Mike Birder - Malaysian Birds


Welcome to my Malaysian Birding Blog. I migrated to blogspot.com as my blog at multiply.com closed shop in 2012. I wish to showcase all Malaysian birds that I have photographed whether here or overseas. My countdown of lifers started in 2005. As of July 2016 my countdown of lifers photograph has reached 456/668 species of birds of Malaysia.

My shooting gear are a EF400mm f4 DO lens and Canon 7D body which to me is the ideal setup for mobility and bird chasing. Eventhen the weight over my shoulder is more that 5.5 kg. As of June 2016 I have also acquired a Fuji XF 100-400mm OIS lens to complement my travelling cum birding trip overseas. The Fuji X-T2 is also on my mind in the near future.

I am a weekend birder. Do feel free to drop me a line at mikebirding@gmail.com or mikekanovest@yahoo.com if you like to tag along but I limit to a threesome. My usual day trip is just an hour ride away to Hulu Langat, Lancang Kemensah, Krau, Awana, Hulu Kali, Gombak Ole Road, Fraser's Hill , Bukit Tinggi and KSNP & Coastal Sg Janggut . Overnite trip to Merapoh & Cameron, Air Hitam and further north to Kuala Sidim is a seldom affair and when the family permit. Panti in Johor is another good birding site that I yet to go. Then there are the Borneo birds of Sabah and Sarawak of Malaysia which I seriously much go to chalk up more lifers

WARNING Birding is an addiction once you started its hard to stop. The wifey and children are now birding widow and orphan.


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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Avian Sighting - Banded Pitta (female)

This is a lifer in the sense thought I already got the male. The female Banded Pitta  has a  lighter barred breast from the Male.  My take of the  male Banded Pitta (  can be seen in my earlier post https://mikebirder.blogspot.my/2013/08/pitta-57-banded-pitta.html ) that was a few years back at Krau side which is  further in from Deerland Bukit Rengit.

This time round there is no need to hunt for the bird. It is a juvenile which just popped out  of nowhere at the spot of the MRB in the month of August 2016 from a successful breeding in June or so. It has now being a star bird here in Lanchang. I waited until its feathers are more mature before deciding to go and shoot this beautiful bird. Hope there will be more surprises popping out here in Lanchang. Who knows a Giant Pitta .................

All shots taken with Fuji X-T2 and the XF100-400mm lens. ISO on auto maxing @3200 for most of the shots in low light. Distance of shooting upto to 30 -70 ft. Shutter speed was as low as 1/15 because of the low light condition. The pitta remains static many a time for a moment for me to shoot at low speed. The mirrorless shutter also helps in the sharpness of the photo captured.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Avian Sighting - Red- throated Barbet

This medium size Barbet is common sighting in Bukit Rengit. The red patch of the Male bird totally contrast the Female which have a paler colors without a red throat but instead a yellowish green tinge. Photos shot with Fuji 100-400 XF lens with X-T2 body.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Avian Photo Gear Review - Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR & Fuji X-T2 (Part 2)

This is my second part of a Real-world review -  Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. This time with the latest Fuji X-T2 body. I preorder the body and it arrived in September 2016 for collection from my next door camera shop YLcamera Jaya33 Petaling Jaya. The body alone cost me a whopping RM6,750.00 with free 3 nos batteries and 2 nos 32gb Sandisk UHSII cards. So I won't be short of juice nor shots.

In the weekend of Hari Raya Haji I was up and ready to go and test the combination by shooting the hyperactive montane birds in Awana Genting. If you have shoot montane bird before you will know how challenging it is especially during a bird wave; birder would be happy to get 50% of his/her images  sharp even if you are using a DSLR camera.

I will be comparing it with  my experience of my ole faithful  X-E2 on  its AF responsiveness speed, ISO noise, ease of operation and  sharpness on the new 24 mp sensor against the 16mp sensor of the former.

The first birds  I saw on the start of the trail were  a Black-thighed Falconet high up  a canopy whilst the Streaked Spiderhunter and Grey-chinned Minivet were on the adjacent tree. The shots were about 90-100 ft high against the bluish clear sky in the wee morning at about 7.45am. The XT-2 Exposure Compensation dial comes into play without having to leave the viewfinder as you turn to +2 the dark  silhouette of the bird  get some details in the EVF.  Though the details is soft you can still  identify the birds.

Distance  of bird 150 ft away.  Tv 1/500 Av 5.6 Exp +2.0 ISO500 (Auto)
The third shot of the Black-browed Barbet was shot at a far distant of 150ft or so and  also against the harsh background. The 600mm reach is limited so I did not expect any sharp details but good enough as a record shot. The easy  turning the Exposure Compensation knob on the fly bring the bird into colors in the EVF instantly. This was a great help when shooting birds in such condition. The other winning feature of the X-T2 is the single press of the back command dial; the EVF Digital zoom of 2x and 4x comes into play which bring the bird into closeup viewing and focusing for far away birds without leaving the viewfinder. I think this is the number 1 winning feature for bird photography. Kudos to Fujifilm.

Coming closer to the shooting range  of 30-40 ft  - open perch like this Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush (which fill 1/3 of the height of the EVF frame) the X-T2 is just dandy and sharp. This is what bird photog wants .....counting feathers lol.

Good light and perched bird is not an issue even with my 2013 X-E2 body
But the  new improved 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor give more details and resolution for cropping and ISO control compared to  the ole X-E2.

The buffering between shots is fantastic upto about 8-9 shots when buffering Jpeg Fine+ Raw reading  which my X-E2 would struggled from one shot to the other.
Distance of shot: 30-40ft  Tv160 Av5.6 Exp +0.33 ISO640 (Auto) Jpeg Straight out from Camera

On the other  extreme - the Fire-breasted flowerpecker  picture below was a tiny speck  in the EVF frame  whilst shooting from a distance of 70 ft or so. I still manage to shoot it with the digital zoom of the EVF I can pinpoint the focus on the bird from the other elements in the frame. This is quite useful which many other camera may miss the shot.

Crop 50% shot from a distance of 70 ft.

It is open season for migrant birds arriving here in Awana in the month of September.  The Tiger Shrike is one the early bird to arrive  besides the grey wagtail which was also sighted here. Again shooting against harsh back light at about 80 ft. The X-T2 still manage to focus though not effortless.

The Blue Nuthatch is all too familiar in birdwave that you can encounter in Awana. There were at least 6 Nuthatches flying all over me as I concentrated on the nearest bird coming close to 30-40ft. Below was a juvenile and was been fed by its parent. that shot was triggered at Tv 1/500.

All the shots of the Nuthatch was taken at Tv1/160 Av5.6 Exp Comp 0 ISO640(Auto)
The Grey Minivet picture below (cropped 30% ) was blurred out  because at times the focussing fix to the more contrasting  element  in the screen bcos the bird is too far away ie the bright foliage. This is quite common still for  EVF viewfinder if the bird is far and the digital zoom not in used.

Cropped 50%

On the way out the Tiger Shrike once again appeared in front of me just 30 ft away. This time there is no problem in getting the shot except the harsh sunlight spoiled the picture.

The female Red-headed Trogon was a bit soft whilst shooting down the ravine at more than 100 ft away. The Jpeg picture is a bit soft not because of ISO noise but the limit/reach of the 600mm and cropping.

Fully cropped to 80% Tv1/60 Av5.6 Exp0.33  Iso1250 Edited
Actual framing distance of the Trogon @ 120 ft away

The Large Hawkcuckoo is another bird that is common to see here during the migration season. I manage to get the above shot even though there is clutter of foliage in front of the bird and the bright background thanks to the digital zoom feature in the X-T2. Usually as a birder we will try to show from the position when the bird is first sighted as any sudden movement to another position most often cause the bird to fly away. Slowly changing position to an opening position in low light condition I manage better shots at Tv1/100 Tv5.6 Exp 0.33 Iso1000 40 ft away.

My finding of the combination of the gears are as follows:-

120 ft
120 ft

1. I am very impressed with the improved focusing speed of the X-T2.  I can visualise the bird much faster  because of the brighter EVF resolution boosted to 2.36 million dots. It still lack behind Dslr optical viewfinder though marginally. Overall I manage a 50% sharp pictures out of the 300 shots during my half day outing as compared to 20% if X-E2 is used.

Not  because of the gear but the distance of the birds from me is beyond the 24MP resolution. It cannot churn out sharp photos  if the bird is more than 60 ft away. Here are 6 full frame cropped vertically of birds in the distance. The Chestnut-naped Forktail was shot wrongly @ Tv250 in low light and edited.




2. Low light focusing (like the LHCuckoo) as well as harsh lighting (of the Tiger Shrike ) condition is no longer an issue. At times you still have to  press a few times more to get the bird into focus.

3. The digital zoom upto 4x is a winning feature to overcome shooting in heavy foliage environment with manual focusing in hand I can now capture lifers in most of my shots as compared to 0% if the X-E2 is used.

4. For hyperactive birds that jump in and out of your focus I am very impressed the X-T2 focusing speed is good enough to  get the pictures (see Blue Nuthatch) whilst the X-E2 would had struggled.

In conclusion  I must say the combination of the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR  &  Fuji X-T2 is a potent gear for birding photography. I have changed my preception that EVF mirrorless camera  have no chance in shooting active birds. Now if Fuji can produce a 600mm f4 Telephoto lens at a price below RM10,000 I will invest in one just so I can reach the birds at 60-80ft range.

Latest announcement is that Canon is jumping into the bandwagon with the coming of the Canon M5 with a 24MP sensor. I did not upgrade my EOS 7D to the Mark II because the improvement is so little in terms of ISO improvement and sensor megapixels which  I think is important for bird photography. Maybe can consider this M5................

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Birders and Nature Lovers - HOTLINE On WildLife Crime

Here is a bit of info that everybody in our birding fraternity in     Malaysia should have in their handphone. Extracted from MNS. I hope the handphone number has Whatapps so that pictures can be sent as evident and to provide GPS/ Waze location for immediate action.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

AVIAN Sighting - Speckled Piculet (Female)

This only my  second encounter of this tiny  woodpecker in Genting Highland. This time is a female. It was following a birdwave of minivets ,golden babblers and other species which I did not bothered to identify as I was engrossed in shooting this  rare sighting.

 The female Speckled have a olived green forehead whilst the Male has a rufous to reddish one. you can see the Male in my other posting in "Piculet"

It was unfortunate for me that the bird was high in the canopy about 25ft. As the bird wave was travelling on along the hill slope and not the ravine.

For its size at about 4" its do not go for big trunk to peck for grubs but  twig size of less than an inche thick. I am very curious to  know its uncanny skill where to find grub in the branch....... until you see it pluck the larvae out you be amazed.

PRINIA 3/4 - Grey-breasted Prinia

My young sifu says it is likely the rufescent but I will still stick  to my id as the grey-breasted prinia. It is not recorded as a Malaysian bird in Robson's but Endemic Guide listed it as one.

The yellow color of beak tell you it is a juvenile or subadult.  I have compared to some pictures from "oriental bird club" images which kind of favor the latter. I hope to go and get better shot of an adult bird  to be conclusive.

The Rufescent Prinia usually have whitish uniform breast till the belly. At times its has buff  tinge to its body side.

 It also have distinct supercillum (eye-brow) which is not seen here.

Its mantle is not olive enough for a sub-adult Rufescent

Rufescent's tail has also pale whitish tip which is not seen here.

The contrast of the whitish throat and a grey banded breast  which is prominent in the photos points me to my conclusion.

I will leave it to the other expert says Thanks for viewing
The bird was shot in high elevation of 1000m in Bukit Tinggi Pahang

Monday, 15 August 2016

GROUND BIRD 9/16 - Ferruginous Partridge

The beautiful Ferruginous Partridge is back in the old hunt. Many of us birder (& birding starters) who missed out this rarity last year will be pleased to know that the bird is back. The bird is timid & skittish for the several days I was there. It would scuttered back into the undergrowth by the loud shutter clicks and worse  multiple flashing been used. We hope fellow birders do not use flash or play its call too often (Once in 30-45min). For the 3 days encounter with the bird it may comes out only once or not at all. If  it is not intimidated by us it may come out 3-4 times.

A hide will be preferred against camo netting as if its see any sudden movement behind ; it will get scared and it eventually will not show up for the entire morning later. Smoking is another deterrant  and we should refrain from smoking during the wait. Hide must be placed about 35-40 feet away and anything closer it will not frequent the open. Mind you the bird is always there and spying on us so it is best to stay quiet in your hide most of the time. The peak time for its appearance is from 7.15-8.45am. If it do decide to come out later than that will be a bonus!

So far fellow birders have been very cooperative in keeping the place clean by removing their own rubbish from the site. Keep it up guys. Good Luck and Happy Shooting.

And yes guys try to be early and set up before 6.30-7.00 am and not come later  and disrupt the peak hour shooting session (See above).  Go early to Colmar Resort reception to buy your bird pass at RM13 pax before the guard allows you to go up the hill. Staying in can go up free though.

The Ferruginous Partridge (Caloperdix oculeus) is a species of bird in the Phasianidae family. It belongs to the monotypical genus Caloperdix. It is found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests upto 950m . It is threatened by habitat loss. The only place I  know in peninsula Malaysia that it can be seen is  in Bukit Tinggi and it is rarity to see.

The male and female looks alike except the male has a overgrown spur or sometimes 2 spurs. The female have none or  single short one.

All photos were shot using ole faithful Fujifilm X-E2 and the EISA 2016-17 Best Compact System Zoom Lens; the  XF100-400mm OIS. I was shooting at low speed of 1/30-60 f5.6 ISO3200 for most of the  photos here. Again for birds in the open and BIF the Fuji set up is just dandy so much so this lens is a keeper . With the latest X-T2 coming I am drooling exciting .................... SL Foo what say you.
All photos are @mikebirder copyright