Monday, December 22, 2014

The Wonderful Wildlife of Langkawi

It was such a bonus that the venue of the recently concluded 5th Asian Bird Fair in Langkawi, Malaysia was such a birdy place! Not only the Oriental Village in the Geopark itself, but also our hotel!

I got my first lifer in our hotel, the Alia Residence Business Resort, just after breakfast on the first day of the bird fair. Some Common Mynas (which were indeed very common there) were feeding on the lawn beside the pool. I was able to snap a few shots before boarding the bus!

Common Myna

All the participants were shuttled to the Geopark in a bus and as soon as we disembarked, we spotted a pair of Spectacled Langurs (or Dusky Leaf Monkeys)! They were feeding nonchalantly on a tree in the parking lot, much to my delight and of the other participants as well!

Spectacled Langur
This is one monkey I can really call cute! =)

I had to tear myself away from the monkey as we all had to setup our booths! The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines' (WBCP) booth was located beside a big tree and as we were setting up, sunbirds came to forage above us! We saw Olive-backed Sunbirds and Brown-throated Sunbirds!

When the booth was all set-up, Andrew S. approached us and, since we weren't on booth duty yet, gave us directions to a place where we could go bird and try to find the Brown-winged Kingfisher. Within a few minutes, Jun, Christian, Jops and I were on a short trail just adjacent to the fair grounds. The trail had a small stream running along one side and a fenced construction site on the other side. 

Jops and Christian on the trail

Not so far in the trail, we spotted a small flock of Greater Racket-tail Drongos. These are beautiful glossy black birds with long rackets on their tails! They flew gracefully from one side of the trail to the other, their long tails flowing behind them

Greater Racket-tail Dorngo
Quite challenging to photograph it showing its rackets very clearly

The drongos were flying very close to a small group of Spectacled Langurs. We later found out that these two species really go together, warning each other of nearby threats, particularly raptors. Cool!

Suddenly, Jops announced that he had spotted the kingfisher! The four of us stood side-by-side, peering into an opening in the foliage by the banks of the stream, and looked at a big kingfisher with a yellow head and bright orange bill. There was some debate until later that day on whether the bird had blue wings or brown! But later on, as a larger group went back to the trail to find it, it was confirmed to be the Brown-winged Kingfisher.

Also seen on the trail was a Pond Heron, which would fly over the stream and perch conspicuously before flying off again.

Pond Heron

We headed back to the fair grounds and participated in the different activities going on. In the afternoon, it was Christian, Jops and my turn to man the WBCP booth. I was seated in the booth and as I was talking to Christian, who was standing, I saw a huge bird fly overhead! Oriental Pied Hornbill! This had most of us running (and leaving the booth unmanned for a few seconds!) towards the wire fence overlooking the other side of the road where a pair of hornbills decided to have their afternoon snack! How awesome was that?!

Oriental Pied Hornbill feeding on fruits

After quite a while, the hornbills eventually retreated to the denser part of the trees to rest. When the hornbill-induced excitement died down, we weren't left bird-less. A Brahminy Kite decided to soar overhead. It was like that during the bird fair in Langkawi. Sometimes, it was a White-bellied Sea Eagle flying over the booths! And true to their name, the Common Mynas were indeed a common sighting in the Geopark =)

More Common Mynas on the roof of one of the stores near the booth

On the second day of the bird fair, most WBCP members were shuttled in a van and we made a quick stopover en route to the Geopark to tick off the handsomely-colored Red-wattled Lapwings. They were just standing on a grassy field near the road!

Red-wattled Lapwing

I didn't participate in the ABF's mini-bird race as I accompanied Katherine, a new friend I met from the Malaysian Nature Society, to the trail because we both wanted to see the the Brown-winged Kingfisher. We reached the end of the trail, but didn't see the bird. We did see some Monitor Lizards and even an Oriental Whip Snake! Thank you, Katherine, for warning me about it!

Monitor Lizard
Oriental Whip Snake

The only birds we saw were the Greater Racket-tail Drongos and a huge group of Long-tailed Macaques blocking our way as we headed back out! We had to hold on to some sticks as we passed them, "just in case."

That's like 1/4 of the whole group that blocked our way!

We exited the trail and went back to our respective booths (Katherine was doing face painting!) Jops and I attended the International Ecotourism Forum and I gave a short talk as representative of the WBCP. Afterwards, we walked back to the booths and birded in the surrounding area. 

Near the creek, we saw some Spotted Doves, a Striated Heron, and another lifer: Red-eyed Bulbul! I sat on the edge of the small open area and one of the shop owners sat beside me and we started chatting about the birds she sees there. I asked about the Brown-winged Kingfisher and she told me in detail how she would observe it fishing for food and then perching on the tree beside us every afternoon. Wow! I still had a chance to see and photograph it!

We explored a little more of the area and saw a Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker and an Orange-bellied Flowerpecker on a low aratiles tree,

Docu-shot of the Orange-bellied Flowerpecker

When the flowerpecker flew off, we heard the kingfisher! It was by the stream! After some searching, we spotted the handsome Brown-winged Kingfisher, perched out in the open, obliging us excited birdwatchers =)

One of the highlights of the 5th ABF!

It was such a great thing to see the kingfisher so close to the fair grounds allowing almost all the delegates to see and photograph it! I was also very happy that Katherine got to see it too after our dip earlier that day =)

After the rush of the bird fair and the birding that accompanied it, it was time to relax a bit in our hotel. The mudflats just behind the hotel had lots of Lesser Sand Plovers and Striated Herons! Among the birds were huuuge mudskippers!

Just one of the many, huge mudskippers! =)

There was also a number of noisy Black-naped Orioles and a solo White-throated Kingfisher that came in while we were having our leisurely breakfast.

White-throated Kingfisher,
quite different from what we have here in the Philippines

As another added bonus, a couple of Oriental Pied Hornbills also flew in while we were having our breakfast. We got to show them to the other guests of the hotel who were having their breakfast too =)

The hornbills didn't come out into the open for a good photo,
but they stayed for quite some time =)

Soon, it was time to leave Langkawi. It was great discovering the wildlife during the three days we spent there and we still have so much to see! It's a great reason to go back again =)

Next stop: Fraser's Hill!!!

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