Friday, 13 September 2019

Featured on Bryony Angell Dot Com

I cannot recall how Bryony and I were connected via Instagram many months ago or perhaps almost a year ago. After visited Bryony Angell's website awhile ago, I was impressed with her writings and especially her posts featuring female bird guides from different countries. And to my surprise in late May 2019, Bryony invited me for an interview via email for her next blog post feature. Her blog was only posted on 16th August due to the delay from my heavy schedule in June. Bryony was very patient with me, thanks!

Screenshot of Bryony's blog page

Thank you to Bryony Angell for selecting me to be featured on her web blog. Bryony is a freelance writer/blogger and also an avid birder. Her website has a specific focus on birding culture and women in the world birding scene, with clips in regional and national publications.
Screenshot of Bryony's blog page
My contents to her questions can be hard to stomach by some bird or eco tourism industry players or may be offensive to some simply because the truth hurts. While the word "sustainable" is so overused, almost to as "green-washing", it is challenging to strike a balance between ethical practices and profit making. Tourism practices follow the trend of consumers who are the tourists. Companies will continue to provide what tourists want in order to make huge profits. Like the saying goes, "If there are demands, there will be supplies". It takes more than two parties to ensure ethical practices in tourism or eco tourism but the greater power comes from the visitors or tourists themselves. It will be my dream one day to be able to witness all tourists to say "No" to wildlife exploitation in tourism. Likewise as guides whether we are freelancers or employees, we too have our roles to play as frontliners. We had our training when getting our licensed badges and it is part of our duty to educate the tourists and not spoiling them in the end. I usually lay out my rules before accepting a nature tour booking especially Bird Photography and Mangrove Boat tour. Some will accept and some will not. I also have been declined by some tour agents when I laid out my rules. At least now, I do not have a boss to answer to. I only have to answer to my conscience. It is never easy to practice full ethics as guides. 

Please click on this link here to Bryony Angell's latest blog post.

Once again, thank you Bryony for featuring and acknowledging female Birdwatching guides around the world.

Friday, 23 August 2019

A Mysterious Dainty Charadrius Plover of Langkawi

Langkawi generally lacks big mixed flock of migratory waders even though we have some coastal mudflats, reeds and mangroves. It has a very low variety of wader species and not a great place to study varieties of migratory waders. Having said that, the island occasionally does have a couple of individual waders that are either rare or vagrant. My wader highlight on the previous bird migration was the Red-Necked Stint and as far as I know, this stint has not been previously recorded for Langkawi. It was a delight to find a rare among the common ones.

On the third week of February 2019, I noticed a solo dainty wader walking up and down along tide line of a sandy beach at the Four Seasons Langkawi, Tanjung Rhu at midday. That was not my first time noticing this sort of lone plover along this beach. I have seen one a couple of times on different migratory seasons years ago. At that time, it was either I did not have my binoculars or my camera with me and that bird didn't give me a chance for a decent record shot. Until that day. 

These images have been sitting in my SD card of my Panasonic bridge camera for months until I recall this dainty plover now as I am currently updating the bird list of Langkawi.

After some cropping and editing of these two record shots, my first impression was a Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus. A comparison with my field guide has raised some doubts. The noticeable differences were:
1) The bill of this dainty plover is slightly longer and heavier
2) Broader white lore and brow than the Kentish plover (I have yet to see a Kentish plover)
3) Lighter or paler legs colour

And so it is not a Kentish. Or it is a Malaysian Plover Charadrius peronii

My image did have some resemblance to a Malaysian Plover but I am still doubtful especially on the colouration on the upperparts. And so I needed some help. I turned to Choy Wai Mun for help. Wai Mun is a passionate Penang birder/bird photographer/guide and also the E-bird reviewer for our Northern states of Peninsular Malaysia. And so, it is a White-faced or Swinhoe's Plover Charadrius alexandrinus dealbatus, a subspecies of Kentish Plover. My lifer! Yeah!
Wai Mun also pointed out that a Malaysian Plover has "scales" on the upperpart or variegated upperpart. That was my initial doubt. Thank you for this, Wai Mun.    
  
Langkawi Birdwatching
White-Faced or Swinhoe's Plover Charadrius alexandrinus dealbatus. Note the legs colour, size of the bill and broad lore as compared to a Kentish plover

Based on the old records, Kentish Plover was recorded at an unknown location with the mudflats and sandy shores on unknown date. (Gregory-Smith 1995; Medway and Wells 1976). While Malaysian Plover nesting was recorded on 19 March 1995 on an unknown location here. An adult male was collected on 23 April 1911 (Robinson and Chasen 1936). At that time when Yeap's journal was published, the status of our Malaysian Plover was reported as Rare and Threaten. For the past decades, there isn't any report on the sighting of Malaysian Plover on Langkawi. Could this species has extinct due to development on our beaches or the increased of predators such as feral animals like dogs, cats or even crows? Malaysian Plovers are considered as rare resident and their eggs are laid on the ground.

Armed with the species identification of this plover, I went on to dig further because this subspecies of Kentish Plover is not found on my field guide that I am currently using. The search based on the species keyword has led me to this blog on Swinhoe's Plovers in Beijing and subsequently to an article which is more than a decade ago by David Bakewell and Peter Kennerly on Surfbird's Malaysia's Mystery Plover

Initially, I was ecstatic about this plover being another new record for Langkawi but when I stumbled on Thaibirding.com which posted an article on Rediscovery of a long-lost Charadrius plover from South-East Asia, obtained from Forktail journal of  Oriental Bird Club (OBC), my excitement was diminished instantly. Surprisingly, there were samples taken as far back as in 1899. Holy! That was after the period of our Legendary Mahsuri and the last Siam invasion. 

Here are two screen shots from the article:
Specimens of Swinhoe's (White-Faced) Plover collected from Langkawi
Specimens collected in months 1899 and 1963 which is the migratory season for Langkawi
My mysterious dainty lone plover on the beach has finally been identified and I have entered into our E-bird for Langkawi's record keeping. We had Kentish Plovers in Langkawi's E-bird submissions from foreign birdwatchers previously. Could those be the dealbatus species? For future E-bird submission, it is best to attach a record shot so we know exactly which type of Kentish Plover. At input, you can click on the "Change Species" tab to obtain the Kentish Plover (White-Faced)
Charadrius alexandrinus dealbatus.

Even though this species isn't a new record for Langkawi, it is a still lifer for me. I look forward to seeing this species here again and the next time with the Kentish Plover together one day.

Birds of Langkawi
A White-Faced Plover foraging. Notice the broad brow and supercillium giving him a "white face" look. The black band on the forehead denotes a male in breeding

References:
1. Gregory-Smith, R. 1995. Birds of Perlis and Kedah, Including Langkawi. An Annotated Checklist. Sarawak: Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. 
2.Yeap C.A (2005), Report on Birds of Langkawi Archipelago. Malayan Nature Journal 2005, 57(1),107
3.  Robson, C. (2011), A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia,New Holland
4.  Bakewell, D. N. and Kennerley, P.R (2007) Malaysisa's mystery plover, http://www.surfbirds.com/Features/plovers1108/malayplovers.html
5. http://www.thaibirding.com/ornithology/lostplover.htm
6. (2012) https://birdingbeijing.com/2012/08/07/swinhoes-white-faced-plovers/

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Langkawi's Oriental Pied Hornbill Nest Feeding

This year has been a blessed year for me to witness two species Hornbills attending to their nests. All Hornbills in Malaysia nest in tree cavities especially matured or old trees. So far in Langkawi, I have only witnessed Great Hornbill Buceros bircorni nesting but yet to witness the nest of Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirotris until this year.  

Saiful came running towards our group with this glee and excitement on his face, "Hornbill feeding!". His infectious excitement got me running too. My instant thought was a Great Hornbill? I quickly signalled to the group to follow Saiful. This male Oriental Pied Hornbill was still passing the food into the tree cavity when we arrived. I quickly pulled out my camera to capture this on video. Please excuse me for the shake as I didn't quite recover from the excitement yet. 

This group of 10-year old students from Singapore together with their teachers had a less than one minute opportunity to witness this. I was with this group as their guide and they were here on Langkawi to learn about our diverse natural habitats. This was the Rainforest section on their second day of this trip. Their logistics were organised by Langkawi Canopy Adventures in mid of March. 

The period from February to April are crucial months for the adult Great Hornbills and Oriental Pied Hornbills tending to the nest especially the male with his faithful duty as a Dad to feed Mum and chick. 

As I didn't manage to fully observe the Oriental Pied Hornbill nesting, I am sharing this post from Singapore Bird Ecology Group which has video-monitor on their Oriental Pied Hornbill nesting at Pulau Ubin, Singapore. Based on their data, the breeding period at Pulau Ubin is almost similar as ours here in Langkawi. It takes almost three months (78-85 days) from the tree cavity sealing stage to the emerging of the adult female and chicks fledging. As reported, all the chicks fledged at the same time as the adult female broke out of the cavity in one cycle. While a Great Hornbill will take at least another month longer to complete the successful breeding cycle. The adult Great Hornbill female will break out of the cavity first and reseal while the chick is still inside.

Click here for the report on Singapore's Oriental Pied Hornbill breeding cycle.


Since I didn't have any shot of a newly fledged Oriental Pied Hornbill, here is a miniature one from my guest, Khai Ling.

A gift of appreciation from my kayaking guest, Khai Ling. Thank you!
References: 
Oriental Pied Hornbills: Stages in its breeding cycle, (2009, April 13),
https://besgroup.org/2009/04/13/oriental-pied-hornbills-stages-in-its-breeding-cycle/