Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A visit to Penang Island and Seafood at Teluk Kumbar

Me and my better half took a break and headed down to Penang (Pulau Pinang ) for an eating trip with my old, old friends. We really ate a lot, but somehow i manage to squeeze in some bird shots from:

Gurney Drive - a popular tourist spot, is essentially a stretch of road with seafront view and a number of hawker stalls give a snippet of some of the delicious food that Penang) has to offer. (but please explore beyond this tourist trap lah !) I particular enjoyed eating in Pulau Tikus market area, well within working distance from Gurney.

At night, you might be able to spot lots of waders, black crowned night heron's, little herons over here as well !


Gurney Drive (At Night)

Gurney (In the Day)


Teluk Kumbar -located at the Southern tip of Penang Island (where the Bayan Lepas International Airport is located) is a rustic beachside area famous for its seafood and its fishing village.

The actual address of this place is Teluk Kumbar Sea-food, 84, MK9, Teluk Kumbar (04-6491403). It opens from 5.30pm till 10 pm.

The signature dish in my humble opinion is the mantis shrimp and the satay.

Teluk Kumbar

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sungai Buloh Wetland Reserve

Since Sungai Buloh Wetland Reserve (SBWR) was nearby and waders can be watched even during the noon hours, we swing by there to check out the waders. I was gamely rewarded with a couple of spots
1. Dr. Tony Tan Keng Yaw (former Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, current Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings) -lol, i know-not really a bird ! but a star in the political landscape.
2. Broad-billed Sandpiper
3. Red-neck Stint

The broad-billed and red-neck was spotted by more veteran birders and the SBWR staff who shared with me how to id and differentiate from the rest. As for Dr. Tony Tan, he was present for an event due to Singapore Press Holdings Foundation support of "Special projects to Understand Nature’ (SUN) club. Sun Club, a programme to bring nature closer to special schools, was first launched in 2006 and it is heartening to witness some its programmes still going strong 4 years on.

Spotted at Visitor Centre
Scarlet Flowerpecker, White-breasted waterhen

Spotted at Hide/screen 1.2
Common Redshank, Whimbrels

Spotted at Bird observation hide 1C
Broad-billed Sandpiper (3 no), Red-neck Stint (2 no), Whimbrels, Pacific Golden Plovers, Mongolian Plovers

I did take some pictures of the broad-billed Sandpiper and red-neck stint (but i do not have a good optical zoom camera and the digital zoom causes pixalisation, but neverthless able to id them among the rest). 
Broad-billed Sandpiper (side profile)

Broad-billed Sandpiper (with supercilium visible)

Description: 18cm , Stint-like, but larger and longer bill. Tip of bill is kinked down. Grey above with white split supercilium.  White below with lateral breast streaks.
Red-neck Stint

Red-neck Stint

Description: Cute and fast moving ! (lol) .15cm in size. Short bill. Breeding mode- rufous from crown to throat and upper breast.

And finally, the othe star of the day, Dr. Tony Tan

Dr Tony Tan with NParks staff

Dr Tony Tan (with red tie)

Previous post:
A visit to Kranji Marshland
A visit to Kranji Marshland -Part II

Kranji Marshland - Part II

 A lovely walk in Kranji Marshland, brought many wonderful surprises that emphasised the beauty of nature that we need to take our time to enjoy and most importantly protect and preserve. The Nature Society, Singapore has taken that step by adopting and rehabilitating some areas surrounding the reservoir. We need to build on that momentum and continue to pressurise the government to stop further development and future golf courses in the reservoir area.

Baya Weaver nest

Black-naped Tern

Black-naped Terns

Kranji Reservoir
Black-naped Terns are a joy to watch especially when they do their dive bombing to feed on schools of fishes. I guess this birds were so well liked, that they appeared on the $1 note bird series first featured and released in 1976. I took several pictures of this terns at the Kranji Reservoir and the reservoir itself is providing for the wildlife surrounding it which should be preserved and conserved and not developed further for "golf course development"

Purple Heron

Albizia Trees

Friday, September 24, 2010

A visit to the Kranji Marshland

Its 24th Sept and i am on leave the next couple of days. Before catching a bus to Malaysia in the evening, decided to visit the Kranji marshland bund. This is an area adopted by Nature Society, Singapore to conserve what little left of marshland in Singapore.

Getting there
A cab or car required. After Kranji Road (Kranji Reservoir), travel along Neo Tiew Road. On your left, you should be looking out for Neo Tiew Lane 3. Drive in and park along there before continuing your journey on foot. See Map.

Brown Shrike

Birds spotted

  1. Brown Shrike
  2. Purple Heron
  3. Lesser Flameback Woodpecker
  4. Black naped Tern
  5. Common Iora
  6. The walk
  7. Purple Starling (Adult and Juvenile)
  8. Black naped Oriole
  9. Olive Sunbird
  10. White breasted Waterhen
  11. Blue-tailed Bee-eater
  12. Common Kingfisher
  13. Collared Kingfisher
  14. White-throated Kingfisher
  15. Koel (Female)
  16. Creasted Serpent Eagle
  17. White creasted Laughing Thrush

More pictures and story coming up !

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review: Birds of Perak -Peninsular Malaysia and where to see them

Recently, my friend loaned me this book to read and after a couple of days going through....i told myself, i should write a "book review" or summary about it and share it with like minded readers. Well here it goes:

White crowned hornbill
Published in 2006 by the Malaysian Nature Society, Perak Bird Group, this book was made possible through efforts of a number of like-minded "bird people", banding together to photograph, video record and most importantly share their passion and the places they discovered their "1st loves"in the state of Perak.

The book is layout based on the broad category of 5 major bird habitats where this birds are spotted. Accompanying it are photos, maps on how to get there and finally a checklist of sites and the likely birds you will see there.

I summarised below the sites based on their assigned habitat categories, the location you should be heading to.

Mangroves, Coast and the Sea
  • Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary
  • Kuala Sepetang Eco-Education Centre
Lowland Rainforests
  • Ulu Kenas,Terong Water Intake, Ulu Sungai Guar -all part of the Bubu Forest Reserve
  • Burmese Pool, Taiping
  • Jalan Sumpitan, Bintang Hijau Forest Reserve
  • Temengor, Belum
  • Piah Forest Reserve
  • Sungai Wildlife Conversation Centre, Sungkai
Montane Rainforest
  • Maxwell Hill aka Bukit Larut
  • Pos Slim
Freshwater Wetlands
  • Bidor Ex-mining lands
  • Malim Nawar Wetlands
  • Kinta Nature Park, Batu Gajah
  • Pondok Tanjong Forest Reserve
Open Areas and Parks
  • Taiping Lake Gardens
  • Kek Look Tong
  • Ulu Dedap
Overall, this 150 page paperback book (accompanied by a 60-minute 254 birds galore VCD)  is well organised, describing the site, how to get there, (including transportation and facilities), featured birds in this location and finally other attractions nearby. A point to note though is that some of this areas are located in private plantations or property. Without local command of the language, getting access to some of this areas can be quite tricky and in some occasions, having a local guide might be better.

On a final note,birding as a tourist activity has definitely taken a hold in Malaysia with 2 international and well known events such as the Bird Race in Fraser Hill (Pahang) and Raptor Watch in Tanjung Tuan (Melaka), but what the Bird Committee in Perak hoped for is to cultivate a strong awareness that there are many fantastic sites in Perak that hopefully will draw people from all around and most importantly push thru the need to conserved and preserve this birding sites from the encroachment of development , logging and the ever growing palm oil plantations.

Getting a copy
Last i checked, this is out of print. Hopefully there will be subsequent reprints coming out, so that i can get my hand on a copy as well.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ubin revisited

Back to my usual hangout place, Ubin Island for a leisurely walk on a September, Saturday morning.

Of all the interesting birds we saw today, the one that caught my eye was a Buffy Fish Owl, perched on a pole by a pond near a mangrove area. It rested there for 1 minute before being aware of my presence and flew away ! I have not seen an owl in Ubin for ages !! and felt really blessed to see one

A pair of common kingfisher
 Other interesting birds spotted were a pair of common kingfishers perched on a log. They seem to be playing around with the one on the left flapping its wings constantly at the one on the right. Some mating move? or trying to show dominance? That's an area of interest to study and move towards to (other than purely identification). The study on the behavior of birds is an area one should develop in as a birder.

Scally Munia

Scally Breasted Munias are easy to identify among the grass patches and are cute little birds that never fail to captivate my attention and time.

As usual, the are usually in groups and the sight of them perched on a grass which slowly curves down due to their weight something joyful to watch.

Red-breasted Parakeet (Male)

Although getting common, parakeets are a joy to watch too esp when they are perched with sunlight shinning on them showing their radiant colors and their "mischievous" calls

A point to note- quite a number of Albizia trees were chopped down surrounding the area of the quarry nearest to Ubin Village (on the land formerly belonging tothe Scout Camp, before they shifted). A shame indeed ! I wonder whether this is a knee-jerk reaction to recent spates of fallen trees or indeed during National Park's investigation, they spotted tree rot. I was pretty sad to see this majestic looking trees disappear.

Birds spotted today:
1. Buffy Fish Owl
2. Common Kingfisher (2)
3. Scally Munia
4. Olive Bulbul
5. Starling ,Asian Glossy
6. Brahminy Kite
7. Crimson Sunbird
8. Olive-backed Sunbird
10. Dollarbird
11. Brahminy Kite
12. Grey Heron
13. Common Iora

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bird watching in Panti Bird Reserve, Johor

Made a trip to Panti Bird Reserve (located near Kota Tinggi Johor) recently in Sept 2010.
Panti -road in

Panti is a wonderful and very much assesible place for newbies and veteran birders alike.

Recently, in anticipation of its official opening by either the Mentri Besar (State Minister) or Sultan of Johor- the Johor Forestry Department have done improvements to the dirt road into the Suaka Burung Panti ( Panti Bird Reserve). Driving right into the reserve with a normal sedan car is a breeze with the dirt roads smoothen.

Things to note before heading there.
1) You need a permit.
(Yup you heared me). Most actually don't do this, but the Forestry Department of Johor has ad-hoc rangers driving thru there to check whether you have the necessary permit to access. Most of us don't and getting a permit is not that simple as well. My personal opinion is the idea is great, but make it simplier to get one, either by setting a visitor centre (that is open over there) or a online submission form for such purposes.
I got another number which you can try:  Pejabat Hutan Daerah Johor Selatan 07-2243048

Birdwatchers need to eat too ! lol. You can pick up some of this in Kota Tinggi itself. There is a market at Jalan Jaffar (pretty close to Hotel Seri Kota) where you can top up your stomach at 6 in the morning. If you intend to bird watch all morning and take a break during the hot afternoon, there is a mid-point place between the forest reserve and kota tinggi where you can feast on Bak Ku Teh. (please book in advance to avoid disappointment, if you going on a Saturday...yup, you heared me, BOOK !)

The place is called:
Kiong Kee Bak Kut Teh
Batu 8, Jalan Mawai, Kota Tinggi.
Tel: 07-8821290 or H/P: 019-7479416

3) Getting there:
Making your way there is simple enough: from Singapore, follow Highway 3 towards Kota Tinggi. After hitting past Kota Tinggi, you will drive for another 7-8 km (i think) till you see two World War II bunkers on each side of the road, on a hill. The Panti Bird Reserve sign, is on your left.
Turn into the road on your left immediately after this bunker and you are in the reserve proper.

View Kota Tinggi - Panti Bird Reserve in a larger map

Not clear enough? Read Wong Chor Mun's blog ! It's brilliant and should be clear enough. She also have info on the permit matter.

This were the birds i managed to identify:
1) Chestnut belled Malkoha (both male and female)
2) Raffles Malkoha (both male and female)
3) Brown Barbet
4)Coppersmith Barbet
5) White bellied Woodpecker (flight mode)
6) Laced Woodpecker *
7) Black Hornbill ( 8-9 in flight mode)
8) Scarlet Rumped Trogon
9) White Troated Kingfisher
10) Fork Tailed Swift
11) Creasted Serpent Eagle (Malayensis)
12) Asian Fairy Bluebird
13) Greated Green Leafbird (both male and female)
14) Blue winged leafbird
15) Greater Racket-tailed drongo
16) Crow billed drongo
17) White rumped Sharma
18) Common iora
19) Green iora
20) Scarlet Minivet (both male and female)
21) Jungle Myna
22) Black headed bulbul
23) Cream vented bulbul
24) Ashy bulbul
25) Hairy backed Bulbul
26) Thick billed Spider hunter

and finally, dinner. We headed back to Kota Tinggi. Nearby Hotel Sri Kota, there are many simple shops that you can try. Prices are reasonable too.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Binoculars (or Bin's for short)

When i first started birdwatching, i wasn't really sure i will fall in love with it. My first binoculars was a simple one: Olympus 7x35 Porro Prism. This humble bin stayed by my side for 3 -4 years before i decided birdwatching was indeed fun and then i took the next step to upgrade. There are plenty of bins out there -from the Leica's, Swaroski's, Zeiss, etc etc -but finally i settled with Nikon Monarch (10x42). After a couple of months of using it, i wish i bought it earlier ! lol.

This post is not meant to sway you to get a Nikon, but really, Bin's are a personal choice. Do read up and ask around your friends before you decide on one. Keep to what you can afford as well. If you have plenty of cash to spare or have decided that upgrading 1 step at a time is a waste of money, by all means get your Leica or Swaroski.

Recently, through a friends recommendation, i bought a Opticron 8x42 Oregon LE WP for my wife. I bought it from this place called Nature's Niche, located at No. 10 Lorong Lada Hitam; Singapore 778793. The owner,Ng Bee Choo was very friendly and allowed us plenty of time to test out the various bins they had. There was no "hard-selling" and basically shared with us the pro(s) and con(s) of the various brands. I was very happy with the entire experience and left the lovely shop (a real niche place of a variety of nature books, gifts, optics, etc).

Finally, if you are starting out, do spend some time and read up. Plenty of sites out there. I am just listing 2 below:
The Binocular Site

All the best in your journey to birdwatching ! Mine, although has been a couple of years, i still think i have a long way to go and many many things to learn !! Have not even touch on scopes and . Till the next time !