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 about some birds  of 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 sunset.

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 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 38-40 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!