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.