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...

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)

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Micro Macro: Exploring the World of Undergrowth

I do hope my blog followers here had a good start for the year new 2018. My first two weeks of January 2018 was kinda packed. For those who came with me on my birdwatching tours from the festive season till the second week of January 2018, they have been very fortunate with the spectacular displays of the Great Hornbills Buceros bicornis and the Wreathed Hornbills Rhyticeros undulatus with three different fruiting fig trees within one area in two weeks. What a wonderful gift! 

Now that my guiding tours are slowing down, this has allowed me some time to consolidate my photos and put them on my blog.  

For the start of 2018 blog, I would like post my macro shots of the creatures from the undergrowth. It is a complete different world down there. If we take our time to slowly observe and photograph them, these creatures are indeed beautiful and some of them can be weird looking or bizarre. They can be as beautiful and spectacular as our feathered friends.

As a nature guide, I consider myself a generalist. Even though the avian world is my main focus, I have learned not be ignorant towards other living organism as they are equally as important in the web of life. There are so much to learn from the experts of each field and yet, it is never ending. I feel I am running out of time and storage space in my brain.

While twitching for any migrant cuckoos recently, I stumbled upon this patch of grass beside a stream. Something jumped out of the grass and has caught my attention. It was a spider of Siler genus. After that spider, more stuffs began to reveal themselves in front of my eyes. I think I have spend almost two hours on that one small spot. 



Here is the collection of my macro shots from that small grassy spot for two hours:

langkawi nature tour siler spider
The Metalic Jumper, Salticidae familySiler semiglaucus female
langkawi nature rainforest walk wolf spider
A Wolf spider, Lycosidae Family, Pardosa sp.
langkawi spiny orb weaver spider nature tour
A dorsal view of Spiny Orb-Weaver, Araneidae Family, a male Gasteracantha sp. with a pair of swollen pedipalps 

langkawi spiny orb weaver spider tours
The underside of a male Spiny Orb-Weaver, Araneidae Family, Gasteracantha sp

Langkawi nature tours
A dorsal view of Spiny Orb-Weaver, Araneidae Family, a male Gasteracantha sp. This individual was a big challenge to photograph as he is tiny!

langkawi comb footed spider nature tours
Comb-footed spider, Theridiidae Family, Achaearanea sp.

langkawi spiders wildlife photography tour
From the features and structure on its carapace, this one may be a Cosmophasis sp. belonging to Salticidae Family.
langkawi birdwatching and wildlife tour
Burmese Lynx Spider, Oxyopidae Family, Oxyopes birmanicus Thorell 1887
langkawi spiders salticidae nature guide
An unknown species of Salticidae Family
Langkawi macro tour
Nymph of Spotted Green Grasshopper, Xenocatantops humilis
langkawi wildlife watch tour
An unknown Orthoptera
langkawi wildlife tour
Nymph of Black Forest Grasshopper, Traulia azureipennis  
langkawi grasshopper
An unknown Orthoptera
langkawi nature tour insect
A weirdest insect I have ever seen. Could this be a type of mosquito bug Helopeltis sp
langkawi nature tour weird insect
Another weird-looking and colourful insect. I am clueless. Can anyone please help to id?
I am working on learning more about entomology and the spider world with the limited resources that I currently have. My personal method of learning is through macro photography that I have recently started. From the images, I am able to observe the details of a subject closely and eventually getting the identification of the subject. Thankfully, there are some accessible resources through the world wide web even though is limited and not forgetting some help from friends and friends of friends. My gratitude and special thanks to fellow guide, Fendi and my guest, Mark Pennell on the discussion and sharing the identification of some spiders species. Also, not forgetting the special thanks to Amir Ridhwan, the blogger for Malaysian Spiders, whom I first contacted some time ago for some clarification and his amazing work on spiders of Malaysia.









References/Resources:
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siler_semiglaucus
2. Kwan, "The Minibeast Observatory", http://www.natureloveyou.sg/Minibeast.html (on some of the identification of the insects and spiders comparing on my images)
3. KH Koh, Joseph, A Guide to Common Singapore Spiders,Singapore Science Centre, 2001
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiny_orb-weaver
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmophasis
6. Murphy, Frances & Murphy, An Introduction to the Spiders of South East Asia, Malaysian Nature Society, 2000
7. Kel C, Anthony, flickr image on identification of  Xenocatantops humilis
8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxyopes
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