Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sri Lanka 4-16 Oct 2011

As with our previous trip to Sri Lanka, we arrived at Colombo airport at about 2 am and were met by Upali our guide from Starron Tours
Our group consisted of Bee, Gerard and ourselves who made the trip last year plus Janet, on her 1st visit. Upali had guided the four of us previously in August last year. As always Upali was full of energy and without much delay he had our group of five, plus luggages, loaded into our bus, helped by our driver Ranjan.
Then we were on our way to Habarana, our first stopover. During the 4-hour ride we all tried to grab a nap. We arrived at The Other Corner in time for breakfast. We were welcomed by the “brothers” who we had met during our stay last year. the food and service was, as usual, excellent. Sunrise is early at 5:45am and sunset before 6pm
For the next 4 days we birded around the area, taking in some of the tanks. One morning at breakfast a rare Blue-breasted Quail was spotted  but too quick a visit for photos except for “quick-draw” Bee who had some good shots.  There was a visit to Sigiriya Rock Citadel, where the fitter members, Gerard & Bee, climbed to the summit while we explored the vicinity. Highlight was a Crested Serpent Eagle 10 metres away perched on a low tree, and an even closer Coucal.
Crested Serpent Eagle
  Southern Coucal
Our next stop was Kandy, where we stayed at the Tree of Life for 2 nights and visited Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Udawattakele Forest Reserve and an evening visit for a cultural show. The weather was very dry and some migratory birds we had hoped to see seemed to be absent. One morning we did experience a bird wave that included some Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, minivets and other species.
It was then on to Nuwara Eliya, staying at Galway’s Forest Lodge for 2 nights. We birded around the Galway’s Forest National Park in the afternoon, followed by a pre-dawn trip to Horton Plain with a picnic breakfast. On arrival at Horton we saw the Indian Black Robin. Last year’s visit to Horton had been a short one due to mist and rain. We were glad we had the opportunity to enjoy the place. The weather could not have been better this time.
Indian black RobinSri Lankan White-eye
Yellow-eared BulbulGrey Tit
The afternoon was spent at Bomuru Ella Forest Reserve and a couple of evening waiting for a Thrush. 
Next morning was off to Embilipitiya and a jeep safari in Uda Walawe National Park.  We had visited Uda Walawe last so were prepared for a dusty bouncy ride. The water levels were very low but we saw many migratory birds including the Caspian Tern. It was an overnight at the Centauria Tourist Hotel where an Indian Scops Owl was roosting in one of the trees in the garden.Scops OwlIndian RollerAfter breakfast on to Tissamaharama and Hibiscus Garden Hotel, and another jeep safari, this time in Yala National Park, where catching a glimpse of a mother leopard crossing the track carrying a small wild piglet, and later, very good views of the juvenile leopard waiting patiently for its meal to arrive, with several jeep-loads of tourists, including ourselves, clicking away.Young Leopard Next morning as we had been lucky enough to have had excellent views of the Yala leopards, we decided on a jeep safari in Bundala National Park, a much less dusty and smoother ride. A Hoopoe was seen more than once skimming along in front of the jeep.
A couple of nights at Hibiscus and next day a long drive to the south through Galle where the devastation of the December 26, 2004 tsunami could still be seen in some abandoned houses which some owners could not afford to repair. There was a memorial to the lives lost when the train derailed and a mural of the incident was put up. Upali explained that Galle had its origin in the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus) the Portuguese had first seen on landing.
Our last evening was spent at the Hotel Tamarind in Katunayake near Colombo.
The following day the birding, in the hotel garden, went on right to the last minute and at lunchtime it was time for a quick drive to the airport and farewells to our guide and mentor, Upali and our excellent driver Ranjan, who was always in good spirits throughout the 13 days with us. Ranjan had been a radio officer at sea so has visited many countries including a couple of trips to Singapore many years ago.
Another excellent trip and we thank everyone for making it so. Ayubowan.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Revisit Mauritius 4–11 Aug 2011

Our previous visit was in July of 1993, so quite a bit of water has passed under the bridge since then.  Therefore we jumped at this opportunity to revisit when a birding buddy, PB, said she was arranging a trip with a friend, EK, and had room for two more.  We stayed at La Plantation hotel on the North West coast, not far from Port Louis. 
La Plantation Hotel
On arrival at the hotel PB arranged a rental car and the following morning we were ready to go with PB doing the driving.
The weather was mostly cool and dry with a little rain, mainly in the highlands.
Over the next 6 days we covered most if not all of the island.
The highlights were L’Aventure du Sucre, where we sampled all kinds of flavoured Rum, and of course, ended up taking some home, Madagascar Fody
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens
and a morning coffee with Rum, what else. The birds joined us for coffee although they seemed to be only interested in the different types of sugar on offer.
We followed up with a visit to the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Gardens where a Striated Heron was making full use of the Giant Amazon Lily pads to hunt on the lake surface.
We drove to Grand Baie for a late lunch and a bit of shopping.
The Black River National Park was our destination the next day where we were lucky to see the endemic Mauritius Kestrel as well as the Tropicbirds,usually,far away in the valleys.

Mauritius Kestrel
Next day was Chamarel, the Falls and the Seven Coloured Earth then on the to Gris Gris to see the Roche qui Pleure
A “must see” was next: We drove down to Mahébourg for a visit to Ile Aux Aigrettes and were lucky to be shown around by Hugo, a volunteer, on his last tour before returning the UK for Uni.
He showed us the endemic Mauritius Fody as well as the Aldabran Giant Tortoise, Gunther’s GeckoMauritius Ornate Day Gecko, Pink Pigeon and also the Mauritius White Ebony.
Mauritius Fody
It was a very good, if somewhat short visit. We continued on to Kestrel Valley which was previously called  le domaine d'Anse Jonchée.
We found it in the middle of renovations, but by good luck we ran into the manager, Dominique,  Dominique, being extremely hospitable, drove us around the area and explained their future plans, and even invited us in for a cup of tea before we left.

Village Weaver

Our next day was spent at Labourdonnais & The Black River Gorges.
The last day was a drive to Cap Malheureux and  Trou aux Biches, with a quick stop-off at L’Aventure du Sucre on the way.
It was a very full and enjoyable 8 days and some new birds were seen, Tropicbird, Fody, Kestrel and the ubiquitous Village Weaver were some of the 16 bird species seen on this “birding” trip.
Coin de Mire Island

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

From Pantai to Gunung – 3rd and 4th July

Sungei Balang Photos
An early start on Sunday morning and a quick drive to the rice fields of Sungai Balang for our first stop. After a short delay due to driving down the wrong track we were delighted to see the weavers and munias next to the ricefield. More than twenty species were spotted quickly as we moved along the bunds during the 2 hours that were interrupted by a rain shower.

Parit Jawa Photos
A short drive then took us to Parit Jawa jetty where, in between looking at shore birds and the fish being unloaded from the fishing boats, we managed to relax and have lunch.

Later we drove on to Seremban, checked into our hotel and proceeded to check out Telapak Buruk.
Telapak Buruk

As it was late afternoon,when we arrived at the base of Telapak Buruk, we only had time for a quick trip to the “near summit” at about 1150m.
As it turned out it was well worth the effort as we spotted a pair of Orange-breasted Trogons. The following morning we returned to Telapak Buruk for a more leisurely ascent. We heard many different birds calling but sightings were unusually sparse.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Travelling May & June!

We had little time for blogging during the May-June period. As we were either preparing to travel, travelling or recovering from the last trip.
As they say a picture can tell a thousand words, these must be be a few thousand.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thursday 28 April 2011 - Good Luck in Panti

An early morning drive into Johor for a visit to Gunung Lambak for a look around at this hill near Kluang.  Morning walkers were enjoying their trek up the hill while someone was exercising his vocal cords.  Jacky heard the calls of the Asian Fairy Blue Bird and after a short while we saw two birds foraging above in the Terentang trees.  As we watched these birds flying to a low bush a few times, we spotted they were nest building as they were picking up mosses from the trees.
Gunung Lambak Photos
After lunch in Kluang we decided Panti would be our next stop for a late afternoon check of birds.
Black-naped Monarch & Panti Photos

We arrived Panti at about 2:30 pm and heard bird calls.  Within a short time, Alyce spotted a nesting bird which turned out to be a Black-naped Monarch which is not common in the area and a locally threatened species.
We were able to observe the bird for quite a while as he seemed quite unconcerned with our attention.
To round off a good day, on our drive out of Panti, we spotted a flock of 7 Plain-pouched Hornbills overhead, flying in a northerly direction. Again, not a common sight so far south.  

Plain-pouched Hornbill

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

20-24th April 2011 Taiping (Raintown) & Ipoh

Maxwell Hill-remembered
A visitor to Taiping will find the town “olde worlde” as many of the “colonial” buildings are very much in use.   This old town with modern traffic is surprisingly easy to get around in a car inspite of having to negotiate “roundabouts” and wait on traffic when turning into side roads.  We came to Taiping for Maxwell Hill (now known as Bukit Larut) and on our early morning up the hill we saw our “silver” bird nesting right in front of us as we walked up one of the tracks
Silver-breasted Broadbill & more Taiping Photos
In town we met “Leong” at the Tourist information who told us the information office was just reopened a week ago and he shared some old photographs showing the “old” and the “new” Taiping with little change except for the “vehicles” found on the roads.  For more information check his FB site “Raintown Taiping” which he hopes will bring more visitors to his hometown.  We found the Lake Garden and the vicinity around worth visiting especially the Perak Museum, the oldest museum in Malaysia.  Of course Maxwell Hill is a must go for some cool air and this is also the first hill station built by the British.  You can get a nice view of “Raintown” from the top station after a 25 minute ride in a jeep for which you need to get tickets at the base office.
Blue Rock Thrush & more Ipoh Photos
Two days later we drove south to Ipoh on Good Friday.  There were a few places on our list to visit with a morning stop at the Kledang-Sayong Hill.  When we arrived at 9:30am we found people walking up while the early birds were coming down from their morning walk.  One of the walkers told us it takes 2 hours to walk to the summit.  We were a little late for the birds but checked out the road to the summit.  While we heard the bird calls we spotted only a few. 

Collared Falconet & more from Kellie's Castle

We then visited a couple of the “Tong” (caves ), Ipoh is also known as “San Seng” meaning Hill City.  
In the late afternoon we visited the town (the old part and the new part).   We had been recommended to visit the “Kinta Nature Park” so on our 2nd day in Ipoh we drove early with the GPS coordinates to guide us.  

We found the park after a slow and bumpy drive on a dirt track next to a lake.  At the “park” we found lots of herons, storks and egrets among others, perched on trees in the islands in the lake.  Some people were fishing and nearby were several commercial duck farms and further on another track  some quarrying activity in operation.    In the late afternoon we drove to Kellie’s Castle and found a “Collared Falconet” perched on a bare tree, a lifer for us.   In the evening we went back to Ipoh town to check out the “Pasar Malam”, where we tried Ipoh’s  famous beansprout,  steam chicken and “Hor Fun” which was a tasty finish to our short holiday in the Kinta Valley.
More Kinta Photos

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Quiet Morning in Panti

Saturday we made an early start for Panti and arrived at 6:50 am, just as the sky was beginning to lighten. Together with Jacky and Lioe, we spent the morning covering most of the bunker trail, but unfortunately it was not a very productive morning. It seems the vehicular traffic has again increased, after a recent lull. Also there was indication of poaching.
Link to Panti Photos

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fraser’s Hill 22-25 March 2011

As we were lucky on our previous trip, we thought we would push our luck with a quick follow up. As it turned out we hit the jackpot and got our first ever view of the Red-headed Trogon on our last morning, along the Jeriau Road.
Red-headed Trogon

Green Magpie
The day before we had several interesting encounters, one of which was the very colourful Green Magpie.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Raptor Watch and more – Mar 13-15 2011

When we planned our trip to Port Dickson to experience the “Raptor Watch” organised by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) little did we expect the 3-day trip would be  more than a stay at PD.
Starting  early on Sunday 13th at 5.30am we drove to Yishun to pick up Lioe and Annie and as soon as we crossed the Causeway, the rain started.   The weather brightened up as we arrived at 10.30 am at Ilham Resort which was where the 12th Raptor Watch week-end event was held (  The Resort’s ground was full of activity with  exhibitor’s booths and a stage. There was information on the migratory raptors counted and announcements of the raptors sighted approaching Tanjung Tuan.  There were lots of visitors and we met a few birding acquaintances and went to explore the booths and did some “shopping” of bird watching equipment, books and souvenirs.
  Very soon we heard over the public address that raptors were coming in and over the next few hours we saw many Oriental Honey Buzzards (OHB) and other Accipters flying in, hovering above as they group up before flying on their way north.  We went up the hill to the Lighthouse and met more birding friends and also had better views of the birds coming in.   It is truly remarkable that these birds can be sighted at  this “Rachado” site on their way home from the south.    Last year the count was 73,152 raptors recorded for 43 days and this year, the organisers will continue to count their arrival until the 3rd of April 2011 so watch their website for updates.
Being new to the area we asked the MNS members for nearby birding spots and were given direction to “Telapak Buruk” an hour’s drive beyond Seremban.   This place proved difficult to locate and we failed on this first attempt on Monday, so we explored the kampongs nearby and got to see a Little Grebe and 2 Button Quails.


We returned in the afternoon to Tg. Tuan and birded on the trail on the hill which then led us to the Mangrove near the Rachado Resort. 
On Tuesday after checking out early, we went to look for Telapak Buruk again and found the entrance leading up to this hill for the submontane birds.   It was cool as we ascended the hill and we heard lots of birds calling and chirping in the forest on both sides.  We stopped at various heights and got out to look for birds. 
It was a surprise that it was so far up, as when nearing the top the GPS showed 1,200 metre.  Near the top a few Teleco masts are installed, with a military guard house at the top.  
Towards noon we descended and drove on to Muar for a late lunch and also to explore Parit Jawa.  We arrived Parit Jawa’s jetty at 3pm, and at low tide.  The flock of  Lesser Adjutants at the river mouth were feeding on the mud flats and terns were flying up and down with quite a few other shore birds around, but they were hard to ID from the jetty.
   As Lioe knew the direction to the padi fields at Sungei Balang which was nearby we left to check out this spot.   At 4.30 pm we arrived and saw a Black Shouldered Kite and many birds out for their evening forage.  We had never seen so many Baya Weavers among the scrub land next to the padi fields and the Blue tailed Bee-eaters perched on the bare trees. Two Black-capped Kingfishers were close by, as we drove along the bunds we also saw White Breasted Waterhens, Chinese Pond Herons and a Purple Swamphen busy feeding.   It seemed too soon and it was time to leave as the sun went down.   It was a long day driving but worthwhile discovering these 2 new locations for future birding trips.

More Photos

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday 7th March 2011- Morning Walk at SBG & Portsdown Road

SBG Album

Portsdown Road Album

Quick Trip to Panti –1 March 2011

An SMS from Lioe had us up early to Panti to meet up with his group.  We were the only 2 cars in the Bunker Trail that Tuesday 7 am.  While the weather was cool and overcast the bird population seems to be late in arousing from their slumber.   Early on the track Lioe spotted a dead Malayan civet which had a small graze wound on its front right leg.  On the ground there was only a tiny spot of blood on the soil so it was a mystery how it came to its end as it appeared young.
Malayan Civet
Lioe moved it off the track to avoid it being run over and sure enough we were soon disturbed by the rumble of 2 truckloads of lumber coming out, which surprised us as we thought logging had stopped. 

After 2 hours with little success on the main track we decided to move into the shrine track ahead of our friends which was a mistake.   We had missed the Scarlet-rumped Trogon which we would have love to see, it flew across in front of their car.   That means we must try Panti again.

White-bellied Woodpecker

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fraser’s Hill 21-24 Feb 2011

An even earlier wake-up call on Monday as we drove off from home at 5.50 am for the highlands.  There was almost no traffic towards the 2nd link and we cleared Malaysian Immigration at 6.20 am!  It was then an uneventful ride which brought us to the Gap at 12 noon.  We were the 2nd car in line.  Since we had an hour on hand we walked up to the hill side to check on the trees for birds.  Another birder was already there and we greeted each other but before we got to the introduction, a pretty bird caught our attention, it was the Crimson Breasted Flowerpecker.  We resumed our introduction and found that Mark is from MNS and was on his way to a workshop that MNS and the Tourism Office were conducting for the hotel staff on Conservation and the importance of birds to the tourist economy of Fraser’s Hill.  He was also expecting some other MNS members to attend the 2-day workshop.  We spotted a few more birds while waiting and Mark mentioned some places and birds to watch for.
Blue-winged Leafbird
He said he was going to look for the endemic Malayan Whistling Thrush near where we will be staying but he emphasised we must be early before dawn and we will need to use a hide or stay in our car.   No sooner it was 1.00 pm and the barrier was lifted for the up traffic (On this old one-lane road, odd hours reserved for the ascend and even hours to descend).   It was a 20 minute drive up the winding road and we arrived at Richmond House where we found we were the only occupants for the period.  The temperature was a nice cool 22 deg C perfect weather for walking about.  Although we heard that the week before it had rained heavily with some hill-slopes washed down, we were lucky there was only a drizzle early in the morning of Wednesday which did not stop us and other visitors from birding.   On this first late afternoon, a walk at Jelai Highland Resort was rewarded with  the Black-throated Sunbird, this being the only Sunbird found here.
Black-throated Sunbird
  The Streaked Spiderhunter was also easily seen feeding on the flowers.  We were thrilled to see a large blue bird and it was the Large Niltava on this first walk.   We saw a few Mountain Bulbuls that afternoon and on other days as well.  Next morning at 6.30 am we were out on the road and in the dark we saw another car coming down from the Selangor side, we recognised it was Mark driving.  As he approached we asked if we could follow him and he indicated for us pull up on one of the lay-bys.  We waited for the Malayan Whistling Thrush that he said was extremely hard to see but would forage on Jalan Mager before daylight.  As we waited past 7.00 am we left Mark and headed for Jelai since the house-keeper had told us to come at 7.00 am for the birds in the car park.  We were not disappointed as there were many birds feeding on the seeds of the trees and also the dead insects on the ground.
Large Niltava-f
   We went back again the next morning this time earlier and as dawn broke the birds were flying in.   In one of our walks along near the Methodist House we saw both the Greater and Lesser Yellow-nape Woodpecker and the Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo in the tall dense trees so images taken were not so clear.   At the various places we birded we would encounter the rather noisy Long-tailed Sibia and the Chestnut-capped Laughing Thrush and got to know their calls.  Even the lesser seen but more colourful Chestnut-crowned Laughing Thrush would also announce its presence.  We were lucky to see 9 new birds this trip.  For a couple of birds that we could not check from the guide book we had, we got their ID’s very quickly after posting the photo on the Bird Forum so thanks to quick response from the birding community we got all our photographs ID’d.   The lifers were : Siberian Thrush – male & female, Streaked Wren Babbler, White Browed Shrike Babbler – male & female, Mugimaki Flycatcher, Golden Babbler, Blue-winged Minla – male & female, Brown Shrike, Green Magpie and the Large Niltava – male & female.
Siberian Thrush-f
  This is our 6th visit to Fraser’s Hill since our first trip in 2009 and is our most rewarding trip having seen such beautiful birds on our own.  While it was quiet and not many visitors around we also have Mark to thank who gave us clues where to go.  Durei   was  also helpful telling us where certain species can be found.  On our last morning as we were driving out, the Siberian Thrush both male and female were right there on the ground of the car park so we had some good parting shots of our visit.
Siberian Thrush
  There are a couple of spots that we have no time to visit which we will check out on our next visit in 4 weeks time.

Large Niltava

Birdwatching at Dairy Farm - 20.2.2011

Last Sunday we got up early and were at Dairy Farm at 7.15 am to join Kim Chuah, NSS for bird watching.  Even at this early meeting time of 7.30 am there were more than 30 participants gathered to greet Kim Chuah and Wing Chong who assisted the walk.  He later spotted many of the birds we saw that morning.   The Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and Crow-billed Drongo being the first birds we saw.  The Scaly-Breasted Munia at the Education Centre kept the photographers clicking. 
Scaly-breasted Munia
We were then led on a trail to the Singapore Quarry and on the way the migratory Asian Brown Flycatcher and Tiger Strike were spotted.  We found we had a good workout as the walk to the Singapore Quarry was quite long.  On the way more birds were spotted but high in the trees.   On reaching the Singapore Quarry,  the Common Kingfisher was spotted.
Common Kingfisher

This bird is not common but a migratory species.   There were also the Olive-winged Bulbul flying about the trees while the Little Grebes were diving into the water at the pond.  Later a full view of the Grey-headed Fish Eagle perched on a tree waiting to take flight became the centre of attraction. 
Grey-headed Fish Eagle
   With these birds capturing the attention of the participants no one noticed the time until the heat reminded us it was time to go.   With a return walk to the Carpark B, it was almost noon when the event finished and time for a well-deserved lunch and thanks to Kim Chuah & Wing Chong.

Dairy Farm Album

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Rabbit Arrives

In the last week of January we made a trip to Lake Kenyir Resort & Spa hoping to see the many different species of Hornbill. The drive was much less taxing than anticipated and we were lucky with light traffic for most of the run.  We chose the route via Segamat to Terengganu and exit the  N-S highway at Yong Peng, this part of the drive was slower but was the scenic part of the 8-hour drive to Tasik Kenyir.  At this time of year we had expected rain and were not “disappointed”, the rain coming in short showers every 30 minutes or so with brief dry periods between. We still managed to cover a lot of ground and saw 4 species of Hornbills and lots of garden birds. On a trip with Latiff guiding, we saw the Wallace’s and Blyth’s Hawk Eagles and the Crested Serpent Eagle on its regular perch on a lamp-post near the resort.  He also found the White-Bellied Woodpecker that he had seen the day before, with its red head bobbing up and down as it pecked on a tree trunk.
Lake Kenyir Photos
Our return trip included a weekend stopover with friends in KL who later joined us in Singapore over the CNY.
KL Photos
After a busy period over the CNY, visiting and celebrating with relatives and friends, we slowly returned to visiting the wilder side of Singapore. We visited Lorong Halus after reports of sightings of Jerdon’s Baza but we seemed to have missed the boat although that Friday we were not alone as several photographers with their tripods and long lenses had already stood watch for the fly-past that did not happen.  We left for Pasir Ris Park to check the activity there.
Lorong Halus Photos

On one of our walks up Mount Faber we were surprised to see the dismantling of the two telecoms  towers near the Jewel Box.  One of the towers had served as the lighted “Christmas Tree” over Christmas and New Year,  making quite a sight at night, which we could see from our flat, we are glad we got a photograph of it.
Mount Faber Photos
Last Sunday we had a nice morning walk at Ubin up to “Pokka” Hill. On the way down we were lucky to spot an Indian Cuckoo perched above us.
Pulau Ubin Photos

Some more links to pictures from our walks in the past few days.
Telok Blangah Hill

Canopy Walk

Forest Walk

Pasir Ris Park