Thursday, July 03, 2008

2nd July, 2008: Bintang Hijau Forest Reserve, Perak, Part 3

As I was walking up the logging track to my car, I could see a small flock of Brown-backed Needletails and resident Pacific Swifts wheeling around at the top of the hill. I decided to climb to the top first before taking pictures.

However, as soon as I came over the rise, I saw an surprising scene. There were 4-5 police vehicles and a sizeable group of policemen just behind where my car was parked, and they were beckoning me to come over. Behind the cars I noticed yellow 'Do Not Cross - Police Investigation' tape across the entrance to where my car was parked. As I approached the policemen, one came up and addressed me by name! By this time I was completely bemused as to what was going on. I asked them how they knew who I was and what was going on, and they asked me what I was doing there and whether I had seen anyone else since my arrival. I hadn't, and asked again what this was all about. At this point the supervising officer said - "There's a dead man in front of your car - didn't you see the body?" You could have knocked me down with a feather!

Apparently the police had stopped to check my car - what it was doing parked in a lonely spot like this, and had then discovered the body directly in front of it, about 70 meters away, lying at the edge of the car park. The body was in full view of where I had parked my car, yet I had not seen it. Even when the police had beckoned me over, I walked straight past it without seeing it - so much for my powers of observation!

Eventually the forensic team arrived and examined my car, inside and out. After an hour or so, the police team asked me to follow them to Gerik police station to make a statement. They were very polite and professional throughout - I think it must have been obvious to them due to my complete cluenessness that I had nothing to do with the poor fellow's demise. The whole process took about two and a half hours and was rather a surreal experience. They told me that this area is a 'black spot' for dumping bodies, and also a place where criminals hide, and they advised me not to visit alone in future. In return I told them a lot about Bat Hawks! I never did get to photograph the swifts!

Eventually, sometime after 4pm I drove back toward home. I spotted some fairly low-flying Silver-rumped Needletails and stopped to take some pics.

The tail spines on a full adult are quite impressive!

While watching the needletails I spotted a male Wreathed Hornbill sitting on a dead tree.

A strange couple! The hornbill and a Gold-whiskered Barbet seem to be sizing each other up!

The hornbill was behaving very strangely. At first, I thought it was drying out its wings, cormorant-style, after the recent rain.

However, the bird seemed quite fidgety, frequently shifting position.

Then I noticed it seemed to be attacking the branch it was on, occasionally breaking bits off. It occurred to me that this behaviour might be 'anting' - which is well-documented in a number of bird families such as woodpeckers. It is thought that birds use the formic acid produced by some ant species to protect their plumage, possibly as a fungicide or to serve some other protective purpose. For more info, see this link

The hornbill using something in its bill to preen its feathers - ants?

"Attacking" the branch, possibly to stimulate ants to come and attack the hornbill.

What is it with birds and trees today? First the Bat Hawks and now this hornbill giving the trees some stick!

The bird held the stick like this for some time, shaking it vigorously occasionally, perhaps to encourage the ants to climb up toward the bird? Eventually it dropped the stick.

Still at it - the hornbill picks off another chunk of tree. It didn't appear to swallow anything.

Had enough for the day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow Dave thanks for sharing this interesting and unfortunate experience. I used to venture alone in the Malaysian forest too but decided to stop after reading and hearing many unpleasant incidents.

Cheers Kenneth