Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Woodpecker in Malaysian Rainforest and Woodie in USA

Orange-Backed Woodpecker (Photo Credit: YL Yeo)

There are a total of 42 species of woodpeckers in South east Asia (including Malaysia). I suppose my fascination of Woodpeckers ("Woodies") was ignited by a very familiar cartoon character from Universal Pictures , USA who goes by the name of Woody Woodpecker. Would literally hear this cartoon character's odd goofish "calls" before the program starts. As kids, my sisters and I would rush to the front of the TV after we'd have our dinner and laugh at Woodie's antics. Walter Lanz was the creator of this red-headed woodpecker who first appeared in the 1940s on Television through a show called "Knock Knock" (as per picture below). The orange-backed woodpecker has a very loud call and I was initially "fooled" into thinking it was a large squirrel that was calling when I saw this woodpecker species in Taman Negara. Though our Malaysian woodpecker doesn't possess the weird behaviour and isn't up to mischief-making like the USA cartoon character, I think its loud calls would have put Woodie to shame:) For Woodpeckers of World by Gerard Gorman, click HERE.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Black and Red in the Forest and at Oscars

Black and Red Broadbill
This Black and Red Beauty of Malaysian rainforest was seen during 2018 Taman Negara Bird Count (Malaysia's National Park in the State of Pahang). Part of the 42 species logged at Mutiara Resort, the full list of which can be seen at https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S43772070. Full story of this Bird Count can be read HERE. There are seven (7) Broadbill species which can be found in Malaysia, including this Black and Red Broadbill. The Black and Yellow Broadbill was one of the 750 species featured in Lonely Planet article on Birdwatching in Malaysia which you can read about HERE.

Hollywood glitz and glamour celebrated the colours of this broadbill species at the 2015 Oscars, through Melanie Griffiths and her daughter, Dakota Johnson who presented and introduced Maroon 5 performance of the night HERE. Melanie was dressed in a beautiful black dress and Dakota looked stunning in red during the Oscars pre-ceremony - fashion beauties imitating nature's avian beauty:-
Sam Taylor-Johnson was the Director of the controversial Fifty Shades of Grey movie which Dakota Johnson starred in playing the role of "Anastasia Steel", the English Literature University Student. The movie was unfortunately banned in Malaysia. Taylor-Johnson's photograpy skills are amazing though and the black and white pictures in her website offer a glimpse to her skills, with the play on the light and background. A picture does paint a thousand words and she really knows how to tell a story with her pictures:)   

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Sweetest Gift of All from Fraser Hill and the Bitter Pill to Swallow thereafter

Malaysian Honeyguide, the sighting of which provided a few minutes of bliss on a Sunday morning in Bishop's Trail, Fraser Hill during Wild Bird Club Malaysia outing, with story to this outing available for reading HERE. My right ankle was bleeding the night before from a leech bite which I had discovered only after I had pulled out my sock which was soaked in blood, Saturday evening after returning from birdwatching at Telekom Loop. Wild Bananas of Fraser Hill on which some of the forest animals feed on were growing by the side of the roads. This versatile fruit has many local varieties such as Pisang Mas, Pisang Berangan, Pisang Tanduk KerbauPisang Susu (which grows well in gardens it seems) which reminds me to collect sapling from a friend for my sister's garden. 
Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo was very active on both days of the trip.
Large Niltava (Female) was close enough for me to get a record shot of. The male Niltava was looking for grubs along the edge of road, and it flew off as Ang's Isuzu came nearer.
A very confiding Red-Headed Trogon that flew to perch on this signboard, a timely reminder of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 and how important it is to ensure the Act is complied with and enforce, where necessary to protect this red beauty of Fraser Hill.
Red-Headed Trogon
The White-tailed Robin, male and female were hopping about at Mager Road and Telekom Loop. It was a real delight to observe the male White-tailed Robin hunting for its food alongside Mager Road, from inside the car.

White patch on the neck of this White-tailed Robin, male was only visible when it stretches out its neck.
This White-tailed Robin is a lifer for me in Fraser Hill since I've never actually had a good look of them before in Fraser's. I've observed them in a previous trip to Cameron Highland. 
Silver-breasted Broadbill, female, with her naturally striking and beautiful necklace. Compare this Broadbill's natural silver jewellery with that worn by "Anne Boleyn", the character played by Natalie Portman in a movie, although I'm wondering what is the question that she is referring to in the GIF image below;)

To quote Michael McCarthy "The Moth Snowstorm Nature & Joy" on appreciating bird songs on an individual basis and not through dollars and cents:-
We can generalise or, indeed, monetise the value of nature's services in satisfying our corporeal needs, since we all have broadly the same continuous requirement for food and shelter; but we have infinitely different longings for solace and understanding and delight. Their value is modulated, not through economic assessment, but through the personal experiences of individuals. So we cannot say - alas that we cannot - that birdsong, like coral reefs, is worth 375 billion dollars a year in economic terms, but we can say, each of us, that at this moment and at this place it was worth everything to me. Shelley did so with his skylark, and Keats with his nightingale, and Thomas Hardy with the skylark of Shelly, and Edward Thomas with his unknown bird, and Philip Larkin with his song thrush in a chilly spring garden, but we need to remake, remake, remake, not just rely on the poems of the past, we need to do it ourselves - proclaim these worths through our own experiences in the coming century of destruction, and proclaim them loudly, as the reason why nature must not go down.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hill Partridges of Fraser Hill May 2018

Malaysian Hill Partridge, all seven of them gave us a grand view of them at Fraser Hill. Wild Bird Club Malaysia organized an overnight trip to Fraser Hill from 19th to 20th May 2018. Full story about this trip is available in WBCM's website which you can read HERE.
This species formerly known as Gray-breasted Partridge was given full recognition in 2017 when Cornell Lab of Ornithology updated Clements Checklist, which is a worldwide annual update incorporating research into taxonomy of world's birds. Read on in eBird Malaysia's article by David Bakewell HERE
Magnificent view of Titiwangsa mountain range, which forms the backbone of Peninsular Malaysia.
The Malayan Laughingthrush showed up a day earlier on Saturday morning, before the Partridges.
Telekom Loop, one of the most popular birdwatching sites in Fraser Hill. The Collared Owlet was calling for quite a long period of time that Saturday afternoon in Telekom Loop but alas, this small diurnal owlet species remained elusive, and simply refused to show itself that afternoon. I was unfortunately about to find out later in the evening, that the itch I felt on my right foot was caused by a leech bite, the effect of which cause me to pull out a sock that would be drenched in blood, and a subsequent visit to KPJ Damansara Specialist Hospital post-Fraser Hill trip, for an injection to reduce a swollen right foot. Before I elaborate further on the swollen right foot, there was a very special bird that would turn up the next Sunday morning, in Bishop's Trail. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Global Big Day 2018 in Malaysia

Hadada Ibis at KL Lake Gardens on 5th May 2018
Red Junglefowl (Male)
Red Junglefowl (Female)
Woke up to an exceptionally sunny Saturday morning, 5th May 2018, which was just another weekend for us birdwatchers in Malaysia you might say, but that date would become globally significant for birdwatchers all over the world as it was celebrated as the Global Big Day. Cornell Lab of Ornithology initiated Global Big Day (GBD) since 2015. In 2017, 6,659 species were reported worldwide during GBD that was celebrated on 13th May. Malaysia recorded 380 species with 75 checklists submitted for GBD 2017 according to eBird website. That was good enough to put Malaysia at 17th position worldwide during initial results announcement by eBird. Malaysia was behind India's 11th position, with India having recorded 554 species with 999 checklists. 

Green-billed Malkoha 
A pair of Yellow-Vented Bulbuls looking at me counting them on GBD 2018
I spent my GBD 2018 counting at three (3) sites, the first site being KL Lake Gardens (Perdana Botanical Gardens) with my childhood friend Kalpana. My friend had worked in KL Sentral area for several years and knows her way around the Lake Gardens very well. Seems we had covered only 25% of the Lake Gardens that Saturday morning. Quite a number of the birds seen that morning were very busy looking for food, including the Green-billed Malkoha that had a big fat juicy green insect in its beak. The Hadada Ibis, which had eluded me in my previous visits to KL Lake Gardens was busy digging and prodding the grassy grounds for beetles and worms - it had successfully dug up an earthworm later that day. Am over the moon to have spotted this Ibis from Africa on Global Big Day 2018 - what a day it was to have finally ticked it off my list! Checklist for birds of KL Lake Gardens have been entered HERE.

We ended our birdwatching session around 10.30am on a hot morning before heading off for a hearty lunch at Pretz and Beans. My friend bade farewell and I went solo as I continued my GBD 2018 count at the second site in the afternoon. It was raining heavily in Kuala Lumpur by early afternoon as I had just completed refueling my car in Desa Sri Hartamas area. It was almost 3.30pm when I reached Dengkil, Selangor, where my second birdwatching destination was at. Time to look for some wetlands birds!     
Juvenile Coppersmith Barbet was busily exploring the contents of this tree hole in Paya Indah
Black-backed Swamphen (split from Purple Swamphen) at Paya Indah Wetlands

The second site, Paya Indah Wetlands was hot, dry and very sunny - a complete contrast from the dark rainclouds that had descended upon KL and Petaling Jaya. Paya Indah Wetland Park is considered a premier eco-tourism park covering 3,100 hectares according to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry's website. I was about to make my way out of the trail alongside Typha Lake since it was already 6.05pm when the soft calls of a flock of geese flying round and round this end of the lake stopped me in my tracks. The arrival of these Cotton Pygmy Geese was enough to delay my exit from Paya Indah Wetlands for a good 30 minutes. I was also searching for the Lesser Whistling Ducks, of which only two were flying around the lakeside later that evening after I had spotted one hiding inside the tall grasses at the edge of Typha Lake, earlier. These waterfowl species proved the most challenging for me since they were quite late in arriving (tardy waterfowl!).     
Black-crowned Night Heron
This Nile Crocodile behaved like a log
as it approached tree filled with the
Black-Crowned Night Herons 

The Checklist submitted for Paya Indah is available HERE.

The last bird heard and seen on 5th May 2018 was the Large-tailed Nightjar - it was a lucky find for me as I had decided to stop at one final (and third) count site to do nocturnal birding alongside a road in Cyberjaya, a place more well-known for MSC-status companies, Global Call Centres, Universities and Data Centres. Just had dinner at Cyberjaya's Padi restaurant until it was almost 8.30am when I decided to take a chance and try to spot either a nightjar or a Barn owl since Cyberjaya was still surrounded by remnants of oil palm plantations. I had seen nightjars flying across road leading to the Selangor Turf Club roundabout nearby Mines Waterfront Business Park especially in the evenings when I leave my office. The third and final checklist submitted to eBird on 5th May 2018 is available HERE.
Cornell's Global Big Day 2018 was also up in Google Maps (see below) before 5th May to ramp up support amongst birdwatchers worldwide, and to get ready for the Big Day! 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Rufous-Backed Kingfisher on Labour Day

Rufous-Backed Kingfisher, (formerly known as Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher) not one but a pair were flying about nearby a stream in Sungai Congkak Recreational Forest on Labour Day morning. I had seen the Black-backed kingfisher species years earlier in (of all places) Petaling Jaya. Read more about that encounter with this very special kingfisher HERE.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Selangor Bird Fair - Wings over Kuala Kubu Bahru 2018

Red-Headed Trogon - Male
Red-headed Trogon, the symbol of avian elegance and beauty, never fails to make my heart sing with joy. It's soft pigeon-like cooing sound filled the forest in Bishop's trail that Sunday early afternoon as both Indira and Peter spotted it whilst we were going down the steps. We had just completed our Selangor International Bird Race 2018 after zipping around Kuala Kubu Bahru, Millenium Stadium, The Gap (Selangor), Fraser Hill (Selangor Border) from 21st to 22nd April 2018 in a Perodua Myvi driven by Amir, from Majlis Daerah Hulu Selangor (MDHS) the organizer of the Race. Team Katala handed in our log book at the reception of Shahzan Inn by 11.30am, half an hour before noontime deadline set by the organizer. We double-checked the names of each birds written down by Indira, against Mr Allen J's Field Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. The results of the International Bird Race has been announced in Local Council's website HERE. 
Lesser Yellownape
Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush
Asian Emerald Dove

Asian Emerald Dove of Richmond Bungalow kept us in awe post-Race as we waited patiently for the Malaysian Hill Partridge to show up. We couldn't wait any longer for the family of partridges since there was the closing ceremony of the Bird Race to attend and we haven't had our lunch yet. MDHS arranged for the international participants to stay at 
Sarang by the Brook, Kuala Kubu Bahru on Friday night. I birded at Sarang by the Brook on Saturday morning, alongside a short road which was surrounded by forest with a stream nearby. The White-rumped Shama was the first bird seen that Saturday morning, hopping about Sarang by Brook. Black-headed bulbuls, Asian Brown Flycatcher and Yellow-vented Flowerpecker were some the birds which also showed up that morning. Indira had given a talk on Friday night about the Critically Endangered Philippine Cockatoo (also known as Red-vented Cockatoo). The talk ended quite late around 11.30pm and it was almost midnight when we returned to Sarang by Brook. WOKKB 2018 event would begin at Mini Stadium Kuala Kubu Bahru by 9am on Saturday morning, so we left Sarang by Brook by 8.40am. WOKKB 2018 album in Facebook has more pictures of the Race which covered Kuala Kubu Bahru right up to Selangor border of Fraser Hill. Full list of birds seen pre and post Wings over Kuala Kubu Baru 2018 were recorded and entered into eBird Malaysia portal as below:-





We would be celebrating Global Big Day soon in Malaysia on 5th May 2018. Global Big Day is an initiative from Cornell Lab of Ornithology to gather as many people as possible worldwide, to bird and enter their sightings in eBird. GBD 2018 in Malaysia is being promoted by Wild Bird Club Malaysia and will be coming up soon on 5th May, Saturday. Go to Wild Bird Club Malaysia website HERE to find out how you can participate in GBD 2018.

Peter and Indira Widmann are the founders of Philippine Cockatoo Foundation. I have had the privilege of meeting them last year in Palawan Island, where the Foundation is based, during the Katala Festival. Read about this Festival HERE.
It was the pre and post Bird Race birdwatching, the time spent with Indira and Peter, reconnecting with nature, listening to the songs of birds and observing these birds in the wild, and meeting up with friends, which were the most memorable moments of WOKKB 2018, for me.   

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Northern Boobok of Ranibari Community Forest Nepal

A second species of Owls that also found sanctuary in this valuable patch of forest in Ranibari was the Brown Boobok (Ninox Scutulata). EBird option tick was Brown/Northern Boobok. Read about diurnal owls somewhere in my Craig Robson, 2000 edition. Spotted Owlets and Brown Booboks really made my mid-afternoon birdwatching memorable in Kathmandu, Nepal. The last time I saw this Boobok species - it was called Brown Hawk Owl - was during an outing to Penang Hill, a long, long time ago. Time to go look for Field Guide to the birds of the Indian subcontinent, Nepal, Bhutan in the next Big Bad Wolf Sales which should be coming soon to several places in Malaysia this 2018:) Had blogged about my 2017 BBW find HERE.
The Warden at the Community Forest pointed out this sleeping pair to me
The other birds spotted at this Community Forest. Almost all species seen by me in Ranibari Community Forest such as the Yellow-Bellied Fantail, Rose-Ringed Parakeets and Blue-tailed Magpies were my lifers. The full list has been entered into eBird and is available HERE . Nepal hosted an Internet and Domain Name Registries meeting in Kathmandu from February 2018 onwards (just after Chinese New Year public holidays). I was happy to come across the local website "Photos of Nepal" with one of the webpages dedicated to WILDLIFE, which described the Spiny Babbler as being unique to the country which has 900 bird species, 30 of them being globally threatened. Am now wondering which species of bird was introduced to Nepal.....  
Blue-tailed Magpie with one of them carrying a possible nesting material in its beak - Magpies belong to the Crows and Jays species category, the Corvidae well-known for their creative adaptations  
Nesting material looks like a yellow plastic wrapper
Such long tails! I had missed good views of this Magpie species previously in China so seeing this pair more than made up for the disappointment

Monday, March 5, 2018

One of a Kind Community Forest in the middle of Kathmandu Nepal

Work-related trip to attend a meeting in Kathmandu, Nepal gave me the rare opportunity to visit a Community Forest in the heart of Kathmandu, Nepal. Thanks to my birdwatching friend from Nepal, Rajendra Gurung who introduced me to Ranibari Community Forest. When he said I could see owls in this forest, I was not convinced more so since he planned to start birdwatching at around 12.30pm noontime! Lo and behold a family of Spotted Owlets peered at us in broad daylight. It took me a few minutes to FIND them since the colour of their plumage created an almost perfect camouflage against the trees. It was only when Rajendra pointed out the hole in which the owlets were in that I almost whooped for joy when I spotted them! It seems this precious patch of forest is home to this family of owlets. This family of Spotted Owlets, other feathered and furry friends continue to co-exist peacefully with the residents of Kathmandu. Jyotendra from Bird Conservation Nepal had also joined us for this mid-day birdwatching outing and he pointed out that the forest were demarcated and fully fenced against the residential area that surrounded it. There was a small Hindu temple on top of the hill inside the forest. Two ladies were operating a food stall at the entrance to this forest and we had lunch after completing our walk around the forest. The chapati and potato curry were served piping hot together with hot chai. I stayed on to bird at the forest until 4.30pm. The forest closes by 4.45pm. I would have loved to bird until then but I was not familiar with traffic in Kathmandu and I had a return flight to Kuala Lumpur to catch that Sunday night. The forest was silent for some time in the earlier parts of that Sunday afternoon. It only came alive in the last hour before closing time. I had a much better view of the Rose-Ringed Parakeet (more of that in the next post) in the community forest. There was small flock of Rose-Ringed Parakeets that I had seen earlier near my hotel in Durbar Marg, Kathmandu. This flock perched on a tree-top opposite a very busy road. These Parakeets only came in to roost in the trees by 6pm. It was already dark in Kathmandu by 6pm evening time and there was no chance of a good view since my meetings ran from morning to evening. Am thankful to Rajendra for unveiling this best kept secret of Kathmandu! More pictures of Spotted Owlets below, rounding off a memorable albeit very short birdwatching opportunity for me during a work trip to Nepal. Read on about Ranibari Community Forest hereNorthern Boobok coming up in the next post.       



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