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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

Sunday, 6 October 2019

05.10.2019 Daurian Starlings at Taman Botani Negara

Taman Botani Negara of Shah Alam is the most frequently visited birding spot of mine so far. Its near, approximately less than 20 minutes drive from home. Plus, this place haven't disappointed me so far. Even if there is no lifers sighted, it still offers me many great surprises. Many unforgetable scenes by God's grace, witnessed by myself here. Highly recommended for birders from any level, beginners, amateurs and even pros.

A female Oriental Magpie Robin
I usually will arrive at 7.30am and start to shoot. My mind was thinking about the paradise flycatchers since I did saw its name in the recent eBird list. I tried my best to get the contact of the birder who had seen the flycatchers at TBNSA...but could not make it. Anyway I was rewarded with a lifer in just a minute after entering the park. It was a flock of Daurian Starlings; approximately 30 starlings were perched high near the entrance. They were busy preening along with its resident counterpart, the Asian Glossy Starlings. The whole scene was like the resident birds were all OK to have the visitors around them. They even were feeding together at large fruiting tree. Hospitality!

Asian Glossy Starlings (left) and Daurian Starlings
Daurian Starling...Lifer!
I moved to the paddy field, and managed to sight a pair of Little Egret and a juvenile Little Heron. I spent some time clicking on the heron.The fig tree that was so active during my previous visit, was "quiet" too. Then I walked towards the dam.

A juvenile Little Heron
A juvenile Little Heron
I spotted a Yellow Rumped Flycatcher. Not that sure if it was female or a first winter male. Suddenly I saw another bird darted towards the same area. It was a Purple Naped Spiderhunter. Lifer! Initially grouped as sunbird, now it has be classified as spiderhunter. They have a shorter bill therefore I could conclude their diet is not same as the other spiderhunter which have longer bill. Purple Naped Spiderhunters feeds mostly on insects and surprisingly small fruits and berries, whereas other spiderhunters feed on nectar from tubular flowers at most.

Asian Brown Flycatcher

Yellow Rumped Flycatcher

Purple Naped Spiderhunter...Lifer!
I noticed larger trees had been cut along the track to the dam. I spotted a malkoha jumping from branch to branch near on my way to the dam. At first I thought it was a Black Bellied Malkoha, yet this one had a larger green bill. It was a Chestnut Bellied Malkoha! Lifer! I spend some time snapping its picture. I just stood 3 to 4 meters away from it. Malkohas are known for the "gliding"  (flapless flight) between closer trees. A quick reference was made with my friend Shazlan about this bird and he did told me how to distinguish its gender. Males have blue iris, whereas the females have yellow iris. Thanks to him!

A male Chestnut Bellied Malkoha...Lifer!

Chestnut Bellied Malkoha
I also spotted a pair of Cream Vented Bulbul, feeding on small figs from a creeper fig. This is my second sighting of this bird. First encounter was at Gunung Pulai Reserve Forest, they did feed on the same species as well, the creeper figs. I was quite disappointed to see a troop of pig tail macaques blocking the track to the dam. Seriously I have no guts to pass through them alone, since they are quite unpredictable. I proceed to go towards the lotus lake, where a Common Gliding Lizard, grabbed my attention. Quite a scene!

Cream Vented Bulbul

Common Gliding Lizard
Its quite a fruitful day with 3 lifers! I hope to come back soon.