Monday, 26 October 2020

Riding On The Rough Sea

Like most of us in the tourism industry, we are all in the same rough sea but on different boats. Some of them are on bigger boats with much stronger sustaining floatation. Some of us on small rafts rocking away and yet still keeping afloat. The worst hit will be the tourist guides. Diversify is the only key to survival in this trying time. The word hope doesn't exist but only look forward to different opportunities. 


https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/travel-leisure/article/3106775/year-about-survival-langkawi-malaysian-holiday-island

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Oooo Otter!

Today is Day 124 since our lockdown on 18th March 2020. I haven't been back visiting the mangrove since July 5th. I have already caught a glimpse of our Brown-Winged Kingfisher while kayaking with Mee Fung and her family. 

Mee Fung and her active family spend a full day with me starting with mangrove kayaking and then an easy jungle trek after lunch. It poured heavily while we were heading back to the jetty. All drenched when we were already dried up after lunch. Fortunately, the rain stopped when we arrived at the trekking site. 

I have seen our Mangrove Pit-viper on the 3rd of July while on the Mangrove Boat Cruise with Shahaanaz and her friends.

One of the wildlife that I also miss having to see is our mammal friend aka giant rat! The otter!

Blast from the past, I finally managed to edit this video taken in June 2019 with Mark, Kim, Alan, Emily, Robyn and Wayne. It was low tide when we started and I was hoping to bypass the narrow channel before the tide level reduce. We were blocked by a fallen tree and having no choice, we turned around. It was a blessing in disguise. If we had continued on, we would have missed this fella completely. 

This individual here has a shorten tail, likely from an injury. It was hunting and absolutely oblivious to our boat. We had a marvellous time indeed watching it dived, chasing after the fishes, chomping down the fishes and lastly the pooing! Strangely, it was on its own. When I encountered otter, it is usually a pair or a family.

This is a Smooth Otter Lutrogale perspicillata which is commonly found here and the only species that I have seen on Langkawi. I was told that the Asian Small-Clawed Otter Amblonyx cinereus occurs here but I have yet to see one. The difference between these two are the overall size, the size of their paws, nose features and the webbed feet. But if they are on the move or swimming, it will be difficult to observe the paws. The Smooth Otter has a larger nose (like mine). I have found an interesting link documented by the National University of Singapore (NUS) which describes the differences of these two in detailed. Click the link here

Smooth Otter is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and is threaten by the loss of habitats and illegal hunting. In Langkawi, they can be found in the the mangrove, the coastline and even the beaches of some resorts.

Thank you otter for being there. I have spend quite a fair bit of time editing this video. Hope you like it. If you can't view the video via the mobile version, you may click on this link: https://youtu.be/7oh97obiyms


Here's Mark and the gang. If it wasn't for the pandemic, they would have returned to Langkawi in June 2020. Oh well...see you guys next year then.




Friday, 3 July 2020

First Official Excursion After the Lockdown

The drizzle after a short spell of heavy rain did not dampen the spirits of these four Malaysian friends. Instead, they were glad that such overcast weather was cool and pleasant. I agree and I am also glad that their presence marked my first official nature excursion since the Movement Control Order on 18th March. 

We headed out at 1:30pm and the clouds were lying low among the hills as a stunning backdrop of our  mangroves. This sight is not often and the rain is needed to create such landscape scene. And I didn't get any landscape photos because I was focused on my commentary.

As the tide receded, they had the opportunity to watch the antics of the fiddler crabs and mudskippers on the mudflat. 
Our Malaysian friends were intrigued with the varieties of these fiddler crabs that I had to signal our boat skipper to move on before the tide gets too low. 

I have been wondering on the situation at the usual feeding stations for the raptors and the Long-Tailed Macaques after the lockdown. 

Surprisingly, the Brahminy Kites and the White-Bellied Sea-Eagles were at their usual numbers when we passed by the area. The feeding practice has returned, sadly. A question came from one of them asking the reasons of not feeding them. It was my chance to educate. 

The feeling of being back into the calm and peaceful mangrove is indescribable. The calls of Collared Kingfisher, Brown-Winged Kingfisher and Mangrove Whistler. While we were absorbed into the enchanting forest in the narrowest bit of the tributary, I heard Yi-Wei asked, “Is that a snake?”
A Mangrove Pit Viper Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus

My boat skipper and I were keeping a lookout for one and Yi-Wei was the first to spot one. Well done! They were overly excited upon seeing the viper that the boat was tilted on one side and the current began to sweep our boat away. My skipper had to reposition the boat to get closer to the viper. 

The Long-Tailed Macaques were at their usual feeding site when we were cruising on that stretch of the channel to get to Gua Buaya. I was expecting them to have moved on and left the area. Looks like the feeding has returned, sadly. I was watching one of them climbing up the tree very swiftly and I knew what was coming. I was right! As soon as she landed on the roof of the boat, I immediately told everyone to put their water bottles and other stuff into their bags. My boat skipper quickly hid his water bottle. It was a bit of chaos and hilarious at the same time. The female macaque scrambled around the boat looking for opportunity to grab something. No one dared to take their phone out to video or a quick snapshot. 

That stretch of the channel is what I name it as the Monkey Cafe. Boats with tourists often stop to feed them while encouraging the fearless macaques to hop on the boat. They are so used to doing that and even on boats that are not feeding. If that situation ever happen to your boat, first of all, stay calm. Quickly put your water bottles or any plastic bags inside your bag otherwise these things will end up as trash in the mangroves.  There are littering along the stretch of Monkey Cafe. And remember, macaques can bite.

When the maqacue has made it onto the boat, ignore it, do not challenge it and pretend it isn't there. It will come close to you to check out and when you ignore it, it will move on (fingers crossed). Attempting to take a selfie with it is not a good idea. The one we had on our boat eventually gave up after 100 meters and she dived into the water. 

When we got to Kilim, the floating restaurants are still closed due to very low demand. The Bat Cave was super quiet when we arrived and it was good. Also, the fact that it was already in the late afternoon which is usually quieter. 

I was thankful that the sea was very kind to us to allow us to head back via the coastline. And yes! Two finless porpoises showed up and that was the bonus for the entire package.
I like to thank Shahaanaz for bringing her friends, Joyce, Joel and Yi-Wei as well as taking me out on a boat ride into the mangroves. 

There was something that I have been craving for during the lockdown and I had quenched it on my way home. Yumz! 
Prawn Pad Thai from my usual stall


Sunday, 14 June 2020

Tourists Boats Operating Soon

Wishing everyone here well and healthy.

This post here brings joy especially to all of our boatmen. I was verbally informed by a boat operator from Kilim Jetty that all boating for visitors are expected to operate from 15th June 2020 onwards. Best is still check before booking.

My private excursion prices varies depending on the private group size, duration and logistics. Therefore, it is best to contact me directly so I can customize. Direct bookings with me will have a 20% discount.

Bat cave may not be opened yet (we are not sure) on the 15th June. Some floating restaurants are not open yet on the 15th June as the owners need to do preparations and cleaning.

My message to all visitors :
The much needed rest given to Nature is still considered as too short. It is tough to balance between economy and leaving minimum impact to the natural sites that we visit but each of us can make better changes. For almost three months, there is a break from wildlife feeding in the touristy areas. There will be some wildlife have left the feeding area to feed on their own. Please keep it that way. Take this break of feeding to end all wildlife feeding such as eagle and monkey feeding completely (my wishful thinking). If the animals don't show up, you will still have a beautiful landscape and tranquility to show on your social media. A simple step to start is by telling your boatman and operator that you don't want any feeding tour.

If it is not the time now to become responsible travellers, when will you become one?

Langkawi Nature Tour


Tuesday, 19 May 2020

The New Jet Fighters of Langkawi - Asian Openbills

Langkawi welcomes a new species member in her list of feathered friends back in 9th November 2019 which is the Asian Openbills Anastomus oscitans. My first sighting of a huge flock flying above us was back in late October 2015 when I was with my birding friends at Khao Dinsor Chumphon, Thailand for raptor watch.
Asian Openbills Langkawi
Asian Openbills when they fly in big flock and thermalling. Dont't they look like jet fighters to you?

I was awed but didn't get to see the whole bird until I was in Perlis in April 2019 with Jane Miller. These gigantic stork is considered a migrant for Peninsular Malaysia but they have stayed longer.
Asian Openbill in Perlis

When I first saw the E-Bird submission of this species for Langkawi, I couldn't believe it. Upon my request, Esteban Martinez followed up with a record shot of seven individuals perched on a tree and therefore, it is confirmed. Congratulations to Esteban, a foreign visitor, for sighting this new record for Langkawi. What a lucky find for being at the right place at the right time! That tempted me to look for these birds too! As I had a second session of  birdwatching tour with Ruth and Simon Smith on the next day, 10th November 2019, it didn't take much effort for me to convince them to search for these birds too! And so we followed the location marked by Esteban, which was close to Langkawi International airport. On a very hot afternoon, we found ourselves walking on a path in between the airport and a scrubby field. After 30 minutes we turned around. No Asian Openbill but we managed to see two Black Drongos which are migrants too. And of course, birds fly! I wanted another chance. Again, it didn't take much effort for me to convince Ruth and Simon to give ourselves another try. We drove around and ended up on this village road close to the airport. Simon was driving and I was scanning. And then some huge birds perched on on a tree caught my eyes. SSSssssssssTTTTtttttOOOOOoooPPPPPPPP! We rushed out of the car with our equipment and click, click, click. There were eight of them!
Langkawi Birdwatching
Photo courtesy from Ruth Smith

I can't describe my feelings on how we were constantly out there looking for any new species and it takes one tourist to find a rare or new species. To console me, Simon Smith told me it is Sod's Law. There I learned a new term.
Can you spot the smile on my face? :) Photo credit by Ruth Smith

Posted on my Instagram on 1oth December 2019

In Malay, this bird is known as Upih Paruh Sepit from the awkward looking closed bill with a small slit pincer shape which is adapted to cut open  the operculum of snails. The distribution of Asian Openbills covers Indian subcontinent, Central Thailand, Cambodia and Cochinchina (Vietnam), however, it is vagrant to Malay Peninsula at that time it was recorded.

The first official sighting was an adult in a harvested sugar plantation in Chuping, Perlis on 1st and 2nd March 2008. Thanks to Dave Bakewell and Terence Ang for the first record info. I was informed that they can still be seen in Perlis even when it is off the migratory season. Have they decided to stay on due to the right condition that has been provided for them in our Peninsular Malaysia? Singapore has also recorded thousands of Asian Openbills in December 2019. According to Dr Yong Ding Li, an ornithologist at BirdLife International, the drought and the dry weather in countries like Thailand could have reduced the number of snails. You can read the news link here.

These huge storks are indeed a sight to behold especially when hundreds of them thermal in the sky and looking for suitable perches. They are particularly more active flying around in the hot afternoon and late afternoon due to the rising thermals.

This is how they look like close up in flight.

Can you see the opening when the bill is closed?

When I was with Dr Ken Ng and family on their birdwatching tour, we saw a bigger flock in the second week of January 2020.
Are you able to count them?

As at my blog post now, they are still here in Langkawi. I bet they are very happy to conquer the skies with much lesser air traffic, planes flying in and out of Langkawi due to Covid-19 pandemic.
Birds migratory check with Mandy and we saw Asian Openbills on 18th May 2020 with Gunung MatChincang as a backdrop

On 18th May 2020, we headed out to check on any remaining migratory birds. The Oriental Pratincoles, Blue-Tailed Beeeaters were around and surprisingly, Whiskered Terns in breeding plumage. We counted at least 70 individuals of Asian Openbills and will they continue to stay on this island for good?

Here's a video compiled during our separate days of observations:
(If you are unable to view the video on the phone, you can click on this link)


References:
1. Jeyarajasingam, A. (2012). A Field Guide to The Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. New York, NY: Oxford University Press



Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The Earth Is Happy

Day 36 of our Movement Control Order (MCO) and coincides with our Earth Day. Happy Earth Day 2020 earthlings and should I say, the Earth is Happy! As we all are aware by now of the current global changes and the huge impacts due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And so Mother Earth is definitely the happiest soul. The Earth Day is celebrated annually to remind us on the protection of our environment and this year is the 50th anniversary.

Exactly a year ago, I was spending couple of hours watching a newly fledged Great Hornbill and this year, we all have missed this as well as not able to say farewell to our migratory birds.

A newly fledged Great Hornbill on 22nd April 2019
It feels completely weird this year on this day. Eventhough I didn't get to spend time with nature, at least I got to hear two Blue-Winged Pittas calling at each other. Their SOS for love and breeding season has began!

And so what's up with me? In compliance with our government's order, I stayed home to stay safe and this is the best way to help our fantastic frontliners out there fighting with Covid-19. There were couple of short birding moments from my porch. Apart from the daily morning alarm calls and evening calls of the Asian Koels, there was a day when I heard a Banded Kingfisher calling from the scrub across the main road. That was my first time ever to hear a Banded Kingfisher in my residential area. Perhaps, this kingfisher has been there all this while but I was not at home to note its presence. 
 
A male Asian Koel feeding on the Jamaican Cherry (Muntingia calabura) tree that I planted years ago
One Collared Kingfisher visited for awhile. The rests were the usual Common Mynas, Asian Glossy Starlings, Yellow-Vented Bulbuls, Olive-Backed Sunbirds and Rock Pigeons.
Collared Kingfisher
For the first time in 33 years, Langkawi has shut down. From the busy beaches to the busy hilltop of Gunung Matchinchang where the Sky Cab is, all are given their well deserved rests from the madness of mass tourism. I am very happy to know that nature is given this best moment to rejoice while at the same time, I am indeed very eager to head out into the forest again. All tourism related sectors are badly affected by this pandemic, particularly the tourists guides. When the MCO is lifted, restaurants, cafes, hotels, motels, duty free retail shops, car rentals, boat services and other transportation services will be able to pick up some business back from the domestic travels. While the tour guides that are mostly or highly dependent on foreign market will have to wait a lot longer because we are aware of the situation in the Europe and United States. If we are fortunate, things may start to pick up perhaps as early as in December 2020. As a tour guide myself, we are thankful that the government did not leave us behind in their Covid-19 Ecomomic Stimulus Package. All licensed tour guides and taxi drivers were informed that we will be receiving a once-off payment of RM600 each.  I would also like to say a big thank you to my regular guest, Jane Miller who insisted in paying me when our tour was cancelled due to MCO. Jane and Keith managed to rush back to the UK safely. Appreciate your concern, Jane.
Thank you Jane Miller
I was fortunate to have a busy December 2019 and January 2020 which led me to think about having a good break. However, this is not the kind of break that I have asked for. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. As if I have preset my mind that I now have lots of time (to waste) before the next tour booking comes along, my first two weeks of MCO was me being a one huge slacker. Slacker in what I usually do or what I should be doing ie admin stuffs but I wasn't a slacker in learning and experimenting new things. You can say that this may be some sort of mental distraction, I have discovered more baking experience and experiments by learning from websites and YouTube videos. Most of my friends have expected me to gain some weights during this MCO with the amount baking that I have done. I am afraid I have to disappoint them that I have lost 3 kgs by now, without exercising. My fingers were on my phone A LOT! The more I tapped on social media stuffs, the more I attended free webinars. Hey, this is what webinars are for these days. My personal social media has been flooded with food photos like anyone else...until I am getting bored with food shots. Being a baker in probation, I have actually learned something out of it. Here are some of my successful products (the failed ones will not be posted here):



Baking breads teaches us patience, resilience and persistence. You want a good product, you must be patient. Time is an essence in baking. This is something I have learned after a few bread failures but nothing went to waste.

While in the mean time of waiting for things to be back to normal, I still have lots to do.This is a time for me to unlearn and relearn on subjects that I have lost touch. A time for me to sort out tonnes of my unsorted and unorganized photos that are waiting to be published or stored in their right location. Loads and loads of admin work to be cleared. Each day can easily slip away and is not difficult for me as an introvert to stay put at home.

Enough of my ramblings here. I would like to wish everyone good health. If any of my previous guest is reading my post here, it would be delightful to hear from you so I know that you are well at home. Do drop me a note on my Facebook page here or drop me an email wendynatureguide@gmail.com.
This is how I will look like after the MCO...My homegrown bean sprouts
 After many weeks of not being out there kayaking and birdwatching, I am missing my tanned legs. This photo of me was taken on Gunung Raya at night balancing on the water pipe 9 years ago! It was a windy night and my wind breaker was flapping in the wind. My fit physique back then...

😂

Stay safe and stay home to all my blog readers.

For this Earth Day 2020, I chose this image taken on Gunung Raya as my theme as a simple reminder that the key to sustainable living is to protect our natural habitat.

Happy Earth Day 2020

Sunday, 8 March 2020

That Bird I Spotted And Didn't Capture

The car I was driving came to an immediate halt when something caught the side of my eye. After reversing a bit to check, I knew what it was and said calmly to Sue and Robert inside the car, "Banded Kingfisher". Sue got excited very quickly as she turned towards the door.

"Everyone stay inside the car!" I whispered loudly when Sue had her fingers on the door latch waiting to jump out. And then Sue got her...click click click


And where's your camera, Wendy? In the damn boot! What?
AAAAaaaaaRRRRRrrrrrrrrrGGGGGgggHHHhhhHHHH!!!!!!

This Banded Kingfisher female was perched under huge leaves with low light condition. Sue's first few shots were dark and showed no details at all. When I moved the vehicle a meter forward, this bird has a nice green background. Beautifully captured, Sue! A meter forward made a whole lot of difference in the lighting and background. 

Thank you for sharing this awesome capture to our audience here.

I am still drooling until now 😋😋 and still beating myself up for having my camera inside the boot! Oh well...Sod's Law!

A birdwatching tour recently in March with returning guests Sue Dall and Robert. Their second time with me before their farewell to Langkawi. They had a wonderful bird sightings on that day with closeup of Great Hornbill and witnessing close to a hundred of Asian Openbills in the air. Even the birds came to greet farewell. 


Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Seeking Goodies After A Night Shower

The night of 10th February 2020 was one of my most enjoyable evening in this time of dry season on Langkawi. It finally rained after more than one month of dry spell and I can't recall when was the last rain. The most enjoyable moment of this rain was it lasted for more than 2 hours of gentle rain and breeze. Just nice to bring the heat down. When I checked our Malaysia's Meteorological website, almost the entire state of Kedah was blanket with rain.


This has brought some temporary relief as our national news reported last month that the dams in Kedah were having very low water level. The water supply in Langkawi is heavily dependent on these dams. The news link here.

When the temperature has dropped, I felt more energised and I decided to head out the next morning to check on our birds' activities. Will they be feeling as energised as me as well or wet and sluggish? With a few options of birding sites to choose from, I picked one of my favourite spot which is Gunung Raya.

The peak of Gunung Raya was socked in by thick clouds at 8:30am. Unusually cloudy day for a dry season but I like it. The first stop was not too far away from the foothill and as I got off the car, there were couple of birds chirping away. The colourful male Orange Bellied Flowerpecker was the first to be seen and being such a tiny bird, his loud tsi-si-si call gave his exact location away. The other call nearby was an unrevealing Tailorbird species. The crisp morning air surrounding the forest smelled so fresh as I walked on the wet tar road. The familiar preet sound came along with this ever shy blue bird and so I had to freeze as much as I could. And yet, it gave me some poses for "Kodak" moment before a lorry came along and stopped to greet. Hello to Mr Road Maintenance driver and bye bye to my Blue-Whistling Thrush. This species of thrush is our Langkawi's resident and has been quite frequently seen along the drain next to the road due to the dry season. Certain parts of the drain have flowing water from the small streams and spring water coming down from the hill side.

langkawi birdwatching
Blue-Whistling Thrush Myophonus caeruleus engenei  calling

I continued my journey up the hill only to be distracted by the call of a migratory warbler which is extremely difficult to spot. The high pitch call of either a Sakhalin Leaf Warbler or Pale-Legged Warbler seemed so close yet so far. The bird remained hidden and it kept quiet as I got closer to the scrub.  Seconds later, a big roar echoed and it was a Great Hornbill heard from the other side of the hill. As I continued to look for that warbler, a familiar tour van from my competitor's side came along wanting to check out what I was looking at. When there was nothing else to see, I smiled at that guide and gave him a thumbs up. I am not sure if that guide understood me but I guess the driver got the hint. The warbler would have taken off by now and as I walked back to my car, a Great Hornbill flew past me and went to the direction where the first call of the Great Hornbill was heard. Then it was followed by another Great Hornbill and then another and the next one. It was a flock flying in one by one. The total count was about 20 of them. Not every individual head towards the same direction all at once. Some perched on the higher trees for awhile and a couple of them stopped by a fruiting tree to snack.
langkawi bird tour
A Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis winged over me


langkawi birdwatching tour

On the slope of the hill, a high pitch ti-ti-ti-ti-ti was heard followed by a soft knocking sound. Aha! A Flamebacked Woodpecker but which one? Note the split malar.
A female Greater Flameback Chrysocolaptes lucidus going about her business while ignoring me peeping through the gaps of the dense foliage.
A huge Sterculia tree with opened, dried up dark brown fruit capsules had a couple of Great Hornbill hopping about.

The same tree was blooming with dark red capsules back in 22nd January 2020 but it was not ready for the hornbills to feast on them. This how the tree looks like below in a broader view during a hot sunny morning with clear blue sky. I didn't manage to photograph the red capsules.

This Sterculia may be a urens species?
The same tree in the gloomy cloudy morning of 11th February 2020.
This time I manage to capture the opened capsules
While I was videoing this Great Hornbill feeding, a noisy motorbike with a couple of tourists came along and stopped by the roadside. The noise from the motorbike was so loud and annoying that I had to signal them to turn off the engine so we all can observe the bird in peace. They left after observing the hornbill by pushing their motorbike down the slope without turning on the engine. Good thinking!


 
 

There was one moment that I didn't had a chance to document it. The hornbill leapt off from a branch only to grab the seed under the fruit capsule and then free fall before flapping his wings to ascend. Even though Hornbills come to feed on a Sterculia tree, however, I don't see it as their favourite one. A strangling fig tree is still their number one favourite.


The raptors seem to be invisible on that cloudy morning. The lower temperature as compared to the usual days and more than 90% clouds cover has made it difficult to spot for a raptor and possibly not enough thermal for them to soar. 
I do appreciate days like this sometimes.
Enjoying my homemade Banana Chocolate Bread for my brunch
There was something moving on the ground and has caught my eyes as I was walking up the steep slope. Colourful and bright in its own way if they are not as shy. These forest doves sometimes can be seen foraging at the side of the road but they are so skittish that they take off at 20 meters away. This pair of Asian Emerald Dove seem to be oblivious to my presence. Can I thank the low light condition on this cloudy morning which made these doves unaware of me standing about 10-15 meters away?

langkawi birdwatching guide
A male Asian Emerald Dove Chalcophaps indica foraging among the leaf litters. 

Beautiful male and shy Asian Emerald Dove

I didn't get very far after the second hour of birding. It started to drizzle and I had to head down to town for some errands. A raptor flew in! That was what I spotted as I turned around to head back. Unfortunately the raptor was far away on the higher hill and I was unable to capture any record shots but it has heavy barrings on the undersides. It took off from the faraway tree. What was it? AAAAAaaaaaaaaRRRRRRrrrrrrrGGGGGGGGgggggggHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh!

Oh well...

As if it has heard me from the far distance, it returned and better still, there was another one flying close by to each other. They got slightly closer to me than the previous position.
A pair of the same species of raptor soaring together.

A heavily cropped image of a Jerdon's Baza Aviceda jerdoni, note it's thick dark terminal tail band and the paddle-shaped wings.
There were a lot of these swiftlets and I have not notice any of our resident Pacific Swallows.

One of the hundreds of Germain's Swiftlets Aerodramus germani can be easily seen at the lower level of Gunung Raya.
I didn't reach the third kilometer marker when the time flew past so quickly. The competitor van with their clients descended and drove past me while I was having my breakfast. It was only one hour ago when I last saw them. At least they have seen the big flock of Great Hornbills.

This was the temperature shown below at the end of my two hours of solo birdwatching session and below this image is the link to my birds sighting recorded on E-Bird that day.





Sharing my birds sighting on eBird link here.