I finally managed to get a couple of hours birding in on my drive back from KL to Penang yesterday.
I had two goals. One was to try look for nests of mystery swiftlets Kim Chye, Connie and I caught while doing the whistling-thrush project field work in May 2009.
In May 2009, we caught a number of these birds in nets we had set up to catch whistling-thrushes in caves. They are very dark - the rump is blackish and concolourous with the rest of the upperparts, and the underparts are dark brown. The extent of tarsal feathering and measurements all indicate that these birds are most likely Mossy-nest Swiftlets Aerodramus salangana, a species which breeds in West Sumatra and Borneo but has yet to be recorded in the Peninsula. The nest is, as the name suggests, made of mosses and other vegetable matter, and is usually sited on a ledge in a cave, since the saliva is not sticky enough to attach the nest to the roof of a cave. For an idea of what the nest site looks like, have a look at this pic.
Anyway, frustration - no sign of either swiftlets or nests. Despite my own personal blank, the birds continue to be seen regularly, so I am quite sure they are breeding somewhere in the Ipoh area. So - Ipoh birders - your mission, should you choose to accept it - is to track down this potential new breeding species for the Peninsula! In the field they should be easily distinguishable from the typical Germain's Swiftlets by their all dark rump and dusky underparts (so they may appear all black).
My other goal was to check up on the Blue Whistling-thrushes we colour-banded back in May 2009. I have been busy over the last month writing up the final report on the project, so I've been thinking a lot about these birds lately!
It was good to see one of our colour-banded males and his mate busily feeding young. We sexed him on the basis of his brighter, richer plumage colours and more extensive metallic spangling compared to his mate.
I found that he was regularly returning to the same spot to collect... fish for his offspring! Looks like I need to re-edit that report to add another food item!
Serving up sushi!
And here's the lucky recipient!
I got a lifer today - not a bird, but a dragon!
What a beauty! This is Camacinia gigantea, which looks like several much commoner Neurothemis species but is much bigger. Apparently it's quite rare.
There were also some Java Sparrows about. Before I got married (in fact, as a condition for getting married!), my wife-to-be insisted that I show her a Puffin. I had to take her all the way to Anglesey in Wales, UK, to meet this condition. Just in case there are any other poor fellows out there in a similar predicament, and short of cash, you could try taking her to Ipoh and showing her a Java Sparrow...
...she might just be fooled! Thanks to George Diko for permission to use his great Puffin pic. More of George's pics can be seen here
Finally, I had the good fortune to photograph this roosting Large-tailed Nightjar. From the size of the whitish tail tips, comparing them with this pic, I would say that this bird is a female.
Here you can see that the middle claw is strangely curved and has what appears to be a comb along one side. This is not a deformity, but a special adaptation possessed by some birds, such as nightjars, herons and some owls. It's known as a pectinate claw, and is thought to be used to help with preening.