Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sg Balang, Hentian Mahkota, & Parit Sagil :: 3rd Nov 2015 ::

So i am back after 3 and half years' silence in Southerwings! I didn't quit of course, just down with some health problems.  Feeling much better now after some cheap medication, so here we go......

I made 2 trips in the last fortnight to one of my fav birding spots (i.e. Sg Balang paddyfields ) and here are the photos..    

Semerah's Nasi Lemak and Curry Puffs 6:30am

The Common Kingfisher is becoming a common migratory species to me nowadays, last year they were sighted on 3 locations just in my home town of Kulai alone. But one would never get tired of shooting them for its gorgeous colours, and a chance to get FIM shots, but after waiting for 6 dives into the stream below with no catch i decided to move on, only to blame myself second later because just 30' ahead, perched silently a species that i have been longing to snap, 

the Japanese SparrowHawk! One quick burst it was gone! Grrrr..... I came back a week later just for this species but she was nowhere in sight.

Japanese Sparrowhawk

As i move on, many familiar species were sighted, Lapwings, Waterhens, Adjutants, Pond Herons, Little Herons, Munias, at least six pairs of BSKs were busy courting and mating. 

Strange that i did not see many raptors in the air though, perhaps the lack of ploughing activity on the paddyfields was the main reason. 

As for wintering species, Blue-tailed Beeeaters were in big number, at least i ran out of fingers and toes to count them. As my friend Ben put it, their number is probably 21!

Pond Heron

 Grey Plover?

I always get lucky with the Snipes, perhaps I always used the same old method i.e. wait patiently for them to come near as they search for food, rather than shoot on first sight and scare they away. I honestly find the shutter noise loud on D7100 because most of the time i could see their eyes staring at me thru the viewfinder each time i click. What takes the camera makers so long to design a totally silence dslr is beyond me. Go mirrorless?


One of the reasons for my eagerness to visit Sg Balang this time was to try out my new toy or rather new setup which i called "LukiKon", i.e. Panasonic Lumix G7 with Kiwifotos's Nikon G-M43 adaptor couple with Nikon G lens (300mm F2.8 here). 

I took some pics with these setup and set the G7 on silence mode (absolutely zero shutter noise!), immediately i noticed the easily-spooked migrants stare less at me, compared to my usual D7100 + 1.4x500mm F4 setup. One might argue that ambience noise alone should overshadow the camera noise but that is something i don't agree, the birds see us as a threat hence a slight movement with a muted noise is good enough to scare them.

The Kiwifotos adaptor has no electronic contact so correct exposure has to be adjusted manually (Aperture-adjust on the adaptor's ring, SS, and Focus). But thanks god the focus peaking works brilliantly on the EVF so keeper rate is really not much of an issue if subject focus is the main concern. 

The frustration for me was when stopping down is needed, half the time i actually try to adjust the aperture on the camera dial, rather than on the adaptor's ring to get correct expose based on histogram reading in the EVF.  

But like many, i buy the G7 solely for its video quality. Although the D5200 is quite acceptable except lacking in sharpness, so once you crop it loses its quality faster you can imagine.  The G7 UHD video OTOH, is so crisp that even when you crop 50% and output to 1080P, still seems better than on my D7100 or D5200 video.  

The video below was originally shot in 4k UHD, uncropped and downscaled to 720p, freeze the video at 27th sec...  

and see below pic of the frame from the 4k video! The image is quite decent indeed as long as you have the right shutter speed. And here i am surprised the snipe was able to bend its upper beak as it yawns! Going thru the video frame-by frame in 4K on my 5yo 27" i7 really enables me to see a lot of behavioral details which i don't normally see on still images, unless you spray high fps on every shoot. 

The G7 also has a 4K photo burst mode which allow you to capture 30fps before and 30fps after hitting the shutter, hence it should be useful for some great action shots, unfortunately i haven't got the time to try it out yet this time. Besides, it 's not easy to shoot birds with two different system. 

I will be using the Lukikon setup for the coming trips in Balang and hopefully able to get some great moments to share.

Blue-tailed Beeeater

The Blue-tailed Beeeater are extremely friendly considering that they are migrants. As long as you shoot with bean bag in the car, 500mm with 1.4TC on crop is often 200mm too long!

Despite a local common sight, Yellow Bittern is a tough species to get a full body shot in close range.  Often it is "now you see, and now you don't", popping its head out of the green in nowhere and long gone before you aim for it!  And I spotted quite a few Cinnamon Bitterns too!

 Yellow Bittern

So is the Brown Shrike a local or visitor? Not far from my hometown i get to see them all year round, as confirmed by the fish pond owner. 

Brown Shrike
I dropped by to Hentian Mahkota to check out the waders, something i always do after shooting at Balang in the morning. 

~4-5km from Sg Balang towards Batu Bahat
From the beginning of the video below you can see the beach is just 200m from the above BP-Balang main road, so don't miss this place next time! Just make sure you don't reach here with an empty stomach at noon time because the food stalls only open at 2-3pm.


After Hentian Mahkota, i spent 30mins in Parit Sagil just to have a look-see before heading home....not a single shot of bird here!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Birding In Selangor! Hooded Pitta!

Most of my birding friends know that i seldom want to travel far for birding lately, as I find traveling getting more and more taxing both physically and financially. But then some of my friends know exactly how to lure me out of the cave...... 

"But what if we guarantee you three species in one trip," said my friends, "including the hot hot Super Dooper Hooded Pitta!" and before i could ask for more detail, "Your lunch and  dinner are included!"  Yipee!

2 Days later...March 11, 2012

Paya Indah Wetland

I met up with my friends from Kuala Lumpur at Paya Indah Wetland for the Buffy Fish Owl after a 3hour's drive, because the Pitta's spot was "too congested" with photographers in the morning, naturally! 

The Buffy is a released owl, but refused to return back to the wild! I was rather shocked to see her perching on the ceiling fan in the stable, moving left and right and calling enthusiastically  upon seeing us!  

The owl was extremely excited on watching us setting our gear, attempting to moving closer to us each time i smiled at her. I was a bit concerned though,  "what happen if she decides to land on my head or shoulder!".  This buffy is so friendly and "human" you could certainly hug her and walk around the park like your pet! Patting on her 'shoulder' was not a problem, as demonstrated by my friends later.

Within minutes, we were able to get her to perch low for  some head shots! Yes, we spoke to the Owl in English in case you want to come and try!

Buffy Fish Owl (Ketupa ketupu)
Tumbuk Ketampi  * 马来渔鸮 マレアウオミミズク Dù dì kêtupu
Kétoupa malais ketupa riečna Малайский Рыбный Филин นกทึดทือพันธุ์มลายู
Sundafischuhu Búho Pescador Malayo Gufo pescatore della Malaesia Maleise Visuil

"Naaah, this is too studio-like..go perch in the wood with natural background ....with some innocent eye contact!" 

"Now, look to your left pleeeease"

"So far so good, ok now give us the killing LOOK! And Do Not Smile" Ha!

Yeap!...... Great! But I wasn't too happy with these shots because they look like they were shot in the zoo!  I wanted something that looks natural rather than the look of  a set up shoot in the studio! 

"Go Buffy!"

300+ shots later, everyone was tired but happy, we rested for a while and eagerly asked if the Pitta was available! 

But we were told that it was raining cats and dogs at the Botanical Garden, so I guess we have to stick around with the Buffy for a lot longer!  But...wait!

"Hey come back here! we haven't finished shooting with you yet Buffy!!!"

Ampang Forest Reserve (AFR) 

We arrived AFR around 11am for our 2nd species - the Green-backed Flycatcher at some 40kms away!!, Another 5 friends were already waiting there to give us a warm welcome! Lots of handshakes, hugs and "ni hao ma?"... with the Green-backed Flycatcher seen just a few meters away staring at us with a funny gesture!

I am just thankful that Buihaimi Mangkor (birder from KL) who works just around the corner, has been monitoring this species almost daily and able to 'tame' it successfully and share with all birders who are interested to shoot this migrant species! 

There were 8 of us shooting the male GBFC  and I must 
say the bird was quite well "trained"!

Green-backed Flycatcher (Ficedula elisae)
   绿背姬鹟 チャイニアズヒタキ *      
      Gobemouche à dos vert * muchárik zelenochrbtý *     * นกจับแมลงหลังสีเขียว
Narzissenschnäpper-elisae * Kinesisk Fluesnapper Papamoscas de China Kinesisk narcissflugsnappare

The female GBFCs was sighted here a few days prior to our shoot, but unfortunately didnot turn up as anticipated. 

We left ARF around 1pm and heading straight for the Hooded Pitta @ the Botanical Garden, after a few quick bites at the MacDonald's.

Going to the Botanical Garden means we have to drive thru KL City roads according to the GPS, which blindly guided us thru the shortest but heavily congested road via some of the City's busy street ...:( 

Petronas Twin Towers

At Pudu Raya alone we were stuck for almost 30mins! This place just reminds me of the delicious Spectacled Duck ( or 4-eyed duck, so called because the stall owner wear glasses, not that the duck has 4 eyes!), Curry Chee Chong Fun, Claypot Loh She Fun...oh boy! I really should be blogging local hawker food! 

Pudu's Market Street....

Botanical Garden

By 2:30pm we arrived KL's Botanical Garden, but it was still drizzling with occasional heavy downpours.  So another 30mins spent in the car for the rain to stop! :(

We later took shelter at the cafe by the entrance,  wondering if we should just call it a day while sipping the rather tasteless teh-tarik at the Cafe, then at around 4pm, 3 birders came  out from the park, all soaked wet, whom happily show us pics of the Hooded Pitta! 

By 4:30pm, we were informed by the park officer that the gate would close in 30mins, and suddenly eyes were  squinting at me anxiously for a immediate live or death decision, i.e. go in or go home!

"We are going in! And I am not going home without Pitta!", honestly I would have chosen to drive home if not for the inspiring pics shown by the 3 birders! :~p 

There was no objection among us of course, knowing that the species is rare, giving up shooting today might means we have to wait for a few more years to catch a glimpse, and condition might not be any better than now if it ever show up.

Luckily for us, the rain stops gradually soon after we entered the park. We rushed to the site a few hundred meters away hurriedly, and fortunately for us, the Hooded Pitta was already there, waiting anxiously for us! :)

The ambience lighting gets darker by the seconds, and after 20mins of continuos MLU shoot (no kidding!), I finally managed to secure less than 10 decent shots at the lowest iso of 1000 to 1600. I was shooting @ iso12,800 f/5.6 1/15sec at the very beginning, reducing iso and aperture gradually with each MLU shots!!!

@ iso 1250 1.3s f8 +1ev

Hooded Pitta (Pitta sordida)
Burung Pacat Hijau 绿胸八色鸫 ズグロヤイロチョウ *     
Brève à capuchon pita tmavohlavá Черноголовая питта นกแต้วแล้วอกเขียว *
Kappenpitta Kappepitta Pita Encapuchada * Pitta dal cappuccio Kappitta

@ iso 800 1.6s f8 +1ev

But I guess I am happy with the results! 

So two more ticks for the trip, 9,000 more to go, phew! :~p

Oh, the dinner! 

 - German Knuckle, 
 - Steamed Carp fish with ginger sauce,
 - Tofu Minced Meat,
 - Steamed Kampong Chicken
 - 4 Heavenly Kings - mixed veggie,
 - Sliced lotus with mayonnaise,

A very satisfying birding trip, i must say!


A few more shots taken @ the Paya Indah Wetland in the morning.



Indian Peafowl