Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Merapoh: Day 8 & 9

First of all, I have to apologise for my absence from Blogger for a very long while. I accidently dropped my new 550D into a muddy lotus field in Sekinoe about 2 months ago. So I haven't been out taking photos of birds for a very long time now. I'll bring the camera back to Thailand to get it fixed in August. Luckily the lens is still ok though. That's the end of my tragic report. This post will be the final episode of my Malaysia trip in March 2011 with my dad and birding friends. It's just unbelievable how fast time has gone by while we were there. We finally reached our last 2 days of staying in the wonderful Merapoh. March 19 was our last full day in Merapoh and we decided to rent the jeeps to go into the innermost part of the park which is called Juram. We started off very early in the morning. The scenery along the way was breathtaking. I love the feeling of early morning rainforest. The jeep driver also played some Malay music which I totally fell in love with. As we arrived at Juram, the first thing I saw was a very big nest of the shy Lesser Fish-Eagle (Icthyophaga humilis) which some of us luckily spotted shortly after the arrival. A pair of a male and female Wrinkled Hornbills (Aceros corrugatus) also briefly flew by and a noisy male Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus) also hung around the area as well. However, our big surprise was the stunning Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus thoracicus), a beautiful and rare flowerpecker which I've never seen before. Unfortunately, I missed seeing the male bird which happened to be sitting very still on a small tree next to the road which I unconcernedly passed by. However, I waited for a few minutes and luckily a female briefly came to the same tree, so I could finally get my first lifer of the day. The photo below is the photo of the male bird taken by Mr Mark. He was lucky enough to grab a few shots of it before it flew out shortly before I arrived at the tree.
Male Scarlet-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus thoracicus) by Mr Mark

Some photos of Juram
Male Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus)
An interesting young Planthopper
Male Checker-throated Woodpecker (Picus mentalis)
Birds around Juram were quieter than we thought, so we started to walk out and asked the jeep drivers to pick us up along the way. I got my second lifer of the day in a small patch of fern bushes, it was the shy White-bellied Munia (Lonchura leucogastra). There were 2 of them hiding among the ferns before flew out into the forest. They were very shy unlike most of munias that live in open grasslands. The species is also very scarce in Thailand. Before we were picked up by the jeep, a male Checker-throated Woodpecker (Picus mentalis) put on quite a show for us, but the light was not good enough for a decent shot. After we were picked up by the jeeps, we decided to drop off at the watch tower located deep in the forest where the famous Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus), an endangered mammal, is often reported. We waited for about an hour and saw nothing, so we decided to leave. It wasn't unexpected though. Our last stop was another high watch tower located on the roadside. The view from the top of the tower was extremely wonderful. I enjoyed taking photos of the forest so much, as well as the swifts that were flying around all over the area near the tower. From the top of the tower, we were able to watch them at our eye-level or even lower. It was just amazing. For someone who likes watching swifts so much like me, it was like a dream come true. The species that caught my attention the most was the beautiful Silver-rumped Needletail (Rhaphidura leucopygialis), a medium-sized swift with flashing silvery-white rump patch. Its glossy green body also makes the combination just perfect. The smaller Germain's Swiftlet (Collocalia germani) was the most numerous species though. Apart from these two, there were also many Grey-rumped Treeswifts (Hemiprocne longipennis), a few Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and a couple of the wonderful Rufous-bellied Swallows (Hirundo badia).

Silver-rumped Needletail (Rhaphidura leucopygialis)

Germain's Swiftlet (Collocalia germani)

Female Grey-rumped Treeswift (Hemiprocne longipennis)
Rufous-bellied Swallows (Hirundo badia)
Male Blue-rumped Parrot (Psittinus cyanurus)

View from the two watch towers
Female Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis)

Male (left) and female (right) Grey-rumped Treeswift (Hemiprocne longipennis)
A very cute tiny squirrel
Juvenile Moustached Babbler (Malacopteron magnirostre)

Female Whiskered Treeswift (Hemiprocne comata)
While enjoying taking photos of the swifts from the top of the tower, a small flock of fast-flying birds caught my attention. I quickly grabbed a few shots as I though they were also some kind of swift, but unbelievably they turned out to be my third lifer of the the day, the Blue-rumped Parrots (Psittinus cyanurus). This species of parrot is extremely rare in Thailand and all of us were very excited to see them. We later had a nice view of them through the telescope. In flight, their flashing scarlet underwing coverts are truly unmistakable. After we came down from the tower, we were entertained by a strange female Velvet-fronted Nuthatch (Sitta frontalis) that came down hopping on the concrete road for almost 10 minutes. We all felt so weird and though it was funny to see a nuthatch hopping on the ground instead of climbing on tree trunks. We later said goodbye to the tower and got on the jeeps to go back for lunch at the camp ground. Along the way, we briefly stopped and grabbed a few shots of the beautiful female Whiskered Treeswift (Hemiprocne comata) which was perching quite low on the roadside.

Garnet Pitta (Pitta granatina coccinea)
The first few shots of the Garnet Pitta
After lunch, I quickly grabbed my equipment and went straight the place where I first photographed the exquisite Garnet Pitta (Pitta granatina coccinea) the day before. This time I tried going into the trail on the left side of the road and set up a hide in the area close to the place where I saw the bird. I could still clearly see the marks of the hides that the group of Thai photographers that we met in Fraser's Hill made. There were also many plastic bottles left around the area, as well as plastic ropes. I was very disappointed and had to take all of the litters out. After setting up my hide, I tried using the playback. The bird slowly responded to the call. I waited for about 20 minutes and finally, a red flash came perching up on a tree trunk deep inside the forest in front of my hide. My heart skipped a beat and began praying for the bird to come closer. After a series of prays, I finally completed my mission. The extremely beautiful and rare Garnet Pitta was now perching nicely just in front of my camera. I took several hundred photos of it before it suddenly flew off without any reason. I was quite puzzled about why it suddenly flew off, but I was already too happy with the result, so I began packing my stuff. Very shortly after I began packing things, the rain suddenly came pouring down and began to fall harder, so I had to rush out of the forest. I then knew the reason why the pitta also suddenly rushed off so quickly.
Variant male Black Hornbill (Anthracoceros malayanus)
Female Large Green Pigeon (Treron capellei)
Chestnut-rumped Babblers (Stachyris maculata)

Gold-whiskered Barbet (Megalaima chrysopogon laeta)
Horsfield's Babbler (Malacocincla sepiaria)

Male Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus maculatus)
Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus)
Blyth's Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus alboniger)
Bat Hawks (Macheiramphus alcinus) and their nest
Crested Serpent-Eagle (Spilornis cheela)
Dark morph Changeable Hawk-Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus limnaeetus)
A view from Cameron Highlands Road
We had to say goodbye to Merapoh before noon of March 20. We woke up to the dark grey sky. Most of us were successful with the Garnet Pitta. We set up 3 hides for people to go in and watch the pitta closely. I chose to stay outside looking for other birds. My last lifer of the trip was the huge Large Green Pigeon (Treron capellei), another extremely rare species in Thailand, marked as the 10th lifer of this trip. There were several of them flying in and out of a tall tree which we assumed that must be fruiting. There was also another fruiting tree next to the road. I waited there hoping that the green pigeons might also visit, but they didn't. Instead, there were a pair of Gold-whiskered Barbet (Megalaima chrysopogon laeta), many Asian Fairy-Bluebirds, several species of common bulbuls and a male Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker (Prionochilus maculatus). In front of the trail where I photographed the Garnet Pitta was also a vocal pair of Horsfield's Babblers(Malacocincla sepiaria), so I spent some time chasing and trying to get photos of them. Before leaving Merapoh, I finally succeeded in finding the Siamang (Symphalangus syndactylus), the large primate with extremely loud and distinctive voice. There were about 4 of them visiting a fruiting tree near the camp ground. Two of them were small babies and the other 2 seemed to be their parents. We finally left Merapoh around noon and went back to Ipoh by the Cameron Highlands Road. The scenery was terrific, but it was just sad to see how much percentage of the precious rainforest has been turned into veggie plantations. I hope the Malaysian government will see the need to fix this thing very soon. The road was especially good for raptors though. We found 5 species of raptors only by watching from the roadsides. They were Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Crested Serpent-Eagle, Oriental Honey-Buzzard, Blyth's Hawk-Eagle and Bat Hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus), a species which I haven't seen for a very long time! We arrived at Ipoh in the evening and had a very delicious dinner at a Chinese restaurant before getting on the bus heading to the airport in Kuala Lumpur and said goodbye to Malaysia. It was surely one of the most memorable trips for me, and I'll definitely go back again soon!


Peng said...

Congrats on finishing your trip report of your visit to Fraser's Hill and Merapoh. I have a long, long way to go with mine. :)
I'm pleasantly surprised that you take a liking to Malay music! I could not even remember that the driver had the radio on. Heheheh :P
Beautiful shots. Makes me feel like I'm there again. I can't wait to go back there too.
Glad that it was a memorable trip for you. I love the way you write. Come to Sandakan next time! :D

Russell said...

I was wondering where you were...Some beautiful photographs and a wonderful post. I'd love to see a Blyths Hawk-eagle. I'll comeback for another look. I'm sorry about you camera.

Stu said...

Some great shots but overshadowed by the terrible accident you had!

So sorry about your camera............didn't you keep your old 350D? You can buy secondhand 350D or 400D for as little as ¥20000.......

dingtech said...

หวัดดีครับคุณต้น ดีใจและถูกใจที่ได้เห็นเหยี่ยว-อินทรีทั้ง 3 ในอิริยาบถที่เป็นธรรมชาติจริงๆ คงอยู่ในระดับความสูงกว่าพันเมตรขึ้นไปสินะ
เพลี้ยกระโดดดูแปลกดี เจ้าตัวเล็กน่ารักเนี่ยใช่กระถิกหรือเปล่าครับ

John said...

Glad to read more from Merapoh, sorry to hear about your camera.

Garnet Pitta looks really great, and Silver-rumped Swift brings back memories of one I saw near The Gap Resthouse a few years ago. In poor light and before digital photography, I didn't get any pics.... very nice to see it again.

Phil said...

Good to see you back on line Ayuwat and bad luck about the camera - hope you get it fixed soon. Some of your shots here are fantastic, needless to say the Garnet Pitta is the star but the flowerpecker runs it close.

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

Thank you so much everyone for your kind word!
Dingtech> ขอบคุณมากครับ จุดที่ถ่ายรูปเหยี่ยวทั้งสามน่าจะความสูงประมาณ 1000ม. จริงๆล่ะครับ ส่วนเจ้าตัวเล็กนั้นไม่ทราบเหมือนกันครับว่าเรียกว่าอะไร แต่คงไม่ใช่กระถิกครับ :-)

Mei Ling said...

Am so glad you and your friends had a good trip. At the moment, Fraser's Hill and Merapoh are about the best birding places in Peninsular Malaysia. You are most welcome anytime.

digdeep said...

Hi Ayuwat

Sorry to hear about your camera. Amazingly good photos from Merapoh, as others have said. By the way, I doubt the swiftlet is Germain's. I would guess it's perhaps Black-nest (see my recent post from KKB).