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Thursday, 22 October 2020

22.10.2020 - Bird Identification (Part 1)

"ID please."

"Can anyone ID this bird?"

"What bird is this?"

We often see these questions in any birding groups in the social medias. It is the usual way of seeking a bird's ID from other (experienced) birders. And I mean birders, not photographers, since I have seen a plenty of photographers don't even know the name of the bird that they are clicking. You may need some field experience to ID the birds. Like my buddy once had said, "to ID a bird correctly, it really matters how much you are exposed to that bird". He was damn right! So in this entry we going to look into how to ID a bird. I am not sure I can cover every single aspects of bird identification, but I will try my best. 

Blue Throated Bee-eater

During the good old days, bird identification totally depends on field observation. Colors, shape and other characteristics of the birds are written on a notebook. Some even make a quick sketch of the birds and label it. The birder has to spend some time with the birds at the field either with their binoculars or a spotting scope. More time they spend with the birds, more exposure they get and they gather more details. This is how we do it those days. 

Picture Credit: Supriya Malhotra, a birder from Calcutta, observing birds with a binocular

In modern days, most birders are equipped with cameras. Birds are photographed, analyzed for its ID. So there is no necessity to wait at the field like in those days, unless you are truly a birder. You might rush to grab all the birds that you see at the field.

Picture Credit: Zarizal Rosli, photographing shore birds at mudflats of Selangor coast

Therefore less time to observe the birds. To avoid this, I usually click few good photos of those birds and then I will observe them. This way I wont miss both photos and the details of the birds. Details are usually written on a notebook or I will do a voice recording, whichever convenient at the field. Keep a small note book and a pen with you always to record any field notes. As an alternative, you may use any notepad apps or voice recorder in your smartphones. 

So what we have to write in the field note? First you have to record the location, date and time of sightings. These details are useful to narrow down the identification process. How? Location or habitats can provide you the most basic information of a bird, either its garden variety, forest birds, shore bird, or montane bird. It also determines the food and nesting details of that particular bird as well as the type of trees and vegetations which supports a bird's life. For an example, when you find a small bird from the mangroves, you can narrow down your search within the group of birds which dwells in the mangroves from the bird guides or from webpages. Then you may consider other attributes such as size and colors to further the process of identification. 

A typical bird list with location and date detail.

Date and time are also important matter to note down. When you note the date, you may able to have a series of data of when the bird is sighted the most in a year. This way, you may use the data to find particular birds easier. Its very important for migratory birds and for those resident birds which migrate locally. When I was in Perak, in the 90s, I noticed that the White Throated Kingfishers are rarely seen between December and March at my neighbor-hood. They move to another habitat for breeding. So this type information can be gathered when you record the time or date of the sightings.

As a conclusion, I can say that its easier to sight a bird again and again, with recording its location and date/time of sightings. When this happens, we are much exposed to the bird, thus its easier to ID or to distinguish the particular bird from one another. So start to note down the location and the date when you are birding . 

Happy birding!

To be continued...

Thursday, 15 October 2020

12.10.2020 - Sharing Birding Locations

At times we see in Facebook or Instagram, photographers/birders share bird photos by tagging them with much general locations like, "Pahang" or "Selangor", or even worse "Malaysia". They tend not to share the exact location of some rare or uncommon birds. However, it wont be too long for their friends to text or call them to know the pin-point location of such birds. So ultimately, they cant keep the locations as confidential for long. It happens right?

First, you must know with whom you are sharing the info. You must know their MOTIVE. Whether they want to:

1. Photograph the bird.

2. Observe the birds' behavior and record it.

3. Expose the location to other photographers - for fame or to make money

4. The lead poachers (directly or indirectly)

We never know what's their motive most of the time. In such cases, some never expose the location openly in the social media...but they may expose it indirectly by disclose it to their close buddies. So what's the guarantee your friends will not expose the location's in social media? Well, ask yourself, is it right? 

Those friends who is asking for the location details, please be ethical, not to bring a party to the mentioned location. That location detail(s) were given to you by mean of trust. So be trustworthy to your friend. 

I know people will tag you as "stingy" or bad when you never share the locations totally, its still OK, you already playing a role to protect the welfare of our feathered friends. You did the best!

I have a friend from a neighboring country who loves birds a lot. As for him, he wont let know others if he finds an uncommon birds, fearing people may crowd up and drive away the bird from that location. He has his point, yet he is degraded and isolated by other photographers. However, I am proud of his concern on the birds' welfare.

As I was talking to my buddy, who is an avid birder, he did exposed to me poaching is getting serious now in Malaysia. Some of our endangered birds are being the target. Poaching is not as what we think. Its a big network and these poachers are everywhere, including our local birdwatching groups in social media. Who knows your birding buddy could be allied to them. So be very careful in sharing locations. He suggested me just to share it generally, as I mentioned before, i.e "Selangor" or "Perak", or if possible no to share at all.

"How the new bird photographers/birders know where to find this particular birds if we don't share location?" Simple, they have to look for it. What's the fun if everything been spoon fed? When I migrated to Selangor, I don't know much about the birding locations here. I don't even have birding friends here that time. So what I did was, I look for locations through internet, and yes I did found so many spots, such as Paya Indah Wetland, Taman Botani Putrajaya, Kuala Selangor Nature Park, Taman Botani Negara, Taman Templer and a lot more. So my advice to the newbies, why not you search for your self, instead of expecting from senior bird photographers? Birding spots can be anywhere, even in some wooded area near your house or any kampung. You got to find it

"Poachers are everywhere!" 

This was told by many senior birders when I contact them, in order to write this blog. So keep this in mind when you post something, especially rare, uncommon and endangered species, which are the targets of the poachers. You have to know what are the birds common in the trade. Some poachers are in disguise of birders and bird photographers too. They are even active in some birding and photography groups in social medias. So be very careful of what you are sharing

Poachers on the move at Klang Gates area for the parrots

If you find any traps/nets or any suspiscious activites related to poaching or trappings, kindly report it to the PERHILITAN through their webpage, under "e-aduan" (PERHILITAN). Take some photos of these traps and if situation allows you to remove or destroy the nest, don't hesitate to do it.

We are not only concerning on poachers alone. Overzealous photographers and birders are also a threat to out feathered friends, just in order to get a sight of a rare bird. I have seen and heard some photographers with long telephoto and prime lenses go to close to the bird for a shot. Getting too close with stress the bird. Its an harassment if you ask me. I can say these guys does not even know the true capability of their gears. Even a 2000mm lens wont be enough.

Another issue is overcrowding. The latest sensation here was the Helmeted Hornbill sighting in Pahang. It drew unwanted attention instantly in social medias. I was told by a local birder, nearly 40 photographers gathered at the spot to click on that rare bird. Some even camped at the spot for days., even after they managed to get good shots. Humans just cant have enough. It was a small area where you cant have many tripods in. Its on the roadside, and road safety is a big concern as well. Who bothered? One guy did; he reported to the local police station that photographers parked their vehicles recklessly along the road. 

They even did landscaping to have a good view of that hornbill, which is ethically wrong. The calls were not used minimally. Finally the photographers pointed fingers to each other when people starts to condemn them to expose the site and overcrowd. I just want to say, whoever present there at the site, they did their best to expose an endangered species and you guys know it. Its good that the bird gone after finishing up the wild figs in that area.

Lastly always keep in your mind, the no.1 priority is the well-being of birds, any birds whether common or rare. Safeguarding the location of the birds will definitely decrease the danger that birds face. 

"Sharing at times not caring at all"

Monday, 5 October 2020

16.09.2020 - Chasing Waders with Buddies!

It was sudden plan with my buddy Terence along with his wife, Eileen to have a family birding , to visit the waders at the mudflats of Selangor. We invited another friend, Jason, who actually had a plan to visit another spot for migrants. It was rather early for us still at the area, since the tide was too low and less birds, except for some Lesser Sand Plovers and distant Lesser Adjutants. 

Lesser Sand Plover

Lesser Adjutants

Collared Kingfisher

We then moved to a nearby jetty, to have a look on the herons and egrets. This is place is populated by herons and egrets. We managed to get some nice shots here. In between a Black Crowned Night Heron displayed, what I call rather unusual hunting behavior (to me), since I have only seens them taking their prey while wading along shallow waters. What happened was this heron, took a fish direct from the surface of water in flight...that odd. The ladies were on the boat, managed to see some shorebirds as well.

Black Crowned Night Heron

Pacific Swallow

Pacific Swallow

Grey Heron

After that we head to one more jetty nearby. This jetty is nicknamed as "Rainbow Jetty" due to its colourful painting. There is a heronry here, shared by night herons, cattle egrets and little egrets. It was not heavily populated yet since its off season for the herons and egrets now.

Sunda Pygmy Woodpecker

House Crow

Black Crowned Night Heron

We had out lunch here and then proceed again to the mudflats. The tide was just nice, managed to click on some waders and terns.

Common Redshank

Ruddy Turnstone

Little Tern with Lesser Sand Plovers

Bar Tailed Godwit in flight.

Red Necked Stint

A very productive day I would say, since I managed to bag some lifers; Little Terns, Red Necked Stints and Bar Tailed Godwits. Thanks for my buddy Terence for helping me out with the IDs.