Thursday, 31 July 2014

Qi Gu Sandbar

It's about the right time of year to start looking (hoping) for unusual terns that might pop up on sandbars. With a couple of typhoons 'around' (though not directly affecting here), I made the first of what will probably be many visits to the Qi Gu sandbar this morning. Only the usual suspects were present, with some allowing a close enough approach to take a few snaps of. Below are adult and juvenile Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii, with most of the adults still in summer plumage (top), and Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii (bottom), with a winter-plumaged adult and juvenile Greater Crested Tern in the background.


Other familiar faces on the sandbar were Common Tern Sterna hirundo, Black-naped Tern Sterna sumatrana and Little Tern Sternula albifrons. Nothing quite as exciting as last year's Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis which turned up at about this time, at least not yet!

All above photos taken Qi Gu, Tainan County 31/7/14 (except for Sandwich Tern taken on 14/7/13).

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Hyaline Dusk-hawker

I couldn't find the hoped-for Little Dusk-hawker Gyncantha saltatrix today at Qi Pi, though some are around now as their 'season' is beginning. Hyaline Dusk-hawkers are easy to find and common, though. Below are male (top) and female (bottom).


All photos taken in Xin Hua, Tainan County 27/7/2014.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Bukit Fraser (7)

Our final morning at Fraser's Hill began with an obligatory second look at the Malayan Whistling Thrush, which again showed well in its preferred gully and at the roadside.


After taking a few more shots for the scrapbook, we began our descent towards Kuala Kubu Bahru and KLIA2, stopping for a bit of roadside birding along the way. Again, as we got lower, the birds began to change, with one flock incorporating Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler Pomatorhinus montanus, Rufous-fronted Babbler Stachyridopsis rufifrons and Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher Culicicapa ceylonensis, none of which we had seen higher up and hence all new for the trip. At this same roadside stop, a tremendous loud honking noise was coming from somewhere high up on the hill around the next bend in the road. Intrigued, I went for a look to see what was making all the commotion and was gob-smacked to see two truly enormous Rhinoceros Hornbills Buceros rhinoceros sitting in a tree high up on the mountainside.

I had really been hoping to see some of the giant hornbill species on this trip, but sadly these two flew off shortly after having discovered them. These birds, then, constituted the final lifer for the day, and for the trip, bringing the total for the day to 5, which all came from the one spot (these being Rhinoceros Hornbill, Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher, Rufous-fronted Babbler, Chestnut-backed Scimitar-Babbler and Grey-breasted Spiderhunter Arachnothera modesta), and for the trip to a whopping 121, and serving as a further reminder that it may have been profitable to have spent more time lower down. My own total trip list for the nine days stood at a very credible 178, but could obviously have been even higher (and I did miss at least half a dozen birds that were seen by other members of the group). A link to my full trip list is given below:

Malaysia: Kuala Selangor and Fraser's Hill (July 2014) Trip List: Click here

The drive back to KLIA2 was pretty straightforward and presented no problems, which was fortunate as we had to attempt it without a map. We arrived at KLIA2 with plenty of time to spare before our late afternoon departure back to Taiwan, plenty of time to practice perfecting the forbidden manoeuvre (bottom left) posted on the back of bathroom doors and to wonder about just what kind of visitor this place was expecting!

Above photos taken at Bukit Fraser, Pahang Province, and en route from Bukit Fraser to Kuala Kubu Bahru and KLIA2, Selangor Province 20/7/2014.

Bukit Fraser (6)

For our final full day at Fraser's Hill, we decided to descend in altitude again to the Raub Road as this road had been so productive the evening before. We stopped to look for hornbills, the only family of birds to have completely eluded us on the trip so far, at a more open area lower down on the New Road, but were to fail to connect with any. Grey-rumped Treeswifts were perched up as it was still early, though, which made them a bit easier to deal with.

Exploring the area more fully on foot brought a prize all of its own: Silver-breasted Broadbill Serilophus lunatus. Two parent birds were found feeding a chick which had fallen from a nest right next to the road.


A stop at the first gully with a small stream in it in the direction of Raub produced a fine selection of birds, including Asian Fairy Bluebird and Brown Barbet. Here, I was also able to get record shots of Buff-rumped Woodpecker, Red-throated Barbet Megalaima mystacophanos and Gold-whiskered Barbet Megalaima chrysopogon.


We returned to Fraser's Hill for lunch and had a quick look in the valley opposite the food court. The by now familiar assemblage of birds was still present, with Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush popping up for one final photo opportunity.

In the evening, we returned to Gap Resthouse, where one or two Rufous-bellied Swallows were sitting above one of the windows. A brief stroll up the first 500 metres or so of the Old Road brought Black Laughingthrush Garrulax lugubris, more Crimson-winged Woodpeckers and brief views of a Buff-necked Woodpecker Meiglyptes tukki. Again, the assemblage at this altitude was vastly different from what we had so far seen, and we somewhat regretted not having spent much time here.


Gap Resthouse again had Malaysian Eared Nightjars at dusk, and several drongos (Greater Racquet-tailed Drongos) feeding by flycatching mid-air in amongst the swift flock. Whilst I have seen drongos do this regularly in various places, I hadn't expected this behaviour to be shared by Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris, but at least one was joining in the feeding frenzy! A Black-thighed Falconet and a Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot also sped through the area before dusk. On our return to Fraser's Hill, the Brown Wood Owl also showed up again for at least its second night in town. This bird was well worth another attempt at getting a better photograph.


The final full day of the trip brought a further 8 lifers (these being Square-tailed Drongo Cuckoo, Gold-whiskered Barbet, Red-throated Barbet, Buff-necked Woodpecker, Silver-breasted Broadbill, Large Woodshrike Tephrodornis gularis, Ashy Bulbul Hemixos flavala and Black Laughingthrush), and an even longer stay would have certainly added quite a lot more, especially with much of the lower slopes of Fraser's Hill down towards Raub left unbirded or birded in only a brief way. Even with a giant tally of lifers from the trip, I felt pretty sad to be leaving and would have happily stayed on another week or so. I have no idea how just two or three days on an organised tour can be sufficient to bird this really impressive bird-rich area. All above photos taken at Bukit Fraser, Pahang Province 19/7/2014.

Bukit Fraser (5)

With Mr. Durai having informed us that the Malayan Whistling Thrush could prove quite showy as late as 9:00 AM, we had breakfast in the hotel before heading out to post number 10 and setting up shop. Half an hour or so waiting at the pagoda proved fruitless, so I went for a closer look at the small stream. As I drew nearer, a thrush-sized bird flew across the gully in front of me before heading down the gully towards the road. It soon popped up on a branch above my head and could clearly be seen to be Malayan Whistling Thrush! A short while later it was at the roadside looking for food in the leaf-litter, quite oblivious to my presence.


It started to become more elusive towards 9:00, so we took the decision to pack up and start heading down towards Gap before the day got too hot. En route, we picked up a few raptors, including an adult Rufous-bellied Eagle Lophotriorchis kienerii which was already quite high, and a somewhat odd-looking Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhyncus. A variety of swifts (Grey-rumped Treeswift, Silver-rumped Needletail, Germain's Swiftlet, Glossy Swiftlet Collocalia esculenta) were also buzzing around lower down on the New Road, but they were way too fast for my cheapo camera to handle.


The area around the Gap Resthouse was again quiet, so we decided to try even lower and eventually drove all the way down to Raub. There were few bird stops on the way down, but a shaded gully with a large stream in it gave us an opprtunity to look at a few dragonflies, and a few were also present at the roadside as we left the forested area. Below are Ochraceous Gossamerwing Euphaea ochracea, an unknown small gomphid and Orange Skimmer Orthetrum testaceum.


Also hanging around this small gully were several Black-crested Bulbuls and a new flowerpecker for the trip, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker Prionochilus percussus, with only the bulbuls allowing any sort of approach.

The return drive from Raub proved to be much better for birding, with Whiskered Treeswift Hemiprocne comata and Black-thighed Falconet Microhierax fringillarius seen in the lowlands before entering the forest, with only the treeswift in any way 'showy' (and the falconet nothing more than a distant speck).


On the climb back up to Fraser's Hill, Red-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis amictus and Black-and-Yellow Broadbill Eurylaimus ochromalus were found, again both specks, together with three new bulbuls for me (Spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotos erythropthalmos, Buff-vented Bulbul Iole olivacea and Streaked Bulbul Ixos malaccensis). I was somewhat surprised by how shy these forest bulbuls seemed to be (being more used to 'showy' urban bulbuls), but there was no shortage of them (of at least some kind) whenever we met bird flocks. The way to bird this road is just to keep stopping whenever you hear bird noises, which makes for a slow but rewarding climb back up the hill. Just before the Gap Resthouse, we also found a Crimson-winged Woodpecker Picus puniceus which seemed to have staked out a particular hole for the evening.


The Gap Resthouse had at least four Malaysian Eared Nightjars Lyncornis temminckii flying around it towards dusk, but this would not be our only night bird. One of the biggest treats of the trip was the Brown Wood Owl Strix leptogrammica that decided to come to the centre of town and pose at ridiculously close range on our penultimate evening, seemingly uninterested in the small group of photographers gathered around it.

Brown Wood Owl is the only resident bird in Taiwan that I have thus far failed to see. It has eluded me for so long that I scarce believed they actually existed, so I was delighted to catch up with one here, and especially to see it at such close range. The bird also bumped up my lifer tally to 16 species for the day (these being Rufous-bellied Eagle, Brown Wood Owl, Malaysian Eared Nightjar, Red-bearded Bee-eater, Brown Barbet Calorhamphus fuliginosus, Crimson-winged Woodpecker, Black-thighed Falconet, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot Loriculus gulgulus, Black-and-Yellow Broadbill, Spectacled Bulbul, Buff-vented Bulbul, Streaked Bulbul, Asian Fairy Bluebird Irena puella, Malayan Whistling Thrush, Crimson-breasted Flowerpecker and Little Spiderhunter Arachnothera longirostra) a welcome return to form after the previous day. A close encounter with two Wild Boars Sus scrofa on the walk back to the hotel added yet more excitement to the day, probably the best one of the holiday. All above photos taken at Bukit Fraser or on the Raub Road, Pahang Province 18/7/2014.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Bukit Fraser (4)

With Jeriau Waterfall having offered a range of species sufficiently different from those on offer at Fraser's Hill the previous afternoon, we elected to try the same spot early morning on our third full day in the mountains. This proved to be a pretty good decision, as it produced our first 'showy' Red-headed Trogon, a nice male, that could be seen by everyone.

However, the diversity at the waterfall seemed to be somewhat lower than on the previous afternoon, so I moved to a more open area (further away from bees) to wait for raptors and other soaring birds as the morning got hotter. This produced a closer Blyth's Hawk Eagle, two Indian Black Eagles Ictinaetus malayensis and more Rufous-bellied Swallows, amongst other things.

We left the area late morning and returned to Fraser's Hill. After a brief visit to the clinic for some antihistamine and pain killers for my now balloon-shaped hand, we birded a couple of familiar spots such as the small stream at the upper gate, but failed to add anything new to the trip list (though that small valley was full of birds). Actually, my two 'lifers' for the day took the form of 'retro-ticks', birds from previous days that I had just figured out what they were. Firstly, Lesser Racquet-tailed Drongo (all without rackets at this time of year, so a bit like Bronzed) and, secondly, Buff-breasted Babbler (so nondescript it lacks any identification features of note). So, in actual fact, the lifer count for the day was an astonishing (after previous days) 0! With the sun out, Fraser's Hill seemed decidedly quiet this afternoon, although some birds, such as this White-throated Fantail Rhipidura albicollis, were clearly enjoying the heat.

We returned to town early in the evening to chat with Mr. Durai, who kindly gave us details of where to find 'easy' Malayan Whistling Thrush at Fraser's Hill (at the small stream behind post number 10 on the road between town and the horse paddock). With Malayan Whistling Thrush being my main target bird for Fraser's Hill, I was quite happy to call it a day early evening and head for bed, optimistic that the next day might offer more in the way of lifers and that my hand might also get a bit smaller. All above photos taken at Bukit Fraser, Pahang Province 17/7/2014

Bukit Fraser (3)

Our second full day at Fraser's Hill began with an attempt at Malayan Whistling Thrush Myophonus robinsoni near the upper gate. At this we drew a blank, but added Slaty-backed Forktail Enicurus schistaceus and Streaked Wren Babbler Napothera brevicaudata for our efforts, both of which were too active for me to photograph well. A Streaked Spiderhunter provided some consolation and, back at the food court, a Lesser Yellownape was being rather more showy.

In the afternoon, we opted to change venue and drive the Waterfall Road to Jeriau Waterfall. The change in altitude brought with it a change in birds, with Greater Racquet-tailed Drongos Dicrurus paradiseus becoming rather common. We also ran into a few awkward (too active) Sultan Tits and awkward (too active) Ochraceous Bulbuls Alophoixus ochraceus on the drive down.


At the waterfall itself numerous birds were added, including Blue-winged Leafbird Chloropsis cochinchinensis, Banded Kingfisher Lacedo pulchella, and we were able to enjoy more prolonged views of a pair of Rufous Woodpeckers, though everything unfortunately was miles away.

Other goodies added, but either not photographed or photographed very poorly, included Dusky Broadbill Corydon sumatranus, Red-headed Trogon Harpactes erythrocephalus and Chequer-throated Woodpecker Picus mentalis, and I bagged a further 15 lifers from the day (these being Blyth's Hawk Eagle Niseatus alboniger, Brown-backed Needletail Hirundapus giganteus, Red-headed Trogon, Banded Kingfisher, Chequer-throated Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis, Buff-rumped Woodpecker Meiglyptes tristis, Dusky Broadbill, Bar-winged Flycatcher-Shrike Hemipus picatus, Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo, Ochraceous Bulbul, Dark-necked Tailorbird Orthotomus atrogularis, Streaked Wren-Babbler, Slaty-backed Forktail and Blue-winged Leafbird). However, it was nature of a non-avian sort that would most mark the day for me, on various counts. An exceptional treat at the waterfall was a small group of Siamangs Symphalangus syndactylus which crossed the path (in the trees, obviously) just in front of me, the one mammal I had really been hoping to see at Fraser's Hill. Later in the day, a Siamese Peninsula Pit Viper Popeia fucata at the roadside also provided some entertainment.

Unfortunately, I also picked up my obligatory holiday bee sting at Jeriau Waterfall, which would mean the remainder of the trip would have to be handled with a painfully swollen hand, occasional tired spells and frequent trips to the bathroom with diarrhoea. I am allergic to bee stings and never react well to them, but the associated complications that came along with this one was quite a new experience!

All above photos taken at Bukit Fraser, Pahang Province 16/7/2014.