Friday, 20 July 2012

The East-West Highway

The East-West Highway 16 July 2012

In northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, the road connecting West coast and East coast is famous for the sighting of elephant - Me myself had saw the largest mammals in Malaysian forest three time where all sightings occur at the East-West highway. Crossing two main range in north - The Bintang Hijau range and Titiwangsa range, this highway offer good spot for birding as well.

No large mammals were seen during this round of visit, a slow ride will offer good chance to see something, however, most of time - the roadkill. Like this female palm civet:

Freshly Hit - we move the body before we move hoping that no other vehicle hit the body, it got severe injuries on backbone.

The civet in full body view

This road connecting people of the east and west, but it can be a hell to wildlife live in the forest along the road, this palm civet one of example. I had seen the collection of photo from wildlife conservation that operating in Jeli (East end of the highway) show roadkill involving Tapir, Clouded leopard, leopard cat, wild boar, langurs and slow loris.  They should create a wildlife crossing at several point in this road.

In terms of bird, some spot along this highway are good places to go for Hornbills and jungle dwelling raptors especially in Bukit Palong. My favourite spot located in the half way from Pulau Banding to Pergau  Dam (still not  disturbed by logging activities and has a nice small stream).

Wreathed Hornbill - a couple seen flying over

Chestnut-capped Forktail - usually seen foraging at the small stream

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher - few couples seen foraging inside bamboo bush next to the stream

Other bird seen during this visit including Black-Crested Bulbul, Scimitar Babbler, Blue Whistling Thrush, Green Broadbill, Blue throated Barbet, Blyth's Hawk Eagle and Maroon woodpecker. With safety is the main priority in doing the assigned job, I only wish I had more time to spend on birding - time limitation as we need to conduct some site maintainance job as well.

The pathway to working site before and after

My partner testing the safety rope that we apply at some steep point at our working site.

Finally some shot of other wildlife we seen along our way:

Wasp humming their nest - This wasp has nasty sting - we don't want to get hurt so we left the plant it inhabit untouched, this wasp as well were not so offensive to us while we done the clearing job.

Reptiles which I suspect as immature skink 

Channa sp., at the pond of near Kuala Rui

Well, It's gonna be long before I had the chance to re-visit this place in the future. However, the new job opportunity awaiting me is a promising one - working in an area where human and their civilization considered rare and will leave my hometown for a while

Friday, 6 July 2012

part time job -Best perk ever

I've got a new part time job which need me to visit an area just above the east-west highway (site located less than 10 km to Pergau dam. The consultant company and the university (which I'll be continuing my study in near future) had attach some device at the slope on the hill just above the highway in order to detect any land movement. My job is to take the reading.

I had to measure the distance between this poles

The view on the top of tunnel

Crested serpent Eagle - There are Black Eagle and Crested Honey Buzzard too seen at this site. Hopefully more to be seen in my next visit

My motorbike does not betray me for this long journey (450km return).

Well, I'll come to this site once in a two week (I only wish that I can came more frequent and got some place to stay)

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Part 2 - Sedim...the silent waterfall

Part 2.

I ride my motorbike South following the flow of Bintang Hijau Range. Along the 16 KM ride to neighbouring recreational forest, Sungai Sedim, there are lot of village with interesting name such as Kampung Badang and Padang Belon. Pleasant sight of green rubber farm and orchard along my ride was obstructed bty some ugly looking cleared forest (New Palm oil or rubber plantation - Village folk told me).

I stop twice along my way, first is to buy a drink from a grocery shop and second for this:

A strong looking male goat - they had build a nice goat farm near Sungai Sedim that sold all goat product such as mutton, milk and skin. They also sell life goat.

As I arrived at Sedim recreational forest, I choose the existing trail blow the canopy walk (no one at the entrance and it was locked). At the entrance there are a lot of this palm tree present:

Toddy palm or 'nau' in Malay. The fruit from this palm is edible and if you eat 'Ais kacang' (shaved ice) in Malaysia or Thailand, most likely you had eat this palm fruit.

I walk on the trail until the path along the stream covered up by rattans. The sharpest rattan I ever had but the torns are loosely arranged. Not much action from birds except red-crowned barbet, green iora, chestnut-capped forktail and Raffle's Malkoha.

There are a lot of this kind of tree (green pigeon's nest shorea), but only a couple of Thick-billed Green Pigeon seen along the trail.

My attention on birding was distracted by other wildlife - the butterflies. There are lot of butterfly flying freely at the recreational area (just below the bridge)

Birdwing sp. build up most of the party

A refreshing look butterfly

the pale green

The odd one

All in a frame

...for this post...Cheers.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

South East of Kedah - Bukit Hujau and Sedim 13/6/2012

Part 1 - Bukit Hijau (Where birds accompanied by diverse flora n fauna)

I start my day by riding to east, to Kulim and Baling district in Kedah state. My target was to check at least 2 out of 4 waterfall areas present in both district.
It took me about an hour and half to reach Bukit Hijau waterfall which located at the feet of Gunung Inas, one of the mountain that build-up Bintang Hijau range - which is the nearest range to Penang State. Bukit Hijau is a beautiful waterfall that attracting a lot of people especially during weekend and public holiday. I choose to go by weekday hoping not many people went there and as I arrive there, only a few people present - 3 Forestry worker and a gang of school boy who playing truant.

The main sign (translated as: Gunung Inas forest reserve) was not well maintain

The rubbish seem outnumbered the rubbish bin present in the area even here which the sign told not to pollute the forest reserve.

Here, Crimson-winged woodpecker greet me at the waterfall gate - the path exist in the area lead to 3 places - the waterfall, an existing trail and to the chalet area.

I choose the forest trail first to search for bird and I found this:

A Black Crested Bulbul - a group of 5 birds singing loud in the trail entrance

Other species seen on the forest trail including Crimson Winged Woodpecker, Grey and Buff Woodpecker (lifer), Spotted fantail, Stripe-throated Bulbul, Black and White Bulbul, Hairy-backed Bulbul, Dusky Broadbill and Raffle's Malkoha.
The trail goes up far in the jungle, however remembering that I venture alone and the bad condition trail, I decide to go back and climb up the waterfall.

This curious puddle presence on the trail is the other reason pulling me back - a lot of wildboar sign around this.

I scan a ficus tree at the waterfall entrance and found a couple of Long-billed spiderhunter - a species that I'd miss, my second encounter after my undergraduate day.

Highest waterfall view from the top - There are Black Eagle, Rhinoceros Hornbill and Treeswifts in this area

The top most waterfall where I get another lifer for myself - a pair of White-tailed Flycatcher

Skink is abundant in this area, there are seen at almost covered place like this leftover plate

This place also good if you are fan of insect such as dragonfly and butterfly 

In term of flora, this waterfall is the best place to go for Bryophyte, Fungi and Fern. One of the intersting species is the Blue (cyanide) fern

Going down look much easier than going up is wrong for this waterfall trail, I had been force to stop by call of Scarlet Rumped Trogon and Gibbons call, beside that there are some frog and reptiles species to check. However, it is strongly recommended you go with a partner because there are sign of wild boar and elephant up here, there are also some welcoming footstep such as mousedeer, sambar deer and feline sp. canbe found along the way.

I went to the chalet track right after descending the waterfall and follow what I expected of old logging trail. I enjoy a presence of Blyth's Hawk Eagle thermalling and Rufescent Prinia. I stop at a fallen log to return back and took the Chalet path.

Along the path I was accompanied by this agile squirrel.

The Giant tree Squirrel (if I'm not mistaken) or Mempulas Besar in Malay is a pleasant mammal presence here, there is records of mammal sighting such as elephant, tapir, sun bear and gaur in this forest reserve.

This Bulbul - Red eye bulbul particularly busy charging other birds such as Blue-winged leafbird, great Iora, Cream vented Bulbul and flowerpeckers away from this fruiting tree.

Mouth to feed - The Red Eye Bulbul got two ravenous chick to be feed which keep them busy until noon.

Bulbul and other birds actions in tree at the chalet's lawn was the final show at Bukit Hijau recreational  forest as I realize the time was eleven, no time to waste - had to move to next target before it getting too hot to see any birds.

To be continue in the next post: Bukit Hijau and Sedim part 2 (Where had all the birds gone)

Sorry for the long post...hope you enjoy it

Ad/- Congratulation to England winning a dramatic match between Sweden early this morning (Most entertaining match so far)

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

2 June 2012 - pelagic off Tanjung Dawai

2 June 2012 - pelagic off Tanjung Dawai

I woke up on 4.30 in the morning and took all thing I had packed earlier and ride my bike to the small fishing town of Tanjung Dawai to join the fishing boat out to the sea.
As I arrived at the anchovy boat jetty, one of the crew allow me to park my motorbike inside the jetty building. Boarding the boat on 6.50, after a few chat and a good breakfast, the boat left the port at 7.00. Most of the crew expecting early return because the weather forecast expecting a thunderstorm today as the wind blown strong from north-west direction.
Most of the crews were not present today, most of them had wedding to attend, those included the captain, Haji Anuar and our 'bird guide' - Baharom, reducing the crew number from 30 to 20

View of the sunrise behind the Tanjung Dawai mosque

The sea was not so friendly today - the roughest trip I'd ever encounter in Tanjung Dawai, honestly it is not so choppy as Mersing/Seribuat archipelago sea, however it turn my head dizzy in first four hour of the voyage.

The pole - this is the point when you exit the estuary and enter the sea. This flocks of Common tern are the first bird seen today.

The wind and wave level rising up as the boat move to the middle of the sea - The captain in charge told me that this condition is common in June, he also expecting a storm today.
The first net was set up at 0910 - the catch is not so good as well as birds seen.

Fast ferry to Langkawi island from Penang - two trip daily

The fishing vessel move toward north-west direction, toward Pulau Payar as the first catch is not so motivating. As we move, the weather become more friendly to us and the number of bird seen decrease dramatically. Suddenly - (I don't know how I felt asleep, luckily all my gear secured in my bag) somebody scream 'Itik Ayer' (Shearwater) and I woke to join the crew and realise I'm not joining the person who shouting - so no shearwater today.
No more than 5 minutes the boat stop and the buzzer call - this time the captain had to wait for more than 10 minutes for the crews to get in action - I realize, not only me sleeping around, The time was 1255 - freaking hot with wind dying out.

Bridled Tern is the most seen species today

The Common Tern come in as the second most seen birds

The main attractant (in term of terns) today are 2 juvenile Sooty Tern - This large Onichoprion tern has a unique call of 'kerrk-kwerrk-kwarrk' 

The second catch is much better compare to the first catch. The crew are really motivated, after the catch they sing and eat their lunch happily and ready to go for the next catch.

Better second catch

After the second catch the boat move on, now Pulau Payar is clear in front of us, with the help of sonar system and few round of patrol, the buzz calling the crew for the third time of the day at 1600. With no time to waste, all the crews are well prepared this time to cast the net. The bird number and fish caught improved for the second time of the day.

Terns feeding close to the net - 2 Arctic Skua were seen far, try to marauding tern that stray far from the boat.

Juvenile Sooty Tern

Adult Common Tern

The catch is getting better, can u tell?

Better catch mean more scrap to be thrown out from the boat. Theorically, this will attract more boat and after 5 minutes left the fishing spot, I notice two swift-sized boat flying behind the boat in which behaviour I haven't seen in any swift. I observe the bird extend the leg and began to dancing on the sea water. I shout in my heart, 'Petrels'. I get my bins try to get the tail view - fish-tail shape, no white rump, thus considering that was my first Swinhoe's Storm Petrel and my first Petrel in Tanjung Dawai. 
Last but not least, my first turtle sighting in Tanjung Dawai and it is an Olive-Ridley Turtle.

We arriving Tanjung Dawai jetty at 1945, which me and all the crews were full of spirit. Hence, I still had a 60 km motorbike ride to my home, realizing I'm really enjoy my trip today.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Pelagic off Tanjung Dawai 10/5/2012 - luck of a dead cobra happen this happen this morning when I suppose to join Dave Bakewell ( to a pelagic outing onto anchovy boat in Tanjung Dawai. That morning I went to my usual grocery shop to get my stuff I need on our trip. On my way to Seberang Jaya mosque, I saw something scaly and bloody on the road.

It is a snake hit by a vehicle, pity

It turn out to be a Cobra - I bet this small cobra had been hit by a motorbike, but somehow it manage to slither to the roadside and die here, I'm planning to take the head but someone waiting for me. Better hurry, so after I move the dead snake body - I continue riding my motorbike to the promised location.
In the middle of my ride, my phone ringing and I know I had to hurry and I manage to arrive on 0503 at the mosque. In Dave car's we went to Tanjung Dawai.

The fishing boat with two loving dolphin greet us as usual - while we boarding the new boat...

View of the new boat front deck from the captain's room - this vessel had 4 storeys with the length of 120 feet, the largest anchovy boat in Tanjung Dawai.

With the great vessel come the great crew - those band of old boys and some of them is the important crews
 for this vessel.

This is PokYa from Besut, Terengganu, he is the vice-captain and net supervisor of the vessel.

Our trip began as all the vessel crew especially those band of old boys assemble on the boat. We leave Tanjung Dawai at 0655 in the morning.

Behind us - Gunung Jerai look foggy, Sungai Merbok look dark

Well, weather look promising as the sky show some 'overcast' character - but you'll never know what out there.

We were greeted by some swift, egret and heron action before we leave the estuary of Sungai Merbok entering the Kedah water.

First few terns moving north - most of the birds cocsist of Bridled Tern

The boat captain make a call and Mr Harom, ready to launch the net for the day first catch

The net that had been launched - two crew will make a drumming sound in front of the boat to create panic to the fish do that they won't move down.

Attracted to the activities, terns gather near the net to feed on the fish - Bridled Tern make up the biggest proportion of tern in Tanjung Dawai today

Lesser Crested Tern - Not so common during this time of year in Tanjung Dawai

This bird look elegant - the orange bill with black-capped

Comparison between Lesser-crested Tern and Common Tern, the number of Common Tern today decreases slightly where no more than 10 individuals seen

A Skua try to approach the boat - but leave as soon as it get the food from the tern

It turn out to be a Long-tail Skua/Jaeger - They are still numerous compared to last week and other Skua/Jaeger in Malaysian water.

Today is the first time I seen all three Skua/Jaeger species in Tanjung Dawai - although had seen that in Mersing, my opinion is Mersing is a better places for Skua/Jaeger compare to Tanjung Dawai.

The main attractor bird in Tanjong Dawai is the Short-tailed Shearwater, which whenever it fly past the boat some of the crew will shout to us - offering a better chance to take picture of this tubenose.

It fly very close to the sea surface - thus the less choppy condition of sea would offer a better chances to observe this magnificent bird.

On the second net launch, the shearwater come close and sit on the water within the net's buoy ring - offering good opportunity to observed this bird closely

It dip it's head into the water - peeping for fish to feed on or shy?

...And Short-tail Shearwater performing this at least 6 round during the second net launch.

After the second catch, the captain decide to go back as the catch was not so good today. However, since some of the crew claim that Sunday and Monday are the best day to observe sea bird, I decide I will come back for the pelagic trip this Sunday - Still hoping for any first record. Anyway the sighting of shearwater and all 3 Skua species please me for this trip and a bonus:

A mixed school of Indo-pacific Bottlenose Dolphin and Humpback Dolphin to make up a good day.

The final count of the day are:
Bridled Tern 450
Common Tern 8
Lesser Crested Tern 2
White-winged Tern 2
Sooty Tern 1
Long Tail Skua 6
Pomarine Skua 1
Arctic Skua 1
Short-tailed Shearwater 6

Bottlenose Dolphin 4
Humpback Dolphin 2