May 30, 2011

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow feeding it's young ( Passer flaveolus) 14 - 14.5 cm

I had just poured myself a drink and was casually seeping it whilst looking out of the kitchen window. It is a normal course of event and I never in a moment expected anything unusual. A couple a Eurasian Tree Sparrows were frolicking in the garden. Nothing unusual about that. The Sparrows are a common sight almost everywhere in my neighborhood. 
And then something caught my attention! A parent bird picked up a piece of grub and held it in it's beak and seemed to look upwards. The next moment a Juvenile flew from a perch above and with moments had it's mouth wide open, begging to be fed. The parent bird 'sacrificed' it's meal and placed it gingerly deep into the throat of the Juvenile. What a moment!!! I scuttled upstairs for my camera! 

Below are 3 pix I captured for sharing.

         A distant shot from the kitchen window

         Followed by a close-up

        And the actual feeding.....WOW!!!

         Shots of THE moment to cherish! Cheers!

May 29, 2011

The Red-headed Trogon (Harpactes erythrocephalus) 31-35.5 cm

I had saved the handful of photos taken of this fine looking bird and totally forgotten about them. Not until I came across them whilst looking for other pix. It is a rare find and more difficult to photograph as it tends to keep it's distance. I recalled this one flew from across a deep valley to where I was positioned. Thanks to a Greater Racket-tailed Drongo which harassed it from it's perch and continued to give chase across the valley. Target was still a fairly long distance from my position.


May 28, 2011

The Coppersmith Barbet nesting (Megalaima haemacephala), 17 cm

These photos are also those which I shot, stored and forgotten. Not until I stumbled on them again whilst searching my photo folders for other photos. I could still vividly recollect this event which goes back about a year. A fellow birder had shared information that a pair of Coppersmith Barbet have built a nest in one of the branches and reported having observed the pair feeding a pair of chicks. 

I decided to do a stake-out near the tree. After about a half hour's wait I noticed one adult bird flying in and perched on one of the high branches. It had an orange colored berry in between it's beak. After checking out the surroundings and decided it is safe it flew lower and closer to the branch which supposedly is the location of the nest. Moments later it flew straight towards a hole in the branch. Almost immediately the sound of the chicks could be heard from my stake-out position. Bulls-eye! It is the nest! I spent the next hour or so recording the two adult birds scurrying back and forth ferrying food to the chicks.

Below are some photos of the most pleasant encounter.

          A hole in made in a tree branch to serve as a nest

         The chick had just been fed but is asking for more......

          Feeding frequency is about 20 minutes apart

All comments are welcome. Cheers!

The Golden-throated Barbet (Megalaima fraklinii) 22 cm

This pair of Golden-throated Barbets were busy pecking a hole on a dead tree trunk to build a nest. My attention was drawn by the incessant pecking sound. Upon looking in the direction of  the sound I observed that the female Barbet had already made a hole about 1 inch deep into the tree which is about 20 - 25 ft above ground and was in clear view from the road. 

I also observed that both the male and female took turns in the pecking order. Whenever there was a change of duty either one one would perch in a nearby tree to take a well earned rest. Below are photos of both birds, which at casual glance are almost identical.  

        The Female, the braver of the two and also spent more time pecking

          The Male, who spent less time pecking

            The hole in the tree could be clearly seen here

Your comments would be most welcome. Cheers!

May 27, 2011

New pix of the Large Niltava (Female)

Although this specie was not on my 'target list' it made it's appearance whilst i was shooting other birds. It is never a boring bird to photograph. Here are some new pics with different perch and expressions. 


The Snowy-browed Flycatcher - Chapter II

I had posted photos of the Male & Female Snowy-browed Flycatcher from an earlier trip. During this recent trip I was pleasantly surprised! The adult birds have brought their new female chick in tow! The chick must have recently fledged and is now strong enough to be out in the open for more training by the parents.

Although the chick was able to forage for food by itself it is observed that it is still occasionally fed by the adult Male. Call it fatherly love. :-) The adult Female has left the feeding job to the adult Male. It was a most interesting observation!

Below are photos of the cute family of 3.

         Adult Male with chick (female)

           Adule Female with chick

         Female chick

       Adult Male 

        Adult Female 

All comments are welcome, Cheers!

May 26, 2011

The Chestnut-tailed Minla (Minla strigula) 16 - 18.5 cm

The appreciation of this colorful specie seem to be enhanced from encounter to encounter. This attractive looking bird never fails to fascinate even the most seasoned bird watcher. Here are a few new photos to support my viewpoint.

Do you agree?

May 25, 2011

The Ox-Bow Lake (Sg. Mati), Muar, Johore, Malaysia.

During May 30 2011 the trippers of the MNS Photogroup's trip to Muar, Pt Jawa and Sg Balang made an unscheduled stop-over in Sg. Mati (literal translation to the English language = dead river) at the kind invitation of Mrs. Yong, Science teacher of Pei Hwa Secondary School, Sg. Mati and water quality project leader.
The Ox-Bow Lake is the only one of it's kind in West Malaysia. The other one being in Kinabatangan, Sabah, East Malaysia. The former is a 9 km loop from end to end. Initial visual observation revealed a thriving existence of avian life which included the Purple Heron, Little Egrets, Lesser Whistling Duck, Moorhens, Common Iora etc etc. Melodious bird calls could be heard throughout our leisurely drive in convoy around the lake. 
There were some expressed concerns about a commercial development plan which has been submitted to the relevant authorities. Approval of the plan is expected at sometime in the near future. The issue is not so much about the development per se but about whether the commercial development will give due and careful consideration to ensure that the rich biodiversity surrounding the lake is preserved. 

I did some research on the origin and history of this Ox-Bow Lake and below is an excerpt from the Wikipedia. 

"Sungai Mati ('dead river' in Malay) is a small town in the state of Johor, Malaysia. It is situated between the towns of Tangkak and Muar.

Sungai Mati was named in such a way (dead river) is due to its nature of being an ox-bow lake. It formed or breakaway from main river ie Muar River. The "breakaway" cause by a massive flood in early 1900s (not traceable). Before the breakaway Sungai Mati was on the Muar river bank (northern bank) and was a river port.

Before the breakaway Sungai Mati was named 'li hong kang' 利丰港. It means a prosperous port. Until now, the Chinese community still using the same name, which carries both extreme meaning. In fact it was an inland/river port. Muar River and Pahang River in combination was a very important east-west crossing route for traditional river transport. The route called "Laluan Penarikan", which is documented and available in Malaysia secondary history text. The piece of land surrounded by the ex-bow lake and Muar River in combination is called Pulau Penarik.

In early 1970s, there were some remaining traces of the river port. There was landing of jetty at the end of Jalan Raja, the current location of bridge linking Sungai Mati and Pulau Penarik. On the current badminton and tennis court on the left of Jalan Raja, diagonally opposite incumbent Johor Menteri Besar residence, were old warehouses.

It was a recommended to rename the Sungai Mati into Sungai Penarik or Sungai Serom while retaining the Chinese version of it went unheard by the authorities. Hopefully with it integration into new Ledang District, the new authority may look into this seriously."

Below are photos of different parts of the Ox-Bow lake. Photo credits goes to Mr. Vincent Ng and Mr. Andrew Sia.

             Any excess water is 'drained' into the Muar River (at the background of pic below)

We will be closely monitoring the development in this prime nature enclave. Stay tuned for more updates. Cheers!

                 Behind the scene in the posting of the Ox-Bow Lake

                Group photo with the Ketua Kampung (Village Head) 

            Down to some serious discussion on the history of Sg. Mati aka Dead River

          Followed by discussion with students helping in the water quality project 

             Taking notes of the students' presentation

May 24, 2011

Black-naped Mornarch nesting, Hypotymis azurea, 16-17 cm

During a recent trip to Kenong Rimba Park, Pahang a fellow tripper recorded a video of 2 lovely chicks of the Black-naped Monarch in a low hanging nest. To complement that video, which was without the parent bird I thought I would share a photo of the nest with the mama bird in the nest. This photo was take about a year ago in a different location.

The link to the video:


The Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting) 15.5 - 16.5 cm

A much sort after bird by birders and bird photographers the Blue-eared Kingfisher is the rarer of the Kingfisher family. Always a challenge to photograph at close range, hence a stake-out is the best way to get crisp and detailed shots of this beautiful blue-orange 'rocket' when in-flight.

Posted below are recent photos which are improved shots from those taken on previous occasions.

'Nature appreciation' as featured in The Star Weekender Section

There are more photos in the actual article that was published vs the online version. Check this out.

May 23, 2011

Plaintive Cuckoo, Cacomantis merulinus 21.5-23.5 cm

The Plaintive Cuckoo is quite a fascinating bird. For one it could continue it's 3 syllable high pitch call almost non-stop and for hours on end. Fortunately it is a more pleasant call to the ear if compared with the 'almost shreakish' call of the Asian Koel. :-)

It's habitat are broad leaved evergreen forest up to 750 meters. Here are photos of an adult Male and a Juvenile. Could only get pics of the 'unnatural' fence as they were foraging and using the fence as their vantage point.

             An adult Male 

              A Juvenile

May 21, 2011

Article in The Star newspaper.

The Star : Saturday May 21, 2011

Nature appreciation


Shutterbugs take in the easy pace and natural beauty of Parit Jawa and Sungai Balang.

Most people would have simply driven past these two “backwaters” on the coast of north-west Johor without a second look. But when a group of shutterbugs descend on them, some gems are bound to be discovered.
The occasion is a “photo trip” organised by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) to the small fishing village of Parit Jawa and the padi fields of Sungai Balang, about 15km and 30km south of Muar respectively.


Home sweet home: Baya Weaver nests are each 
made from over 3,000 blades of grass.
These areas of bucolic calm are a patchwork of land parcels criss-crossed by canals or parit that have drained the coastal swamps to enable padi, oil palms and coconut trees to be grown. In the larger canals, fishing boats can be seen gently bobbing on the murky water, or starting up their diesel engines as they seek to harvest the Straits of Malacca.

In the days when this was the main route south to Singapore, I remember a trip in the early 1980s with my father where rambutan trees lush with red and yellow fruits lined the sides of the road. Rambutans are not in season on this trip in early May, but another sight now intrigues me: the many stately Malay houses with quasi-European architectural influences (such as Art Deco windows).

These houses seem to get progressively grander as one approaches Muar, culminating in the colonial-style architecture around the Tanjung Emas esplanade, where one can see clear hybrids of Western and Eastern architectural styles in the numerous colonial bungalows, the Muar High School, and of course, the unique Sultan Ibrahim Mosque.

However, on this trip, the primary target of the MNS Selangor branch’s photography group is a little smaller than houses and fishing boats: they are the numerous birds that dwell along Johor’s coast.
One may not think that the bland, grey mudflats or green padi fields here have much to offer, but look a little closer, and the seaside is actually teeming with feathery friends. The most prominent are the almost comically bald-headed Lesser Adjutant Storks, which stand on gangly legs at 1.2m tall.

At the long wooden jetty of Parit Jawa, these storks seem totally nonchalant as they strut through the estuarine mud, looking for food, even as fishing boats chug past on their way out to sea.


Traditional Malay house featuring elements of Art Deco. 
In fact, they continue going about their business even when long-tailed macaques (common monkeys or kera in Malay) descend from the nearby mangrove trees to forage.

The lesser adjutants feed on fish and amphibians such as the crab-eating frog, seizing its prey with a series of stabs of its powerful beak — a clear signal for mischievous monkeys to keep their distance!

Another denizen of these coastal wetlands are the Striated Herons (also known as the Mangrove Herons or Little Herons), which wait patiently at the water’s edge, hoping to ambush small fish, frogs and aquatic insects. They sometimes even use bait, dropping a feather or leaf carefully on the water surface and snapping up fish seeking to satisfy their curiosity.

With Pacific Swallows, White-Winged Terns, Common Sandpipers and Little White Egrets in attendance (as well as the largest, fattest mudskippers I have ever seen), there are more than enough birds to keep the group of about 20 photographers with their tripod-mounted cameras equipped with super-telephoto lenses happily snapping away from 9am till about 2pm, despite the sweltering heat.

We break for a late lunch and gorge ourselves with local seafood. Two almost compulsory local specialities are otak-otak (curried fish paste wrapped in banana leaves) and asam pedas (spicy tamarind) fish.
The latter dish is famous among the Malays of Johor and Malacca, but Parit Jawa is one of the few places which specialise in the Chinese version which has fewer chillies, but a more sour flavour, compared to its Malay counterpart.

To work off lunch, the more hard-core continue their bird photography under the afternoon sun, while others retire for a well-deserved nap.


Little Egrets form mirror images next to the skeleton of a fishing boat at Parit Jawa.
But everybody is back in full force later to catch a compulsory photo subject — a sea-side sunset. Dinner time brings on another seafood feast, this time featuring fish grilled in aluminium foil and fish head curry.
“You know what MNS really stands for?” jokes one participant. “It’s Makan Non-Stop!”

Loh Wan Yeng, one of the organisers, says, “Photography can help promote awareness about why we should conserve a vulnerable environment. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. For example, the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico produced some of the world’s most dramatic photos of destruction to animal habitats.”

Indeed, even though I had been to Parit Jawa before (yes I confess, for the food!), it is only on this trip with MNS photographers that I can see for myself just how rich the wildlife of these muddy coastal zones is.
The next morning, we drive in a convoy of cars down to the coastal padi fields of Sungai Balang. Here, the sightings of bird life are equally rich.

The most striking of these are the Baya Weavers, which even a non bird-watcher can’t help but notice. Not so much because of the birds themselves, which are only about 15cm long, but because of their colonies of intricately woven nests. In Sungai Balang, we see about two dozen nests hanging from trees, some freshly made with green blades of padi.


A Little Heron waiting for prey at the water’s edge.
According to the website, the nests are architectural feats which look like upside down flasks with long tube-like necks that make it difficult even for snakes to enter the nest. For added protection, they have been known to nest in trees with hornets or even fierce red ants.
The nests are made entirely out of up to 3,000 strips of grass which the birds weave and knot together with their beaks. The males are promiscuous and try to attract females by building several nests halfway. The male then sings and struts about on these half-built nests to attract a mate.
This type of nest (also called a “cock-swing”!) is inspected by a female bird, which might then approve of mating with him.

Henry Goh, chief organiser of this trip, also photographs other birds in Sungai Balang, including majestic Black Kites, Lesser Coucals, Common Red Shanks, Red-wattled Lapwings and White-headed Munias. All in all, he and other bird-watchers record sightings of three dozen birds.

“If we include those that we heard but did not see, there are even more,” says Goh, who is a member of the central MNS Council.

For those who are not so keen on birds, there is more than enough to perk their photographic appetites. For instance, coconuts are still processed by hand for copra the old-fashioned way here.
One middle-aged participant shares that it is her first time seeing padi up close. “I have driven past them many times but have never gone near actual padi plants until this trip,” she laughs.

Even a field of seemingly monotonous padi can yield surprising gems in the hands of photographers, who are busy zooming in on the little wild flowers or insects in between the masses of green padi stalks.
Another participant comments, “I have gone trekking for years with different people and groups. We enjoyed nature but there was no active discussion about conservation, which is something different on this trip.”
“It’s also nice to see the more experienced freely imparting knowledge to the newer ones, whether it’s about bird species or about camera aperture stops.”

Gowri Sritharan, 27, another first-timer with MNS, says this is her first trip to Johor.
“I was captivated by the scenery of the fishing village at Parit Jawa. Fishermen were hard at work mending nets and cleaning boats in the morning, while those at sea returned as the tide went out around noon. The sunset was breathtaking as the sun dipped into a horizon lined with mangrove swamps.
“Being a beginner in photography, I was glad to meet people with a similar interest in the MNS Photogroup. At dusk, the village folks of Parit Jawa made their way to the jetty with fishing rods and lines. A day here provides endless opportunities for beautiful photographs and memories.

Goh says that MNS is a society where members volunteer their time, effort and knowledge to organise outings like this one.

“Some people join MNS as they like the budget trips. However, we hope that they will join not just for that but also to help uphold our vision, which is to protect our rich natural heritage and biological diversity. We want to conserve it for the benefit and appreciation of all Malaysians. Our motto is, ‘to know nature, value nature and act for nature’.”

> Besides photography and bird-watching, the other “special interest groups” in MNS are the marine, path finder, caving, nature guides, flora and fauna and green living. More information on each group’s activities is available at

May 19, 2011

Birds of Kenong Rimba Park, Kuala Lipis, Pahang, Malaysia

Covering an area of 121 sq. km south-west of Taman Negara, Kenong Rimba is situated in natural surroundings with cascading waterfalls, mountain streams and a variety of flora and fauna. It offers great adventure such as exploring limestone caves, river swimming, camping and jungle trekking. Spanning across the Kenong Valley and Sungai Renong, Kenong Rimba Park shares a common eastern and northern boundary with Taman Negara.

Kuala Lipis is 171 km from Kuala Lumpur. Both bus and taxi services are available. Rail services link Kuala Lipis from both Singapore as well as from Kuala Lumpur. 

My mind was focused in the search for avian life forms here. I had 3 objectives to achieve on this trip. To digitally record the Green Broadbill, the Asian Paradise Flycatcher (white morph) and the Hornbills. I achieved 2 of the objectives. The mission to get the Asian Paradise Flycatcher have to wait for the next opportunity. Anyway 2 out of 3 isn't all bad. It's better than good. And add all the 'bonus' birds in between. Can't complain really. :-)

In total 36 species were either photographed, sighted or heard. Here are some species which were sighted and photographed.

       Green Broadbill, Calyptomena viridis, 15 - 17 cm (Male)

      Green Broadbill, Calyptomena viridis, 15 - 17 cm (Female)

       Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leaucophaeus, 25.5 - 29 cm

       Black and Yellow Broadbill, Eurylaimus ochromalus, 15 cm (record shot)

       Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, 16.5 - 18.5 cm (Female)

         Blue-winged Leafbird, Chloropsis cochinchinensis, 16.5 - 18.5 cm (Male)

       Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker, Prionochilus maculatus, 10 cm  

      Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Dicrurus paradiseus, 30-37 cm

       Grey-cheeked Bul Bul, Alophoixus bres, 21.5-22 cm

      Oriental Magpie Robin, Copsychus saularis, 19-21 cm

      Raffles Malkoha, Phaenicophaeus chlorophaues, 35 cm (Male)

        Raffles Malkoha Phaenicophaeus chlorophaues, 35 cm (Female)

      Black and Red Broadbill, Cymbirhynchus macrorhynchos, 23 cm  

      Black and Red Broadbill's nest

        Red-eyed Bul Bul, Pycnonotus brunneus, 19 cm

      Red-throated Barbet, Megalaima raffesii, 25-27 cm (Male)

       Red-throated Barbet, Megalaima raffesii, 25-27 cm (Female)

       Streaked-earred Bul Bul, Pynonontus blanfordi, 17.5-19.5 cm

        Common Tailor Bird, Orthotomus sutorius, 11-13 cm

       Yellow-vented Flowerpecker, Dicaeum melonoxanthum, 13 cm

        Plaintain Squirrel


       Black Hornbill, Anthracoceros malaynus, 76 cm (Female) ( record shot ) 

I would not hesitate to recommend Kenong Rimba Park to birders or pure nature lovers!. Cheers!