Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Birding Hotspot at Langkawi Island - Part 1

Located in the state of Kedah. The Langkawi archipelago consist of 99 tropical islands lies in the northwestern corner coast of Peninsular Malaysia, north of Straits of Malacca, adjacent to the Thai border a few km is Ko Tarutao island. The largest island is Langkawi island (478.5 sq km), followed by Pulau Dayang Bunting, Pulau Tuba and many other smaller islands. It's administrative capital town is at Kuah. It is the most developed, there are many duty free shops, offices, banks, restaurants that offer local cuisine, asian cuisine and western cuisine. Beyond Kuah town one can notice the beautiful countryside, relaxed lifestyle of traditional Malaysian villages, delightful beaches , paddy fields.

Langkawi has a tropical monsoon climate with temperature remain quite consistent throughout the year. The rainy season is from September till early January. The hottest month is in Febuary. For more details

Some Historical facts
Langkawi is known of it's Mahsuri legend. This legend is about a young woman by the name of Mahsuri was accused of adultery and being executed in the public despite pleaded innocence. Before her last breath she cursed on this island of having extremely bad luck for seven generations.

In 1821 Kedah was conquered by Siam. Thai influence in culture and food remains visible till today. It also go through a brief Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 transferred power to the British, who held the state until Malaysia independence day on 31st of Aug 1957.

To promote tourism, this island was granted tax-free status in 1987, before that it was sleepy and backward. Development and economic growth ever since then, life has never been the same for Langkawian. The local folks believed and they are very much relieve that finally the seven generation of Mahsuri's curse has eventually ended.

Langkawi today
The International Maritime and Air Show (LIMA) is held yearly there, since 2000 it also host Malaysian Ironman triathlon. As of todate tourist attraction to Langkawi are besides it's offer the island best duty-free goods shopping, it has nice beautiful beaches, clear turquoise water at Pulau Paya Marine Park for it's popular site for diving and snorkelling.
For bird-watchers this place is a must to visit due to Brown-Winged Kingfisher, Black_Hooded Oriole, Jerdon's Baza, Mountain Hawk Eagle and Plain-Backed Sparrow are yet to be occur in others part of Malaysia

How to go to Langkawi
Drive along North-South Highway head to Kuala Kedah, Kuala Perlis. The journey from KL takes about 6 hrs to Kuala Kedah and 7 hrs to Kuala Perlis. Car parks service are available to allow you to park your car at a very affordable fees per day. Proceed the journey to Langkawi the main island by Ferry. The Ferry journey from Kuala Kedah is approximetly 1 hr 30 mins and Kuala Perlis about 50 minutes.
There are Ferry Service to Langkawi from Penang as well, the journey takes 3 hrs. Ferry Service from Saturn ( about 1 hour drive from Hatyai Thailand ) the journey takes only 1 hr and 15 mins. During festival season and long weekend holiday be advisable to buy the ferry ticket in advance to avoid hassle not able to get across due to ferry tickets sold off.

Langkawi International Airport at Padang Matsirat facilitate easy get into Langkawi. Car Rental service, restaurant, banks, money charging counter, banks, duty free shopping archade are available at this airport. There are many air flights that you can choose to travel with. From KLIA the service are provided by MAS (Malaysia Airlines), from LCCT Air Asia have an interval of 1 hrs flight to Langkawi that the journey only takes 50 mins. From Singapore twice daily flight are provided by Silk Air. The newly launched air service by FireFly that takes off from Penang and old subang airport also could be opt for for budget flight. However Firefly flight schedules are very limited.
Air fares Schedules can be checked and book on line

KTM comfortable and economical rail services you can opt for to head to Alor Setar (Kedah) and Arau (Perlis) being the nearest station to head to Langkawi. Taxis, public bus are available to Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis to help you to proceed by Express Ferry Services.

For further schedule and rate please visit:

To cater for accomodation need there are many range types of hotels from budget hotels to hostel bed to suit every need. If need accomodation that can be easily accessible to hawker food then choose your accomodation at Kuah town. For backpacker standard choose your accomodation at Pantai Cenang. For cool air on the summit of Gunung Raya you can have luxurious living on the tallest mountain at langkawi For high class stay with easy acess to the beautiful beach you can choose some resort at Tanjung Rhu or Datai to face the Adaman Sea.

Move around at Langkawi
Due to duty free status, cars are affordable to the langkawian therefore there are hardly any public buses around. Car rental service can be done just immediately after you land at the airport or at Kuah ferry terminal. During opt peak season a proton wira manual car is rent out at RM50 per day. If you intend to be at Langkawi more than 2 weeks you can opt to ship your own car there by container with the fees of only RM80. Shipping of such items can be arrange at our Klang Port.

My Field Trip Report 7th of November till 14th of November
Due to unaware of where are the hotspots for birding at Langkawi , I took the apportunities to registered myself for the MNS Selangor branch birding trip to Langkawi on 7th till 10th of November. Me and another birder to maximize the monies and effort that we have occured we extended our stay till 14th of November. As each of us are responsible to makes our arrangement to reach Langkawi on our own for tour, to save the hassle of travelling I book a seat to fly in by Air Asia AK6304 depart from LCCT at 11:25am and landed at 12:05pm, even though it was schedule to the arrival time is 12:25pm. It was a smooth flight, custom check are very relax due to it is a local flight for Malaysian.

As you walked out from the Airport to the Arrival hall there are many Langkawi brochures and free map to facilitate one to plan for a free and easy holiday. I do advice to pick up all of them, cause you would never know which one is needed then. I missed to pick up one good map that have detailed down all the road directions. I then realised that once I get out from the Arival hall for security purpose if you are not a worker you are not allowed to be there.

Since most of them have arrived before me, therefore we start the trip by detoured into the Airport to pick me and another lady participant, we then head to the petronas petrol station nearby the airport for fuel refill on two of the van that we hired for this trip. After that we head for a malay kampung style lunch at the local restaurant. I pick up fried cat fish, wild ferns, salted egg to go with our local rice as my lunch. Food is a bit pricey compares with Malay food store near by my office here in KL here even though this island is a duty free island. Anyway sea food are fresh here in Langkawi Island.

Patiently allowed me to share with you all in 6 parts the birding spots at Langkawi Island instead of by daily basis. This part is on Gunung Raya the tallest mountain at Langkawi and Coco Beach and a peatswamp area near Go-kart very near to Langkawi International Airport. The spot are mark at the map below.

After a hearthiest lunch we head to Gunung Raya the tallest mountain. It is a great challenge to drive on the 23km long winding scenic road leads up to the mountain on a rented car which normally the car features are not familiar as our own car. One of trip here one of our commitee member who drove the van forgotten that she engaged on a hand-break while we are heading down the hill. A few of us in another vehicle noticed smoke from that vehicle. Lucky an intresting bird attracted her attention to stop the vehicle for a while. :-) well sometimes GOD use such things to save us from danger... As for my case on the rental car that was on the 14th of Jan where I'm about to drive back the car to airport as I'm about to catch my flight back, I accidentaly press on the hazzard lights. I could not recall which button I accidentaly press on.. I could imagined the car who is behind me is indeed cursing and swearing at a confusing signal I put on when I'm at a junction.

Sign board at Gunung Raya started with 500 feet asl and as you go higher you would notice 900 feet asl, 1500 feet asl and then 2,000 feet asl. This sub-montane forest unlike the montane forest in the main range of Peninsular Malaysia there aren't any presence of Long Tailed Sibia, Orange-Bellied Leafbird, Silvered Eared Mesia that we normally find.
Nice view though.. This is a view at resort at the summit of Gunug Raya. At this time of moment this resort is under renovation. However Tea, Coffee are open for sell at their Coffee house.

This is the pool side at D'Coconut Hill resort. We saw a small flocks of male and female Asian-Fairy Bluebird here.As we head down this Changeable-Hawk Eagle darp morph caught us by surprise. In order not to frighten this bird we get down from the van to stand a distance away to take it's photo.
Oriental Pied Hornbill are more easily to be seen at Langkawi.
Birds we sighted and hear during our visit on 7th November after Lunch and 8th November Morning at Gunung Raya
Grey Wagtail, Jerdon's Baza, Brahminy Kite, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Grey-faced Buzzard, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Brown Shrike, Striped Tit- Babbler, Changeable Hawk Eagle (darp morph), Oriental Pied Hornbill, Dollar Bird, Red-eyed Bulbul, Pacific Swallow, Barn Swallow, Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Crow Spp, Dark Necked Tailorbird, Great Hornbill, Puff-throated Babbler, Artic Warbler, Abbot's Babbler. One good spp that I spooted is 2 Siberian Thrush.

Coco Beach and a Paddy fields near Go Kart
We were shown of this place on 7th November evening, 10th evening and I and a birder friend visited this place again on 11th November in the afternoon.

This resting butterfly caught my attention as I wait for the Bittern to pop up again.
Brown-Shrike like to take advantage of a good view to look out for it's prey.
Scaly-Breasted Munia being a seed feeding diet would favour such terrain.
At Coco beach we saw and heard
Cinnamon Bittern, Von Schrenck’s Bittern, Pond Heron, White-throated Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Red-wattled Lapwing, Cattle Egret, Brown Shrike, Peaceful Dove, Common Myna, Blue- Tailed Bee Eater, Little Heron.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Birding Hotspot at Langkawi Island - Part 2

On June 1st 2007, 3 sites in Langkawi was being listed in UNESCO Global Network of Geoparks. This is the first in Southeast Asia and Malaysia. Langkawi island is rich with geological, archaelogical, unique flora and fauna that many of them are of scientific value. These 3 Geoparks in Langkawi are

Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest
The Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park hosts the oldest geological formation in Malaysia dating from the Cambrian Period some 510 million years ago, when the earth was populated by an extensive invertebrate life form. Among the attractions created by recent geological processes are the Temurun and Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls, remnant islands of Anak Burau and Anak Datai and the tranquil beaches in Teluk Datai and Pantai Kok. Gunung Machinchang Forest Reserve hosts a treasure trove of unique flora and fauna. Visitors can chose to either trek on foot or take an exhilarating ride up in the cable car over the forest canopy, to the summit 709 metres above. From here, one can enjoy a panoramic view of Langkawi, Kedah on the mainland, and on a clear day, parts of southern Thailand. The Machinchang peak itself exhibits peculiarly chipped sandstone and the ridges are among the most beautiful landscapes on the island.

Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest
One of the most unique features of the Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest is the Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden) that was formed when a huge limestone cave collapsed. The name is derived from the combination of marble and granite bedrocks, which formed into a figure resembling a pregnant woman lying on her back. Locals believe that the waters of the lake possess mystical powers that would enable a barren woman to be impregnated. The large mangrove forest flourishes along Selat Dayang Bunting (Dayang Bunting Straits) is another ecological attraction. Gua Langsuir (Cave of the Banshee) located on the western coast of Pulau Dayang Bunting is recommended only for experienced cavers. Negotiating its steep ascend demands great climbing skills and absolute physical fitness. The cave was thought to be the abode of the langsuir (banshee) because of the shrilling sound that emanates from its depth. It is shunned by the locals. The huge and gloomy chambers in the cave are actually home to thousands of bats.

Dayang Bunting is about the legend of a fairy princes married to a earthly prince. Her first child died, she burried her death child in that crystal clear waters of that lake. She also blessed the water so that whoever barren maiden bath in that lake would able to conceive.

Kilim Karst Geoforest
Karst topography is a landscape created by groundwater dissolving sedimentary rock such as limestone. This creates landforms such as shafts, tunnels, caves, and sinkholes. Groundwater seeps into and through these landforms. The result is a scenic landscape that is beautiful but fragile, and vulnerable to erosion and pollution. The Kilim Geoforest Park showcases a magnificent limestone formation, which dominates the eastern part of the island and those adjacent to it. Also in the area are the three river basins of Kilim, Air Hangat and Kisap and islands of Langgun and Tanjung Dendang. At certain spots along the river, they feed the eagles, which are found in great numbers here. Species include the white-bellied fish eagle, brahminy kite and the gigantic sea eagles. Kilim River is the perfect place for birdwatching during the migratory seasons from September till March. Caves are plentiful within the Kilim Geoforest and there are numerous ways to access them. Gua Buaya (Crocodile Cave) can be explored by boat, as the Kilim River flows into the cave. Visitors can walk on a wooden platform that cuts through the mangrove swamp to get into Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave), named after its inhabitants, the Malaysian Fruit Bats. Langkawi’s most famous cave Gua Cerita (Cave of Legends) is easily accessible by boat from Tanjung Rhu. On the walls of this cave are ancient Arabic inscriptions, believed to be verses from the Quran. Gua Pinang is located in an area which was submerged thousands of years ago, as indicated by an abundance of ancient seashells embedded in the cave walls.
The natural landscape of Langkawi are the results of ancient geological processes that has made the Langkawi Geopark what it is today -- a land where facts and fables, myths and history, culture and folklore; intertwined to mystify even to the seasoned traveller.

My field trip report birding at Kilim Karst Geoforest on 8th November.

Great chances to look out for Langkawi specialties birds are only in Kilim Karst Geoforest, therefore can omit the other 2 Geopark. Birding on this unique mangrove forest is on boat cruise. We booked Northern Rainforest Sdn Bhd contact person Rosli 019-4739158, 019-2076668, 017-4217912. Be advisable to pack along drinking water, wear long sleeves, hat to shed you from the hot sun. When you are there while waiting for the boat do take a look at some information available at the jetty.
You would be cruising along this river.
We heard of the Brown-Winged Kingfisher's call my heart was excited that is one of the target spp that I'm coming for. Not long after that someone said.. Look ... Look Brown Winged.....It is hard to take birds photos on a rocky boat. This migrant Common Kingfisher have indeed tremendous level of tolerance with us. The first boat was so near to it. This bird caught a prawn. Food processing it will hit it's prey to a hard surface numerous times. There after numerous time of hit it to a hard surface... finally it is ready to gulp down.
Not to frighten this bird. The first boat's man instruct his passengers to stay still with less movement.. I'm on the second boat... neverthless even though it is very hard to takes photo on a rocky boat.. I managed to takes some record shots. The only waders there is the Common Sandpiper. We encountered a few small flocks of the Red-Wattled Lapwing. In november the Mangrove Pit Viper is quite easily to be seen. They would twine up of it's glory for courtship display. As I'm aware that this is a very deadly poisonous to human. That moment I was very afraid that the boat accidentaly hit the base of the branches and the Mangrove Pit Viper is being invited in to the boat... We encountered 3 of them. as we cruise along this mangrove forest. Rare chance able to see this, I took a few shot even though I have snake phobia.. Brahminy Kite perched to display all of it's beauty. This is Jerdon's Baza. Chances of seeing Jerdon's Baza is much more easy here than Gunung Raya.
Another record shot of the Jerdon's Baza This intresting fruit is in cucumber/gourd family of plant that Dr Ruth Kiew is about to bring it back to the lab.
This is how the inside of the fruit looks like. Spent about 2+ hrs on the boat, Birds we saw and heard are as below
Brown-Winged Kingfisher, Common Sandpiper, Little Heron, Dollar Bird, Greater Flameback Woodpecker, Black-Caped Kingfisher, Red-Wattled Lapwing, White-Collared Kingfisher, Greater Racquet-tailed Drongo, Jerdon's Baza, Brahminy Kite.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Birding Hotspot at Langkawi Island - Part 3

Birding at Datai
Datai is at the northwestern tip of Langkawi Island. One side of this luxurious stay resort is facing the Andaman Sea and the other side is facing a tropical forest the Mat Cincang range. Birding spot at Datai is on the main road 1.5km slow walk from Datai Resort lead to a private villa. This is a good spot for forest birds.To head to Datai Bay you need the to head to Telaga Habour Park. This marine park is near Pantai Kok. This was built to promote Langkawi for yatching destination. Previously this is a fishing village now it has turn to be a self-contained with this landscape tastefully design. Due to calm sea water here, this habour is an ideal destination for transit and park various size of yachts. Telaga Habour Park is one of such habour within this region. From Perdana Beach resort there is where this trip accommodation based are, the journey to Datai Bay takes about 40mins drive. Along the way look out for wildlife crossing and keep an eyes for calves, cows running and loitering on the road. I do recall one morning about 6:30am as I was heading to Datai Bay driving along the Airport from far I notice some medium size animals runs very fast across the road chasing each other.. I thought it as a big dog but as I approached nearer only I realised that they are calves. Phew... lucky they are dash across before I approached..

If you have some time do stop-over to admire the many luxurious yachts at various size that are park at Telaga Habour Park.

This nearest township to Datai Bay is tastefully design. Do take sometimes to walk into "The Loaf" a Japanese style finest bakery shop owned by Tun Dr. Mahathir. A live jelly fish that caught my attention as I admire and imagine how is the lifestyle of rich and famous on those luxurious yatch.
Once you reached Telaga Harbour Park you would start to notice signboard to Datai Bay at the junction with the petrol station on your left and left turn to the LOAF. Take the right turn to head to Datai Bay.

Park the car on the road just immediate you pass DATAI resort. Take a slow walk about 1.5km from here to the end of the road where there is a gate to someone's Villa.
We we shown to this place on the 9th November about 4pm - 11pm. When we reached there it was raining. AAARGh... We have to wait in the vehicles for about 30 mins. I and 2 other birders friend whom we extended our stay came back here again on 11th Nov morning. Rain pour again on the 11th morning, due to unsatisfaction both us ladies whom extended our stay tried again this place on the 12th morning.

Red-Eyed Bulbul can be seen here at Datai. This photo is actually taken at Gunung Raya.It was nearly dusk we noticed a flocks of Large-Green Pigeon flocks in for roosting.
Pigeon normally moves in pair. As the other counterpart flock in they seems to have a courteous bowing ritual to the other bird. A somewhat of communication among each other.

On the 9th of November it was a long day birding for us, we know that the possibilities of seeing Oriental Bay Owl, Collared Scops Owl and the Brown Hawk Owl here. We came back here again after our dinner at the nearest town (Telaga Habour Park). After a brief briefing session on the ethic of night birding especially on how we approach a nocturnal bird, we walked again in silence and in darkness on that 1.5 km main road.

Due to that time I just came back from the Forest that is so alive. (Endau Rompin - Johor Park) I was surprised as I walked on this road.. it was indeed total silence .. no insects sound.. Unlike the majorities of them I and few others give up knowing well that night, luck on seeing an owl is not on our side.

On 11th of November we sighted a small flocks of Ochraceous Bulbul. Here Orange-Bellied Bulbul seems to be more inclined to feed at the low shrubs.
Walk into Datai Resort's ground I noticed the forest floor have many Archduke butterflies (male and female) whom normally prefer primary forest. Rajah's Brooke butterflies are around as well.Giant Squirrel is the largest squirrels around. It generally prefer to be high canopy. It's diet is fruits and seeds, occasionally to supplement it's diet they would consume birds eggs and insects.

The species once ranged extensively from Nepal and Assam through Burma, Indochina and Thailand to Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Bali. Its population declined due to lost of primary forest.

Normally sighted solitary but that very afternoon we notice a few of them. I have to makes my preference choice to choose which one I prefer to takes it photos. It was hard with so many leaves and branches in between as an obstacle for the camera.
Hah... let me share with you all a few shots to depict what this Giant Squirrels is doing. It was preening. This is my first encounter to notice a squirrel do preening.. It use it teeth and both front claws to hold up it's tail and start to bite it with the motion from back to front and front to back a few times.

Due to a very small open windows among the branches and leaves this is one of the best shot I could share with you all how a Giant Squirrel looks like.
I have a feeling that this is a Low's Squirrel named after Sir Huge Low.
A Dark-Necked Tailorbird freeze a few mins for me to be capture it's moments.

To me this is an interesting insects that suddenly fly in to perched very near to me and my birder friend as we are look out for more birds.

Another look at this beautiful insect.
As Datai is being sandwich in between of the sea and primary forest. The White-Bellied Sea Eagle make use of the primary forest tall tree to raise it's young. It was an active nest during my visit to this place.

Birds we sighted and heard
Dollarbird, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Great Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Large Green Pigeon, Orange-Bellied Flowerpecker, Forest Wagtail, Ochraceous Bulbul, Red-Eyed Bulbul, Hill Myna, Greater Flameback Woodpecker, Dark-Necked Tailorbir, Stripe-Tit Babbler, Asian Brown Flycatcher, White Bellied Sea Eagle (nesting), Temmick's Sunbird, Artic Warbler. Not to left out a Malkoha that perched too far away that we could not ID, Brown Shrike, Ruby-Cheeked Sunbird.