Wednesday, October 17, 2018

King and Queen of Hearts comparison with Montane Bird Pairs

Lesser Shortwing, female
Lesser Shortwing, male
A pair of Lesser Shortwing were quite confiding when they appeared out of nowhere from the mossy undergrowth, to perch on a low branch (as above). They behaved very mouse-like, hopping around on the ground. The male Shortwing flipped its tail upwards and downwards whilst perched, before disappearing into the thick undergrowth. eBird Photo and Sound Quiz on eBird Malaysia has featured this montane species before as part of a 20 Multiple Choice Questions from likely birds in the area which are calculated from eBird checklists submitted. The Quiz can be customized to a specific location i.e. within Malaysia and is a fun tool for practicing bird identification and exploring photographs of birds from eBird checklists. Just sign up as eBird user to play this Quiz. Play the Quiz HERE.   
  
Mr and Mrs Lesser Shortwing were not the only impressive pair of species that day in Genting Highlands. Also making a grand appearance that sunny Saturday in Ulu Kali were a pair of Snowy-Browed Flycatcher. The female SB Flycatcher was the first to appear followed by the male Snowy-Browed Flycatcher below who appeared more shy. The Large Niltava was actually the first pair of birds to make an appearance in Ulu Kali that morning. Reminder to self that although the temperature in Ulu Kali is cool when the mountain wind blows, there is a high likelihood of getting sun-burnt at an altitude of 1,000m above sea-level:( Siberian thrush and my 2017 birdwatching experience at Ulu Kali can also be read HERE.   
Snowy-Browed Flycatcher, female
Snowy-Browed Flycatcher, male
  
There will always be a King and a Queen of Hearts in every deck of cards, so for me to observe both "King" and "Queen" pairs of Snowy-Browed Flycatcher, Lesser Shortwing and Large Niltava was like hitting jackpot of a different kind in Genting Highlands. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ulu Kali Genting Highlands and Migratory Season 2018

 
Black-throated Sunbird, female and male
Ulu Kali is a well-kept secret of Genting Highlands. Nestled at 1,000m+ above sea level in the mountain ranges of Peninsular Malaysia, this area houses a radar station with the last green remnants of montane forest located nearby a place more well-known for international concerts, shopping malls, theme parks (20th Century Fox being the latest to open) and most famously - a casino, the first to operate in Malaysia under "Uncle" Lim Goh Tong, whom every Chinese in Malaysia would dream of being related to. Montane birds can still be found in Ulu Kali and the migratory season is already in full swing with the likes of Grey Wagtail, Yellow-rumped Flycatcher (also known as Korean Flycatcher), and an unidentified mystery raptor that flew past the distant horizon.      
 
Rufous-winged Fulvettas were very active that Saturday morning, hopping alongside the undergrowth before catching the insects on the wing. These fulvettas were very gregarious, not staying still for long as they hopped onto the fences alongside the radar station, some on the mossy grounds before flying off into the opposite side of the road. Some snapshots of the Rufous-winged Fulvettas captured "in flighty and hoppy action" that morning are as below:- 

One of the fulvettas had even hopped onto the Police box inside the radar station. This flock looked to be gorging themselves on the insects, together with the Grey Wagtails, Mountain Leaf Warblers, Large Cuckooshrike, Asian Brown Flycatcher and Mountain Bulbul. 
The Siberian Blue Robin turned up only for around a minute, inside the radar station. My friend and Wader Sifu Ang Teck Hin managed to snap a picture of this migrant male. His picture has been entered in the eBird checklist for Ulu Kali, the link of which is provided below.
Chestnut-tailed Minla playing Peekaboo behind this fruiting shrub
Chestnut-tailed Minla finally revealed

Whilst my friend Ang and myself settled in for lunch, which consisted of Nasi Kerabu (for me) and Nasi Lemak Ayam Goreng (for Ang), a Peregrine Falcon decided to fly by the horizon. Its bullet-size shape and flight patterns are so fascinating. A pair of Peregrine Falcons were seen in Goh Tong Jaya area and my write-up on this pair is available HERE. Blythe's Hawk-Eagle also turned up that mid-morning earlier, circling above the mountain range. Its high-pitch calls were distinctively different from that of the Crested Serpent Eagle. The Eagle was the first raptor we saw that morning as we approached Ulu Kali.   

Full checklist of birds seen at Ulu Kali, Genting Highlands entered into eBird Malaysia is available HERE.

On a separate and non-nature related topic, Genting Highlands Resort is operated by the Genting group, a well-known brand originating from Malaysia that has registered their own top level name HERE.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Flameback in the City

Common Flameback (Female)
Common Flameback (Female)

Nearly missed this pair of Common Flameback that Saturday afternoon at Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens (renamed as Perdana Botanical Gardens in 2011 according to this news article HERE). Saw the female first as it was feeding alongside the trunk of a huge tree. Heard it calling earlier but couldn't quite spot it until I was about to leave. The male species of Common Flameback was spotted around the same time as this female. The male woodpecker was moving around the trunk of a tree further away from the tree above where the female was. The features of the Common and Greater Flameback are described in detail in Field Guide to the Birds of Southeast Asia by Craig Robson and I can just remember to look out for the differences in the nape and sides of the faces. Must learn the names of trees in this side of the park since common names of trees within the Lake Gardens are available in their website HERE. Can hear the audio recordings of this woodpecker HERE. Other birds seen that day were entered into my eBird mobile app and the pictures uploaded later once I had access through my laptop (and Internet of course). Ebird checklist is available HERE.  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Back to Parit Jawa for the Chinese Egret that did not turn up

Lesser Sand Plover with small mud crab for its lunch
Lesser Sand Plover
Lesser Sand Plover with mud-covered legs
Parit Jawa is a small town, about 20 minutes drive from Muar, Johor which is well-known as a fishing village. The plastic crate of ice contained some fishes caught by the fishermen earlier in the day, and was just left near one of the many fishing boats moored near the jetty (see picture below).  
The Chinese Egret was spotted by my friend, Ang Teck Hin around noontime but alas I was already checking out of Streetview Hotel at that time. When I returned to Parit Jawa at 1pm, the Chinese Egret was nowhere to be seen. I could only withstand the fiery hot sun for 45 minutes, waiting for this Egret at the jetty before finally calling it a day. Although I was disappointed not being able to see this Egret and check it off my list, the Lesser Sand Plover delighted me with its antics as it probed the mudflats of Parit Jawa searching for its lunch. There was also a flock of terns roosting on the mudflats in the distant horizon but this flock was too far for me to identify features properly through my bins. All I could make out from my scope was black cap and white body. The checklist of birds seen at Parit Jawa and entered through eBird Malaysia as below:-
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47779307 
Collared Kingfisher 
Crate of Fishes caught that morning - every Egret, Heron and Lesser Adjutant in that jetty must be dreaming of these! 

Strange-looking Lesser Adjutant 
Lesser Adjutant stands near the estuary, the plastic rubbish was a painful eyesore

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Place where Crocodiles once roamed

Common Moorhen with its reddish mask swimming in a pond filled with white flowers and lily pads
   
Busy weavers of Sungai Balang were still in midst of constructing their nests with fresh long blades of green grass. Amazing avian architects at work!
    
Sungai Balang in Johor was my next destination for birds and waders after Parit Jawa. Together with my wader sifu Ang Teck Hin, we scoured the paddyfields at this site which had been made popular in the past with sightings of the Little Curlew, Small Pratincole and (many years ago) a juvenile Amur Falcon. The latter was a vagrant visitor to Malaysia, suspected to have been blown off-course by stormy winds of Southeast Asia. There is an odd-looking green plastic statue of a Crocodile which passers-by will encounter going pass Sungai Balang as you enter the paddyfields from the trunk road. It is perhaps a reminder that there is a river called Crocodile Nest River ("Sungai Sarang Buaya") nearby. A 3m long crocodile had been sighted in this area a few years back. A tree full of Baya Weaver nests caught our attention. One of the weavers popped out of the nest, its head all golden yellow as it continued to put the finishing touches to its "home". Another pair were adding on fresh green blades of grass into their nest (see earlier pictures above). We marveled at these winged architects.
Wood Sandpiper
The birds and waders spotted at Sungai Balang, Johor have been entered through eBird  and that checklist is available HERE. I had the chance to marvel at the beautiful plumage of the Curlew Sandpiper from a scope. Was struggling to get a good video recording of the Curlew Sandpiper feeding in the paddyfields that hot Saturday morning. Taking pictures and videos from a scope with mobile phone affixed onto it  wasn't easy, more so when the glaring sun made everything look dark on the mobile screen:( Some of the wader species seen as well as the Grey Heron are pictured below and above (the Wood Sandpiper).     
Grey Heron
Black-winged Stilt - such long legs for this elegant-looking wader that would rival those of top fashion models:)
Common Redshank 
Common Greenshank
BTO poster celebrates the World Migratory Bird Day and has an educational migrations poster with some serious mileage and speed feats recorded by some waders and waterbirds such as Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Snipe, Arctic Terns and Bar-headed Geese. 4,000 species of birds are known to migrate and this is an astonishing 40% of the total number of birds in the world. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

There's Something Special about Waders

Waders baffle me. When I was walking towards the end of the jetty at Parit Jawa, Johor, little did I realize God's Creatures, (Small in this case) were resting on the floating logs at the estuary - Red-necked Stints, Terek Sandpipers and Lesser Sand-Plovers, to be exact. Their brown, grey and white plumage almost blended with the colours of the logs. Some of these migrants were all fluffed up and extremely cute-looking when you take a closer look at them through a scope. The breeding plumage of the Lesser Sand-Plover stood out amongst the flock of waders. I loved looking at the Stint stretching its wings and leg, as the other hopped over to the other log - the animated GIF for this as below. It was a very windy Saturday morning and I had met up with my Wader Guru, Ang Teck Hin to do some wader watching in both Parit Jawa and Sungai Balang. Lesser Sand-Plover and Terek Sandpipers are listed as Least Concern in IUCN Redlist whereas the Red-necked Stint is listed as Near Threatened. More to come in the next blog post on Sungai Balang, although the Little Curlew remained a no-show. Earlier post about the Little Curlew is available HERE. Link to the video of the waders is available HERE.

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:)   

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