As I was about to call it an early night in preparation for my tour the next day, I could hear a steady stream of wind caressing the window panes. The caressing soon grew to pounding and with an intensity that I do not think I have experienced before. I was sure I was out of harm’s way as long as I remained indoors but there was still cause for concern. The side effect of Typhoon Lekima that struck China has found its way to a few northern states in northern Peninsular Malaysia and in its wake, a trail of destruction. This act of nature could jeopardize the success of my tour tomorrow and I was a little anxious as I led my Singaporean guest to the first location of the day and it was the mangroves of Sungai Batu. The winds certainly swept through here but luckily, the damages were not as severe as I have feared. It was a gloomy morning and the resident Greater Coucals were quite adamant in absorbing as much of whatever little sunlight that was available today. So much so that they partly forgo their usual wary nature.
Crested Serpent-Eagles can be confiding at times and this individual that was resting on a low dead tree, certainly exhibited that trait. And on a slow day like this, it was a much welcomed encounter despite the common status of this impressive raptor.
It was good to see a few big water birds present here today. This young Purple Heron was one of them. The distance may not have been ideal but the beauty of the Purple Heron deserved our attention.
Our next destination was the Air Hitam Dalam Educational Forest in mainland Penang. Upon arrival, I was left speechless. I stared upon my deepest fear as last night’s freak storm nearly flattened the place. When one of the mighty Banyan Trees uprooted not too long ago, it had a devastating effect on this birding site and now, a second Banyan Tree suffered the same fate when it could not withstand the wrath of nature. I fear the end is drawing near for this once glorious birding hotspot. And the atmosphere this morning was about as cheerful as a cemetery.
Not only does the site need to endure the power of Mother Nature but also the work of my fellow Man. The illegal land clearing works right at the border of the reserve were given stop work orders by the government but it may be too late. A little piece of me dies with the demise of each birding site here in my home state of Penang. Air Hitam Dalam and all the incredible moments it has provided, will be a huge loss to the local birding community should it face an untimely death.
A few Asian Openbills resting along the paddy fields of mainland Penang ended the day on a slightly higher note. And these unique storks are settling in very well indeed. Whether it is on top of isolated trees or on the fields, the Asian Openbills have certainly found their refuge here.
My next birding excursion took me to the hilly forest of Sungai Sedim in Kedah state. The strong winds barely made it here deep in the interiors of Kedah and for that I am most grateful. Birding could have been better and the birds did just about enough to keep a couple of old school birders contented. My Australia guest had shown a keen interest to go for her first ever canopy walk and where better than what is supposedly the world’s longest one – the Sungai Sedim Tree Top.
The view from up here was spectacular as always. However, we were hoping for a little more than breath taking views from our venture into the canopy level.
For the second consecutive time, a mammal and not a bird, provided the main highlight for me. A civet was seen making its way along the foliage of the forest canopy. I tried my best to follow its movements but it was an uphill challenge for both me and my modest photography equipment. Between cursing and not toppling over the side of the canopy walk, I somehow managed to capture a few reasonable images of this sleek creature. And it turned out to be a Small-toothed Palm-Civet. My second ever encounter with this elusive and uncommon species.
Like most civets, it is nocturnal by nature and it is a true blessing to be given an opportunity to admire and photograph the Small-toothed Palm-Civet in broad daylight.
The encounter lasted no more than a half minute but for the observers, it seemed much longer than that. We could not take our eyes off the civet until it disappeared into the dense foliage where it finds true sanctuary. Apart from the usual species, I do not come across mammals all that often in the field. But of late, I seem to be having more luck with mammals than birds.
Just to prove my point, we also came across a relatively confiding Agile Gibbon. This primate is shy and although the far-carrying territorial calls are much a part of the sights and sounds of Sungai Sedim, to see one well like this requires luck.
The only bird image from this site that turned out well enough to be shared was of this male Whiskered Treeswift. He was enjoying his time in the sun despite all the commotion from a group of campers below.
At the mangroves of Sungai Batu, the lighting condition was better than my previous visit. It may be my imagination but even the plain-looking Abbott’s Babbler appeared to be looking exceptional beautiful today.
There will be no hesitation in describing the Mangrove Blue Flycatcher as beautiful for it is one of the best-looking species of this swampy realm.
It was a shame that this male Plain-throated Sunbird was in moult. He could have easily improve the vibrancy of the surroundings as he is a striking species as well.
A female Oriental Magpie-Robin helped increase the variety of species encountered today. Her kind may not possess a kaleidoscope of colours on their plumage but their ability to sing is rivalled by few here in Malaysia. And sadly, their beautiful song is not heard as often now especially here in Penang due to their demand in the bird trade.
On the other hand, the Yellow-vented Bulbul continues to do well throughout the country especially near humans. Naturally, I do not pay much attention to this species but there will be time of exceptions. A few were performing well at the stakeout and it would just be wrong not to acknowledge their presence.
So, one of the commonest birds in Malaysia wrapped things up for this time. Mammals (and a natural disaster) probably overshadowed the other contents in this post. I can state with much confidence, this time anyway, that there is certainly more to life than just birds.