Mike Birder - Malaysian Birds

Hi

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 January 2017 my countdown of lifers photograph has reached
473/668 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 now in hand ; the weight over my shoulder is much lighter now.

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 . 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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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

AVIAN Birding Site 2/10 - Bukit Rengit Lancang Pahang


Bukit Rengit off   Lancang  Exit from Karak-Kuantan highway is an alternate birding site you can go besides Merapoh Pahang. At times this place have many lifers to offer. It is about 45mins to an hour from Gombak toll to Lancang toll. You have to pay 3 tolls totalling RM25 two ways beside petrol RM35 for 200km unless your car is frugal and driving at 90kph. So it is wise to carpool. I prefer to drive and I usually leave it to my buddy to treat  lunch and breakfast. Win-win ma.

Please take note there is a certain stretch of winding road after the Karak toll  can be quite treacherous when wet. In one incident  a Singapore birder AlexT who was following me to Krau has the misfortunate to hit the centre barrier while manuevering the bends. It is best to remind you to slow down to 70-80kph there. I have seen a new BMW 530 series with all its ABS EBD & ESC tech but still  went off the road because of speeding. Some says these dastardly tow truck syndicate do pour diesel before the rain comes on these roads as they wait for accident to happen there. So be warned.

Buff-eared is a rarity here
Dollarbird is seasonal
Long-tailed Parakeet usually can be sighted in the  higher canopies


Scarlet-rumped is a "sure see"
Nowaday with WAZE just input Deerland Lancang and you are good to go. Funny I overlook to bird at Kuala Gandah where KG Elephant Sanctuary is located. This is further in  from the T junction turn off to Deerland/Krau.  It should be a ideal place to bird. Maybe we can get the Fire-breasted FP with the many flowering and fruiting trees there. I would review this birding site a rating of  4/5  safe. However there are kids on bikes prying the road. Since birding here I have yet to hear any theft or car break-in.

Anyway here is my take in the month of May 2016.
The female Diard's

The handsome male Diard's

 Bukit Rengit is aptly called the land of Trogons because all the lowland species of the cinnamon, scarlet rumped ,diard's and the red-naped can be sighted along the entire stretch of the road leading to Krau forest reserve.

The female Orange-bellied Flowerpecker
Ferruginous Babbler
Bukit Rengit is also called the Land of Babblers the lowland species of cause. The rarity one is the Necklaced which I sighted only a few times. The active period is in the middle of the year.  My hope is to see the Grey-breasted my last babbler lifer here if not it will be to Borneo.


                                                  The yellow bellied bulbul is one of the largest you can see here                                                                                                     

                                                                                         
The Chestnut-breasted Malkoha is always the busybody here in Rengit. the Raffles and Red-billed are the other common ones here too.


Some  dream birds that you can  see here is the Gould's & Javan  Frogmouth,  Giant Pitta (sighted but no photo), Thick-billed Spiderhunter, Large WrenBabbler, Banded Pitta , Black Partridge (sighted but no photo), Rail Babbler,  Necklaced Babbler, Crested Jay, Fireback Pheasant and Slaty Woodpecker. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

SPIDERHUNTER 6/7 - Spectacled Spiderhunter

Again left out another lifer bird from my bird library so posting it now when I wanted to update the the record. This pushes my lifer bird photos to 455. Still a long way to 500.


The spectacled is almost similar in features with the Yellow-eared except its is slightly broader and larger at 22cm. Its yellow ear is not as droopy but flanged to the side /top whilst its beak is definately broader. The yellow eyering definately more prominent and thicker. I also notice the greyish throat is more uniform and not streaky like the Yellow-eared.


The Spectacled Spiderhunter (Arachnothera flavigaster) is a species of bird in the Nectariniidae family.It is found in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. You can see regularly see it in Lancang, Taman Negara and Sg Congkak. It the largest spiderhunter and the largest representative of its family.



So now I need to find my last spiderhunter ie no 6 the Thick-billed Spiderhunter ..............fellow birders please contact me if you see one or know of any location closeby to see this bird. The common sighting is in Sepilok and a record sighting in Bukit Rengit in 2007.....

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

HORNBILL 10/10 - Plain pouched Hornbill


Plain pouched hornbill is almost similar in features as its cousin the Wreathed Hornbill except its jugular pouch is plain lacking the black streak as the latter. The casque is also has no corrugation as the Wreath.  It is supposedly smaller that the wreathed. The female has a blue pouch whilst its male has a yellowish jugular pouch.

HORNBILL 7/9 - Greater Hornbill

 
Greater Hornbill
There were a threesome family which flew pass me on the way to Bkt Tinggi at 7.30 am Luckily they perch at a forest tree curious seeing my red car. Only managed a few shots before they again flew off to their next destination. The blue hue of the sky make my shots a bit over expose.....but heh it a lifer for Merdeka day 2008


ID its wings features against Craigs fieldbook. When the flap their wings their is resonant sound "kwehkwekwekweh....."



HORNBILL 6/9 - Helmeted Hornbill


  Helmeted Hornbill

Heard its gibbon-like call (comprising of hoots followed by its unique laughter ) umpteen times but the montane forest of Genting is so vast. This time took my chance to wait for it at an opening under the cable car line and kept my fingers crossed. With a slight movement at the far side about 1.5 km away my bird luck came but I only manage a few flying shot. I believe there is a pair of residents here in Awana most probably a breeding parent as recorded by Mike Chong.

The Helmeted Hornbill is a large bird in the hornbill family. It is found in lowland forests, up to 1500 m of peninsula Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. It lives in a pair in upper canopy of tall trees, mixing with other hornbills, pigeons, and primates in major fruiting tree. Voice is a series of identical, loud, hollow took notes, gaining in speed before drawing to an amazing climax of maniacal laughter, tee poop notes.

It has mostly blackish plumage except that the belly and legs are white and the tail is white with each feather having a black band near the tip. The tail is long and the two central tail feathers are much longer than the others, up to 1 m, giving the bird a length up to 160 cm, the longest among hornbills. The body length is 95–120 cm (38–47 in). Males weigh 3.1 kg (6.8 lbs) and females weigh about 2.7 kg (5.9 lbs).

This species has a bare, wrinkled throat patch, blue in females and red in males. The casque goes from the base of the bill halfway to the tip, where it ends abruptly. It and the bill are yellow; the red secretion of the preen gland covers the sides and top of the casque and the base of the bill, but often leaves the front end of the casque and the distal half of the bill yellow. Unlike other hornbills, the Helmeted Hornbill's casque is solid, and the skull including the casque and bill may constitute 10 percent of the bird's weight.

This bird eats mostly fruit, especially figs like this ones. It may also use the casque as a weighted tool to dig into rotten wood and loose bark in search of insects and similar prey. Unlike many fruit-eating hornbills, it is sedentary and pairs maintain a territory. Males fight over territory on the wing, ramming each other with their casques.


HORNBILL 5/9 - Oriental Pied Hornbill

 
Oriental Pied Hornbill
Small (75 cm), black and white hornbill with a large yellow-white casque. Plumage black except for a white patch under the eye, white lower belly, thighs, and undertail coverts, white tips to flight feathers and white outer tail feathers.
Iris-dark brown; naked skin around eye and gular skin-white; bill and casque yellow-white with black spots on base of lower mandible and front of casque; feet-black.

A conspicuous bird of lowland primary and secondary forests. It prefer more open habitat such as coastal and forest edge, clearings and secondary forest than other hornbills. Found in pairs or noisy parties, flapping or gliding from tree to tree.is omnivorous, taking fruit, fish and small mammals. Figs form an important part of their diet and contribute to 60% of their diet from May to February, the non-breeding season and during breeding (March to April) up to 75% of the fruits delivered at the nest were figs. I have sighting in Kuantan Cherating beach, Bkt Rengit,Bidor and very common in Pulau Pangkor.


HORNBILL 4/9 - Black Hornbill

 Black hornbill

Looks like the Oriental Pied which are commonly found in Perak state. The distinguish mark is the Horn which entirely white whereelse the later horn/casque have a black marking

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Avian Photo Gear Review - Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR (Part 1)

  Launching of the new Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR  in the month of January 2016 receive lukewarm reception amongst birders. At the same time the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm F4-6.3 ASPH Panasonic FourThird system was also launched whilst the Olympus 300mm F4 was launched but yet to reach our shores. So now birders have a cheaper and  wider choice of bird photo gear to choose from.

  If you are not into Fuji system I doubt a person will fork out RM15,000-17,000 in total to change his gear.  I am a Fuji guy besides owning a Canon setup; so forking out another few grands is still ok. You must have read many good review already of this XF lens but is it good for birding.

  The latest June 2016 retail price have dropped to about  RM7,500.00 from its launched price of RM8,500.00.  I was offered  this XF lens almost brand new at a price that I cannot refuse. Its portability was what enticed me to purchase as I do travel overseas and I would not want to lose the opportunity to shoot birds with a lighter set up whilst on the move  overseas.


This XF 100-400mm lens supposedly one of the sharpest telephoto lens ever make by Fuji. The only birding buddy that I know who is using this Fuji  setup (X-pro2 body) is Dato Foo SL. He has high praise for the lens. Unfortunately he do not blog nor have a facebook account for you  to really appreciate the quality of his bird photos. Mindfully he is in his 60s!!! Usually he shoots in jpeg at a speed TV180-250 at high iso upto 12800.  He did commented that the focussing in low contrast subject is an issue as well as close up. I seen some of his photos which are cropped because of the distance  in  low light; the feather details of the subject bird is mushy or flat. Nevertheless its is still acceptable for lifer records.

 The features that many reviewer  like about this lens are:-
1. Light weight and compact size at 1.2 kg (1 ft length) which is good for holiday photography cum birding excursion on the side like me. With the XPro 2 and the coming XT-2 attached it is  just about 2 kg load only which  is really portable and can be handheld without tripod. In my case I still would use a light weight monopod like Sirui or Manfrotto.

2. The short length of the lens (less than a feet) can be pack away in your hand luggage when travelling. That is a tremendous plus point.


3. Coupled with its 5 stops OIS you can shoot from the hip. Meaning at maximum reach 600mm (35mm equivalent); you can shoot at low speed of  Av 1/30-60! & you can still manage sharp and detail bird photos. Further more Fuji-tech on  noise/resolution control allow you to shoot at higher speed of 1/500 -2000 at ISO6400-12800.

The Bad side of Fuji XF 100-400mm and X series bodies  mirrorless setup for birding:

Dislike: What I do not like is the collar stand which is a bit miniature and do not balance well with any of its X-bodies thus the hood will always touches the ground. 
Dislike: You got to have extra battery pack on standby as one battery allows you to take only 250-300 pictures.

Scenario 1: So far I tested the lens AF with my X-E2 it tends to hunt in close quarters of 10 ft or so (full frame). At time you have to manual focus. As mentioned in low contrast subject or back light shooting you will encounter focussing issue too. In the case of the Javan Sparrow if you focus on the uniform body the focussing will hunt.

Scenario 2: In low light condition and shooting bird the size of  banana in the distance with heavy foliage or obstruction in between the bird and the camera; the Fuji setup is totally hopeless even if you can manual focus especially handheld. Current  resolution of  my X-E2 EVF make  visualisation through the eye piece from a distance beyond 30 ft 7.5m impossible for me.

Conclusion 1:  Shooting in open ground, perch setup or bird in flight (BIF) the setup is perfectly suited and have no problem at all. Shooting on the move in jungle low light environment you may miss some lifers due to hunting focussing amongst the foliage clutter background.

Conclusion2:  Mirrorless EVF cannot beat DSLR's OVF in term of focussing and visualisation.

Wish List:
1. What I would like to see from Fuji is that EVF or the LCD screen can be digitally zoom in 2X- 4X like the Canon 7D (LCD screen with mirror lockup) which can help focussing  in a way of small birds in the distance. I find it useful  to get  sharper bird pictures for distance of  50 ft out . I am surprise that this feature is missing still for such an advance camera maker. 

2. I will hope for a longer reach of a XF300-600mm f4 lens will be most suited for birders who usually shoot from 60ft -90ft range.

3. Another wishful thought is whether  Fuji can include the algorithm of a bird silhouette or any subject for that matter be recognised by the camera focussing system. How nice if we can input a picture of a particular bird we are hunting which the camera can recognise.


            Below are some photos shot from Fujifilm XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR


The Javan Sparrow in clear background is perfect situation. Notice the smooth bokeh background
Fuji X-E2  Jpeg Speed Tv1/250 Av f5.6 Iso 1600 Distance 25ft 7m Crop 30% No enhancement


If the body have some contrast like this Sparrow focussing is dandy and fast enough.

Static bird - Blue winged Pitta in open ground is a sure thing.
Fuji X-E2  Jpeg Speed Tv1/180 Av f5.6 Iso 1600 Distance 25ft 7m Crop 50% Enhanced to suit
The White bellied Woodpecker was shot at a distance of 50-60 odd ft amongst heavy foliage. Handheld. Managed a few good shot   as the focussing struggled amongst the foliage. If the subject is hyper active the chance of shooting will drop to 0%  not because it is not sharp but difficulty in getting the bird into sight &  focus. Cropped 30%.
All  the above birds are taken handheld. The White bellied was shot at Tv1/125 Av f 5.6 Iso 1600


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Avian Sighting - White-tailed Robin (Female)

Female White-tailed Robin as far as I know is most shy. But in the month of June 2016 I managed to see it come out to feed on moths on the trail path up in G. Brincang Cameron Highland. The male was also seen but even more skittish and it kept its distance 100ft away.

Photo taken at a distance of 40ft trying out the  new handheld gear of the XF 100-400mm OIS combined with my old Fuji X-E2 body (400mm 1/180 f5.6 iso1600). I sure the output can be improved with the new X-Pro2 or X-T2 bodies.

ROBIN 2/5 - White-tailed Robin

White-tailed Robin

At first thought it was a Large Niltava after comments from fellow birders and reviewing photos from Oriental Bird Club which have the features and size of the specie but still sceptical cos the coloration of the bird was not true. I do agree with its whitish spots and lame dark feathers it is likely a juvenile or at the stage of moulding to adulthood

And then Tou Jing Yi did a thorough review in his field guide and suggested that it most probably a white tailed robin. It is in the same family of forktails sharmas and nightingale and is common in Montane evergreen and bamboo overgrowth areas above 1000m. It is one of the larger robin 20cm native to Peninsula


UPDATE :

In June 2016 I was in Brincang again to look for lifers. This time I managed to see the Female in the open. It was hunting for dead moths along the road side. The Male is also around. Some what they are very skittish and you have to shoot from afar. Later at the peak saw an orang asli with a lastic (hand catapult) at the stretch where I last saw the Male. I gave him a stare to tell him off.




Sunday, 10 July 2016

CUCKOO 13/15 - Rusty-breasted Cuckoo


I realised I yet to post it from my library of birds. In any case I got the opportunity to shoot the bird again in Ipoh with my good Ipoh  friends Lean, Ooi and new acquintaint John. This is  a resident bird in Malaysia as well as southern Thailand Singapore and Phillipines and Indonesia. It is less common seen than the Plaintive Cuckoo.


This is an adult male whilst the female have a bit of  barring to its chest

The cuckoo looks almost alike its cousin the Plaintive but if you start comparing  you will see
1. Both have yellow eye-ring but the Rusty have more distinctive yellow eye-ring.
2. Grey top from head to the upperparts for the plaintivie  whilst the Rusty has a rusty creamy front from its chests to its underpart. 

3. One is often seen perch in  open plain and suburbs garden areas and the other prefers  in jungle fringe in shady tree canopy.
4. The Plaintive is rather quiet in nature whilst the Rusty-breasted is most vocal in its territorial calls
5. Size wise the Plaintive is much slimmer and the Rusty is a cm longer and bigger.



Monday, 4 July 2016

AVIAN Call - The Silver-eared Mesia chattering

video

The birds are so tamed here at Jelai Fraser's Hill that they can literally feed from your hand. The Silver-eared come close to arm's length from where you stand.