Sunday, 22 April 2018

Earth Day 2018

Earth Day today! This day is celebrated annually to demonstrate support for environmental protection which covers natural habitats, wildlife, managing natural resources and waste. What Earth Day means to me as a nature guide is supporting sustainable tourism.

Sustainable tourism, one that establishes a suitable balance between the environmental, economic and sociocultural aspects of tourism development, plays an important role in conserving biodiversity. It attempts to minimize its impact on the environment and local culture so that it will be available for future generations, while contributing to generate income, employment, and the conservation of local ecosystems. 
Source: https://www.gdrc.org/uem/eco-tour/sustour-define.html

Speaking on behalf of all true nature guides in Malaysia, sustaining natural habitats is the important key to wildlife and flora protection apart from the threat of the wildlife poachers. Managing and educating mass tourists to pay extra care and respect towards our local environment and wildlife should be carried out by all stake holders as well as our local guides. A protected rainforest together with her wild inhabitants will continue to encourage visitors from all over the world to visit Langkawi and of course, Malaysia thus continuously generating income to the locals.

My photo pick for this Earth Day is a walk in our Langkawi's lowland rainforest during our birdwatching tour with Taison and Mandy from Hong Kong recently. Both of them are in the wildlife and environmental research sector and both are vegans. A plus point for them is when they showed up on my tour with their own water bottles, in a way to help reduce the usage of those drinking plastic bottles. Some of the small hotels on the island provide drinking water stations for their guests to refill their drinking bottles and it is the time now for these big luxurious resorts to do the same. There are no excuses. Thank you Taison and Mandy for being responsible tourists.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

20th Malaysian Tourism Award 2016/207

I was flabbergasted when I received an unexpected call from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTAC). They requested for my full name and announced that I am the finalist for 2016/2017 Malaysian Tourism Award under the Nature Guide category. "What have I done to receive this? How was I evaluated? When? Where?" These were the questions that came into my mind after receiving the call. More than a year ago, Puan Fuziah of Langkawi Tourist Guides Association (LTGA) asked for my email address and that was it. No interview, nothing to evaluate and qualify me as the finalist.

The invitation was emailed to me two weeks before the Malaysian Tourism Award 2016/2017 event on 28th February 2018 at the Putrajaya Convention Hall. I was unable to attend due to a birdwatching tour that I have confirmed on that day and the next. After a long thought of finding a suitable candidate to represent me, Raja Shaharil, my ex-colleague and a city guide from Kuala Lumpur Tourist Guides Association (KLTGA), came into my mind. Aha! Surprisingly, Raja Shaharil was also invited to this event as the finalist under City Guide category.  

Raja Shaharil kept me updated via Whatsapp on that grand and prestigious evening at Putrajaya Convention Hall.
The current Minister of Tourism and Culture, Dato Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz making his speech
At 10:40pm, Raja Shaharil delivered my first congratulatory wishes for the best nature guide award. And then followed by more photos and wishes via Whatsapp from Ashraff of Langkawi Canopy Adventure, Vijay from LTGA, Victor Lim from KLTGA and many more. News travel instantly these days!

Photos circulated in a Whatsapp group was forwarded to me

You can imagine me standing on this stage with an evening gown or baju kurung..LOL!
According to Raja Shaharil, Encik Basri Mat Ali represented me on stage to receive the award. Thank you Basri! And Raja Shaharil represented Muniesvaran from LTGA who won the best city guide award. Congratulations to you too, Raja Shaharil for being the finalist!  

Raja Shaharil had assignment in Langkawi on that weekend and he was kind to carry my award and delivered to me by hand. He revealed my judges which was published on a booklet that came together with the award. 

Was I shocked? Indeed! Well, I am not going to reveal the names of our judges here. Never in my mind that they were sent by the Ministry because I thought they were family and friends. They were arranged by an agent on a private mangrove boat cruise with me sometime in December 2017. I had a good laugh myself after knowing who my judges were.

Puan Fuziah (Secretary of LTGA), Othman and the committee organised our own award giving ceremony on 9th March 2018 which was held at Kampung Keda, Langkawi. 
Langkawi Nature Guide
LTGA from left: Puan Fuziah, Othman, Munieswaran, me and Encik Salleh 
...and a self-pose with my award :p

Wendy Langkawi Nature Guide
Evening gown not needed here! Photo by Kash of Kash Island Adventures


Wendy Langkawi Nature Guide

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Raja Shaharil, LTGA committee and members. Thank you so much to my family, friends, fellow guides 
for their congratulatory messages and to those who had supported my passion in any way, shape or form.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

A 2018 Lifer for Me And Langkawi, Green-Backed Flycatcher

When Ros Effendi called me to inform me that he have seen a Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina, the first thought that came into my mind was, "why did I travel all the way down south for my lifer Narcissus Flycatcher?"  (the post is here)

The expected respond from me was "Are you sure?" Ros was surely excited because this species is his lifer and he was very confident it was a narcissina. If that was what he was seen, I advised him to enter his sighting into eBird Malaysia . Unfortunately, he didn't have any photographic evidence. We discussed on the possible features that represent a narcissina. Ros described the rump and the crown that has the similar colour. "What about the possibility of a Green-Backed Flycatcher?", I asked. Ros checked his bird field guide and this Green-Backed Flycatcher was not listed there. 

We returned to the site a couple of times with unsuccessful sighting of this rare flycatcher. And then on one fine morning, we saw an Asian Brown Flycatcher Muscicapa dauurica chasing another bird away. The bird that was being  chased away looked like a flycatcher. The chase was on between these two flycatchers and these two birders. The birds were flitting in and out of the foliage and they were not at the level for a shot. Shortly, both of them disappeared. We had to wait and our patience were being tested. I cannot recall how long we waited but thankful to spot something came out of the foliage and dipped towards our eye level before making a perch in the shade.

And here was my golden opportunity for some record shots!
Langkawi Birdwatching
Back view of a female Green-Backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae
langkawi bird watching tour
Frontal view of the female Green-Backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae
I only managed with record shots as she was perched in low light condition and some editing work was required to produce these images. And sadly, she didn't return to the site after that morning. 

Green-Backed Flycatcher Ficedula elisae it is! Or other common name is Chinese Flycatcher. The reason as to why Ros couldn't find this species in his field guide was because his field guide did not have an update on the split of Narcissus Flycatcher. Previously it was Ficedula narcissna elisae until in 2005, this was split to narcissna and elisae accordingly. From this article, elisae breeds in hill forests of Eastern China, wintering mainly in Northern Malaysia and Southern Thailand. 
Both species have consistent differences in female-type plumage and have different songs. elisae has been recorded wintering all the way down to Singapore recently. Link to the Singapore's record on Green-Backed Flycatcher

The picture below shows a female Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina. This was shot in Taiping. Compare the frontal view of narcissina and elisae.


With the record shots of F.elisae from the foothill of Gunung Raya and after verifying Yeap Chin Aik's Langkawi Birds checklist, this is indeed a Langkawi's new record.   

Thank you to Ros as I got my lifer for 2018.

While looking for a Green-Backed Flycatcher, there were other goodies that came along too.

The uncommon migrants:
A female Amur Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone incei
Who is this hiding within the foliage?
The above cropped image showing a Crow-Billed Drongo Dicrurus annectens
And our uncommon resident sunbird, a male Ruby-Cheeked Sunbird Chalcoparia singalensis was seen stripping a piece of fiber off a branch. This may be a process of nest making. The nest is nowhere near to be seen. 



These are the wonders of Langkawi's lowland rainforest. There are so much more yet to be discovered. A long as our habitats are conserved, our natural wonders is endless.





References:
1. Moores, "Black-backed narcissina, Olive-backed owstoni and Green-backed  elisae Narcissus Flycatchers: notes on their identification and Status", http://www.birdskorea.org/Birds/Identification/ID_Notes/BK-ID-Narcissus-Flycatchers-types.shtml
2. https://www.hbw.com/species/green-backed-flycatcher-ficedula-elisae
3. Robson, Craig, A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia,New Holland,2011
4. Jeyarajasingam, Allen, A Field Guide to the Birds of  West Malaysia and Singapore,Oxford University Press, 1999
5. https://singaporebirdgroup.wordpress.com/tag/green-backed-flycatcher/
6. Yeap, Chin Aik, "Report on Birds Of Langkawi Archipelago", Malaysian Nature Journal 57 (1):91-144 (2005)

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