Wednesday 24 February 2016

Langkawi Birdwatching Tour: Hornbills Galore

When asked for their target birds, they told me that they have seen a Orange-Breasted Green pigeon Treron bicinctus on their own and they were happy to see any birds that come by. 

When one does not have an expected list of target birds... Hornbills galore! 

This Swedish couple had a fascinating morning in viewing a strangling fig tree with matured figs next to the road of Gunung Raya. All three species of hornbills were present on this nice tree. There were the Great Hornbills Buceros bicornis (about ten of them spread out), the Wreathed Hornbills Rhyticeros undulatus (a pair and a juvenile, but were chased out by the Great Hornbills after awhile) and a Oriental Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros albirostris who stayed for couple of minutes.

An overview of this strangling fig tree. Can you see the figs surrounding this female Wreathed Hornbill?
A male Wreathed Hornbill tossing a fig
Can you spot another hornbill in the background?
A female Great Hornbill (left) and a male Great Hornbill (right) staring at each other.
The female descended to the male and they did this...hmmm
This pair looked contented now
I never get bored in looking at them.

This particular strangling fig tree is still available for these amazing Hornbills to feed on for the next few days. Hurry while stock lasts!

Saturday 20 February 2016

RM3 Charge To Access Langkawi's Recreational Parks

The only remaining nature and recreational areas for the residents of Langkawi would be the waterfalls like Temurun, Durian Perangin, Telaga Tujuh (Seven wells) and Lubok Semilang. Besides Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah, the best and less crowded public beach would be Pantai Pasir Tengorak. 

While the access to all of the above areas are now free until March 2016. As announced by the Director of the Kedah Foresty Department via Malaysiakini news , each visitor to some of the parks managed by this department will be charged RM3 from next month onwards.

Although the names of the parks were mentioned in this report, however, it is unclear to which park will impose such fee. 

Fridays and Saturdays are the weekends where locals would head out with their families and friends to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings that is considered as free for all. There are not many choices for recreational spots now as most of the public beaches are taken away. Such as the stretch of beautiful beach of Pantai Kok will be closed to public very soon.

RM3 is considered as peanuts for foreign tourist but for the locals with low and medium income, they will feel the pinch with such implementation.
The relevant authorities should consider improving and not charging for the use of the facilities such as toilets, shower rooms and car park (the one at Telaga Tujuh) before implementing such fees? Even better if Malaysians with MyKad are exempted from paying the fee!

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Happy Chinese New Year 2016

Our precious Dusky Langurs Trachypithecus obscurus or Dusky Leaf Monkeys are herbivorous primate that can be found in the lowland rainforest, plantations or the edge of the forest of Langkawi. They are locally known as "Lutung". They are generally shy. If you wish to get close to watch or photograph them, do approach them gently. Please refrain from feeding any monkeys on this island. During this time of the year, you may have the opportunity to spot newborn Dusky Langurs which are bright orange in colour.

Thursday 4 February 2016

Solo Kayaking: A Quest For The Blue Rock-Thrush

The skipper on my mangroves boat cruise spotted something and pointed it out to us. I looked over my shoulder and caught a quick glimpse of this blue bird before it dipped down and disappeared behind the rock. The skipper said, "I have not seen that bird before." I may have and suspected that we have seen a male Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius in breeding. Blue Rock-Thrush is considered as uncommon for Langkawi though I have seen them on the wall of a limestone area in Ipoh, Perak where a cave temple is located.  

I wanted to see this bird again. I was thinking about getting to this spot without having to rent a boat. Aha!! The cheapest method would be on a paddle, with some physical workout, getting myself wet and sweaty.

As there was no tour for me on the following day, I checked the tide level on the night before and thought that it would be an ideal time to head out. And so I was at the pier the next morning equipped with my life jacket, a paddle, cameras and the rest of the gear.

I knew I started out late on that morning and told myself that I will not get any birds at all! Oh well, I will still be happy being out there alone with nature.

Paddling out to the coastline on a breezy sunny morning with some occasional gusts and very light waves. 

Kayaking in between these rocky islands
I got to the exact spot where the skipper pointed that thrush to us. No sign. I waited and took more pictures of the surrounding while waiting for this bird to show up. 

I noticed small crustaceans scuttling away when I got close to the rocks. Certainly one cannot miss these colourful crabs! It wasn't easy to photograph one when they were so skittish and I was trying to keep the kayak still at the same time! 

This crab below is very likely a Sally-foot-crab Grapsus albolineatus based on the patterns and markings on the carapace.

Sally-foot-crab Grapsus albolineatus was probably playing dead and gave me a chance to photograph it. 
Thank you to these websites which led me in getting the identification:

Admiring the karst landscape on the kayak
No sign of this blue birdie still after more than one hour of waiting and kayaking around that island for couple of times. I decided to move on and paddle to my favourite spot, a hidden cove to chill.

The tide level was not very high on that afternoon when I got there. I looked around for the perfect path to kayak in. Luckily the water level was high enough for the kayak to get around the rocks without hitting the rocks below. 
Enough water to get in without hitting the rocks below. Yay!
Ahh... stretching my legs and cooling off with a dip in the swallow water
Alone with nature, my nasi lemak daun pisang for lunch and the kayak...Bliss! 
I left the beach with my footprints everywhere and took nothing but photographs with more rubbish that were washed up on the beach.
On my way back to the pier, I decided to stop at the spot where these bats are roosting. I didn't have clear photos of them the last time and so this was my opportunity. It is a challenge to photograph them without using any camera flash and some of these bats were about 5 to 6 meters above me. Added on to the challenge were the sea current and waves from the speeding tourist boats. It was impossible to keep the kayak still and I had to paddle back and forth many times to get a few shots.
A decent photo of this colony of Black-Bearded Tomb Bats Taphozous melanopogon. My gratitude to Dr Juliana Senawi of UKM for helping me to identify this species.
I decided to leave the bats in peace after kayaking back and forth for half an hour.

About five hundred meters from where the bats were, I kayaked pass a small rocky island and heard the call of a sunbird. I stopped to determine the species. 

A bird appeared and I thought that this bird doesn't fit the figure of a sunbird at all. But the call was a sunbird! And so I took a shot of it. And then more shots of it.

This image was not cropped yet. 
After cropping the image...
I have checked the details from the bird guidebook and indeed this is female non-breeding of a Blue Rock-Thrush Monticola solitarius. A record shot for me.
It was tricky to have a good photo of it when my kayak was swept away by the current. I paddled back to that spot and she was gone. Then came a male Olive-Backed Sunbird Cinnyris jugularis tweeting away.

And so, I didn't go home empty-handed. Happy to be out there with nature and very thankful to this female appeared unexpectedly even though I didn't get the male version.

3. A Field guide to the Birds of South-East Asia by Craig Robson