Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Hooded Pitta Visited Langkawi

Being an island detached from the Peninsula, Langkawi currently have two species of Pitta belonging to Pittidae and can be seen especially on their breeding season. These two species are the Blue-Winged Pitta Pitta moluccensis and Mangrove Pitta Pitta megarhyncha. The first one can be both a migrant breeder and resident. While the latter is the island's resident bird.  Click here for my story on Blue-Winged Pitta's newly fledged.

There is another species of Pitta that have yet to be properly recorded or photographed which is the Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida. I have yet to come across any documentation of its confirmed sighting on Langkawi. There were a couple of sources that I have received claiming on the sighting and hearing the call of Hooded Pitta but these have not been confirmed or properly recorded. Hooded Pitta is like the Blue-Winged Pitta, which is both resident and migrant breeder.

Earlier this year, an occupant of a residence at Kedawang area, Ms Neoh send me this image taken from a hard copy photograph found in a file. 
Langkawi birdwatching bird guide
Hooded Pitta Pitta sordida - I want this pitta!!
Upon receiving this image, I thought it was a joke and at the same time, I was stupefied especially when this source came from a non-birder. After Ms Neoh explained how this bird was photographed then only I am convinced with the visitation of this pitta. Though Ms Neoh is not a birder, she was interested to know the species of bird and she got a bird book too! A general nature lover, Ms Neoh often videoed and photographed some of the spiders around the property and shared them with me. 

This pitta caught the attention of the owner of this property back in 2008 or 2009 while they were having a drink at sundown. Madeleine managed to photograph before this pitta took off. Pittas are usually skittish especially if they have not been tamed through feeding. Some areas on the mainland, the Blue-winged Pittas are often baited for the bird photography tours. From the look of this picture, this pitta looks lost and unfazed with the presence of the people nearby. Could it have flown in and hit the glass window without causing much damage to the bird? According to Ms Neoh, it flew away after that. Meaning, it must have survived. 

As at now, this sighting is considered as confirmed and vagrant as per my record. I will be keeping a lookout for this pitta and will be my lifer soon.

I sincerely thank Ms Neoh for being interested and sharing this image with me for Langkawi's record.

1. Yeap, CA (2005), Report on Birds of Langkawi Archipelago. Malayan Nature Journal 2005, 57(1), 124
2. Robson, C (2011), A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia. UK: New Holland

Monday, 24 September 2018

Disposable Plastic Ponchos

Disposable plastic ponchos are great! They seem weightless, compact, easy to slip into the pocket of a bag and most of all, they are so cheap! It is the most ideal rain protection item to travel with. If you have forgotten to bring them with you from your home country, not to worry as they can be easily purchased from most of the shops here in Langkawi. 
Disposable plastic ponchos
Once used, these disposable plastic ponchos can be easily dumped into the trash bin. Why bother carrying a wet plastic poncho back into your hotel room, right? And so, where do they go from there? The landfill, obviously! What about those that didn't end up in the landfill?

These disposable plastic ponchos are mostly used during the rainy season. This post is to highlight the usage of these plastic ponchos on tours such as mangrove boat cruises, island hopping or rainforest walk in Langkawi and to encourage visitors and locals here to reduce the usage. Quite often when it pours, some visitors expect ponchos to be given to them which is entirely understandable as it is not comfortable to remain on the boat tour in a drenched condition. Before I proceed further, please don't get me wrong here. I am not cursing and going against these disposable plastic ponchos. No doubt that they can be evil to the environment if they are not disposed wisely. When it comes to emergency, these disposable stuffs will come in really handy. Being drenched in the wind on a rainy day in Langkawi could stand a chance of mild hypothermia. And so having some form of poncho is essential.
This fun video was taken when I was onboard Langkawi Dolphin Research boat last year with awesome skipper, Eddie. We were hit by heavy rain and wind at sea. Look at all of them huddling in cold and especially Jol Ern (in yellow reusable rain jacket). When the rain comes, it can come down hard on our sunny Langkawi! Having a poncho at that time was helpful!

Even though disposable plastic ponchos are not entirely bad, they can also create an impact to the environment especially to a small island like Langkawi. When they ended up in the landfill, they will be buried together with tonnes of other trash. And sadly, some will end up in the mangroves or even at sea because the users simply let them fly into the air and not pick them up after.
An attractive yellow plastic poncho wrapped around the roots of a Rhizophora tree in the mangrove.  Plastics trapped on the roots are not easily pluck off as they get wrapped a few rounds the root as the current turns them over and over. One can see them a lot in Kilim mangroves area.

Another one close by. Mangroves are fantastic ecosystem that trap rubbish brought in by the current from the sea.
kayaking tour
Plastic ponchos together with other trash collected while kayaking with my guest, Paul Bell from the UK
So far as I came to know that there is one sundry shop in Kuah town who is willing to collect these disposable plastic ponchos for charity purposes. Unfortunately, most of these plastic ponchos ended up in the landfill for life!

So, the question is, should operators continue to hand these out to their customers? I am also part of the guilt for issuing these ponchos. Unwillingly, I will issue them out upon request only after I have told them to use these ponchos when it is necessary and explain the reason why it is best to avoid. I used to collect them after they have used and would reuse them as my car seat liner.
Posted from my social media earlier
Ever since I have not been freelancing for some of the tour operators, I hardly issue these disposable plastic ponchos these days. Yay! 

While the operators will continue to issue them, the shops will continue to sell them, how can one traveller help to reduce the consumption and keeping the impact low?

It is always nice to see some of my guests travelled with their own reusable rain jacket or poncho. Even though Langkawi may have more sunny days than rainy days, the rain can come unexpectedly even during the dry season. Reusable rain jackets can be purchased from the big supermarkets in town. The cost varies from RM15-RM30.

Lazy or not too bothered to carry home after using them? You can always leave them to any locals who need them. I am sure some of the hotel gardeners would be happy to have them.

I do hope this message can get across to all visitors planning their holidays to Langkawi. And locals as well. Let's help keep Langkawi sustainable and clean.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Which Cyrtodactylus?

My day today was filled with looking at genus Cyrtodactylus from the Gekkonidae family. On our fun night out for critter spotting with Kim and Mark Pennell, we stumbled upon two beautiful geckos that I have yet to identify. Flipping through pages of Indraneil's Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia (2010 publication), Beautiful Bent-Toed Gecko Cyrtodactylus pulchellus looks kinda fit my images at a glance. 
Langkawi nature gecko
Cyrtodactylus macrotuberculatus - maybe?
A month ago, I saw a display of an image of a gecko which looks similar to my gecko photo and it was labelled as Cyrtodactylus langkawiensis. I was excited! Wow! Did we actually see an endemic species of gecko? 

Wait a minute! Just to be sure, my first step was to check my only resource book and this langkawiensis is not listed. Next step was to ask Ms Google and I came upon images that led to a flickr album and to this website:

Then I realise that they look the same but something tells me that they have differences. To my untrained eyes looking at geckos, the best thing to do is to ask. I contacted someone who is into Herpetology and he has kind to give me the possible species name which is  macrotuberculatus with its common name given as Gunung Raya Bent-Toed Gecko (Grismer & Ahmad, 2008). However, that book didn't have any illustration. But he said that it is only a possibility though it stands a high chance of a macrotuberculatus rather than the langkawiensis based on the dorsal. I was very much hoping it was the latter.  
Langkawi nature gecko
Cyrtodactylus macrotuberculatus - Not sure!
It is not easy to identify a species from the photos. Geckos are more challenging than birds! Actually, waders are also challenging. After reading the descriptions of these two species of geckos I have found through online searches, the differences can only be seen by picking it up and doing detailed examination of its length, colouration of the dorsum, granular scales, size of tubercles, amount of ventral scales and more confusing stuffs! Its habitat is also taken into account too. As the saying goes, "Same same but different".

The conclusion is that I am convinced that the gecko we saw and photographed that night was not a Cyrtodactylus langkawiensis, which is endemic to Langkawi. And neither is a Cyrtodactylus pulchellus. According to the Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia (Das, I. 2010), Cyrtodactylus macrotuberculatus is endemic to the west coast of northern Peninsular Malaysia (Pulau Langkawi), however, recent findings of this species apparently have been recorded on the mainland too.

Thank you to the Herp guy for his time!

Mark and Kim Pennell, my return guests since 2015
1. Das, I. (2010). A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia. New Holland Publishers (UK), England. pp. 369
2. Grismer & Ahmad, 2008, Cyrtodactylus macrotuberculatus, Retrieved from

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