Tuesday, 5 March 2019

A tree full of bulbuls

The renowned fruiting tree of the Sungai Sedim Recreational Forest car park was in season again as expected. What I did not expect was a group of youngsters camping right underneath the tree. With a logical head, I kept my cool. They had just as much right to be here as me and my American guests. Reluctantly, we stood next the campers and waited for the light to improve. I guess the fruiting tree is just too much of a phenomenon to resist. And the birds felt the same way as they started to swoop in from every direction of the adjacent forest at first light. The Finsch’s Bulbul was the first of the 13 species of bulbuls that were recorded throughout the morning. It may be an unlucky number for most but for us today, it was truly good fortune.

My guests this time were old school birders and I tried my best to show them every species of bird that came for the feast. It was a task easier said than done because of the high number of birds present at any one time and their active nature. Naturally, I did not have the time to photograph all the species but the ones that I did were the ones that were most obliging like the ever vibrant Grey-bellied Bulbuls.

It was great to see the uncommon Streaked Bulbuls coming for the fruits as well. Their presence at the fruiting trees here are irregular but this time, they made several visits to the tree – much to my guests’ delight. And I had some good chances of capturing their elegance on camera.

As we all know, subtle differences separates some of the browner bulbuls and a very narrow yellow eye ring is the most distinct feature to separate the Spectacled Bulbul...

From the Red-eyed Bulbul...

And a slightly darker crown is usually the most obvious feature for the Buff-vented Bulbul. Talk about subtle…

Today, the variety of species present was quite exceptional. Apart from the bulbuls, the flowerpeckers were also present in good numbers. 4 species were recorded and because of their minute size and active nature, I only managed to photograph one today. Murphy probably had his day off because it was the most beautiful species that made its way to my memory card – the handsome male Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker.

Rather unexpected were the 2 species of barbets that found it impossible to resist the tantalizing fruits. By then the tree was surrounded by a dozen or so campers and a handful birders and yet, the birds continued to pour in. The Blue-eared Barbet did not provide any good photographic opportunities. The Yellow-crowned Barbet was the exact opposite and it was no doubt the bird of the day for me.

Like all forest barbets, the Yellow-crowned Barbet spends most of its time in the canopy and well hidden. The distinctive territorial call can be heard quite frequently at this site but sight records are far and few. Today, we encountered the most confiding one in all my years of birding. It could have been the full stomach of fruits that made it sluggish or just good luck. Whatever the reason may be it was one memorable encounter.

Our next location was the mangroves of Sungai Batu. The Mangrove Pitta would be a lifer for my guests and there is no better place for them to bag this terrestrial beauty. The lighting was harsh at that time but the electrifying presence of the pitta overshadowed all that. And I guess, this would be the bird of the day for them.

The supporting cast at the stakeout helped to complete their experience with the Abbott’s Babblers charming them with their antics.

The adorable Forest Wagtail swayed its way into the trip as well. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this winter visitor will return here again next season because it certainly adds excitement to the visits here.

The female Mangrove Blue Flycatcher was again alone and my fears are more or less confirmed. The loss of the male bird at this location is truly disheartening. Hopefully, she will be able to find a new mate.

There was an added bonus to our visit today when an Oriental Garden Lizard posed all so elegantly at the site. This species is common in suitable habitats throughout the country and like most successful species, it has adapted well to living alongside Man.

The last bird to be photographed for this trip was a Javan Pond-Heron in partial breeding plumage at the paddy fields of Permatang Pauh in mainland Penang. It is always a delight to catch the pond-herons in their splendid breeding plumages but it also marks the impending end to the migratory season. Anyway, this uncommon but regular migrant is a fine way to wrap things up for another day of enjoyable birding here in northern Peninsular Malaysia.


kezonline said...

Congrats on that confiding yellow crowned Barbet, nice shots as were so many pics as usual. Despite the happy campers it was a successful trip again :-))

Choy Wai Mun said...

Thank you, Kieron. Luckily the food clouded the judgement of the birds!