Just a day after returning from Thailand we headed of to the north-easternmost state in Peninsular Malaysia to house-sit for some absent friends. This wasn't a birding trip - Kelantan in December is in mid-monsoon - but I saw a few bits and pieces.
Another attraction was meeting up with Ooi Chin Hock and family. Chin Hock brought with him my new telescope - the coveted Kowa TSN 884 Flourite. This scope is practically unknown in Malaysia, but you can read a review of the 883 - the angled version, here.
A visit to Tumpat, which is an IBA was disappointing in that much of the site has been developed for local tourism; the best areas are now only accessible by boat.
The IBA covers the delta to the west of the Sungai Kelantan rivermouth. I found this excellent map on the wall of a MacDonald's in Kota Bharu, so the Golden Arches is good for something!
I found this fine adult Peregrine feeding on a kill on the sandbar. I would have needed a boat to get closer (and this was before the arrival of my new scope!).
Chin Hock found a pair of male Banded Woodpeckers displaying to each other in the garden. They would circle round the palm trunk like kids playing peek-a-boo, hurling verbal abuse at each other but never making physical contact.
Most of the time only one bird was visible.
A visit to the famous Pasar Besar (Big Market) in Kota Bharu was a worthwhile experience, though it was sad to see Green Turtle eggs on sale.
My first attempts at digiscoping through the new scope were at night. Here's the moon!
Another digiscoping effort - a Yellow Bittern hunting by the river. I guess it will take a while to get the hang of how to use the camera with the scope.
It was fascinating to watch the bittern apparently using its black tail as a lure to attract fish!
On our drive back to Penang, we stopped for lunch at the Titiwangsa Range viewpoint on the East-West highway, where there was a single Asian House Martin hawking for insects among the many Barn Swallows. You can see the faint streaks on the white rump in this photo.
You can just about make out the black chin in this pic, as well as the dusky underparts.
The black uppertail coverts and underwing coverts can be seen here.
The upperparts have a bluish gloss, and this bird seems to have whitish outer primary shafts.
The species also shows dark centres to the vent feathers. The shallowness of the tail fork and dark underwing coverts can also be seen here.
This lone swiftlet seemed large and long-winged. Although apparently darker beneath than the birds I photographed at Doi Chiang Dao (the sky was heavily overcast in Kelantan), there appear to be darker shaft-streaks on the flank and belly feathers. Robson (2000 ed) mentions darker shaft-streaks on breast, belly and undertail for Himalayan, but on the throat only for Black-nest and German's. So could this be Himalayan? The Himalayan Swiftlets in Thailand were only seen at high altitude, and the top of the Titiwangsa range would certainly fit the bill in that respect.