Mar 26, 2010

Birds ala A’Formosa

From 19-21 Mar 2010 ex-Lasallians from around the world attended an international convention for Lasallian Alumni at the Equatorial Hotel, Malacca. Malacca is a former strait’s settlement and a melting pot of cultures first governed by the Portugese in 1511 followed by the Dutch and  British colonialists together with indigenous races in and around  the then Malay achipelago. Barter trading, mostly in pepper, silk, porcelain wares etc were the main activities which made Malacca an ‘international’ trading post. Malacca’s buildings’ achitecture was greatly influenced by the different era of occupation by the colonialists. Malacca was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

Although the convention was in Malacca we stayed at the A’Formosa, Resort a half hour drive away. With some free time on hand on Sunday I decided it would be well spent to do some birding in the still forested areas of this large man made resort. Other mates decided to go and play a round of golf.


Convention Banner


The venue of the convention


Wide angle view of a Malacca road


Elaborately decorated trishaw – a VIP mode of transport around town. :-)


Morning sunrise viewed from apartment at A‘Formosa Resort.

Birds ‘shot’ in A’Formosa Resort


Spotted Dove


Brown-throated Sunbird


Oriental Magpie Robin (Male)


Oriental Magpie Robin (Female)


Black-napped Oriole


Yellow-vented Bul Bul


Brown Shrike


Common Sparrow


Pacific Swallow


Scaly-breasted Munia

Mar 16, 2010

Raptor Watch @ Tg. Tuan , Port Dickson, West Malaysia. Mar 13 & 14 2010.

It was a very pleasant two hours drive along the KL – Seremban highway enroute to Tg. Tuan (formerly known as the Blue Lagoon), Port Dickson, West Malaysia. The traffic, although heavy was smooth flowing all the way to the location.

It is the Raptor Watch weekend and the visitors to this otherwise quiet sea side resort nicely tucked away from the main road, have converged here from all over the world. Once a year the thousands of Raptors aka birds of prey domiciled in countries in the northern hemisphere migrate south to the warmer clime to escape the winter. The return leg of these great Raptors to their homeland is what we have all descend on the Ilham Resort, Tg. Tuan to witness. Raptors of different species return along the same route they came – the shortest span of water across the Straits of Malacca with Sumatra Island in Indonesia on the other side and Tg. Tuan in Malaysia.


A bird’s eye view from the lighthouse built long time ago by the Portugese merchants of old reveal a coastline of huge rocks washed  by the crystal clear sea water provide a pleasant distraction whilst waiting to welcome the first wave of Raptors for the day. 


And as if right on cue as soon as the last speech was delivered, the crowd was treated to a parade of black specks dotting the blue sky. Someone shouted ‘the raptors, the raptors are here!!!’ All eyes shot upwards and YES the raptors’ wave has indeed begun!



They circled the sky above the resort drawing intense excitement on the ground. It was a sight to behold and many of the school children and adults were simply overawed by the spectacle unfolding in the sky!

Once they have gathered sufficient height bolstered by the hot thermal of the 12 noon sun they are off and cruising like giant kites. So effortlessly cutting through the skyline like a razor soon to disappear into the distance. It’s animal or in this case bird instinct which year after year repeat the trans migration since time immemorial.


The Oriental Honey Buzzards




in all it’s splendid form and display of acrobatics in the sky. It was a great delight to watch these giant birds!


The ‘intermission’ between the Raptor Show were three giant Green Turtles frolicking in the clear water of the lagoon. Nature have many wonders and for humans to continue to enjoy them, all efforts point to protection and conservation of these mostly endangered avian and treasures of the sea.


The resident white Belly Sea Eagle (Juv) was not about to be overshadowed by it’s cousins. It too with it’s mate also took to the sky to ‘show-off’’ their vital statistics! It was an awesome bird! The wing span reaching 1.8 meter from tip to tip!


The parade went on with wave after wave of Raptors crossing the straits.




It was a most eventful and spectacular weekend outing for young and old, veteran birders and newbies. The icing on the cake is the record count vs last year’s 38,000 birds. By Sunday it had exceeded this number. Another good reason to celebrate THE event of the year!!!

I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have writing. Cheers!

Mar 3, 2010

MNS Birding Trip – Fraser’s Hill, Feb 26-28 2010

The day has finally arrived. It’s the start of a birding trip over the long weekend in Fraser’s Hill, the hill station of old, now a great R & R escape for city slickers. I drove to pick up two mates who are car pooling ie Teruo San and Carolyn. Both were at the prearranged locations on the dot, which was great.
The two hour drive, minus the usual city crawl was splendid!  We arrived at Gap at five past nine and decided to immediately ascend to Fraser’s Hill. We were not the first party to arrive. On the way up we passed regular birders Alan, B Cheng, TH Tang and Liung who were already on the ball. 
A prominent signage of Fraser’s Hill
Maxwell Trail – one of over half a dozen trails to explore  
The Pines Resort, our residence for the next two nights
Another view of the walk-up apartment 
Well, Fraser’s Hill is not all birding. The immaculately maintained greens and fairways of this 9 hole golf course will be very inviting to golfing buffs.    
Upon arrival at the apartment we lost no time and immediately started looking for the birds. First up was a Grey-chinned minivet which was skipping in ernest all over the canopy of a large fern tree.
We found this Black-crested Bul-Bul perched and singing it’s favorite tune further down the road at the back of the apartment.
A pair of Long-tailed Sibia peered down inquisitively from a rather ‘untidy’ bunch of twigs and branches
Caught up with this cute looking Chestnut-capped Laughing Thrush and it’s other pals
A Little Spider-hunter was busy flying from flower to flower collecting it’s fill of nectar
An unmistakable double shriek from the sky above. Yes it was a Crested Serpent Eagle surfing the mid-morning thermal.
The handsome Golden Mountain Warbler
Malaysian Cuckoo Shrike
Fire-tufted Barbet
Niltava (Male)
Vedeta Flycatcher
Black-throated Sunbird
Grey Nightjar
Over dinner conversation the subject of sightings of the OWL was a hot topic. A smaller group decided to go and explore. The location is inside the army camp, where the OWL makes it’s regular appearance.  We were out of luck. No sign of the OWL. But ALL in the group scored a Lifer with the sighting of the Grey Nightjar! It was a better than good consolation prize (depending on the rating – OWL or NIGHTJAR is at the top of one’s list of preference.) All–in-all it was a rewarding end to a long day.
It was rise and shine for all. A quick breakfast and we regrouped for the second day’s adventure. But not without a brief moment of watching the sunrise over the still mist shrouded hills. Bird calls erupted every where and the hills are abuzz once more.
It’s a wonderful sight to behold. A ‘wakey wakey’ landscape that would drive anyone still sleepy headed to life!
Other interesting and unique features of this former British hill station are the old English cottages and bungalows that have stood the test of time. You will know what I mean when you see the year some of the buildings were built!
And of course Fraser’s Hill have many other interesting flora and fauna  waiting to be ‘discovered’. One just have to be hawk-eyed to notice them. Like the tree fungi above.
Next up was this Black and Crimson Oriole
Then it was this chubby Mugimaki Flycatcher
And this Mountain Fulvetta or Great Tit perched very high up
The above 3 sequential photos tells a story. A pair of Fire-tufted  Barbets took turns to feed their young inside the hole in the tree. It was to be one of our longer stops.
A pair of Mountain Bul-Bul aka ‘punky headed’. Wonder if someone  imitated this punk look back in the 80’s? LOL
Lesser Yellow-napped Woodpecker. Took awhile for me to make out this fellow. Is it a leave or a woodpecker? :-)
Red-bearded Bee-eater (Female). This rather dignified-looking bird was spotted very high up in a tree. Would love to get a closer shot next time.
Verditer Flycatcher
White-throated Fantail
Streaked Spider-hunter
Mountain Imperial Pigeons. I must say their calls is pretty imperial sounding too. :-)
This is what I could get of this Pied Fantail (Hope to get better pix in the next encounter) :-)
This Green Magpie was to have made my day. However this was the best shot just for ID (Better pix next encounter)
The consolation was this Silver-eared Mesia. One of the icons of Fraser’s Hill.
Giant Toad
The second night was OWL hunting again. No luck yet again.The OWL did not oblige. Besides the Nightjar featured earlier, this Giant Toad made it’s appearance to everyone’s amazement. It is larger than the average lady’s palm! Another long day!. We went to bed around 12 midnight.  
DAY III (Jeriau)
The sunrise today is vastly different in hue and tone to Day II. That’s the beauty of nature. What nature create man begets.
Our group leader Mark decided we should all bird along Jln Jeriau today. Other team members are Wai Kong, Azizah and Elisabeth, all very enthusiastic birders. We parked our car and walked downhill towards the direction of Jeriau waterfall. Along the way a flock of Black Laughing Thrush flew over head and stopped briefly to feed.
One of the reason for choosing Jln Jeriau was a hope that we could meet with the elusive and very shy Red-headed Trogon. After spending some time walking downhill Wai Kong volunteered to double back to fetch our car. TH Tang’s group had just returned from Jeriau Waterfall and gave Wai Kong and Ruth ( from another group ) a lift to their cars. Minutes later Wai Kong returned with breaking news! The Red Headed has been spotted uphill. All hopped into the car and sped uphill again. And a special thanks to Chin Thong a council member of MNS who spotted the bird and unselfishly shared it with all of us. The Red-headed Trogon turned out to be a great Lifer for me!
It was now reaching noon time and we were preparing to head back to the apartment when we came upon this Large Niltava (Female) Front view.
Large Niltava (Female) Hind view. Note the beautiful ring of purple/blue tuft around it’s neck.
We checked out and reached Gap around 2.30 pm but decided to track back up another 1 km or so to see what we could find.
Caught up with this Common Tailor Bird
A Wood Shrike
A Grey-chinned Mini-vet in flight at great distance.
And this Oriental Magpie Robin. Next time the Helmeted Hornbill.
In summary the trip was eventful and exciting especially so for a few first timers. It was a success due to the dedication and selfless commitment of the organizer Alan and a team of most unassuming committee members of the MNS Selangor birding wing. On behalf of everyone (there were 18 of us) I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ and do keep up the good work! Hip Hip Hip Hurrah!!!
For visitors to this blog, I hope you enjoyed my ramblings. Cheers!