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 April 2018 my countdown of lifers photograph has reached
494/688 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 now in hand ; the weight over my shoulder is much lighter now by 30%.

I am a weekend birder. Do feel free to drop me a line at mikebirding@gmail.com and I see whether you can tag along in my outings. 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 Jeram side of the coast . Overnite trip to Merapoh & Cameron, Air Hitam and further north to Kuala Sidim is a seldom affair but for lifer we travel. 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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Sunday, 25 December 2016

STARLING 5/7 - Rosy Starling

Another lifer 466 in Bandung Indonesia when I was visiting the place.

It is a myna-size starling with pinkish plumage, blackish head, wings, tail and vent. Juvenile has pale sandy greyish-brown upperparts with darker wings and tail, paler underparts and yellowish bill. Rosy Starling are vagrant migrant and   rarely seen in Peninsula thought there are common record sighting in Singapore as their last stop. There is sighting in Chuping Perlis as recent as December 2016. There is also regular sighting as down south to Kuala Gula. In India or Sri Lanka there are gregariously aplenty

The bird prefers open fields, shrubland and coastal bushland. They often feed insects  on the ground level amongst mynas and other birds  

Do you know that - In Xinjiang, China, farmers used to use insecticide to eliminate locust, which is costly and polluting. In the 1980s, experts found that rosy starlings which fly to Xinjiang farms and feed on locusts could be used for control instead. The experts begin to build artificial nests to attract rosy starlings, an effort reported to be so successful that the number of locusts was insufficient to feed the birds, causing many juveniles die for hunger. By the 2000s many Xinjiang farms greatly decreased the usage of insecticide. 

Thursday, 22 December 2016

GROUND BIRD 10/16 - Green Peafowl

A lifer in Bandung Java.

The green peafowl was widely distributed in South East Asia in the past from eastern and north-eastern India, northern Myammar and southern China, extending through Laos, and Thailand into Vientnam, Peninsula Malaysia and the islands of Java. It is hope that perhilitan repopulate these beautiful birds   also called Java subspecies  to Taman Negara amongst the Argus................

In peninsula it is a difficult bird to see and thought to be near extinct but apparently   there still are unconfirmed sightings in Southern Thailand and border still. Green peafowls are found in a wide range of habitats but in Malaysia they should be in only in primary forest,  away from human disturbance. Proximity to water appears to be an important factor.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

THRUSH 8/10 - Dusky Thrush

Dusky Thrush has a dark brown back and rump; the face, breast, and flank spots rump are black and the belly and undertail are white. Naumann's thrush in comparison has a paler brown back and head; the face, breast, flank spots and rump are reddish, and the belly and undertail are white. The female is fairly similar to the male, but immatures have a weaker patterning. The male dusky thrush has a simple fluted or whistling song.

This species is strongly migratory bird, wintering south to southeast Asia, principally in China and neighbouring countries. It is a rare vagrant to western Europe. The first and last sighting of this bird in Malaysia was way back in  December 2008 somewhere in Fraser Hill.  It is rare to see this migrant winter visitor than the orange-headed thrush here in Peninsula Malaysia.

I got my lifer in Kobe Japan in one of the many park there . I was lucky to see it  and manage some shots with my telezoom  Fuji XF100-400mm which is my  companion during my holidays overseas when there be chance  for birding on the side.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

WATERBIRD 54/60 - Common / Eurasian Coot

The coot breeds across much of the Old World on freshwater lakes and ponds. It occurs and breeds in Europe, Asia ,Australia, and Africa. The species has recently expanded its range into New Zealand. It is resident in the milder parts of its range, but migrates further south and west from much of Asia in winter as the waters freeze. 

Coot is the common name for any of the medium-sized, duck-like aquatic birds comprising the genus Fulica of the rail family Rallidae, characterized by typically dark plumage, toes that are lobed with a membrane, a dark head with a short, wide beak that in many species extends from the base to the forehead as a prominent, flattened, fleshy frontal shield or other decoration on the forehead. Coots have predominantly black plummage, and, unlike many of the rails, they are usually easy to see, often swimming in open water. They are close relatives of the moorhen. They are eleven extant species

In the case of Malaysia Coot is a rarity to see and considered a vagrant. The last visit recorded was in Feb  2010 in Papar Sabah. The one that I got was shot on the river in the middle Kyoto city. That day I did not bother to bring my telezoom EF100-400mm so i have to rely only using my Fuji XF18-55mm  lens for crying out loud. The Coot came near to 20 ft from the river bank so I was fortunate to get some record shots. Well a lifer is a lifer.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Avian Sighting - White crowned Hornbill

The majestic hornbill high up the conifer. Today the pair was a bit cautious of of us and stays a bit higher in the canopy. My Fuji XF100-400mm  had a hard time getting a full frame shot at the distance of 100m out.  However my XT-2  24 mp sensor still manage some good details of the bird  even after cropping to 3.5mp.

Surprise ........ this is actually  my first time seeing a pair of mating birds in the natural habitat. The last I shoot this bird was in the infamous tiger sanctuary in Bangkok which is now defunct that was  a few years back.

Met my good friend Danny in Nuang  who also bird alone like me. He says he had waited 10 years to shoot this elusive bird. Well that the thrill of birding that worth waiting for. The ficus nearby is riping which the hornbill do feed on them.

Monday, 28 November 2016

WATERBIRD 53/60 - Malayan Night Heron

I have  been looking for this lifer in Sg Perdik since 2 years back when it was sighted  there. The  bird has been a frequent  visitor to Penang Botanical Garden. I did not manage to get some free time to fly out there then.  Once I heard of the news of the latest sighting in November 2016 at my doorstep of Hulu Langat  a 40 minutes ride from KL I did not hesitate to try my luck to see this rarity. This one I saw is a Juvenile. The immature is greyish-brown above with black and white spots; underparts are buff with brown spots and bars. An Adult mature Malayan Night-Heron is  about 47 cm in length.  The crown is black, with black crest extending to the nape.  The upperparts are dark reddish-brown with fine streaks.  The eye ring is light blue.  Wings are black, fading outward to reddish-brown.  Primary feather tips are white.  The face is reddish-brown; the chin and upper breast are paler.  The yellowish-brown breast has a central row of black streaks.   During migration you seldom hear their usual call which sound like  "oo  oo" ?

The Malayan Night Heron is a  species inhabit wooded streams, marshes, swamps, ponds and lakes in subtropical and tropical jungle forest. They are partially migrant from India or North-east Asian countries. In Peninsula Malaysia it can be sighted in jungle fringes over shaded grassland near shaded marshes, streams. They are nocturnal bird. It is solitary forager that feeds by walking slowly at the edges of water, fields and other feeding areas. Most observations are of its feeding in the open, but it is likely it feeds primarily unobserved under cover. In feeding on earthworms, it probes them from the soil.   

Malayan Night-Heron is a shy, rare bird.   If in alarm state i t defends itself with raised crest, open wings, and stabbing at the opponent. During the day, it roosts well hidden in reed, bamboo, and other dense vegetation. The diet is little studied. It eats terrestrial food, particularly earthworms and beetles but also mollusks, lizards, frogs, rarely small fish. 

The winter visitor tends to stays awhile at a place if food is abundance. With the rainy season here in Selangor I am sure there are plenty of grub of frogs crickets and grasshopper and earthwork here so I believe it will stay put for some time unless it is too disturbed. 

In some places Malayan Night-Heron is also known as Tiger Bittern. I really wonder why they are called Malayan Night Heron whilst they are not resident here. pondering...........

Monday, 14 November 2016

SWIFTLET 5/7 - House Swiftlet

 Calling Sifu Tou...............

A pair of swiftlets in my residence carpark in Kl. It used to be a clayish mud nest but this time round it is made from straws and feathers. The whitish rump is the give away of a Germain's Swiftlet as compared to the Edible-nest Swiftlet.

They will only rest after dusk and afternoon if not they will be sallying around for insects.

SWIFTLET 4/7 - White-bellied Swiftlet

 It is also called the Glossy Swiftlets which I posted already. This colony is in Colmar Resort Bukit Tinggi in the carpark ramp. They make a mess of the place and the shit is piling. No maintenance cleaning le. 

Thier nest is not edible so do not harvest them Saw some visitors trying to do just that .

SWIFTLET 3/7 - Mossy Nest Swiftlet

Found in caves of Borneo. Living amongst the bats in Deer cave Mulu. A very tiny bird. Looking at its nest built on the limestone ridges of the cave wall.

SWIFTLET 1/7 - Asian Palm Swiftlet

 The Asian Palm Swift is a small swift. It is very similar to the African Palm Swift, and was formerly considered to be the same species. It is a common resident breeder in tropical Asia from India to the Philippines. This is a bird of open country and cultivation, which is strongly associated with Oil Palms. No wonder in Malaysia there are aplenty.

This 13cm long species is mainly pale brown in colour. It has long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or a boomerang. The body is slender, and the tail is long and deeply forke, although it is usually held closed. The call is a loud shrill scream. Sexes are similar, and young birds differ mainly their shorter tails. Asian Palm Swift has very short legs which it uses only for clinging to vertical surfaces, since swifts never settle voluntarily on the ground. The down and feather nest is glued to the underside of a palm leaf with saliva, which is also used to secure the usually two or three eggs.

These swifts spend most of their lives in the air, living on the insects they catch in their beaks. Asian Palm Swifts often feed near the ground, and they drink on the wing.

SWIFTLET 2/7 - Edible-Nest Swiftlet

 Argh the Edible Nest Swiflet. This is actually in Puri Hotel in Melaka heritage row. You can see the translucent nesting made from the birds saliva savored by Asians.

The Hotel leave them be and place galvanised pan below to prevent a mess on their floor and picture frame. You can just walk in to see them the next time you are at Jonker Street area.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Avian Sighting - Banded Pitta (female)

This is a lifer in the sense the female BP though 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 other 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 Hawk cuckoo 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  having 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................