Friday, 9 June 2017

Langkawi Birdwatching Tour: Come please!

Blue-Winged Pitta

We need your cooperation Blue-Winged Pitta! Please come for Burnice Starkey... please...

Burnice and Hans from Australia are back in Langkawi for more bird actions and mozzies!
This is Burnice's blog post on her previous visit

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Temurun Waterfall as Beautiful as Ever

Did anyone promise you sunny days in Langkawi? Hope not! It has been raining for the past couple of days. The fun does not stop on rainy days. Langkawi needs lots of rain to have this awesome waterfall at Temurun Waterfall on Jalan Datai.

This is how Temurun Waterfall looks like now. These were photographed while it was still raining.
From a distance

While it was still raining...

After an unproductive solo birdwatching along Jalan Datai, I was happy not to go home empty handed (without memorable photos). My solo birdwatching ended with the arrival of the rain. Thanks to that!
A Crested Serpent Eagle looking gloom in the grey sky
It was past lunch time and I just have to stop at a street food stall for these goodies too!

A pack of Nasi Lemak (left) and "Tepung Bungkus" (right)
"Tepung Bungkus" in Bahasa language literally means Wrapped Flour. The white stuff is made with mixture of wheat flour, rice flour, coconut milk, sweet grated coconut filling then wrapped and steamed with banana leaf. Excellent dessert for breakfast or tea!

Sunday, 21 May 2017

LANGKAWI BIRDS: Babble On Breakfast

Guess who showed up for breakfast during the morning walk session at Ambong-Ambong Langkawi ?   

While waiting for anyone to show up at 8am, I heard some babbling sound and this little one turned up at the GoodEarth cafe of Ambong-Ambong Langkawi.  

Abbott's Babbler was spotted in the dark vegetation. I had to do some editing to produce this image.
This is an adult Abbott's Babbler Malacocincla abbotti with an insect. It didn't eat its prey immediately and it was making alarm calls. I heard calls of other similar babblers nearby. It took off after five minutes of its appearance. Could this prey be food for its chick or juvenile? Babblers are not easily seen though can be heard in the scrubby vegetation. 
Initially, I was a bit doubtful if this one here could be a Horsfield's Babbler Malacocincla sepiaria, which also belongs to the same genus of  Pellorneidae or ground babblers.

After analyzing the calls and illustrations of both babblers comparing to my photos and video, I came to conclusion that this bird here is the Abbott's Babbler Malacocincla abbotti. I was very hopeful that it was the Horsfield's instead as this species has yet to be recorded on the birds list of Langkawi.

With the info from a reference book, a Abbott's and Horsfield have similarities except for the slight differences in the length of their tails and calls. It can be tricky!
Image editor credit:
To spot a babbler is to look for them in the undergrowth, scrubby vegetation of any sort of forest. Not easy to photograph, let alone trying to identify. Most babblers here are plain brown birds and usually shy. However, they can make melodious songs. One of the ways to identify a babbler is through their calls. It is one of those hear-and-no-see-em kinda birds. Fun challenge!

Ambong Ambong Rainforest Retreat offers complimentary morning walk on Mondays at 8am for their in-house guests. Be sure to come whenever you are staying there. It is advisable to register before coming.

 I had the pleasure of watching it for 5 minutes and no one else. I can't remember what made the noisy background. I was too busy with this bird.
WMV conversion to mp4 credit: 

References:; 20may2017.
Robson, Craig, A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia,New Holland,2011,p513-514. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Langkawi Birdwatching Tour: Great Hornbills Aplenty!

This must be the most memorable evening and birdwatching experience for a beginner birdwatcher, McKee from the United States. Even though it was a last minute booking from McKee, I managed to fit him in for an evening birding tour after half a day session with Mic on that morning itself.

Paul's request was simple. To see and learn some birds in Langkawi. To start with, I took him to a nearby village area with some mixed habitats so he can learn about our common birds on our island.

My plan was to allow him to pick up some number of birds and hopefully to catch some hornbills on Gunung Raya before the sunsets.

And he was lucky! We arrived at the foothill about 6:30pm and it took us about 15 minutes before spotting the first few Great Hornbills. There were few Wreathed Hornbills nearby and they were perched much higher on the canopy trees. Thankfully with my scope that McKee was able to catch the details of these magnificent birds.

The longer we lingered on that spot we have stopped, more hornbills came in. Within half an hour, McKee managed to see all the three species of hornbills of Langkawi ie the Great, Wreathed and Oriental Pied. They were flying above us, back and forth as well as the constant swoooshing sound made as they flapped their great wings. A pleasant noise to hear besides the final calls of the cicadas.

It was difficult to do an accurate count as they were hopping about when they have found their spot on a tree. Then they would fly to the next tree and then fly back to the same tree. I can only estimate. It was between 35-40 individuals of Great Hornbills, 15-20 individuals of Wreathed Hornbills and only 4 individuals of Oriental Pied Hornbills.

Image below is showing how spectacular it was on that evening at sunset. This is the original image taken at 7:30pm and very poor light indeed even when it was set at ISO4000.

and I have to adjust the exposure and lighting so we can see the details of each individuals of the Great Hornbills roosting on one tree.

Roosting of the Great Hornbills
Great Hornbills returning to roost. Can you count them? 

They seem to prefer to crowd around on one tree and some were seen on nearby trees just like the Bee-eaters when they roost. Safety in numbers, perhaps?

A local guy on a motorcycle came and stopped to watch the hornbills with us. He was also awed and told me that this was his first time seeing so many on one tree. A memorable evening for him too!

Sunday, 26 March 2017


Burnice's bird wishlist for Langkawi would be the Hornbills, all three of them. She wasn't chasing after the Brown-Winged Kingfisher as she has already seen it while kayaking nearby Pulau Dayang Bunting. That would mean the priority was to head up to Gunung Raya, the highest peak of Langkawi.

Burnice and Hans are currently on their sailing adventures with their sailing boat all the way from Australia. Having to spend some time at Rebak Island, they made their way to Pekan Rabu after sailing through rough wind condition. We met at the Pekan Rabu pier on our birdwatching morning.

The birdwatcher is Burnice and Hans will enjoy whatever that is presented to him. Little did I know that Burnice is also a blogger like me and I got lots to learn from Burnice's blog. Like me, Burnice will take photos of birds so she can share her images via her blog:

Below are some snapshots of her blog. Please click here to read Burnice's entire post about her birdwatching experience in Langkawi and her bird list. 

The leaping lizard that Burnice mentioned in her blog was a gliding lizard, Draco spp. I spotted it gliding about 10m across the Gunung Raya road while driving. It landed on a tree and it was just nice for us to observe it through my scope in which I managed to set it up before it was gone. 

The above picture is the juvenile raptor that I was looking for. I managed to snap a photo while it was circling before making a perch into the dense forest. It hid itself very well. We waited for it to fly out again but it didn't. My suspicion at that moment was a juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzard. But I was still doubtful due to lack of details of a Oriental Honey Buzzard such as the prominent tail bands and black tip on the primaries. Just to be sure, I forwarded this image to the raptor sifus in the Raptor Study Group. Thank you to Liung and Aun Tiah for their quick response confirming that it was a juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzard due to its pigeon-like head. I likely think it may be a juvenile female.

The reward for us stopping there for awhile is the appearance of the male Wreathed Hornbill not too far away and it was posing for us.

Many thanks for the nice review on your blog, Burnice. Looking forward to seeing you back on Langkawi for more lifers and your birds stories in Thailand. Bon Voyage!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Langkawi Bird Watching: PULSE

I didn't expect this coming and indeed very thankful for their appreciation on their birdwatching tour with me. Aimee and Stephen from Australia came on my birdwatching tour while on their honeymoon vacation in Langkawi. 

Stephen has started DSLR photography not too long ago and is very keen to take wildlife shots. Both of them are new to birdwatching. And I am new to this camera gadget device that Stephen was using on that day, which is Pulse by Alphine Labs.

Pulse is a camera remote gadget to control a camera wirelessly from a smartphone. It allows control over shooting photos, time lapse or video in real time. Stephen cleverly showed me some of his time-lapse photos and I was impressed. 
pulse wireless camera control timelapse camera remote
Image from
This is a photo taken by Stephen's Canon 70D with his wide lens with Pulse attached:
Aimee, me and Stephen on Langkawi Bird Watching tour with a photo taken using remote control gadget, Pulse

Guess what arrived in my postbox a month later?
My New Year gift from Aimee and Stephen Baird. Thank you!

Thank you so much for this gadget and your encouragement, Aimee and Stephen. I got a new toy to play with...Yipppeeee!

Towards the end of our birdwatching tour, we were rewarded with a dozen of Black-Winged Stilts! And I didn't expect a big turn up of this wader species. 
Langkawi bird watching tour: A flock of Black-Winged Stilts, migratory waders

Not only Pulse, Stephen and Aimee have kindly wrote me review  via Langkawi Nature Guide facebook page

One is a pure birdwatcher and the one is a photographer. Perfect match to complement each other! The heavy rain on their first attempt did not dampen their spirit to go out again. Wishing both of them all the happiness

All the very best to Aimee and Stephen and I like to see more birds photos from them.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Refreshing 2017

First of all, Happy New Year to my readers and followers. Excuse me for my long absence as I had some private nature tours running during the festive season.

With the rainy, cloudy weather and a couple of hot days in between for the past two weeks, I would say it is a refreshing start for Langkawi in the new year 2017. At this time of the year, it is supposedly be the dry season. In year 2016, we had extended dry season and could this be the compensation? 

In related to my guiding work, rainy days generally bring cancellation to birdwatching tours. I can't do much about this reality and might as well enjoy the nice cool rainy days when Langkawi has a lot more hot and sunny days to offer for the whole year. I personally like rainy days.

I had people who have asked me on what can they do when it is raining? 

If it is raining cats and dogs, the best thing to do is to sit in a nice cafe and have cuppa of coffee or tea or simply relax and do nothing in your hotel room. If the rain slows down or has stopped, take a car or scooter and ride around the island, eat some local food or better still is to head out to the waterfall area. However, be mindful of hazards while visiting waterfall areas during the rainy days.

The island was rained on from January 7th to the 8th. There were a few times when the rain was heavy but there were no thunderstorm and a lot of light drizzles in between. 

And so it was the opportunity for me to check out the Temurun Waterfall, supposedly the tallest waterfall on Langkawi.
Look at it! It was bursting with life and so much of energy! 

It was cold swimming in the pool but I love it! The energy has created surface waves that can push you to the edge. Anyone standing at the edge of the pool for more than fifteen minutes will find themselves soaking wet with the sprays.

This is one of the uncommon sight of Temurun waterfall and you only get this during the rainy days. On most days, is like a small stream or even trickle of water running down. 

Indeed it is a refreshing 2017 start for me. I had a challenging and as well as rewarding year 2016 and may the blessing of Temurun waters help to wash off the negative ones and start anew. I foresee more challenges coming for this 2017 and may the blessing enable me to remain positive during these times.

This is how a Temurun Waterfall will be like in between the dry and the rainy season:

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