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Tuesday, 31 December 2019

29.12.2019 Closing 2019 with 2 More Lifers at TBNSA

First of all I wish everyone a happy, healthy and blessed year ahead. 
I made my last birding of the year 2019, hoping to round up my total bird count to 170 species. I was at Taman Botani Negara, Shah Alam again. 

I walked along the same path as my previous visit here. I found a group of Baya Weaver at the paddy field. Then I proceed to the fig tree at the animal park. Approximately 3 to 4 Sooty Barbets were having their breakfast at the fig tree. I had a glimpse of a small green bird feasting on the small figs at the top of the fig tree. At first I thought it was a barbet, but then it was a leafbird. It was a Golden Fronted Barbet, a lifer! I do find there is no record of this bird been sighted at Taman Botani so far, based on e-Bird site. It was a solitary male. It mashed the ripe fig before swallowing it whole.

Sooty Barbet

Lifer! A male Golden Fronted Leafbird

A male Golden Fronted Leafbird

I continue to walk towards Camar Rimba, to see if I could the Blue Winged Pitta, but, there is no sign of it there yet. I proceed towards the place I found the Green Iora, hoping to see the broadbill. Suddenly I saw two medium sized birds flying in bteween the woods and perched. They were quiet. I took a shot and found that it was a broadbill. It was a pair of Black and Red Broadbill, yet I managed to photograph one of the bird only. It was dark, I had to reduce the shutter speed to 1/500s reluctantly, to get a better picture of my first broadbill. Two lifers, eventhough weather was not on my side.

Lifer! Black and Red Broadbill

Black and Red Broadbill
Then I walked towards the paddy field again, after hearing a loud call of a spiderhunter. It was a Spectacled Spiderhunter, feeding nectar from rose apple blossoms. There was a male Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker perching at the same spot, while giving out its call as well.

Spectacled Spiderhunter

Spectacled Spiderhunter

A male Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker

A male Scarlet Backed Flowerpecker
That was the last birding I did for the year 2019. I am closing the year 2019 with 30 lifers in total, and I had made the total bird count at 170 species as I wished. 

Again I am wishing everyone a very happy and blessed year ahead.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

26.12.2019 My First Time at FRIM Bidor Station Lakes (Perak)

Bidor, a small town where I grew up. I was born in Tapah, and my family then shifted to Bidor since my late dad got a job there. I left this place in 2005, a year after my dad departed. On 25.12.2019, I went to visit my uncle at Gopeng, to collect some documents, and the next day I made a quick visit to the lakes at FRIM Research Station of Bidor, while I was on my way back to Klang.

An immature Eurasian Tree Sparrow at Gopeng (Perak).

A female Pink Necked Green Pigeon, at Gopeng (Perak)

A Grey Heron at Seri Iskandar lake (Perak)

My target was the Cotton Pygmy Goose, and I did found them there. Around 6 to 7 geese were swimming around the lake, among the water hyacinth growth. Quite shy and hard to approach! I cant get a good photo since they were quite far from me. Anyway, I was indeed grateful to have this lifer now!

Lifer! A female Cotton Pygmy Goose at FRIM Bidor Station lake (Perak).

I drove to the other lakes too hoping to bag more lifers. The second lake was totally covered with water hyacinths. First I spotted a lonely Black Backed Swamphen, wandering around looking for its meal. Next to it was a small party of Asian Openbill Storks, busy "snailing". I just move around to get a good look on other birds too. I spotted another lifer! A lonely Common Moorhen, wading in between the water hyacinths. 

A Black Backed Swamphen at FRIM Bidor Station lake (PErak)

It did chased some of the Asian Openbills away from its path.

An Asian Openbill Stork busy snailing at the lake.

Lifer! Common Moorhen wading in between the water hyacinth growth

Not far from the moorhen, I spotted another lifer, the Pacific Golden Plover, foraging for food on a muddy ground. Along withe these birds, there were White Headed Stilts, another lifer! Other birds which I managed to spot were the Red Wattled Lapwing, Yellow Bitterns, Intermediate Egrets, Little Egrets, Blue Tailed Bee-eaters, White Throated Kingfisher and the White Breasted Waterhen.

Lifer! A Pacific Golden Plover on a muddy plain near the lake

Lifer! White Headed Stilts

Stilts with Openbills

Red Wattled Lapwing

Even though I spend about an hour there, it was indeed a fruitful visit with 4 more lifers before 2019 ends.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

14.12.2019 My First Owl at Taman Botani Negara, Shah Alam

It was raining last night and was drizzling a bit in the morning. I reached Taman Botani Negara earlier...perhaps the earliest in my history anyway. The weather was so gloomy as the sky is covered with rain clouds already, like it can rain anytime. I will have hard time in focusing my subjects since the lighting is rather bad. I went in half hearted actually.

As usual, I went to the paddy field. I saw a small group of White Headed Munias having their breakfast at the paddy field. There were 4 Blue Tailed Bee-eaters at the fig tree in the middle of the field. No sign of any egrets or herons this time. I manage to get a lifer, which was perching quite far, very high up on a dead tree. It was a pair of Great Myna or also known as White Vented Myna.

Blue Tailed Bee-eaters at the paddy field

Great Myna Pairs on a very high perch

Then I proceed towards the animal park, there was a fig tree, full with small ripe fruits. A tiny bird was busy feeding on the figs. It might be a flowerpecker, for its size. It was another lifer...Yellow Vented Flowerpecker. It mashed then swallowed the ripe figs.

Yellow Vented Flowerpecker

While I was busy with the flowerpecker, I heard the distress call of (Javan) Mynas. I turned back and saw a huge bird been chased by the Mynas and it finally took refuge on a nearby tree. I first thought it could be a Crested Serpent Eagle. However that silent wing beats of that bird made me think twice. It was a Barred Eagle Owl...another lifer and the first owl that I had photographed. I had reduce my shutter speed to 1/100s since its rather dark up there where it roosted. It didnt move from there and I could it already slept. Within an hour I already bagged 3 lifers despite of the bad weather condition.

Barred Eagle Owl

Barred Eagle Owl

I walked towards the lake and did see some other birds such as the Arctic Warbler, Blue Winged Leafbird pair (busy harvesting the Melastoma bushes) and Large Woodshrikes. I continued to the "pitta track". No pittas so far. I bumped with a birder who told me he saw a broadbill. However he used bird call playback to make it come out to open. I was quite reluctant to do so.

I continue to survey at the lake side and manage to bag another lifer...a Green Iora, foraging insects. It was raiding quietly among the foliage, 3 meters above the ground level.

Green Iora - Female

Green Iora - Male

It was indeed a fruitful day, even if the weather was not on my side.
4 lifers in total! 

Monday, 4 November 2019

03.11.2019 Two More Lifers at Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam

Again, I head to Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam but this time with a friend...Shazlan. I was hoping to get the paradise flycatcher or at least the Grey Wagtail. We started with the paddy field and we were welcomed by a Brown Shrike, on a low perch at the paddy field. We bumped on a birder, Mr. Tang, who is well known for his bird paintings. There was a lonely Little Egret and a juvenile Little Heron wandering at the paddy field as well. A small mixed group of munias landed at the paddy filed to feast on the paddy. The group consist of Scaly Breasted/White Headed and suprisingly White Rumped Munias

Brown Shrike at the paddy field
We walked towards the orchard which is located near the paddy field. There was a pair of bird, with a wavy flight, darted towards an acacia tree at the edge of the orchard. It was a pair of Buff Rumped Woodpecker. Lifer! Buff Rumped Woodpeckers are fairly small sized woodpeckers, with less prominent crest. They have black plumage with white bars and their rump is pale buff. Male woodpeckers have red malar stripe. The pair later flew to the nearby durian tree and continue with their "anting" (foraging for ants on trees). They have few series of calls; repeated "kip!" (with 1 second interval) during flight and a high pitched trill, which could be a territorial call. There was another call made by this woodpecker, "kiew...kip!kip!kip! 

Buff Rumped Woodpecker (Female)

Buff Rumped Woodpecker (Male)

Buff Rumped Woodpecker (Male)

Buff Rumped Woodpecker (Male)

We did manage to find other common birds such as Black Naped Oriole, Yellow Vented Bulbul and Javan Mynas at the orchards, along with the Brown Shrikes. We then proceed to walk towards Air Kuning Dam, expecting to see more birds.  

Black Naped Oriole

There were a small troop of Dusky Leaf  Monkeys at the canopy feeding on young leaves.A bird wave came along the way as well, consist of few Common Tailorbirds, Cream Vented Bulbul and a pair of green birds, which was a pair of Greater Green Leafbird. Lifer! 

Dusky Leaf Monkeys

Greater Green Leafbird (Male)

Greater Green Leafbird (Male)

Greater Green Leafbird (Male)

Greater Green Leafbird (Female)
It was quite a challenge to identify this bird in the field, since both Lesser and Greater Green Leafbirds looks alike in the field. Closer examination is needed to distinguish them. Most field guides indicated that the Greater Green Leafbird (males) can be distinguished from the Lesser Green Leafbird by the absence of yellow margin on its black throat. In my opinion, it can be done by analysing their photographs solely. I managed to find some differences between these two species:
  1. The Beak: Greater Green Leafbirds has much "robust" beak. I would say like its more "shrike-like" beak than the Lessers. When I found the Greaters, they were actually foraging for food on a "non fruiting" shrub. So I can conclude they were looking for insects. I do checked some field guides which mentioned that they do take insects and other small inverterbrates. So a shrike-like beak for shrike like diet! Lessers' diet consist of fruits and nectars, so they rather have a beak like the flowerpeckers.
  2. The Black Facial Markings: The black facial marking of the Greaters starts at the nostril, whereas for the Lessers, it starts before the nostril.
Greater Green Leafbird (Male), Photo Credits: Mr Lim.

Lesser Green Leafbird
We continued our walk towards the Air Kuning dam. Before we reached the dam junction, we spotted a pair for Chestnut Bellied Malkoha and a Asian Brown Flycatcher. We spotted a Changeable Hawk Eagle, dark morph on a large tree as well. 

Chestnut Bellied Malkoha (Male)

Changeable Hawk Eagle (Dark Morph)

Changeable Hawk Eagle (Dark Morph) in flight
We bumped with Mr. Tang again, he shared that he had seen a Dark Sided Flycatcher. We reached the dam and we saw around 2 to 3 Arctic Warbler roaming at the lower canopies. Shazlan and me then walked towards the lake, decided to go back since it was nearly noon. We sighted, probably an Oriental Honey Buzzard on a very high perch.

Oriental Honey Buzzard
It was again a great visit with 2 lifers added to my list. Currently at 159 species, and 20 lifers so far for 2019. Have to make few more visit before 2020. Thanks to Shazlan for his time and sharing some informations. Thanks to Mr Lim, who was kind anough to lend his photograph of Greater Green Leafbird.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

12.10.2019 Asian Water Monitor

It was an evening after heavy rainfall. I was out with with my gear looking for Brown Shrikes around my neighbourhood. I do noticed last year and this year, they arrived in October instead of September. I can't get a sight of them, but I could here their calls. Quite disappointed, since the lighting was good for photographing birds. 

As I drove back home, I saw a movement in the bushes at an abandoned oil palm patches near my home. Something huge is moving in the bushes. It was a huge Asian Water Monitor, or locally known as "biawak". I quite look for a spot to park my car by the road side. The huge lizard is just less than 20 meters away from me. It could be at 7 foot long easily. Although I was at a safe distance from it, it's size really gave a shiver.

A 7 ft Asian Water Monitor (Varanus salvator macromaculatus)

To my surprise, it was looking for something in the bushes. Baby pythons! It is actually raiding a Reticulated Python nest. I was looking at the gore scene while clicking some photos. It gulped 4 young pythons and was digging for more. It finally gulped two unhatched eggs as well. I was really shocked to see that Reticulated Pythons are breeding in this abandoned oil palm patches. Big momma python could be lurking nearby. No wonder I will hear news on pything entering houses during the rainy months.

Young Reticulated Pythons on the menu

The prey is held and hurled left to right before swallowed whole

The monitor do took some bite from the young pythons

Python eggs were on the menu too
Water monitors are quite well known to me since I lived in "kampung" during my childhood. I had seen many when I go to hunt fishes for my aquarium those days. Big monitors are feared for their bites. I even had heard their bites are poisonous. My late father had bite when he was at work. He did told me that he had to take a jab since the bite is "poisonous". Well, I dont really buy that. What I know monitors do eat carrions, making their mouth is infected with a cocktail of bacteria. Once it bit a man, the bacteria from its mouth may infect the man through his wound. It later becomes septic if left untreated. Thats why monitor bites are considered "poisonous". If you read about their cousins, the Komodo dragons, only recent studies had proven that they do have venomous bite. However, skeptics aren't ready to believe that. 

The claws!

A 5 footer was lurking near by.

Indians here in Malaysia call the monitor as "udumbu" in Tamil, and at times as "thavaragoiyaan", a polluted form of "gabaragoiyaan", which means "monitor lizard" in Singhalese. Indians here also classify the monitors into two groups: the water monitor and the forest monitor. Water monitor refers to Varanus salvator macromaculatus, while the forest monitor refers to Bengal Monitor (Varanus bengalensis) or the Clouded Monitor (Varanus nebulosus). They can be distinguished by their habitat, coloration and the location of their nostrils.

El Macho!
Well back to scene. There were 3 other monitors lurked around the big guy, roughly 4 to 5 foot long. The big fella left once he had enough while the python tails dangling from its mouth.

Gulping the last young python