Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Malayan Laughingthrush (Trochalopteron peninsulae)

The Malayan Laughingthrush occurs in southern Thailand and peninsular Malaysia. In 2006 it was split from the Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush (Trochalpteron erythrocephalum) of Bhutan, Nepal, China and India. They differ from the peninsulae species by having a scaly feather pattern on its neck and breast.

Although more shy than its brazen cousins, the Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush (Garrulax mitratus), Malayan Laughingthrushes are still quite common at Fraser's Hill in Malaysia. They are part of the wave of birds that come to feed in front of the Jelai Hotel from 6:30 to around 8 am. However, they prefer to stay close to the hedges and would hide in the bushes if approached even from a safe distance. Males and females are similarly plumaged.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Green-faced Parrotfinch (Erythrura viridifacies)

Last January, 2013, word got around the birding community that Green-faced Parrotfinches were seen at a mountainside in Samal, Bataan province. The person who saw them was Stinson, an employee of Dr. Joey Soriano, who in turn informed his co-members at the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP). 

This species is very seldom observed and is classified as uncommon and vulnerable according to Prior to this year, this Philippine endemic was last seen in 2008 at Alcoy Forest in the island of Cebu. Although mainly a resident of Luzon, there were several sightings in the islands of Panay and Negros as well. It has been said that before World War II, these colorful finches were captured by the thousands and sold on the streets of Manila with some even shipped to San Francisco for the caged bird trade. (source:

Scientists concluded that this recent irruption (a sudden increase in number) was due to the flowering bamboo trees in the mountains of Bataan.

About 5 inches (12-13 cm) in length, these birds are entirely green except for bright red upper tail coverts and tails. Females are similarly colored and the only distinguishing characteristic is that they have shorter tails and show some buff on their bellies and vents. The bills of both male and female are thick and dark grey in color.

Needless to say, such rarity brought birders to Bataan with the hope of seeing and even photographing the Green-faced Parrotfinches. Our first attempt on January 21st was a heartbreaker. We saw about seven parrotfinches but they were across a ravine that even with my long lens I still was unable to get a good photo.

However, luck was with us on our second trip five days later. The birds were so near that at times I had to step back to a get full view of them.

For the stories about these two trips to Bataan, please see here and here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We Will Always Have Sparrows

She was watching him as he stood looking out of the window deep in thought. She could feel the heaviness he must be harboring inside him. She could see his shoulders heave as he sighed several times.

Slowly she approached him and took one of his hands into hers. He turned to look at her and gave her an assuring smile. Still she could feel that something was not right. Could it be because he just had a surgery a few days ago? she thought to herself.

“Are you OK? Do you feel any pain?”

“I’m fine,” he replied, “just a tiny bit of a pain now and then.”

He then confided to her that he thought he would no longer be able to pursue his passion for bird photography the way he did before.

“You know that the surgery was only to take care of the more immediate problem,” he said. “The rest will preclude me from doing what I used to do – no more lifting of heavy stuff, no more walking for long distances…..” His voice trailed as he looked out of the window once again.

She took both his hands and made him face her. They looked at each other warmly and filled with affection.

“Will you be OK with that?” she wanted to know. “No more chasing after lifers,  no more out-of-town trips that will involve being away for several days.”

He put his hands on her shoulders, looked at her tenderly and softly assured her.

“We will always have sparrows.”