Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Highlights today at the park (31 Aug'16)

Red Hibiscus, with variegated leaves in morning light.
Zone C

Great Frangipani- Plumeria obtusa in evening light
Zone C

Lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus spp) ,  a native species growing wild on the oil palm trunk
Location : Zone B

Little Spiderhunter comes a calling at the Yellow Ixora bush
Zone C
Today's sunset as seen from Licuala Hill
Zone I

Monday, August 29, 2016

A day in the park ( 28 Aug'16)

Great Mormon butterfly at the Yellow Ixora bush, Zone C.

Wild red ginger flower
Licuala Hill, Zone I
 A day in the park could be a many splendoured thing.  I started the morning walk early and was greeted by the Great Mormon butterfly which was busy siphoning the nectar from the flowers of the Yellow Ixora.  I walked further into Zone I to check out the jungle trails there.  At the western slope of the Licuala Hill I stumbled upon a rare find that kind of made my day.  This is the first time ever that I come across a really wild red ginger flower.  It rose from beneath the ground (inset) and there were traces around the area that the stems were bitten or eaten by some kind of animals.   My wild guess is the Sambar deer's doing. The flowers produced some nice fragrance.  I spent a good half an hour around the site and cleared the trail properly.  Should I call it the wild red ginger trail?  Next to the wild ginger plant was a flushing treelet showing really attractive red young leaves.  I had on an earlier occasion trimmed this treelet to enable it to produce new branches which today I saw it did produce new branches and new flushes.  After the morning walk, I decided to pluck some fresh ferns (miding) at the Keruak wetlands of which I obtained sufficient quantity for lunch.  Yes, lunch was served with miding mixed with bamboo shoots cooked in coconut milk.  The cooking was done perfectly by my wife.  All of the vegetables were harvested freely and freshly from the park, the kind of healthy food I like.  Well, after lunch it was business as usual with harvesting of the oil palm fresh fruit bunches.  What kept me excited about working today was the abnormally high price of the ffb currently i.e. at RM 430/ton. Compared with last year the price of ffb was a meagre RM 330 on average (ramp price or at middleman's collection centre). For much of the period since January this year, the average price has been hovering around RM430/ton for many reasons which I will write in future postings.  Therefore, this year is a lot happier year in terms of the oil palm small holder.  I have read in some reports that the price of ffb will probably rise further throughout 2017.  Well, all this would be excellent news for the park as more money means more funds available for better amenities and care of the park.    After harvesting and before night falls I climbed the Licuala Hill again to catch a glimpse of the Tiong birds and witness the sunset from the hill.  I was rewarded by a good sunset but I thought I direct my camera lens instead  on the the wild grass flowers and view the sunset through them which produced a beautiful photographic capture.
Jungle treelet with red flushes, a potential for landscaping plant.

Fresh and free 'miding' young fronds for lunch

A lunch plate of mixed vegetables - miding combine with bamboo shoots cooked in 'santan' or coconut milk.

Oil palm fruit bunches in close up.  This month of August the price of oil palm ffb (fresh fruit bunches) has hit an average of RM 430/ton at collection centre or ramp price. 

It's harvesting time.

Before the day ends the Tiong birds (Hill Myna) perched on a tall dead tree at Licuala Hill

An artistic view of the sunset

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

August is the month of Malkoha

A male Chestnut-breasted Malkoha identified by the pale blue iris.
Location : Botanic Island Two
 This month the Malkohas seemed to be coming in droves.  The uncommon Black-bellied Malkoha was sighted the other day.  On many occasions the sounds or calls of the Malkoha have been heard at many locations in the park this month.  Today was special in that a male Chestnut- breasted Malkoha was caught in good sight.  He came along with a partner but the female was not so easy to photograph.  The pair was seen moving around the trees and branches at Botanic Island Two.  They glided between the canopies with striking glossy blue-green bodies.  What is attractive of the bird is the pale green bill and its medium sized body.
Malkoha in flight

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Banking on the grass seeds

Chestnut Munia ( Lonchura atricupilla) with characteristic 'black hood'
Heads down to pluck the seeds
 The Pipit Rawa (Malay) is a very common bird in the park but is not usually easy to get a good picture of it.  This is because being  a social bird it travels in a small flock like what I encountered today.  I had to hide behind a wall of bushes to enable me a closer view of the birds.  It was my lucky day as one of the birds was not alert to my presence and thus afforded me a little bit of luxury in getting up- close and personal images of the bird eating the grass seeds.  I have seen its habit of hanging on the grass stalk and while the grass bends the bird would attempt to pluck the grass seeds heads down.   At the inset , the bird has to bend low in order to pluck the grass seeds.  Its stout beak is perfectly structured to assist in crunching the seed before consuming it. The presence of grassland at the park has proven the wisdom of maintaining them to function as food banks for little birds like the munias.
A 'black hood' makes this bird very likeable.  The feathers seemed well-groomed.  The chestnut colour throughout the body is attractive against the greenery.
Grassland at Zone F

Saturday, August 20, 2016

An early morning birding and a lifer

A pair of Black Magpie

 I started early to do birding today by concentrating on the botanic island areas.  Attracted to the calls of the Black Magpie I moved quietly below the tall trees at Botanic Island Two.  Through the trees and leaves I noticed a small party of four  hanging out noisily and reverberating their loud calls over the neighbourhood.  Today's encounter has been one of the closest I had with these birds and thus was able to get better pictures of the bird especially the characteristic red iris against a dark face.  I next came across what I thought was a malkoha and my experience so far has been the Chestnut-breasted Malkoha. But today I met a different malkoha and a lifer at that.  It has  a bluish green back with a grey throat and breast.  Upon closer observation I noticed it has iris of pale blue surrounded by a red patch around the eyes.  Another interesting detail is the under-tail feathers showing broad white tips.  At Licuala Hill I noticed from a distance one black dot at the tip of a branch and guessed it must be the Borean Falconet.  I moved in closer to the tall tree and took a few random shots for the record.  The Bornean Falconet has been seen perching on this same tree before.  Finally after about two hours of birding at the botanic islands area I decided to go home and on the way met a Little Spiderhunter busily enjoying the nectar from the flowers of the Chinese hat plant.  It has been a successful early birding with a lifer.
Black -bellied Malkoha at Botanic island Two -  a lifer!

Bornean Falconet see at Licuala Hill

Little Spiderhunter at Zone C

Highlights today at the park - 20 Aug'16


Plumeria obtusa beginning to bloom

Little Spiderhnter
Young 'Miding' ferns just harvested ( Stenochlaena  palustris)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Re-connecting with nature again

The Tiongs ( Hill Myna birds) at Licuala Hill

Physalis minia - showing more ripe
 It is so good to be back at the nature park.  It is a place to re-connect with nature after having been away for two weeks in Kuching,  The first thing I checked out in the late afternoon was the Tiong birds.  I have left them for about two weeks and today they assured me of their confidence in the safety of  the park.  I saw a pair moving about the tall branches at one of tallest perches at Licuala Hill.  From the distance I observed that the birds looked somewhat bigger now.  Having encountered them I then proceeded to get back home sooner, consoled by the thought that the nature park has passed a stringent litmus test as a wildlife sanctuary with the continued and uninterrupted presence of the Hill Myna birds.
Licuala palms at Licuala Hill, just below the tall tree where the Tiongs perched this afternoon.

Close-up of the Tiong birds (Hill Myna)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

A butterfly mimicking a dry jungle leaf

A Leaf Butterfly

 I am observing for the first time today a leaf butterfly that has the underside patterned like dead jungle leaves. It has even a remarkable short and dark leaf stalk structure at the end of the wings.  The leaf-life underside has deeply ingrained veins.  It was attracted to the rotting Jackfruit from which it was enjoying the liquid nutrition for nourishment.  It was very engrossed in sucking up the liquid that it was not difficult for me to sneak up a close look.  When eating, butterflies throw out their coiled tubular proboscis into the sweet and fleshy pulp of the Jackfruit (see inset).  However it is to be noted that the condition of the Jackfruit is over-ripe and in some parts rotting.  With its wings closed in a vertical position, the butterfly assumes a perfect camouflage of a dry jungle leaf.
Dried and dead jungle leaves with patterns and colours that are mimicked by the leaf butterfly. 
A leaf butterfly with dry leaf-like pattern and colour
Zone C