captured our attention. It is after all huge and colourful. I followed the movement of one and the images turned out acceptable after a struggle. It turned out to be the female bird told by her yellowish eyes.

Only when the lovers reunited at the top most canopy did I realize that her mate was preening on an exposed perch all this while. It was a rare sight – for me anyways. I had to be grateful to the female for leading me to her mate because I could have easily overlooked his presence.

The male, told by his bluish eyes, presented what should be my best photographic opportunity for the species to date. The angle was tight and the lighting harsh but he was out in the open and seemed to have no plans to get anywhere in a hurry. My guest captured this sweet encounter with the Chestnut-breasted Malkoha in their first attempt. I had to wait more than a decade. If birding is not mostly luck, then I do not know what is.

A quick detour to the grasslands of Kulim Hi-Tech Park did not yield any roosting Savanna Nightjars but it did produce something much better - a pair of Barred Buttonquails. The pair was caught off-guard as they walked straight towards our stationary vehicle. Normally, it will take nothing short of a miracle to have good views of this gamebird in the open. I guess today was our lucky day. Unusual for birds, the female is the better looking of the pair. And she was not that easily fooled. As soon as she got on to our ploy, her pace quickened. Out of the dozens of shots I took, only one had her unobstructed and sharp.

The same can be said for my efforts with her duller mate…

After a quick but filling lunch, we made our way to the mangroves of Sungai Batu. This locality has been the centre of attention of late because of the presence of an obliging Ruddy Kingfisher. We were greeted by a few like-minded individuals, as expected, upon our arrival. Although it was a no-show from the kingfisher, the other species present provided a memorable affair for my guests. And for them, I doubt that the Ruddy Kingfisher would have been able to overshadow the Mangrove Pitta. A pitta is a pitta and every encounter has a certain amount of magic and awe subject to one’s familiarity with the species. Judging from their reaction, I do not see the need to ask if this pitta was new to them.

In prime condition, a male Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher is a splendid species. Today, he looked rather unkempt. Perhaps as a result of the recent nesting season or moult. But sometimes it is all about the choice of perch and his choice today, was a good one.

A few other species were sorely missed during this visit but there is no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to birding. Lacking in colours but not in character, the Abbott’s Babblers had their share of the limelight when they emerged from their swampy domain and they were the last birds to be photographed before we took our leave.

The final destination for the day was the swamp forest of Air Hitam Dalam. By that time, we started to lose ambient light as dark clouds made their back again to my home state. Rain was a concern as the weather was dreadful the day before. Luckily, the tour was coming to a close but we still had time to enjoy a small spectacle. It was a flock of Asian Openbills retreating back to their roost earlier than usual no doubt triggered by the approaching storm. A few Brahminy Kites were also settling in for the day. One was rested on a rather interesting perch and I thought it would make a good image. I usually strive for crisp and clear images of the birds I encounter. This image is neither due to the distance and lighting but I still fancy it enough to use it to conclude this time’s trip posting.

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