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Birding Malaysia: Notes from the Field

Ulu Muda & Pedu, Kedah, Peninsular Malaysia

By Mah Teck Oon

Reproduced from "Suara Enggang", a bi-monthly bulletin of the Malaysian Nature Society

When we reached Pedu, we found that Anjung Pedu had been closed down! (Hence the unanswered calls). And Desa Utara and Mutiara were both fully booked, thanks to the by-elections in the neighbouring constituency of Pendang! We went to MADA's Muda Resort (Tel: 04-7521779) in nearby Gubir and grabbed their offer. We got a spacious and comfortable air con chalet with mini fridge (empty, but can BYO), colour TV and attached bathroom with hot water - all for RM70/- per night. Rambutan trees in the resort grounds were full of ripe fruits and you were welcome to pluck any amount.

Dropping our baggage quickly, we went birding immediately. Guided by Glenda's reports in Suara Enggang no. 4, 2001, we headed for the old logging clearing after the bridge at Muda Dam. It was very rewarding as bulbuls, tailorbirds and leafbirds flitted in easy view. Then the first big thrill of the trip unfolded. Between 6:35 pm and 7:05 pm, we had several groups of Wreathed Hornbills Rhyticeros undulates fly past in V formation. Some groups were low enough for us to hear their 'whooshing' wingbeats. I tried hard to find any Plain Pouched Hornbills, but without success. We had groups of 6, 14, 18, 18, 7 and 10, making a total of 73 in half an hour. All of them flew from West to East, over the clearing and across the hills in the East, without perching.

After a simple dinner that night, we went owling within the resort itself. We were amply rewarded. Outside our chalet, we found two Brown Wood Owls Strix leptogrammicas, one a sub-adult. Then we located two nightjars, the identity of which was intriguing. Both were found perched on different lampposts 200 metres apart. Both hunted for insects attracted to the lights, launching from the posts and returning to the posts to eat its prey - flycatcher-style. I am told that this behaviour is typical of the Large-Tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus (Pers.com. Ooi Chin Hock and Ref. 2). But we did not hear any calls from these nightjars and the birds did not have any white on its wings and tail in flight. I did get a close look at one of them from four metres through the scope. The bird was a dark rufous throughout. Two small and indistinct white marks on the throat. Four rows of lighter spots on the wings. Faint bands on the tail. Fine but distinct barrings on the breast. Size about 10 inches. I did not see any ears, and "bristles" around the bill were not prominent at all. I am inclined to conclude that this was a Malaysian Eared Nightjar Eurostopodus temminckii, probably female (Ref. 3), though a Large Tailed is not discounted.

Next morning we headed out on the road towards Pedu Lake. We tried the trail towards Bukit Batu Tajam, but turned back after 120 metres as the risk of getting lost was high due to the indistinct pathway. We birded along the road instead - shady and pleasant. It was here too that I got my lifer, the Red Crowned Barbet Megalaima rafflesi. We then tried the trail near the waterfalls, adjacent to the Mutiara carpark. The notable sighting here was a female Rufous Collared Kingfisher Actenoides concretus. We spent the hotter hours lazing at the deserted lounge area of Anjung Pedu before returning to the logging clearing in the evening. However, on this occasion, only 7 hornbills were seen flying also to the East. A group of 4 Great Slaty Woodpeckers Mulleripicus pulverulentus and a pair of mating Banded Woodpeckers Picus miniaceus became the highlights instead.

On the second night, one Brown Wood Owl was again seen on a TV aerial in the resort grounds before a failing torchlight put paid our chance of finding the nightjars again. However, there were no calls of owl or nightjar.

On the last morning, we decided against going to Pedu Lake as we reckoned that a lot of driving was going to come on our journey home. So we traveled the 2 km to the Muda Dam again. This morning from 7:30 am to 9:05 am, we were treated to the groups of Hornbills flying in the opposite direction, Westwards. We counted 85 Wreathed and a group of 9 Bushy Crested Hornbills Anorrhinus galeritus. There could have been more that we did not notice as we birded around the clearing. We also saw 3 Egrets (species unidentified) flying North and then turning Southwards. We found a Black and Yellow Broadbill Eurylaimus ochromalus carrying nesting material. The clearing got hot by 9:30 am and as we returned to the car, a Rufous Bellied Eagle Hieraaetus kienerii circled overhead.

We still had another hour to spare and decided to go a few km up the road. Some barbet calls made us stop near a stream. Here I got my sighting of a female Asian Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx maculates (probably the first record for Kedah). It was perched in the open. The bird had an orange bill, rufous crown fading across the face to the throat and a greenish back with lots of white barring on the breast. I was checking my field guide to distinguish it from the Violet Cuckoo when a glossy dark green bird flashed across the road. I think it was the male Asian Emerald Cuckoo. With such triumphs, I was ready to call it a day!

This article has been reproduced from "Suara Enggang", a bi-monthly bulletin of the Malaysian Nature Society



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