Sunday, 25 December 2016

Friday, 16 December 2016

The Roosting Tree of our Chestnut-Headed Beeeaters - GONE!

This particular casuarina tree was my favourite tree in Kuah town because it was also the favourite tree for our migrants, the Chestnut-Headed Beeeaters Meriops leschenaulti. During the birds migratory season like now, these Beeeaters will come back to this particular tree every evening at dusk to roost. Not only every day but every year! I have been observing them for the past couple of years. There is another casuarina tree at the opposite side of the road but they were not keen.

This was photographed in October 2015
 If you have read my older post on Langkawi Birdwatching Tour: The Roosting of Chestnut-Headed Beeeaters, you will see how bird lovers will be thrilled to see them in the heart of Kuah town.
This was photographed in October 2015
They were seen roosting on this same tree for this season until recently, towards the end of November the local council decided to play with the mean and evil chainsaws. Of all the trees they must pick, this particular casuarina tree became the victim. I was horrified by the sight of this.
The top section of this poor casuarina tree was gone. Photo taken on 1st December 2016
On this evening when these photos were taken, I observed a flock of these Beeeaters hovered above this tortured tree for a few seconds before flying further away to the hills.

I am not an arborist or a landscape expert but I have read about proper trimming or pruning a tree. At least, the workers have left some foliage on this tree. May it continue to survive.

According to BY Joe Lamp'L who wrote about Tree Topping – What You Don’t Know is Killing Your Trees, topping is considered the most harmful tree pruning practice known. In fact, it’s regarded as such a  serious crime against nature, one organization’s major efforts over the past two decades has been to stop this “torture and mutilation”.

Another article on Tree Pruning and Trimming mistakes, says that topping is usually one of the most obvious and ugly of tree pruning mistakes. Topping involves cutting away a large section of the top of a tree's crown, or all the leafing branches across the top half of the tree. What you're left with is a very ugly deformed specimen with severely weaken branch structure.

Now I have to find their new roosting ground in Kuah.
Chestnut-Headed Beeeater with a butterfly

References:
Joe Lamp'l. "Tree Topping – What You Don't Know Is Killing Your Trees - Growing A Greener World®." Growing A Greener World®. N.p., 03 July 2016. Web. 11 Dec. 2016
http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/tree-topping-what-you-dont-know-is-killing-your-trees/
https://preservationtree.com/blog/top-five-tree-pruning-trimming-mistakes [accessed 11 Dec 2016]

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Langkawi Sunset, After The Rainy Week

I so love the rainy week in Langkawi. A rainy week does disrupt most nature and outdoor activities, but hey, Langkawi has more hot and sunny days. I personally do cherish the wet season as it helps to cool down the temperature on the island and it is more pleasant to do stuffs at home. (I ain't got air-condition in the house and so it gets terribly hot during most days.)
 
This post is for those who has loved and cherished the rainy week a few days ago, this is the reward after the rain. Sunny during the day and stunning sunset at Pantai Cenang.

I was at my favourite rice field area yesterday evening to check out the Black-winged Stilts. There were two of them flying back and forth looking for a roosting spot.
A pair of Black-winged Stilt. And as usual, they were far away.
I noticed the sun was going down with the bright colours and I knew I have to capture this moment.

Enjoy the stunning sunset photos at different time and angle.
At 6:57pm. Mat chinchang Hill as the backdrop.
At 6:59pm.
At 7:01pm, the flooded rice field.
At 7:02pm.
Still at 7:02pm, different angle.
At 7:02pm with the coconut trees.
At 7:07pm, looking at the direction of Pantai Cenang.
At 7:08pm with the rice fields.
At 7:10pm.
At 7:12pm.
At 7:14pm.
At 7:16pm, watching a flock of Purple Herons flying towards the horizon to roost.
At 7:19pm.
At 7:20pm.
As I watched flocks and flocks of waders flying over me to the other side for roosting, I felt that they had a productive day yesterday. Hope you like this sunset moment.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Langkawi Bird Watching: Birds With Long Red Skinny Legs and My Lifer

This was about two weeks ago and it was a rainy week like this week. Bek, Rishad and Mark had me for four days to do casual birdwatching and some sight-seeing. Due to the rainy weather, we drove around Langkawi a lot and observed our feathered friends being soaked in the rain while we watched them...sigh...what a life..

The rain is indeed good for the rice paddy fields as the water is much needed in most areas for ploughing and replanting. As well as the wet paddy fields bring in the birds activities. I do think that Mother Nature has her ways in setting the season that favours the waders or water birds as they arrive here during their migration period. As these waders were on their migration route from the Northern hemisphere to the South, they would be able to find abundance of food in the wet fields.

As we were driving on a narrow stretch of road through a patch of rice paddy field, I was telling Mark to keep a lookout for Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. Black-winged Stilt was spotted in the month of October and November last year. And I missed it! And this year, I was wishing to see a Black-winged Stilt.

My gut feeling somehow told me to make a stop in the middle of the road. The rain has stopped and I told everyone to come down from the car to take some landscape photos. Mark and I were scanning around when he suddenly said calmly, "There is the Black-winged Stilt". That got me really excited. Without even looking at it with my binoculars, I dashed to the car and grabbed my camera...and the excitement got me carried away...my apologies, my bad :P 

Taa..daa...The photos of Black-winged Stilt at a far distance, not only one but two:
One of the Black-winged Stilt feeding. This individual was far away.

The other one was flying back and forth. This one here displaying the pair of black wings.
On flight and with loud "keek" and "kee'it"
I love their long, skinny red legs :)
Another lifer for me in Langkawi before 2016 ends! Thanks, Mark!

Black-winged Stilts breed from Central Asia to South and continental South-East Asia. The northern breeders migrate to South, probably like these two here. They feed in open inland marshes, rice fields, coastal and estuarine mudflats. Their diet mainly consist of aquatic insects but also take on molluscs and crustaceans. Like many shore birds, they don't swim for food. They feed by pecking for food items while wading on shallow water. 

The scientific name Himantopus, from specific name Charadrius himantopus Linnaenus, 1758, Black-winged Stilt. himantopus in Latin refers to wading bird now generally identified with the Black-winged Stilt. 

I am unsure if there is any record of this sighting before year 2015 for Langkawi. Whether there is or not, it is great that they are back for this year. In 2015, that individual which was spotted didn't stay long. It was not seen since mid-November 2015 until now.

Not too far from the Black-winged Stilts, I spotted another migrant wader has returned. The Grey-headed Lapwing Vanellus cinereus seems to be back here regularly now. There were two together.
Grey-headed Lapwing...Welcome back!
A snipe, another migrant was spotted next to the Grey-headed Lapwing.

And the rest of the photos of birds on the rice paddy field are here: 
Four individuals of Common Redshank Tringa totanus seen feeding together! Another species of wader with skinny red legs but shorter than the Black-winged Stilt.
Record shot of an uncommon migrant raptor, Black-winged Kite Elanus caeruleus which was far away.  
Our common resident wader, a Red-Wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus

Overall for that day, Awesome!

References:
1. Jobling, J.A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names: From Aalge to Zusli. A & C Black p. 192
2. Bhushan, B., Sonobe, K. and Usui, S. (1993). A Field guide to the waterbirds of Asia. Tokyo: Kodansha International. p. 116, 124, 138
3. http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Himantopus-himantopus, [Accessed 31 October 2016]

Langkawi birdwatching tour and Langkawi bird watching guide

Friday, 30 September 2016

Langkawi Bird Watching: Waders Check

The start of the migratory season will be a good time to check for migrant waders. Waders are birds or any other animals that wade in any part of the sea, lake or river that is close to the shore. In relation to  birds, they are also known as shorebirds.

I headed out to my favourite coastline for waders on a gloomy morning with the rough sea condition. Thankfully for the strong wind that helped blew those rain clouds away. 
This is normal for Langkawi during the South-West monsoon
On my way to the coastline, I was greeted by this common migrant who has successfully made its journey to Langkawi. Welcome back, Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus.

The tide was coming in when I arrived at the coastline. There were about four grey-coloured egrets catching their breakfast under the grey sky. 
Pacific Reef-Egret Egretta sacra (Dark morph)
Pacific Reef-Egret having it nape feathers being blown by the "natural hair dryer"
Teaser: Name these two birds
This individual had a small fish. Better than nothing!
I was amused watching this same individual having a choke after gobbling the small fish 
For half an hour I was observing and photographing the egrets and then suddenly, a small bird caught my eye. Well...hello there..Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, our migrant kingfisher!

More migrant waders showed up after the Common Kingfisher.
This was very unexpected. My first sighting in Langkawi and record shot of a Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus on flight at a far distance. 
A Little Tern Sternula albifrons was spotted among the rocks taking shelter from the wind. It was attempting to fly out towards the sea but it was fighting against the wind. The wind was too strong for it. After awhile it found a resting spot before continuing the flight.
A Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva moulting to non-breeding
A flock of Lesser Sand Plovers Charadrius mongolus. Can you count them?
Lesser Sand Plover
When most of these waders have moved on to another location, it was time for me to head back. When I reached further inland, I noticed a tern flew past me. It was probably taking a shelter from the strong wind. It was fast and I could only managed a record shot of this tern.
This migrant possibly is a young Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
I am still learning more about waders and this group of birds is always a challenge to identify. With some help from MNS Waders support group, we managed to zoom in to Whiskered Tern. If anyone think is another species of tern, please let me know. And if this is really a Whiskered Tern, then it will be my lifer! Woohoo! Special thanks to Andy Lee and Liung for responding to my questions. 
A young White-Bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster was also observed fighting with the wind. This is our resident raptor.


Friday, 16 September 2016

Langkawi Bird Watching: What A Quail! Part 2 - A Video Clip

The very short moment with this female Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator in July is still unforgettable for me. This quail was quite a distance away. With her very shy and skittish behaviour, I didn't have a good shot of her. Pastor Yip was kind enough to share his short video of this quail. 


Thank you very much to Pastor Yip and Shirley for sharing their video. 


A note of appreciation: Pastor Yip has kindly put in review for me on his tours here. You may view Pastor Yip's review here

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Langkawi Bird Watching Tour: A Wet Birding Day

Langkawi has gone through the peak of the rainy season this year a few days ago. With only little pockets of sunshine, the rest of the days were heavy rain to light drizzle and the cycle continued on for three days. This is a yearly affair for the island and it is normal. I personally look forward to this moment every year. Simply love it! This much needed rain brings the heat down and bringing Langkawi's waterfalls back to live! I have yet to visit the Temurun waterfall and maybe I should. Temurun waterfall will be at its fullest by now. This place will be crowded from tomorrow onward as it will be the public holidays together with the local school term break for a week.

We did have some rain back in August 2016 after a long dry spell. Mandy and her friends went on my birdwatching tour and they had a wet morning. They decided to carry on after an hour of waiting for the rain to slow down to drizzle. When we got to a location for the kingfisher, the rain and wind returned and we were kind of prepared for the morning shower in the outdoor.
Ted, Mandy and El were very well prepared indeed! Can you see the coconut tree behind them was swayed by the wind? My scope was not under the brolly....aargghh!!
They gracefully accepted the laws of nature and went on with the birding on high spirits. On our way to another location for the kingfisher, we did couple of stops by the wetland and reeds area. Under the shelter of our little umbrellas, they had their morning feast of Black-Backed Swamphens running around on the bed of wet grass with the Red-Wattled Lapwings, Wood Sandpipers standing on the swamp looking pretty wet and cold and those birds dressed in whites, the Cattle and Great Egrets.

What's next for them? 

Monday, 15 August 2016

Excursion Report: A Packed Week of Birdwatching and Kayaking

Tour bookings have picked up for me after a very slow period of May, June and July. Even though my pocket was not happy, I must say that I am  quite thankful for that very slow period which has allowed me to have more time to explore, solo birdwatching, take moment of shots, work on my blogs and and plenty of time with my furkid for long walks. I finally got my business cards designed and printed! Woohoo! The designing part took me awhile as I had so many of my photos to pick!

In the first ten days of August, there have been kayaking in the mangrove for me, birdwatching tours and of course, fantastic moments with my guests and my camera lens! I have kayaked close to a total distance of 20km in the mangroves for that entire week and the joy of going against the current! And yet, my two-pack is still not close to transforming into a six-pack! HaHaHa...

Many thanks to the kind recommendation of Dr Louisa Ponnapalam and Vivian Kuit of Marecet for referring their contacts to me as my kayaking guests. 

It is an honour having two biologists on a different day doing the mangrove tour with me on a very low impact to its surrounding. We didn't use any boats at all. They preferred my recommendation of an early start to avoid the busy time in the mangroves. The only challenge they must face is the kayaking back to the jetty against the strong current. As the first week was in a spring tide, they have been advised on the strong current and they accepted the challenge. Most of the mangrove boat tours start from 10am onwards. 

Aniko and David were my first guests doing the kayaking and that day was on the new moon! 

Aniko giving hope to our mangrove by giving some hope to this propagule
"Treasures" collected from the mangroves with some help from Aniko/David. This is my way of paying rent for using the mangroves.
While Moon and Hwa came three days later and they were lucky that the current was more kind to us. And so was the kind weather! 
We were racing with the mighty rain cloud and nature wins, of course!
We pushed off with the kayaks as early as the tide can bring us in. The temperature was cool and the mud flat was exposed allowing us to admire the mudflat creatures. We had to kayak for about 1.5 hours before entering the narrow tributaries. By the time we got to the section of the narrow bits, we had enough water to explore further. 

The challenging part was after the fun exploring in the narrow tributaries, that was when Aniko/David and Moon/Hwa have no choice but to paddle back to the jetty against the current. The hot sun was with Aniko/David throughout the journey while Moon/Hwa were fortunate to receive showers of blessing on our way back. This was lucky for Moon/Hwa as the final lap of kayaking was not so tiring due to the cool and wet weather. I love it!
Risking my camera getting wet by snapping this "action" moment in the showers of blessing
The others were more of relaxing nature tours. Birdwatching, a boat cruise and relaxing kayaking. 

Welcoming  Sophie and Carole back to Langkawi! 
Both of them looking clean and fresh before the swamp tour!
Both of them had me for two days. Sophie and Carole are my return guests and a year ago, they did two days of nature tours with me. Both of them are birdwatchers, photographers and nature enthusiasts. For that week, I planned for them a one full day of birdwatching combined with a mangrove boat cruise and another day of kayaking to the salt water lake and mangroves.
Sophie and I with the mangrove background
A candid shot by Sophie. Geezz...why did I look so serious there? Birding is a serious business.

Sophie can't seem to stop smiling...I wonder why?

...and Sophie was still smiling after twenty minutes! OMG! 
Completely awesome and exciting to have these two ladies back on the island to explore more!
This was Carole's secret wishlist ... Buffaloes in the wallow. This is why I so love Langkawi's scene, her lay back "kampung-style"
To sum up my packed week, these are my nature kodak-moments for the first two weeks of August:

Magical mangroves of Langkawi
Brown-Winged Kingfisher
What a poser! Thank you :)
Brown-Winged Kingfisher
A happy Brown-Winged Kingfisher with its breakfast


This crab seems to be waving..."buzz off flies!"
A large fiddler crab Uca genus
A fiddler crab closing its hole to the burrow at rising tide. We were fortunate to capture this moment (with Moon/Hwa) as we had more time on our kayaks next to the mudflat. I managed to video the closing of the fiddler's hole and I need more time to do the editing. 
An exhausting week and yet a very satisfying one indeed! Thank you all :)

Additional note of appreciation: Sophie Wellstood has kindly given me a review. Sophie's review can be viewed here
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