Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Langkawi Birdwatching: Recent Highlights Part 3 From Taiwan

Mr and Mrs Minter Yang, my first Taiwanese guests for our Bird Photography tour in the early April 2018. For a banana like me, I am very grateful that both of them can write and communicate with me in English. They have worked and lived in Malaysia for many years and have birded on Peninsular Malaysia a few times. This is their second visit to Langkawi and their first time here for the purpose of birding. Both of them had two and half days of Bird Photography tour with me.

This time, the Brown-Winged Kingfisher presented some difficult challenges for me. We went back and forth a few times to a couple of locations and it was playing hard to catch. No Brown-Winged wanted to come close to their cameras for a decent shot until the very last moment on the evening of their second day before the rain came pouring down hard on us. Alas! It was a moment of triumph for me to see it perched quietly as we drove snail pace into the mangrove.  They had some shots before we were washed out of the area!

While moving between locations, I was very delighted to see a Javan Pond-Heron Ardeola speciosa and two Grey-Headed Lapwings Vanellus cinereus feeding on the same field. This two species will be my first sighting for this season. The Javan Pond Heron was in breeding plumage which made it easier for us to identify.

Langkawi bird
Javan Pond-Heron Ardeola speciosa
Langkawi bird watching tour
Javan Pond-Heron in breeding with white head-plumes
langkawi birdwatching
Guess the bird behind this Grey Lapwing Vanellus cinereus
langkawi birdwatching
Grey Lapwing Vanellus cinereus
Langkawi bird tour
A beautiful Blue Budgie came along very close for a pose while we were looking for the Brown-Winged Kingfisher at Kilim. An escapee from the nearby zoo.
Mr and Mrs Yang are my also my first guests to photograph a pair of Orange-Breasted Trogon Harpactes oreskios. The only species of trogon in Langkawi, this resident bird is considered as an uncommon and elusive. Their calls can be heard echoing through the dense of our forest and not often can be seen. Thank you trogons for being so obliging! 
Bird guide langkawi
Orange-Breasted Trogon Harpactes oreskios female
langkawi bird watching guide
Orange-Breasted Trogon Harpactes oreskios male
Another nice bird while we were up on Gunung Raya was a pair of Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki.
birds of langkawi
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki female
langkawi birdwatching guide
Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki male which was constantly flitting about
Amongst the locations I have shown to them, I would say that their favourite bird photography location would be the pond inside Bon Ton resort. Mrs Yang was overly excited when I pointed out the Watercock. I vividly remember her eyes were wide open while she slowly uttered the word, "Tung chi" to her husband. "Tung chi" refers to Watercock in Mandarin.
birds langkawi guide tour
Watercock Gallicrex cinerea or Burung Ayam-Ayam in Malay is unfortunately one of the species of waterfowls in Langkawi often being poached to be eaten
According to them, Watercock is rare and extremely difficult to be seen in Taiwan. They had lunch meals two times at the Bon Ton, simply to photograph birds. Grace and Lindsay did the same thing too like Mr & Mrs Yang!
Mrs and Mr Yang shooting in the comfort of this posh hut
langkawi birdwatching
A must visit posh hut for birdwatchers at the Bon Ton 
They still had the energy to bird before catching their flight home. While having their lunch at the Bon Ton before leaving to the airport, Mr Yang let me had a go with his light-weight 300mm prime lens attached to Olympus mirrorless camera body. Here's what I got:
An overexposed image of Oriental Reed Warbler Acrocephalus orientalis
langkawi birdwatching guide
A Black-Backed Swamphen Porphyrio indicus having a splash
Mr and Mrs Yang have proven their love for our Malaysian food. They dearly miss our good old Roti Canai and I gladly took them to my favourite Mamak stall in Kuah town where we had Roti Canai meals twice.

Before I end this blog post, the last highlight for me is photographing a Ochraceous Bulbul Alophoixus ochraceus on a birdwatching tour with Richard Heaver. Noisy type of bulbul that don't seem to perch for long and with their annoying calls, they are definitely not fit to be caged birds. 
Ochraceous Bulbul Alophoixus ochraceus
Good for them unlike the other poor species of bulbuls like Striped-Throated Bulbul and Red-Whiskered Bulbul which often a target for bird poachers. 

I would also like to document here that in the month of April, there were three fig trees close to the road fruiting at the same time. Despite that, it was difficult to see a big flock of Great Hornbills on Gunung Raya. I am wondering if the poachers were around as I have seen a suspicious motorbike parked beside the road and heard a human mimicking the sound of a Wreathed Hornbill. Only a suspicion.

Thank you Mr & Mrs Yang for choosing a banana like me, your meals and they were kind company to be with. My experience with them for those three days have given me some positive perspective on birdwatchers or photographers from the East Asia.

Their birds list:
1. Collared Kingfisher
2. Brahminy Kite
3. Red-Wattled Lapwing
4. Grey-Headed Lapwing
5. Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo
6. Common Myna
7. Yellow-Vented Bulbul
8. Oriental Pied Hornbill
9. Pied Fantail
10. Dark-Sided Flycatcher
11. White-Breasted Waterhen
12. Javan Pond-Heron
13. Common Sandpiper
14. Brown Shrike
15. Little Heron
16. Pin-Striped Tit Babbler
17. White-Throated Kingfisher
18. Brown-Throated Sunbird
19. Black-Headed Bulbul
20. Red-Eyed Bulbul
21. Asian-Brown Flycatcher
22. Wreathed Hornbill
23. Great Hornbill
24. Wood Sandpiper
25. Pacific Golden Plover
26. Purple Heron
27. Black-Backed Swamphen
28. Common Kingfisher
29. Watercock
30. Chestnut-Headed Beeeater
31. Blue-Throated Beeeater
32. Cinnamon Bittern
33. Yellow Bittern
34. Baya Weaver
35. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
36. Asian Glossy Starling
37. Scaly-Breasted Munia
38. White-Headed Munia
39. Great Egret
40. Little Egret
41. Intermediate Egret
42. Rock Pigeon
43. White-Bellied Sea-Eagle
44. Copper-Throated Sunbird
45. Brown-Winged Kingfisher
46. Laced Woodpecker
47. Zebra Dove
48. Spotted Dove
49. Ruddy Kingfisher
50. Common Tailorbird
51. Greater Coucal
52. Ashy Drongo
53. Mugimaki Flycatcher
54. Crested Goshawk
55. Pink-Necked Green-Pigeon
56. Ochraceous Bulbul
57. Asian Fairy Bluebird
58. Orange-Breasted Trogon
59. Forest Wagtail
60. Yellow-Rumped Flycatcher
61. Orange-Breasted Trogon
62. Black-Headed Bulbul
63. Crimson Sunbird
64. Oriental Reeds-Warbler
65. House Swallow

Friday, 15 June 2018

Langkawi Birdwatching: Recent Highlights Part 2 Jane Miller

Welcoming back Jane Miller from the UK for the third time with me and twice in April 2018. A keen birdwatcher and bird photographer with a telephoto 600mm lens! 

With Jane, we usually have a much earlier start - before the sunrise which is always refreshing! We did a predawn birdwatching on her third tour with me, simply to catch any luck on nocturnal birds going to roost!
I was stalked too! Photo credit: Jane Miller

Jane's wishlist in April were Pittas and any birds that are lifers for her. She is an easy going person and so were her lifers too! Jane is my first guest to observe a pair of Banded Kingfisher with the male passing the food to the female and  clear view of a pair of Puff-Throated Babblers hopping out of the bush and on the ground for more than five minutes (Jane is very pleased to spot this babbler), 
Langkawi Birdwatching
A usually elusive Puff-Throated Babbler Pellorneum ruficeps
a Black-Naped Monarch, 
Langkawi birds
A Black-Naped Monarch Hypothymis azurea male wanting some attention 
a Ruddy Kingfisher, 
birds of langkawi
A shy Ruddy Kingfisher Halcyon coromanda  who is usually not revealing
birds of langkawi
Jane and I had to squat, sit on the dirt road and whatever pose to get a gap for a shot!
a Mangrove Pitta 
langkawi bird guide
Another elusive fella, Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha finally showed up
and a Mangrove Whistler, all on the same day! Especially with the Ruddy Kingfisher and Mangrove Pitta, she is very lucky to see them on both of our birding tours. Jane is definitely a magnet to these species!
langkawi bird guide
Our first attempt to find a Blue-Winged Pitta which was unfruitful...."Pitta! Where are you!?" 
I am guessing Jane's next wishlist is to properly see a Black-Capped Kingfisher on her next stay in Langkawi.  Fingers-crossed, Jane! Look forward to seeing you back on the next birds migratory season.
A collection of Jane's thank you cards at the end of our birdwatching tours and my furkid came in as a photobomb!

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Langkawi Birdwatching: Recent Highlights Part I, HK Birders

Thank you for being so patience with me in waiting for my next blog post. For the past two months, I was switching between busy period and a non-busy period of nature tours. When I had a period of no tours, that was the time for me to gallop towards meeting the deadline of my overly insane amount of administration work. Somehow, I managed to sneak in a week of break during the second week of May. A much needed holiday!

This first part of my blog post is a compilation of my bird photos taken during our Birdwatching and Bird Photography tour in Langkawi. The selection of my photos here are my highlights during the tours. And I am very sure that my highlights are also the same for my guests.

Starting with Grace Wong and Lindsay from Hong Kong who came with me for a two and a half day of Birdwatching tour, a night tour and a Mangrove Boat tour. They are very much keen in taking photos of birds and at the same, they are also contented with just having to see the bird even if no photos were captured. 

Langkawi Birdwatching tour
Lindsay and Grace
I love the fact that Grace gave me all her terms and conditions on her Mangrove Tour at Kilim that I happily complied. Her terms and conditions were very simple ie no eagles/monkeys feeding, no monkeys swimming, no crowded places and no Bat Cave (but they were happy to see the Flying Foxes at Dangli Island) and of course, I had a list of their target birds. 
Langkawi Mangrove Boat
A colony of Flying Foxes, genus Pteropus
Grace and Lindsay didn't have a close look of our iconic Brown-Winged Kingfisher Pelargopsis amauroptera on their first day of birdwatching tour. However, luck was on their side on the second morning. They had an intimate moment with this Brown-Winged at another location. It stayed a long time for them with some diving moments and preening too.
langkawi birds
Burst shot modes of a Brown-Winged Kingfisher splashing out of the water after a dive!
langkawi birdwatching tour

Other bird highlights for us:
langkawi birds

An uncommon migrant, Large Hawk-Cuckoo Hierococcyx sparverioides at the peak of Gunung Raya. This individual was an incidental spot. A flycatcher-like flew past and I followed till it disappeared into the top of a tree. While we were trying to find this bird, Lindsay spotted this cuckoo perched at the lowest branch of that same tree. He was very pleased to spot this uncommon migrant. Well done, Lindsay!  

A female Banded Kingfisher Lacedo pulchella, flew in and took a quiet perch while we were looking at a Crimson Sunbird Aethopyga siparaja:
langkawi bird guide
The undoubtly elegant female Banded Kingfisher posing for us
Not only birds, Grace is also keen in photographing other wildlife too like butterflies and mammals. It is a bonus to spot a Colugo at daylight for them while birding in our lowland rainforest!
langkawi wildlife tour
A female Flying Lemur or now better know as Colugo
A kaleidoscope of butterflies
Another couple from Hong Kong, Taison and Mandy who also had close moments with the Brown-Winged Kingfisher and a Plaintive Cuckoo Cacomantis merulinus before our tummies cried for lunch. 
Can you spot their Brown-Winged? Close enough for decent shots
A male Plaintive Cuckoo
The depressing part of our tour in the morning was to find my favourite mangrove spot at Temoyong slain for the development of a coastal road. I took Taison and Mandy there in hope of showing them our Langkawi's special bird, which is the Brown-Winged Kingfisher. It was a feeling of dismay and disgust as we entered the narrow path. 

I felt that place was like a burial ground for the dead and deep in my heart, I was mourning. Why can't they build that road sustainably? Must they sacrifice the whole lot of trees? 

Most of the trees belonging to the mangroves along the path were slain! Only a few trees were left standing. It was easy for me to point out the position of the bird on that morning when I spotted one perched. I recall telling them, "That tree, the only tree there" as compared to those good old days when I had to do lengthy description to point out the exact location of the bird.

Mandy and Taison will just have to make do with whatever there is in this graveyard of the forest

Only the Ashy Drongo, Pied Fantails, Black-Naped Oriole, Collared Kingfisher, Yellow-Vented Bulbul, Little Heron, Brown Shrike and Common Mynas perched for awhile on the few trees left standing amongst the graveyard of their comrades.

We saw the forested hill behind the mangrove was being cleared that morning
No sighting of Brown-Winged Kingfisher and its call that morning at Temoyong. We had no choice but to find another location for them to see this Kingfisher.

Once a pristine mangroves destroyed for a shrimp farm and now it is rehabilitating after the shrimp farm has failed. I am glad that some of my previous guests like Jane Miller, Chris and Sheena White, Janis Meeks, Sylvia and James Crain, Carl & Ann-Mari and many more who have seen the Brown-Winged Kingfishers at this site and now it is only memories to be cherished. Will this Kingfisher return to this site?

As Taison and Mandy are both vegans, we ended up with Indian banana leaf rice for lunch. It was still pretty much hot and humid after lunch time and the only suitable place to bird will be under the canopy of our lowland rainforest. We had good view of a Crested Goshawk Accipiter trivirgatus which sneaked high up behind us.

The Great and Wreath Hornbills were seen but the distance of the fig tree was far for close shots. Being birdwatchers, they were pleased with whatever were presented.  
Birdwatching in Langkawi lowland forest
Birders from HK, Taison and Mandy
I must say that my Hong Kong birders had a lot of stamina in birdwatching. "Thor Cheh" for your great support and enthusiasm. Both couples have kindly wrote their reviews and you may view them on my Facebook page

To be continued...
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