Tuesday 31 December 2019


Amazing breaching of our Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolpin Sousa chinensis while on a boat with my lucky guest, Willi Van Boven

Another year came and went very quickly. While we are looking forward for a better year, let's not forget about the huge numbers of wildlife died when their natural habitats were destroyed by fires. 

Langkawi is still blessed with her natural habitats of lowland rainforest, mangroves and some corals that our wildlife continues to thrive. We must be very careful not to exploit these wonderful natural wonders in the name of tourism and development. 

I urge all visitors to practice responsible tourism. It has to start from you and not relying on the tour operators to make it happen.
Responsible tourism is tourism which: minimizes negative social, economic and environmental impacts. generates greater economic benefits for local people and enhances the well-being of host communities." definition by sustainabletourism.net

There are so many imaginable ways towards responsible tourism, such as 
DO NOT DEMAND for specific wildlife to feast your eyes
Watch any wildlife in their natural environment and DO NOT FEED them (Langkawi is not having any food shortage for the wildlife that we need to feed them)
Reduce waste
Support hotels that provide free water from their water dispensing machines
 Hire local guides as all foreign tour guides here are unlicensed
To those foreigners going around Langkawi with your hired motorbike, Put your damn shirt on while driving around as no one is bothered to count the number of hairs on your chest. This also include putting your damn shirt on while dining in a local stall. Have some respect and be culturally sensitive.
and many more...

Langkawi Nature Guide like to extend the abundance of positive energy, health and wisdom for this coming year 2020. 


Wednesday 27 November 2019

Rare and Uncommon Ones Confirmed

Most of the bird enthusiasts here are always on a lookout for any rare species or even better, a new record for Langkawi especially during the migratory season. If only I can split myself into a few of me and look for birds in a few locations at the same time, that would be awesome. That's impossible, of course, and thankfully I have updates from others who had either informed me directly or submitted to E-Bird or even via social media. I have not been much luck lately in spotting a lifer for myself or photographing a rare migrant in Langkawi. Like I have always said, it is all about being at the right place at the right time.

For the past two months, there are reports of rare migrants seen on Langkawi. These are Ferruginous Flycatcher Muscicapa ferruginea, Siberian Blue Robin Larvivora cyane, Chinese Goshawk Accipiter soloensis and Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster. These species have been listed and compiled to a journal by Yeap Chin Aik which was published under Malaysian Nature Sociey in Malayan Nature Journal 57 (1) 91-144 (2005). This journal is one of my primary source of reference for birds record in Langkawi Archipelago. And yet, I have not come across any of these birds myself or any photographs published. Therefore, I was doubtful until now.

These are the following status based on Yeap's journal:
1. Ferruginous Flycatcher was reported seen on Pulau Payar on 26 April without any date given.
2. Siberian Blue Robin was only recorded as seen in the lowland and hill forests but no date given.
3. Chinese Goshawk was reported seen in Gunung Raya on 18 May 2002.
4. Oriental Darter was reported as locally extinct and one recorded in late November or early December 1907 on Dayang Bunting Lake (Wells 1999; Medway and Wells 1976). According to Wells from  The Birds of Thai-Malay Peninsula Volume One Non-Passerine, it is possible that Oriental Darter a former resident, local and apparently sparse; now vagrant. Darters vanished from the Peninsula where some still breed in South Vietnam and probably Cambodia. Oriental Darter is now considered as migrant or vagrant for Peninsular Malaysia.

The followings below are the recent sightings:
1. Ferruginous Flycatcher was photographed by Sofian on 24th September 2019 in the secondary forest of Eastern Langkawi.

2. Siberian Blue Robin male was photographed by a guide who was on morning walk at a resort on 9th October 2019. According to a reliable source, this male Robin hit the glass window panel and then he was seen by the guide. It was circulated on the guide's Facebook but not shared publicly. I was alerted by a friend and I later found out how this male Robin was spotted. This Robin was still alive when the photographed was taken. It is unknown as what has happened to this Robin after the crash ordeal. No picture posted here as I did not ask for the guide's permission to share his photo but I have seen it.

3. Chinese Goshawk was spotted and photographed by another birder around the area of Gunung Raya foothill on 24th October 2019. 

4. Oriental Darter was spotted and photographed by my English guest, David Bradshaw on 27th November 2019. Congratulations for spotting this, David! Thanks for sharing the location and I got to see one myself.

A record shot of possibly an Immature Oriental Darter perched in the middle of a rice paddy field. Thank you for this, David Bradshaw!

With the advancement of digital technology which has created affordable optics equipment,   birdwatchers these days will carry along some form of camera to have record shots besides a pair of binoculars, pen and notebook. I would say that in this era, it is a necessity to have some evidence of rare sightings besides the traditional notes taking.

1. Yeap C.A (2005). Report on Birds of Langkawi Archipelago. Malayan Nature Journal 2005, 57(1),107
2. Wells, D.R. (1999). The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula. Volume One: Non-passerines. New York: Academic Press. 

Thursday 31 October 2019

Migratory Check 2019/2020: Where's My Stint?

Whenever we noticed the arrival of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica, it is time to watch out for the early check-in of our winter visitors in Langkawi. Barn Swallows were sighted as early as the third week of July.

Barn Swallow
And my first Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos on 31 July 2019 though someone else has reported sighting of this sandpiper a week earlier.

It is time to put on my wading boots and head out to my favourite mudflat site.

I headed out on 29th August 2019 to the same mudflat while remembering my sighting of Red-Necked Stint Calidris ruficollis last year. Hoping, yes, hoping and I dislike to use the word "hope". I would like to see this stint again or any other stint will do. Or even better still, a new migrant!

Thank goodness with my wading boots to keep my feet clean from pools of rainwater mixed with cow and buffalo dungs! Even though migrants are my priority, I will also take note of our residents too.
Black Phua Chu Kang boots
Soft high pitch hiccup sounds from the reeds caught my attention and a little bird came out walking around. A White-Browed Crake Amaurornis cinerea which is in the family or Rail birds can be easily missed due to their small size and they don't make big movements. Very often they hide in the tall grass of the reeds bed. They can be also seen in wet rice fields or abandoned rice fields.

White-Browed Crake revealing itself, click the video below to hear its call

Other common resident birds on the fields will be our Paddyfield Pipits Anthus rufulus,

Lesser-Whistling Ducks  Dendrocygna javanica  

and Red-Wattled Lapwings Vanellus indicus.

An immature Red-Wattled Lapwing

Pacific Golden Plovers Pluvialis fulva were the among first migrants seen on that mudflat and they seem quite comfortable to intrude the space of the resident Red-Wattled Lapwings.
Langkawi Birds
A Pacific Golden Plover coming out of its breeding plumage
Plover sharing space with our Lapwings
Langkawi bird
Birds of the same feathers flock together
Scanning the mudflat, I noticed a common plover that is not so common here which is the Greater Sand-Plover Charadrius leschenaultii. Greater Sand-Plover can be mistaken to be the Lesser Sand-Plover Charadrius mongolus. Note the yellow legs as compared to the Lesser which is black in colour. The thicker stockier bill for Greater comparing to the Lesser. There was only one Greater Sand-Plover on that entire mudflat. This is a good record for me as I have not seen a Greater Sand-Plover on Langkawi until now.
langkawi birdwatching
A lone Greater Sand Plover
And then there were the common andpipers such as the Common Sandpipers 

langkawi birdwatching
Lives by its name, a very common sandpiper call Common Sandpiper
 and Wood Sandpipers Tringa glareola
A Wood Sandpiper which may sometimes be mistaken as a Marsh Sandpiper

No Marsh Sandpiper sighted yet as reported by a foreign birdwatcher via E-bird on the last migratory season.

A small dainty bird caught my eye and it was far across on the other side of the mudflat. A stint! Or really? I cannot be sure from that distance even though the gist of it looked like out. 
A heavily cropped image of a Stint or Plover?

How exciting! I had to suppress my excitement until I get closer to it. After squeezing through the bushes, I managed to get close to it without scaring it away.
What are you peeping at?
 I knew I should not be so excited for it is only the Lesser Sand-Plover coming out of its breeding plumage.

I felt a bit of anti climax and yet at the same time, I am pleased to walk out of this mudflat area with close images of this Lesser Sand-Plover Charadrius mongolus. 
Here are two different types of Plovers side by side. Guess which is which?
Till then I will be back, always seeking always searching.

You may view my Ebird checklist here:

Friday 20 September 2019

My Intimate Evening With Langkawi's Gunung Raya

The breeze brought the cool evening air to the mountain that gently caressed my face. Quietness filled the surrounding as I begun to walk up the easy comfortable road. The rustling of tree leaves and branches made by jumping squirrels and some ground foragers reminding me that I am not alone. As I looked at the sun setting down on the other side of the horizon, I stared with awe of the orange delights that coloured the sky. 
Sunset delight at the peak of Gunung Raya, Langkawi
Running macaques crossing my path with their babies clinging on is a simple proof that wildlife exists. The barkings of Wreathed Hornbills and the growlings of Great Hornbills seemed to be calling for equal rights to be here. The chatty Flameback Woodpeckers came along making the wildlife party merrier. 
Darkness creeping into the forest
As I stood by the side of the road glaring at the highest canopy tree, a fleet of jet fighters appeared in the sky. Twenty to thirty of Wreathed Hornbills and forty Great Hornbills flew out in formations like sky troopers announcing "WE RULE".  

Just when I thought that these awesome displays were over, a dark figure appeared in front of my path. Wearing an embedded pair of white glasses, it was an honor to be greeted by this gentle and shy Dusky Leaf Monkey at a close distance of approximately 5 meters. I froze immediately and watched carefully as this gentle creature enjoyed its last leafy snack for the day. It seemed to be contented and not bothered with my presence at all. What a true honor! 

As the mountain summoned for the darkness and its nocturnal creatures, it was time for me to descend and return to my real world. I smiled and silently thanked the mountain, Gunung Raya that has given me these wonderful gifts for the day.

Gunung Raya, the gentle energizer and life giver of Langkawi's natural heritage. 
Fiery ball descending into the horizon

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

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!
Oriental Pied Hornbills: Stages in its breeding cycle, (2009, April 13),

Thursday 28 February 2019

A New Raptor Record for Langkawi

Most birdwatchers find overgrown rice paddy fields have nothing much to offer because the grass and weeds have grown to such a height that birds are always easily well hidden. If you stand along such rice field for at least 15 minutes, you bound to see at least two or three birds that would fly out unexpectedly. Before you can get much of the details of that bird, it dips into the overgrown field and disappeared. Event like this can leave some of the bird photographers in such boredom and despair.

Unless you happen to be at the rice fields during moments like this shown on this image below, then you will see crowded egrets!
Harvesting time is when the birds come out to play...and feed!
If it wasn't for this rare migrant raptor alert from a UK visitor, Dale Bateman, I wouldn't find myself standing on this particular rice field spot which I rarely use for my birdwatching tours. This rice field area is at Kampung Bukit Kemboja and it is a popular area for cycling tours. Dale booked his accommodation in a villa by the rice field. Being a very keen and experienced birder, Dale would do his walkabout along the field and plantation to photograph birds almost daily during his stay.

I am a firm believer of this theory of being at the right place at the right time and not forgetting, the right networking. Somehow Tom Reynolds and Dale got connected. On 30th January 2019, I received an enquiry from Tom about any Harrier has been recorded on Langkawi. Only the Eastern Marsh Harrier Circus spilonotus has been documented so far. Here is a the paragraph extracted from Yeap Chin Aik's paper on the Birds of Langkawi Archipelago for the Eastern Marsh Harrier:
"Single female collected on November 1907 (Morioka and Chang 1996). A winter visitor, recorded from the paddy fields inland (Medway and Wells 1976). Totally Protected under the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972.
Hello Jane!
When was the Eastern Marsh Harrier last seen in recent years? No one knows or no one has yet to record and report.

Only on the 4th February that I received some images of the harrier from Tom despite his daily lookout. It wasn't easy with these overgrown field. Dale had some record shots of two individuals of harrier family. Tom sent me a couple of shots from Dale's camera screen to verify the species of harrier. 
The suspicion of an image from Tom's photo would be a Harrier and not an Eastern Marsh from the white rump shown on this individual. However, I learned that the white rump cannot be taken as the main feature to eliminate Pied from the Eastern Marsh Harrier.
Tom's photo of a Harrier's rear shot
As I am not an experienced Harrier watcher, it is best to leave this to the experts, my raptor sifus on the mainland. There were interesting discussions amongst them in detailing to a Pied Harrier juvenile from the record shots taken by Dale. During this time, I was away in KL for the Chinese New Year and didn't have my reference book with me, so I needed to rely on my birding sifus who are more familiar with Harriers.

Barrings, small bill and underwing barrings suggests a Pied Harrier juvenile rather than an Eastern Marsh Harrier. I have enough consensus to conclude that this individual photographed is a Pied Harrier juvenile.

And there I was in KL feeling restless and anticipating to return to Langkawi to see this Pied Harrier even though this species isn't my lifer. My first Pied Harrier was in Chuping, Perlis with the help of Tan Choon Eng from Penang and my other short glimpses of Pied Harrier were in Chumphon, Thailand.
A record shot of a Pied Harrier male taken from Chuping with Tan Choo Eng's guidance
The night I returned to Langkawi, I made an appointment with Tom to find this raptor on the next early morning. And here I am standing by the rice field of Kampung Bukit Kemboja with Tom on the morning of 9th February, waiting for this star migrant. It was indeed a waiting game and other birds like Watercocks, Pond Herons, Egrets and also Cinnamon Bittern playing the game of "Now you see me and now you don't".
Cinnamon Bittern's butt
Cinnamon Bittern Ixobrychus cinnamomeus on flight
While waiting, might as well photograph some surrounding birds especially the obliging birds on the field.
A lone Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus
Another Brown Shrike with a crossed bill
A female Baya Weaver Ploceus philippinus
A Pond Heron Ardeola sp 
A Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater Merops philippinus posing comfortably in our presence

Tom and I stood there for one hour and no Harrier showed up. After many days of observing this Harrier, Tom noticed the Harrier's circuit is flying across the road to the other side of the field. And that's when I suggested to Tom to head towards the other rice field. And I was glad I did! After thirty minutes of waiting, a raptor flew above our heads and I initially thought it was a Brahminy Kite. No, it wasn't!
A very common scavenging raptor in our rice fields, Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus
Only butt shots of it before it disappeared. And it was time for Tom to leave the field.
My butt shot of a Harrier
Just as soon as Tom was about to leave, he spotted another one flying in from across. And this time, we nailed it!

Pied Harrier Circus melanoleucos juvenile hovers above the field

Alas, my time spent there was fruitful with a new confirmed record for Langkawi. We are always on a lookout for any new or rare birds and is extremely difficult to do it alone. Thank you to Dale Bateman for alerting Tom and many thanks to Tom for sharing this news and location to me. And not forgetting my birding friends (Woei Ong, Liung, Aun Tiah and Seng) for their inputs.

My wish is for it or more of it to return on our next migratory season.

1. Yeap, Chin Aik, "Report on Birds Of Langkawi Archipelago", Malaysian Nature Journal 57 (1):91-144 (2005)