Sunday, February 28, 2010

Still looking for my Mangrove-blue Flycatcher

16th February 2010

For this trip north, I have ample time to spare, fitted in my driving schedule handy and just nice for me to check out whether I could have my pictures for the Mangrove-blue Flycatcher and the Greater Flameback. So into this Sepetang Boardwalk I came.

Was about 8.15 am when I walked into a bird wave at the first platform. Rather strange to have bird wave scenario in this place as I cannot remember meeting up with one during my other visit . The pack was led by a lone Drongo. It perched - with the bright morning sun as background.
No matter how I tried cannot say for sure that it's a Black Drongo even though looks like one. The rest of the birds that made up the packs were Flycatchers, Tailorbirds, Flowerpeckers, Sunbirds etc.

All of a sudden, my wife pointed out that quietly perched less than 2 meters away from where I stood.
What a gift in the morning, can see from the picture that I have to look downwards to the bird. A short while later it flew and I followed in hot pursuit to get it in other angles
I was granted that privilege and here one of the angles.

The bird kept its position well hindered with twigs and leaves. I could not harvest that many clear shot as I had wished to but here is one. After that following through with the Flycatcher was over and it moved away from me, the whole place just quiet down.

The Woody that I wanted was calling from some distance away. To kill my time waiting, recorded this Kite. They, a pair, were busy collecting nesting materials.
Among the many little birds that I met up with earlier, found this half hidden juvenile Flycatcher-shrike.
A visit to the mangrove forest would never be complete without getting this fellow into the picture.
It was a short but satisfying trip in getting enough pictures for the Mangrove-blue. Have to wait for another opportunity for the Woody

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Air Itam Dalam in Penang

15th February 2010

Of all the birding destinations that I know in Penang, there are 2 places that I would not miss. The Air Itam Dam and the Air Itam Dalam "Education Park". The former, is next to my house while the latter on the mainland side is easy to reach and relatively productive. Furthermore when it comes to heading for Air Itam Dalam, more salient considerations. First the upside - during this time in February, Pond Heron should be in breeding plumage I love to have more pictures. On the down side, the place had deteriorated over the last few years. I suppose I am still keen is to be there to check on its "existence" - the purpose hence is more to satisfying a question mark rather than a birding trip.

For this years visit, after reading reports of vandalism I got my wife to accompanying me as "jaga kereta".

Upon arrival, I was greeted by the boardwalk who has lost some of its planks. Very disappointing, at this rate of neglect, next year I may not able to walk through this tiny forest anymore. But after having taken just a few steps into the bridge and spending that few moments, my impression of the place changed.

First, with little outsiders to the place and the locals could not intrude what meagre amount of land left, the forested area was left to grow. No littering, no signs of willful destruction - ahh I got a good feeling that the ambience around boardwalk was like long before. It is regaining its previous glory. Imagine the scene - birds gathered in numbers and chirping away continuously as if I was in the midst of a bird wave. There were constant calls of the Lineated plus interjection by the Gold-whiskered and Coppersmith. [none of them seen]. The "Yellow-faced" left its perch for a short flight and an un-ID Raptors stayed hidden at the canopy.

What I had physically saw in terms of bird life were signs of those of the "little" fellows hoping about among the twigs.

Slowly I followed through the foliages. First fellow, the easiest perhaps largest among the lot,  to spot was this Green Iora.
There must be a few of them located by their calls, here and there.
While waiting for the Ashy Tailorbird to stop hopping and the Malkoha to show its face, this pair of Drongo flew in to generate distraction.

These 2 Drongos in contrast with the rest, perched still, busy monitoring my movements, made no attempt to take off when I approached them. Meaning they having nothing in mind beside watching me.
Being many years now now that I have not sighted the Ruddy. This morning the Stork-billed marked its attendance.
No picture of the Stork-billed, so I got one ever-ready Kingfisher to be representative.

I was surprised by a pair of bold Tit-babblers who for a change were foraging in the open. Suddenly this objective for my visit appeared.
This Mangrove-blue is one Flycatcher that I still need more pictures of. Flew out perched very briefly and back into the darkness of the Nipah tree.

The largest bird and one that created constant diversion was inevitably the Fantail.
OK, that's the few types of birds that I have decent pictures of. The balance of the pictures, the Barbet was too far away and the Babbler was shifting too fast.

Just before I close this page, I got the Lineated though very high up at the canopy level.
The Abbott also showed up in the open.
What remained of the forest area of Air Itam Dalam is very confined but compact I must say. I regained a good feeling about the place now after 4/5 years of disappointment. All the "old friends" who should be there, like the 4 types of Kingfishers, excluding the Ruddy already and the 3 types of Woody were there. I think the Mangrove Pitta should still be somewhere hiding. I am not sure whether we will get to see the Broadbill again. Yes, it a park with a short bird list and consistently the same birds seen. Since there is no large forest for miles within sight, it is unlikely other visiting birds, not sighted by me in this park during other previous visit, would drop by.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bird Park- my parent's house

14th February 2010

Recently I was toying with the idea of starting a bird feeding tray or bird house in my backyard, with the intention of attracting more birds to my garden and also enticing them to stay around with me. For the birds, there is an assurance of constant food supply and fresh water, they should not be bothered to go elsewhere. Not a new idea but one borrowed the idea from the hoteliers in Frasers Hills.

Before I have the chance to materialise that dream, I saw the reality when I was back in my old house in Air Itam. The happening there, I realized that our garden has the sort of environment where human virtually lived with birds. Without effort I could see the routine of a few birds. The scene knocked some sense into me as to type of ambience that makes birds stay or choose their resting place.

The 1st incident was with this Dollarbird. Punctually each dawn and twilight, he would perched there for a while - calling.
His stay was longer in the morning about 5 minutes and a brief one in the evening, the action done when there was no daylight. I can't help but thinking that the bird was roosting among the trees in my garden - that perch was his first and last place of call.
Next bird - Last year we decided in chopping down the Durian tree just beside the house. On which the Coppersmith had a few seasons of successful nesting.
This year, without its old nest, they found a replacement. A low horizontal bough on the nearby rambutan tree. Watching their behavioral pattern for CNY time, I would say that the eggs were being hatched. All day long I got Coppersmiths just 15 feet away from the front door of the house. By the second day of CNY, feeding started! Signs of the chicks hatched! Too bad, I don't live not in Penang. Nothing lost for me I've got another nest in Rimba to follow through.
Next, the most obvious example of birds behavior was shown by this pair of Mynas.

Each time when they needed rest or seen preening their feathers, they would return to the same bough. That pattern was repeated virtually at hourly interval.

The Tailorbird whose habit was spending their time among the bushes. That was the perimeter fencing. Here it felt comfortable to strayed onto the sandy patches to forage, spending considerable time.
A scene that I almost forget. Tree Sparrow who did get water for their bath had made use of the sands instead.

The birds were so calm and unbothered in going about their routine.
At every couple of hours interval, this Little Heron would dropped by to his favorite perch. In the morning and evening, spent a long time on the perch.
I suspect that this one pair of Fantails were sharing a nest in a tree beside the house. For playing and resting, I saw them emerging from that tree and seen on another tree where most other birds would perch.
On a few occasions, they seen chasing away the Oriole who had stayed into the favored tree.

My house was no where near forest edge but right in the heart of the built up area. With that fact we cannot omit the Yellow-vented.
Though the Bulbuls were noisy birds at dawn and twilight, in their routine, they were not involved in any dramatic display. Typical of this species, they were the most seen bird and always being around the whole day.

"Naked" tree with birds. I would expect this to be a typical scene in Rimba Kiara especially in the morning hours, thinning off as the surrounding heats up. At the compound of my house, the place restricted to a small confine and sighting of the birds a natural reflex, such scene struck me as a common sight the whole day. Endlessly, different birds taking the stage at various time. I suppose the main difference - birds in Rimba were constantly moving around in much wider area for various activities, but the birds on the trees in my house were actually "at home" in their rest places.

Though most of the birds mentioned are "trash" birds by most people definition, I enjoy seating on the verandah and watching the going-ons. A true interpretation of backyard birding.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What's new in Rimba?

10th February 2010

The Kites were seen mating and the nest for the Coppersmith freshly prepared, these were the couple of reasons I invented to get myself for a short visit to my playground. It's time that I follow through on the progress. I could also check on the favorite perch of Common Kingfisher and the status of the fruiting tree. So whether I was going to see any new birds or not, I had a full agenda on hand.
On arrival, the amount of fruits thinned noticeably but some remnants. This fruiting time of this tree was a good gauge to tell which are the birds frequenting the Rimba Park area. Disappointed, I could only summaries the pathetic list that contains the Yellow-vented and the Common Iora. Even the starlings have no preference for its fruits.

This morning, there was a small fellow sighted. Some sort of Flycatcher. After a few flights to/fro its feeding spots, I could make out that it was an Asian Brown - quite a common visitors to Kiara Hills, now in Rimba as well.
Other than having counted this Flycatcher and the few Bulbuls, bird life was comparatively low. The Brahminy was no where to be seen, unlike those morning when they were watching the nest noted in all my previous trips. What happened? Is there any term like "failed mating?"
Even though I was mentally prepared, I cannot say that I was not disappointed - not until I see this fellow! Slim lanky fellow - looked like a Minivet.

There you are! A male Minivet. Alone and hunting within a tight circle. Spent half an hour watching it until I ran out of battery.

The Ashy Minivet on my previous encounters in the Kiara Hills foraged in packs of a few birds. Likewise, I too had previously seen the Minivet in Rimba, but those few occassions they were grouped in pair. As far as I remember, this could be the first time, I saw a lone bird.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Laughingthrush in the Kiara Hills?

8th February 2010

On Thursday as usual, the Kiara Bunch was having their regular walk when they stumbled upon a White-crested Laughingthrush. The bird was photographed and posted in the mailing list. In response, the next day, Saturday that Gilbert got hold of Andrew to show to us the exact spot.

The Kiara Bunch saw only one bird but swear that they heard the call from a partner - in pairs, the bird seen was busy chasing the monkey away .
I place my bet that this Laughingthrush must be an escapee from the pet shop as this species is popular among collectors.
We gathered there at noon and it quite normal at that time for bird activities to be on low key. So, all that we got was a family of Junglefowls crossing the road.
On inspecting the surrounding!!!
Taken note that there was also a fruiting tree.

Like elsewhere having this was the same species of tree, it was loaded with fruits.

We arranged for another day when the walking crowd thinned off. On Monday, we would meet up at the same spot. I was there punctually on Monday. Upon arrival as if done with perfect timing, the Broadbill called. What so special about a Broadbill's call? Kiara have never recorded any Broadbill in the past. This was the bird I wanted to confirm. For over 12 months, now, I encountered its calls on 3 previous occasions but all came from so distance away, would be futile to wait for it appearance.

But this time , the call came relatively close. I would wait. True enough, another few minutes passed, the bird shifted perch.
For the first time in 12 months I finally got evidence of its existence in the Kiara Hills. I was jubilant at this find. Had my card loaded with pictures from the few perches.
Bird life was strong that morning, dropping by at that spot were birds ranging from the large Shama to the little Tit-Babblers. The resident Striped-throated stole the show for willingly acted as model.

The Tiger Shrike some distance off, too unknowingly came into focus. Suit me well, I shot anything that moved.

While waiting and shooting, I heard a soft whisper not far from me and saw this guy. First glance, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, I ID.
Well hiden, I don't mind getting an obscured pictures for a bird among the twigs. It flew away after I got my insurance shot. Moments later it came back and this time stood in full view. Ha! My practice of being satisfied having a shot for record was strategic. Repaid with better shots at a later instances. Later back home, I had the chance to examine the details of this "yellow-bellied" carefully. This is not a Yellow-bellied but a Narcissus. A bird that I video-ed 12 years ago, since that occasion, leaving me with super blurry still to be contend with for a long time. So - the second long wait of mine unexpectedly came to a good ending.
The Laughingthrush, the subject that brought me to Kiara, once again, did not show up for the day, my second trip to look for it.
As a finale, I got this rather nice looking but rather odd species of Brown Shrike. My group walks daily in Kiara and the Laughingthrush was never spotted again, now over a week.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Time of the season - Family reunion and lovers get together

7th February 2010

We lost faith in our luck of bringing to us chance meeting with lots for birds when we weighed destination like Perdik, Awana and Kemensah and but we need to be out - in the field. A good compromise would be somewhere near, somewhere we forgot to check for long time.

Need not ponder long, we were lucky, there is such a destination, less than an hours drive. Good breakfast, meet old acquaintance and need not do any walking.

After saying "hello" to Ah Tee for our breakfast meeting, we were off to Pantai Remis. Just as we hit the beach road, pairs of Dollarbirds, Asian Koel and Kingfishers stop us at the track. All attributed to the "beginner's" luck that Henry brought us. These birds kept them trigger happy for a while and I checked on the mudflats. This time of the month had just pass the peak of Spring tide and the waterline in the early hour was still about 500 meters from shore.

That didn't stop my camera in picking up this family of Curlews.

Other flocks of waders relocating their site for foraging. Couldn't put a fix on them.
Yes, they landed though very far, but unmistakably Terek.

Couldn't ignore the Dollarbirds protecting their nest site and also hoping to catch some shot of that "Dollar" symbol.
There were times, the birds left the perch momentarily. Each occasion, either the trigger or the camera was not fast enough.

A blurry souvenir is better than nothing.

They don't appear loving at all? In fact the Collared are fond of perching themselves very close to one another. But not this pair, this day.

Never mind! There were other more co-operative models. While these two birds were shown here as together, they were part of a family of few birds.
So were these pairs of Otters. Found some dry media among the muddy banks to roll and brushed their furs.

Really??? - superstitious or not, with Henry around, we had a swell outing. Sad that we missed the 4 encounters with the Black-capped whom we need the pictures desperately. Other memories like we almost missed the Thick-billed. The pair of Brahminy horse playing at eye level and of course the White-headed Munias to complete the Black & White story. The day's highlight must be that macro shot of the Stork-billed.

Orange-headed Thrush in FRIM

3rd February 2010

FRIM or the Forest Research Institute has a sprawling compound that encompasses kilometers of forest edge. Undeniably scenes that's befitting the most attractive destination for bird watching. That point is true! Many species of quality birds were recorded. Unfortunately the hills and jungle that surround the land are of monoculture or that of badly disturbed forest. While the desired bird diversity can still be counted upon but most species in low population numbers, and the few remaining birds are well scattered. Chances of meeting up with them rare. As hope of seeing birds is always there, we cannot write of this destination but kept it high on our favored list.

Migratory activities is high in January, and among the birds on the watch list - the Orange-headed Thrush. For years now, on following through the tip-off of their whereabouts, the hunt turned up blanks, not until this year. In 2010, the bird in Bukit Tinggi stayed visible for days, perhaps with better retention method adopted by the photographers, I can say that by now almost all enthusiasts in the country had pictures of this bird.

This Orange-headed over the years was seen in quite a few spots around Kuala Lumpur. As mentioned earlier, the first reported sighting was in Bukit Tinggi and now Gilbert confirmed having met up with another bird in FRIM.

Since FRIM is near my house, the 3 of us set out to confirm the habit of this bird.

As predicted, the Thrush stayed in its last seen confine of foraging. Was not disturbed by our presence.

We took the shots from afar. Then we tested its resistance to our presence by approaching the bird. It flew off but to reappear on a mid-storey branch very close to where we stood.

Our understanding of the bird reinforced.

Beside the Thrush, the sighting of other birds in FRIM was so accidental, bird life was really low. We had to be contended with images of the most common bird of the compound.

Just to reconfirm that the place could not be that unproductive, we headed for the "Finfoot" pond, where we were assured of resident like Stork-billed, Straw-headed of even the Common Kingfisher .
Checking out this hot spot, there was nothing out of the ordinary but White-breasted Kingfisher, Blue-tailed Bee-eater and Scaly-breasted Munia. Overhead the Yellow-faced did not want us to miss his presence.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Another productive day in TRA

2nd February, 2010

I wrote in a last blog that certain intrusion was taking place at the entrance of the TRA Park. The trees were fruiting and I would like to keep track of the feeding activities in this area. So I was back at the park once more. Feeding continued as there were still lots of fruits left. I had the chance to meet up with the entrepreneur and the Chinese contractor clearing the area of the fruits trees. But I got the impression that they waited until 9.30 am before approaching me if they could start work to clearing the undergrowth after the car park. I was the important bird watcher.

Logically, when the park was first revamped, I was delighted to see the couple of houses after the car park demolished and teh area looking more like part of a proper park area. Well, all house except one!

Now there is a boom gate far away at the entrance, a guard house manned by officials from the Forestry department and a formal car park.

What this? Another plot of land taken over by a private business as restaurants and have the landscape done in his own taste? I have difficulty understanding the logic. That was my first thought for the day.

This day I made my way into the Park proper after that little chat with the contractor/owner but ended up just 50 meters away under the shade of my favorite tree.

This tree was also fruiting, as I have checked it in the last trip. Then came the second awareness for the day! This lone tree and those trees in the car park, they were all fruiting but a chance to examine the fruits, appearing alike, the fruits are not ripening in the same style. After careful examination, I termed them as 2 different sub-species

As I still could not put a fix on their ID, I would label them species A and species B. The latter are those from the trees at the car park, in clusters While those from the lone tree A were arranged linear in a row.
The translucent fruits in A ripened into a juicy dark red fruit while those in B, our human eyes cannot detect the degree of ripping with little color change. From green the fruits would dry up into a "raisin" state. The identification of the fruits are critical, like human able to seek out the ripened fruits among the whole rows of fruits, visiting birds were so engrossed in filling their bellies had no fear of human nearby. Whereas those searching for edible fruits as in B, would keep a constant look out for threat near by. So much for my newly found knowledge. This day I had 6 species of Bulbuls, 3 species of Leafbirds, 2 species each of Barbets and Flowerpeckers. The Bulbul and Barbet, I had shown. I picked some of the others to fill up the page:-
Cannot miss the action. This guy is always around during the migratory season
On the contrary, this one is seldom seen as it moves in the shadow and never pause to look around.
This is definitely a female but with all drab female Flowerpeckers are looking alike, without the male accompanying, rather a job in trying to put a fix ID on them
I said "no Barbet pix". This huge guy was enjoying himself brushing shoulders with the Bulbuls.
After feeding, perched there and called. So often, we get to hear them, hardly had a chance to see them doing it. Now he performed a special task, I gave him a place here.

The lighting playing tricks, believe me this is the Green Iora that is not easily spotted.
This little fellow should also have a place. Having played a role of co-operative model.
As usual, watching this bunch of birds feeding in frenzy manner and getting so much opportunity to collect pictures, was enough reward for the day. One more time, I was exhausted and in no mood to do further checking up in the rest of TRA.