Birding at Panti, Malaysia

The calls of the long-tailed macaques echoed through the Panti forest in early morning left me with a sense of wonder, delight and curiosity as our car drove into the famous trail. It was very cool to see Hairy-backed Bulbuls, Grey-cheeked Bulbuls, Raffles Malkoha, Blue-winged Leafbirds, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, and even the Asian Paradise Flycatcher, etc., which are all lifers to me! But the prized find was the Rufous- collared Kingfisher, heard by my friend, Low! Here’s the video taken when it was calling. How cool is that? 😛

Prized find of the rufous collared kingfisher

Prized find – the rufous collared kingfisher

Another mega find was Black-backed Kingfisher! Though its a resident in Panti, this skittish bird is always in hiding. My friends know their birds and their behavior well and we got to see them in close view. 🙂

black backed kingfisher at Panti

black backed kingfisher at Panti

My friend, Low, was determined to find us a Broadbill and he did! There were more than 2 in the bird wave and it was truly exciting to see them since I missed the Black and Yellow Broadbill in Thailand some years ago..! *cough* Don’t you just love its bill? 🙂

black and yellow broadbill in Panti

black and yellow broadbill in Panti

Last but not the least, Panti has a cave that houses bats! Its always cool to see them as I love bats too! 🙂

hairy-backed bulbul and blue-winged leafbird found in birdwave

hairy-backed bulbul and blue-winged leafbird found in birdwave

And here’s us! 🙂

P.S. Lots of leeches but I was not targeted! 🙂 with my friends

Leeches Anyone?

To be honest, though i’ve seen leeches before, I’ve never really come face to face with one until I was taken to a place called Panti in Malaysia. According to fellow birder friends in Singapore, Panti (located in Malaysia, 103o 54.00′ East  1o 50.00′ North, an hour’s drive from Singapore) is a huge forest reserve which comprised of lowland and montane forest and swamps and rivers.

My friends, Wong and Jon came to pick me in early morning to beat the traffic and busy immigration checkpoint. When we arrived at Panti, the environment was hot and humid. We got off the car and started walking some side trails. At the trail, I saw Toshio wearing leech socks…and there he was plucking leeches away from his socks. “Leeches here?” I asked. “Just as long as you don’t walk off trail, you’ll be fine!” said Wong confidently. I took my chances and bet my luck on it.

As we continued our walk, there was still no sign of any birds. “Today is a tough day. We’re here for 2 hours and I havent seen a bird yet” I said. Jon replied “I am going to call the Scarlet Rump Trogon“. He then played the bird call through his phone…and soon enough the birds responded! Not just 1, but a pair!

Female Scarlet Rump trogon…

The male scarlet rump trogon came!

Back view of the female scarlet rump trogon

Both birds were very friendly, and just as I hate to leave them, I was determined to find the bird whose call  resounded through the forest! I trekked towards the direction of the call, and used my lens to try to search for it. Very soon, I spotted the bird in a non gaudy costume. 🙂  I quickly took some shots, and it certainly looked like a drongo…but which one? When I went back, I asked my friend for help with the bird I.D. and it was identified as the Crow Billed Drongo!

crow billed drongo

It was nearly mid-day and we were about to leave when Jon saw the Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher fishing by the stream. It was hard to take a photo given to the tough environment (excuses!) But I am happy 😛

oriental dwarf kingfisher

And off we go! While we were talking about where to go for lunch…I suddenly felt something very very cold falling out of my sleeve! I couldnt help but to scream! But my squeal was soon overlapped by the screeching sound of a Lexus car. “What?? What happened?” asked Wong nervously. Wong was so shocked that he nearly lost control of his car (sorry mate!).  I looked down onto the floor…it was a huge and fat leech! Urgh, the blood sucker took so much of my blood! I was no longer in the mood for any feast, but to go home and check for leeches. I did find another blood sucker in my shoe! Leeches anyone?

Barred Eagle Owl

Many friends have posted the Barred Eagle Owl and it appeared that this owl is a resident in a Golf and Country Club in Malaysia! Because I wanted this so badly, Wong and Jon took me to the resort to get it. While I have my breakfast, Wong and Jon searched the grounds…but with no avail. 😦 I left with disappointment and vowed to come back soon.
When I returned to Singapore again, I asked another good friend of mine-Low to check if the owl has returned. His reply, “okay, 99% still there. If its not there I will wear an owl costume and appear in front of you”. The assertiveness in his answer gave me confidence, and so we made a trip to the resort once again! By the time we’ve arrived at the resort it was almost mid-day and so we quickly made our way to the back garden. There was a gardener there watering the plants. Low spoke to him and the gardener pointed at a tree close by.Low looked up and signalled me to set up my gear!! I could feel my heart thumping hard. “This is it!” I whispered to myself with excitement… When I was ready to take some photos, we found not 1 but 3 barred eagle owls!!! There was a juvenile with its parents standing on their own favourite perch on the same tree! I almost squealed with joy but taking a decent shot of any of those owls was a challenge. They all perched high on the tree with branches and leaves almost covering them. Low and me spent over half an hour running around the tree trying to get the best spot! And guess what-we did!!! Second time’s the charm for this highly soughted owl!


Adult barred eagle owl


barred eagle owl juvenile!!

Easy Birding in Langkawi- Day 3

No bird trip is complete without taking the boat ride in Langkawi! We 3 musketeers (Indera, Riz and I), took on a boat trip which covered the renowned Kilim Park. We boarded our boat at the Kilim pier and quickly head off into the mangroves.  Whilst I was trying to stabalise my tripod (it’s my first time photographing on a boat!), Indera spotted a Black Capped Kingfisher! I have seen black capped kingfisher before, but never so close! The boatman was obviously a pro. He silently manouvered the boat to the
hungry bird (feasting on crab) and we were so close to it that I held my breath, fearing it would fly away!

Black capped Kingfisher with its breakfast!

As our boat moved along the river bank, we saw more dusky monkeys and mangrove pit vipers (yikes!!) hanging and dangling on trees. My fear for snakes was soon distracted when we spotted Common Kingfishers, Collared Kingfishers and then the endemic Brown Winged Kingfisher! Thank God for that!

Collared kingfisher at Kilim mangrove!

Brown winged kingfisher

As we make way to the raptors “feeding ground”, I saw a White Bellied Sea Eagle perching right in front of us. And as our boat swerved to a corner, I knew we’ve arrived at destination. There were other boats idling along the waterbanks… Several tour companies in Langkawi organise boat trips to this area to see Bhraminy Kites, White bellied Sea Eagles and other raptors; and to attract the raptors, chicken meat were thrown into the river (I personally do not agree to such acts, but for now, let’s set aside this sensitive topic!)

Obviously, both Riz and I were in awe. There were so many raptors- soaring in the sky, fishing in the water, and even roosting on trees! I quickly changed to my zoom lens 70-200mm, which turned out to be a good idea as the raptors were so close!

The majestic white bellied sea eagle!

Bhraminy Kite fishing!

White Bellied Sea Eagle!

It was truly an enjoyable boating birding experience. Here’s a pic of us on the boat!

The 3 musketeers!

For your information, the Kilim Park is one of the geoparks to be officially endorsed by UNESCO. Click here for more information.

Easy Birding in Langkawi- Day 2

Rise and Shine!! Today, my Malaysian friend- Riz, flew in from Kulua Lumpur to join me! We were met by Indera, whom I met on the previous night and was kind enough to take us to Gunung Raya. Before I came to Langkawi, I was told that this thick forest mountain, with dense tropical overgrowths is home to a variety of birds. So I guess this is a “must go” place for birders. As we start our elevation at 0730, the mountain was shrouded with mist. “Perhaps, I came at the wrong time?” I thought to myself. Indera seemed to have read my mind, “The clouds will soon be gone”, he said knowingly. And he was right. As soon as the mist starts to clear, bird calls soon came loud and clear and echoed in the mountain. Suddenly, there were birds flying in the sky, resting on branches and wires!  “Good grieve! Where should I begin?!?” I thought panickingly. While, Riz beckoned me to the branches full of Chestnut Headed Bee-Eaters; Indera was pointing at the flock of Great Hornbills flying, and I was eyeing on that Dollar Bird resting on the wire…

Dollar Bird!

A tree full of chestnut headed bee-eaters!

Great Hornbills! woohoo!

After we bagged a couple targets, we continued our elevation. While I was trying to make sense of what just happened, the car rolled to a halt.  “What is it?” I asked. “Viper on tree!” Indera exclaimed.  This is not good, I thought to myself ( my phobia sets in). While Indera and Riz were “engaged” in the reptile, Karim, our driver/birdwatcher spotted a raptor roosting on a tree. We quickly rushed to his position and luckily, all of us managed to get some shots before the raptor flew away. Indera quickly referred to his bird guide book. “Its a grey faced buzzard” he said in disbelief. It appeared that this raptor is a rare migrant seen on the island! Yay, to all of us!

Grey Faced Buzzard!

The mist starts to set in again, hence we decided to call it a day. As we made our descend, we saw this weird looking hornbill. According to Indera, that was a female wreathed hornbill! I was thrilled- my 3rd hornbill in just 2 days! What a lovely bird to end the morning trip!

Wreathed hornbill – looks evil to me~!

P.S. I have shared the wreathed hornbill with Guardian Post.