Saturday, July 30, 2011

26th July 2011: Sungai Perdik, Ulu Langat, Selangor

This was my first visit to Sungai Perdik, which lies in the foothills of the main Titiwangsa range near Gunung Nuang. I was very impressed with the variety of birds there, with activity continuing well into the late morning.

Frustratingly, I couldn't identify potentially the best birds of the visit - a pair of partridges which scuttled off into the undergrowth without me getting my bins onto them. A pair of Jambu Fruit Doves eluded my camera, as did a male Green Broadbill. Some of the species I did manage to capture are below.

I glimpsed the partridges while photographing this Black-capped Babbler.

For my second consecutive trip I managed to photograph Siamangs - these ones were definitely undomesticated!

Rufous-fronted Babbler is a species I rarely see and have not photographed in the Peninsula before. I was surprised to see the bright pink base to the lower mandible, as it's not shown in any of the books I looked at. Perhaps it only occurs during peak breeding time, like on some herons?

One of a few Black-and-Red Broadbills which were active.

Numerous fruiting trees attracted a variety of bulbuls, including Black-headed.

24th July 2011: Fraser's Hill to Kuala Kubu Bharu

As this was my last morning, I decided to start at the top for a change and wait for the Malaysian Whistling-thrush.

My efforts from before dawn till about 8 o'clock yielded neither sight nor sound of them. This Rufous-browed Flycatcher was typically obliging in the early morning light.

As I was packing up my hide, I noticed a young Siamang feeding quietly right next to the road. Since this species is usually extremely shy, I could barely believe my luck as I stealthily reset up my camera and crept closer. A man was walking down the road so I beckoned him over, urging him to be completely quiet. "Oh", he said in an unnecessarily loud voice, I thought, "That's Bobby - he likes candy very much!" The man held out a sticky sweet and rustled the wrapper, and sure enough, this shy denizen of the forest came down and took the sweet from his hand! My sense of disappointment was palpable, and I was also left feeling pretty foolish with my stealth approach! It turns out that this is an orphan, and it was either raised, or at least fed, one of the guards at the Top Gate, so it is semi-domesticated.

Of course, it would be nice if folks could be educated not to feed it junk food, but it's still a very fine looking beast, and will hopefully provide visitors with the thrill of seeing a 'wild' Siamang at close quarters for many years to come. Actually, I think that hairstyle might really catch on...!

Down at the Gap, I had to wade my way through the Bamboo Woodpecker hordes once again, and as before, they evaded my attempts at getting a clear shot.

On my way back to civilization, I couldn't resist stopping at the swift bridge again. The light was less favourable than last time, and I only got this head-on House Swift.

Rufous-bellied Swallows were in hunting mode (I noticed 2-3 nests beneath the bridge) and provided me with some good photo opps as they glided around.

Very fine-looking creatures indeed, and a near-endemic taxon into the bargain!

23 July 2011: The Gap - Fraser's Hill

By now I was seeing a regular pattern of birds. Starting at the Gap, knee-deep in Bamboo Woodpeckers again (how did I manage to miss these before?!), but the same old problems getting good light and a clear perch. My best efforts below.

At my Ferruginous Partridge 'stake-out' - the same blank result. There were two Rail-babblers calling today, and one briefly walked across the track, but didn't stay long enough for a photo.

Back at the Gap, a small group of Black Laughingthrushes were obliging, but the light wasn't, as thick fog swirled in.

The weather wasn't much better at the top, and I spent some time on Bishop's Trail photographing a pair of Buff-breasted Babblers in the gloom, before rain stopped play. These are a surprisingly common bird at Fraser's Hill, as you realize once you learn their calls, but they can be quite difficult to get good views of. I was lucky with this pair, which came down to feed on the trail as I was waiting quietly to see what would turn up.

22nd July 2011: The Gap - Fraser's Hill

Much the same routine as yesterday, with a dawn start at the Lower Gate.

Today I was fortunate to get great views of Marbled Wren-babbler in a somewhat exposed area just below the road, and managed a few reasonable pics.

These are just great birds, though why they are called wren-babblers I can't quite work out - they look more like laughingthrushes to me!

The same fruitless result waiting for Ferruginous Partridges (one heard calling), but this was somewhat compensated for by the brief appearance of a Rail-babbler!

Rain rather curtailed activities in the afternoon!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

21 July 2011: The Gap - Fraser's Hill

I started at the Lower Gate before dawn, being surprised to hear a Javan Frogmouth near the gate. Once it was light I soon located three Bamboo Woodpeckers - one of my Fraser's Hill 'bogey birds' finally laid to rest!

Getting good photos was another matter! Over the next few days I encountered this species daily, usually more than once, but never got a decent chance of a clear shot in good light.

A flock of Black Laughingthrushes was obliging, but I failed to get any sharp shots.

Having finally got the woodpecker, I now only have two Fraser's Hill residents left to see, both of them partridges (Ferruginous and Long-billed)! The first of these was my target for the trip, and I spent much of the morning sitting in my hide and waiting...! Two birds were calling further up the hill, one above the road and one below, but none came close, so I gave up the hunt towards midday.

This White-bellied Yuhina (Erpornis) was one of several species still active at the Lower Gate as I left.

At the top I headed for some lunch and an iced strawberry juice, but I met Ahli Chung and a group he was guiding, who told me they'd found a roosting Mountain Scops-owl on Hemmant's Trail. The drink was hastily postponed as I got precise directions and headed off to try to locate the bird. It wasn't where they'd seen it, but incredibly, while I was searching for it, a bird started calling close by, and, in response to my whistled imitation, flew straight in to perch about 5m away! It sat there oblivious to my attempts to manoeuvre myself to get a unobstructed shot and continued calling, stimulating a second bird to respond not far away!

While watching the bird, I noticed it peering over my shoulder at something behind me. On turning I saw two Yellow-throated Martens coming down the slope toward me. At about 3 metres away, they finally noticed me and ran off up the slope. No chance to move, still less photograph them, but it was an unforgettable moment nonetheless!

Here's a video of the bird calling. Thanks Ahli!

Eventually hunger pangs kicked in and I walked away from the bird, still in view and still calling!

The afternoon was a bit of an anticlimax after that. This female Black-and-Crimson Oriole was part of a bird wave.

20 July 2011: Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor

I had a few meetings to attend in KL last weekend, and recent sightings of Ferruginous Partridge near The Gap below Fraser's Hill enticed me to head south a few days early. Usually the family visits Fraser's over Chinese New Year, but we missed it this year, so I figured I was due a visit!

I got waylaid en route by a colony of House Swifts breeding below the bridge over one of the arms of the KKB Reservoir. Give me eye-level views of swifts and I can quite happily waste hours trying to get that perfect shot - it's an addictive pass-time!

All birds photographed were adults, and all seemed at an identical stage of moult, with fresh tail feathers and inner primaries. Many were carrying feathers and bits of straw, so were presumably gearing up for breeding.

There's always one that just has to be BETTER than all the others!

I've not managed to photograph the iris colour of a House Swift in flight before!

There were a couple of swiflets too. I felt these were darker and greyer than the usual Germain's, with a subtly different jizz, looking long, sharp-winged. Possibly the nominate race of Black-nest?

A few bits and pieces

Things have been a bit quiet on this blog of late, but I've been up to plenty!

Nice bird, shame about the background! Black-winged Stilts bred at Pulau Burung Landfill again this year. I saw at least a couple of family parties.

I finally got my Racket-tailed Treepie near Alor Setar - thanks for the tip-off Muin!

And some decent views at last of Streak-breasted Woodpecker at Air Itam Dalam.

My 15 minutes of fame happened at last; a well-written feature in The Star, just here. A sidebar to that story gave a bit of a plug to the 500 Club.