This second field trip took us to the limestone karst outcrops around Ipoh, where Blue Whistling Thrushes have a healthy population. This is a habitat I am wholly unfamiliar with, so it was a fascinating and eye-opening few days.
Our first site was Kek Look Tong Caves, which is also the site of a Buddhist temple.
The entrance to the caves when we arrived pre-dawn.
We set up one net inside the cave with the permission of the head caretaker of the temple. However, we discovered that the whistling thrushes were feeding newly fledged young, so they were extremely secretive. The ceiling of the cave was intricate and colourful - I never realized that caves could be so beautiful and impressive!
Just a small section of the incredible rock formations.
Outside the caves, Blue Rock Thrushes were plentiful and tame.
Juvenile birds called incessantly from the cliff face to their parents, begging for food .
There is also a thriving population of Java Sparrows, originating from released captive birds but now breeding quite successfully on the cliffs.
Eventually a whistling thrush appeared high up in the gloom of the back of the cave.
We managed to tempt it down to the floor of the cave by throwing some bread out, and it eventually flew into our net. Here it is before capture.
And here it is wearing its new 'bling' - pink and red colour bands. These bands will enable observers to identify individual birds, enabling us to learn more about their behaviour, size of territory, etc. The bird is resting in the mouth of the cave, sheltering from a heavy rainstorm.
Later on it came down to bathe in a small stream inside the cave. After another day we had seen no other whistling thrush than this one, so we decided it was time to move to a new location.
We moved to another temple site, and almost straightaway located another pair of birds. The birds were using a pool at the base of another limestone outcrop, so we set up our nets there.
These birds were out in the open, giving me the first opportunity to take pictures of them in natural light.
Whistling Thrushes have a distinctive habit of opening and closing their tails like a Chinese fan.
We were pleased to catch one of these birds, bringing our total to two for the trip and three overall.
We took a look at a couple of other sites - this one is Tempurung Cave.
No sightings of whistling thrushes here, but the butterflies were some compensation! Here is a male Common Mormon buttering up a female.
And this has to be one of the most stunning butterflies I've ever seen - a Banded Peacock apparently.
There were a few late Brown Shrikes still around, as well as this rather smart singing Long-tailed Shrike.