Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Alas! A Lifer On Langkawi Before 2018

It is always a personal achievement to spot a bird yourself and even better if that bird is a lifer. This is my latest lifer on Langkawi before 2017 ends.

From a far distance, what it looked like a shape of a bulbul and the head pattern of a Common Myna Acridotheres tristis has caught my attention. I quickly took a few shots of it from that distance. 
Cropped image of the unidentified bird.
It perched for about less than 15 seconds. Enough time for me to get a few shots to get a jizz of that bird and not enough time for me to get closer. It took off before I can even take one step forward. "A thrush?", this was what fluttered in my head. My heart was wishing it to be a Siberian Thrush Geokichla sibirica, a member of a thrush family which breeds in Siberia. My last time seeing a Siberian Thrush was in year 2008. 
Cropped image of this bird took off from its perch
Thank goodness it flew into the nearby tree and it was lower. I carefully walked behind the bush and took a peep. 
My heart was beating faster. It was still there. And here goes...click click click



A male Eyebrowed Thrush Turdus obscurus was foraging in the fruiting liana tree for a few minutes. A male of this Eyebrowed Thrush has grey hood, pale orange-rufous lower breast and flanks. He didn't stay long in the open. After less than five minutes, he disappeared into the foliage.  


Even though this species is considered as least concerned under the IUCN list, it is considered as a rare migrant for Langkawi. This species breeds in Palearctic and some parts of China. It is not a new record for this island, however, it is a new bird for me. One more to add onto my list of birds of Langkawi. A very nice treat on that Friday morning  and as well as other goodies too :)

Thank you for showing up, Mr Eyebrowed Thrush!
References:
1. Robson, Craig, A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia, New Holland, 2011,  pp 453 

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberian_thrush
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyebrowed_thrush 


Contact Wendy for Personalised Birdwatching Tour on Langkawi.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Narcissus Flycatcher

Though I wish this individual was sighted in Langkawi but it wasn't.

It took me a total of three hours waiting and sitting in the ferry, seven hours of solo driving, one hour twenty minutes of waiting in the occasional drizzle and only less than five minutes with her! No time to sit down for lunch and just enough time for me to drive back up towards north to catch the last ferry to Langkawi. 
Female Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina revealing her olive rump. Only managed record shots and heavily cropped image.

Despite having to arrive late at the site, which was at 1pm, I am indeed thankful that she finally showed up at the last moment that I must leave and before the rain came down. Seeing her was like seeing my date! LOL! I felt a slight adrenaline rush and my hand gripping on my DSLR body was slightly shaking.😌😂

Narcissus Flycatcher Ficedula narcissina is vagrant to Peninsular Malaysia and a winter visitor to Borneo and Philippine. It is native to Sakhalin, Japan and Korea.
Not colourful and she looks like one of those LBJ. Still cute!

OMG! Twitching is addictive! Really? Is not cheap for sure! I was teased for being a twitcher. Am I? Nahh...I don't consider myself a real twitcher otherwise I would have seen this bird much earlier. I did have the urge to see this flycatcher tho and at the same time, I wanted to do something exciting before the high season kicks in. 


A few friends to thank for leading me to this vagrant flycatcher - Liung, Ang, Wilbur and Chiang who helped me arranged the rented car. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Run Swamphen Run!

Birdwatching in Langkawi A Swamphen

Hey Swamphen! Why are you in such a big hurry??!

Swamphen says, "It is the long school holidays now! I am running into my hideout."

Our local school holiday for the final term started yesterday and will be end on the first week of January 2018. Langkawi will be busy and jam packed especially at the touristy sites like the cable car, Kilim jetty, Pantai Cenang and Pulau Dayang Bunting. The road to the Kuah Ferry Terminal will be congested or heavy traffic jam. Plan your itinerary well to avoid the crowd. I will definitely avoid going to the ferry terminal.

How to go about on tours especially Langkawi nature tours without having to be stressed out dealing with the crowd? If you are clueless and not the type of doing D-I-Y tours, how about booking your private tour with a local guide that can enhance your travel experience here on Langkawi? Also, if you are not travelling with kids, it is best to avoid December...unless you have booked your flights. If you haven't book your accommodation yet, it will be very wise to do it now. Just like this Swamphen here. Early bird gets a hideout!

Langkawi birdwatching swamphen hideout
This Black-Backed Swamphen is finally contented and happy in it's hideout
This is our shy and skittish resident bird of langkawi, Black-Backed Swamphen Porphyrio indicus, which can be found in our marshes and paddy fields. 

Wendy can be contacted for private nature tours such as Langkawi birdwatching, kayak mangrove, rainforest walk or any customised nature tours. Click here for contact details.

Friday, 20 October 2017

My Serpent Lifer - Xenochrophis trianguligerus

If it wasn't for my silly boy who glorified himself by smearing his cheek with the stinky mud left behind by the wild boar, I wouldn't have taken him to the nearest stream to clean him up. As I was tying the leash to a tree, I spotted this little colourful serpent resting in between a rock and a tree root beside the stream. Yay!
Without wasting any seconds, I quickly grabbed my camera out of my dry bag. 


It just had lunch
And thankfully on that day, I decided to carry my macro lens and so I managed to get some closeup shots.

Dorsal view of its head

The patterns
The scales


I only had about ten minutes with this fella until it decided to slither into the stream and swam across to the opposite side. Back at home, I flipped through my book on reptiles and finally concluded that this snake is a Red-sided Keelback Watersnake Xenochrophis trianguligerus. 



It is also known as Triangle Keelback which occurs around small streams, ponds and swamps in primary forest, the edges of wet fields and villages. This species of Keelback feeds on frogs, tadpoles and frogspawn. It is a common snake and yet my first time seeing such beautiful keelback. According to IUCN Red List, this species is not under threat and it is thriving! 

About a meter above this snake, an amphibian was sitting on the larger rock. The only resource I have on amphibian is the world wide web. I posted this photo on social media of a herp group.  Thank you to Vince Adam, Neoh Hor Kee, Parinya and Mohd Abdul Muin who have responded.This is a juvenile River Toad or Asian Giant Toad Phrynoidis aspera. 

References:
Das, Indraneil. "A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia"; New Hollands, 2010, pp. 158.

IUCN. The IUCN Red List of Threaten Species, 18 Oct 2017, http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/192034/0

Ahmad (Ph.d),Norhayati, Amphibians and Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, 19 Oct 2017,  http://www.amphibia.my/page.php?pageid=s_foundk&s_id=9&search1=Phrynoidis%20asper&species=Phrynoidis%20asper&submit=Search!

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Langkawi Birdwatching: Friday Gloom

22nd September 2017 early morning and half of the islanders are still in bed. It was drizzly, windy and cloudy. Nice :) I was up early trying my luck on any rare shore birds coming in. 

Starting from Teluk Ewa, Langkawi, only two Pacific Reef Egrets were seen feeding on the sandy beach and there no other birds around. 

Pacific Reef Egret Egretta sacra dark morph, our resident wader
When I looked across towards the Dangli Island, there were about thirty fishing boats lining up behind Dangli to take shelter from the bad sea condition out there. 
At Dangli Island
The sea did look calm from where I was standing. The backdrop is Tarutao Island, Thailand.
The drizzle turned heavier and I decided to take shelter in my car and had my packed nasi lemak for breakfast. Meanwhile, these two elderly couple caught my eyes. While is windy and cold out there, there were in the water putting out the fishing net. Nice to see their hard work did not go to waste.  
They were beating the water to chase the small fishes into the netting area.



After being a "paparazi" for awhile, I moved on and made a detour to check out the mangrove area. I parked my car and just less than 10 meters away, guess who was waiting quietly. It didn't seem to be bothered as I gently place my umbrella on the ground.
Brown-Winged Kingfisher, our resident kingfisher and star bird of Langkawi
Pelargopsis amauroptera allowed me to get closer
And then the drizzle got heavier
It was beginning to look slightly grumpy now as the rain started to get heavier.


From drizzle to rain and pouring harder.
...it can't take it anymore and it decided to look for shelter
Armed with my little umbrella, I walked around the area and suddenly a tiny fella flew in front on me and disappeared into the trees. I knew what it was! A Common Kingfisher. Alas! A migrant for the gloomy morning! Yay!

I walked around the area for awhile before returning to that spot when this Common Kingfisher came out for a short perch.
A 16-18cm female Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, our migrant kingfisher perched on the stilt root of a Rhizophora genus
Moving on from there towards Pantai Kok. No shore birds except for some tourists at half past eleven.

I continued my aimless journey and went into Telaga Harbour Park. A wagtail like zipped past my car! And it is not the regular Grey Wagtail. I chased it around from the scrubby bit to the car park area.
An uncommon Forest Wagtail Dendronanthus indicus trying to run away from me.
Constantly moving in and out of the vegetation...aii!
Our migrant wagtail stopped for awhile to wag its tail. It must stop with its bum towards me! And my camera setting was not right. Overexposed...AAAaaaRRRggggGGHHHHH!
From Pantai Kok area to the nearby paddy fields. Only our migrant Pond herons were around. Apart from that, absolutely boring rice field on that day.

No migrant shore birds! At least I went home with a Common Kingfisher and a Forest Wagtail. Ta!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Bird and Local Tour: With Calvin Godfrey

A journalist who has written for VICE, Al Jazeera and the Guardian as well as a former NYC Park Ranger, Calvin Godfrey booked me for a half a day birdwatching tour. When he first contacted me, he was very interested to understand the in-depth of eco-tourism on Langkawi. I gladly proposed a tour for him so he can experience the nature, our local food and the insights of Langkawi. 
Here's Calvin on Gunung Raya and we managed to see a pair of Great Hornbills which showed up quite close but very briefly. Gunung Raya was not intense with birds on that day. When we arrived at the peak, it was cloudy and there was no view at all. The nice cool temperature compensates the clouded view.

It wasn't difficult for me to convince him to try out our locally made buffalo ice-cream at the Buffalo Park Langkawi. And he went on to order some mozzarella buffalo cheese on toast. 

Buffalo Park offers freshly made mozzarella cheese, ricotta, yogurt, milk or flavoured milk and meals like buffalo steak, mozzarella cheese on toasts and a few more. All produced by the Murrah breed of water buffaloes and made by the local community of the nearby village. I especially love the variety flavours of the ice-cream and frozen yogurt. Will have to wait for the durian season to return so they can make the durian buffalo ice-cream.


He also had some of our Roti canai black pepper for breakfast which is a fusion of local roti canai and Western flavor. I remember vividly his comments on the Roti canai black pepper. "It is very intense!" I think I know why. Black pepper beef burger patty wrapped in roti canai with the topping full of black pepper sauce and mayonnaise! It was kinda like American flavour to him. Alright, Calvin, the next time will be local spicy curry breakfast!

Calvin also wanted to go on a durian binge but unfortunately, our local durian season is over. You have to come back, Calvin!  

Calvin's bird list for the morning:
1. Red Wattled Lapwing
2. Little Heron
3. Brahminy Kite
4. Lesser-Whistling Duck
5. Common Myna
6. Purple Heron
7. White-Bellied Sea-Eagle
8. Pond Heron spp
9. Yellow-Vented Bulbul
10. Collared Kingfisher
11. White-Headed Munia
12. Dollarbird
13. Ashy Drongo
14. Scaly-Breasted Munia
15. Spotted Dove
16. Zebra Dove
17. White-Throated Kingfisher
18. Grey Wagtail
19. Great Hornbill
20. Cattle Egret

The above is a customised tour and can be arranged on a private birdwatching tour. However, meals are not included in the pricing. This sort of private tour is suitable for anyone who like to observe some birds of Langkawi and getting some local experience on the island.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Birds of Langkawi : My Migrant Highlight

Shrikeys are back on Langkawi!

While on my wader check at the rice fields last week, I spotted one Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus and more of them are checking in now. I have missed their chit-chit-chit calls during the day that have replaced the rollicking calls of the Asian Koels.

Lanius cristatus
On my recent birdwatching tour, Subramanian spotted one while I was driving. He managed to capture a record shot on his bridge camera while in the car before it flew off and before I could even see it. Good thing he got it on his camera!
I snapped a photo from Subramanian's screen camera with my phone camera 
A Tiger Shrike! This would be my first Lanius tigrinus seen in this area. And it has been ages ago since the last time I have seen one of this shrike on Langkawi.

I returned to the same spot on the following day on my own and it wasn't there! There was another winter visitor around which is the Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea. I did wait for awhile and the area seemed quiet on that day. And so I moved on hoping to get better shots of any raptors. I dropped the expectation of having to see a Tiger Shrike.

After one hour of dropping Tiger Shrike off my mind, guess who whizzed past my car? I immediately knew it was a Shrike!
A record shot of Lanius tigrinus . It didn't hang around for long. Kinda skittish too.
Yay! I finally got one as a record shot on my DSLR!

There are only two confirmed species of Lanius genus. 
My next shrike on the list will be a Long-Tailed Shrike Lanius schach which was reported seen by a local guide but no photographic evidence. The search is on.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Birds of Langkawi: Pitta Breakfast!

This is usually unusual for most people but it has become a usual habit for me to enjoy my breakfast in my car while on my way to a birdwatching site. It was a random stop by the side of the coastal road as I was hungry. And so I had my packed breakfast in my car parked beside the road.

As I was about to leave, I saw a flash of blue on my side mirror. A nice unexpected "dessert" came in. It was hopping about beside the road. Immediately, I knew what it was :D


Blue-Winged Pitta
A Blue-Winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis

Without any delay, I came out as quietly and quickly as I can to grab my camera packed in my car boot. Thankfully, this one here didn't fly away. In fact, it was hopping back and forth on the grass and into the scrub. It was definitely looking for food. 


Going back and forth in the drain too
Into the drain
After observing it hopping in and out of the bush for quite awhile, I became curious and so I stalked it. And who came out next?


I only had less than 20 seconds to click these two together
A juvenile with an adult Blue-Winged Pitta! I would like to conclude that this adult may be a female. This is indeed a nice record of our Blue-Winged Pitta breeding here. I only saw one juvenile and the number of fledgings produced by this individual is unknown.




This juvenile was left alone for awhile and so I stood by to watch until it disappeared into the thicket ferns.
So happy to capture this moment. Made my morning! Woo-hoo!
I finally got some decent shots of Blue-Winged Pitta and not only the bum shots.
Blue-Winged Pitta is our winter visitor to Peninsular Malaysia and records have shown that they also breed in this region as well as Singapore. Click here to read Blue-Winged Pitta Nesting in Singapore

During the off-migratory season, I have picked up calls of this Blue-Winged Pitta. Could this species of Pitta has become resident here on Langkawi? 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Super Reward for True Nature-Lovers

We were drenched from the big rain at Kilim yesterday afternoon on our Langkawi mangrove boat tour. As the rain starting to subside, this family from Hong Kong decided to give it a go on the coastline and guess who showed up after the big heavy rain?

Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphins Sousa chinensis , about a dozen of them!
Some selected images taken from the boat yesterday:

Even if you do not like to smile, this individual will definitely make you smile :)
This individual displaying its dorsal fin
One breaching! Thank you Jol Ern from Marecet for this terminology I have learned. But I failed to take a solid photo...
AAAaaaaaaaRRRrrrrrrrrrrGGGGGgggggggggHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!
Just a BIG Splash!
We followed this pod for about fifteen minutes before they diverted into the bay of Gua Dedap. During that fifteen minutes, we had to wave to slow down the oncoming boats going at high speed travelling on the same path as this pod. 

This family enjoyed our tropical rain and they strictly adhere to no wildlife feeding during the tour. Being true-nature lovers, they were rewarded with this awesome encounter by our Langkawi's magical creatures that they will cherish. 

Moments like these brighten your dark days.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Langkawi Mangrove Tour: What's Popping In There?

There were many times when I was on the Langkawi mangrove tour especially at low tide, I always wonder what made the popping sound like opening a bottle of champagne. Someone told me that it was the result of the air bubble popped when a crab emerged out of the burrow. Or could it be another creature like this one here that emerged in front of us be the answer?

We were checking out a nest of sedentary tube worm (polychaete) when it suddenly emerged out of the mud! It was a real lucky day for us especially for me. I am not sure if my guests were excited about it but I was surely 999% excited to see it. It didn't stay out very long for us until it dug itself into the mud again. 
Snapping Shrimp was starting to dig into the mud
Digging in!
Do have a closer look and try to notice one of its claw that is very much larger than the other. This is possibly the mangrove snapping shrimp (Family Alpheidae). However, I am not sure exactly of which species this one is.

This mangrove snapping shrimp we saw was less than 10cm. How a little crustacean can make a sound so loud and powerful to stun a fish and be heard many hundreds of metres away? 

According to the book PRIVATE LIVES - An Expose of Singapore's Mangroves:
It is because of its large claw that is packed with muscles and has a uniquely structured tooth on the finger that fits into a socket on the opposite. The muscles pull the toothed finger back and hold so much elastic force that when it is released, it hammers into the socket at an incredible speed and force, causing a high speed jet of water to emerge. The high speed causes a sudden drop of pressure (Bernoulli's principle) resulting in the formation of a tiny vapour bubble - what physicists call a cavitation bubble. The bubble violently collapses under the pressure of the surrounding water in a small "underwater explosion" causing a loud sound. During the collapse, the temperature in the bubble reaches the surface temperature of the sun! Snapping shrimps make these "snaps" to fend off rivals, deter enemies and rivals, and probably also to communicate with one another.

Researchers in the Acoustics Research Laboratory of the Tropical Marine Science Institute of the National University of Singapore have shown that in tropical waters, the snap density can range from 0.01 to 0.1 snap/second/square metre. Although this noise limits the performance of most traditional man made underwater acoustic systems, a novel technique known as "ambient noise imaging" uses this noise for underwater sensing.

Read about how the sound of the snapping shrimps interfere with the sonar detection in shallow seas and how a snapping shrimp rely on goby in Ria's WildfactSheets.

A HUGE THANK YOU to Iris Flock for taking the pictures of this snapping shrimp and kept your promise in sending them over to me. And also thank you to Ria for the confirmation. 

This is my first time seeing a real live snapping shrimp. Amazing! Hmm... I wonder if it tastes good...??

References: 
1) Private Lives - An Expose of Singapore's Mangroves
    Written by Peter K. L. Ng, Wang Luan Keng, Kelvin K. P. Lim
    Published by National University of Singapore

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